When I had Number One, I wondered how I would muster up the patience and calm required to parent. I moved at a million miles an hour, and a baby wouldn’t be able to keep up. More so, he would need the stillness that I didn’t really understand or desire. I saw slowing down as a hindrance; it would be a challenge, something tough to tackle.
Number One arrived, and with him came possession, the shock of defiance but above all, a demand for the staying still. He fed on endurance, shoved to the very edges of all tolerance and I had no choice but to hold up a white flag and admit a swift defeat. He set the times of the tide, and i could do nothing but sit in my tiny, insignificant, subservient boat and wait it out. It was only after some time that I realised that this tiny person had a stronger and more astute grasp on time than I did, as he settled into routines that I hadn’t drawn up, and made his own choices that drove his little life forward, day by day. I discovered that the role of spectator was almost as interesting as participation itself, and I watched him morph in flashes through pictures: 1, 5, 8, 11 as I see him now, no bigger than he was and yet so much bigger than I could have ever imagined.
When Number Two came to be, everything else was a muddle, and whilst fleeting, will keep a pocket of myself with them, because they showed me that I didn’t have to split love, but could grow it. Number Two sits in a drawer, immortalised in the darkness of an envelope in black and white, a little life date stamped. The end of March makes me think of names and faces, could-haves and possiblys , before I look to Number Three and feel so grateful for there being a Number Three at all.
Number Three was Fury and Fire. He refused all logic and choose his path through sheer rage that anyone else should choose it for him. He was the biggest baby I’d ever seen, rolls and a sturdy, steadiness to him, as he eyed us with an unapologetic certainty. I would grimace at awful replies from both colleagues and strangers to his birth weight, as though being big meant something bad. He refused to smile at almost anything, taking humour at only his own jokes. Even now, he refuses all: he reverts to ‘No’ as a standard response, refuses to eat with mismatched plates, refuses to get into the bath with help, refuses to sleep and refuses to sleep quietly when he does, snoring his unconscious rage, lest we might forget. He likes to listen to music, but never to dance, only to gaze disdainfully at those that do. He has my love, mostly because he so seldom shows his love in return, that I feel I must keep reminding him so that when he is ready, he’ll know what it looks like to love with the ferocity in which he hates everything else.
Number Four is a quiet joy. Avoiding the vicious thrashes that Number Three adopted as a bump, Number Four took so long to cry that I wondered if he knew how. But he did, and so we began with our life of three boys, and Number Four, named, but referred to even now as The Baby,’ as he waddles about the house, finding his voice. He would sleep only with me, and I spent six months as the only person he would call for, everyone else a bitter disappointment. He is quiet now, but in different ways; he’s watches as others teach him how to make himself heard. Without the persistent screams of impatience, he waits as his food arrives to the table last, he has the final biscuit, he steals from the plates of others. A survival guide personified, The Baby grows with an astute eye for triumph without attention. He teaches me love for all the things I might have missed, as I view his firsts as my finals, knowing that he will be the final one. I allow him a little longer, and wait a little more, because I know that soon, he will be as tall and uncomfortable in his skin as Number One, and as unruly and chaotic as Number Three. I love him, because now I am still, not out of necessity, but choice.