I decided to take the kids out for an early dinner. Today is one of those perfect Jozi spring days. The Jacarandas are blossoming, but they’re not quite at their vibrant peak yet. On a Friday afternoon sitting outdoors at a cafe in Sandton, you could be in Europe, only with better weather. This is an unexpected treat for us all. I was supposed to be having dental treatment, but the water was out- sometimes water and power outages are the only sign that this is still a developing country. Developing being the right word, for all its economic slump, there is a lot of construction going on here, and sometimes the wrong pipe gets hit.
I sipped at my capuccino with cream, and enjoyed the moment of perfection, knowing it couldn’t last for long.
Pudding was content. She’d had the Halloween Parade at school, which she’d loved. She ordered herself a bacon and avocado sandwich and apple juice by herself. Yes, it is the same thing she always ordered, but I’m pretty sure it is exactly what she feels like eating. She isn’t just doing okay, she is doing really, really well lately. She seems more comfortable in her own skin than I’ve ever seen. The wind picked up and she turned her face to it, enjoying the caress to her skin.
Cubby was out of sorts. I knew he hadn’t napped, and was too hungry and too tired to know what was wrong. Normally very expressive, he was down to grunts and shouts. He couldn’t decide what to eat, even if he wanted to eat. A siren in the distance hurt his ears. He was in and out of his chair. Putting his hands in his drink and smearing it over the table. Then he began playing with his spit when the drink was confiscated. Finally he turned to tormenting his sister for entertainment. The wind picked up, and he shrieked in pain as it whipped at his skin.
Watching the two of them was a study in contrasts. Pudding, at peace; Cubby intent on disturbing it. This was her two or three years ago. This disorder and chaos. Feeling something was wrong, and not knowing how to put it right. How far she has come.
Then I let my mind wander further back. I remember holding infant Pudding. Apart from when she was nursing, (which I naturally did a LOT) she was screaming. Arching her back, red-faced, furious at me for not fixing what was wrong. And I’d go through everything I thought I knew about babies, wondering what I must have missed to make her thrash around like this. She pulled at my hair in her rage. The screaming made my head throb, and I wanted to run away from this tiny creature who put all her trust in me. And though I wanted to shout and scream, I pulled her in closer, and kissed her downy head, and held her until we breathed together, just rocking and kissing, until the screaming was done.
I picked up Cubby and cradled him. He resisted at first- pushed away, then caved in. His floppy body curled into mine and I kissed his face. “I’m a baby.” He said, like he does so often. I didn’t correct him this time. I kissed his fingers and his arms. He twirled his hands through my hair, just like his sister always had. I kiss the soft nape, and when I close my eyes, I forget where I am, or when I am. It doesn’t matter- I am mothering instinctively.
Three year-olds can only be held for so long, so I release him, and he dances for a while- trying to catch the eye of the waiting staff. I turn back to Pudding, with her wry, contented smile. I see what’s catching her eye: some paper teapots attached to the ceiling are fluttering in the breeze. “Dancing teapots”, I say out loud. “Dancing teapots”, she echoes. We watch them together, and her hand creeps up into my hair, but in comfort, not in rage.
In that moment of calm, I feel all the many joys she has brought me. All the dancing tea cups that I would otherwise have missed. I know, if I have to, I can do it all over again. Even if I still feel more rookie than veteran. We’ll grow, and develop, and get there together.