The days clatter by, without so much of a pause for breath or space for reflection. The rattle and hum of every day events and the constant manic juggling of priorities leaves little space for anything else.
Which child needs to be where at what time? What should they be wearing? Has he got a temperature? What will they need once they get there? Which mode of transport will we take? Which child have you got today? Does it make sense for me to pick up child A? But wait I have a meeting at that time, and I can’t shift it. Can you pick up child B and take them to X’s house? So who is on dinner then?……
And so it goes. Planning and re-planning. The endless prioritisation. The re-prioritisation. The compromise and servitude and the flying-by-the-seat-of-your-pants from one thing to another. It’s precision on a military level.
This is modern day parenting and it is an incessant, white knuckled ride down life’s turbulent waters. A ride that can finish at the end of the day in one of two ways;
if I’m lucky, the day will finish in the cosy confines of a warm and dimly lit bedroom surrounded by books, cuddly toys, soft furnishings and hushed words.
Or it could finish amongst the waifs and strays of society in the strip lighted waiting room of a local A&E, praying to whatever god that will listen that everything is going to be OK.
It is stressful, and manic, and full on, and brilliant, and boring, and amazing and it can really blow your mind. Parenting should be on a Class A list.
But then a space for reflection opens up. A pause in the mania of everyday life.
Maybe it was that afternoon to myself in the park. Maybe it was that stolen hour in the swimming pool.
It is space that has enabled a bit of perspective. It brings a sense that changes have happened, but that I just haven’t noticed them as I spend another day plummeting down a cliff in a tin dustbin.
And as I walk in to the house I see it immediately.
I see a massive space in the hall.
This is a space that used to be occupied by the hulking, shabby frame of the pram.
A space in which the pram used to sit in its very own puddle of water, leaves and dirt, snagging jumpers and pecking knees and shins on every walk past, like a grumpy buzzard desperate for attention.
Now there is space. Lovely, wide open, pram-free space.
The pram. That universal symbol that tells everyone else that the person pushing it has just had their world turned upside down.
And we sold it. We sold the pram. WE SOLD THE PRAM!
And there is something else too.
I look on the table. There are no longer wet wipes there. There’s none upstairs either. The ones at the bottom of my day bag have gone too. The emergency pack in the bathroom are full, bloated gathering dust. Like the last guest at a party.
There used to be packs of wet wipes everywhere, constantly in use, constantly being replenished. Open any given cupboard on any given day and piles of wet wipes would fall out.
There would be no mercy for me if I came back from the supermarket having forgotten the giant value pack of wet wipes.They were new-parent essential kit. Run out at your peril.
Now, nothing. No more wet wipes. Except the emergency pack in the bathroom, gathering dust on the shelf.
Nappies are no longer on our shopping list. How the bloody hell did THAT happen? More importantly, when did that happen?
I remember a time, when both children were in nappies, and it felt like it would never be over. The daily fight to the death over the change mat, the nappies and the wet wipes.
At one stage I thought I was going to die, suffocated by great boxes full of them.
Death by nappy, what a way to go.
And sleep. Oh welcome back beautiful, precious sleep. You were gone for 5 years and I have the permanent eyebags and grey hair to prove it. But when did you return? I missed you so much, but I didn’t even see you come back into my life. I promise to never let you out of my sight again.
No more prams, no more nappies, fewer wet wipes, fewer sleepless nights. We are out of a phase of childhood that will never return.
And I found myself talking over the fence to our neighbour this weekend. She has just had a baby boy. I am listening to everything she is telling me. She has that edgy look of wonder, sleeplessness and panic that all new parents share.
I am nodding in all the right places and making all the right noises. I am listening, not judging, not offering my opinions. I’ve been here myself. The baby is so small that it can still be bathed in the sink. Other people’s opinions are not helpful at this point. The one thing that new parents need is sleep. Not more opinions.
But I am biting my lip. I am trying ever so hard. I am stopping myself from saying something, something I promised myself I would never say to a new parent.
But the urge is so strong, the instinct to say it so powerful.
“You should cherish these moments, they grow up so quickly you know”
I really want to say it.
And I can hear them all goading me – the space where the pram used to stand, the lone nappy lodged behind the radiator amongst the dust and spiders; the bloated pack of emergency wet wipes in the bathroom. I can hear them all whispering at me, urging me to say it.
But I resist and we part company. I smile to myself because I wanted to say it. They are words of wisdom, delivered from a well-meaning place, after all.
They really DO grow up so quickly.