One always hears so much about Children, and How They Say the Darndest Things. Arddun is starting to question space, time, and her relationship to it.
“How old are you?” she asks Tony and I every day now. I’ve never been one to get coy about the years God’s given me, and neither is Tony. “Daddy is going to be 40 years old.” “Mummy is going to be 36 very soon.”
“No,” replies the little one each time, with all the certainty and conviction only youth can bestow. “Mummy, you have no number.”
I’m not sure why she’s happy to accept 40 for her dad, but insists I have no age. I suppose I should be flattered, except she is too young to understand the idea of Timelessness. Or is she? Her answer about me not having a number always elicits a small chuckle from Tony and I. Probably because we can’t think of any other suitable response.
Then yesterday, she replied with, “Yes, that’s right, Mummy. You are going to be 36. And I’m going to be 33.”
Perhaps, little one. But not just yet.
“What do you want to be when you grow up, Arddun?”
“I want to be FREE!”
“You want to be free?”
No, Tony mimes behind her. She wants to be three.
And then there’s today’s question.
“Daddy,” I hear her ask in the next room. “How did you grow up”?
How indeed. How did any of us grow up. I’m not sure sometimes that I have. I was bumbling along merrily yesterday when I caught sight of something, and jealousy wrapped its heavy cloak around my shoulders again like I was 13 years old. In a blink, I was insecure, uncertain, ugly, weighed down.
How did I grow up? Will be mulling over that one, along with my NEW New year resolutions. Perhaps more on that later.
It’s been a while since I’ve done a monthversary post for Arddun. But if having Atticus has taught me anything thus far, it’s how quickly you forget the details.
And so here’s my snapshot in time. I’ve decided to try an interview, because I think she’s finally old enough to understand most of the questions. Even so, be warned. These answers pertain to the here and now. They might change in the next 30 seconds. ;-)
What is your favourite colour? Red.
What is your favourite toy? Big Kitty (And has been for over 2 years now.)
What is your favourite fruit? Tomato! (Which is a laugh, because she’s intolerant to it. I think she likes the idea of tomato.)
What is your favourite TV show? Playschool (Most probably because she watched it this morning.)
What is your favourite thing to eat for lunch? Green eggs and ham! Like in the story! (Proceeds to make loud chewing noises.)
What is your favourite outfit?
What is your favourite game? Computer (I think she means my iPad. Either way, she hasn’t quite answered the question, has she.)
What is your favourite snack? Cheese
What is your favourite animal? Dog
What is your favourite song? Let It Go from Frozen!(Proceeds to sing first verse, just in case I wasn’t sure before.)
What is your favourite book? Cat in the Hat (An unfair question, really. It’s like asking a mother to choose her favourite child.)
Who is your best friend? Leila, Giselle, and Emily Woods (Again with the analogy above.)
What is your favourite dinner? Pasta and chicken and peas (I’m VERY surprised she mentioned the peas.)
What is your favourite thing to do outside? Blowing bubbles
What is your favourite drink? Chocolate milkshake!
Where is your favourite place to go? Play school
What do you like to take to bed with you at night? Big Kitty
What is your favourite thing to eat for breakfast? Strawberries! (She doesn’t have strawberries for breakfast. But now I know.)
What do you want on your birthday? A Peppa Pig birthday cake!
What do you want to be when you grow up? Nothing. Excuse me, I need to do a poo.
You jump as the garage door slams shut. Even from this distance, it feels loud so you can only imagine what it must sound like from the car with the window down. The air had been cool but very still, so you hadn’t thought to prop the door open. Now you cringe as you wait for The Boy to wail.
True to form, he doesn’t disappoint.
You pick up the pace now. You had been on your second trip trudging groceries and shopping and 25,000 other bits and pieces from the car to the house. The Boy is yelling, but The Girl wants to tear open the hair extensions you just bought her, in a moment of weakness, from the cheap dollar shop. You knew exactly what she was thinking – different attachable hair extensions in different hair colours means she gets to pretend to be a different Disney heroine as soon as a braid is fastened. Now she gets to be a redhead or a blonde. As a Chinese mother, you fret irrationally over lost roots (haha), but $1.99 is super-cheap in the kiddie dress-up arena, so you acquiesce.
Excuse me, but The Girl wants to tear open the hair extensions NOW.
