I’ll be seeing you

One year ago, I was worried I would forget so much about the Little Mister as he changed. I wanted to keep the moment he rolled over, the day he started walking and the first words he started using, etched in my memory forever. So I started this blog, in order to help me remember.

Reading back over the year’s posts, I feel like I have kept a record of all I wanted to jot down in order to not forget. It’s been lovely reading back over how my world changed. And it’s been lovely remembering how the Little Mister was at five months, and how in one short year he has changed so much.

Today, this little light of my life is a bundle of energy. He runs everywhere, fast and happily and excitedly. He loves to play toys. He loves being outside. He loves dogs so much I wonder he has room in his heart for much else. He loves his family. He calls out to me, ‘mummy, mummy, mummy’, in his baby voice that makes my heart melt. He’s still not bothered really about food, unless you offer him his favourite Indian sweet, which he can ask for most articulately, ‘tiki’, he pleads at least a few times a day.

In two months when our lives change, I trust he will adjust to life as a big brother without too much drama. He is ready, I think, to be a little bit bigger, a little bit more grown up, and a little bit more independent. He is my little boy, but he is also his own little person too.

Just like the Little Mister has grown up, so has this blog. Which is why I’m taking a little time away from it. I’ll keep blogging, in the usual places, and at a new personal blog, where life won’t just be about the Little Mister. It’ll still be about children, parenthood, mummydom, life as I know it – but there will also be a little bit more about the world around me too. Please take a look, follow me and keep reading – you’ll find me here, at Mummy Says…

I’ll still come back and see Hello Little Mister – just maybe a little less regularly. Thanks for reading :)

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When nothing matters more than being here

The story behind today’s terror attack is still being written. The news is still being made. We don’t know everything yet, but on a street in London, a man lies dead.

He is a son, he was a once a child, he would have brought love and laughter and brightness into the world.

This news as it becomes known is hurting those who hear it. It knocks the breath from me. Is it because I am now a parent? I moved back to this city for my child. Partly for a better life.

What we don’t know tonight, as we go to sleep in our quiet and leafy London suburb, is why. We don’t know the extent of it or what it may be. We are calling it a terror attack.

In September 2001, when this city was sent home from work after the towers across the ocean fell, I rushed home to my parents. In July 2005, living in Taiwan, I called them in a broken voice from a public phone box while London panicked and people died on its streets.

Tonight, I lay my child gently in his cot after holding him tighter and holding on to him for longer than I had last night. I had just heard the words: terror attack.

I had pressed his body to mine and let him rest his head on my shoulder. I stroked his hair and felt his breathing slow. When he slept, I stood for a while and watched. There was nothing to rush away for. My sixteen-month-old boy – this is your world.

I have been reminded tonight of what is important. There is nothing more important than truly being present in the life of my child. I do not mean being here in body to put him to bed each night. I mean being here completely, to listen, to watch, to care, and to love. I mean him knowing that I am here, always. There is nothing more important than seeing him happy. There is nothing more important than showing him the best of this world.

He will learn of the grief and despair. He will come to know the anger and hurt and heartache. He will discover the unjustness and the ugliness. But while he is too young to know that evil exists, there is nothing more important than me being here.

Household favourites

A dustpan and brush, a plastic golf club and a ball. These are the objects that could keep the Little Mister happy for an entire day. Life is good being him. It’s full of his favourite things. This is them:

1. A toy dustpan and brush set with a miniature broom. We bought this little set when we realised how much Milin loved watching the big people around the house sweep the floor. The broom is undoubtedly his favourite toy, or household object. He spends much of the day sweeping, and it is the first thing he looks for after getting out of his high chair after a meal. Let’s hope this behaviour continues.

2. The golf set. Again, this was bought by the Little Mister’s grandma when it became apparent that his favourite bit of sporting equipment was his grandfather’s golf clubs. The much lighter toy versions keep him occupied for hours. He is happy using a tennis ball, toy golf ball, lightweight plastic ball, leather football or foam ball with the clubs. It doesn’t matter – any ball will do. A close second favourite bit of sporting kit is a pair of mini tennis rackets he has just been given. I have a feeling he is going to like sport.

