Lost and found

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Moving house is stressful at the best of times. More so when it also involves returning to the UK from France where I’ve been living as a frontalier working in Switzerland and therefore entailed dealing with administrative matters in two different languages and three different countries. Even more so with a toddler and a newborn, dealing with the physical and emotional repercussions of that on a diet of too much caffeine to overcompensate for the sleepless nights and exhausting days.

Now that we are relatively settled back into our UK flat in a way its nice to have gotten all the drama (or most of it, still dealing with French admin matters and unsympathetic landlords holding our deposit hostage) out the way at once. Having said that, if someone told me I’d have to do this all over again, I think I’d rather peel off my own eyelids and eat them.

When we first decided on a return to the motherland we had thought sorting everything during maternity leave made a lot of sense as at least we wouldn’t have to juggle two kids, the move and do it all over a weekend before resuming duties on the Monday.

However, the fear inducing Halloween Brexit that never was motivated us to move a lot quicker than planned for fear that if a no-deal Brexit did happen the logistics of relocating would move from a shiver inducing tremor to a full on nightmare of epic proportions. Would we be able to move our stuff across the EU border? Would we need a visa to get home? Would the cats have to go through quarantine?

Pretty sure the straw headed buffoon that currently bumbles about as leader of our country didn’t have my cats on his mind when he made his bold promises of an EU exit by 31 October come hell or high-water. Ultimately it turned out the wannabe Trump forgot to account for a little thing called democracy and yet another extension was put in place, an election was summoned and we could have had a few more months to move in perhaps a more leisurely manner. However, I expect the relocate would have been pretty traumatic at any point and at least it is done now and my stress dreams about the whole shebang have diminished somewhat if not completely disappeared.

The plus side is we lived to tell the tale, our marriage is intact, hopefully the kids aren’t too traumatised by the whole affair and now we are here and have found we are able to enjoy my maternity leave back near friends and family, in a part of London we know and love.

It was amazing living on the French/Swiss border and being able to walk for five minutes from our apartment into beautiful countryside surrounded by imposing snow-capped mountains was pretty epic. Geneva centric living had a lot of pros and it was an amazing place to feel alive with the sound of music. Provided of course that the weather worked in your favour. The downside of where we were based was that there was almost nothing to do with young kids when it rained, at least not without a car and the small fortune required to attend the odd toddler class. Not so in London.

On our doorstep there are some really good open spaces, children’s parks and riverside walks for when the weather is clement, but there are also some good museums, cafes, etc. for when it isn’t. Which is handy because we returned to the UK at the end of October when the gloom sets in early and the tendency to rain is strong.

One rainy afternoon we decided to go to the local visitor centre that I remembered being kid friendly and pretty open plan so I thought it’d be a good space for the terrible two year old to run amok without annoying staff too much or causing us to have to chase after her constantly.

It seemed a good plan, we got there and the little monster pretty much ignored all the actual museum activities and literally just started running around the centre floor looping around the staircase, which wasn’t too concerning as that led to an enclosed gallery so even if she tried to nip up there she wouldn’t get far. She was happy, we were happy, the beard wandered off with the babe strapped to his chest to actually look at some of the exhibits and I slowly pottered after the toddler.

Actually at this point I think I should reassess the term toddler, that implies a slightly wobbly child unsure on its feet whereas my two year old knows how to work those pistons we call legs and can go from 0-60 in a flash of a moment.

So the child was careering about looping around the exhibits. Often the mini miss gets fixated on a particular game and will happily repeat for a bore-inducingly long time so I was feeling quite secure that she’d continue to repeat her route and I could just gently track her without needing to keep up with her exactly.

The problem was that staircase. Not that she went up it and came tumbling down but that it created the only real blind spot in the gallery. She was looping, I was pottering and as I pottered to the staircase I realised she had deviated from the route she’d been following in the five seconds or so she was in the blind spot. Where the stairs were placed there were at least three possible directions she could have gone in, including outside and towards the road via the automatic door which had recently been activated by some newly arrived visitors.

One moment my child was there, the next she wasn’t. I yelled at the beard that I didn’t have eyes on her and as he started sprinting across the room towards us I took a split second to decide which way to run screaming my girl’s name. In reality I thought it least likely she would have gone towards the road but as that was the worst possible option I went that way first.

