As a mum of three, I am no stranger to sleep deprivation
My children started keeping me up at night before they were even born (giant heads on my now weak bladder) and they are showing no signs of stopping yet.
The husband and I have read alot of books about sleep training, done alot of Internet research on night terrors. Downloaded alot of sleep-inducing music. Spent a lot on night lights. We've lost many a night's sleep discussing/arguing how to get a night's sleep.
But it always boils down to this.
We are weak. We are sleep addicts. We break all the rules.
So four got her school place. I am not sure how I feel about it. One minute I am all tearful, remembering the tiny bundle we drove very very (very) slowly home from hospital, the next I am like "YES, six hours of free childcare."
I hate that there is a top of the class and a bottom of the class and an "average". Up until now, there has been nothing average about that girl of mine.
At playgroup today I was sat next to two mums having a conversation. It went like this
"Hmm, maybe you need to speak to the school about it, get her some special EXTRA HARD books."
"Good idea. I will take it to the top, speak to the education board."
I am not sure what a "blue sticker" book is. James Joyce's Ulysses maybe?
If you were to ask my four year-old-daughter what I was best at, she would tell you "Tidying up really quickly" or "Making cheese straws".
She is right about this, as it happens - but there is more to me than my mad cleaning skills and handy ability to whip up cheesy snacks. Honest.
There are sides of me that my children do not see, may never see. I've put them all on hold. I like to say just for now but in all honesty, who knows?
Today you went missing for a while. We were at the field by the park. I was taking too much on as usual, serving teas and coffees whilst also looking after your little sisters.
Then one of your pre-school friends turned up with his mum. You were so excited. He wanted to go to the park and his mum said "I'll take her for you, no worries. She can come with me." I felt so relieved.
You were getting to go and have fun and I only had the other two to keep an eye on.You were being so sweet. You helped me set up the table and wash the mugs. You lay out the blankets and helped make the sun tent. You really wanted to go on to the park, but I could not take you. You sat and waited so patiently.
A short time later another friend turned up, her daughter keen to see you too. "She is in the park" I said, watching her walk past the tennis courts towards what I thought was you in the park on the swing.
Turns out that was another little girl in the park, not you.
At first I could not believe it. I ran to the park to check myself. You were not there.
The mum and friend who had taken you to the park were not there either. The rational part of me knew you were with them, but where?
You were not in the loos or the car park. You were not by the horses. You were not up the lane. You were not anywhere.
The whole atmosphere in the park became uneasy. Your sisters started to cry.
Your friends leapt on scooters to hunt for you. Their mums stood, hand-to-mouth, and looked aghast. Horrified and yet relieved it was not their baby missing.
I started to panic. The park swam round me as I tried to be rational and calm.
I did not have the mum's number. No one seemed to have her number.
I phoned your daddy and told him I could not find you.... Your daddy sounded like he was being sawn in half.
Just then, people started shouting and pointing.
You had been in the little wood at the back of the field with your friend and his mum. Your pink vest sparkled in the sun and you were skipping.
Me, your sisters, and all your friends ran towards you.
You looked so surprised at your welcome party. So happy. So innocent.
I held you to me so hard you squeaked. (Did I ever tell you I love your squeak?)
Around me, the park came back into focus. Swings started swinging, birds started twittering. Balls started bouncing. Life moved on...
You are asleep now, worn out from your exciting day. But I can't switch off. The memory of what the world feels like without you is still too real in my mind.
I keep going in your room to look at you. I've kissed your knees and the space between your fingers.
I've whispered sorry into the folds of your nightie. I've thanked all the stars in the sky.
I've made your favourite drink in your favourite sippy cup. I've laid out your favourite dress to wear tomorrow.
I still don't feel I've done enough.
Seeing your pink vest appear out the trees today was almost as beautiful as the first time I saw you in my arms.
Next time you want to go to the park, we'll go hand in hand.
I promise I won't let go.