It’s easy to forget sometimes, but some of the smallest things in my life are the the biggest and most exciting things that have ever happened to my 12-week-old son. Like today’s trip to the park, for example, when he looked happier and more excited than I’ve ever seen him before…
Today was just like any other weekday for me. I got up at 7am, showered, walked the dog, shovelled down some breakfast, caught the bus to work, did a load of worky stuff for 8 hours, caught the bus home, made a fuss of the dog, then walked into the living room and there he was – my cheeky, chubby, cheerful little son – sitting on his mum’s knee and staring at everything with his big blue eyes. He does this all the time, Sonny. He just stares and stares and stares at everything, taking it all in, learning about the world.
Of course we’ve convinced ourselves he’s some sort of genius, far more advanced and aware of his surroundings than any other baby that ever lived, and destined to grow up to change the world. He probably isn’t, of course. Sonny’s just a normal little lad who’s adapting and learning every day, but the pure enjoyment he’s taking from every minute of his childhood is beautiful to watch.
Tonight we were blessed with a warm, calm summer evening; so I popped Sonny in his pram as soon as I got home from work and wheeled him down to the park. I didn’t have the dog with me, so for once Sonny’s face had my undivided attention as we strolled down the street. Every time we passed under a tree, or a shadow flickered across the pram, his mouth hung open in complete wonder. Just what is it that babies love so much about being outside?
I have to remind myself sometimes that Sonny has only been on this planet for 12 weeks. When you’re a grizzled veteran of three decades like me, it’s hard to even comprehend what that means. But I don’t know why I keep forgetting, because it’s written all over his face every time I take him somewhere new. Every time he sees something for the first time – a new tree, window, car, face, cloud – his little face lights up like it’s the biggest discovery in history. Which for him, of course, it actually is.
I don’t know about the rest of the parents out there, but if I never hear another nursery rhyme again I’d quite possibly be the happiest man alive. Sonny seems to like them, though, just like he likes the hoover, and the tumble drier, his parents’ voices and the hairdryer; but nothing gets his attention quite like a trip outside. He reacted to everything he heard on our walk tonight – every car engine, tweeting bird, laughing child, barking dog – and I was transfixed by his every movement. I’m certain he learns more in five minutes outside than he does in five days in the house.
Granted he doesn’t get quite as excited as the dog at every new smell he encounters, but Sonny’s senses are much more alert when he’s outside. I may well be reading too much into what I see (he’s still lying flat in the carrycot of his first pram at the moment) but he seems so aware of everything he comes into contact with outdoors. His eyes and mouth are always wide open with wonder, and his head is usually tilted back, nose in the air, just absorbing it all. For someone who’s whole world has revolved around just a few rooms of the same house almost every day of his life, just being out in the natural world must seem like a gigantic adventure.
You’ve probably realised by now that I got a bit over excited tonight watching Sonny’s reactions to everything, which I proved when I ditched the footpaths and took the trusty Silver Cross Wayfarer off-road. It wasn’t exactly hazardous terrain, basically just the undulating grass in our local park, but for Sonny it was the bumpiest ride of his life. We rumbled over tree roots, mole hills and the occasional rock, causing him to bounce around like a rag doll and gargle with joy the whole time. Usually when we’re cruising quietly over pavements he drifts off to sleep quickly, but tonight he smiled, cooed and thrashed his arms with excitement throughout the whole journey.
We were only out of the house for half an hour, but I could see from the joy on my little boy’s face that it was one of the biggest and most thrilling adventures of his life.
I think we’re going to have a lot of fun together over the next few years!