Meanwhile, you’re trying not to swear when you step on a small toy that you had told The Girl over and over to put away. It’s just sitting there, in the doorway, waiting to trip you head over tits. You, with six bags of groceries.
This inability to care for her belongings fully and thoughtfully was what instigated this morning’s excursion in the first place. For she had taken her favourite toy and companion, a hot-pink cat named Kitty, to Big Girl School on Tuesday. And then of course, she had left Kitty behind. You know that The Girl tries – when she remembers. But she’s immature because she’s only little. It still complicates your life, however. Her stuff. All over the place. All the time.
You tear open the packet of hair extensions. As you repack your freezer meats deftly like a game of Tetris, you decide between bringing the yelling boy into the house, or preempting the whine for help with the hair extensions from The Girl. You go with sticking all bobby pins with the braids into her head in two seconds flat. You dash to the car. You tell yourself to take a pic of her hair braids later, because actually, she looks kinda cute.
You hope against hope that The Boy will nod off to sleep in his bassinet while you unpack the groceries. You laugh quietly at your own optimism while The Boy screams with indignation. Meanwhile, you’re already planning the menu and gifts for your little family Valentines picnic tomorrow in your head. You hope The Boy will sleep so you can spend some time with The Girl making the frittata and some Valentines art and craft.
The Boy won’t sleep. Those precious five minutes in the car before the door slammed shut are all you’re going to get for the afternoon, it seems. Meanwhile, you suddenly remember the blasted infant insert in the car capsule.
Yes, that’s right. Just before you had stepped out the door two hours later than you meant to this morning, you had discovered a diaper explosion so epic, it would’ve made a grown man throw up in his mouth. You had only put The Boy in the capsule for two minutes, tops. But as soon as you had returned to the room with The Girl, now out of pajama-and-princess garb and sensibly dressed for going out, you’d realised that he had crapped big and bad.
So you had spent an extra ten minutes getting The Boy cleaned up. You had congratulated yourself for not getting any poo on your clothes for once. Then you’d returned to the scene of the crime to frantically scrub his poo out of the seat. The dark grey bits are fine – they had obviously treated the fabric with some water proofer. But the white head-hugging infant insert is now fringed with poo yellow at the bottom.
You know that baby poo stains like beetroot. You had silently cussed because you were now wondering how to sell the capsule on Gumtree after you’re done with it. Who would want to buy a poo-stained capsule, you tell me.
This had been the other quandary. Do you
a) remove and soak the infant insert immediately, and if you do
b) are you allowed to have The Boy travel in the capsule without the insert?
You had spent another precious five minutes you didn’t have Googling that fact. You had not found your answer, but you’d ultimately decided Safety over Stain, and after scrubbing the worst of it off with baby wipes and determination, you had lined a face cloth over the stained bits, strapped The Boy in, and hoped for the best as you flew out the door.
You remember all this now, and realise that stain is now about 3 hours old.
Too late, this cannot be helped. So you do the best you can. You rub two capfuls of Dynamo over the stain while reciting the ’80s TV ad in your head, and pray for a miracle.
You suddenly realise the house is too quiet.
The Boy is asleep. And so is The Girl.
This flabbergasts you. You resist the urge to jinx it by taking photos, but you do risk it a little by texting your mother-in-law to celebrate the fact. Because you like living on the edge.
However, this also means that you won’t get to do all those Valentines activities you had planned for The Girl. You briefly flirt with the idea of forging her penmanship and artistry on The Husband’s Valentine’s card, but decide instead to make yourself a cup of tea. And blog.
So many of you have asked how I’m handling the transition from Child to Children. They say that one of the hardest motherhood gigs is going from one child to two. And maybe I’ve been told too many times how hard it’s going to be, because I’m surprised how manageable it has been so far. I had expected it to be a lot worse, honestly.
The very ordinary fifteen minutes I tried to recreate in the paragraphs above don’t do my new life chapter justice. But it can be so typical – the whirlwind of tiny, everyday things. The train of little stresses, so easily forgotten once they smile or thank you. Once they fall into a restful sleep.
Yes, I don’t get to do as much and my days have slowed right down again… but I’m not complaining. I’m even enjoying large chunks of it. The mind is busy with at least a hundred new decisions a day, but the heart is light. There are new tender moments. The fear that I’d never be able to love another child the way I love Arddun has evaporated like an early morning mist meeting the sunlight. I love another, just as intensely if a little differently – but only because Atticus is my son, while Arddun is my daughter.