3. Pots, pans, wooden spoons and plastic containers. The Little Mister has one cupboard, the plastics cupboard, and he can open it up and sit in front of it for ages. His favourite object is usually a sieve. Wooden spoons come a close second. These implements are used for playing tennis and teething respectively. The cupboard’s contents are also useful for ‘cooking’ and ‘drumming’.

4. Books. There’s a few favourites, and some fall in and out of favour. But a book about animals, The Noisy Book, a book about a London Bus, and a couple of musical books which tinkle the tunes to ‘head, shoulders, knees and toes’ and ‘the wheels on the bus’ are long-term favourites. Thanks to the latter, he is also now able to point out his head, knees, toes, eyes, ears, mouth and nose. Shoulders are a bit trick, but at the end of the day, the Little Mister loves reading.

5. The box in the corner. It’s not on all the time, but CBeebies is my mealtime saviour. Postman Pat, Mike the Knight, and Wooly and Tig are the best at getting Milin to eat. At all other times of day he wants to watch tennis. He’s going to love Wimbledon.

The Little Mister loves some other stuff too. He loves putting his shoes on because it means it is time to go outside. He loves singing and dancing – which consists of bending his knees, bopping, and swaying. He loves saying his favourite word ‘bubble’, he loves it when his daddy comes home. He loves his daddy’s bike. He loves ants (which he calls ‘na’) and he loves bath time – but he hates having his hair washed.

Life, for the Little Mister, is about all of these things. In the corner of the kitchen, meanwhile, are boxes of all-singing, all-dancing fancy plastic toys. They stay in their boxes most days.

Playing golf

Playing golf

Sharing toys and being sixteen (months)

SIxteen months, from where I watch on, looks like a busy, exciting, but also difficult time in a toddler’s life. For the Little Mister, it’s mostly about fun, of course. But there’s tough times too.

It’s flown by, of course. It’s been the fastest and best sixteen months of my life. And now, here he is, this little boy with his own mind who isn’t afraid to tell me what he thinks. It’s just that I often don’t understand him and can’t decipher his language. It’s driving him crazy.

Most of the time, the Little Mister is a happy-go-lucky, calm and placid bundle of joy. Life is about playing with his favourite toys – which are a broom, a football, a tupperware and a wooden spoon. It’s also largely about trying to get outside at all times. The garden will do nicely. But trips to the park, walks along the street and outings in the buggy or car are also greatly appreciated.

There’s some challenges thrown into life though too. Having his hair washed is torture. Not being allowed in the garden because it’s too late/too cold/too early/ too rainy is also mean-spirited of the grown-ups. Eating anything other than biscuits or completely plain freshly boiled pasta is also a fate worse than early bed-time.

But what really gets the Little Mister is that us adults still don’t understand him. Most of the time, he is telling me he wants to go outside now. And he wants a biscuit. And he wants to watch tennis if he can’t go outside. I just never seem to get it.

What I do get, though, is how much this little boy has grown. I’ve noted recently that he suddenly seems to understand everything. Today, he proved me right to such an extent that I couldn’t stop raving about his behaviour all afternoon – and so I will continue here.

At a cafe, he picked up a car belonging to a little boy a few months younger than him. “It’s not your car, Milin, it’s that little boy’s car. Please go and give it back to the little boy,” I said – or something like it. And he did. He walked over to said little boy with said car, and held it out to him. The little boy ignored the Little Mister, so he followed him round for a bit, trying to give him the car. When he got bored of being ignored, he left it by the little boy’s feet and went off to play on the mats.

And there you have it. The Little Mister gets mad with me because I don’t let him in the garden when it’s getting dark. And he gets mad with me because I feed him porridge instead of biscuits. But, today, he did what I asked him. He understood every word I said. He was polite, and kind, and gentle, and didn’t think to complain. He went to give a car with super cool spinning wheels to another little boy. Pretty amazing.

Of course, not all play times go so smoothly. For the Little Mister, playtime with other little people can be terrifying, particularly if they get too close or (how could they?) try and show him affection. His reacts slowly, retreating into himself, then letting big crocodile tears roll down his cheeks while he hangs his head. Luckily, the tears can usually be wiped away with the aid of a hug and the distraction of some carefully chosen toys. And that’s life for a sixteen-month-old. You’re growing up Little Mister, you’re growing up.

