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.
Darling, you’re 5! A 5-year-old person. And what a fine job you’ve done. You, who from your very instance, have been an experience of impossible beauty. Especially for me.
Sometimes, life will really present you an opportunity to grow up. And I mean ‘grow up’ however you wish to see it. Whatever it was or will be for you. Whatever makes you wiser. Or stronger. More resilient. Whatever makes you hold true to what you really know for certain, no longer willing to be distracted by that which has no answer. Whatever pushes you closer to where you are meant to be. And to who. But see it in its metaphor too. To stretch toward to sun.
You were that great occurrence in my life. You are, every day.
My eyes opened with yours, Theo. And in that moment, I knew everything would be alright.
There’s no one I’d rather walk a long road with.
You’re all my best wishes,
(Last years letter: here.)
They’re sitting at the kitchen table, eating berry yoghurt with teaspoons. Mabel has asked me for two baby sisters for her birthday.
‘I’ll name them Elsa and Ana’, she tells me.
‘I want to have a baby when I grow up’ remarks her brother.
‘You can’t lay a baby!’ she tells him with authority. ‘You don’t have a fanny to lay it with!’
‘Okay then’; he pauses for thought. ‘You can have a baby when you grow up and give it to me!’.
‘Like Rumpelstiltskin!’ she roars.
They think they’re very funny.
‘A little kitchen makes a large home.’
While I make dinner they sit at the kitchen table. Their limbs swinging from chairs they still have to climb on to. There are always pens and paper there, in a reckless pile. Scissors making fast confetti of yesterdays masterpieces.
I have a poetry show tomorrow night; I’ve been practicing to the bathroom mirror. They applaud in all the right wrong places, which makes me feel special. Theo writes his first poem.
‘Clouds brung rain
the sunshine brung light
Kings and knights
fight with their swords
I couldn’t be prouder. He doesn’t want to read it aloud to me, though he tells me I am a good audience. He says he will only perform it at the Pallet Pavilion, where I did my last show. Straight to the top, Bubba. To the moon.
Meanwhile, while the vegetables steam, my daughter makes something elaborate. A piece of paper, folded as a fan. Covered in hieroglyphics of deep meaning, if the fervency of their scribble is anything to go by. It’s covered in glue.
‘Mama! Put on your boots and get me some string! I have made a fox trap! We need to hang it in a tree right now! We’re going to catch bad foxes in the garden! …are there foxes in New Zealand? I’ve made this! Just in case!’
I tie up the ends with a length of pink wool. I do it all wrong, naturally. I’m just he capable hands of my daughters vision. She takes over, the former metre cut down by little pink hands in little pink scissors; she’s ruthless and maniacal, mad with power. Tiny pieces of fluff now stuck on to the fox trap.
And I realise, just now, I’ve had a child’s hood, liberated from its jacket (perhaps to catch foxes) on my head this whole time.
I just had my daughter scoot after me, bare-bottomed on her potty, across the wooden floors.
‘I CAN SEE YOU MAMA! I AM COMING TO GET YOU!’
I try not to laugh so hard that she can still understand me when I say ‘look out for the rug!’
Then, as she sat on my lap, readying herself for the bath, she did an enormous, resonant fart – omitting the type of smell that shouldn’t come from a person so diminutive – and literally laughed so hard she cried. ‘SMELL MY STINKY FART!’ she roars, desperate for breath. ‘SMELL MY FINGER!’…I don’t know where she gets this stuff. Honestly, I think it just comes to her.
Life is made up of moments like these.
I’ve just gotten a new passport – the old one suffering too many beer-soaked nights as my only I.D; all my stamps ripped out and given away with my phone number, over the last 10 ridiculous years attempting to be casually glamorous. Though I am fated to forever look like a German boy in my passport photo. Many a bouncer has sucked in through his teeth, ‘Geeze, girl!’. I know! I know! I was 19 and life was hard, you know? Yellow isn’t a flattering colour for me; I know that now. No one looks good under-lit.
Theo is looking over my new one; it encompasses so much that he enjoys: technology, the idea of travel; rules and regulations.
‘Mama? You look adorable in this photograph in your new passbook.’
Life is made up of moments like these, too, remember.
You are reading books in a tent in the lounge. You both still have bottles in the afternoon.
Mabel has just come through to the kitchen, where I am sitting at the table writing. She mimed ‘I love you’. Her eyes. Her heart. Her mama. ‘Don’t forget to look after yourself’, she said to me, over her shoulder, as she left the room.
The Kale we sowed from seed has sprouted on the windowsill. 4 white plastic containers we filled with dirt, and watered and left to sleep in the sun.
You made your own sandwiches for lunch, tearing the crusts off and feeding them to the dog, as we sat here, all together.
Theo: Happy Birthday to you. Happy Birthday to you…
Mabel: WHERE’S MY PRESENT?
Theo: …The people are your present, Mae. The people at your birthday.
Mabel: Yeah, but where’s my present?
The shopping list as written by a 4 year old.
Kitchen blackboard self-portraits + L.O.V.E above (can you see it?)
The bellybutton, though. Kills me.
She works mainly in glitter.
Theo: I’m a bit funny sometimes.
Mabel: Tell me a funny joke!
Theo: Um…why did the chicken cross the road?
Mabel: *ROARS WITH LAUGHTER*.
Theo: Told you.