Thursday, April 22, 2004

firsts and lasts

parenting is full of firsts - gurgle, smile, tooth, word, step - each noted with as much pride as if it were genuinely a first. which, in a sense, a child's first always is, essentially irreducible to any of that crass exegesis based on infant development or instinct or learning behavioural theory: all these can do is describe the field in which these things are supposed to or appear to happen - the best we as parents can do is to ensure that that field is cleared of hot and sharp objects - the happeningness of them is always, uniquely, the individual child's individual, unique experience - a miracle, each and every time.
parenting is also full of lasts, although these tend to go unremarked, left behind in the turbulent wash of the diurnal: last nappy-change, last broken night, last visit from the tooth fairy, last time you gave them a piggy-back - a long list of milestones passed, most with relief, some with a wry backward glance over the shoulder.
the boys (twins, of course) announced, a week or two back, that they'd decided - "don't take this the wrong way, dad" - that this should be the last story. I should explain - our bedtime ritual has been the same for a very long time - it used to be bath - teeth - pyjamas - milk - story - goodnight hug 'n' kiss; the bath went years ago, but a ritual nod at self-cleansing still remains, as does the tooth-brushing, the milk, and - amazingly - the story - a fifteen-minute or so reading from a book of their choice. or did - until last night.
I have finished reading the last bedtime story to my boys. I feel utterly bereft.
I know - I'm a damn lucky bunny - how many can say they their kids still wanted a bedtime story at the age of twelve? but I have enjoyed it soooooooo much! I kind of imagined it going on forever. ok guys, put that girl down, story-time. but that's really it - something begun some eleven years ago with Two Heads and Peep-Bo! ends, here, with The Last of the Sky Pirates - Book V of The Edge Chronicles‚ (we've read the other four, of course) by Paul Stewart and Chris Riddell. having encountered, en route, so many treasures: from Roald Dahl to Philip Pullman, via Harry Potter and The Lord of the Rings (my readings of Dobby and Gollum were legendary - Stephen Fry? pshaw!) in their entirety. true, latterly, I've been reading whilst they, too have been reading - either an X-Men comic or the latest Lemony Snicket: I was getting a little pissed with that until I realised that a) they were, in fact, perfectly capable of taking in both at the same time (I tested them) and b) the cultural continuity of my voice was the important thing, not the story per se - Jack, in particular, has always insisted that that sound of my reading voice has been an essential part of his always being able to go to sleep so easily.
in fact, they said this (last story, this one, dad) six months ago, and bottled out after a couple of nights: maybe just one more. but somehow I don't think that's going to happen again.

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