This isn’t really a story about a seagull and a fish. More, it’s a story of how a seagull and a fish made me cry a little bit this evening. Out of nowhere, while reading one of our absolute favourite books, probably my favourite one actually – The Snail and The Whale.
The story (by Julia Donaldson) is about a little snail who gets bored on his rock by the sea with the other snails, and takes up the offer of a passing whale to travel on his tail to see the world. I bought it for Rian when he was two, and he absolutely adored it from the first time we read it together.
At the time, he could barely even talk, that gorgeous stage where he would babble his toddler speak, his own little language that only I or his Dad could understand and translate to other people. I love that stage, it’s like a secret access to these little people, a golden ticket into their world and nobody else can come in for a little while. And no two toddlers have the same language, or the same words, or the same little ways of trying to pronounce things. Only I knew that ‘mote orto’ translated to ‘remote control’, a phrase used often to request that we watch Toy Story. Or that ‘gapes and oburt’ translated to ‘grapes and yoghurt’, his favourite snack at the time. It was a time when I had to ask people not to even say the word ‘banana’ around him, he loved them SO MUCH he would lose the plot if he heard the word and he’d already have eaten one that day.
So what on earth has all this got to do with a seagull and a fish, and the fact that I got a bit emotional during bed time stories this evening?
When two year old Rian and I used to read this book, we’d get to the third or fourth page and we’d have to stop for a good two minutes while Rian gave out to a seagull flying off with a fish in its beak.
‘BIRD!! Put that fish down! He wants to SWIM in the SEA!’ Every. Single. Time. Fingers would point angrily at the bird and we couldn’t go past this page without a full blown lecture at this unruly seagull who dared to pluck a fish out of the sea and fly off. ‘Mama! Tell Bird to put Fish back!’, the request would come every night, in his two year old way of speaking. Eventually something else on the page would distract him, and on we’d go with the snail and the whale and all their adventures.
Eventually as we got new books and dinosaurs entered our lives, the Snail and the Whale got pushed further back in the queue and got pulled out less and less.
This evening however we found it again… ‘Oh yes Mam, let’s read this one, we haven’t read it in ages!’ he said in his four year old much clearer way of speaking. Now of course we have a two year old Alex, and I wondered what Alex would make of Bird.
Cushions were arranged and places assumed on the rug for story time. After a few minutes of Alex pointing to every single snail on the rock, we get to page three or four and….. nothing.
It might sound a bit pathetic, but I think my heart skipped a beat in realisation that baby Rian really was no more. ‘Look Rian! The bird took the fish from the sea!’ My efforts fell flat. ‘….. Oh yes, he must want him for dinner!’ How very non two year old of him.
I suddenly felt a wave of sadness, and felt emotional that he’s not the two year old version of himself anymore. Do I sound ridiculous? I felt sorry for a drawing of a bird with a fish in its beak…! Felt sorry for the fish, who was about to be eaten and nobody was getting all worked up about it anymore! Maybe less ridiculous, more absolutely losing the plot?!
Of course I know they’re changing, growing up, getting taller by the day, less baby like by the minute. But surely they’ll always be my babies really? I have to be honest, I worry for my future self, if I get emotional over this what will I be like in September when Rian starts school, or when I change from being their hero to absolutely embarrassing the life out of them (these posts certainly will not help me here!!), or, even worse, when they’re old enough to move out and live their own lives??!
But honestly, I don’t think I am being ridiculous. Every single day there’s something different about them, which of course is amazing, and of course I want them to grow and learn and change to become themselves. I just wish I could slow it down a little bit, to be prepared to move on from the little versions of themselves that they are right now, and for things to not change so suddenly in the blink of an eye, that it causes me to get emotional about an illustration of… a seagull, and a fish.