Rolling around on the floor by the doors to the decking, you tell me you are never moving out.
“I want to stay with you guys for ever and ever. When I’m a grown-up. Even on Tuesdays and Thursdays”.
I smile, say you’ll probably change your mind. A scowl, your next words turning into a defiant cry and a downward snap of your head.
“ No. I. Won’t”.
I lie on the mattress beside you in your bedroom, reading a book of pop-up sharks and dinosaurs.
“What’s this one called?” (Something unpronounceable-a-saurus).
“Will you stay with me for a while? Will this be a short night or a long night?”
A short one I say. Short means you can bear to sleep in your own bed all night. Long nights necessitate physical contact with a grown-up in the wee hours.
This morning you were lying on the floor outside the bedroom door when I opened it. Cuddling that giant Ikea Shark (the stuffing flattened out of it with love). Making sure it was morning so you would get your star for staying in your own bed.
Later we make pancakes. You measure out spoonfuls of flour, eggs survive your timid attempts to crack their shells. Instead I hand opened eggs over to you and you pour the contents into the bowl, mix with the whisk. We swap. You pour in the milk a little at a time as I whisk.
A new crepe pan for pancake Tuesday.
“ Can I put the pancakes in? Please”. Is this enough?”
You are careful with the ladle. I tilt the pan to spread the batter. Some extra drops to fill the gaps and then you watch as I flip. I give you a choice of toppings. Ham and cheese wins out for the first few. One, pancake left, I remind you of the other offerings, and the simple beauty of lemon and sugar. We have banana too, and a little chocolate if you fancy that?
Wide-eyed, smiling. “I want everything that you said”
Carefully you place cheese and ham and lemon and banana and chocolate. Roll it up, eat it all with gusto.
We took your photo today for your passport. So we can go on a plane to visit your cousins. You are almost 4 years old, impish grin, against a white background, looking forward to a green lollipop reward for staying still. We walk down the street hand in hand.
Everyone tells me that these days are the happiest ones. The days when our kids were little.
Life reduced to these little ones, little moments.
Taking care not to walk on the cracks on the footpath. Stepping only on the black squares on the way to your Montessori.
“ You have to walk on the black squares”
“But it’s ok if you accidentally walk on a red one”
Your tears as we wait to cross the road. There was a puddle in the play area that you didn’t get to see. You want to go back but the afternoon children are already in and I am already in my getting-on-with-the-afternoon zone.
These are the moments that make the day rich. Too rich to take in sometimes.
Couldn’t we maybe leave some of these sweet treats for a rainy day in October twenty years from now.
A day when I yearn for a little voice calling “carry me, carry me”, crave the feeling of little arms and legs wrapping around me.
That I might open up the box of delicious memories and taste them once again, these beautiful days that rush by. Feel your sticky palms, see your eyes wide in storytelling mode. “I made some pretend pancakes- do you want some?”
That I might once again, without the pressures of a messy home and broken-sleep nights, feel the deep pull of being needed as no other, as never again.
“Will you stay with me for a while”.
Yes. I sit by you and read my book.
“If you stay with me you have to hold my hand”.
So I do. I read, hand in mine as your breathing moves towards sleep, a slight twitch in hot hand as you move dreamwards.
I pause, lay down my book, lie down beside you. Memorising the shadows of your face, the gorgeously long eyebrows. Hand under your left cheek squashing skin upwards.
Somewhere my boy this will stay with you, with me.
Even when you’re a grown-up, and even on Tuesdays and Thursdays.