It is incredible to me that Joshua will be 21 years old next month, where did those years go? Our terrifying time in the Special Care baby Unit seems much more recent than that to me, the memories are so still so vivid. My parents spent a lot of time with us in Joshua’s early days and my Dad took a lot of video footage of his new grandson, who was born on his 64th birthday. Before lockdown I had some baby Joshua video footage converted onto DVDs, so that I could watch it but I have only recently felt able to watch them. I loved hearing my late parents’ voices again and seeing their evident love for their new grandson. My father filmed in SCBU and was clearly a doting grandfather, and it is precious coverage to treasure. I have films of Joshua’s early steps and of him chattering away, reading stories to himself and of his christening, first Christmas, first birthday and early holidays too. Sadly we seemed to stop filming on the video camera once he got to nursery school and more recently, all of my filming has been on my mobile phone – one of my favourites dates back to 2017, when Joshua sang a duet with me of The Carpenters ‘Close to You’ when he sang the last word of every line of the song and attempted the tune too.
The home movies that I watch are proof of the passage of time, as Joshua grows and as important people in our lives are no longer alive with us. Clearly, physically Joshua has changed considerably : he is now 5 foot 10 , has facial hair and an even deeper voice than he had as a child. However, given the amount of care that he still needs – dressing, changing, feeding – I know that I am guilty of treating him more as a child than an adult. I am conscious that I still refer to him as a ‘boy’ or ‘lad’, rather than a young man. We begin the process of him going to bed around 9pm, yet what 20 year old is tucked up that early? I can remember at one of my school coffee mornings years ago, chatting to a father who was complaining about the parents of teenagers who still sang and played ‘Twinkle Twinkle Little Star’ with their offspring, rather than more age-appropriate songs. Even from being a baby, Joshua has enjoyed to listen to the same loud music as we enjoy, so I did not feel too guilty as charged, knowing that he watches Bruce Springsteen and Live 8 every day of his life. But his bedtime stories are Julia Donaldson classics that he still enjoys, not even having progressed to Harry Potter, as I think he enjoys the illustrations and rhyming of her fun books.
My husband and I have spent the last two days tidying out our box room/office, so that we could fit my mother’s desk in there. It has meant sifting through 20 years of stored birthday cards, hand-written letters from my parents and paperwork from all of the three schools that he attended. I was reminded of his brain surgery in 2014 – as if I needed reminding – when sorting through the paperwork from Great Ormond Street hospital. So this exercise has been another stark reminder of the passage of time. The challenge has been to know which pieces of history need to be kept and stored forever and which should be read then disposed of. Here my husband and I disagreed, as he wanted to keep every memento of his childhood, of our teenage romance and of our married life together. I hoard too, but to a much lesser extent than him.
Because of the Covid pandemic, Joshua did not have any official graduation from school. He simply slid into adulthood, at home, while nobody was looking. There should have been a school Prom and a loud, fun send off to mark this momentous stage of his journey of life. But instead, one day he stopped going to school and two years later, he is about to embark on his journey into daycare. So that has not helped us to embrace his transition into adulthood. Perhaps once he is established at daycare, with other adult learners, it will feel more real. But then perhaps I am just the same as every other mother, who cannot believe their baby has actually grown up and that my destiny is to worry about him for the rest of my life.