What is it about being a parent that makes everything feel so much more? Happiness is so much more joyful. Excitement is rendered utterly exhilirating. Wounds go so much deeper.
And that bittersweet feeling when you suddenly realise that your child is growing up, a mixture of pride at their accomplishment, joy in that moment, and deep sorrow that you can’t keep them as they are at present. Because they are just so perfect you can’t even believe it.
It happened to me when he went on the train. He told me he wanted to go on it. He waited as the previous occupants rode around in a circle. It stopped. He got on. He looked out at us.
I felt this pain in my chest, it’s so hard to describe. His little face in that carriage. Sitting with the other children. The same look on their faces, spinning past us with the hint of a grin when they glimpsed us, waving and waving from the sidelines. Small people spinning around a circular track, each tiny hand grasping a chain attached to a bell. At first no one rang them, then one boy did, then they all did. It was mesmerising.
They were being like us, like everyone. They wanted to ride on the train like people in the real world do daily. It’s normal and they want to be normal and accepted and just like us. So they sat on the seats, because that’s how people do. And there were bells for ringing, so they rang them. We told them what to do and they watched each other and the result was this heart breaking image of them spinning in front of us, each a little person with a unique character and a family and a mother and father standing there, marvelling at how far they’ve come, their hearts breaking with the unstable contradiction of intense joy and immense sorrow colliding.
It’s something about them all together that did it, the idea that he’s just a two year old boy among many, enjoying a train ride. Yet he’s not just a boy among many, he’s my boy among many. He’s the boy who counts “2,2,2”, the boy who only wants to eat things shaped like stars, the boy who says “bye” at bed time and “fan foo” and “wuv ooo”, the boy I would die for. The most amazing and incredible person packaged into that tiny little body, and there he is, on the train with all the other little people, so normal and so exceptional all at the same time.
These moments, they just come up on me. Simple things, normal times, and suddenly I’m a wreck of emotion. And when I look at these pictures I cry. Every single time.