I recently listened to a podcast where Bernard Fanning was being interviewed live at the ABC Brisbane studio for ABC Conversations “Songs of your Streets” series. Interviews featuring how Australian towns and cities have shaped Australian music and since Powderfinger are such a quintessential part of the Australian music landscape it would have been a natural choice to include them. Bernard spoke quite a bit about his idyllic childhood, where he knew most of his neighbours and played backyard cricket until the street lights came on. During this particular interview his mum was in the audience and I thought how nice it must be for her to hear her son talk of such a happy and carefree childhood.
It made me think about what kind of childhood Charlie is having and in years, decades to come, what will he say when someone says “what was your childhood like?”
I doubt there is such a thing as the perfect childhood so I know it’s not possible for me to create one for him. Besides, perfect would mean that he would not have to face obstacles and adversity. I want to raise a resilient child who can feel and experience all emotions so with fun and joy and love of course comes hurt and pain. Imperfect is better. Imperfect is real.
I look at his days now and wonder will he remember what I know I will never forget?
Will he remember me reading “Where is the Green sheep?” over and over again while I wistfully look in envy at the green sheep curled up fast asleep?
Will he remember that every night I sing to him “Here comes the sun” but it is his daddy who sings the garbage truck song. Will he remember asking me to sing softer, sing louder and then when he’s had enough of my singing he will raise his hand to my face, crinkle his brow, shake his head and say “you should stop singing now” seemingly appalled at my tone deafness. Instead he will ask me to scratch the back of his neck. Will he remember what this felt like?
Will he think that time is going so slow when it feels like it is going so fast? No one will warn you that sometimes motherhood feels like sand slipping through your hands.
Will he remember riding his scooter along the waterfront of Bayside Brisbane, thinking he could fly, and will he still be able to hear us yelling out for him to stop or slow down. Will he ever know that against the backdrop of those blue sky days those moments would level us all and give me time to let my emotions breath.
Will he be able to say that he always felt loved and safe and that being forced into swimming lessons when he feared he would sink was not a parenting crime.
I am not very good at imaginary play and so will he remember this? Or will he conjure up memories of the adventures we would take together and that I would push him 88 times on the swing and then we’d eat ice cream and spend the afternoon reading books. I wasn’t good at the funny voices but I would laugh at his and then we’d play hide and seek and will he remember that it was me who would hide in my bed, under the blankets and close my eyes. If just for a second.
Will he remember lying on his bedroom floor playing trucks and dinosaurs the same way I will remember listening to the sound of his magical little voice as he tells their stories?
Will he remember and feel as though he lived a privileged childhood when I don’t want him to feel privileged. Will he remember that every time he got a new toy he had to give one away? Will this be a lesson he will take into adulthood? Will he remember to always choose kindness?
Will I ever stop wondering if I’m getting it right?
I read to him “When the world was waiting for you” and he might remember the story of the bunny family but what I will never forget is when and why I bought the book. Fresh grief from another failed IVF attempt I saw the book in a gift shop and I bought it as a message to the universe as if to say, bugger you, I’m not going to give up.
Will he think I’m ruining his childhood because I don’t buy the kinder surprise eggs at the supermarket?
There is sweetness in watching him live and experience his childhood and the enormity of the part I play in creating this childhood can be engulfing. I try to capture the small moments because I recall the Dr Seuss quote “sometimes you will never know the value of a moment until it becomes a memory”.
I want him to remember all of these things but mostly I want him to remember how he felt. I want him to remember what it feels like to always know love and to always feel safe.
I listen to Powderfinger and I’m playing ‘My Happiness’ and I’m thinking that we have barely passed the beginning and that things keep changing but I keep remembering. And so in answer to the question “What was your childhood like?” he will say for all of its beautiful imperfection it was happy and it was good.