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On this otherwise routine Tuesday my boys walked to school together

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Backpacks a-swinging, out the gate, and into the suburban morning. It’s both ordinary and extraordinary. The simplest of connectives, from home to school is approximate to a pair of gentle 8-irons.

By the gate, I watch after them. Alex and Max evaporate around the corner, a sudden jolt to the right.

In my car, I ease around the block to intercept them. Our bond is broken by a tangle of local geography and ribboned tarmac for the one-way street insists I steer away from them, cruelly, past the park, and finally down an untroubled avenue.

It’s ninety seconds of paused terror, it’s ninety seconds of forbidding blackness, but it’s ninety seconds they need.

Of course, their little world grows.

At the intersection by their school, my car crouches and the playground yelps and squeals through the open window like snatches of sudden pop songs.

Alex and Max have escaped my orbit, but I return to them. Like a satellite, my trajectory’s veering back into their warm atmosphere.

And there they are, bouncing along the path, side-by-side, as brothers should, their flapping shorts of uniform-green, quince-peels of hair. The trees fold forward into a guard of honour, and in beaming silence, I smile.

Seeing me is simple permission for them to run to school, like exploding scraps of rainbow, accelerating through the gate, and to their mates.

I yell after them, but my voice is lost behind their giraffe legs and the innocent rush of a new day. “Good job, boys. See you tonight!”

Misty-eyed, I drive off. A bright, early morning, but already it seems late.

Soon, it will be.

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My Favourite Thing

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On this planet here’s my favourite thing.

Monday evenings, after dinner and baths Max and I sit around the big, rustic table and he does his homework. Following our reading we move to the week’s list of words. You know the antique drill. Look. Cover. Write. Check.

I love watching our boys write.

Mostly, I sit in silence. Like his mum Max’s nose wrinkles when he’s connecting a new idea to an established one. Each squiggly letter is crafted with quiet industry. It’s a magnificent, affirming sight. Our universe tightens to this page, and his cognitive load is massive. It’s exciting, but as nerve-wracking as a footy final.

At their age it’s a tough activity. What could be more demanding for a six-year-old? But they bring such blameless engagement to the task. Vacuuming language inside and not sending their words skywards, this is an unnatural ask, the reverse of speech, but they work hard, and I’m proud.

Forming the words, Alex bursts into his future, and as our globe spins from post-industrial to digital, this learning, this language will be their elevator. I’m delighted that both boys seem to value it. Not as much as dinosaurs or spies or ice-cream, but it ranks.

I keep watching.

Why is it so mesmerizing? It’s the transparency of their concentration. All our formulated hopes are projected onto the transit of that blue ink. Max comments between words, revealing the wisdom of his interrogations. “This is hard to spell.” Or, “Bed and bread rhyme.” Or, “Cake is simple to write, isn’t it Dad?”

We invest these moments with calm. The dining table’s a still beach at dawn. These are triumphs, but I mourn my slippery seconds.

Each simple term is a thrilling performance. I pause. Instants ago, these boys were babies. Now they’re holding pens, fashioning words, making meaning, interacting with their widening worlds.

I keep watching.

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