I feel your sharp elbows dig into my chest as you clamber over, getting closer to the page. The ceiling light is off and the walls are dimly lit from a bedside table. You slur your speech with the dummy you’ve outgrown in your mouth as you explain your fast thoughts about the images. I let you fill the blanks in the sentences you’ve assimilated so quickly. Your ravenous mind a sponge.
I am warm and cosy under the duvet in my bed that you sleep in whilst your baby brother needs a sleep companion. Giving mummy and me more rest than if we had to see to you in the night. And we cherish taking turns sleeping with you.
You flit and twist about, putting your head on my chest as I read, sitting up on your haunches leaning your forearms on my chest when an exciting page happens, getting close as I wrap my arm around your torso, holding the other side of the book again. Your warmth an exchange of energy like no other. Your hot little torso. Your warm hands. Your head and hair blocking the pages so I have to peep around you to read the words most of which I can recite from memory. You’re still awake, though you are ready for sleep and keep rubbing your eyes
Your inquisitive intonation and your utter security make me proud. Of myself, but more so of you. Sometimes I try to imagine what it feels like to be with a parent you feel so secure with, going to sleep with them there under the duvet. It must feel so comforting. This caring giant sharing warmth and love, every night.
You barely look at the pages of your old favourites as we read. Instead you fiddle with your cup of milk, or your toy car that you brought into the bed with you after your bath. You love to read them all the same. But the new books? You are transfixed by them and emotionally swept up in them.
I put my fingers through your curls as you lay your head on the pillow. I turn off the bedside light. I wish you good night and tell you I love you. Sometimes, you say ‘I love you, daddy’ in return.
You are nearly 3. We’ve been doing this for over a year and a half, and I will hold this with me forever. It is some of my most special moments.
If it ain’t broke don’t fix it;
so go find someone who can tell you if it’s broke,
’cause it might need fixing.
Time heals all wounds
that can heal.
My baby had their 8 week vaccinations recently, and their mum was AWOL, well that’s not true–she had pre-planned many months previously to be away–at a spa evening (banter points: Dad) and we knew beforehand that this meant one of two things: extra sleep, or extra tears.
The vaccinations in question? Here in the UK the NHS gives a real cocktail of wallop: the 6-in-1 diphtheria; tetanus; whooping cough (pertussis); polio; Haemophilus influenzae type b, another for pneumococcal (PCV), another for rotavirus, and finally meningitis B. I’m totally for vaccinations, after all these guys are scientists.
I was working from home (can’t complain) but started early in the day and worked through lunch to be around earlier, and fortunately didn’t have to witness the injections themselves–which apparently were heartbreaking.
Baby was OK to begin with, was behaving fairly normally, and then sometime in the late afternoon it all just kicked and they wouldn’t stop crying. I couldn’t put them past vertical unless they were leaning forwards on me.
But then something wonderful happened, it all just occurred to me that they weren’t just trying to get into a comfortable position, or needing winding, or needing nappy changing, it was that they wanted to feel safe and secure because they were feeling so mixed up inside. Wow, it sort of just hadn’t occurred to me that this was going to be one of my roles. I don’t know why, I guess it makes so much sense…. but I didn’t think of it. So having him utterly unwilling to be put down for six hours was a lesson for me that this little human trusts me, and wants to know things are OK in a time of crisis. Shit! What a thing…. this was definitely the first time I felt like more than just a nappy/milk/wind/sleep/stimulation servant, and instead like a … well … a parent.
I’m not suggesting that this one isolated incident created my life, but when I was five, older girls down my street put on a magic show for the younger kids. It was quite a beautiful thing to do, looking back at it, and it brought everyone together.
Halfway through their magic show they tasked us (the younger kids) with a competition: who could draw the best picture of their garage (where the magic show was happening). I drew their typical British 1970’s grey-bricked garage, at the end of their driveway, with the yellow garage door and I remember thinking at the time that it was quite simple so there was probably something I wasn’t doing right and I might not win.
It turns out that not only did I have better hand-eye coordination than the only other kid who actually drew their garage, but that I was probably smarter as well, since most kids just drew something else completely and didn’t hear/understand/care about their fairly simple instructions. But I won a small bag of chalky sweets, like Refreshers, or Love Hearts, or Palma Violets. They were delicious and I was extremely proud.
I remember going into my back garden afterwards and sitting up on the top of the slide with a beaming feeling.
Neither of my parents were particularly artistically inclined, yet I became highly art-focussed. I got an A at GCSE, and went on to study it at A-Level, and even now have four or five sketchbooks on the go. It was a huge part of what I just ended up being known for, growing up.
It has just made me realise how important the positive small things are in life, and there really are defining moments.