I was barely out the door with the second holler of her name dying on my lips when I heard her crying and doubled back into the centre to find her emerging from the corridor towards the toilets, where either my panicked shriek or more likely someone using the hand-dryers had upset her enough to make her wail out so that we could find her.

I’m sure it won’t be the last time I lose her in a public place, certainly not if she’s anything like me who used to actively enjoy getting lost in public spaces (sorry mum and dad), and the whole incident must have been over in about 20 seconds, yet, even now, a couple of weeks after the event in question, my heart is racing and I feel the horror unlike anything I have ever experienced before.

I had thought a no-deal Brexit and UK crashing out of the EU without contingency plans for sufficient toilet roll to meet the nation’s needs was the most ghastly thing that could happen. I was wrong.

Levelling up on parenting

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And so I find myself once again, slowly writing late at night trying not to jog the half slumbering babe resting on my right shoulder.

I’m a mother of two now and it feels like I’ve just levelled up in this game of life. Suddenly the same tasks that I could complete without much challenge on the easier mode have become inexplicably more taxing. Things like having a shower, getting out of the house in clothing that hasn’t been put on back to front and isn’t covered in some sort of child goop (snot, vomit and sticky fingers being the common culprits), being able to have a civilised conversation with my husband without resenting the fact he had 30 minutes all to himself earlier in the day, etc.

My girls are almost exactly two years apart, and this was the plan, thinking being close in age will be nice as they grow up. Although we made the plan when infant number one was a comparatively easy going twelve month old and hadn’t foreseen that a newborn and a wilful toddler might pose certain challenges.

Probably ninety per cent of the time everything goes fairly smoothly and I take genuine delight in parenting these two little beings. It’s in that other ten per cent though where I half jokingly talk of walking out the door and just keeping going for a few years until everything calms down a bit. It’s in that ten per cent where I question whether the whole parenting thing was such a good idea after all.

It’s in that ten per cent where everything snaps and I feel the worst version of myself, being short tempered with the two year old and getting frustrated at the two month old. It’s that ten per cent where they take it in turns to see who can scream the loudest (definitely the two year old) and the longest (usually the two month old). Sometimes they don’t take it in turns.

What I had worried about during pregnancy with number two was how I’d handle the sleep deprivation this time around with a two year old who wouldn’t give two hoots whether or not I’d been up umpteen times a night with their sibling. I’m sure the sleep deprivation doesn’t help with my almost permanently exhausted tiny thread of patience but it hasn’t actually been as bad as I’d expected, certainly a lot easier to adjust to than the first time around. Baby number two hasn’t been a terrible sleeper and it turns out I can function pretty well on a couple of chunks of three hours of sleep.

What I really wasn’t prepared for was the overwhelming feelings of guilt that pervade most of my waking day. I feel guilty that the baby doesn’t get a fraction of the attention her sister got. She won’t get to go to all the baby sensory, baby massage, baby music and baby critiques of 17th century French literature classes that her sister went to because I can’t take her sister to these things. At best she can half listen to the odd tune at toddler rhyme time at the local library whilst I spend the session chasing her sister around the library trying to prevent her either escaping or running wild in the quiet section banging the rattles that have been handed out against the metal shelves.

And then I feel guilty that the toddler doesn’t get my undivided attention any more. That I can’t always just put the baby in her bouncy chair and leave her to get on with it. That I can’t easily scoop her up on demand if baby is strapped to me in the harness. I dread the thought that she feels less special or loved by us now that her sibling is here.

I know these feelings are my burden rather than theirs. I realise that baby will just grow up being used to us dividing our time and attention between her and her sister and I know that the toddler is unlikely to remember the time before the baby arrived. However knowing things and feeling things are very different kettles of fish. It’s like when I’m trapped in the ten percent and I know that in ten, thirty, sixty minutes or so I’ll be back in the ninety per cent, but it can feel like there is no way out of the interminable horror I’m currently battling as I fight to get the toddler back into her pushchair and the baby screams at me because we are already past the time she wanted to be fed, or I struggle to get the screaming baby changed on the park bench while the toddler howls at me because I won’t let her eat the rice cracker she’s dropped into a particularly muddy puddle.

That ninety per cent is pretty amazing though. That’s when big sister is stroking little sisters head and cooing ‘aww baby’ at her, or when I’m managing to enjoy active playtime in the park chasing the bigger one around while the little one sleeps contentedly against my chest in the harness and I know that both are getting exactly what they need from me at that moment.

