Today I looked after Ronan for a couple of hours (under Rick’s relatively close supervision) so that Rick and Em could both get some work done. Here’s a report from the frontline of Ronan-ville. On the surface, it’s a peaceful, contented and orderly place.
I gave him his bottle. He sucked with alacrity, his tongue grooving in to that delightful valley that babies’ tongues form, curving round the teat. He emitted little grunts and whimpers of satisfaction as he swallowed the milk.
Next, he went under the baby gym for a few minutes. When he lies on his tummy he can push himself up, his back forming another curve and his head propped on top, meercat like.
Then we moved to the next ‘station’, sitting against some cushions. (I find myself, perhaps inevitably with Emily the Exerciser in residence, thinking of circuit training. Though this is not self-improvement activity. This is being in the moment activity, with no end goal or change necessary. The Dalai Lama, Sri Ramana, and Thich Nhat Hanh would be impressed). Ronan scratched his nails over the bumps of the embroidery on the cushions. His jungle book, which crackles when it is touched, also tempted him into leaning over until performing the perfect yoga forward bend, his whole tummy pressed against his legs so that he could reach the book. I didn’t believe he could make it back up from there. But it turned out he’s a determined fellow, and he sure could.
Next, and best station, was the bouncer. Smiles broke out like narcissi after the winter. He pushed his legs up and down. He reached out for the plastic and cloth, the soft and the hard, around him, exploring and holding. He settled to chewing on his own shoulder for a bit (yum! Soft colourful babygrow, furry tongue sensation…). After that, he looked around, his eyes sometimes managing to fix on something, and his tongue emerging again, a curious, probing, extra hand reaching out, broadening his experience by adding the taste of air to everything else going on. All this was accompanied by some mellow tunes Rick had put on in the background. A bit of Cat Stevens, a bit of husky sounding stuff, like Sheryl Crow but with the anger taken out. Ronan’s chat fitted in perfectly. Dribbly noises, ‘grrrr’ and ‘arghhh’ and ‘errr’ and sighs.
When I was staying with Emily and Rick in November, I thought Ronan was an easy baby. He’d hang out in his bouncer, and then on the floor, for 30, 40 minutes in each place. He didn’t seem to get bored or too fussy. You could be on your computer or the phone and look over at him occasionally, and he contentedly enjoyed all of that. I even had the odd, ‘Rick and Em don’t realise how easy this is’ thought, the typical envious territory of the slightly battle-scarred parent.
I wish. I wish I’d been right. I wish Ronan was an easy baby. In fact I don’t wish that. I wish Ronan was grouchy, and demanding, and with a 5 minute tolerance for self-entertainment. I wish he grasped at things he wasn’t meant to touch, and emptied the garbage from all the waste paper bins, and crawled around trying to stick his finger in plugs. I think of my friends with a particularly sensitive child who, even at age 2, wakes every 90 minutes or so through the night, and who renders her parents exhausted and drawn. Or the wild toddler son of another friend, who I would curse for hitting my daughter (who, it turns out, bit back quite effectively), an unconfined bundle of testosterone, who couldn’t see a drawer without emptying it or a stairway without climbing it. Or even the 2 year old daughter of our lodger, who can be infuriatingly fussy about food, asking for new food on her plate and then refusing to eat it, scrunching it in her hands and then quietly depositing it on the floor. I wish Ronan was a kid like that. Now, I’m thinking of those kids with a newfound delight. They’re here. They’re going to live. Their aliveness is bloody fantastic.
It seems to me, Ronan is stretching Em and Rick to the limit in a whole host of other, more awful, more unfathomable ways. Day to day Ronan’s pretty content. The boy loves to eat. He keeps himself entertained. He objects to diaper changes and nap times but not unreasonably so. Although he’s definitely different to other babies his age (sitting up is a bit precarious, he struggles to pull things up to his mouth, he still has the startle reflex), he is a genuine, bona fide, cute, charming, scrumptious little baby. It’s very very odd to hold him and think, ‘This kid is dying.’ It’s scary to speculate how quickly he will lose the things he can do already, like smile and interact with you, and bounce.
So today I hung out with a baby. He sighed and smiled and looked around, he tasted and touched and heard. That’s all. I’m glad of it.