Dad’s Diary

Dad’s Diary

We are deep in winter now. Yet there is something brightening the grey. The New Year still shines fresh and full of possibility. The Earth is, by welcome degrees, tipping us back towards the sun – an astronomical fact quietly celebrated by the crocuses and snowdrops that emerge from the frosty ground.

It is wonderfully contrarian that our ancient Gaelic seasons mark spring as beginning on St Brigid’s day, February 1, while the rest of the world says spring starts on March 1. Mundane things like thermometers may suggest that February is still winter, yet the Gaels saw that this time of year has the spirit of spring.

The children are midway through another school year and are content in their routines. Each term passes in a mildly chaotic blur as they rush out the door each morning in their uniforms, while afternoons are filled with swimming lessons, ballet, homework, beavers and winter walks on the beach.

The time between September and June seems short, yet they are transformed by it. They emerge taller, wiser, with new skills and new friends, ever more competent in the world. Their faces each year subtly shed their babyish features as they increasingly strike out alone into the world.

Taking the school bus alone was a big event for the kids. We had until last week always dropped them to their classrooms ourselves. On the way, we often passed the school bus and the kids would plead to be allowed to travel on it.

Buses are, of course, very exciting things for small children. By Christmas they seemed ready and so we arranged the bus passes and timetables. They excitedly clutched their laminated passes as we walked down the lane the first morning. Waiting in the cold we explained how to stop a bus – by putting your arm out – and that there was a nice lady on the bus who would take them to their classrooms once the bus arrived in school.

As the big blue bus came to a halt and the doors sprung open with a hiss, Sean’s excitement only increased. For Rosie however, the actuality of stepping on board on the bus alone was more scary than the theory, which had seemed only fun. Fear struck at the prospect of leaving her parents by the side of the road.

Sean and Rose are just a year apart in age and so whenever something exciting – and a bit scary – happens, they are in it together. As the older brother, Sean agreed solemnly to look after his sister and he dutifully held her hand as they stepped aboard the bus. The bus lady sat them next to each other and they waved as the bus pulled away. Rosie’s face though the window was a mix of emotions – she was excited, yet bewildered to be on a bus without us. Everyone was a stranger except her brother.

Rosie’s teacher confided in us later that she had arrived in class that morning full of beans, telling all and sundry about the bus and how it went “really fast” and was “really huge”.

Every morning since, they have skipped aboard merrily. It is now for their parents to stand at the side of the road in bewilderment at how these little beings, born only yesterday it seems to us, are now travelling to school on the bus alone, going off on adventures with beavers and even reading books all by themselves. It is bittersweet, as the bus pulls away.