Every morning she packs her bag, sticks her water bottle inside, and hoists it on her back. Together with Tijm and Linde she climbs down the stairs, sits her bag by the fence and plays. Scooting, cycling, running or chatting we wait, every morning, with all the neighbours and their kids, for our respective school buses. When we see the orange-white-blue Dutch school bus appear around the corner Tijm and Linde get their bags, their cool boxes, their bus passes and they board. Jasmijn follows. The bus auntie laughs, sits her in a chair. We laugh too, we wave. And, before the bus takes off, we lift Jasmijn out.
She was not yet two, she couldn’t go. She was furious.
Her birthday arrives, Jasmijn turns two. Jasmijn starts pre-school, two mornings a week. I drop her off. The first morning she clutches my leg, firmly. But I stay, and Jasmijn starts a jigsaw, turning to me after each piece, checking I am still there. When the gym class starts she can no longer resist, she runs and climbs, ignoring me proudly. The next day she waves to me at drop-off, bye mama, and runs off to play. When I come to pick her up she is walking in line, with the other kids, on their way to the buses, and I whisk her off just in time. The week after again she is ready, by the bus.
Now she was two, but she still couldn’t go. She was furious.
I drop her off in the car. Such a little girl, in such a big bus. In the Netherlands kids will cycle to school from an early age, but school buses are unheard of. A child’s comfortable level of independence is relative to what it’s parents know and trust. But there is more. I want to be involved, see and feel the school, chat to teachers and other mums, the things I miss with my older kids. I love to have the time to myself, not to spend half the day in the car, collecting my kids at those inconveniently different hours. But still. So independent, so young? I am not sure.
Jasmijn is. Two year olds are so extremely intense. Intensely annoying. Intensely cute. So small, yet so grown-up. Talking is toddler babbling, from half words to whole sentences, sometimes clear, sometimes frustratingly incomprehensible. Even though we do not always understand, Jasmijn knows exactly what she wants. Not to wear a nappy. Not to wear dresses but shorts. Tijm’s penguin. To watch Pippi Longstocking. She points, she shouts, she shoves, one way or another she makes sure we know what she wants. Large drops will spill from her eyes if she does not get it. The house will fill with cries, ten, twenty minutes if she must. She wants it, and she wants it now.
She wants to take the bus. So we give in, and she may. I never saw a toddler so happy, so proud, to board a bus. She waves at us from her window seat, next to big brother and sister. Papa and I, we wave back, we wave at the bus that takes our children away. Five, three and only just two years old.