Wednesday, 2 September 2009


First day of school. We do this every year. Here's last year:

The previous ones are lurking somewhere, but I can't unearth them for the moment. Shame. It's interesting to see even these two pictures together, though. They don't seem to have changed much, do they? Fingers has grown more than Lashes, which I would never have predicted. Fingers never eats. He lives on fresh air and the odd biscuit. I think he sucks nourishment out of our brains while we sleep. But how large are these children? Seven. And five. How did that happen? I can leave the room for whole minutes at a time without inviting an unspeakable cataclysm. They can play chess. Ride bikes. It's hard to get used to.

They are extremely complice at the moment. The French word works better, somehow. I mean, yes, they are co-conspirators, in all sorts of acts of terror and destruction. My shower gel has been filled with luminous pink slime, the dog has black marker on his ear, and they have drawn all over each other's faces with green felt tip, and that's just in the last hour. But complice is more positive. There must be an English word, dammit. This happens when you spend your life talking foreign. They are allies. Something. Can anyone work out the word I'm looking for? I can't.

Anyway. They have been thrown together by the holidays and although they still wind each other up constantly and wearyingly, I get a sense that secretly they rather enjoy each other's company. It's odd, this sense of having created something - that relationship - that entirely takes on a life of its own. In an odd sense, it takes the pressure off slightly. They each have another defining relationship in their lives other than their parents. Maybe this is what we meant when we said, so wrong-headedly, that we would have children close together in age 'so they could play together'. That phrase comes back to haunt you a few million times as you referee indignant disputes about one particular square of Lego identical in all respects to every other square of Lego, but mysteriously essential to both. 'Play together' is perhaps inchoate parental shorthand for 'dilute our pernicious influence on each of them'. I think in this respect, it works.

I didn't have this kind of sibling. Mine are ten years bigger and smaller than me respectively, too big a gap to wish constantly and sincerely for their death, whilst being closer to them than anyone else, which is what I sense with these two. I have all the characteristics, all the flaws, of an only child. It makes the whole thing more compelling for me to watch.

I like this picture, taken in our Newman Street flat. Fingers was 2 days old, I think. There's this odd, complex set of emotions on Lashes's face. Every time I look at it I see something different. What's going on in there? It's a mixture of amusement, and anxiety and fascination and alienation, and god only knows what.

This is in Paris.

We spent pretty much every waking second together, the three of us. It was a total nightmare, but also a peculiar privilege. It has to have been the most aimless, bizarre, fraught year of my life. The CFO was working crazy hours, and I was constantly coming up against the impossibility of reconciling a two year old and a tiny shrimp of a baby. I thought I was going insane most of the time. But I do think it built something, somehow. We got to know each other, properly. Our weaknesses, and our flashpoints, and the things that made us all laugh. I don't regret it, horrible though it often was.

And here we are now. And here's a photo of the three of us, even though I only have one leg and four tits and if one of the hags from Rigby and Peller saw me, they'd send round an assasin, I'm putting it in anyway, because we've made it this far. And they've made something all their own, a relationship that I can admire, and envy, and on occasion go frothingly insane dealing with.

This post might have made sense if the gentlemen in question weren't milling about, squabbling noisily. But I'm very glad they are.


Lisa said...

Before I gush all over you about how lovely this post is, I have to tell you I'm concerned about your leg and tits.

Nevermind. My favorite sound in the whole world is the sound of my kids laughing together. Even if I am the butt of their joke.

Jaywalker said...

So am I Lisa. I mean, what the FUCK. Never let it be said I only post flattering photos. Admittedly, after the nostril photos and the birthday photos, the chances of anyone saying that was slim.

Julia Ball said...

Are they "in cohoots" or complicit in each others naughtiness?

Seriously though, it is a lovely post but how short are you? LOL

Dave said...

Can I have your other leg please? Kthxbai.

westendmum said...

Thick as thieves?

Mwa said...

So sweet! This thought will sustain me while bathing my two in a minute.

Persephone said...

Partners in crime.

Sinda said...

Oh wait, I thought I was going to the Waffle, but I seem to have ended up in a Boden catalog. Adorable models, though.

Mine are two years apart as well, and every year it gets better. What better way to learn that hate & love are the flip sides to one emotion than with a sibling?

Z said...

Good lord, you really have only got one leg, haven't you? How come you've never mentioned that before when you've told us so much else? Nevertheless, and despite the slight mishap in the tit department, it's a lovely photograph. And blimey, you write a bloody good love letter.

mountainear said...

I have 3 - all 2 years apart. I always used to think they were like puppies when they were small, small and nippy and rather sweet. They were The boys and now they are The Men.

They have this blood-brother thing I think even though they lives miles apart, a bond I suppose which will always be there.

wv is ninging. Better than minging I suppose.

pinklea said...

Very sweet post - you make me wish that I'd had two children instead of my only daughter. Well, I suppose it's not too late. I wonder if she'd like a baby brother or sister, now that she's 22 years old?

sara said...

First off, I agree with Sinda about the Boden catalog and the adorable models. Secondly, this post is one of those that really struck deep. There is some sense of gratitude and nostalgia and depth and beauty all wrapped up. It is leaving me breathless and slightly teary. You are doing an amazing job with life.

