The summer holidays have drawn to a close here, and – this year for the first time in five months instead of in six or seven weeks – the schools have started back. This time last year that meant me and my biggest girl we were slipping seamlessly back into all our usual toddler groups again after just a few weeks of sunshine and holidays. This year, it’s all very different in every way. For us especially of course, as we have not one but two little ones, a soon-to-be 3 year old in just a few months and a 5 month old growing and changing so fast and so determinedly I can hardly keep up with her! But for everyone the world is a completely different place, meaning that in fact none of those things that made up my weeks at home with my oldest are around at the moment, and no one is quite sure when they’ll be starting back.
One thing that has had the go-ahead is early learning and childcare, so our local playgroup has opened and it’s here our big girl has found herself two mornings a week – going off somewhere on her own for the very first time. She has taken to playgroup so well, and settled in wonderfully to playing with the other kids, coming home full of stories about the day.
Paintings hang along our fireplace every day, sent home in stacks that reveal how enthusiastically she’s taken to every new activity, and I’ve adjusted to the new little routine of drop-offs and pick-ups – finding the optimum parking spot, scooting the little one into her carrier, holding the biggest’s hand and walking along the street to the flower-filled grounds of the village hall – normally multi-purpose, but at the moment home only to the playgroup, while all its other uses wait to resume, lending a reassuring permanence to all the children’s play corners.
The beginning of playgroup also means the beginning of time at home just me and the littlest, which has been really lovely – and focusing on that wonderful new opportunity has helped me get through the waves of sadness that came along with the joy of watching her sister take her first steps away from us, even just a few hours a week.
This is around the age my oldest was when I started slowly getting out to baby groups for the first time, after a few months of enjoying the time at home and on little pram walks around our village. I know I would have got to that quicker this time around, for so many reasons – not least that my littlest little is so very curious about the world around her and game for any adventure out into the world! These last few weeks, we’ve begun the 2020 versions of lots of new experiences, with Jo Jingles online classes streaming on the TV in place of an in-person music class and play dates with friends’ wee ones in place of local baby groups.
Despite the difference from normal, it’s been absolutely lovely exploring so many new things together. The supermarket is a weekly adventure, we’ve had her very first trip to the library this week (with a very wide-eyed response!) and also her first time in a cafe, and my first for six months – Little loved the sights and sounds and I couldn’t believe how totally amazing it was to have a beautiful hot coffee and amazing cake out and about once again!
As lovely as it is to tentatively step into some of the places we haven’t been in so long, I’m still spending most of my week with the girls at home or outdoors, and as we have unfortunately seen a bit of an upturn again in Covid-19 cases in the last few days and weeks, and a tightening of lockdown restrictions once more as a result, I know we’ll be continuing to wrap up as winter creeps in and stay outside as much as we can. It’s disheartening of course to see things take a step backwards, but as we enter my very favourite time of year, there are lots of positives to be found in the way we’re approaching the world this year, and already we are enjoying some beautiful autumn colours on all our rambles.
I always love the feeling at the start of the autumn term of a fresh starts and new beginnings; and this year it’s been a time of change for us all – my husband is changing jobs just now as well as the girls starting new chapters in their little lives, and even the pony starting one too with his retirement beginning earlier this month. I don’t return to work myself until the spring, and I am absolutely loving having so much time with the family stretching ahead and enjoying maternity leave; – but I have started a little new venture of my own too doing a little bit of study at nights when the wee ones are asleep, for an online course on dementia – and its impact on individuals and on society as whole – I’ve just begun, which has been so very interesting so far. I really love learning and focusing on something new, this is something I’m so passionate about and everything we’re covering will be so very helpful when I do go back to work. Really enjoying scribbling and watching lectures and meeting (or trying to meet!) deadlines again.
While this year has been as different as it could possibly be from any before it, it’s lovely to feel the reassuring normality of the back-to-school season settling in and the September sunshine and first cascade of leaves arriving once more.
Have a lovely weekend all. 🍂🍁 x