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It’s time to talk

No longer content with just walking, the Little Mister has taken to running. He runs through the house to get to the next toy he has decided to play with and he hurtles towards me for cuddles. His bare feet thud purposefully along the wooden floor, and often his arms are outstretched in the direction of his next target. Outside, he wears his first shoes. They are brown leather with two velcro straps across the top. I know we will keep them forever.

Now that walking is well and truly mastered – it’s already been about six weeks since he stopped crawling – talking seems to be his next goal. His first word, ‘bird’, is still a favourite, and so is the indiscriminately used ‘daddy’, but other new sounds are also entering his vocabulary. The Little Mister can say “bubble” if you ask him to repeat it. His daddy taught him it, and given that his daddy often uses the word as a nickname for his little Charlie, it could get quite confusing.

He tries to copy the words we use, although he has varying degrees of success with this feat. He can say duck, which I of course think is adorable. And from time to time there are other words too. Thank you is ‘ta’, and he says it freely and often when handed food or toys. This we will encourage, and it is refreshing to see at least one of my attempts at good parenting has made an impact.

Most of what the Little Mister says, however, is completely unintelligible to me. He has learnt many new phonics, and he repeats them constantly. He walks, or runs, around the house saying “doe doe doe doe doe”, using intonation to suggest he is forming complete sentences. He gets animated when he is trying to make us understand what he is saying, raising his voice and uttering the sounds faster and faster.

Sometimes, he is frustrated. He knows what he is saying, and he knows what we are saying, but he also knows we don’t understand him. He usually ends up making his wants known by pointing at something and shouting to us, “eh, eh, eh, eh, eh”.

I feel like the talking is going to click into place suddenly, and the Little Mister is going to love his new found skill. I’m preparing myself for the barrage of questions, the constant running commentary, and the enlightening conversations I will have with my one-year-old.

In the meantime, he continues to make his animal noises to impress me. He tells me that a monkey goes “ooh ooh ooh”, that a cow goes moo, a lion goes roar, and that a dog pants as if out of breath. With other babies, he talks incessantly once he has got over his initial shyness, and is seemingly convinced that they understand him.  Maybe they do. He is more animated with them than with adults, perhaps because of an affinity they share, or perhaps because they’re all talking to each other in a language we don’t understand.

I’m excited, of course, that as the Little Mister learns to talk, he will be able to tell me how he feels and what he wants, and talk about his day or what he has seen. It’s a big milestone along this journey of growing up – I don’t imagine it is too far away.

When three becomes four

Later this year, the Little Mister’s world is going to change forever. He’s going to become a big brother, and our little family of three will become four.

He won’t be quite 19 months yet, but suddenly, he will have a littler person than him making a big impact on his life. He will have a little sister.

We are immeasurably delighted that our little family will grow, but also wondering how the Little Mister will fare when everything changes. He is placid, calm, friendly, desperate to please and amuse. He is, at the moment, our everything – and he has never known life to be any different.

I wonder how he will react when he sees me cuddling a little baby – who I don’t give back to another mummy. I wonder how he will feel when he sees me kissing her, feeding her, and spending many a night-time hour with her. I wonder how he will feel when he starts nursery, and sees this little baby girl staying at home with his mummy – the one who cuddles him whenever he asks, who comes in the night, and who makes everything better with a kiss.

I imagine him cuddling her, and stroking her gently as he does with his soft toys. I imagine him being generous with his time and attention, and helping his mummy look after this new addition to our family. Later, I imagine him checking up on his little sister when she starts school. I imagine him looking out for her in the playground, and helping her climb the slide at the park.

One day, I imagine him giving her advice and not hesitating to help her when she needs him. I imagine him being the calm, serious, gentle older brother in her life who is always there when she doesn’t know where to turn. I imagine him loving her unconditionally and forever. And I imagine her knowing she couldn’t have ever wished for more in a big brother.

