Long, slender limbs flash before me as they climb unaided into the bath. Gone are chubby fists and rotund bellies. Hair is long and requires brushing, parting, plaiting. Words became sentences, formed conversations and posed existential questions.
“I don’t want to grow up.”
“Because I wouldn’t be able to have my small plate any more. I like my small plate. And I wouldn’t be able to wear my small shoes. I’d have big feet so I’d have to have big shoes.”
Said with such wide-eyed, innocent sorrow that we catch each other’s eyes above her head and want to laugh.
I don’t remember the thought of growing up feeling so scary. All the time they are changing and growing and amazing me and I want to tell them how big they are. But I hold back. Because of the small plate and the small shoes.
The magic of Christmas is alive and kicking now. They understand about presents and can almost keep a surprise. They understand that their desires can be catalogued and requested of a bearded man in a red suit. They talk about leaving out a mince pie and a carrot. They talk about their stockings and elves and flying reindeer. They manage eight days of advent before they eat the remains of their calendars – impulse control and the concept of delayed gratification still beyond their reach.
They love and squeeze and hug and blow you kisses and catch the returns in their hands, putting them in a pocket or sometimes in their mouths.
They burn with anger and injustice – the fire of small people who don’t have the means to regulate their own emotions yet – and they cry when things don’t go their way, when we’re out of red straws, or their banana breaks in half. And they cuddle in close and start to tell me their feelings. They tell me when I forget to use my words – when my temper slips out and I snap and shout. They remind me of my humanity and they accept my apology.
They dance and sing and play. They ask me what that word is, what that letter is, what this says. And I tell them. They ask why, but why, but why and sometimes I say I don’t know.
They light up the world with a fire that burns so brightly. My role is to keep that fire stoked, to feed it dry wood and keep it aflame. It’s a tough job, unrelenting, but the warmth and light from that fire is more than I could ever have dreamed of.