The nursery teacher hands me the small brown envelope that I immediately recognise as the school fees. I am about to throw it away when I remember that Ben is staying for the lunchtime hour this term and therefore I will, for the first time, have to pay fees. It is only for that hour but, even so, I am momentarily staggered when the bill announces they require £140 from me. At first glance it appears like a very large amount of money for the privilege of him sitting down at a table and not-quite-eating the lunch he would otherwise have had at home.
But then I think of how, with that extra hour and now that William has his meds slightly earlier at school, after eight months of house-arrest I have just enough time to get to town to run errands, go shopping or even sit in the Lavazza cafe and drink illicit coffee while the baby marvels at the fact that other people exist in this world and they are streaming past him in a steady riot of colour and movement. I think of how Ben adores preschool, how his teachers think he is a ‘character’ and always have an anecdote about today’s funnyman act and how he has more friends than is decent for a three year old. But mostly I look at him writhing on the carpet as he falls into his daily post-school tantrum brought on by tiredness, reminding me how he doesn’t like anyone today, kicking his baby brother with frustration, how he will be too tired to walk to school in a minute, how he is Soo Bored RightNow and WHY DOESN’T HE HAVE MORE LEGO THAN HE DOES, and I think, yes, maybe £140, but also? SO WORTH IT.
Photo: images of money