Friday, March 20, 2009
It’s bedtime. I’m wrestling Lucas into his pyjamas and Jonah is beside us on the duvet, sorting out which of his teddies get to share the pillow tonight.
“I take Ciara…and Elizabeth Franklin…and James”
James? I didn’t know there was a James in the family, even the stuffed-animal branch of it. I look across to see which toy has been newly honoured both with a name and a place on the bed. All I see are the roll-called Ciara and “Elizabeth Franklin”, along with my ancient, beloved, orange bear. Must be a case of mistaken names, I think.
“That’s not James, honey” I point out, stuffing Lucas’ leg back into the stripes he seems determined not to wear. “That’s Jeremy”
“No, Mummy” retorts my elder son. “It’s James”
I turn to fully face Jonah. Lucas, sensing his opportunity, discards his pyjama top and scuttles away to the toybox where, he thinks, he will hide and thus escape going to bed (ever). Ah, toddler logic.
“Jonah”. I speak firmly but calmly, the voice I try to use when explaining why it really isn’t a great idea to plunge sticks of spaghetti into the electrical outlet. “This bear is my bear, and he’s called Jeremy”
Jonah gives me a look of great pity and not a little sympathy. “No, Mummy” he explains. “He’s my bear now, and he’s called James”.
Three years after the birth of our firstborn, we’ve got used to the weird tipping-round of life that makes a weekly night out seem as exceptional as a weekly night in did three years prior to Jonah’s arrival. We’re used to bathroom doors being flung open mid-ablution, to the potty-training-induced fascination with everyone’s bodily functions, resulting in such invitations as “Mummy has huge poo in big potty – come and see it!. I wanted – want- my children deeply, keenly, and felt that, as much as you can, we went into it with our eyes prised open in a facsimile of the sleep-deprivation to come. Being somewhere in the middle of our group of friends when it came to the procreation game, there were plenty of show-and-tell moments from the already-parenting within our gang, leaving us in relatively little doubt as to the pleasure: pain ratio we should anticipate in the very early years.
And I'm happy about it. This is what the present day should look like to me now I’ve accepted being part of the middle generation. And,vague though it may be right now, this is what the future should be too. What hadn’t occurred to me ahead of having kids was that the past, too, might be surrendered to them.
I loved that bear. Jeremy, brother-bear to my sister’s Edward, prompting one of my Irish pals to ask if all English stuffed toys were given equally stuff, formal names. (answer: I dunno, but it would seem so, yes). Jeremy was probably the same size as me when I first had him to look after, and I toted him hither and thither with trenchant toddler devotion.
When my parents flew from the UK to our home in Seattle to meet two-week-old Jonah, Jeremy traveled in Dad’s hand luggage. “We thought he’d need a bear” explained the doting grandparents, overlooking the fact that at fourteen days, Jonah already had already seen more bears than he had sunsets. They were right, too. Apparently he didn’t need any old bear – he needed my old bear.
And now, of course, he’s ensured that Jeremy remains his by, quite literally, turning him into a second-generation teddy, complete with a name for the twenty-first century. I grit my teeth and turn to him, my little blondie beaming at me with the inherited stubbornness shining through. “You’re right, lovely” I say. “This is James. And now it’s time to get you both into bed”.