Of course it has to be the 'Paw Patrol' shorts and yellow 'Thomas' t-shirt. It's rained fairly constantly for the last two days so they are a little bit damp, but the sun is out to shine on this first morning of school and he is delighted to wear his favourite clothes. I chase him round the house attempting to apply sun cream, direct him to the bathroom, make sure he has drunk some water and hasn't hidden any toys in his backpack. At last, I pull him onto my lap and as he wriggles with bubbly excitement, I pray. Dear Lord, thank you for precious Reuben. Please bless this first morning of school...He plants a kiss on my cheek and I feel tears prick. It's only two mornings a week for goodness sake, but it's the beginning of everything too. It's only pre-school but it's the start of a long journey that I just know will be packed with stories. There is no only about this.
Unusually, he pauses patiently to grin for photos in all the right places and only then do I realise that he too is aware that this is a special moment. As we walk up and down rocky roads slick with mud and the odd dead frog, I am struck by the fact that this is hardly a normal beginning. Whatever normal is. Here it won't matter if he arrives with muddy knees and of course, we do. To begin with he holds my hand as we plod up the hill, but as we reach the top he lets go and dances ahead all the way down to the school. He is literally quivering with joy as he skips, but he must be nervous too. You wouldn't know it though as he kicks off his crocs and hangs his dinosaur backpack (a present from Granny) on a peg that has his name above it. He rushes off to greet friends and I am left at the door. The teacher assures me I may go in and watch these first moments but I know that this is not my classroom. He reappears briefly to give me a kiss and a wave and I go. I remember discussing this with him.
"Will you leave me mummy?"
"Yes my darling, but I will come back."
"You will come back?"
Yes. With all my heart.
On the way home, back up the big hill that Reuben has just hurtled down, Rosa snuggles into me and I look out across the valley. It is a gorgeous morning. Sun after dreary rain. A welcome breeze and the promise of my precious son's future in my thoughts. It's all in God's hands.