How is it that I can stick plants in the ground and fully expect them to grow all big and strong, yet was totally blindsided when the same thing happened to my kids? I'm coming to suspect that deep down I saw them as fancy cats; sure they'd get older and stop piddling on the floor, but they'd never quite get the hang of doorknobs.
Then they did and taking a shower hasn't been the same since.
More than that though. Theodorasaur has started school. What the hell is a kid doing at school when he hasn't outgrown his baby name? He'll never recognise his name at roll call and 5 is far too early for identity issues, so now might be a good time to start breaking the news to his younger brother Aubrey that his last name isn't actually Strawberry.
But the crux of the thing is that they're moving into a time of life I can remember myself. And if I can remember it, then they will remember it and if they're going to remember what happens to them from here on in, then we're in big, big trouble.
It's not that we don't have a reasonable handle on things. I've even found it within myself to make the odd child management decision all on my own. No, it's the increased sense of responsibility now that the "he'll never remember" carpet isn't there to hide our (okay, my) lapses under. Every cock-up from now until I die can and will be used against me. In the meantime I'm finding "where's your mum?" is an excellent fallback and, if that fails, then the tickle monster can always be summoned to help them forget whatever it was they were wailing about.
My other realisation is that I'm a cushion-hugging softie. I'd blame the ever-present weariness, except that'd be bollocks.
It came to me the first morning I walked Theo to school. He'd been a top dog at daycare, not only the tallest, he took quite a shine to directing the other children's games and a big fuss was made on his last day, even if he didn't really get the bloody great bigness of the occasion.
Then came school day and he turned it on. Smiles, laughter, his entire retinue of tricks and ... nothing. He was blanked. Well, it was November and everyone's buddy card was long filled, but talk about a lump in the throat. Giving him a wave and leaving him to fend for himself was difficult. As it was the next day and the day after that, even if his smile seemed perma-glued on. But come Friday he walked in, found a quiet corner and set about drawing robots on his own. He'd given up and, oh dear me, that was even harder.
As I say, dead soft. For sure, if that's the worst thing that happens to him at school he'll have lived a charmed life. I once got smacked over by a gang of girls and I'm almost over it, thanks for asking. On the other hand, I met my future best man in primer one, so one of those heartless little buggers could be his lifelong mate, too.
But his first week wasn't finished with him yet. He was only just kicking off his first blessed school-less weekend when we noticed the first signs of what became a nasty dose of chicken pox; a final gift from daycare. Then something amazing happened, it was bathtime, midway through the manic scratching phase and I had a go at explaining the future consequences of ripping at his own flesh. Pointless right? Except that, bugger me, he eventually paused, gently prodded at a spot, and I actually saw the lightbulb flash over his head: "Okay Daddy, I won't scratch any more." And he didn't. Best. Parenting Moment. Ever.
Anyway, he's all better and about to run amok at his first school disco, except that I'm afraid I might have messed that up for him, too. We have lots of discos at our place and they come with all the fixings - although nothing of what he's likely to hear, unless their inhouse DJ has a hankering for the heavy monster sounds of The Trashmen's Surfin' Bird. Big, fast drums from the age before vocoders and trilling, that's what works in our house. Wiggles, Beyonce, LMFAO et al ... not so much. And one day Theo and Aubrey will thank me for it, even if I've condemned them to a single life and eating food from tins.
So, after a few years of nothing but change, life looks set to change again. I should have seen it coming when Theo stopped noticing diggers and started telling me how to drive. Or when Aubrey cared to the point of tantrum about the colour of his shirt.
On the bright side, I'm rather looking forward to a time when a faint whiff of cleaning product and poo stops reminding me of home, even if I figure the can of instant mess they open wherever they are will remain until they finally do the decent thing and retreat to their rooms to be sullen.
In the meantime, I think I'll spend more time in the garden.