Nimble said...

I realized that my girls were *in cahoots* (my suggestion for the word you're looking for) when the youngest was three. They really started going off and doing things together without me. Not that it lasts very long but it's delightful. You're lucky.

Nimble said...

...Like Julia B said above. (Sometimes I can't read all the comments before I comment!)

kathycastro said...

They are so lovely. Even if their clothing choices are a bit mental (can you please talk to Fingers about the stripes with stripes rule?)?

I have a brother 12 months older than I, and we are complice to this day. We understand what each other is thinking without ever talking about it, and I can't remember a cross word being spoken since we were about, well, actually, ever. Oh, no, not true -- I was pretty cross when he married my college roommate. But we got over that and all is well.

The fact that they've built their little mafia is further proof that you are, in face, an ACE mom. Well done you. Do you think it's because you had enough boobs for them all at once?

Metropolitan Mum said...

Accomplice? Don't ask me, I am Austrian.
Four breasts? Why, but why? And how? The magical 4-chambers-bra?
I envy your hair though. As thick as a wig. Or is this a wig?

A Woman Of No Importance said...

Can we say they are complicitous? Does that exist?

Very loveling post (I know that's not a word, but I've typed it, and it fits this, I think...)

And when did the Weepette gnaw at your leg, JW??! I think the Holy Tortoise TM may have been similarly nibbled (oh, the blasphemy...)

You are all lovely, tho'!

Vic said...

'Play together' is perhaps inchoate parental shorthand for 'dilute our pernicious influence on each of them'. I think in this respect, it works.

Oh yes. Reading this sentence was instant recognition. I used that "play together" idea too, when we had our second child. I think secretly I was afraid of what would happen if the oldest grew up the sole recipient of our white hot attention. And vice versa.

My kids alternately ignore each other/fight viciously or are aligned in solidarity against the parents. (I vote for 'complicit' also, althought 'complice' sounds less criminal somehow...)

Layla said...

Am cOMPLETELY bemused by this.

If the photo of you and the spawn does not lie, either

a) you are a teeny-tiny person OR

b) the spawn are exceptionally tall for their ages OR

c) the house you are standing in front of is inhabited by giants, since your head is barely on a level with the door handle.

Due to the elegant appearance of your long, swan-like neck, have always imagined you as being at least 5'8"

this is very confusing.

honey, I shrunk the Waffle...

ps lovely post, and in my next life I want YOUR neck.

Cakeface said...

Beautiful post, and what a good mother you are to remember to take the first-day-of-school photo (mine was overlooked in the meltdown this morning, and I will have to fake it tomorrow morning, probably with the aid of Wednesday's Guardian for full terrorist authenticity.)

And something along the lines of 'ganging up on us' for complices? Or indeed, accomplices.

Kate Lord Brown said...

Adorable ... mine (7,3) start school together for the first time Monday. Having wished for it all summer (yes, fearing temporary insanity rings a loud bell), it now feels they have grown up too fast.

Juci said...

Fingers might have grown more, but I think Lashes' face changed more. He has more of a big-boy face now compared to last year (based on other photos because this one's a bit of a blur). In any case, they are gorgeous. And you must be leaning back towards the door, right? That's why you look as tiny as Kylie?
Oh, and my first one will be about 22 months old when the second one is due to be born, and I am bound to spend at least a year with them at home, so thanks for the encouragement.
And thank you for the lovely post, too.

Jessica K said...

Love this post. The joy you get from your children (even when they drive you insane) is tangible.
I have 3 boys, 2 years apart, fight like cats and dogs but then bond in mysterious ways.
And I think yours will do fine through THINGS because of the bond and the obvious love all around (including the CFO).

WrathofDawn said...

Ah, the dreaded quadraboob. Why WON"T our wobbly lady bits stay put?

vw - ensueadd - when addition follows... oh... something

Anonymous said...

Nice to see someone celebrating the sibling relationship! Jane Austen had it dead right (as ever) "Children of the same family, the same blood, with the same first associations and habits, have some means of enjoyment in their power, which no subsequent connections can supply". My daughters, 22 months apart, are now 17 and 19 and the elder has moved away to go to University. Although they are now about 55km apart, they are still intimately involved in each other's lives, thanks to phone, text and e-mail, and at least a dash of telepathy.

ptooie said...

"Cohorts" was the word that came to me.
My girls are 19 months apart. Hubby's oldest of 3, with 4yrs down to middle then 5yrs from her down to baby sister. (I'm an only.) He's the one that said we ought to have them close together. Most days I agree. It seems to be working so far.

Iheartfashion said...

Thanks for the lovely word, complice. Mine are a year and a half apart and we said the same thing about "playing together." At ages 7 and 9 it's finally come true. They are right now dressed in black with bandit masks prowling about the yard trying to frighten the neighbors. When they're not at each other's throats, their relationship has become rather nice.

SUEB0B said...

I was very worried about the one leg. I thought "Did I just never read closely enough to realize she had one leg?" Not that there is anything wrong with that. One leg is fine. I just didn't know.

littlebrownbird said...

