My goddaughter C is an amazing creature. She's bright and precocious and hungry for everything. She's like a little bird, never entertained by one thing for long. I am completely in love with her. I wish I saw her more often.
C's little brother M is a different story. He's stocky (his sister is lithe). A little less confident, a little more cautious. He's smart too - he guessed all the punchlines in the book I gave him when we met at the park. But he's a bit more... low-key. He gives the impression of mainly expecting the worst.
If there's one thing I learned as a diplomat, it's that predictions are usually wrong. But when I think of C and M heading back to their respective schools this season, I feel this premonition of how different their experiences will be.
C loves school. Like me (until her mother showed up), she will be top of her class. Perhaps, like me, she'll think that doing well at schooldefines her purpose in life - until she realises that success isn't relative, nor something that other people get to decide.
M will have to work harder for the grades his sister seems effortlessly to achieve. But because he never takes any attention for granted, he'll be popular. He'll learn to be kind before he learns to be clever. He'll wear his disappointments on his sleeve.
They're both brilliant kids - and so is their brother E, who at 2 months old has already charmed everyone with his handsome smile. All three of them will have every chance in life, and, like all children, they deserve it.
As we prepare to send our little ones back to school, I'm conscious how much our destinies can be forged by these formative years.
To everyone who's sending a son or daughter off to their first-day-at-school: I wish your kids the chance to be their best selves. This year and always.