I wave at the crossing lady that looks after the primary school where my sons used to go. She waves back. I haven’t managed to say hello in person for months. Jill’s been operating her crossing for about twenty-five years. She’s seen kids come and go – literally – and she’s helped the children of children she helped twenty-years ago. If there’s one Jill always says it’s, ‘love your children, it goes too fast.’
Everybody says that.
But for Jill it’s not a cliché. Jill’s youngest son was murdered. He was in his early twenties when he died. She saw he become a man, and then he was dead. Jill knows it goes too fast.
My eldest son, Big H, is turning sixteen in October. Sixteen. That’s crazy! He’s taller than me now and I can’t pretend that he isn’t anymore. His feet are big, his chin is whiskery, and he feels firm when I hold him. I like resting a hand on his shoulder, it’s strong up there. I don’t see him as much as I used to. That’s okay, it’s my job to grow up these kids into men. This not seeing him as much, me not being the Big Deal anymore is all right with me because it’s a weaning off, sure, I see him less, but we sleep under the one roof. In a couple of years I won’t know where he is or what he’s doing. When I was eighteen I met my life partner. My eldest is almost of the age where that might happen.
Where did the time go?
Between the lunchboxes, and the homework, and the picking up, it’s easy to not be with your kids even though they’re in the same room. Especially, with all the devices taking our attention. It’s easy to put a kid to bed and realise you’ve not said much to him all day.
I take it, and give it, in physical contact. So much can be said in a touch.
‘Where here early, matey.’ I pulled up outside Stephen King Junior’s school. We had fifteen minutes before the bell. ‘Want a cuddle?’ I patted the front passenger seat.
‘Nah,’ he said. (I have realised, in writing this, that SKJ is just like his dad and always says no first)(who knows, it might help)(I hope)
Still, I lifted the arm of the seat so it’d be easier for him to climb across from the back. Invitation accepted.
I held my little boy and he held me and I made that satisfied mmmm noise that you make when you’re loving something. I sniffed his hair; sweat, pillow, boy. I felt his body, wiry, boney, shoulders blades, spine, the hard angle of his left hip. I made this. I held him, squeezed a bit. And the boy that I made, held me. Two minutes, three, not sure. I kissed the tip of his ear, his forehead, his lips, smooth. I closed my eyes, cheek on cheek, and was there.
Middle Boy is a cuddle officiando. Sometimes he wants cuddles, attention, at times that are not ideal. I’m busy. Writing, cooking, cleaning, sitting on my bum because now’s the chance. I remind myself one day he’ll stop asking. I’ll be wanting cuddles and he’ll be too busy.
‘Sure thing, darling. Let’s cuddle,’ I say.
It does go fast. They’re babies one day and wanting two-hundred dollar shoes the next.
But you can slow it down with cuddles, and pat on the shoulder, holding hands are the steps, or my middle boy’s ‘nose kisses, Mum.’
cuddle, smile, cuddle, smile