I’m not going to lie, Duke has pretty much raised himself. The fourth, and final, instalment in my ‘from the womb’ series simply hasn’t needed too much of me.
Duke strutted out into the world as if he had always been here, and thinking back, I find it hard to remember a time when he wasn’t.
“Me? A baby? Pfft!”
I’m not sure if it was the time, at one week of age, when Ivy fed him hummus and orange juice while my back was turned, or perhaps it was the constant soundtrack of Minecraft tutorials in his very young life, but somewhere along the way Duke convinced himself that he wasn’t a baby.
Denial. The kid’s in denial. He’s been staunching around with the cocky confidence of a six-year-old boy since he took his first steps.
Occasionally I throw some food his way. Every now and then I rotate the clothes in his wardrobe, and I always make sure his little Houdini-arse is strapped nice and tight into my mum-van, but other than that? Not too much.
This affectionate, wild, brave, and hilarious human has sprung up before my eyes … and I feel like a spectator. Milestones come barrelling in like waves. One after the other, after the other. Just as I catch my breath from one, another comes in to knock me on my arse.
I’m sure time has been slipping through my fingers like this with all of the kids, but I don’t think I’ve ever scrambled to catch so much of it as I have with Duke.
Today’s wave nearly dumped me
The thing about being genuinely busy, is that it leaves you no time to overthink things – which is great for an over-thinker like moi.
For example, I just attended a huge conference full of talented bloggers. Over 700 of them, actually. Huge. If I had not been so busy in the lead-up to that event, I might have talked myself out of going. But, as it turned out, I had no time to do that, and the next thing I know I’m in a bed with Mrs Woog, drinking wine and talking shite. The internet in 3D. Rad.
Then I came home, the busy continued, and last night, while checking my calendar I was reminded that today was the day that Duke had his first official day in a childcare centre.
How did that come around so quickly? He was ready, though. Little jerk wouldn’t even kiss me goodbye. He walked in like he owned the joint, I was half expecting him to cock his leg and mark the furniture.
And like that it was done. 17 minutes I lingered, but I felt like a douche, so I left … and I cried. I blubbered big, ugly, snotty tears.
Until my phone rang – and it was Cael’s school. He left his lunch-box at home and had Ivy’s drink bottle. Life’s shit show continues whether I’m a howling mess or not.
He’s the last one
I really am scrambling to catch this time.
All of these firsts … they’re the last firsts, and this grief I feel for them has blindsided me. I’m not talking about broodiness, I am so not clucky. Whatever the opposite of clucky is, that is me. Fuck cluck. Fuck cluck right in the ear.
It’s something else. A shift. Each one of these milestones comes and goes, and with their departure our world ever so slightly shifts towards a life that is a little different.
“Oh look, he’s walking. Well that’s it then, no more crawlers.”
“Listen to him talking now! Wow, baby babble – that was the last of that.”
“He’s feeding himself.”
“He’s putting his own shoes on.”
“There he goes, off to daycare… ”
“He’s worked out to use my … FUCK, HE’S GOT MY PHONE!”
The disappearance of each of those things moves us towards a life with no more babies. And that’s exciting too, of course, but scary as shit.
I’m not much good at being in the moment, but I try. I catch him doing little things that I know won’t last, so I squeeze my eyes tight and stop breathing for a minute. I don’t know what I’m trying to do there? Snap a still shot, maybe? File it away in the memory banks with a little silent prayer “Please don’t forget this moment, Rebel. This little nothingness that could easily slip away. Hold it tight.”
And as I’m playing this tug-o-war with time, it seems to be gaining momentum. I’m holding onto Duke’s too-small shoes, but a look around the room shows me a beautiful young woman with a straightener to her hair and make-up on her eyes. There’s a six-year-old boy writing stories at my table, and a nearly five-year-old girl talking about starting school after Christmas.
There’s some dude with a beard looking around the room too. A beard? Wait, what? When the hell did that happen? Time. See? Whatever … he is looking around the room looking just as bewildered as me, and I know we’ll be OK. There’s more good stuff coming. I just wish it wasn’t coming so fast.
How do you cope with this shit?