Since last Wednesday, when my kids went back to school, I have been able to feel it in the air. That palpable and unmistakable sense of parental accomplishment. Come on, we all feel it. We bloody well did it, after all. We not only got through the summer holidays, but we still have the same number of children we had at the start. And the same number of brain cells. If we're lucky.
As Louis Walsh would say (because we're edging into X Factor season) - you made it your own.
And do you know what else I now have to make my own? September.
That's right. I need to own it like a boss. Why? Well because, in recent years, September seems to have become to me what January is to everybody else. I feel the tangible loss of the months before it as if they are being ripped from my ever clinging fingers. And I feel the onset of something new, something uncertain as vividly as the early morning sky has changed its lighter hue to a deep, drench of blackberry blood.
I don't have a particular problem with September. I mean, it's a pretty inoffensive month to be fair. All in all it does its best. Summer turns longingly towards the gentle embrace of autumn, leaves crisp delightfully around the edges, children skip off to a new schooling adventure and actually, my hubby was born in September so it even gifted him to the world which was very thoughtful of it. But there's something testing about it too. Something that September tries to tell me that I'm not always ready to hear.
It tells me that whatever I meant to get done during the school holidays STILL isn't done.
It tells me that my bank account is still suffering aftershocks.
It tells me that I should kiss goodbye to the joyful spontaneity of long summer days with nothing on the agenda.
It tells me that the sunshine will very soon need a rest.
It tells me that I should prepare myself for starting every day grappling for motivation in harsh, heavy darkness.
It tells me that I STILL haven't got my novel published.
It tells me that I should really hurry up and decide what I'm going to be when I grow up.
And speaking of growing up, it tells me that it's time to let go of my babies. Yes, they've done my bloody head in for six long weeks with their alarming Fortnite obsession and their uncanny ability to drive me into my overdraft and their never (EVER) ending demands for snacks. But September tells me it's time to let them go. An academic year older. A school uniform size bigger. A month and a half cleverer. And a whole lot closer to being their own people.
Which is as it should be.
And that's when September really gets down and dirty. As I watch my sons trundle off through the school gates without so much as a backward glance, I know that I have to remember to be my own person too. Thank you, September for keeping it real. Thank you for not allowing me to disappear into the overwhelming roles of nurturing and tending and caring and cultivating. You, September, bring that little bit of space and time that makes me face myself. Whether I like it or not.
And, to be fair, mostly I do like it. I like me. But that doesn't mean I'm not allowed some feelings of uneasiness or sadness or agitation. I'm entitled to them all. And once I'm done with them, I will thank them along with the beast that is September.
As I sat down to type this - let's face it - weird blog post, I looked at the little framed picture I have on my desk next to my laptop. Equally weirdly, I keep a photo of myself as a little girl there. I decided to do that after my Dad died a few years ago and this photo was rescued from his room in the rest home. He took the photo at Edinburgh Zoo, I think, which is kind of nice, but that's not the main reason I keep it.
I keep it because the little girl in that photo is totally going places. Not in a power-suit-wearing, stock-market-slamming kind of way . . . but in a way that is as gentle as it is fierce, as curious as it is purposeful, as friendly as it is determined. I don't know where I was off to that day - probably to scare the living daylights out of the flamingos or something - but I love that I was going there without question, without fear.
So I allow myself to be taught by the younger me. From that rusty little photo frame. On a daily basis. But especially in September.
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