Wednesday 21 March 2018

Resigned to little hands growing too large to hold

Aine O'Connor takes comfort from cuddles as former babes in arms morph into cool grown-up kids

Aine O'Connor

I'm feeling a bit old. It's not so much to do with what I see in the mirror, although in certain lights that does offer a fright, it's more to do with my children. I don't have little ones any more. I'm one of those parents who doesn't set foot in the school for weeks on end because I drop and go, arrive and collect.

There are no little hands holding mine, the hands aren't that little and the owners are too cool to offer them for holding. "Mom, that would be weird." These changes sneak up. When Number One got too old for hand holding or being dropped to his class, his sister was there to mask the change. It isn't a thing that one day they announce an intention to withdraw the mitt, it just happens. When it just happens with the youngest it's especially obvious.

We went to a Halloween event. Number One was there separately with his mates, the kind of hoodie-clad youth people half fear and gardai regard with suspicion. I feel like going up to them and telling them that that's my baby boy, doubt him and you get your own personal banshee. His world moved on, but even our 10-year-old accompanying child felt like maybe she had outgrown this.

It's all just stages and parents of grown-up kids probably look at us as we looked upon the couples with tiny kids. There were a few parents with new babies, sling-size ones, on what was probably their first festival as a family. The child has no idea what's going on, the parents are all too aware.

My first Christmas with a baby felt shockingly different. No more pub on Christmas Eve, no more friends' houses on Christmas night. For the boy baby it was just business as per his usual, 6am starts and porridge missiles.

Pregnancy feels long but in real terms life changes with freakish speed. All your life you can do what you want without much planning or consideration and then within a year you can't even buy milk without a military operation.

Then you think: "OK, we're a family now, let's do family things." No one tells you the stages though and first children, those poor guinea-pig babies, get dragged along to all manner of bonkers stuff.

We brought Number One to the zoo for the first time when he was 18 months old. We felt like we'd had him for ages, we were excited to show him this new experience, little kids love animals, he loved the Lion King, bring on the zoo. Real lions, look! It's like Simba.

The poor child could barely speak, real lions were too big or too hidey, all he wanted to do was run up and down hills and get ice cream. We spent the trip trying to keep him out of the penguin pond and being disappointed that our family outing hadn't been what we expected.

Number Two didn't get brought to the zoo until she was about four years old. Unfortunately it was mating season. "Mommy, why is that lion/polar bear/monkey hurting the other lion/polar bear/monkey."

Ho-hum, just you run up and down that hill a bit and we'll get some ice cream.

Onwards and upwards, I can't even remember having a social life at Christmas and the hand holding might be over but they both still give great cuddles. The girl child links arms now and told me not to fret, "Dad still holds your hand."

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