But first, will there be jealousy, confusion and tears? Probably. Will there be fights and tantrums and an entire little family feeling like they have reached the end of the line, with no answers left and nothing to make it all better? I expect so. Yet it will be the next part of our journey. We three will become four. Life will change, and once again, we will learn so much from the as yet unknown.

Old toys for an older baby

Our old life turned up on our doorstep this week. It came in 17 boxes which were unloaded from a big truck and stacked on our living room floor by three men. The boxes looked pristine and hardly like they had come off a container ship from the other side of the world.

It has been three months since we left New Zealand and life has changed dramatically. London is still cold. Our daily battles centre around whether you will be warm enough if I take you, wrapped up so that you can hardly bend your knees and elbows, to the park. Most days our activities are indoors. You are walking, but you still drop to your knees when you become unstable on the ground outside, so a snow covered park is not the easiest place for you to get around.

You were delighted by the boxes. We found your toys quickly and put them in one big box for you. You spent the afternoon unpacking it. Did you remember them? The toolbox you got for your birthday and loved, the shape sorter, the alphabet caterpillar, the rubbish truck with the balls which spin around…. you loved them all over again and spent the evening rediscovering them. I think, perhaps, they were familiar, and that was partly why you were so happy to see them.

One box is already in our wardrobe, I know you wont play with its contents. You’ve long outgrown the baby rattles and toys and barely gave them a glance when you saw them again. Even the toys you are playing with will soon be tossed aside and ignored, I imagine. You are growing up and toys designed for small people are not as much fun as the day-to-day objects you find in kitchen cupboards. Three months ago, these toys that have come off the ship were your world. Today, you seem too grown up for them.

I rotate your existing toys already. You have so many it seems like you could never play with them all at once. So every few weeks I bring a different batch into the lounge, swapping them with the others. You still play with the cars, making their wheels spin and driving them along the floor. The teddies get cuddles when you are tired and anything that makes music sees you standing up and swaying from side to side and dancing. Often, you sing along.

But really, your favourite toys are the plastic attachments to mum’s juicer. You also love the rotating corner cupboard full of tupperware which can keep you amused for an entire afternoon. And then the ultimate is your dustpan and brush set we bought for you last week. All day, you walk around sweeping the floor. It’s adorable. Another recent hit is a box of crayons. You love drawing and it amazes me that you can hold a crayon and use it to make lines on a page. You love watching us draw, of course your father is better than me, and as his animals come to life in front of you you look on in awe and happiness.

While you play, you constantly amaze me with how much you have learnt from watching us. You use the jug from the juicer and pretend to pour liquid into the measuring cups that it comes with. I don’t even remember when you would have seen us do this. You stack the Tupperware containers, match the lids to the bowls, and stir vigorously to show me you are busy cooking.

It seems like you understand every word we say. If we ask if you want a bath in the evening, you walk to the stairs and wait for us to open the gate. If I ask if you are tired you lie down on the floor with a teddy. You are constantly finding bits of fluff or other debris on the floor and bringing it to me. When I ask you to put it in the bin, off you go and do exactly as you are told.

In the last month, your comprehension has amazed me. It seems like you have gone from understanding a few simple words, to understanding most of the things I say to you. You can’t answer back, but by your actions you want to show me you understand.

You are talking more too. You can tell me the noises a monkey and a lion make. You can’t woof very well, but you can pant like a dog because your father taught you how. Daddy is still your favourite word, but nanny is also used, and so is yumyum when you are eating. (Which is still a never-ending battle….) If you drop something or fall, you say “oh dear” with the loveliest inflection you must have heard from us.

You still love your books, my grown up baby. You are learning the actions to your heads, shoulders, knees and toes book; and you try to show us you know how to move your arms round too for the wheels on the bus. You will sit enthralled for ages in the lap of anyone who reads you a story, but you don’t just want board books with pictures. You want us to tell you about our novels. You want us to read you the newspaper and supplements which you find around the lounge.

You are nearly fifteen months, and it is this month more than any that I think you have suddenly grown up. Not only are you walking everywhere, or sometimes running to the next adventure, but you seem to understand your world these days. It’s a joy to watch you figuring it all out and playing your part in it, Little Mister, it really is.

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