This month’s Big Event is the entrance of childcare.
It happened on the day you turned 20 months. This coincided with the entrance of the new job and the exit of my last vestiges of sanity. Prior to this moment I had become the archetypal feminist cartoon cliché: trying to conduct phone calls to script producers with you hanging like a dead weight from my trouser legs. Or sitting down to type only to have your chubby hands creeping over the laptop keys and attempting to activate Hooray For Fish or Wigglemania.
Sitting on the couch to research, say, the advent of terrorism in South East Asia or the firing range of the crossbow (again with the crossbow) became an exercise in negotiation: one chapter on Jema*h Islamiah for a spirited rendition of Green Eggs And H*m, three news articles on various arrow related homicides for every Mr Man book we own.
(That’s Mr Bump, Mr Happy, Mr Sneeze, Mr Tickle, Mr Grumpy and Mr Ask Your Sodding Father. )
But then, like a feather on the breath of God, an ad for a vacancy in a home childcare place came up, via your Aunty N and her multitude of child related contacts, and so we called, we visited, we loved the mature, maternal calming energy of the carer, AND THEN WE LEFT YOU.
It wasn’t intentional, we hadn’t planned to start the childcare thing right then and there. But you were playing so happily with the spiral ball tower and climbing on the moulded plastic slide with the rounded edges and the soft faux-grass landing pad and then the carer, R , casually mentioned that we could start that very day if we wanted to and I started to say no no, we’ll start tomorrow but the words disappeared from my mouth and I just gulped and said ok.
Your father and I kissed you goodbye and you seemed almost annoyed that we disturbed your intense posting of balls into spiral towers. You didn’t even look at us, just presented your face to be kissed and got back to it. Bye bye we said. See you soon. Then we walked out of the gate and I took two steps and dissolved into tears (but silent tears because I didn’t want you to hear me cry). And I wept all the way to the car and all the way to the café where C took me (who was also sad but, you know, not in a waterfall of snot and tears kind of way) and then I saw that the chocolate croissants were very fine looking indeed and so I stopped crying and just felt sad inside.
Your waking hours are coming unstuck and I think this is as a direct result of the change in your life, regular 6.30 starts have become horrifying 5.30 ones, but as my friend H with her poor sleep addled two and a half year old said grimly to me: Welcome to my world.
Can I tell you, without a hint of exaggeration, that you are becoming a million times more adorable as each day goes by. Your little grins, your chitter chat in the back of the car, your grave attempts to sing along with the Wiggles, your current deep love for bellybuttons. Anybody’s. Any time.
Your father has taken you to the beach several afternoons and brings you home wrapped in a hooded towel looking like some sort of druid, albeit a tiny one who worships dolphins and also rockpools but abhors clumps of seaweed as the mark of evil.
And your cuddles are real cuddles, and your kisses are wet slops on our cheeks with the accompanying mah! sound and your smiles, especially when you run towards us crying Mummy or Daddy with your arms open wide, make our hearts nearly burst with joy.
That first day at your new childcare went beautifully and when we picked you up in the afternoon you were so happy to see us.
And then the next morning your father took you back to R’s and you were happy once again to play with the spiral ball tower but only if you could see your father out of the corner of your eye. And when he’d finished chatting to R and all the other parents and said “alright Tricky, it’s time for me to go,” you dropped the ball and grabbed his hand and said brightly to R: “Bye bye.”
“Oh dear,” said your father. “No, I’m saying bye bye and you’re staying here.”
Bye bye Daddy. Hello Screaming Tomato.
C could hear you scream almost back to the car. I am very glad that at that moment I was at home tippy tapping on the computer and I suspect that right then and there may have been C’s snot and tear moment.
When he got home he rang R to see how you were and lo, you were fine. R gave you half a banana and the tears stopped at once. She noted that you “respond well to food.” Just like your mother.
And the third day shone bright and fair and your father took you to R’s again and your screams followed him back down the street and again half a banana did the trick and so begins this new phase of life.
It’s scary and confronting and exhilarating and that’s just for your parents. For you, there is a whole new world, away from us, one that can only be described or reported to us, one that we won’t share.
And as time goes on, that world will get bigger, with kindy and school and friends. And puberty and adulthood.
And the world that was once all our world, you, me, your father; our solid little world of three, of milk and sleep and songs and stories, will shrink and become smaller and smaller and eventually be gone. And while I'm excited about everything else, that realisation makes me sad inside.
And no pastries or half bananas can change that.
love love love
Your very own