Letter To My Children

Dear Daniel and Emily

At the minute you are nearly 3 years old and just over one month respectively. You are still my babies. You will always be my babies, although I will try to stop myself calling you that when your friends are round from school. Probably.

But at some point you are going to grow up. You will go to school, then secondary school. You will go to university, and/or get a job. You will make friends, fall in love, and fall out again. One day you will meet the person you are going to spend the rest of your life with; you might know this as soon as you see them, or the realisation might grow on you gradually.

And you might have children of your own. I hope you do – there is nothing like the feeling of holding your baby in your arms. It isn’t all joy; like the rest of life you have times when you think it can’t get any better but also times when you feel you can’t cope. No other experience in your life dominates your day to day existence in the same way. As I type this, I’m using one hand because you, Emily, are suffering from wind and need the comfort of being held constantly. I’m using half my attention because you, Daniel, are talking to me and expecting me to have answers. I suspect that’s the way it will be forever – some part of me, physical or mental, will always be on high alert for when you need me. (Do remember that, by the way? We will always be there when you need us.)

So, your time won’t be yours anymore. You will have many days, like today, when you feel so tired you are actually disconnected from the world, running on a very primitive auto-pilot through a thick fog. You will be exhausted and emotional, impatient and intolerant. You will have days of fondly remembering a time when you didn’t eat a cold dinner or sit up with a sick child all night. Your heart will ache when your children are ill or in pain – again, I have a feeling that will never change. You will feel dread at that first squawking cry, followed immediately by guilt for feeling the dread. You won’t want to close your eyes, because opening them again in ten minutes will feel so much worse.

You need to know these things. You need to know it’s normal to feel this way, because when you’re in the middle of it you won’t feel normal, and you’ll be afraid that you’ll never be normal again. And you need to know when you are going through it that we went through it all with both of you, and we’re waiting right there with a cuddle and a cup of tea.

But then your baby girl will give you her first smile. Your little boy will put his arms around you and tell you he loves you. You’ll look at your child and see all the aspects of your partner that you love the most. And you wouldn’t have it any other way.

With all my love
Mummy x

Sand Through A Sieve

A lyric that gets me every time I hear it is from Mary Poppins, when Bert is cleaning up his chimney sweep gear and listening to Mr Banks. He comes back at him with this:

“You’ve got to grind, grind, grind at that grindstone

Though childhood slips like sand through a sieve

And all too soon they’ve up and grown

And then they’ve flown

And it’s too late for you to give…”

Generally, I find it really exciting when I think of Daniel doing new stuff like going to school or reaching a new milestone – this morning I did a post on his blog about potty training, which we’re hoping to start at the weekend. My husband (who’s as soft as muck!) gets quite sentimental and likes to hold on to the moment; he’s dreading September when Daniel starts school nursery. Probably the ideal is somewhere between the two of us.

But this afternoon, I found myself wanting desperately to freeze the moment we were in. He was sat on my knee, cuddled in while we watched his In The Night Garden DVD together. He was stroking my arm and I was stroking his hair, and it’s a rare moment now. He prefers to laugh and run away than sit and cuddle. He likes to be up and playing, and I take advantage of that to do – well, actually, I don’t know what I do. Writing and housework in theory. But our time together this afternoon made me realise how true that lyric from Mary Poppins is. I don’t grind, grind, grind at the grindstone, not by a long shot, and maybe if I did I would realise the true value of time at home. I do, though, let Daniel’s childhood slip through the sieve without fixing it in my memory properly, and today I was truly regretful of that, because it’s not sand, it’s more precious than gold dust.

We haven’t got much time left as just the three of us. Baby is due in 10 weeks, and while that will bring its own moments to treasure, I will never get this time back. I know how much I love Daniel, and I’m pretty sure Daniel knows too, but I mustn’t take any of it for granted.

I need to catch some of the gold dust before it slips away forever.

When Did That Happen?

When did my son turn into a miniature human being?

I remember when he was first born. We marvelled, as all new parents do, over his tiny hands and feet, his amazingly loud voice and how clever he was to be able to look at us and recognise us. But he was still almost like a different species. A baby, not quite a human being like the ones walking and talking around us. He couldn’t actually do anything. He couldn’t choose what activity he was going to do, where he was going to move to, what he was going to say.

Now, all of a sudden, he is not a baby any more. He is making those choices. He can choose, if he wants, to run backwards and forwards around our flat all day. He can choose to take out the animals from his Noah’s Ark or his little figures and line them all up, making them ‘say’ clever and insightful things. He can choose to copy what we say –  we’re not big on swearing but we have to watch every word we say. He chooses to walk in a straight line, a wiggly line, dance, run, fall over.

He knows what to do. When did that happen? When did he learn that if I say “Dinnertime” he has to go and knock on Daddy’s office door then climb onto his chair? When did he learn that to turn on the musical Christmas toys he pushes the switch on the back? How did he learn to operate the TV and DVD player more quickly than Daddy did? When did he realise that if we get the camera out it’s much more fun to smile adorably at the camera then turn away at the last minute?

He talks to me. He says things like “I’ve got an idea, people” and “Alright, Mummy? Have a nice sleep?” I can’t believe that two months ago I was worried about his speech – he comes out with the most amazing things now. Yes, it’s not always an unmixed blessing. Like when we were in the shop and he pointed at an elderly gentleman with a white beard and said, very clearly, “Look, Mummy, Santa Claus!” But he can, and does, also say “I missed Mummy” after nursery, or “Love you”.

He has strops. Nothing all that bad (see my post The Challenge of Loving) but he definitely has strops. When he was a baby he had four basic states: cry, sleep, smile, neutral. Cries had variations, smiles had grades depending on the cause (Grade 1 for mildly amused, Grade 5 for Grandma etc), but they were essentially the same state. Now, Daniel has all the moods that I or Daddy have and suddenly we see ourselves reflected in him. We’re allowed to be moany and miserable after a sleepless night with him, but find it hard to deal with him being the same. That’s because we’re just not used to it – all of a sudden he has adult emotions and can express them and we need to catch up with him. But on the other side of that he has also developed a wonderful sense of the ridiculous, and his laughter at something that is just too silly is infectious.

He experiments. He only has our word for it that climbing onto the sofa and rolling off will hurt, so he gives it a go. He sees no reason not to take the roof off his toy garage and use the frame as a hula hoop. He’s pretty sure that a big car will go down his slide with a big crash, but what will a little car do? And he doesn’t know, not for definite, that he’ll get caught every time he tries to take a bauble off the Christmas tree. May as well keep having a go. The baby we had, it seems like only ten minutes ago, couldn’t have even imagined any of these possibilities.

Now, we loved our tiny baby so much. We could not imagine loving him more, he seemed so perfect in every way. I’m sure when his little sister is born in April we will go through the same emotions. But the thought that she could develop into the same sort of miniature human being as Daniel, with all that potential and excitement, but entirely different again, is mind-boggling. And I can’t wait.