When I pictured the first morning back at school, I'd pictured teary goodbyes, with Mo having to pry my claws off my kids as they walked to the car dragging their clingy deranged mother along while she screamed , '' My babies! Don't leave meeeeee!!''
I'd pictured us all speaking to each other lovingly all morning, as we enjoyed our last few moments in one anothers' company.
But no such luck.
The kids were irritable. They had awoken tired because they had, probably owing to first-day nerves, lain awake until really late.
They had gotten into bed at their usual time and performed their beginning-of-term ritual of recording a message for their cell phone alarm (in the hopes that waking up to something funny and outrageous would be more pleasant than waking up to the usual beeping of an alarm clock). After a few takes and numerous arguments over whose voice was the funniest in their morning-greeting alarm message, they settled down, satisfied at last that this message was so hilarious that it would have them leaping out of bed joyfully each morning (but probably knowing full well from experience that, by next week, the very sound of their excited happy voices alerting them to the need to leave their warm beds, would make them want to toss the phone into the toilet).
So from about 20:00 they had lain in bed, but sleep was elusive. Fortunately, Nuha (7) managed to fall asleep by past nine, but the other two tossed and turned for another hour and a half (at least).
Last night Aisha (2), as if sensing that something stressful was happening, had been really clingy. At 22:00 she was still sitting on my lap demanding that I read her favourite books, when Shakeel (13) jumped out of bed, rushed to us and flung his arms, first around me and then his little sister, telling us how much he loved as and would miss us. I was touched by the sentiment - and the fact that he had inherited his mother's dramatic nature.
But this morning expressions of warmth and love were nowhere to be found. They snapped at each other rudely and argued incessantly. Shakeel bossed Tharaa (10) about, while Tharaa did the same to Nuha.
Until I stepped in and reminded them about how important it was to be kind and respectful to each other - especially since we would not be spending the day together and anything could happen. And how the tone for one's day could be set in the mornings, which means that a stressful morning could result in an unpleasant day.
After this they wandered about their business more quietly (though still sombrely). The fact that Shakeel's school shoes are nowhere to be found, we took in our stride. I simply wrote a note to the teacher apologising for him wearing sneakers to school and promising that his shoes would be found during the course of today. (Which could be a virtually-impossible task with Aisha's new game of hiding our belongings in unusual places, like car keys in the grocery cupboard).
So we said our goodbyes mournfully, with each child giving me a long lingering hug. But ashamedly, I have realised that the drama of our goodbyes and the sadness of our separation from one another should be kept in perspective, especially after Elizabeth, our domestic worker returned yesterday, after having said teary goodbyes to her children (aged 14 and 7), whom she will only see in December again, since they live in the Eastern Cape.
At least I still have little Aisha to fill my days with joy - or distress - depending on her mood.
And now, as I wait for her to awaken, I say a little prayer that she does so happily, that all my kids have a wonderful day (and term) ahead and, most importantly, that none of them inherit their mother's wimpish clinginess.