Our girl turns four today, and I don’t know what to say.
I thought of writing a send-up of the nativity in which her three wise aunties appear with goodies (true story, riveting) but I wandered off down a corridor of memories and couldn’t find my way back.
I thought of writing how the celebration of her birth starts at the end of November when the lights go up around the park, and the air would give you a cheap shot of botox if you stayed out in it long enough. The type of air forever swollen since with anticipation.
I thought of writing about all the significant fours in her life thus far. Her defiant, if out-of-tune, sing-along with The Beatles that features in every long distance drive. But I couldn’t pick just four friends. Or four furry animals. Or four dominant characteristics. Or top four things I love about her.
I thought of addressing this to her directly but my heart was so full and heavy it would’ve spilled all over the page had I attempted to pour just one drop.
I thought of writing about how her Dad is perplexed by the notion of me writing to her here at all. And how he rolled his eyes in response to a moving post written by a father to his son I read aloud. “Why doesn’t he just tell him directly?”
I thought of writing of the opportunities the internet gives parents and guardians for expressing love for their children. A file for documents of it. And those many souls ravaged by emotional stoicism that deserved to be just as sentimentalised but were condemned to similar suffocation in their capacity as fathers and mothers.
Sometimes, I think of writing about my own parents; to speculate on what they might’ve written had they had this instrument at their disposal. But of course they did not have the time, or the means, or the grammar of out-loud parenting as we know it; and often fear (Is it just me?).
I thought of writing about the underrated value of the mystery of children and childbirth, and parental love, and the savage lows and transcendental highs of parenting. That for every heart-beat halting observation caught on keyboard, there are vastly more consigned to memory where the best of all of lived experience resides more vividly. Pictures beating words with photo albums.
Had I managed a ‘best of’ round-up from the year, I would’ve included Boyhood, Where’d You Go, Bernadette? and Catastrophe when writing about my cultural highs. They succeeded in capturing something relatable to my experience of motherhood better than any instructive published piece ever could.
Occasionally, I’ve thought of writing about wondering what it would be like to be a teenager…young adult…grown-up…woman-child… reading back over the externalised thoughts of my parents. Would I want to read them? I’m not sure. I don’t think so. It’s a dilemma I’m told I overthink. With good reason, I think. The telling-off and the over-thinking. And yet I am now in a race against time to retrieve data from their archives to file in the annals of family history; the oral storybook, the pages of which I intend turning for our own one. How I have been lucky to have run the long distance alongside them while others are less fortunate.
Inevitably, I think of writing of the shame I feel when thinking of the torment I once casually unleashed on my own mother for not utilising her fine mind better. The worst at the peak of my youthful arrogance. How I burn when I think of the sacrifices made without bitterness or mention. For she knew these are the jobs of parenting, the mysteries of which can only attempt to be solved by the off-spring with time and wisdom. Shelter has a broad meaning. Parents are obliged to keep the word small between them and their children…teenagers…young adults…grown-ups. My respect renewed with reminders of how they avoided invading those phases with worries from their parenthood. The unsaid reveals itself eventually, when and where it matters. I understand now how brilliantly her mind was used and what it reaped for the rest of us.
So often I think of writing about the challenges of reconciling writing on parenting and children with these seemingly old-fashioned notions of mystery and discretion I can’t seem to ever let go of. Some day.
For one brief nanosecond, I even thought about posting a picture of her. Kitted out in her new school uniform eagerly licking the bowl used to toss rice krispies and chocolate around. For a party. For our Nollaig na mBan. She’s lovely. But then I would say that, wouldn’t I?