They were so tiny, once. So precious.
I so clearly remember taking my babies to have their hand and footprints taken in John Lewis when they were just a few weeks old. I remember having second thoughts about the expense, especially when The Boy was newborn and I hadn’t got my head around my future work plans and where – if anywhere – the money would come from. The Boy slept through his imprinting, even when we took his sock off and shoved it into the cold clay; The Baby, however, screamed, writhed and clenched her fists. It was stressful. I was convinced her prints would be a write-off, but they turned out fine.
Those hands are different now. Bigger. The Boy’s hands are six and a half years old. The nails are bitten and grubby. They’re usually covered in mud and felt-tip pen. Fortunately, they bear no evidence of five years of thumb-sucking (and, by some miracle, nor do his teeth). These hands are used for writing, drawing, building Lego. Turning the pages of books, long after he’s meant to be asleep. Riding his bike, climbing trees. Picking his nose.
The Boy doesn’t hold my hand much any more; he’s usually 50 metres ahead of me, scooting, cycling or just running. When he does hold my hand, it strikes me that soon, his will be as big as mine – and then bigger.
The Baby’s hands are sixteen months old and still babyish, fat, squidgy, with dimples where one day, she’ll have knuckles. Often, when I prise open her sticky little fist, I discover a handful of cat hair. The Baby’s hands are used for hanging onto my leg, pushing shapes into her shape sorter, playing peepo, winding the bobbin up, eating raisins, wiping jam into her hair, and dropping toys out of the pushchair with a jaunty ‘bye bye!’
The Baby doesn’t hold hands any more, either. Not in the way that her fingers used to reflexively curl around mine, when she was just born. She clings to my hem, swings on my hair, grabs me round the neck, but when she’s on the move, she has no interest in putting her hand in mine.
My children’s hands have, in the three and a half years since we’ve lived there, transformed a newly refurbished, squeaky clean house into a loved (and abused) home. They have left sticky fingerprints on windows and walls. They’ve drawn on the kitchen table. They’ve spilt orange Calippo on the oatmeal lounge carpet, picked bits of paint off the edge of a brand-new cabin bed, knocked over vases, ripped paper lampshades, and downgraded my bedroom from Serene Adult Space to Dumping Ground for Every Toy in the House.
Their hands have grown, but they’ll grow more. I envisage a future of goal-keeping gloves, nail varnish, maybe drumsticks or guitar plectrums. Maybe one day they’ll make technical drawings or play table tennis, like their father, or take notes in shorthand and knit, like their mum.
Whatever they’re used for, though, I’ll still have those tiny baby prints in frames on my wall. So tiny. So precious.
See more hands at The Gallery.