Just a few weeks

It’s been a really big past couple of months for us. 

We bought a house. 

Madly, we moved into the house three weeks after buying it, the weekend before Christmas. I took two days off work before moving day to pack everything up and sort our stuff, but the little dude had a bad bout of diarrhoea and had to be kept home from creche, so the packing went something like this:

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My husband’s three awesome younger sisters came down to stay with us for a couple of days and unpacked things and played with the little dude while I stared vacantly into space and felt tired. 

Meanwhile, my mum went up to Whangarei to be with her dad and his wife, who had just entered hospice care. 

At the end of that week, it was Christmas, and we went on our Big Family Camping Holiday with my dad’s side of the whanau. 

The little dude wasn’t a fan of sleeping in the tent on a camping mat, and I got all stupidly stressed out by how much of a drag it was to spend an hour trying to convince him to lie down and go to sleep each nap and each bedtime, when I wanted to go to sleep myself (leaving him there and ignoring him was not an option: not only would the cries of distress alarm the whole campground, but the kid has mastered zips, and could easily exit the tent). He played in the sea a lot and ran around outside and got to know my cousin’s kids, who are close enough in age to be his little playmates. He’s still talking about them.  

The first week back in Wellington was the little dude’s first week transitioning out of the baby room and into the toddler room at creche. He has a different primary caregiver, and he has to get used to the new routines like sleeping on a mat on the floor rather than on a cot, and eating with a spoon and fork unassisted. He cried when we dropped him off, but was happy when we picked him up. 

That was also the week my Grandad’s wife died. 

We upped sticks again and went to Whangarei, to spend some time with my Grandad before the funeral. They were together for 34 years. She’d been sick for the last two of them. Cancer. What more can you say? I kept expecting to see her, in that way where it doesn’t seem real that someone has gone when they’ve always been there before. I can’t remember the last time I saw her well. The first time I saw her sick, I was pregnant with the little dude and I was shocked at how suddenly frail she looked.

It seems unreal that just a few weeks ago we were thinking we would hopefully still get to see her again before she passed away, that we’d go up for a weekend after we got back to Wellington and maybe she’d still be doing ok. 

Through these topsy turvey weeks there’s been in the foreground, the needs of a very active toddler, and in the background, the steady march of pregnancy into the third trimester. 

The little dude has coped remarkably well overall, but I’ve noticed he seems to be more in need of checking in with me for reassurance, and also the sleeping has taken a major step backwards. We haven’t done the old system of “one lullaby then mummy says goodnight” effectively since before moving house. In Whangarei, Mr Daddy was on main parent duty to give me space to be with Grandad, and he developed a technique based on my baby meditation scheme that we used to use. It’s super cute. It goes like this. First, he gets the little dude’s attention by starting a story about some dinosaurs, then he adds the twist that one of the dinosaurs is running through the forest and stumbles over another dinosaur who is asleep. The running dinosaur (let’s call him the blue dinosaur) falls over and hurts his knee, while the sleeping dinosaur (green) hurts his head from being crashed into. They kiss each other better, but then the green dinosaur wants to go back to sleep. So the blue dinosaur has to help him. So the blue dinosaur says he’s going to tell the green dinosaur a story to help him sleep. And the blue dinosaur says that the green dinosaur’s feet are filling up with sleep, and they’re warm and cosy and sleepy, and the feet fall asleep. And the sleep goes up the legs into the knees and the knees get all warm and cosy and sleepy, and fall asleep. And so on and so on all the way to the dinosaur’s teeth and feathers. After ten minutes of the dinosaur falling asleep piece by piece, the little dude is also usually snoring softly. 

In the last few months, she would wake in the night, but be unable to get up by herself. Her daughter flew over from Perth and took over the night shift, and would give her sips of water and soothe her back to sleep. 

Today was our first day back to normal life – back at work for me and Mr Daddy, back to creche for the little dude, and he seemed totally at home in the bigger kids room and didn’t cry at drop off. There are some new babies starting this week in the baby room and it feels absurd that my big boy was in there with the littlies only a month ago.

Yesterday he counted to ten. What the hell? We read “Ten Frogs” a lot. When he hurts himself we do “close your eyes and Mummy will count to ten and it will be all better”. He’s clearly picked up on it – completely without prompting, last night he started counting the rows of seats in the aeroplane.

“One, du, dwee, boar, bibe, siz, seben, aiiiiiit, nine, den. One, du, dwee, boar, man dere! Man dere seat! Sit down man!, boar, bibe, siz, seben, bag up dere! Up dere bag!, one, du, dwee…”

He speaks a strange language closely relate to English.

The baby he was when he started creche this time last year has gone. Or he’s still there, where he always was, in 2015 – he’s just not here now. 

And she’s still there too, where she always was. She’s making preserved fejoas on our Easter holidays in the early 90s, stewing them briefly in their own juice and then pouring them into jars, leaving some out for me and my brother to eat with French vanilla ice cream, the ice cream melting more quickly than we can eat it. She’s giving us packets of lollies to keep us happy on the car trip home, mum not sure whether to approve or not. She’s making us scrambled eggs in a bowl in the microwave because we don’t have a microwave and we think it’s a novelty that food can be cooked other than on a stove. She’s setting out a lunch of bread and salad and hard boiled eggs and tinned beetroot under fly covers so that it will be all ready whenever we arrive, so that the two hot sticky hungry children can come straight in for lunch when the car pulls into the drive. She’s asking mum to send new photos for the wall in the hallway, because she likes to have current pictures of all the grandkids. 

But she’s not here now. She won’t be there when we next visit, to give me a hug and tell me to sit myself down and make myself comfortable. She won’t be there to scold my Grandad for talking too much and to make him cups of tea. 

It’s the absence of new beginnings that brings on the tears. 

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