Every day she needs me less and less

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Everyday she needs me less and less
It’s clear to me she’s becoming self-possessed
I watch developments with mixed feelings of success
Because everyday she needs me less and less

The first time we gave the baby actual food (puréed carrot if you want to know) her face contorted through the visible emotions of shock (this isn’t boob!), disgust (this isn’t boob!) and outright horror (oh my god, this isn’t boob!). Yet she let us attempt a second mouthful (this isn’t boob?) and a third and a fourth until we finished the small pot of mushed up vegetable we’d prepared.

She took to the new addition to her diet (she was still predominantly on milk at this point) pretty well, and since that point we gradually started introducing her to more and more tastes and textures. Up until about a year old she would still pull that initial face of disgust with the first mouthful of whatever we gave her even if she’d than happily settle in for a good chomp of mouthfuls two and beyond.

She’s happily eaten most of the different foodstuffs and flavours we’ve introduced her to. The things she has not been so keen on have generally also been things neither of us would eat. There was a lentil stew I added a strange tasting bouillon cube too that didn’t go down to well. She loves my very gingery and garlicy daal and is a big fan of the beard’s red curry. Although nothing tops a yoghurt or a freshly baked sugar free (although now she’s one we add a little honey) chocolate banana muffin with raspberry. In fairness those muffins are good, so when we back a batch we have to instantly put half in the freezer to prevent the beard and I from devouring our child’s snacks.

We are definitely going to be the kind of parents that spend a day helping their children search for the chocolate that we know we ate the night before.

We’ve been giving her certain things she can eat by herself: baby biscuits, homemade snacks, bits of toast, etc., but everything else we were spoon-feeding her.

Just to note here that the term ‘spoon-feeding’ when used in a derogatory sense to imply that someone is passively eating up the information they are given without any effort, is clearly used negatively by people that have never actually tried to spoon-feed anyone. All those adorable pictures of babies covered in different kinds of edible gloop are not so numerous because they are all cleverly staged click-bait (although I don’t doubt that some of them are, but that’s for another post), it’s because the allegedly simple process of transferring food from a container to a baby via a spoon is nowhere near as easy as ‘spoon-feeders’ may have us believe.

Recently, however, the little one has decided she’s got this and our help is no longer required. If she can navigate a banana with her sticky paws she can manage a simple bowl of porridge/scrambled eggs/risotto.

Ha!

I’m not renowned for my patience. I very decidedly did not want the wedding favourite ‘love is patient, love is kind…’ at our wedding because that did not resonate with me in any way, patience is not a virtue of mine. I was worried about this before having a baby, yet I was presently surprised when little Tinko was born at how patient I can be with her, even if that patience fails to extend to anyone else around me (sorry cats, beard, colleagues, traffic lights, the list goes on). I may have been lulled into a false sense of security as this new dining routine is really testing me.

Mealtimes used to take about 15 minutes, I’d feed her in the mornings or evenings (the beard took the lunch and snack shifts while I’m at work) and we’d have time for a play before I went off to work or she went down to bed.

Now, she wants to do it herself but is still learning how, as she finely tunes her developing motor skills, dinner time his tripled in! Additional time to be spent on more fun activities has been reduced significantly as the little one limps through her linguine. It can be really frustrating as you watch her for the umpteenth time fail to put the spoon far enough in the pot to pick up the grub or to get some small morsel of food on the utensil only for it all to drop off into her lap as she turns the item of cutlery round to get a better grip, having no concept of how gravity works against her in such circumstances.

It is really hard to resist the urge to wrestle the eating implement out of her grasp and just do it for her. But if you try she’ll just scream at you until you give it back, or will try to eat the food with her fingers (pasta with your fingers is one thing, soup is another).

So far I’m doing pretty well at keeping my cool, even if on a couple of occasions I’ve had to ask the bearded one to step in as I struggle to stay in neutral as the babe is crying because she can’t get the food to stay on the spoon but won’t let you help.

Now she’s really getting the hang of it and I’m very proud of her but I realise that with every new skill she learns she also needs us that little bit less and that also makes me a bit sad.

I think this is one of the biggest challenges at the heart of parenting. As a parent you love your child so much, you want to do everything for them, to protect them from any harm, but your objective is to raise an independent person who is capable of navigating the challenges, hurts and also triumphs that lie in store for them by themselves. As they get older they will need you less and less and move further away from you as they and the relationship you have with them evolves. This is absolutely the name of the game but it’s also kind of tough.

