Perhaps the most amazing consequence of my sabbatical year (that’s the one in which I still work full-time but am on a career break!) has been regularly walking my boys to school.
Mostly, our mornings have been high-pitched and frenetic, each of us stressing in different ways about where we have to be and what we have to do when we get there. For me, full of maternal angst at leaving my boys, by car, early at breakfast club, and never quite the right number of books, gloves or PE kit. Any harsh words, long forgotten by them, but carried close to my heart through the rest of the working day. A challenging separation, that carried with it all the woes of modern motherhood.
But, now, not so. Put simply, the school run is the best part of my day.
Don’t misunderstand me, I am no paragon. I often advise my boys that they should ‘send me back to the shop’ and request a newer, more fit-for-purpose model. The screaming and shouting before leaving the house has only marginally dissipated, and, in actual fact, at times, rages bigger and better than ever before. But somehow this feels like a luxury now. Ample time in my children’s company, allowing irritation & frustration to rise before willingly letting it out… because I can know that there are plenty of examples of ‘funny mum’ to offset ‘shouty mum’.
That 3/4 of a mile, walk (for me), scoot (for them) from home to school, is a meditation on being a mum. A segment of time that belongs only to the three of us. Coats on, bags on, gloves on, alarm on. Door locking as the boys scoot on away. The gravel path that sticks in the scooter wheels. A glance to the river then onto damp pavement. Turning the corner onto the busy road (“mind out for the cars!”) and ‘wham’, rush hour is upon us. There’s the mahoosive puddle and a tricky road crossing, where we take first our feet (often soggy) and then our lives (so far, so good) into our hands.
The next bit is the very best. The straight drag past the police station where we race (‘on the way’), or play hide & seek (‘on the way back’). Into the hospital car park and there’s space to freewheel (“mind out for the cars!”). As we turn onto Burton Road, we join the throngs of other parents, the ones I envied before, who also walk their kids to school everyday. And there it is, that sense of community, distilling the pleasure that primary school brings to our family life.
Funnily enough, my ‘we hate walking’ boys never once complain. Our walk to school is the first adventure of their day. A treasure chest, full of memories of fun, and symbols of my love, that I hope they will recall far beyond the here & now.
Being honest, I like the walk home, on my own, a scooter in each hand, almost as much as I like our frenetic walk ‘there’. I clear my head and start my brain on its thinking for the day. I can buy ‘just one thing’ from the shop! As a ‘working’ mum (I refer you to my first sentence) I never shopped for ‘just one thing’ at a time. So this is yet another revelation. I arrive home, ready for myself and for coffee and for my day.
I nearly didn’t have this a year ago, but then I remembered to remember that I’m going to be dead a long time. And I know not everyone can make the choices that I have been able to, and I am full of gratitude that I have been able to take one small side step in a very hectic life to take pleasure in small & simple but life-affirming things.
It is the most precious time and I almost never knew.