By Angie JACOBS.
“Ooh, look at Daddy’s babies. They’re allllllll gorgeous and I miss them.”
My husband was talking to a photo on his bedside table. It was taken circa 2001 and both children were on his lap. My daughter was wearing pink fleecy pyjamas and drinking from an Anyway Up Cup. My son was sporting a blue zebra print pair guzzling his beloved “bott bott”. My husband looked smug and had hair in the middle of his head.
When I say smug, I don’t mean it in a nasty, cocky way, he was just happy. There was nothing he loved more than “one on each knee.” And I knew what he meant about missing them. Oh they were at home. It was eleven o’clock during school holidays and they were still fast asleep, no doubt dreaming about Justin Bieber and One Direction. (Forget the last bit, I just put it in to wind them up.)
As much as we love the stage that they’re at now (15 and 13), we miss them as they used to be. It’s all going too fast.
I’ve mentioned before the importance of doing things as a family and how we do manage to sit down together to eat most nights of the week. (Whether we’re all still sitting at the table at the end of the meal is another matter.)
We also, well, us parents, like to watch a film or a tv show together. It’s hard finding something that suits us all. And then there’s the “awkward” factor.
It seems that even the PG films have some gratuitous swearing or inappropriate moments in them. But there’s a set of videos that we all watch time and time again…The Ilana and Ethan tapes.
Hours and hours of footage taken at almost every event of their childhood: bathtimes, paddling pools, first days at nursery, Kabbalat Shabbats, first days at school, birthday parties, holidays. You name it, we filmed it. (I remember my daughter’s first day in reception class. Her uniform was pristine, but hair was never my forte. Her teacher, to stop her crying, had told her she liked her pony tail and asked her if she’d done it herself.)
To anyone else but the grandmas, these lengthy chronicles would be tedious beyond belief.
I have to admit that I have struggled to stay awake during some of the school plays when I was physically in the audience. (The Evacuees was particularly challenging). For the most part, however, I love to watch them how they were, those cute little bundles of fun wearing what I wanted them to and with the trousers pulled up properly.
It’s not even just about the big occasions. We have Indie type footage of toddleresque rituals such as my daughter on our bed opening the post, “Dolly in the basket” (both kids, at different times, being carried around in the washing basket) and kissing through the banister. I could go on. I won’t. (I’d really like to.)
It’s not about the artistic quality of the photos or the films – instamatic, Hipstamatic, hydromatic. It’s about capturing the moment. My favourite photo is one of me (at least a stone lighter) carrying one toddler in each arm. They’re both kissing me. At five and two they obviously adored me unconditionally.
They had neither the vocabulary nor cynicism to ‘hand it up’ to me the way they do as teenagers. I don’t doubt that they love me now, it’s just that their love is more…discerning. My kids would happily write a 2000 word dissertation on how I could improve my looks/wardrobe/career/ and their personal favourite “you can give it but you can’t take it.” This would not be meant in a nasty way, but explained as ‘constructive criticism’.
We may not have one on each knee any more and I can hardly carry one of them at a time, never mind together. But we do get lots of kisses and cuddles. We can’t bring back those moments, but we can watch them, copiously. And we can look forward to creating many more happy times. They’re still our precious babies and always will be.