Not that he realised the enormity of it, but yesterday Toby took his first steps on a long journey that could last a dozen years, potentially more: his first day (well, half-day) at school.
I have to admit that I was concerned about how he would cope with his first morning in school. After all, he’s a boy who likes his routines and habits and doesn’t cope well with change. His previous trial sessions at his new school had resulted in him bursting into tears and clinging on to his mother like a limpet. (His older brother Isaac, on the other hand, embraced school wholeheartedly and has never looked back since.)
Nonetheless he got ready and dressed in his uniform, posed for the obligatory first day of school photo and then happily went in with the rest of the kids without histrionics. He came home at lunchtime happy too. When I got home mid-afternoon he was all smiles, asking to watch Top Gear and reporting that school had been “fine” – the same monosyllabic response we received from his normally unstoppably chatty brother all the way through his first term.
In short, we needn’t have worried. Breathe a sigh of relief. Box ticked.
And so the journey begins. The road is long, with many a winding turn. Oh, hang on, that’s the Hollies, isn’t it?
They’re apt lyrics, though. Who knows what the future might hold for our middle child and which path he will end up taking? They are years which will have an enormous influence in shaping the man he will become. He enters school as our darling little boy. He will come out of it a man: legally able to drink, drive, get married and oh so many other things.
What will Toby aged 16 or 18 or 21 or whatever age he is when he finally leaves full-time education be like? And will he still be recognisable as the little four-year-old boy I wanted to just throw my arms around protectively and cuddle this afternoon?
Hmm. On reflection, I think Toby was more ready for this big change than I gave him credit for. Maybe it’s me who is having the tougher time coping.
Heather and I have brought him this far, and of course we will continue to support and guide him through the years to come. But this is the point at which our little son will begin his own journey of discovery which will lead him to being a man.