This year Frederique will start school and I feel deeply ambivalent about it. I am pleased for her because I think she will be happy in an environment composed largely of kids and the early years will suit her, where there is still some freedom to wander and giggle and chat and play. I am excited about all the things she will learn, I am excited about her life opening outwards, away from us, I'm relieved that some of the pressure of how her time is to be passed day in and day out is to be taken off us. I am looking forward to her developing a deeper relationship with the 6 girls who are going from kinder and with the two new girls in her class. I am looking forward, with reservations (reservations being that I don't want it to take over what's left of my social life), to becoming a part of the school community.
But I am also grieved. Not just about the fact that Fred's moving onto the wider world, though I am aware that she'll be bringing home some big kid concepts that I'm not quite ready for (words like dickhead and everything having germs - 'There are no germs in this family' I tell Fred firmly. I always hated the prissy kids who wiped the tops of the bottle with their hands before they had a sip - and for heaven's sake, what do you think is all over your hands anyway, germ freak?) My sadness really comes from the loss of freedom. Fred is the first one in the family to tie us to the school year. Next year Martin becomes a teacher and the year after Una goes into prep. As much as I'm looking forward to all that alone time to
I am also sad for Una, who will be spending long weeks at home. We still have no childcare for her and the competition in this area is only getting fiercer with two ABC centres closing down. I am going to be home with her for 3 days and Martin will have her for the other 2 (yes, during which time I will write novels and do speaking gigs and generally keep the family afloat - insert weak laughter that may turn into torrents of tears here). We are also down to one car - we had been borrowing a second car but its owners needed it back. We're investigating getting a second car, but even so, I think Una will have a lonely year - we don't have many kids her age in our lives, and most of them have parents with insane schedules.
For the record, for anyone who has been reading for a while, we finally opted for the local school, after Martin saw the whole school on excursion at the Museum, and observed the relationship between the biggies and the littlies (I was convinced by an excursion as well - they caught the train into Collingwood and walked from the station to the children's farm, that's a pretty impressive journey). We figure we chose this area for our kids for better or for worse, we owe it to them and to the area to support the infrastructure here. Plus I read something compelling about how kids in small schools LIKE school better than kids in big schools. And to be honest I couldn't get my head around sending Fred anywhere else. I think both Fred and Una are very self-motivated learners and I hope a small school environment will be nurturing for them. My one big fear is that Una won't have any other kids in her class (there was only one girl prep in '08 and just three boys), so far all the kids in the area we've met in Una's age group are going to one of the other schools.
'08 brought a new nephew into our lives. I become a great aunt. The Indigo Girls was a bestseller in Angus and Robertson and I was invited to appear in the Melbourne Writer's Festival. Drift was rejected by the American publishers. Sale figures for the second and third books of the trilogy have been, frankly, disappointing and I grieve for Undine, because she is so real for me. Sales figures for The Indigo Girls have been exciting and before Christmas it went into reprint - it has sold over 10000 copies. I wrote Little Bird (which will be another Girlfriend novel) and I think it's a really, really good book. I traveled with Fred. I went to Paris. I totally surprised myself by falling in love with Hong Kong. I went to New Zealand with Kate. I lost about 8kgs by being French. I wrote half of Only Ever Always - and I think it's the best writing I've done - and promptly got stuck. I finished my Masters. I toured the Wimmera. I toured Tassie with Lili, James and Kirsty and hassled the Hutchins boys ('it's not pink, it's magenta') and had a fabulous time. I watched my beloved father-in-law come to terms with his diagnosis and fight it and marveled at the strength and resilience of his wonderful wife, my husband's mother. And I parented Fred and Una and loved them fiercely, even when I sucked at being a mother. We had a beautiful Christmas with Martin's extended family (my family too now of course) and then drove up to Mildura and saw some members of my family I hadn't seen for years, and it was wonderful.
I am going to make some New Year's resolutions. I resolve to. I'll let you know when I do.