Because we’ve seen so little of friends and family over the past year, each time they see my son they’re surprised how big he’s gotten. Actually, surprised is putting it mildly, it’s fair to say some of them are appalled. ‘How has this happened?’ they say in accusing tones, as if his continuous growth is a sure sign of parental neglect.
It’s not that he’s ballooned into a giant, it’s just that people find it hard to track the growth of toddlers. The effect is made worse by the recurring dilemma of more distant relatives mistaking my son for the stock images of children used in this column’s online version, shocked to discover that, in real life he is not nine months old, or very clearly a completely different human being.
At this we look at him anew, slowly realising he has indeed aged, like one of those kids on Coronation Street who get a new actor when they need to move the plot along. Where once his knuckles were dimples in dough, now they’re formed and angular like a boy’s. His belly, too, has shed some of its puppy fat, making him one of those few annoying people to have slimmed in lockdown.
It’s odd to be reminded that he’s growing, since we never realise it ourselves. We haven’t weighed or measured him since he was very small, and never marked his height on a door frame because as far as we’re concerned he’s already cost us enough money off our security deposit. If it weren’t the fact that his clothes appear to be shrinking and my back now hurts when I carry him for long periods, I’d probably presume he’d remained the same size since birth.
One other metric for his stubborn addiction to ageing has been his hair. It seems like we looked up last week and discovered his long, flowing ginger mane for the first time. It’s adorable but is starting to make him look like a regency prince; the kind you can imagine licking a giant lollipop in between bouts of torturing the help. The kind who’s just a few years away from being murdered by a scheming uncle in a Shakespearean tragedy. Together with his accent, it gives him the affect of a posh little English lord, waited on hand and foot by his dutiful Irish servants, whom he dismisses with a wave of his hand. With a weary sigh I realise it’s time to cut it, to not just acknowledge that some part of his baby self has disappeared, but to hasten more of its departure.
And this is the cruel joke of parenting; to constantly want to be out of whatever drudge-filled rut you find yourself in, and hope for it to stand still all the same. We pop him on a stool in front of the TV. I gee myself up to do the deed, but, shears in hand, I freeze. My resolve can’t take it after all. Through gritted teeth I put the scissors down and reach for a marker pen instead.
‘All right,’ I say, marking the door frame. ‘That’ll do for now.’
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