A Measure of Time

It’s a day of endings and possible new beginnings. A day of trying to cram jobs in before a summer of never being alone. A day of sighing over the children who were, and trying not to sigh at the children whose sights are set firmly on who they will be. September will bring new starts for them all: Year 4, Year 3, Lower Foundation; but nothing much beyond a slightly different timetable for me. They are moving on; I’m, increasingly, watching them as they go.

It is beyond trite to say how fast time goes with children. I see, today, not so much the nearly-four year old who’s desperate for his uniform come September, but the little boy of just-turned-two who clung to my arm as he started nursery. Not the lanky, sun-cream-sticky six year old whose last day in the Infants this is, but the curly-topped moppet who walked through those gates on her first day determined not to let anyone see how scared she was. Not the eight year old who overtops many of those moving on to secondary school in September, but the sturdy little soul who held my hand to the door when he first went, and caught the hearts of those on the other side.

They like to hear of how and who they were, but it’s with a laughing incredulity. In the churning rapid flow of childhood, what counts is clinging to the markers that grade and differentiate. There’s little purchase in remembering what you used to be, when you’re surrounded by those who still are. How much more important to stake out your claims of seniority and superiority and identify your next destination in your all-engrossing journey of Growing Up.

Do they feel the tug of the current, or just the terrifying exhilaration of the ride? Are they aware of the relentless current of life, or is it just me, as I gauge my time against theirs, who sees its sweep, on and away? And realise, belatedly, that there is no standing still for me either.

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