I remember what it was like to be in your shoes. Practical, comfortable shoes that you didn’t even really look at except to roughly grab them from the wardrobe and jam your feet into them as you raced back to the garage to see what violent disagreement had erupted in the ten seconds since you had been gone.
Your main concerns at the moment revolve around sleep, food, washing and tantrums. You have phrases that you echo over and over to Hudson in particular, pleading with him to stop playing with cords, be gentle with Ivy, get down from that chair, sit further away from Eli. Your rhythms are nap time to nap time. The early cry of a sleeping child awakening can instantly provoke fear, anger or frustration- depending on the level of unrealistic expectations you had set for yourself to get things done in the lull.
Often you sit there just looking at your kids, hoping that the decision to stay home with them has been worth it. That they will have been better off for this sacrifice, and not just shaped into little versions of all your prevalent faults. You wince when you see Eli using an identical tone of voice to your last episode of losing it with them and wish they could adopt more of Dave’s calm and humerous approach to life.
Night falls, morning comes and you do it all again. Changing nappies, wiping up messes, treating sores and clipping nails. Putting stamps on charts, yelling for Eli to get dressed, chopping up kiwi fruit for bowls that seem to be empty as soon as you fill them. Your main exchange of expressions with Dave seem to be weary glances as you both unconsciously compete for whose energy is more depleted by the constant pace of your lives.
Hudson’s pudgy fingers clasp around your neck, Eli asks for snuggly cuddles when you have your mint coloured dressing gown on, Ivy coos and gurgles when you even glance at her. Brothers wrestle and follow each other around the house, inventing games and conversing with cute half-sentences as they attempt to make each other understand what they want the other to do. There are haughty demands for ‘pivacy’ as Hudson learns to use the toilet, confessions of an awakening awareness of a complicated world in your conversations by nightlight with Eli, and shared smiles between siblings as they form a chain with their hands in the back seat of the MPV.
You move forward, though you do not feel it. They grow, though you do not see it. You are each forging stories of existence even through the most banal of days shared together.
Eli is now nearing fourteen. He has his own ideas and opinions about his life, his clothes, his friends and his future. Hudson is 12 and a half, going on 20, and still hell bent on doing things in his own way. Ivy is in Year 4 at school, embracing the structure of learning and holding her own against her two strong-willed brothers. The worries of this era revolve around friend groups and independence, allowing each of them to make their own mistakes without ever being quite sure about whether stepping in and saving them from themselves would be the less painful option. Their tears, of rejections and hurtful comments, become your tears. Their crazy schedule of activities and outings becomes your constant rhythm. It is a different intensity but no less complicated. The gradual loss of innocence continues to stab at you as you wish you could protect them from the knowledge of the horrors of what humanity is capable of.
I don’t wish to convey that you have it easy now, such patronizing tones are never helpful. But if I could impress upon you the importance of what you are doing each day, how you are shaping these precious children, how the foundation you are slaving away to build is going to yield such amazing fruits. You will never be aware of the precise moment that that never-ending parental phrase becomes redundant, or when they will push away the hand that they had needed so crucially only moments before. It is only in the wistful memories that these events reclaim their significance.
If I could give you just one piece of advice, I would say this. Breathe it in. Soak it up. Embrace it all. Life is but a moment and you are more instrumental than you know in creating this magic.
PS. We still crack it and yell sometimes. But we are slowly getting better!
PPS. Our skills of managing and strategising things are much better suited and useful to this stage of life.
PPPS. You should probably go for that walk.