The truly incredible thing about being a parent is that you're constantly learning and experiencing new things with your child. Just when you think you've got it sussed, something surprises you.
This morning we experienced one of us clinging for dear life to the school gate shouting "YOU CAN'T MAKE ME GO!" (it was him, in case you were wondering) and we learned just how embarrassing a 4-year-old child can actually be when he really puts his mind to it. The surprise element was that this child, who up to now has taken life in his stride without a moment's self-doubt, has worried himself into a tantrum over his first full day at school.
The last two weeks have been half-days, but from today my son's school career starts in earnest. He's wound himself up about there being 'millions' of people there because it's the first time there will be a full class ("You do know that Jimmy Krankie* will be going today, don't you Mummy? He's trouble. He's a troublemaker. Honestly. He was trouble at playschool. So I shouldn't have to go if he's going, should I?") and he's very concerned that I might do something exciting in his absence ("You won't go and buy any bread without me, will
you?") But I still wasn't prepared to have to physically propel him towards the school gates as he furiously shouted "Get OFF me! I'm not your child!" at the top of his voice, and then prise his determined little fingers off the gate post while the other parents (whose children were, of course, standing quietly holding hands with their guardians as if butter wouldn't melt) gave me sympathetic "we've all been there" smiles, ignored us both completely, or failed to hide an irritating "thank God it's not mine" expression of smugness.
Driving home with a heavy heart, I cried from the guilt of leaving my baby unhappy, after he'd clung to me and begged me not to go, and from tiredness after being awake most of the night worrying because I knew he was.
At the same time, I suspect he was playing happily with his fellow prisoners of education in his bright, friendly classroom and sparing not a moment's thought for home.
Such is the lot of a mother.
* Names have been changed to protect the troublemakers. Or at least their mothers.