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172: Girl On Fire

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When Mini B was a babe in arms, I popped her into the Ergobaby sling to go take a look around a local nursery. I wasn’t really sure what I was doing that particular morning, but I was back baking a few weeks after Mini B was born, and I was doing so with her sat in a rocker chair on the kitchen worktop. The decision to put your kid into childcare - working mum or otherwise - is such a tough one. It is such a pull. I’d also naively read in one of those many baby books that nine months is the marker: nine months is when attachment issues really kick in so get ‘em used to you being away by that point or whatever (I’ve since learned that all baby books and advice should be taken with a pinch salt, yep). It’s also probs something to do with my own attachment issues blah blah blah, but I just wanted her to gain an independence that didn’t rely solely on me, whilst also safe in the knowledge that: if Mummy left, I’d always come back.

I walked into that nursery and through the “safe lock” entrance, saw this mock tree bursting out at the entrance through the ceiling (see opening pic). I was sold already and no one had said hello to me yet. Mini B began a morning a week from spot on, nine months old. We had three settling in sessions but after twenty minutes of the first, it appeared she barely noticed my absence… charming eh? Within six months, and as work began to get busier again (and as the extraordinarily wait list would allow) we up’d her hours to a day and half. By the time she got to today as it were, she was doing 3 full days which almost didn’t seem like enough for her. She wanted more, all the time. More than I felt I could even give her. More stimulation, more friends, more time in the home-corner (her favourite corner of the pre-school room).

Almost four years to the day, Mini B has just finished her final day at that nursery. I’m writing this before that moment because somehow I can already guess how it’ll go down: with a lot of tears. From me. Not her. She’s sad, she’s said as much, but my god she is excited for the next chapter. I thrive on the resilience of my kid - no nostalgia, just the hope of the next adventure.

For four years, I would drop Mini B and collect her almost the same time (but they have an open door policy eg drop and collect when you like). I’d be 8.30am on the dot (when they open) and 4.45pm to collect.

In those four years, Mini B made multiple friends.

In those four years, I made two. By force. I’m one of those mums that sorta gets in and gets out…. But two women weren’t having it and cornered me in the car park - and to be honest, I’m glad. They’re now two of my very closest friends. And their daughters are Mini B’s too.

In those four years, and this is probably the humdinger, more women then I can possibly list have helped my daughter thrive, grow and “be”. They’ve been caregivers, cuddle-givers, nap-holders, high-fivers, applaud-givers, nose-wipers, bum-wipers, all round wonderfulness. They’ve let her play, they’ve let her learn, they’ve let her be herself. They’ve encouraged my daughter to learn who she is within the safest walls possible. (I’m already crying, fyi). I think it’s safe to say I feel I owe a LOT to these women that have taken my daughter in the hours where I’m baking biscuits (or having a nice lunch with a friend, child free, don’t judge me), and made her feel like she’s at a home from home. Moreover, I feel beyond proud that she has learnt some of her new life skills under the wings of women. I hope she can see, before she steps in the wider world of school, how bloody multi-faceted and ingeniously clever, whilst being humble and disarming, women can be.

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I’ll miss driving into the farmyard drive to see the pigs, I’ll miss hearing about how the fox ate the chickens last night, I’ll miss the songs she’s learnt (The Days of the Week to the Addam’s Family theme being a personal fave), I’ll miss the joy on her face when she realises it’s chicken curry day (won’t eat my Malaysian mother’s chicken curry but pre-school’s… I had to ask for the recipe!) and I’ll miss the excitement when there’s been new sand put into the sand pit. There are so many things I know I’ll miss. But she is school-ready, fosure, with a huge amount of recognition to the team in that Pre-School room.

Mini B: what a lovely lucky start you’ve had. Go thrive some more.

The ladies at that nursery: thank you - for all that i’ve already mentioned, but also for all those mornings when I’ve left the room crying because she hasn’t wanted me to go, or when I’ve picked her up crying because I’ve had a bad day at work… or for all the times in between. You were a support to me in those early years of motherhood of which I am beyond grateful.

Be good and bake well,

Lady Bakewell-Park