Tomorrow will be Thing I‘s fourteenth birthday. It’s quite unnerving to think she’s that old already.
If I think about taking the time we had in Bangladesh – a good 5-6 years – and jump forward that same amount of time again, Thing I will not only have left the home by then but probably be a good way through her degree (there’s little doubt she’ll do one – she probably could right now to be honest). Thing II will have nearly finished his A level years.
What a difference that time in Bangladesh made to both our children. Thing II was not much more than a walking, babbling baby in many ways. Too young for full-time school at LAMB, I had to partially home-school him in the early months. Now he’s shot up so much that he’s bypassed the girls in terms of height, is nearly as tall as me and his voice has been breaking so long that I’d almost forgotten that less than a year ago he had a high-pitched boys voice and I found it funny to hear moments of low pitches coming out of him. I couldn’t imagine him with a man’s voice. Now, I can’t remember what his boy’s voice sounded like at all.
And that’s where I become sad – and frightened.
My children’s childhood is almost over. They seem to have hurtled into the teenage years (Thing II before even getting past eleven). My son looks older than his sister and his sister is maturer than her years. As we’ve unpacked the house I’ve found box after box of their things we packed before leaving for Bangladesh and many of them are such distant memories that it feels like someone else’s children used to play with them. Now we play pool together or work out Dave Gilmour’s solos on the electric guitar, or make jokes in Latin – when did we start to do such adult things?
The speed of their growing up terrifies me as does the thought of my missing their final growing years. It wells up inside me and leaks into my brain, blackening areas and filling my head with morbidity. What if, I wonder, I’m not there to see their finals hops and skips of childhood before they take wing? What if I miss those final remaining moments?
I honestly don’t know if it is my desire to keep them as childlike and innocent for as long as possible or if it is just that my fears make me very aware of my own mortality.
This mortality is having a profound effect on me currently.There’s so much fear and tension lurking in the wings that I can feel it almost sapping the life from me day by day.
“I just need a little while longer,” I shout to it in the darkness, “you can have me – I won’t put up a fight – but let it not be quite yet.”
But there’s no answer from the shadows. no confirmation whether I’ve got ten years, ten days or ten hours. Just silence; silence which consumes me day by day.
But tomorrow, just for one day, the fear will be banished and mortality’s silence won’t be listened to. Just for one day there will be guaranteed laughter and joy and fun and love and hugs and childlike enjoyment of life from all of us. Just for one day – as long as nothing jumps out of the shadows to swallow me whole in one go as it so threatens to do – I will enjoy my children as children; and celebrate the blessings their lives have been to me.
Tomorrow will be a good day spent with good friends celebrating the special day for one of them. I will love every minute of it.