I’ve missed my little man lately. We’ve both been here, of course, we’ve just been… busy. Coming and going, days eating themselves before I realize they’re gone and it’s bath time again.
Combine the general daycare/swimming/playmate business of a young family with the mess I’ve been in last few weeks, and I was beginning to feel like a ship passing my children, cold and alone, in the fog of the night. It had been so long since I’d spent time with my Chop, no longer my baby at four and half, that I’d almost forgotten what he was like without the presence of his boisterous younger sister.
And to think, once upon a time, it was just he and I, every day, waiting for his daddy to be home every afternoon at half past two (and I still now, almost eighteen months later, subconsciously break my day into morning and afternoon by that timeframe, still rush to be home by two pm even though there is no need to be.)
It happened by chance a few days ago that I found myself with a whole afternoon to spend with my son– had I have attempted to plan it, nothing would have worked as well as it did, it never does. A big morning at playgroup had worn out to the Bump to the point where she was nearly asleep eating her lunch, and she tucked herself into a tired little ball in her bed not long after. Which left the Chop and I to do our thing on the unseasonably warm autumn afternoon.
Most days, I have to pry this child off the lounge with a crowbar and threats of no TV ever, ever again. Getting him to come outside and play is a small miracle. For him to do it of his own initiative is nothing short of remarkable.
|Another one of the iChild’s self portraits…. genius.
But it was a beautiful day, and I was in a happy frame of mind, content to hang damp washing on the line under the dappled shade of the trees that line our skinny block of land. Watching me contemplatively from our balcony for a moment, the Chop made his decision, collected his shoes, and rambled outside to join me.
The best things just happen, and they take you by surprise.
An in depth conversation about why we don’t put pegs on our nose led to an impromptu lesson in adding up, counting the pegs put until he reached the limit of his coherent numerics, somewhere around twenty five.
From the clothesline we visit the chook coop, collect eggs, change water. I’ll never regret getting chooks for my kids– they won’t be the kids who don’t know milk comes from a cow and not Woolworths, praise Jamie Oliver. The Chop gets the cycle– scraps to chooks, chook poo to worm farm, worm wee to veggie garden, veggie scraps to chooks, egg shells to the scrap bucket, and so forth. He even impressed me the other morning by declaring that Sesame St had it all wrong– boy chooks didn’t lay eggs at all, only girl chooks do that.
The Chop and I lamented over the idiosyncrasies of our new water tank– rain water, yes, same as we drink from the inside tap, but not drinkable, no, different. Not safe. Unless you’re a chicken. Or a cat.
We pull out the remnants of the summer vegetables, ready to expand and replant– with a chook proof fence– for winter, examining caterpillars and hairy grubs as we go. I show him the grass that has grown from the seeds we’ve been feeding the chooks. He shows me how he can almost hit the cat while peeing from six foot up on the verandah. He tells me four or five times what a good job I did face painting at playgroup that morning, until I find the word he’s looking for and suggest it to him– we’re you proud of mummy, mate?
Yes, mummy; he replies, with that gorgeous, unguarded, innocent flirtation that only four year old boys will ever posses. I am proud of you and I love you very much.
I realize, again, what I’ve been missing, locking myself away in that cold bitter fog.
It’s an easy afternoon with my boy and me, hot and sweating it out in the sunshine, putting a wholesome fatigue into our muscles. He is calm and quiet, contemplative– a rare state for my anxious little energizer bunny– and we have the type of conversations I love to have with my kids– explaining and unfolding the intricacies of every day life, sharing our thoughts and ideas, breaking adult concepts down into child size, brain friendly chunks. I had forgotten how much I adore my sons curiosity, watching his face tighten slightly as he turns a problem over and cuts it in half, looking for a way to think around it that he hasn’t seen before.
For that bright, sunny afternoon, my little boy spared me his hardest questions. He stuck to simple things like what happens to plants in the compost, how many days it would have to rain to fill the water tank, and the approximate age of our house. There was nothing about his dad, or heaven, or hospitals or dieing. And, thanks to some higher power– the god of small things, perhaps, who watches children and chooks and veggies and kittens– there is no repeat of the most difficult question yet, posed just the day before– will we get a new daddy, mum? Can we? (No, baby, not really, I’m so sorry, but everyone just gets one daddy, and yours is in heaven. If he could come back, he would, I promise, but he can’t… What a fucking horrible answer to give a little boy, even if it is the truth. If there is a god of small things, she was missing from my children’s lives that day, and days like this, lovely as they are, can’t make that nay better, nothing can make that any better.)
It just my son, my Chop and I; enjoying our garden for all it’s worth, sucking up the very last of the pale, just-hot sunshine. Just he and I, and the chooks, and the cats, with that god of small things eavesdropping on the fringes; discussing the meanings of life.