It’s hard to believe that River is about to hit four months and take his fifth plane journey. But here’s a very honest letter I wrote him when he was born.
I’ve rocked you to sleep at last. You surrendered to the ‘La La Land’ soundtrack again, a vast improvement on your sister’s penchant for gangsta rap and the morally questionable ‘Blurred Lines’ when she was born. So Ryan Gosling serenades me with his city of stars as I curl up under your weight and get a chance to think.
I love you. But you scare me.
Because I’ll tell you a secret. You were my safety net, the one event that meant we couldn’t do anything yet. Couldn’t buy the tickets. Couldn’t really plan. You know, just in case.
And then you came, in a hell of a rush, on the day of the storm, in seventeen painful, perfect minutes on the labour ward at Kings. And now you’re here. A tiny, quivering thing, like a kitten who needs only sleep and milk and continuous cuddles. And suddenly I don’t know if we can do this trip.
You’re too small.
It’s too much.
I worry that the people who say ‘great’ mean ‘mad’. That the world is too big and brash and unforgiving with you strapped to my chest. I remember reading a Charlie Brooker article after the birth of his son, and his words come flashing back.
“When you're suddenly tasked with steering a defenceless, vulnerable creature through life, the state of the planet instantly feels like less of a wearying joke and more of an outrageous affront to human decency. The world has slightly sharper edges than before.”
Olivia will be fine, I’m sure of that, your sister can handle herself. She can barter in bazaars and make a home wherever she lays the hat she’s refusing to wear at the time. But look at you. You’re so new. You don’t know what your hands are, let alone where Sri Lanka is.
But something just clicked.
We want you to know where Sri Lanka is. Not because a teacher’s pointed it out on a classroom map. Not as a cold geographical fact, or an answer in an exam. But what it smells like and sounds like and feels like. We want you to know what games a baby elephant likes to play. Get muddy. We want you to try things that are spicy and sour and splendid and shocking, that make your tastebuds tingle and your eyes open.
We want you to breathe.
So, River Alexander Storm Di Francesco, my beautiful boy with the sleepy smiles and crazy hair.
Let’s do this, kid.
Let’s order that passport.