Suburban man: Baby steps

A first birthday is just one of many milestones

This article was first published in the June 2016 issue of Metro. Illustration by Angela Keoghan.

 

Ira turns one this month, which seems impossible. I know everyone asks where the time went... But where did the time go?

It feels about a week since he was born late on a winter’s evening after the doctors and nurses rushed Hannah into emergency surgery. He arrived under the glaring white lights of an operating theatre at Auckland City Hospital instead of in one of the birthing suites, surrounded by aromatherapy candles and low light.

Ira is turning into a particularly delightful human being, affectionate and cuddly, with his mother’s sense of humour and his father’s tendency to talk too loudly — though right now it’s a tendency to jabber away too loudly in an approximation of words that we nevertheless understand. He starts daycare next week, for two days a week, and Hannah returns to work.

For a while, instead of crawling, he dragged himself along the ground, his legs flailing behind him. Then all of a sudden, he engaged his knees and he was away. He recently started sleeping through the night — hurrah! — and he has two bottom teeth and four more on the way, hovering just there in a hard line along his top gum.

It seems that something massive changes in him once a week, before it is forgotten a week or two later in an evaporating slipstream of progress as he moves to the next milestone and we quickly forget what it was like before.
My heart lurched with pride, and I felt like the luckiest man in the world.

Our house is still half-finished. We have yet to get around to painting the nice big french doors we installed last year and right now — as in, right now, as I write this — Spike The Builder is digging holes for our front fence, the fourth builder we consulted since none of them could ever quite understand that we wanted a Japanese-ish fence, kind of wabiswabi and lightweight and timber. (Is it really that hard?) We just gave up for a while, and so everyone looks straight in through those really nice new french doors.

We have dug an awful lot of holes and planted rather a lot of plants. But our courtyard isn’t finished and I haven’t got around to burying the cables for the lighting out there, and there’s a big pile of concrete beside the drive that I still need to get into a skip, and the garage needs painting.

On Monday, Megan The Architect is coming to show us designs for the extension, which means in a few short months we will tear off the back of the house and add two badly needed bedrooms and disappear down the rabbit hole of renovation. Again.

Meanwhile, I am most often found at my desk. I’m self-employed and work at home, mainly because this gives me the flexibility of actually living my life and spending more time with my family.

Yet if I’m honest, I’m often absent, tapping away in a corner of the living room: here I am, guiltily turning into one of those fathers who spends most of his time working and the rest of the time thinking about work, disappearing into a thousand-yard stare over a half-eaten piece of toast each morning.

And then, every now and then, I’ll be working away and something monumental will happen. Recently, Ira’s progressed from standing for a few seconds — almost as if he’s forgotten he’s not holding on to anything — to coasting around the room, holding onto pieces of furniture and then crawling between them.

In the past week, he’s started to take the odd step, pushing off from the couch and taking one step towards a chair, laughing away with a staccato ha ha ha ha, before falling on his bum and crawling the rest of the way.

Today, he took it further, taking three toddling steps towards Hannah, a gleeful chuckle in his throat. My heart lurched with pride, and I felt like the luckiest man in the world.