Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Noting the Joy

Ever since the gloriously named Elsie Button, who has a 6 month old baby, left the following comment, I have been pondering:

I keep reading all these stories people have written about these bad days
with their children, and sounds like I have it all to come.

Yes, there are quite a few scary stories out there, aren't there? Probably because there are quite a few sleep-deprived, worry-driven, over-worked and under-appreciated parents out there, too.

I don't think it's just that, though. Through the discipline and joy of the regular writing practice blogging bestows, I have come across a bonus I never expected. In writing about the bad experiences, I can make sense of them, and of myself in the process, and find a powerful place for self-reflection. Something there is almost nil space for in the full-time parent's/carer's day.

But perhaps I do tend to write about the more difficult, challenging side of child-raising more often than I write about the joy. When I wondered why that is, I realised that it is much harder to write the joy. But tonight I put Madeleine McCann's face onto this blog, and tonight Elsie Button has a six-month-old baby gurgling in her sleep, and it seems very important to try. So, Elsie, for the record:

I cannot imagine any one single moment eclipsing that when Anna-mouse was put onto my chest for the first time, and she looked at me, blinking and unphased by the length of my record labour and the cord around her neck and the lights and the scores of people in the room. Welcome to the world, little one, I said. Welcome to the world!

And something wonderful came with her: a sense of achievement. At last, here was one irrefutably special thing which I had made happen. A true contribution to the world. A person. A mark. This made me feel, and continues to make me feel, ridiculously proud.

Not least because she spreads love. Anna-m spreads love and laughter and I reap the smiles in her wake. She draws abundance to her, I have noticed. She was born between two blue moons. Perhaps this is why. She has sealed multiple healings for me. She leads the way in loving forgiveness, as far as I'm concerned.

Hard to express the profundity of the satisfaction in holding her vibrant self every day. Holding her physically - oh the unadulterated sensuality of the perfect, peachy body in my arms after her bath! - and holding her metaphorically, guiding her, keeping her to as true a path as I can. When she was tiny, Elsie, I swear, her hot, soft head smelt like candy floss, or caramel, or toffees - a different sweet every night... I cried the night I gave up breast-feeding for good, struggle as it sometimes was, giving up as I was the soft pawings of her tiny fingers as she sucked; the coos and sighs.

Yes, there are bad days. But even when they outweigh the good they are as nothing to the moments of joy. To realise she has a sense of humour! A jovial, prank-playing, Irish sense of humour I could not possibly have imbued in her myself. Which brings me to a more private joy - that which I get when I watch them together, the Bim and her, from the playroom windows. The satisfaction in knowing that the huge leap of faith paid off: she has a father who will never leave. That pain, at least, I may have spared her.

And now that language is everything, oh the pleasure in literally seeing the words come, the thoughts form. And being able to shape that, throwing my own love of words into the mix.

But the best thing about this creature, this fizzing, funny, self-possessed girl born of nothing but love, is the love she engenders. In others, but in myself and the Bim most of all. She floors us with love. At mealtimes, she takes our hands, me one side of the booster seat, and the Bim the other, and holds them to her cheeks. We glance at each other and want to weep.

Once, she painted a picture, an abstract in sweeping, swirling turquoise. Asked what it was of she replied without thinking 'The sky above Mary Poppins'. That is what children do. At their best, which is what I am concerned with tonight, they shed new light on life. They illuminate it for us, and represent a kind of living hope, like the candles we light in church.

So, there. A few reflections, Elsie. An impossible task, I fear. Let me take one more stab at it: Nothing, nothing in life is quite like choosing to be there to cherish a child.


Elsie Button said...

Livvy, i read this with a lump in my throat. I am so glad that you wrote it. I was speaking to my husband just this morning and saying that i would love to be able to write down how Betty makes me feel when she is lying there on her changing mat, sucking on her toes and squealing away, smelling so amazing i could eat her, but i can't. i just can't put it into words. you have just written an amazing piece. thank you. elsie

Cathy said...

As always you write beautifully, Livvy. Anna-m sounds adorable. Cherish these days while she is small, they grow up all too fast!


Livvy U. said...

Dear Elsie - I'm so glad. (Though you just did put it into words, you know!)

Dear Cathy - Yes, it's good to be reminded to savour it all, now, as it happens.