There is something incredibly bittersweet about walking your child home from school.
It struck me this morning as I made my way into work and my journey overlapped part of the route that me and Tom take every afternoon. For a second I saw myself transplanted 10 or 15 years hence looking back on our old walks home from school at a time when they’d be long behind us. And it occurred to me that this time, this experience, is very much only in the now. It isn’t going to last forever. The very nature of it – the route we take and the conversations we have – will change with each passing year until he gets too old to want to undertake the journey with me.
At the moment our route takes in the sweet shop (provided he has been a good boy at school). I buy him a little treat. Sometimes he insists that I get myself a little treat too (but only if I have been good). Sometimes we cut through the park. I ask him what he has learnt at school. Last week he told me very confidently that he had learnt how to be an artist. The felt-tip stains on his hands were testament to the truth of this.
In a few years time it won’t be sweets he’ll be after but computer game magazines. And if he answers my questions at all it will be a begrudging “long division” or “the 12 times table.”
This time we have now where everything is new and he is indefatigably enthusiastic will pass. We will find ourselves home from the park all too soon and perhaps going our separate ways.
I wonder if he will look back on these times as I undoubtedly will and find that he misses them.
Or maybe he won’t think of them at all until, like me, he has his own children to collect from school. Because, in truth, it is only now that I find myself thinking back to my own childhood journeys home from school. When my mum would collect me and my sister and we’d run out to find her waiting outside the school gates. Back in the days when we had proper winters with proper snow and we’d snowball fight and lob “accidental” snowballs at my mum’s umbrella as we trailed home behind her. When, if we had been good, we were allowed a quick trip to the sweetshop too.
Looking back on them now, those days seem to have gone by so quickly. So frighteningly quickly.
But I guess that’s the trouble when you’re a kid; you’re always home from the park too soon.