"Tomorrow," I told Jamie as we made our gradual post-dinner way upstairs, "you're going to nursery. But tomorrow…" slight pause for emphasis "…will be your last day at nursery. After that, you'll have finished. You won't go back any more."
Jamie considered this. "What will I do after I finish nursery?" he asked.
An excellent question indeed. "Well," I explained, "over the summer you might have some swimming lessons. But then, on September 1st, you're starting… do you know?"
"I'll show you on my calendar," Jamie announced, running on ahead to leap up on his bed and leaf through to the September page. The occasion wasn't, in fact, marked on his calendar, but he likes to look at the different dates there anyway – it makes events seem more concrete to him. (His interest in dates goes back to last December and his advent calendar – he was so enthralled by getting to open a little numbered window with each successive day that he would greet each morning on waking up with the enthusiastic announcement that this was the 17th of December, or whatever it happened to be, and the enthusiasm lived on past the end of the advent calendar. After a few extra days of being told which day in December it was, I realised that either someone was going to have a very difficult job a few years down the line breaking it to him that it was in fact not, despite what he had hitherto believed, the 758th of December 2008, or else I was going to have to explain to him how dates worked. I opted for the latter, and bought him a calendar to reinforce it, and a new interest of Jamie's was born. It's a useful one – he can remember birthdays for us, and it makes it much easier to tell him about future events. Such as the one in question.)
"And on the first of September," Jamie informed me, having been through a rapid verbal meander through the remainder of July and August, "I will be starting Big School."
He will indeed. And thus, on Friday, 17th July, almost two years after that first day, Jamie's time at nursery ended. It's not exactly the end of an era, since we're still hoping to send Katie there (although, since we're also hoping that Barry will be back at work by the time Katie's that age, this will depend on the precise details of what childcare arrangements we manage to make for her); but it's definitely a pause in an era.
I believe I have previously mentioned the sheer wonderfulness of the nursery staff, but this seems like a good point to mention it again; they have been utterly splendid. I can't thank them enough. (I mean that literally as well as metaphorically – unfortunately, my obsession with avoiding any information that might identify our whereabouts prevents me from naming them here, so I'm limited to the rather less satisfactory route of thanking them anonymously.) It was sheer geographical chance that we'd picked that nursery in the first place – I know choosing a nursery for your child is meant to involve running down a twenty-point list of questions on the ways in which they will nurture your child, stimulate his mental and emotional development appropriately but not pushily, and ensure he mixes with people of a wide range of different races and ethnicities, but, in fact, this nursery happened to be noticeably more convenient to get to than any of the other available ones and so my assessment pretty much boiled down to "Nice toys? Staff not showing any obvious signs of being axe murderers or paedophiles? Check and check. Right, we'll book him in for September, please." As it turns out, I don't think we could have done a better job of picking the right nursery for Jamie if we'd spent hours meticulously reviewing every place in town. They have been spectacularly good at picking up on the initial signs of his ASD and giving him the help he needs in a way that doesn't make him look singled out.
It's been a pretty good two years. As much as I dislike it when I find my blog posts degenerating into a soggy mess of clichés, I really do feel compelled to say this; Jamie's come a long way in that time, and I'm looking forward to the next bit of the journey.