We were standing at the bus stop. My sister fished around in her purse for her bus ticket while I joggled the baby. He’d been unceremoniously kicked out of the buggy by his tired sister, but seemed happy with the arrangement, taking the opportunity to dribble on my shoulder and yank out my hair.
My baby is like an elderly-lady magnet. I think it’s the combination of his bright blue eyes and multiple chins. Thanks to weaning, he is becoming like a little fat cherub. In the distance, someone caught sight of him kicking about in my arms and made her way over to us.
‘Well!’ she said. ‘Aren’t you just a beautiful baby!’
He turned to her and smiled an adorable, gormless kind of smile. A string of drool dropped out onto her hand. She didn’t mind. She complimented me on his eyes, his chunky legs, his cheeky grin.
Then she turned to me and said, ‘You can’t cuddle them enough, I say.’
I smiled. ‘Definitely.’
‘You can’t cuddle them enough.’ she continued to squeeze the baby’s cheeks. ‘You just can’t spoil a baby. My Mum used to say to me, ‘you’ll spoil them if you keep holding them!’ I said ‘You can’t spoil a baby, Mum.’ When they get a bit older and they’re cheeky you can tell them off. You can spoil them with things, but not with love.’
She gazed at the baby the entire time as he flapped his arms and chatted (‘baba, baba, bada!’). A wistful kind of gaze. ‘They grow up so fast. Too fast. I’ve got grandchildren and great-grandchildren now, and you know, my children always say to me ‘you did love us a lot, Mum. You loved us a lot.”
That night, my eldest played up a bit at bedtime.
Sometimes it’s because she just doesn’t want to go to sleep and tries to delay it using all the tactics her three-year-old brain can imagine (thirsty, hungry, needs a wee, needs a cuddle, had a nightmare somehow despite not being actually asleep, too hot, too cold, too many or too few cuddly toys). Sometimes, it’s for a real reason – because she misses me.
She misses my undivided attention. She misses physical proximity to me. It’s difficult because my husband does not, at the time of writing, possess his own breasts to feed the baby with, and that’s quite an essential thing at bedtime if you want the baby to not scream the house down.
Jellybean gets this but she also doesn’t like it sometimes. I ended up climbing into her bed and cuddling her that night, leaving our milk-drunk baby with Chris.
‘Are you staying in here, Mummy?’
I yawned. ‘Yes.’
‘Until I fall asleep?’
‘Tomorrow can I choose what to watch on Netflix?’
‘Are you actually going to go to sleep?’
She wrapped her arms around my head and laid there, still, with her chin resting on my forehead, in a kind of mild stranglehold. And then she fell asleep.
I extracted myself (which involved some interesting body contortion) and switched off the fan, which she uses now as background noise to fall asleep to ever since the heatwave happened. I stood there and looked at her. And I smiled.
Our kids are fortunate kids. They have more than many other children could ever imagine. A home to live in. More toys than they can shake a stick at. Clothes and food. Sometimes I have to give my head a wobble if I start thinking too hard about the opportunities they won’t get, the places I can’t take them, the ways we won’t be able to help them out, because we can’t afford to. You can get tied up in all the nitty-gritty ways in which you are failing or don’t compare to other parents who have different strengths than you. The responsibility seems impossibly huge and difficult. And at times, you get lost in the day. Tangled in a web of small stresses and strains that come with having little ones. It makes you forget the bigger picture.
Then I remember that they are extremely comfortable indeed and I should be grateful for that.
And, more importantly, they are loved. One day, I hope my kids look back and say it about me and Chris.
‘You loved us a lot. You really loved us a lot.’
Hi! I’m Meg – wife to Chris, mother to our three year old daughter and five month old son. I am a writer, bookworm, Christian, feminist, and sleep enthusiast!
Image credit: Megan Bidmead