It's my last week as a back-to-school mum and I know I'll miss it
When I wave the youngest off to school next Monday it'll be for the last time.
It won't matter that he's bigger and taller than me, swinging the stupendously heavy bag onto his shoulder as if it was as light as a feather, or that his man-size uniform now comes in waist and length inches rather than age, or that the immense amount of books required this year are enough to start a small library.
It's not the point that he's old enough to celebrate his last weekend of freedom with a pint in the local. For all intents and purposes, it's exactly the same for me as for all mums - whether they're eight or 18, the first day back to school is laden with emotion.
Oh, and elation, obviously. The long lazy days of summer might be over, but so is the idling around the house, the hours spent on the laptop, the not getting out of bed until lunchtime, the constant cries of "I'm bored" and the expense of having your fridge raided three times a day.
The routine of September can be frantic at times. You're back to the endless taxi driving, lifts and collections, shelling out money for this, that and everything, getting up in the dark and cold and juggling work, home and school timetables, vowing to make interesting school lunches this year but knowing you'll still be buttering ham sandwiches for nine months
But there is a comfort in the sameness of it. The certainty of how each week will pan out and the knowledge that the tiredness is a 'good' tiredness - they might be crabby and moody, but they'll be fine after a bit of dinner and the homework done.
As I head into this my last year of school as a parent, it seems incredible that I'll never again attend a parent teacher meeting. No more sitting outside classrooms awaiting your 'speed dating' session with a long line of teachers whom who hope against hope don't greet you with pursed lips or a sympathetic sigh.
It's impossible that I'll never again have to brave Marks & Spencer or Dunnes Stores trying to find a bundle of shirts that fit, or a pair of shoes the size of canal barges, or the new jumper.
It seems ridiculous that the text books and copies, folders and papers which have been gathering in piles all over the house for twenty years will no longer take up any space. There'll be no more covering, sellotaping, labelling, sewing or storing of school items.
There'll be no more frantic searching for 5A Spanish or Maths set squares at 8.50am because it's needed "right now or else I'll totally fail!"
It's crazy to think that I won't be needed at the cake sales, or the fund raisers, or on a committee of any kind, or to share conversations in the town about this child and that, or what teacher is on this year or the latest gossip from the school gates, because for me, there'll be no more school gates.
I'll never again dig out another note, soggy from being stored for a week under a cheese sandwich in the school bag demanding money for a trip, or a book or a talk which has to be in since last Friday or else.
I won't be required to ever attend another recital, Christmas concert or school play. There will be no more sidelines on which to stand shivering. Nobody will care about my views on the building fund, or how the new science labs should be built or whether the uniform crest should be changed.
This will be a relief.
Then again, nobody will ever care enough about my child enough again to call me with concern if he doesn't turn up for a class, or has a tummy bug or is late for a match. I'll not be asked if I can take so-and-so to the football, or dance lessons or whether a 'run' is being organised for a school trip.
From September of next year, he's on his own. If he's lucky enough to make it into college, the teachers won't be hand-holding. There'll be no roll call, no detention, no uniform, no rules.
He can't wait, but there's a comfort and great peace about our school system that makes you, as a parent, trust that the teachers, whether they be good or bad, easy or hard, have a fundamental interest in your child's well-being.
Each September you get the opportunity to get to know another one, or several. Many will become friends; all will be co-conspirators in your child's future. I'll miss that.