My girl turned three a week or so ago. HOW. THE. HELL. DID. THAT. HAPPEN? I’m not saying it flew by. I have felt every minute of these past three years, particular the last nine months with the arrival of one small brother. I guess I just mean that now she’s a walking, talking, singing, whirling, twirling, colourful, imaginative, creative, stubbornly independent, demanding, challenging, engaging, frustrating, intelligent wee force of nature…well suddenly she’s kinda way more interesting. She’s a little girl now. She decides what she’ll wear each day (sometimes several times a day) and goes out of her way to wear odd socks, odd shoes and odd bows in her hair. She likes to wear bow hairclips on her sleeves and socks; positioned ‘just so’. She chooses to be wonky. She adores pink but chooses not to wear her pink tutu to ballet lessons because everyone else does so she throws on an eclectic mix of weirdness (including my fingerless gloves as leg warmers) and runs in there proud as punch. Sometimes she sheds her dress and strips down to basics…who am I to stop her!? She sits at the piano and ‘accompanies’ herself singing, turning the pages of the manuscript I have left there as though reading the music for herself. She sits with her legs straight out in front of her and ‘reads’ to herself. Or she collects some toys from her toy box and sits them in front of her and reads to them. Her versions of the stories are so, so much more entertaining. She brings toys to her baby brother, roams around in front of him on all fours trying to teach him to crawl, eats with exaggerated pleasure at mealtimes so that he might learn from her (as she sees my genuine exasperation as he refuses virtually everything…ergh!) and showers him with love and sometimes some slightly too rough affection. Her language is heart-meltingly delicious. She mimics everything and everyone, employing words she doesn’t understand until she does understand and then continues to use them. My mum gave her a feather from the garden saying “Darling, look what the magpie left you.” Mae responded; “Oh Grande Wi, is it possible for that magpie to be so generous?” She is effusive and passionate and sometimes I literally see her fill up with love. She exalts “oh mummy I love my baby soooo much. I love my family. I love you mummy. I love you daddy. We all love each other don’t we? We’re a family aren’t we. We all love each other don’t we?” Family. She understands the bond, the attachment, the importance. She wants to wear her apron and stand on the little blue stool we bought in a vintage store down on the Mornington Peninsula, and help me cook. She wants to watch the popcorn pop, she wants to lick the bowl, measure the sugar, crack the eggs, and sample the delights. She is a genuine help in the garden, collecting the piles of weeds and popping them in the garden waste bag. She sits at her little table and draws and draws and draws and suddenly the colouring inside the lines is a little more considered and the intention is clear. She has just started drawing people and they look like people. Their faces are marvellous. She pretends to write and makes wonderful word-like creations all over her paintings. She finally decided not to wear nappies and it was all on her terms and in her time. What a beautiful thing it has been for her to discover that little piece of independence…for all of us!
She adores animals and everything to do with them. We made a lion cake for her birthday. She is obsessed with The Lion King, but chooses to call it King Lion, and is clearly preoccupied with understanding the ins and outs of Scar’s evil intent, though she doesn’t really get it. Every day she is someone new: “No, my name is not Maple Winnie, my name is Simba…my name is Narla…my name is Cinderella…my name is Jane…my name is Carlie.” Today her name is Eric! Yup, I did ask her to clarify and she’s Eric. She likes us to read to her underneath her umbrella. She is very, very particular. She loves family dance time. She loves to bundle. She loves to hide but has only recently understood that this means she should not yell out where her hiding place is. She now goes missing for ages and we find her patiently sitting in her cupboard waiting to be found. She managed to change Toy Story over to Happy Feet on the Minimac and when asked how she managed this, she declared, “I was being mummy.” I sit back on the sofa and breathe her in, quietly astounded at her stubbornness, her fiercely independent spirit, the passions she is cultivating and the friendships she is nurturing. I am reminded of the first two stanzas of Kahil Gibran’s “On Children”:
“Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.
You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them,
but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.”
On the other hand, my boy is nine and a half months old. Everyone tells you not to wish it away, that they grow so fast, to enjoy every moment of the baby months. And relatively speaking, it does pass by fairly quickly. But I do find myself willing along each new milestone…come on boy sit up, come on boy get crawling, come on baby please sleep through the night I dare you (you’ll have a better mummy for it), come on sunshine please focus on the boob so I don’t have to sit on my own in a dark room every time I feed you, come on wee darling why don’t you try singing yourself to sleep like your sister, come on small mammal eat your bloody solids you fussy little monkey so I don’t chew my own hands off with boredom and so the maternal health nurses stop terrorising me with dramatic “he won’t develop properly if he doesn’t gain more weight”-type comments…COME ON!!!! If the truth be known, I find the first twelve months of a baby’s life pretty tedious and while I cherish so, so many exquisite moments and you can cut the love with a knife in our house, the first year is a lot of hard work.
Now of course there are women and men for whom this is not the case. Hats off to you. Some people absolutely adore the baby months. And I am so pleased that these people exist and that I know some of them. They provide the yin to my very unwavering yang; the salt to my pepper; the sun to my storm; the nurture to my need to sleep and sleep and sleep. These folk are fundamentally different to me. There is a huge chasm in our way of thinking. There just must be. I don’t do the first twelve months with any degree of grace or ease or charm or selfless serenity. I am dreadful with no sleep. I’m not one of these extraordinary mums who selflessly spends half the night up breastfeeding or co-sleeping. I realise that the baby months challenge my need to have things under control, in every conceivable way. For some folk, lack of sleep, loss of personal time, cleaning up chunder and stained clothes, revolving their days and nights around baby routines and whims, is no skin off their nose. It is par for the course and embraced with vigour. Again, hats off to you. I think you are extraordinary. I really do. But I am hugely inconvenienced by it! There, I said it. I’m giggling cos it sounds so outrageous. But it’s true. I’m not so hot on babies until they turn one, and then we can start talking; literally and metaphorically. Let’s get this show on the road little one! At one, things really start to brew don’t they.
Now I’m aware that this sounds fairly callous and cold. I ought to say that I could not possibly imagine that I would fall so head over heels in love with my baby boy. I was worried that he would just take my attention away from Maple. I have been floored by this child. I cannot stop kissing his beautiful lips and his chubby pouch-like cheeks. I snuggle into his neck as often as I can to hear his naughty giggle as my hair tickles his ears. He smiles with his entire body and knocks me for a six. I am goo. I fall into his blue eyes and float there for as long as he’ll let me. I love him so much my heart aches. I sit and watch my children in the bath together while Zeph belly laughs at his sister because everything she does he finds utterly hilarious. And I think, “this is perfect. This is why we went for a second one.” He, to me, is perfect. But he’s only nine and a half months old ok?! Let’s get to one and then we’ll really hit the dancefloor!