It’s not something we generally do very much, but for the second year in a row Heather and I found ourselves heading in opposite directions for Mother’s Day. She went south with Toby to spend the day with her mum, while I drove to London with Zac to do the same with my family.
Last year was the first time I had attempted a full day out so far from home on my own with our older boy. He took it all in his stride. This year he positively embraced the idea, rattling off a long list of requests when told about our plan for the day. Would we be going to Grandma and Grandpa’s house? Was Uncle Pete going to be there? Could we eat in his favourite restaurant? Could he sit in the front of the car? Would I peel some grapes for him? He even happily waved off Toby and Heather as they left the house, telling them to have a good day with Nana.
Something else that doesn’t happen very often is for just the two of us to have an extended period together without any distractions. Even when I am alone with him at home, there is always the TV or a toy or (most likely) an iDevice to distract his attention. But travelling down in the car – with him and his car seat next to me in the front passenger seat. of course – we had an hour with just the two of us, and it really brought home to me just how fast he is developing. Yes, of course I’m not completely blind to the fact of him growing up, but it’s only when I have an opportunity to spend quality time with him, in the absence of distractions or a million and one things which need doing, that I have the chance to just sit there and marvel at him.
There’s nothing special about what we did; it’s just the accumulation of little things. The way he insists on pressing the button on the dashboard to start the ignition. His confidence in operating stereo controls which he has only ever previously observed from the back seat. (He really doesn’t miss anything.) He waved hello to the giant wind turbine – “Hello, windmill!” – by the M4 at Reading, named the make of every car we passed, told me off – “You’re driving too fast, Daddy – sang songs together with me, and counted down the minutes on the clock until our arrival. Sometimes it’s easy to forget he isn’t even 3½ yet.
And then when we arrived at the restaurant for our dim sum lunch he sat down, confidently grabbed an order slip and a pen, and started filling it in. I swear it will only be a matter of months before he completes his first novel.
In fact, everything he does just seems so grown up theses days. He immediately recognised his favourite dishes – “Ooh, noodles!” – asked about ones which were new to him, and generally held court, entering into conversation whenever he wanted and simply pinning his ears back and listening intently at other times. It made me realise how quickly I have taken for granted the fact that he can understand at least the emotion of everything he hears – he is a remarkably sensitive soul for his age – and how I now expect him to converse with us using fairly complex and accurate grammatical construction.
He even eats like a grown-up, expressing fully fledged opinions – “No, Daddy, don’t be silly. I don’t like that!” – and shovelling a variety of food into his mouth with minimal assistance.
When we got back to my parents’ house, he even insisted on going into their garden to pick some daffodils to take home for Heather. How sweet is that?
Now I’m not saying that anything Zac does is particularly exceptional. I’m sure a lot of other three-year olds can do all the things he does. But it is amazing how much he has developed in even a few short months. And even though I spend time with him every day, it’s still really easy to see him do things without ever properly noticing them, simply because there are so many other things happening in our lives. Which is why, even though we try to do most activities together as a family, those rare days or half-days when it is just me and one of my boys bonding or generally spending time together are both precious and wonderful.
I hope Zac enjoys these father/son days. I know I do.