Our baby is in Big Girl School! Or at least, that’s what we’ve been calling it to distinguish daycare from School School. Arddun’s starting a year earlier than many her age, but we think she’s been ready and raring to go for a while now. We’ve been talking about it, showing her the campus in passing, and slowly adding to her Big School collection – school bag, socks, blinding white sneakers, fruit box…
The only obstacle seemed to be her new, not-so-glad rags.
A few months ago, we paid a visit to the second-hand Uniform shop to pick out her new uniform. (I balked at spending a few hundred dollars for full-priced preschool clothes, when she’s growing like a glorious weed.) The only “problem”, of course, was that the preschool uniform was really just the P.E. attire, and as unisex P.E. attires the world over go, they are usually ill-fitting and baggy. Arddun looked like a drowned rat. It was the first time in her life she very politely asked to be excused from wearing anything I put in front of her.
This partly explains the rather somber first-day photos we took last Tuesday, before her hour-long school orientation.
But what a change this morning! After having a taste of her new classroom, friends and teachers, we had a totally different girl this morning.
“Take photos of me, Mummy!”
Yes. Take photos of me in my new Big Girl School Uniform, Mummy.
I happily complied.
AFTER SCHOOL UPDATE – Came into Arddun’s classroom come pick-up time, and was rather perplexed when I couldn’t see her excited little face anywhere. I had half expected her to come bounding up to me and hugging my leg the minute Atticus’s pram pushed through the door.
Turned out she was fast asleep, face grubby, hair wild, polo shirt untucked, socks and shoes off.
We’re enjoying a rare, quiet afternoon today, after a pretty full week. I’m slowly reinstating room time for Arddun after a few months off, and Atticus – joy of joys! – seems to finally find fascination with play mats.
There have been a few milestones that have come and gone, barely documented by a quick snapshot, let alone lovingly blogged about. That is the life of a mother of a newborn. Perhaps this speaks of my incompetence in sleep training, or perhaps they speak more loudly of our family genetics, but I have been blessed with two babies where sleep doesn’t come easy. Until very recently, Atticus has kept wiiiide awake from 5:00pm until about 1 in the morning. He used to scream through that period until he discovered smiling. He still finds it difficult to settle in the late afternoon, but at least the hours have gradually shortened. On average now, he grizzles from 8:00pm (our dinner time) until 11:00pm at night. Not great, but not bad.
Doesn’t lend itself to a blogging habit, however.
I’ve missed writing. I’ve taken a few photos, but haven’t found the time to transfer them from my SD card, let alone faff around with file sizes to upload and blog about. I have all these little posts already written in my head, but WordPress doesn’t work telepathically. In the coming weeks, I shall endeavour to fill in the blanks. I’ll probably write and date them retrospectively, if only for my own record-keeping purposes.
I’ll leave you with something I read this afternoon while clearing my mail.
A man went for a walk on a hot summer day and passed three workers who were making bricks.
“What are you doing?” he asked them.
The first worker sighed as he looked up. “What does it look like? I’m making bricks!”
The second worker said, “We’re building a really big wall.”
The third worker happily exclaimed, “I’m building a cathedral, and it’s going to be one of the most beautiful cathedrals of all time!”
In times like these, when the going can seem so slow and the day passes with seemingly little accomplished (no housework, no sleeping baby, no lunch cooked at home, meat not thawed in time so dinner cooked late…), it can be all too easy for me to focus on the literal and the minutiae. I am cleaning poop. Again. I am cleaning spews. My hair just got chucked on. The baby isn’t sleeping. Let’s rock the pram/bassinet/baby bouncer/Ergo carrier. Let’s change the bedsheets. Again. I haven’t even had the time to mull properly over my New Year resolutions. And it’s February.
What does it look like? I’m making bricks. Inconsequential, menial, boring as heck.
Except I’m building a cathedral. I am part of my children’s lives. I’m capturing their smiles, comforting them after needles, reading to them, singing to them, and breathing them in. I’m growing humans, and not at arm’s length. Not remotely, not by oversight, not by proxy. I am in, arms deep in housework undone, hair shapeless, waist thickened, clothes loose and bordering on frumpy, eyebags loud and proud.
I’m building a cathedral.
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