The here and now and a bit of way back then

I relived my journey to 40 and found there's so much more to say

More than all the stars in the sky and fish in the sea

on May 23, 2014

The last thing I like to do every night before I go to bed is check on #1, 2 and 3. I like to make sure the covers are over them and that they’re not about to fall out of bed or sleeping in funny positions that look more contortionist than comfortable.

There are few sights more serene than that of sleeping children. Look at them all cute and cuddly in their pyjamas. Their faces all calm, their voices all quiet, their demands all attended to for the day.

They are such cherubs in repose. All three of them. All at the same time.

Do you know how rare that can be during their waking hours?

Except perhaps when they’re watching television just before bath time. All three of them glued to Disney Junior. #3 in particular has watched so much television compared to when #1 was her age when he had a daily half an hour dose of In The Night Garden and that was considered excessive by some standards.

It occurred to me recently that #3 is now the same age that #1 was when #2 arrived. #2 in turn is the same age #1 was when #3 arrived. We have three young children aged five and below. Of course it’s busy, hectic and above all else NOISY!

Every night though as I look at them sleeping, I forget how a few hours earlier #1 and 2 were resistant to sleep and announcing the need for another story and how unfair it is there isn’t one. I forget how something as innocuous as who gets to do their bedtime wee first can cause a surprise meltdown of such seismic proportions that bedtime is then propelled backwards by 15 minutes. This may not seem long to you but when you’re more than ready to wave them off to slumber, you really don’t need this to cut into your Happy Hour as Brilliant New Adventure calls it.

Sometimes it can feel like you’re working in a factory production line. Chivvying them through the motions of school runs, mealtimes, play times, bath times and bedtimes. So that by the time you close their bedroom door and you have those couple of hours to yourself with peace and quiet to enjoy it seems a shame to fill it with anything more arduous than a bit of crap television and a hot drink.

There are days when you are so busy tending to the ‘things that need doing for young children’ and their lack of cooperation in helping you do the ‘things that need doing for young children’, it’s easy to overlook in the moment they happen, the many, many things they do that are clever, funny, caring and little trinkets of parental joy I hope I can keep hold of in my memory banks.

I am at fault at often articulating the times they fight, push, shove, bite and tell tales on each other. I’m short on patience when it comes to meal times that linger on for ages and why they can’t seem to get in and out of the car in a very straightforward manner.

Why when entering the car to sit at the very back, I suddenly turn around to find one or two in the front passenger or driver’s seat. Even #3 is insisting she climbs into her own car seat by herself and then proceeds to buckle herself in. What ensues is a toddler spending five minutes unsuccessfully trying to heave herself up into her car seat and refusing any form of bum push up. I suppose I ought to admire her perseverance and independent spirit. Then when clearly she’s not going to crack the five point safety harness and I’m beyond entertaining this Baby Einstein phase, I then take matters into my own hands and grapple the safety buckle from her tiny hands, I’m met with this screaming, my ears are going to bleed banshee who then with subhuman strength arches her back making it nearly impossible to strap her in. (Same actions go for getting her into a pushchair too).

Then as suddenly as it happens, she succumbs and goes all quiet and acquiescent. (Sometimes though she’ll carry on screaming for a good few miles into the journey before forgetting what all the brouhaha was all about). This is all before I’ve even managed to haul #1 and 2 out from the front of the car to the back again. By this stage I’ve more or less forgotten where I’m meant to be going.

Of course not every day has moments like these. But in my head, I keep expecting #1, 2 and 3 to be done with feral behaviour and act with rational thought and full cooperation AT ALL TIMES and then I find myself feeling surprised and slightly bewildered when they don’t.

It’s easy to articulate moments like these which can be funny to share and also makes you feel quite a normal family when others nod in agreement and go one better. Less so do we talk about the moments when they fill you with immeasurable pride and your heart fills with so much love for them you might burst into tears.

For the days are made up of far more of these moments than we have the time to share.

It’s all in the small things.

From the moment #3 wakes up yelling from her cot to be assisted out of bed and her sleeping bag. To her grabbing her milk bottle and sitting back in her rocker and then taking the empty bottle into the kitchen. To her babbling away at you looking very earnest in what she’s saying and you none the wiser but agreeing anyway. To her at the age of almost 20 months still resting her head on your shoulder when she’s tired. An action reminiscent of her tiny baby months that #1 and 2 have long outgrown and only revisit when feeling severely distressed. I love how she loves a good dress up and often rocks around the home in a tutu or tiara. She walks up to you with bits of Playmobil in her mouth and you tell her to spit it out which she willingly obliges to in a manner worthy of Spit the Dog.

#2 confidently declares she wants to be Elsa when she grows up and actually the magical power of Disney’s Frozen has made her love being a sister. You can learn something from Disney other than waiting for your Prince to come rescue you and proceed to marry them on the same day or give up your family for a pair of legs. She has a knack of telling the wildest stories and even if she was never there or clearly can’t remember it happening, she’ll tell it in such a way that makes you quite convinced it did happen that way. She’s only three but I often forget she is only just three because she can articulate herself so well and there are times when she’s shy and uncertain of new things and all she wants is for me to be close by. She once sat in the back of the car and randomly threw her arms in the air and bursts out ‘When am I going to be four?’ And when she comes to sit by your side and declares ‘I love you’, well, it makes you pick her up and bear hug her until she commands ‘Enough’.

As I said earlier, #1 was still so little when he was given the responsibility of being Big Brother to two younger siblings. It’s a lot of responsibility to bear. There are times the power goes to his head but there’s no mistaking he does look after #2 and 3. Everything has to be fair and just in his world and if he gets something, so will the other two. Except for the times he was helping himself to secret M&Ms from the fridge on the pretext of getting himself cold water. I often wondered how children learnt to read and secretly thought it would never happen with any of mine as I had no clue how to start them off but suddenly he came home from school with his first book and now his school reading book is one of their bedtime stories.

His questioning of things in the world stretches parts of my brain I haven’t used in years searching for information long forgotten. I thought I needed to be a parent with all the answers but I don’t and it’s far more fun finding out the answers together. I love his growing sense of humour and how he tricked #2 into standing next to him before doing a smelly fart that makes her run off and retch. When I told #1 about #3 scribbling on the bed with marker pen, his first response is, ‘But where did she get the pen from?’. Translate that as ‘And whose fault is it really?’.

Every night before I go to bed and I see their sleeping faces, I am ever so thankful to have them. For these memories that are mine to keep. They may not remember them but I will, long after they are grown up. I often wish I had kept a diary long ago and wrote down all the funny things they say and do. You think you won’t forget but it’s so easily done with all the things that need doing and thought about. Perhaps I ought to start from here as children love hearing stories about themselves.

So I’m off to have a quick peek at them now before I go to bed and hope that all of them sleep until gone 7am tomorrow morning.

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