The view from my kitchen floor

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

I hope you'll forgive me for this: it's a post about Jellybean. Just to chat about her.

Is that cool? Frankly if it is or not I'm still going to write it, but you know, it's polite to ask.

We've had a fairly busy weekend. Sunday came in two halves: a morning of joyful celebration, having Jellybean dedicated at church along with our friends' daughter, promising to raise her well, surrounded by friends and family, praying God's blessing upon her. Followed by an evening of discovering a non-blanching rash, a phone call to NHS 111, and an all-night trip to the children's hospital.

Parenting, I have decided, is quite like that sometimes. Pride and fear rising up in equal measure. I am so, so proud of our daughter, of the funny little person she is becoming. Some days the pride and love I feel for her leave me awestruck. But I also have the fear that comes in the night: how can I protect her? What happens when I can't protect her? How do I live with the knowledge that this person that once lived in me is now walking on an earth that can be so unfriendly and harsh? That people might hurt her, that life won't always be in her favour?

I have heard from people I know and trust that this feeling never really goes away. Like a funny little creature in your heart that occasionally makes its way to the surface. Even when your kids are grown and don't rely on you like they used to. You still have the pride, and you still have the fear.

I guess Sunday was like an extreme of both. Our pastor asked the congregation to stand if they agreed to look out for, teach, guide and pray for our babies. And to see the whole congregation stand as one was quite an awesome moment. Over the past couple of nights as I have drifted off to sleep I try to think of that moment, like a healing balm for the other image that keeps popping into my head: my daughter screaming and writhing in her Daddy's arms while they tried (three times!) to get blood from her. I have never heard her in that much pain and frankly I never want to again. I can't look at the bruises on her feet from those blood tests without feeling like bursting into tears.

It's one of those hopeless, helpless moments as a parent: something bad is happening to your child and they are hurting and you can't make it stop. While my head was driven by the knowledge that we needed to find out quickly if this rash was something bad (it wasn't), my heart was screaming at me to make her stop crying.

The thing is, bad things need to happen sometimes, and the rational part of me understands that. Had I not been through bad things in my life, I wouldn't be the person I am today. Theoretically, this makes sense. At the time though, seeing your child in pain is the most awful thing you could ever imagine. Finding a rash that won't fade away when you press it is terrifying. And I would do anything in those moments to make it stop, but sometimes I can't. All I can do is love her.

Whilst running around getting things done in preparation for our busy weekend, I stopped for a moment in the bathroom to read a scripture I have stuck to the mirror. I often do this, but soon, sadly, they become part of the background, a feature of our house that I hardly notice. Today I thought about it a little longer:


The part about being quietened with love brought back a strong memory. I was sitting cross-legged on our bed in the early hours of the morning, rocking Jellybean in my arms, days after she was born. Barely home from the hospital and a little dazed, I stared at her while she whimpered, and I started to shhh her. I sang her a song I made up on the spot, a song of an almost desperate joy at the sight of her, at the same time feeling totally overwhelmed and under prepared, thinking This is all I have to offer you.

Love pouring out of me was all I had to offer, and I had to hope it was enough.

Now we have a silly, funny, sweet toddler. She has little tantrums sometimes. She laughs at silly things. She says 'uh-oh' and 'Daddy' and 'Doggy' what feels like a thousand times a day. She can point out her eyes, ears, nose, cheeks, head, hair, belly, and toes. She is obsessed with books. She is obsessed with Peppa Pig. She either eats like a horse or eats barely anything, depending on her mood. She can hear us opening a packet of crisps or sneaking a biscuit out of the tin from a mile off. She dances, sings, and claps to a beat. She loves us, and sometimes it seems to burst out of her: I'll be in the kitchen and suddenly there's a little pair of arms wrapping around my legs and I can hear her muffled, pressed-into-my-legs voice saying 'Ahhhhh.'

Love. It hurts, but oh my goodness, it pays off, big time.

Recently I read a good blog post over at Enjoying the Small Things about loving the stage you are in with your children: enjoying memories, and enjoying the now, without the sense of panic that your babies are growing up too quick. It heartened me to read it. Because as much as I loved Jellybean's baby stage, and as much as I feel a little pang of wistfulness when I look at photos from when she was first born, I am totally loving this stage.

This morning, for example, I was laying on the floor listening to music in the kitchen. Jellybean is currently obsessed with stacking things, or placing things in and out of other things. This morning she was putting her toys inside the washing basket and then making a pile of them in the middle of the kitchen floor. Then the game changed: she took a plastic bowl out of the cupboard, one at a time, and made a pile of them right in front of my face. This made me laugh, and then it made her laugh, and soon she was toddling over quicker and quicker with a kind of wild giggle, making a bigger and bigger pile of stuff next to me.






We don't own magical colour-changing bowls, by the way, it's just that the first time round I started laughing and my phone fell out of my hand!

The more I learn about life in general (more specifically life with God, and life as a parent) is that you can't control everything no matter how much you'd like to. No amount of photographs you take can freeze time, no amount of planning you do can stop curveballs from coming your way, no amount of worrying and overthinking can make you prepared for everything.

While the fear makes you want to obsess and plan and wrap cotton wool around everything, sometimes the only thing that makes it fall silent is just enjoying your life right now. By, you know, laying down on the kitchen floor and laughing until your stomach hurts while your child builds a pile of plastic tat next to your head.

Thanks for listening to my waffle, as always :)

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