Today – Jamie’s actual birthday – I’ve been at home with him. When I worked out my annual leave a little while back I had a couple of stray days left over, so I booked one of them for today so that I could spend his birthday with him. Barry’s family were still here as well, so he had lots of fun playmates. We didn’t do anything much – hung around the house while Jamie played with his new toys – and I kept having to remind myself that it was his birthday, since, after yesterday, it felt quite ordinary. But it was special in the way that the ordinary can be special if you know where to look.
The moments I want to remember from the day are the kind of thing I don’t normally blog about because I blog in anecdotes (well, except where I blog in opinion pieces, which is a different kind of article), and these aren’t anecdotes, they’re moments. I never quite know how to write moments, because there doesn’t seem to be a way to make them readable rather than soppy and corny and clichéd. But one of the reasons why I made my resolution to blog more is that just because something isn’t readable, that doesn’t mean I’m not going to want to remember it myself. So these are the moments that don’t fit into anecdotes, the moments in my mind from Jamie’s second birthday:
Sitting on the couch, Jamie snuggled in my lap. Normally there’s no chance of him sitting still for that long even when he’s being read to, but he’s tired out from his exciting day yesterday and getting to bed late. So many children would be going into meltdowns at this point, but Jamie’s holding it together – I feel so proud of him. It’s a rare moment of closeness to enjoy in his life of running round, climbing, exploring.
Was this little boy – legs spilling off my lap, so tall now – really a baby whom I could hold in the crook of one arm, just two years ago? He must have been – I’ve got the photos to prove it. But it’s so hard to remember exactly how that felt. I concentrate on this moment, now. The soft weight of him snuggled into the space between my arm and my side. Brown hair falling across his forehead and a cheek that’s still so soft when I kiss it. So big, and still my little boy.
Later on, at dinner time, he sits up at the table with the rest of us again, though we decide against giving him rice – he gets a plate of vegetable waffles with Dairylea spread and some pork sausage. He looks so grown-up, sitting there and eating just like the rest of us. Well, except for the wide outline of Dairylea around his mouth. When he’s had enough he bangs on the table with his sippy cup, scrambles to his feet on the chair, and, grinning hugely, regales us with his after-dinner screech.
I scoop him up and take him upstairs for his bath, depositing him in the bathroom, starting the water running, then stripping off his clothes and nipping into his room, next door to the bathroom, as quickly as possible to deposit them in the laundry basket and return before he can create too much chaos while left unsupervised. As I come back out, I hear Barry’s voice in the hall outside, that sheer note of laughter and delight that only an encounter with Jamie can produce – "Well, hello, you! What do you think you’re doing?" What he’s doing is making a run for it while Mummy’s got her back turned. Except it’s actually more like a shuffle for it, since he’s stopped to put my slippers on. Jamie is fascinated by his parents’ footwear – at every opportunity, he’ll try our shoes or slippers on. In the case of my slippers, this actually works to some extent, because they’re the huge squashy kind of slipper (they’re shaped like furry flop-eared puppies) and thus they stay on his feet, as long as he steps slowly and carefully. So there Jamie is, toddling carefully along the hall, wearing nothing but a nappy, a pair of slippers several sizes too big, a layer of Dairylea cheese spread, and an enormous grin at the sheer amusement of it all.
Later still. I tuck a washed, pyjamaed, sleepy, contented little boy into his bed – stories all read, the last look taken out of the window to check for the moon, time for night-night now. He switches on the musical star, the one that projects rotating pictures of moons and stars and winged teddy bears onto the ceiling for him to watch until he falls asleep. As I look at him, marvel at him, I realise that my love for him has changed along the way just as he has. When he was a newborn, mother love was a blind instinctive force, straight from the hormones, a bond so close that he felt like a part of me. Somewhere along the way this has segued into loving him for his separateness, loving the wonderful little person that he is and that he’s becoming. I love him for his very ability not to be a part of me. I love watching the journey he takes through learning to be himself. This is the biggest gift parenthood gives you – the privilege of watching that journey up close.
And the privilege of those moments when your child still wants to be close to you even as he’s growing up and moving further away. Jamie, small and determined, puts his arm around my neck and pulls me close for a tight hug, pointing happily up to the pictures the star projects onto the ceiling. Sharing his images of the moon and stars with me.