Monday, 5 July 2010

Time to stand and stare

"Daddy, do you know why I always want to watch Wobblyland?"
"No, why?"
"Because I like it."

Three year olds are born entertainers. Unfortunately they are also born dictators, whose communication skills have reached a level their empathy with other people's needs can only dream of. So a bizarre programme called Wobblyland is a fierce competitor of the much-looked forward-to World Cup in the viewing ratings chez Hegarty. This is in spite of the fact that there only seems to be about six episodes and they are all desperately dull...having seen what seems to be the same turgid tale of English football farce several times, I can hardly complain.

Being a parent changes you forever. It knocks your life sideways, changes every priority you ever had and invests what seems like your entire capacity for joy, hope and terror in one small, funny and occasionally tyrannical being. It seems no time at all before the helpless, crying thing has turned into a bigger, constantly talking, laughing, bossy thing. And it really is no time at all, because time as you once knew it has ceased to exist.

They say it's the most precious commodity of all - and now you have none of it. You are always rushing to catch up, trying to fit in too much - wake her up, make her breakfast, read her a book, play Peppa Pig playsets, answer two zillion questions, dress her, answer the phone, eat a slice of toast, brush your teeth, brush her teeth, pick up some milk, why didn't you get bread too, you idiot? When there is no time, something has to give and that something is sleep - you are now chronically short of it, seemingly forever...

Or at least that's how it is for me. And I can tell you, the compensations far, far outweigh the lack of time, sleep and other basics, to the point where they are almost an irrelevance.

So Sunday's mission was to take my little girl to see Shrek. Except it wasn't as simple as that, because I'd already promised her a trip to the park first and we have one cashcard between us (because we haven't had time to sort out another) which I then need to drop off back home, before getting the train to the cinema. And I need a haircut - apparent Mr Ugly has returned to our life, as he does every few weeks, when I haven't had time to visit a hairdresser. And I'll need to get her some lunch on the way and meanwhile - just so you understand that I am getting the long straw here - Little C's Mum will be tidying up the flat, loading up the car with heavy boxes and driving to a storage place with half our belongings - we are trying to sell our flat and apparently, de-cluttering is essential. What kind of man goes off on a jolly with a three year old while his beloved toils with heavy boxes? (One with stitches in his lower back from a minor operation - lifting and bending is forbidden - honest!)

And in the midst of this chaos of boxes, haircuts, parks, green ogres and conversations about rubbish kids' TV programmes - I realise again just how brilliant it all is. How taking Little C to the park, watching her running around in manic delight, getting on the train with her to a sea of smiles, hearing her singing to herself while I am getting my hair washed, her climbing on to my knee in the cinema with her special 3D glasses obediently still on - is just joy unbounded. And while we are rushing about trying to fit things into days that just won't go, maybe we need to take more time to appreciate that.

As the poet William Henry Davies put it:

'What is this life if, full of care
We have no time to stand and stare'

When Little C was in the process of being born, I kept a weekly blog of the pregnancy with all its dramas, irritations and amusements. It reflected the fact that the pregnancy, after five miscarriages, felt like a miracle hanging by a thread. Never did I imagine I'd have so little time to record events after that, the astonishing first year, the often hilarious second, the increasingly fraught but still hilarious third. You can't write about lack of time when you have no time. Or at least, I didn't think you could until now.

Then when I looked at her smiling face as she slipped her little hand in mine this week, I realised that it was too important not to record anymore. All these moments are so precious, yet so fleeting. It is time to stand and stare. Sleep will have to take another one for the team.


  1. I hope you keep it up this time, the blogging that is xxx