Joni is two years old in August. That is about two months away as of writing this post. When I was becoming a parent early 2014 many people said “it will go by so fast” and they were totally correct. Nothing makes me so amazed as to how much she has grown, but also how clever she is, but also how quickly all of this has come to her. From those first moments when I held her after a traumatic birth, Connie at my side, to her rolling over, laughing, smiling, and now walking about shouting “No!” when I tell her we are getting ready for bath time, she has learned so much. Soon she will be able to start telling me things I didn’t know before, which will blow my tiny little mind, but until then each day she surprises and shocks me with her brain and her thinking.
Every time she does something new, not only does she grow, so do Connie and I. in the past few weeks we have started to do things. What I mean by that is actually go on family days out to museums, hikes, places to visit. Recently we went to the Beacon Museum at Whitehaven Harbour, and this week we went paddling in the lake at Buttermere. These experiences are for me once in a lifetime memories, like the first time she falls down in the water, the first time she shouts “duck” at an actual duck in the street, or the moment she says “daddy’s at work” when am leaving in the morning. Each time these moments are beyond anything I can explain in words, and are unparalleled in any other thing in my wife. Nothing is more rewarding.
Almost every single time we do something like this, I feel stronger. Like I’ve not actually lived before this. When Connie and I were just “Connie and I” hillwalking was our main event. In Aberdeen we drove hours to climb silly mountains, and afterwards felt like we’d accomplished something. Then, with Frank, every time he actually sat down on command I felt like we’d done something. But now, with Joni, every time she does something new it feels like this is the feeling I’ve been wanting for all my life, it seems. She gives me such enjoyment it is quite hard to properly explain.
The real surprise is just how difficult it all is but conversely how easy it all is too. This is strange quantum facet of parenting – it’s the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do, with no breaks and no quick fixes and no cheats, but conversely the thing that is the easiest to keep doing, because it’s the most rewarding, an instance endorphin feedback loop of the best positive feedback that rewards as it gets harder. Joni now runs about the house, meaning I need to make sure she is safe, but is making keeping the kitchen tidy imperative, and adds about thirty chores to the household list, but the result is running our, with her giggling and screaming in unbridled joy, as we play.
I remember telling a friend that I was looking forward to the moment we can play the best. As a kid I remember playing being the place where I made my own worlds and had the imagination to do anything with anything. I still do, you know, with my maps. Joni, Connie and I think, might be similar – she plays with her “babies”, two bug-based soft toys called Mr Ladybug (a ladybird) and Mrs Busy Bee (a bumble bee) (I swapped the genders for fun and an important lesson), her soft toy pal Zebra (prenamed by the book it came with, Connie and I have been far more inventive with the names of her toys), and a soft sock monkey called Sauchie (which might be the name that I am most proud of to be perfectly honest). These come to life in her hands, being put on slides, her rocking horse Maverick, and even into her toy car. Watching her play, and then playing with her, is one of the joys of parenthood.
All this long and lovely preamble has built to announcing that we are expecting our second in late October. After Joni was born, and Connie’s mom Dianna and I were back home sipping a regenerative red wine, beginning to make phone calls to Canada, I asked her “this feeling, this new parent feeling… does this happen with each child?” to which she replied “yes, every time”. Having had four children I believed her, and now I can’t wait to experience it all over again. As I said, the strangest thing is the harder it gets the easier it gets, and with Frank, Joni and no. 2, I can only imagine that the rewards will be even more wonderful.