A Perfect Afternoon

There were noises all around them, but they were only noticed with the briefest moments of attention. A child running and laughing, an old couple deep in conversation, a dog or two barking and jumping in the distance.

The couple walked together. Sometimes hand in hand, sometimes a few inches apart, helping each other push the stroller when the road got bumpy or steep to climb. They talked, constantly, ravenously, sharing the appetizers and main courses of each other’s days since they last had time to simply speak without distraction. Sometimes it’s like that; a moment in time opens up where you can talk on a deeper plane than all the hundreds of conversations preceding it. The sweet desserts and after dinner treats of banter and private jokes made the afternoon glare of the travelling sun seem not too bright to focus and pushed the noise and interference of the busy park to simply fade into the background.

At points, they turned to the little person who was never out of thought, and almost never out of sight. He was watching the world go by with such intent and interest, that you’d be forgiven for thinking he was controlling the elements with his very gaze. Never taking his tiny eyes off the world around him, so as not to miss a second of the changing afternoon, he babbled and motioned and smiled towards his parents, silently thanking them for the security and love for which he didn’t know any different.

They lifted him from his seat, and each took a tiny hand in theirs, letting him lead the way as fast as he could go, and as slowly as they could manage. Watching him navigate the world around him for one of the first times, putting pressure onto the earth and feeling it push back, grinning with sheer joy at what he could achieve, the couple smiled at each other in disbelief, at the miraculous and god-like capacity of simple love.

The afternoon got colder, and the trees on either side of the path changed. They had been shade from the bright rays of the late day sun, and they were now rustling protection from the early evening wind. The boy was tired, and grateful to be carried across the uneven grass, where only time would teach him how to walk steadily. The couple were happy to be silent, people watching, swapping quiet thoughts with looks and touches of hands and shoulders; gratefully aware that they were sharing something both rare and special.

They walked back through the trees, hand in hand, feeling the cool air lighten the very steps they were taking, watching the sun streak across the sky, like a child sponge painting impatiently, filling the page with innacurate colours and swirls of shape, yet somehow creating beauty with his lack of inhibition. They breathed in contentedly. It was a perfect afternoon.

 

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The Generation Game

If my baby were an adult, this week I would call him callous. If he were a grown up, aware of how tired both this parents are from an emotionally and physically exhausting week, I would probably be furious at him for his behaviour towards us.

Our family have suffered a great loss in the last few days, and I’m feeling drained, contemplative, emotional, and in need of some serious me-time. My son however, is just as he always is. Eager to be entertained, wide awake (as we all would be if we were allowed 15 hours sleep a day), somewhat whingy, and constantly in need of our full attention. What is usually part of the job, and at worst, moderately frustrating, has this week become almost impossible.

I got home on Tuesday morning at about 6am. My son woke up with his usual vigour at around 7. I sleepwalked into his room, muttered the morning prayer of Modeh Ani to him, with none of my usual halfhearted bounce, (half is good for me-I am the opposite of a morning person.) and lifted him out of his cot. He grinned at me, and started pressing my nose, the cue for a cheery rendition of “The wheels on the bus.”

Washed out. Devastated. Exhausted. Lost. A few of the words that described how I felt at that moment, having only hours before watched a man I loved leave this world. How could I play with my baby, smile and sing and laugh with him, when I cant even explain to him yet, “Ima doesnt feel too good today” or “A sad thing has happened.” For R, the world was exactly the same place it was when I said goodnight twelve hours previously. For me, everything had changed, and I was overcome with a desire to put him down on the floor, leave him the open box of cheerios, and climb back under my waiting duvet.

And then I had a moment of utmost clarity. I was holding in my arms, a baby. My baby. Entirely innocent, and thank God, entirely without hurt or pain over this or any other incident in the world. (Lack of breadsticks exempting.) That’s the way of the world, and that’s the way it should be. As heartbroken as I am, he doesnt even know how to feel that emotion, let alone recognise it in my own eyes. And I’m so glad. He has plenty of time to learn how to sympathise with other people’s pain, and discover the right platitudes to say. For now, he is completely and totally selfish, and nothing could be better for him.

