She pins me down, a weight that still takes me by surprise. Five, how did she become five? How did they become five? They have ten years between them, nobody counts parenting in accumulative terms but they should - I have parented ten years of childhood and yet I'm no less clueless than when I started.
Curled into a ball in my lap she radiates into me, she is my hot water bottle, my lap dog, my ballast. She is both boulder and kitten - skull crashing against my cheekbone, elbows jabbing hard into my tits, silken golden strands tickling my face and silvery down catching the light from the setting sun. Just as I find a way to balance her weight so that the nerve that's been trapped in my hip for weeks doesn't thrum at too high a frequency, she shifts. From curled like a sleeping puppy she stretches, legs sliding forth and draping one either side of mine, t-shirt riding up and exposing a belly as soft and warm as risen dough, head lolling like a bowling ball against my chest. It will be a maximum of three minutes before she rearranges herself again; wriggling, squirming, shifting, constant flux and motion, a lava lamp of a child.
Which is as it has always been, she started kicking the shit out of me as soon as she was big enough to kick. Implanted higher she punched and kicked and rolled against my stomach, then my ribs and finally my lungs. Her sister - desperate for her own space - turned away from her at the first chance she got, nuzzled her head into my pelvis and stayed still and quiet, weathering the punches and biding her time. Once born we had to tie her up to get her to sleep (they call it swaddling but it is what it is), arms and legs bound to tiny body to stop them from thrashing the whole night long. It was with bitter reluctance that we stopped wrapping her, many months later than recommended. The desire to bind her tightly in fabric so that she would just stay still lurked in the guilty corners of my brain until . . . well sometimes it still creeps over me.
She doesn't let me hold her much any more. She is five, she is busy and she needs to be sick before she crawls into my lap, sweating and sniffing and sighing and clutching that same ugly little rabbit she has been carrying around for years. Little Bunny has become more vocal of late; before we left London he was pretty quiet, living mainly in her bed, going unmentioned from morning until night, but since we started dragging our children hither and yon he has had quite a lot to say - for a stuffed animal. His birthdays come twice weekly, he learned French and then Gaelic but decided that he'd rather speak Nonsense. His tastes in food blossomed and shrunk, as contrary as well, a five year old. 'It wasn't me, it was Little Bun' has become the most common explanation for something becoming mysteriously broken or lost, or for when Quiet Time has become distinctly un-quiet.
She has five year of life under her belt, she is learning to read and write and live in this world without her parents there at every step, and yet when her hair (recently hacked off at school in a fit of annoyance) is swept back from her face, her eyes closed and lashes resting on rounded cheeks, she is the same boulder-headed baby she was five years ago, exactly the same, and seeing how little she has changed since she was just brand new to this world my heart aches and grows and throbs. She is my baby, my girl, that tiny scrap who kicked and fought so hard, from conception right the damn way through. May that never change.