Someone once told me that having children is like fighting a bushfire. As soon as you get things under control on one front, you turn to find a fire has broken out elsewhere. This seems to me an apt analogy. I found myself sharing it with a friend on the phone last Sunday evening. Having only just caught up on the daughter ICU news, she was surprised to find us in Brisbane preparing to celebrate our grandson’s first birthday.

Despite the arrival of his grandparents, Charlie saw no reason for festivities. With his top, front tooth bulging beneath his gums he expressed all the grizzling, snot-nosed, interrupted naps and arch backed frustration you would expect in the circumstances. He didn’t want cuddles thank you very much. Or for Mum and Dad to spend a night away in a city hotel. He didn’t get a choice. The hotel was booked and Jack and Ness were looking forward to sleeping past five thirty in the morning.

Andrew and I were left holding the baby.

Fortunately, our grandson is cute, charming and, possibly, the most gifted child in Australia and Andrew and I are besotted. Every grizzle, every angry glinting eye, every Jatz cracker hurled through the air, seemed to us a marvel. After the anxiety of the preceding week it was a blessing to be immersed in the small things. We nursed, sang, cut up food, changed nappies, tickled knees, dosed with Panadol and spooned down bowls of yoghurt like a pair of grinning Cheshire cats, knowing the task was only temporary.

Half way through our all-star, singing, dancing grand-parenting routine we got an SMS from the other kids.

‘How’s it going grandparents? Still got the touch?’

To which I replied: ‘Seriously hampered by an inability to offer the breast. It was always my first and last resort and it rarely let me down.’

Being plunged into the world of a toddler brought back a number of other memories. Some would call them life lessons. I offer a small list for your consideration.

  • Half past five is too early to rise
  • Leaves, twigs, pebbles and pavers are wonders
  • Tummies are made for tickling
  • Where’s Spot? works a kind of magic
  • One years olds have their own language
  • Hurt, delight, rage and frustration all mixed up in a babble of sound
  • They cry real tears
  • In the middle of the night
  • Their hair is all soft and downy
  • Reaching out with chubby hands
  • Your heart is softened
  • Even after all these years
  • You find it is still soluble

Happy first birthday Charlie.