Parents will tell you they love their children selflessly and I do not doubt the strength of that desire to put your child’s needs above your own will override everything else, but there is also that selfish part of you that loves being quite so loved. We all want to feel like we have an essential role to play, whether as parents, friends, in our careers or other areas that are important to us. Whilst we may be irreplaceable in some of these aspects in others, if we are doing them right, then we are creating the structures and support that enables our children, friends, colleagues and others to keep on trucking whether we are there or not.

For now I’m trying to fete the mastery of my minion’s spoon control and focus on how awesome this is for her but also for us as it means we can eat together without the beard and I having to gobble up our grub in shifts as the other one assists little miss.

Catpain’s Log August 2017

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Catpain’s Log August 1

Ate a nice baby bird today, prepared severed remains for grown ones but I was shooed away with my offering so delivered it to kindly neighbour next door instead.

Grown female leaked outside of normal litter tray, clearly broken, grown male took her away and returned alone three good snoozes later. Grown male seemed emotional and electronic square bipped a lot throughout the evening.

Catpain’s Log August 2

Grown male left out limitless biscuits, must be going on holiday again so will have to share litter with incompetent incontinent sister. On the plus side I can eat body weight in biscuits.

Catpain’s Log August 3

Surprisingly grown male returned again last night but biscuit tower of infinity remained in place, must be mistake, will eat as much as possible before he realises error. Sister hissed at me when I tried to eat some even though there is clearly enough food to last nine lives. Voiced disapproval at 2am, grown male seemed to register complaint.

Still no sign of grown female, fear grown male may have eaten her, should have accepted offerings provided for useless non-hunters earlier in the year.

Catpain’s Log August 4

Was having a good day, much eating, long snoozing, pulled some of my sister’s hair out and creatively dispersed it around house in Feng Shui manner, energy was flowing well.

But then!!!! Hard to get words out!!!! Too angry to express myself properly.

Bah!

Grown male brought grown female back, so not eaten after all, or maybe just eaten part of her, seems less fat than before, but also brought back unwelcome micro being. This was not approved. This was not what I signed on for.

Bah! Will make lives hell for foreseeable future until problem is rectified and micro one returned to wherever it came from.

Catpain’s Log August 7

Severed a bird, spread body parts around the house, hope the grown ones step in them! Have indicated intense disapproval of new situation but monstrosity remains. Tried to punish grown ones with night time yowls and dispatching sister to play song of our people on wardrobe doors but to no avail! They are up every few hours poking micro one, forcing it to eat, seems much more capable of looking after micro one than selves, will be no more delivery of tasty animals for them, from now on they only get beaks and feet.

Catpain’s Log August 12

Micro one persists, waking me from frequent naps, so upset I only ate twice my normal amount of biscuits today. Thank heavens at least biscuit of dreams remains in place, still take it in turns with sister to yowl around 6am to demand grown ones decant some biscuits from tower into bowls immediately adjacent. Obviously we could just take themselves ourselves from the tower but that is besides the point.

Grown female clearly fed up so left Grown male and micro attention thief alone, returned five minutes sobbing and covered in blood. Grown ones are incapable, what were they thinking in trying to look after micro one?

Catpain’s Log August 14

Grown reinforcements have arrived, the more grown female and more grown male. I miaowed and presented my bumhole for inspection upon their arrival but they seemed to only be interested in macro-one – unbelievable!

Our grown ones seem to have gone to sleep whilst more grown ones attend to macro one, not surprised that thing has them up at all hours. Hopefully more grown ones will take it away when they leave

Catpain’s Log August 17

More grown female and more grown male left without taking small one with them. Other more grown ones arrived today, keeping claws crossed they’ll take the unformed one away.

Catpain’s Log August 18

Licked all the sauce off mine and my sister’s dinner, ignored rest, ate some more biscuits instead.

Wanted to ask friends for advice on how to survive tiny fledglings but remembered I am cat and have no friends.

Catpain’s Log August 21

Grown male relative female arrived. Showed her my bumhole. Again, astonishing lack of interest! Did at least take some phots as sister and I artfully posed on outdoor furniture.

Grown male relative female spent much time with micro one, after recent visits refuse to get hopes up that this one will take it away. Not that I can blame grown male relative female, no-one in right mind would want to lumber themselves with tiny squawking device.

