How do I keep you safe? You walk around the world in a bubble of faith, a bubble I helped create. You believe in kindness and goodness, and I’m a bit worried you think ducks do actually talk. You lay your head in my lap at night and I run my fingers over the same features I traced countless times the first night you spent in my arms. After hard days, you silently stroke my hair, taking strength from me now just as you took life when your heart-beat galloped under mine. How the fuck do I keep you safe?
You think you’re a King. You walk around the living room with a makeshift crown on your head, glued on gemstones already wobbling precariously as you throw your arms out with the pronouncement ‘I demand BISCUITS!’ and dissolve into giggles at your own misuse of power.
You think you’re a giant. You puff out your childish chest and tilt your head up high to stomp through the living room ‘Excuse me,’ you intonate, standing directly in front of my mildly startled friend, ‘you’re in my spot.’ My friend moves, and you had no doubt that they would.
You think you’re powerful. From your elevated position in the car seat you can clearly see the traffic lights. You count to ten, whispering the numbers to yourself, on ten – the lights flicker from red to green. ‘Ha! GOT IT!’ you shout. You say the same thing when they change on four, or twenty-six.
You’re a thief. You cuddle up to me on the couch, hands still dimpled from baby-hood patting my arm. Then you drag the blanket off me, snorting as you say in that sing-song voice kids get when they’re learning the difference between being cheeky and being a shit ‘Got your blaaaaaaanket!’ You trust me implicitly as you navigate boundaries. This is the same trust that you had opening your mouth to new foods, the same as when you held my hand as we walked through crowded events, deserted beaches and busy airports.
You think the world is fair. We do a long overdue toy cull, pulling out plastic baby toys from the shed, wiping off dust and sorting them into donation piles. ‘Why are we throwing them out?’ you ask, idly examining what could possibly be a giraffe. ‘Some kids don’t have any toys, or much money, so we pass things on.’ You drop the giraffe ‘WHAT!’ You will come back to this concept every few hours for the next three days, ‘But children LIKE toys.’ As if stating a need clearly and concisely always results in that need being met.
You love your body. You climb, jump, spin and admire your strength in the mirror at ballet. You exclaim ‘I am strong!’ as you drag chairs to benches and lift boxes of Lego. You discard clothes as quickly as you can and laugh at your ‘food belly’ in the bath, patting it contentedly. Please keep this, oh for the love of cheese toasties, please keep this.
You think I can fix things. You come to me with broken lego, tyres off toys, ripped books and twisted socks. I fix them, quickly and competently. These things are easy. You think I can fix anything. What will happen when you come to me with a broken heart? With shattered illusions and the knowledge that the world is not always a safe place to land. The power you have at the moment, with your family around you and your belief that everyone is happy, just like you; this power will not translate as you grow older. You will lose it. You will lose the skip in your step and you will stop believing that people at checkouts care passionately about your favourite colour and the latest disaster our kittens have wrought. Maybe you will stop believing in people at all.
I feel the pressure of loving you, of wanting to shield you from hard truths. The world is not safe for everyone, it will not always respect your boundaries and inevitably, you will hurt. You will see terrible things, things far beyond the duck with a broken foot that showed up in our yard. A duck you named Quacky and whom you still cry for, holding a pillow and keening ‘I hope they fix him!’ (They totally did).
Maybe that’s why people say these years of early childhood are the best. Because we live in a bubble with you. We see the world through your eyes, bright and happy. A world composed of kisses and sleep deprivation is less harsh than the heartache that will come when you see the suffering more clearly. The time will come when you come to me with a broken heart, and the best I have to offer you will be what I offer you now. My heart, my support and my enduring faith that you will be ok.
Linking up with The Annoyed Thyroid here
Linking up with This Parenting Life here