It often goes like this, for example: gets Rubik’s cube for Christmas; immediately solves 2 sides of the Rubik’s cube; fascinated, dismantles the Rubik’s cube; is then unable to reassemble the bloody Rubik’s cube, because, I’m not sure if you knew this dear readers, but they’re not actually supposed to be taken apart (see also: vcr’s; cell phones; torches.)
Your genius will then be inconsolable at the loss and no amount of rational discussion or empty threats/promises (which ever you have more energy for) will rectify this. Prepare to be emotionally exhausted for the rest of your life. For this I have no advice besides that which is applicable to all parents, and should be the only things written in all those bloody parenting books: try not to lose your shit.
All the soft toys in your house will have elaborate names. And phone numbers. And interests. We have a hedgehog here who goes by Mr Prickle Wiggley-Pants. Or Max, for short. Max doesn’t want me to disclose his contact information on the internet, but doesn’t mind if I mention that he was a semi-professional soccer player in his homeland of Spain. He also enjoys sleeping under the couch, because it’s the only place in the house that’s quiet. I have some theories that he may be in political exile. The guy gets a lot of hushed phone calls, you know? Then there’s a lobster named Bubba who appears to have embodied the spirit of James Brown. I could go on.
You will be woken regularly with questions which you have no idea how to answer, but must, because this is your life now. And also, because if you do not answer, the question will just be repeated incessantly until you make something up. I do not advise this, however, on account that one question will invariably lead to 6000 questions and it’s only so long before you will find yourself trying to explain relativism with an orange or concepts of theology on a magnadoodle.
Raising a genius will make you smarter, out of sheer necessity. Nothing will make you regret not finishing your English degree like having to resort to google when in discussion of submerged similes. With a 4-year-old.
Everyone is asleep and I am making your lunch. Buttering wholemeal sandwiches and filling them with ham and cheese and lettuce. Wrapping them in baking paper.
You stumble in, pyjama’d. You’re still warm with sleep. You eat 3 Weetbix for breakfast and drink a glass of water and we sit together in the morning sun that has swallowed the kitchen.
You get dressed in the lounge, in clothes laid out for you the night before; last night’s tomato sauce sponged off your blue jeans. You’re ready to go. I’m only pretending I’m ready.
I hold you in my arms on the front step and we take a photo. I want to commemorate the moment some other way than this; some way that other people do; covering all my bases, preparing for whoever you may become. Trying, always, to plan for all futures. You look so big in my arms we both look like children.
You call back through the gate, ‘Mama! I need a kiss!’, though you’ve had an even hundred already this morning. I have tried not to tell you to have a great day. Tried to keep my adjectives from expecting too much. Wanting you to be able to identify your own experience without it growing from some sense of my expectation. ‘I hope you learn something cool, Bubba’, I say. My cheek to yours.
Your sister insists on waving you goodbye on the street. She calls it ‘waving out’, which, like so many things she does, has a certain sense of propriety, though she’s half in pyjamas. You’re both endlessly charming. The sky is so blue.
She stands by your door and waves a big wave. You roll down your window and she clambers across the gutter in ever-bare feet to high-five you. ‘See you later, Alligator!’ you yell at each other down the street, until you are out of sight.
One day you’ll be 14, or 24, or 84, or 40. These letters are for every when, though there’s no where so real as here and now.
Here. And now…
You take run ups to come and hug me. Starting further and further away each time. I sit on my bed and you run from the couch, the kitchen, screaming with laughter.
Here’s what I know; it’s not like in the movies, but it can be better, sometimes. And you should believe some things you read; when someone else’s story resonates within you. Listen to music that makes you want to lie in the floor. Let things floor you.
Smile at yourself in the mirror. Your loveliness is all-pervading. I know. I see it every day. You’re the kind of person they write stories about. You’re the reason there’s songs. You’re the heart of the piece.
Maybe have some goals. Maybe have a 5 year plan. Try not to be a nihilist – they’re so dull at parties. Ditto, communists. Though we all have our phases. Whatever you believe in, believe in the values at its heart. Believe in the values of your own heart most of all.
Spend much more time considering whether and why you want to invest in someone, than worrying about how they are feeling about you. I wish I’d done that. Extend yourself the generosity of kindness. Don’t worry all the time. It’ll all work out. It’s a process. You’ll get there.
You’re brilliant, darling. You’re in every smile I’ve ever had. When people say, ‘that’s the spirit!’ they’re talking about you.
You’re the sun on my back.
Happy Birthday, Mabel Poppy.
All my love,
Previous birthday letters: Three
I’m sitting on the back deck drinking a cup of tea. I love the Blue Willow china pattern; it reminds me of my childhood. Mabel’s just joined me.
I broke the head off the broom yesterday, sweeping bricks. Mae has fallen in love with the handle. She spins it expertly and it comes to rest by her side; she’s like something medieval. She’s still in her pyjamas. She’s golden in the sun.
‘What’s the opposite of a fairy?’ she asks me. ‘A mermaid?’ I venture, knowing that’s not quite right, but she’s onto something else.
‘Come ‘ere, dragon!’ she yells at the dog. ‘I’ve got a few ideas for you! On how to be fierce!’.
Mabel: I wish we could get inside the T.V! Mama! The dog is kissing you! That means he likes you. I think he loves you, Mama. He is kissing your face, and I am rubbing the kisses in! So they don’t blow off in the wind!
It is 6.30 am.
Mabel: …Stop saying bossy!
Me: Well, stop being so bossy then.
Mabel: I CAN’T!