Catpain’s Log August 24

Artfully prepared dead bird for grown male’s yearly celebration, seemed uninterested. Grown female made cake and set it alight. Alas, micro one not sacrificed in flames.

Catpain’s Log August 26

Shredded last remains of sofa arm cover today, finally exposed foam lining, reconditioned, raw materials are so in right now.

Grown female sad at not being able to leave small one to return to land of origin for party of other grown ones where a grown female wears white and there is an excess of cake and paper covered nonsense. Perhaps will realise gravity of additional human presence and find way to undo error?

Catpain’s Log August 28

Grown ones haven’t returned or given away small mistake yet, losing hope and begin to fear micro one is now a permanent fixture. Can only hope its lifespan is as long as your average stupid sparrow in mating season.

Catpain’s Log August 31

Undeveloped one remains, learning to tolerate it.

It doesn’t move much but does continue to disturb important moments. Woke me up from three of my twelve naps! Took my revenge by ‘affectionately’ digging claws into grown female when she tried to sleep after feeding small one. Got sprayed in face with water pistol but worth it.

A Trio of Travellers

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At first, when I was pregnant, I thought that having a baby would mean an end to my wandering days, that I wouldn’t be able to book flights to a random destination just because they were cheap and have the kinds of mini adventures I’d enjoyed previously.

Like many expecting parents we planned a baby-moon or two to make the most of our carefree coupledom before the baby ball and chain would tether us to the ground.

At some point a friend who’d already had a baby and was much more enlightened than us pointed out that actually travelling with a child was possible, not even that difficult, you just had to factor in a couple of extra details  in your planning, don’t book a room on the fifth floor of a hotel without a lift.

Being a migrant, with all our family and many of our friends based in a different country, a degree of travel has, at any rate, been essential to introduced loved ones to our loveliest one. Flying from Geneva to the UK is also not the most arduous of journeys (unlike some of our baby parents friends who’ve travelled to Canada and Australia to introduce their newborns to family).

Our munchkin was due at the start of August and we had been invited to a wedding in the UK at the start of October, we didn’t know if the babe would arrive according to schedule and weren’t sure how long it’d take to process her application, but we hoped we’d be able to sort her a passport in time and optimistically booked flights on basis that it was better to book early and not pay crazy extortionate last minute prices but potentially risk not being able to go. I think we booked flights around July and it was during the booking process that we first spelled out her name, I found the whole thing too strange so made Tom type in the characters that enabled easyjet became the first to see our baby’s name in print.

As it turned out, the little turnip arrived a few days early, the passport was processed by the end of August (sadly not quite in time to make it for another dear friend’s wedding) and we had plenty of time to prepare ourselves for our first family flight to the UK.

A neighbour recommend the use of Muellin oil to help prevent popping ears and I’d already read that breastfeeding on the plane or giving the baby a dummy or something else to suck on was supposed to help.

As it was our first UK trip and I was on maternity leave we planned to stay in the UK for a little over a week to take in as many friends and family as possible, outside of those chums we’d see at the wedding. So as it was a prolonged stay and babies necessitate so much stuff we packed a suitcase in addition to the cabin bags, baby bag and pram with removable car seat.

Navigating the airport via luggage drop-off, security and passport control was manageable if a bit of an exercise in juggling as we traversed through the terminal shifting bags and baby and accoutrements between us.

The flight itself was not terrible and aside from a bit of crying on departure the teeny one was fine, snoozing through most of the flight.

Our biggest mistake was in not realising that although you drop your buggy off at the plane you don’t get it back until you get to baggage reclaim and as the first airport we flew to was Gatwick this meant a 10/15 minute walk having to carry baby bag, two cabin bags and a bag of duty free in addition to the baby. So the Beard lugged the luggage and I managed the mini one and we vowed to pack the harness and to make the most of the pushchairs both sets of grandparents had picked up from charity shops, for future trips.

Since then we’ve travelled a lot, probably more than we did BC (Before Child) as within a year we’ve been back to the UK on six separate occasions as well as travelling to Sorrento and Split. I think our child has flown more in the first twelve months of her life than I did in the first twenty-one years of mine.

‘Tato-tots will not fondly recall the first time she flew on a plane, whereas I will always remember the first time I flew (with my parents to the Algarve when I was about 12), because by the time she’s old enough to form those kinds of lasting memories she’ll probably have already flown a distance equivalent to the circumference of the globe.

