A last word

The man and I fell into step with one another on Macquarie Street.
He was heading east and had just crossed at the traffic lights.
I was walking north and had just hit the T junction.
Neither of us had any other way to go.
So we walked awkwardly alongside each other, each slowing to let the other pull out in front.
But neither of us did.
At least we had a talking point.
In my arms I was carrying a crying, jerking, off-her-face Fairy Floss.
“We’re just out at dinner,” I explained over the wailing. “Thought I’d take her for a walk and try to calm her down.”
“My daughter’s 19 now,” the man said, gazing at the thrashing pink jumpsuit in my arms. “I’d give anything to have her be that little again.”
He gave a small wave and disappeared through a doorway.
The ball of anxiety in my chest began to unwind.
I walked along the lit city street, singing ‘Li-ila, Li-ila’ to the tune of ‘Daisy, Daisy (give me your answer do)’ and felt her warm little body relax against mine.
She gave a little sigh, banged her head one last time into my collar bone, and then suddenly dropped into sleep.
My last baby.
Every woman, every parent, must realise at some stage that they’ve had, or are about to have, their last little bundle of joy.
You don’t think of an end point when you have your first.
You’re too caught up in the wonder, the awe, the exhaustion, the hot heart-exploding surges of love love love.
For me, it was just my little Master Baby every day – a teeny bit longer, a smidgen less vulnerable.
I didn’t see a light at the end of the tunnel.
But it didn’t matter, because the ‘tunnel’ was so beautifully lit by him.
But every day with Fairy Floss carries with it a little ‘last’.
And suddenly everything that’s tough about babies becomes precious.
Any night could be the last Learner Dad and I sit together in her darkened room, one patting her chubby thighs while the other scrolls aimlessly through Twitter.
Any night could be the last I stare at the perfect little ‘0’ of her mouth, her four white picket teeth, the yodelling pink tongue screaming out that wailing midnight song dedicated just to me.
Any day now we’ll be unable to squeeze her fat arms under the capsule straps.
Any day we’ll have to turn her round to seek out green lights and fire engines, instead of passing out under retreating clouds.
We’ve had our last slippery soak in the baby bath.
Our last non-solid poo.
Our last first smile.
We won’t have a last first rolling over.
She did that when we were out of the room.
And now she’s crawling.
So I’ve pulled the last baby rug up off the floor.
And moved the glassware a final time.
I dread the day I’ll have to put her down in the shower.
The day she refuses to get in with me.
The moment I realise it’s been days since she wanted me to pick her up at all.
This morning I showered without her.
But I wasn’t alone.
Lil Fatty was balancing on a stool, desperately trying to fill the sink before Master Nine got to the plug.
Master Nine was straddling the bath, supposedly cleaning his teeth.
And Fairy Floss was jolly jumping on her fat little legs in the doorway, squealing with delight at us all.
As I stood under the fluctuating hot and cold water, I felt exhausted.
Exhausted yet humbled.
These three little creatures are mine.
And I am their universe.
I know it’s only a matter of time before I’ll shower with only the steam for company.
Life will have pulled my babies in other directions.
We can’t dwell on their growth.
It will happen anyway.
The only thing we can do, should do, is try to enjoy them.
Photograph them, sure, immortalise them in frames, albums, online.
But mostly, watch them.
Smile at them, smile with them, sing to them, listen to them, kiss them, cuddle them.
Even when their warm soft bodies have been replaced with long cold gangly ones.
Treasure them.
For at the end of this ‘tunnel’, this insular world that is parenthood, other roads stretch ahead.
Travelling, re-claiming careers, making new friends, bonding anew with old ones.
Loud music, clean kitchens, spare rooms, long lunches, movie nights, hobbies.
One day, grandchildren.
I’ll pack up my precious kaleidoscope of mummy memories and take it with me wherever I go.
Look back into it often.
And remember that incredibly intensely exquisitely sweet time that I was the sun to three little planets.

Learning by heart

As I wind up my blog for the second time, it would be remiss of me not to do a little Learner Dad shaming…

Like the time he complained about having to ‘babysit’ his own children…
Or when he followed it with ‘but then I’ll have three of them’ and had to be reminded he actually has three of them…
The time I was being induced and he thought they were going to put the gel on my tummy…
The time he almost bought a stroller for our newborn, instead of a pram…
Or when he assumed we’d just carry baby home from hospital in the car, on our laps
The time he set up the portacot correctly… oh wait, that didn’t happen…
Then there was the time he thought Lil Fatty sucking his toes might give him foot-and-mouth disease…
The many times he goes out in sympathy when our children actually are sick…
The time he thought the ‘3-6m’ on growsuits meant three to six metres
The time he let Master Nine win at something – pfffft yeah right…
The time he told me my tummy did actually ‘look bigger’ before I took a pregnancy test – it was negative…
The extremely dangerous time he asked me why I didn’t know how to hem trousers…
The time he thought MONA was quoting three-hundred instead of three-thousand dollars for a wedding reception room – he would have booked if bride wasn’t there…
The time he almost took my instruction to teach Lil Fatty how to use the potty literally (talk about making a splash)…
The time he borrowed money from Master Nine’s piggy bank to fund a Tooth Fairy visit – to Master Nine…
And the times, every Thursday night, he’d wander in to the loungeroom to bag out The Bachelor – then sit and watch the whole thing with me…

Despite all of this, Learner Dad is my hero.
Not because he goes to work.
Not because he ‘brings home the bacon’.
He loves going to work.
And the bacon’s just a bonus.
He’s my hero because when he’s not there, he’s here.
Every morning he juggles spoonfuls of lumpy fruit mash with ironing shirts; cling wraps cupcakes while making work calls; and chases kids into and out of showers while washing last night’s dishes.
All while I’m still in bed.
Or at the gym.
Or sometimes even window shopping after the school run (I bet he doesn’t even know that).
And every evening he eats dinner with Fairy Floss sprawled across his lap, Master Nine sprawled across his back, and Lil Fatty sprawled in bed demanding Daddy’s rendition of Dog’s Noisy Day ASAP.
While I’m in the bath.
Or at book club.

So while it would be remiss of me to not do that little bit of Learner Dad shaming, it would also be remiss of me not to thank him.
And to tell him I love him.