Fabulous post. I can see the mischief in their faces. So sweet. I see that in my nephews (Age 4 and 1) Just togetherness.

Fab photo x

PS.I did notice your bra misdemeanour. I've never been the same since having bra fitter training.Oh well.

Katy said...

Four boobs good, two boobs bad? And the term hunting in pairs sprang to mind or is that too sinister. I've only got one offspring and am trying to pluck up the stamina to face having another. On the whole it looks like a good idea.

GingerB said...

My wee daughters are three and one and already they laugh together in a way that tells me that at least a lot of the time, they will enjoy eah other enormously. Anf after the hair pulling, the ritual burning, but whatever.

Sorry about your leg, I hope you find it soon.

Layla said...

La Kylie Belgique?

zut alors!

Inkey41 said...

Great post! At last I know who "Lashes" and "Fingers" are. (Started following you only recently). Have to confess that I had thought "Weepette" was another of these descriptive names for one of your children-a whiny, frequently crying child) and am now thoroughly chagrined to learn it's the dog. Oops! (I'm assuming "CFO" is Daddy...) word: co-conspirators; accomplices

Inkey41 said...

Punctuation bollixed. Forgot the (.

pellegrina4 said...

Nice piece, despite one leg and four tits though a very Gallic outfit it has to be said. Missing beret or onions however(perhaps they found their way into your bra) but I hear Jacques Brel effusing out of le tout ensemble. Yes, it all made me even a little tearful. Not that I need an excuse these days.

I have two younger brothers - I jostled with them, barricaded myself away from them ocassionally, dressed them badly and often thought they were a bit smelly if entirely malleable.


Z said...

How elegantly your friends insult you - and with so much affection!

anxious said...

I am very jealous of your front door. I wish I had one like that.

Jaywalker said...

Julia - I think - think - I was leaning backwards. I am five foot four AND A HALF. A veritable GIANTESS.

Dave - right. Like I would give my leg to a T REX.

W1 Mum - something like that, for sure..

Mwa - ugh, I only bathe them when it becomes absolutely essential.

Persephone - how come all these expressions are crime related? Oh yes.

Sinda - I am Johnny Boden's SLAVE.

Z - I keep it quiet, the one leg thing. I'm keeping it in reserve for when you're really bored and Heather Mills McCartney is but a distant nightmare.

mountainear - yes, like a pile of nippy puppies. That's a great image.

Pinklea - oh go on, tell her you're having another child. Go on, dare you.

sara - ah, I'm a bit wistful about the whole thing at the moment, it obviously shows. Thank you though, I'm so glad. x

Nimble - definitely in cahoots.

kathycastro - I'm like a total wall of BOOB. Take your pic. Oh, this is just getting inappropriate now.

Metropolitan Mum - yes, it's a wig. Are you embarassed now? Don't be.

Woman - though, if the Holy Tort is no more, imagine the papal funeral we can have!

Vic - yes. I couldn't bear the thought of a single child exposed to all my neuroses. They needed someone to roll their eyes with about me.

Layla - You can have my neck in this life. It's too long. I am a ginormous 5'4". And a HALF as I may possibly have mentioned before. So not actually a pigmy. A short one legged person leaning backwards. Perhaps.

Yo cakeface. Yes. I like the newspaper idea. Somehow very appropriate.

Kate - since I'm late replying, how did it go? Were they ok?

Juci - YES. BINGO, gold star on the leaning. Also 22 months is the same age difference as these two. It's maddening, but also good.

Jessica - oh god, I do hope you're right. At least we'll all try our best.

WoD - I suspect it is because we aren't wearing sufficiently sensible fugly beige underthings. We bring it upon ourselves by not wanting to look like we're 85 and wearing support garments.

Anon - yes, there's something very strong there. Another 22 months pair! Lot of it about, clearly.

Ptooie - yeah, there's the grind and the drudgery but it sort of works. Eventually.

Iheart - I love the idea of your children on their masked voyage of terror around the neighbourhood. Excellent.

SueBob - ha, as if. I am incapable of suffering in silence. This blog would be a catalogue of 'my one leg pain' if it were true.

Littlebrownbird - I did that thing of buying bras on line. They were right in theory and not quite wrong enough to galvanise me to send them back. But they are fatally fractionally too small. Sigh.

Ginger - the Holy Tortoise is probably off selling parts of it as relics.

Yo Inkey. there is also a click through on the side bar that explains who everyone is under Dramatis Personae.

Four boobs overkill perhaps. I imagine trinny and susannah will make a midnight raid on me and poke my bits.

pellegrina - mais oui, I am all about the clich├ęs. though the tshirt is american apparel which slightly spoils the effect.

Anx - have it. It comes with a population of 8 trillion moths and hides a multitude of horrors.

Layla said...


the words 'hoist' 'own' and 'petard' come to mind...

my dear Waffle, I take back all insinuations about you being at all vertically challenged, as it is clearly a mere trick of the camera.

Oh, and, strangely enough, I too am exactly 5 feet 4 and a half. Like you, I never forget that vitally important half.

Quelle strange coincidence. I wonder how tall Kathy is?

We are most definitely NOT short.