It is becoming more challenging flying with her as she has grown and become more alert and interested in what’s going on around her. We can no longer expect to have an easy flight with a child contentedly snoozing in our laps and the Beard and I have to mentally brace ourselves for what is starting to become a fairly exhausting mission (considering no flight so far has been more than 90 minutes), trying to keep a lively little one entertained in confined spaces as we move from one line to another to coop ourselves up in set seats and then repeat the line shuffling before strapping her into a car seat and making the journey back to whichever grandparents’ house is base of operations for the visit.

I am pleased that we did manage a couple of actual holidays this year too, with a break in Sorrento with just the three of us in the Spring and a trip to Split with friends at the start of the Summer. I think next year we’ll need to be a little more strategic to maximise the use of my leave, navigate the Beard’s study requirements, manage the friends and family visits and still get some actual recharge-your-battery type holidays in the mix too, all whilst the teeny one becomes less teeny and more of a terror as mobility increases and willingness to sit still decreases.

Still, I can confidently say, travelling with a baby is definitely a possibility it just requires a little more preparation to make sure the route taken and final destination are as baby-friendly as possible. I imagine travelling with a toddler will also be an option but will come with its own set of challenges that we’ll need to figure out.

Ten things I’ve learnt from my daughter

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1. Be present.

It’s really boring watching someone play on a smart phone when you want to engage with them. I was trying to be careful not to use my phone around her too much. At meal times phones are banned for everyone but it’s too easy to pick it up for a quick check of messages, flick through twitter, instragram updates etc. and I’ve got increasingly worse at this recently. Or I did until I was sat next to my daughter in her playpen she reached up and grabbed my phone and then spent 20 minutes playing with it. I tried to engage her in activities we could both do but it was too late she was lost to the machine. Well played, baby, well played.

2. Ability to adjust to new sleep patterns

Lack of sleep was one of the things I feared before my daughter was born. I focused on this because there were other things I feared that I couldn’t possibly know how they would work out, I did, however, already know that I can be a bit of a grouch when I’m tired. It’s certainly not been a piece of cake adapting and I do have a new found love of caffeine, but it’s also not been so terrible. Now we are at a point when the little one (mostly) sleeps through the night and I’m grateful for that, all the more so when the blooming cats don’t decide I should wake up at 5am and feed them!

I’m starting to miss those before child (BC) lie-ins less and less, I quite like being up and about, having already done a trip to the park or market or whatever, and ready for lunch before I’d even have gotten up in my child-free days.

3. Enjoy the gifts you are given

Mostly playing with my daughter is an exercise in she wants everything at once, so if I pick up a toy she wants it, if I pick up another one she wants that too until before I know it she is resembling Smaug sitting a top a hoard of treasure that no-one else can touch. Recently though there has become an element of shared interaction in her play, so it may be that I will shake the egg shaker, she will take it to shake and then will give it back to me.

With food we are fortunate that so far our baby is a pretty enthusiastic eater, she happily and readily eats most stuff we give her. In the last few weeks she has decided that it is quite entertaining to occasionally try to feed us and it is genuinely delightful to eat half-chewed up apricot because my daughter wants to share it with me even if she sometimes changes her mind and then tries to pluck said apricot from my mouth.

4. You can always be wiped down and change later

The only way to eat watermelon is to squish it in your hands, let the juice run down your elbows and mush it into your face, you can always be wiped down and, if needs be, changed later. Sometimes life just needs to be grabbed in both hands with big squidgy fistfuls and crammed in to maximize enjoyment. Sure you might get a bit messy along the way but don’t let a bit of potential stickiness put you off from really just giving into the good stuff from time-to-time.

5. Take time to stop and stare

Seeing my child stare in wonder at the everyday things I used to take for granted has caused me to take time to stop and stare too.

Wriggling your fingers is fascinating. How do they work? What makes them do that? How is it I think to move them and they move?

Recently I was showing the teeny one rain during a storm, telling her how it comes down from the sky and why it is important to make the plants grow. We were in the dry from our covered balcony area and I stretched out my hand to try and catch a rain drop, then my little girl unfurled her hand and as she felt a drop of water looked at me in surprise. There is a lot to be amazed at in the every day and her wonderment is contagious.

