Every age and stage
gets better and better...

by Fiona O’Dowd


A few years ago, during my carefree pre-school-mummy days, I found myself at a park with the kids having yet another fabulous playtime... almost a daily event back then.

On this particular day, my bag with car keys disappeared and I was left with no way to get the kids home once the cold storm-front hit.

My saving grace was a gorgeous woman with fantastic long, red, wild and curly hair and her older primary school aged son who kindly drove us home to collect the spare car keys and return us to collect the car....

We spoke briefly as old friends on our first and only meeting.

She offered this, her unsolicited soul-quenching wisdom...

“It just keeps getting better,” she offered, “I know it’s hard to believe, but every age and every stage just gets better and better, richer and richer. It seems impossible, but you will find the love only grows and deepens.”

And then she was gone out of my life, never to be seen again.

Maybe she sensed my desperation to hold on to the ‘little kid’ years; my deep fear of ‘losing’ my kids to school life – and perhaps she saw the sadness in my eyes that I was going to be unable to recall every drop of sweetness of our ordinary everyday extraordinary adventures.

It’s not often I've reflected on that chance meeting years ago, but I guess I have often revisited her philosophy and the beautiful, simple truth of it.

Sometimes we feel the deepening in a magical moment, sometimes it creeps up on us and takes our breath away.

During the past few days, I have stood in awe and witnessed both the beautiful souls who are my children expand so much further out into the world. I have observed their gift of joy reach out and touch others, and my heart has sung as I have watched them drink and savour the joys of others. Their interactions grow in complexity while their hearts, minds and bodies develop and mature.

And the warm-hearted red-headed woman couldn't be more right.

Today I found myself entrenched in the usual train of thought that flows every day as the water envelops me in a world of my own during shower time.....mental lists of things to do: hurry, hurry, drop kids to their first day of morning care to make it to early staff meeting, Fathers Day-Fathers Day-Fathers Day, remember this and that at work today, buy this and that at shops today, stock market-stock market-stock market, whoop – remember not to worry, not to panic – think positive – all will be well, call him and her and her today, reply to that email, post that letter, cancel that booking, get a better hair conditioner, put crock pot on, find library books, etc etc etc.

And then it happened.

“Come and sing a Song of Joy of freedom tell the story
Sing, sing a Song of Joy for mankind in His glory
One mighty voice that will bring a sound that will ring for-ev-er more, then
Sing a Song of Joy for love and understanding”

The music my proud seven-year-old son is belting out, first on the recorder, then, as if to reinforce its significance, on the piano, pierces through the wall of isolation that the steam and shower-screen were providing me, and I am plunged into a gratitude so deep that I am left shaking with tears of joy.

He has learned a song he loves (what a mighty choice too, his reverence continues to astound me); and now mastered – he plays it with wild abandon.

These absolute gifts of children I have been given are stunning reminders of what matters. Of how trivial most, if not all, the daily worries and thought-trains really are.

Of how amazing and great our life is.
Of Dear Master 7’s unswerving hunger for every experience, skill and talent he can enthusiastically emerge.
Of Dear Miss 5’s patience, tolerance, humour and joy.
Of the good fortune that has provided me beautiful relationships with so many, near and far, living and passed.
Of my connection to all that is greater than me.

The music stops.
My thought-train resumes, but less hurried, less restricted and more aware of the vast nature of it all.


© Fiona O’Dowd

“A gender-equal society would be one where the word ‘gender’ does not exist: where everyone can be themselves.”*

I’ve always been aware of gender conditioning and actively tried to combat any lingering prejudices or stereotypes in my own parenting, even down to encouraging dolls with my boys when they were little. It’s great to read people writing about gender issues they’re experiencing with their kids. For too long these subjects have been discouraged or silenced. I’d love to publish some more creative writing on this topic, especially if you are struggling with a child who actively tries to move away from gender normative preferences. A society where everyone can be themselves thanks Gloria for those aspirational words.

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* Gloria Steinem