We’ve seen more than the typical number of small children and babies lately, and it’s made me realise how our own “babies” are growing up almost without us noticing.
Oh, sure, there’s some distant memory of a time when they were a bit smaller, had worse table manners and didn’t talk as much, but to some extent, how they are now is how they’ve always been.
Which is, of course, utter nonsense.
But you don’t have time to stand back each day and appreciate how much your children have grown and changed. If you’re very aware and lucky then something will drag this change to your attention – such as seeing other people’s small children or new babies. That’s when you realise how grown up your own are. But on a day-to-day basis your own children seem quite static.
I just had a horrifying thought – what if, in your eyes, your children never seem grown up? Do my parents still see me as a bumbling child, apt to fall over and skin my knee at any moment? Do they hold their breath if I run too quickly down the stairs?
I’m less protective of our two than the Lovely Melanie, in that I’ll let them out of my sight sometimes; I’ll let them play in the woods behind our house unsupervised (although in earshot). I recently had to insist that Millie, who (lest we forget) is now seven, should start using the same toothpaste as us; the Lovely Melanie objected to this for reasons I couldn’t fathom.
There’s a little tension between our two parenting methods – not “tense” as in we argue, but tense as in we pull in slightly different directions – the Lovely Melanie towards what I would call “mollycoddling”, me towards what she would call “reckless endangerment”.
Of course, I joke.
(But only a little.)
Watching your children growing up is not a rational process – very little about having children is: you love them more fiercely and hopelessly than anyone you’ve ever known; they drive you mad with their foolishness, but that same foolishness means they blindly love you almost to a fault. The whole business is more intense than anything you’ve done before (having a pet – no matter how beloved – is no comparison whatsoever) and is inescapable – which is why I wonder what if your children never seem grown up to you?
I sat down tonight thinking none of this. I had a vague thought of talking about the girls and how Amber is currently a delight to be around because she has a ridiculous joy at simply being with us that is infectious. She wants to play and chatter and cuddle and just be with us. I’m not sure what this change is exactly, but she seems more more social – she still enjoys playing games on her own, but enjoys our company, too.
Millie is properly growing up and saying things that I don’t expect her to say – but perhaps should. She now reads properly and a lot: slicing through books as fast as she can, with understanding and rhythm. She notices things and draws conclusion; she asks questions, thinks about them and returns to the subject days later. She even tells jokes now, and though they’re terrible jokes they’re hilarious because they’re hers, not ours.
It’s amazing because not so very long ago both girls couldn’t sit up without help; couldn’t eat or drink, control their bladders, walk, talk – anything.
Seeing that change gives me a little twinge of sadness at times – only a twinge, because I’m proud of them and want to see where they go and what they do next.
But every day they’re a little less reliant on us and I’m more aware that teaching children is like fuelling a rocket: one day it will be fully fuelled, the countdown will reach zero and they’ll launch out into the world to do…who knows what.
But it won’t be with us. We’ll be proudly watching and cheering from the sidelines: the Mission Control for their journey – guiding and offering advice.
But they’ll be off on their own journey as we once launched on ours.