6. Holidays can be a time to relax

BC I saw holidays as an opportunity to cram in as much stuff as humanly possible to make the most of visiting a place I assumed I’d never return to because when there is so much world to see why waste time returning to places you’ve been before? When I got preggers we did a couple of trips when I had to start to slow down because rushing about just wasn’t possible. We’ve travelled quite a lot with the little one and, although a lot of that entails somewhat manic dashes around the UK trying to absorb as much time with friends and family as possible, we have also managed a couple of actual holidays too.

My approach to these has changed racially, now I think that managing to do a couple of things that I couldn’t do at home and spending the rest of time relaxing in nice surroundings is pretty great. A gently foray here and there is more than enough and returning to places in the future doesn’t seem like such a terrible idea. Consequently holidays are now much more relaxing and rejuvenating.

7. Sources of amusement are all around

Mummy jumping is entertaining. Daddy moving you in and out of view of your reflection in the mirror is worth a throaty chuckle. Cats standing up to take treats are hilarious. Life doesn’t need to be taken seriously all the time and there’s a lot to laugh about.

8. Communication is more than words

I sat eating some toast and the little one came up to me at the edge of her playpen, pointed at my toast and then at her mouth. No need for words there, the message was pretty clear. I didn’t share with her my toast but did give her some watermelon so we could snack together.

There are so many ways to communicate without language but not being able to rely on words really brings this home. Most importantly I can communicate that I love my girl without her needing a grasp of words to understand this.

9. If at first you don’t succeed…

My daughter’s patience and willingness to try to learn and master new things like trying to form words, eat without help and stand up and walk is really inspiring. Even though she gets tongue tied, covered in gloop and falls down over and over again, and sometimes there may be a bopped head and tears involved, she doesn’t allow her failures to put her off. Her patience and willingness to keep practicing is really inspiring so I’m trying not to use my frustrations with language to prevent my from practicing and improving my French, if she can do it so can I.

10. My capacity to love is limitless

For a long time before my daughter arrived, long before she was even a remote possibility, I had worried I may be too selfish to be a mother, to really be able to put someone else’s needs before my own on a constant and consistent basis. I’m not a selfish monster, I’m quite capable of putting others first from time to time but the idea of putting my needs as secondary to someone else’s on a systematic basis just sounded implausible. Sure I could quite happily sit several hours longer than planned to if my cat sat on my lap and didn’t want to be moved, but I could also shoot that same cat in the face with a water pistol when they decide to bang on my wardrobe doors for the umpteenth time in the early hours of the morning.

When my child was born those fears disappeared and I learnt that love doesn’t come in limited quantities that you have to balance against competing needs and priorities. I can still love myself, my husband, cats, friends and family and love my baby without any of those losing out in the equation. And my capacity to love grows every days as I love my child more and more deeply the more time I spend with her and better I get to know her.

 

 

 

Love is a rich tapestry

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For my daughter who turns one today. For my husband who has been the most excellent of father’s for a whole year. And for myself, past, present and future, who continues to evolve and whose life is infinitely better because of you:

Love is a rich tapestry

Flesh of my flesh,
I nourished you at my breast
And watched you grow.
I thought I would be your guide,
But confess I was surprised,
At how much I still needed to know.

I watch you learn,
But learn from you in my turn.
To take simple delight in the purity,
Of everyday marvellous things,
Like the technical mastery of fingers,
And of what it is to just be.

To amuse you I jump,
You clap your hands as again I leap up,
And I feel the wonder actively,
That, as you laugh in delight,
And I jump up to take flight,
I’m free, for a few moments, of even gravity.

Fruit of my loin,
You have filled my life with joy.
I’ve taken pleasure in being your nurse,
But this world I brought you into
Belongs not to me but to you.
You are master of this new universe.

Miracle in the making,
This world is your’s for the taking.
People ask what hopes I have for you?
But that answer is not mine to give.
Your life is your’s alone to live,
To others be kind, to yourself be true.

You are like me but uniquely other,
And I cannot wait to discover
Your likes, dislikes, dreams and ambitions.
These things that give your personality shape,
That will help you choose your own way,
To find your future of your own volition.

Blood of my blood,
Go forth with my love
And with this understanding:
Whatever it is that makes you happy,
Whoever you decide you want to be,
I will always be your champion.

Love is a rich tapestry
That exceeds biology, history and geography.
It is the greatest gift I can bestow.
Let it support you when days seem tough,
Let it revive you when you’ve had enough.
You will have it with you where you go.