And now, the end is near... And so I face... the final school run!
Call me melodramatic but I have been dreading this week for seven years. The thought of seeing Finn, my youngest child, in his primary school uniform for the last time ever brings a lump to my throat without fail. It was at the end of term school concert last week when the floodgate warning signs began. There he stood on the back row of the stage, looking so tall and grown up, belting out the school anthem like a young Harry Seacomb in between poorly suppressed fits of giggles.
But while he was trying hard not to laugh I was trying hard not to cry.
The annual event is a tearjerker at the best of times; the music teacher has a knack of picking the songs which will tug the hardest at your heart strings. So much so that I was half expecting to hear a Seasons In The Sun/Alone Again Naturally medley accompanied by violins.
But this year it had the added genuine poignancy that this would be the last one ever. Fortunately I had a pair of sunglasses in my handbag which I slipped on to hide behind, in between verses of 'Yesterday ... all my troubles seemed so far away'.
All the other parents might have thought I was an outrageous poser but it did the trick, so as I sat there looking like the editor of Vogue at a fashion show, the tears welled up and splashed onto the photocopied programme unnoticed by everyone except the old lady — someone's proud granny— who was sitting next to me and kindly passed me a tissue.
Of course I had been through this rite of passage once before, four years earlier with his older brother Luke. That time the feeling of loss hadn't occurred to me because I still had one wee boy going through all the same sweet and innocent rituals — the nativity plays, the hand-made Christmas cards scattered in glue and gold glitter, the Easter bunny picture with its cotton wool tail, the school trips to the zoo, the scrawled birthday party invitations, the sports days and packed lunches and spelling tests and 12 times tables and birthday buns for the whole class ...
In fact, that time around I wholeheartedly joined in the de-mob happy mood and we celebrated the end of primary school with a mass sleep-over and movie trip for all his best buddies. But this second time it was always going to be tinged with sadness, in an end-of-an-era kind of way, for me at least.
Finn of course has been over-the-moon to be finally graduating and decided he too wanted to celebrate it in a similar extravagant style. So earlier this week, as he went on his bike to the post-office to buy invitations, I scoured the newspaper for cinema listings.
And there, just as I was flicking through the pages, a story caught my eye. A child had fallen in a school playground, banged his head and subsequently — after some complications — died. A picture showed the parents holding a school photograph of the poor wee boy. They were absolutely distraught. It was only a couple of lines and the sort of story which appears almost every day in the Press, and yet it immediately put all of the melancholy which had been building up in my mind very firmly into perspective.
A few minutes later, Finn arrived back home. "Hey — great news: The new Narnia movie starts on Friday. We can go to see that!" I announced.
"Whooppee! I can't wait!" was his euphoric reply.