Big Lives Little Lives

I was in the shower while the four little travellers were scattered around the house. One in the spare room eating carrots while playing on his iPod. Another on the landing upstairs reading a book while wearing headphones, and the two others downstairs making hot chocolates with the new milk frother. As I rinsed the conditioner from my hair I heard footsteps running up the stairs, those footsteps automatically had me assuming the worst – they’d set the house on fire, someone had lost a finger, a stranger was trying to get into the house.

The footsteps bypassed me and made their way into the children’s bedroom, I heard a cupboard door open, the footsteps came back out and went back downstairs again. My imagined catastrophe was the retrieval of a pair of ugg boots.

Some would perhaps need to label it as anxiety, others would call it perfectly natural. A heightened sense of awareness dating back to the stone age. When people talk of lives changing in an instant upon the arrival of children – this is it. It’s not the sleepless nights, toilet training and swimming lessons. It’s the gut instinct that comes with hearing a cough that just doesn’t sound right. Or the fact my 60 year old girlfriend still can’t get into a deep sleep until she hears her visiting 30 year old son come through the door from his boozy school re-union. “You’ll always be my baby” my mother has told me on several occasions when feeling the need to justify her concern. It doesn’t stop – that high alert may dull over the years, but it’s always there.

It’s the same instinct that has us wondering why it’s suddenly so quiet in the playroom. It’s this instinct that has us scouring the internet for more information because we just know there’s more to it. Sometimes it’s completely irrational. It’s what stops us from going on that weekend away, it sometimes holds us back. The what if my worst fears decide to come true – now. The guilt of taking some time of your own, what if they need me, what if something goes wrong.

I stood in the booze store with Henry Hotdog this weekend. He was hysterically funny, we had half an hour on our own and he was revelling in the attention. He stood with a water bottle we’d bought earlier at the shops, it had a splash of lime and he was giving me a sip by sip description of how good each mouthful was. His chatter is non stop and he was on fire on this occasion. “Mum, which alcohol do you like? Do you like the Merlot (pronounced Merlott) or do you like the Cabernet Savig…Savig…what’s this one called Mum? Mum, do you check the price so that you can get more alcohol with your money?”

All chances of looking like a wine connoisseur were over. I giggled at how I must have appeared to those in the shop with me.

Seconds later he shouted across the aisle with enthusiasm “Hey Mum, this one is only $10! You could get lots of alcohol if you bought this one.” I cringed but giggled at his cuteness. “Do you want a sip of my water Mum? I’m a good sharer aren’t I Mum.” I agreed, took a sip. We continued on. He skipped to the cash register, turned and offered me the last dregs of his water and I shook my head. He then proceeded to finish the bottle.

“Someone told me that last bit is always the left over spit” I said cheekily with a grin, knowing that it would make him pull a face. It worked, we both giggled some more as we walked back to the car.

As I checked his seatbelt and put the key in the ignition the smile was still evident on my face. The sun was out, we were having people over for the afternoon. The shopping was done, I could go home and relax, read the Saturday newspaper. The air felt like weekend, full of optimism. I clicked my own seatbelt into place.

“I just feel sad for those babies” he said absently looking out the window with a sigh. The tone immediately changed.

“Which babies?”

“The ones on the plane. Their parents would have wanted them to have a big life, not just a little life.”

I put my sunglasses on, agreed with him. His description was innocently perfect, a little life as a little person – there would be no more, cut short, no big person, no big life. What he’s possibly not old enough to understand though is that all parents want their children to have a big life – no matter what age.

We talked some more until as children’s conversations do, the subject changed without a connection or reference. We moved back to Saturday morning, on to marshmallow roasting and pine cone collecting – both of us holding thoughts in the back of our minds of the parents all over the world who lost their babies – both big and small.

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