And perhaps for me too. Coming home, and seeing my son, playing with him, being forced to smile and laugh, only reinforces the nature of our lives. As we say goodbye to the older generation, we step into the shoes of the middle. This week, I truly feel like I’ve grown in countless ways, but not least out of being a child, in a very real way. Taking on responsibilities that may have rightly been my own late fathers, accepting that life is finite and precious in a way I’ve never embraced before, and stepping up into a more adult and mature role in our family. All of these things have changed me.

Looking at my baby boy, who has years and years to explore the ways of the world and struggle with the beauty and hardship of all these emotions, I know that he is truly blessed in his self-centredness, and that there is enough time in the future where he will no doubt be deprived of that without me taking it away from him now, in his babyhood.

And so I kissed his tiny forehead, gave him an extra little squeeze, and began at his favourite part, the middle of the song. “The horn on the bus goes.. beep beep beep!”

After all, why should he have to wait?

 

Dear Abby…

Try not to laugh. My one year old finds me boring.

He is generally thank God, a happy, smiley kid, and many people insist on telling me that I don’t know how lucky I have it. (as if myself an C have nothing to do with his character traits or personality. Hello? At the very least we’re responsible for the genetics. Anyway, another blog.) And it’s true, he is truly a chilled out kid.

But I’m not sure he likes me all that much…

Ridiculous. Absurd. He loves me. I know that. He cuddles me when he wakes up in the night crying. He smiles when I put him in his highchair, (knowing that food is near) and it’s not as if we never have fun together, of course we do. But those times seem to be less often than they once were. I think it wouldnt bother me nearly as much if it was a general phase he was going through with everyone. But he’s never been more happy to see every other member of our family or general acquantaince in our lives. Grins, Giggles, Arms outstretched.. I get it R, you like them more than me today.Same as yesterday. No doubt same as tomorrow.

So I play with you. I sit down, flex my fingers, put my best baby smile on, and begin. Blocks. Lets make a tower! I place one block on top of another, and then a third. You knock it down and look at me. I do it again, and you oblige. A third time, and you leave it standing there, as if to say, Seriously? this is the whole game? Ok R, too easy. Lets try building one instead. I put one solitary block in your hand and another on the floor in front of you. I watch as you place it onto the other, and after a few tries, you manage to successfully construct your first tower. Yay! I clap enthusiastically, but you have no desire to do it again, once is enough and you’re already on to the next step, of eating the project at hand.

Ok. What’s next? I clap and put my arms out to you, and you scramble onto my lap. We look at each other, and I nostalgically remember the days when I could pull a funny face and keep you entertained. Now even old faithful ‘fish face’ gives me only a few seconds of a half smile. All my best contortions of my facial muscles serve to give me nothing but a glimpse into the future, my teenage boy staring at me grumpily, waiting to be dismissed, a look on his face as if to say ‘You seriously dont get me.’

Perhaps I’m being hugely hard on myself. But whatever games I play with you, I cant shake the feeling that you are fantastically bored. That I’m not able to be as boisterous as your dad, or as appealing as your grandparents, or as interesting as another baby. I cant think of the right things to say, or a different song to sing, or an original game to play. I dont think you enjoy spending time with me.

Truthfully R, you’re not that entertaining yourself. You whine a lot, you need more attention than a well trained house pet, and your conversational skills are limited to say the least. I have to admit that this boredom which worries me so much, is something which I feel many times throughout the day myself. I know that’s normal. But that’s part of the package. I knew when I decided to invite you into our family, that it would be a couple years before you became company. It worries me that you were not appraised of the same deal and in terms of entertainment, as your primary care giver, I might be coming up slightly lacking.

So all suggestions gratefully recieved. Winter is a’coming, and play dates are scarce, as all of my fellow mummies appear to be returning to full time work.. Any ideas/groups for keeping a communicationally challenged 1yo entertained much appreciated.. Failing that, words of encouragement that my baby likes as well as loves me would be great..

 

Sonnet

“There is a secret all true lovers share”
That lives beneath the gazing of their eyes
Without this, those who love should well beware
The short-lived folly of their lust’s disguise

I thought that I had known true love before,
A beating and a yearning to be thine,
But these three years have shown me so much more,
The friendship and the strength that come with time.

I look towards the years we have ahead,
And smile at memories which are not yet ours
Where your heart travels I’m so gladly led,
A wealth of love that no debate can mar.

So thanks for three and here’s to ninety two
Endless ways to tell you I Love You.

(Happy Anniverary Hubby! xx)