A Dad's View 18: New year, time for a clear out
A clear out makes Tom Dunmore realise that while it's fun watching his children grow, he'll really miss not having a baby in the house
Christmas is over and winter has turned bitter. The kids are bouncing off the walls but refusing to go outside because it's too cold.
'When is it spring?' asks Ava.
'Not for a long time,' I reply.
'Is it two sleeps?' she says, hopefully. 'More like a hundred.'
'A hundred?' She starts counting on her fingers. Erik joins in, stabbing his finger in the air and shouting 'Two! Two! Two! Two! Five!'
'Stop it Erik!' screams Ava, losing track of her numbers, and storming off with the high-pitched whine of an untuned TV.
'One hundred more sleeps,' I sigh.
We've just returned from visiting the grandparents in Norway. Over there they do winter properly:
a few hours playing in waist-deep snow followed by endless cake and waffles around an open fire.
But back home, all warmth is sucked out of our house by damp brick walls and gappy floorboards. 'Brrr!' scowls Ava, rubbing her bare arms.
'If you're cold, put on your jumper.'
'But it's IT-CHY!'
Erik's oblivious to the chill – he's toddling around in nothing more than a nappy, insulated by baby fat and the larger-than-life toy rabbits he has tucked under each arm. Every few seconds he trips over one of their trailing ears, and falls on top of them. Stomp, stomp, WHUMP! Stomp, stomp, WHUMP!
And then finally it happens: he falls on one of the piles of broken dolls and toy car parts that litter the house. Stomp, stomp, WHUMP... WAAAAAAH!
Enough. After calming Erik I decide to find a focus for all this pent-up energy: 'All right, time for a spring clean.'
'But spring is a hundred sleeps away,' says Ava. 'Well, let's see if we can make it come any faster.'
Winter turns us into hoarders, driven by our primal instinct to fill our caves with supplies and hunker down till the daffodils arrive. But these days our supplies aren't animal pelts and salted meats; they're Christmas presents discarded on Boxing Day and the corpses of Happy Meal toys.
'Two bags,' I say, opening up black sacks. 'One for charity, one for the bin.'
'Bin!' Erik immediately exclaims, dumping his two beloved rabbits. I'm tempted to let him throw them away – we have a huge menagerie of cuddly toys in the kids' room – but I know I'll pay for it later.
'No Erik, you should keep your rabbits. 'Rabbit!' he says, delightedly pulling them out of the sack. This may take some time.
Fortunately, my wife loves a good clear out, and her enthusiasm for decluttering is infectious. Ava throws away her dried-out pens and offers her collection of stuffed cats to charity on the vague promise (immediately regretted) that she'll get a real cat some time in the future. She suggests giving
all of Erik's clothes away too, although we eventually agree to pass on just the stuff he's grown out of.
And finally, we find a box of baby toys – rattles, squeaky animals and teething rings. And then the realisation hits me: my little baby isn't a baby any more. He'll be turning two by the time winter's over. Then he'll be out of nappies and, with no plans for a third child, this small but all-consuming stage of our lives will be over.
A wave of relief is immediately followed by a wave of nostalgia and then by a real sense of loss. My wife insistently proffers the charity bag.
'Maybe we should hold on to these,' I say. 'Just in case.'