Happy First Birthday

YOU are one, Little Mister. Happy birthday. It is the last day of the year, and we have blown out a single candle and sung to you. Happy birthday. It’s been the best year of our lives.

One year ago, on your very first day in this world, we held you fearfully. You were so small and precious and fragile. Still heavily drugged, I felt nothing less than awe that you were ours. You were so perfect, how would we be good enough for you? After a week, we came home. I was terrified. I didn’t know what to do. I cried. What if I got it wrong?

But since then, you have made each day brighter. You have helped me along the way, guiding me in what to do. You have made us laugh all the time. You have amazed us with how much you have grown each day, how much you have changed and how much you have learnt.

Slowly you became more aware of the world around you. You started to know us and we started to know you. Sometimes now I think I know your every sound, your every movement, and your every expression – but then you come up with a new one.

From little squeaks, you are trying to talk. Bird, car, bath, book, ball, Dad and Mama when you are tired – these are your words. Today, you stood on your own for a few seconds for your Dada. I missed it.

You can clap now, with both hands meeting in the middle. You think it’s great, and it is. You know your nose, and mine. You point to tell me things, and you love touching pointing fingers ET-style.

We celebrated at the zoo today, playing in the playground, telling the giraffes you were one, and laughing at the baby monkeys. You made the sun shine. We came home and blew out the candle on the last piece of our wedding cake I’d finally remembered to defrost. You tasted some. You cried when I took it away.

You have made us both better people. You have opened our eyes to the world again, and made us appreciate what we have. You have made us strive to be better, to make things better for you. But you have also taught us real fear. Fear that we will not be good enough, fear that you will know pain, fear that you will one day feel anguish. Perhaps it is this fear that drives us to make everything as good as we can for you.

You have taught me about love, about joy, about learning, about wonder, about seeing everything for the first time. You have made me less selfish and made me want the world for you.

Little Mister, you are one. You have made the days and hours fly, but you have taught me to savour them as they pass. I am so looking forward to another year. I know that again, each day, you will amaze me. Happy birthday my love. X

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Our First Christmas

CHRISTMAS was wonderful. The Little Mister loved every second, and he was as excited and happy as I hoped he would be. I had promised not to go overboard on presents, but he still thought opening them was just as much fun as playing with them. He particularly liked the tags, but was kind enough to me to figure out that the main event was the shiny, music-making plastic stuff inside.

Our little family went to the park, had a delicious barbecue in the garden, laughed, played, and spent a day very, very happy. It all happened under a boiling 29 degree heat that next year, in England, we will look back on while we shiver. The Little Mister spent most of it playing in his bath under the shade of our trees. Happy first Christmas Little Mister. I didn’t make your stocking, you weren’t surrounded by cousins and grandparents, and we didn’t have a tree, but it was wonderful.

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‘Twas the night before Christmas

and we waited for Santa. With stockings hanging above the fireplace, a bedtime story about reindeer, and kisses filled with wishes of sweet dreams, we waited for the Little Mister’s first Christmas.

I wasn’t meant to buy many presents, because they’ll just have to go into boxes for shipping across the world anyway. But the Little Mister has been so very good this year, that I reckon he deserves some fun and games with wrapping paper tomorrow. I bet it will taste good. He tried to get into some of the wrapped up parcels tonight. But he gave up when he couldn’t figure out how to open them. Toys already out of boxes and on the shelf won. He didn’t seem that excited. Yet. After all, it’s only the night before Christmas, and he is only nearly one.

Happy first Christmas Little Mister.

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Filling the world with love

There has been too much sadness in the world this past week.

My heavy heart is aching for the beloved children left behind. For those that had a parent taken when it wasn’t their time. For those that ran into their mothers’ arms, safe, but having come face to face with evil while much too young.

My heart cannot bear the weight of imagining the thoughts of those parents who have had their lives destroyed. To have a child taken so senselessly. My mind cannot understand the grief, or comprehend the hell that will be life now.

What world is this? Were we right to have a child, when this is the earth he shall live on?

How will I keep him safe? How will I bear that he will know sadness and evil? How will I stop myself from sheltering him from wrong, because surely he must one day learn that this world is more than all that is good.

This is the world he will grow in. With its death, grief, pain and anger, this is the world he will come to know. Yet he will also come to know its love, its joy, its sunshine and its goodness. For this is the side of the world I must strive each day to show him.

What can I do for him, my precious innocent boy? I can love him completely, with love that he will know and feel forever. I can show him the best of this world, so he can live his life to the fullest. I can teach him about all that is good, so he can carry goodness in his heart wherever he goes. I can share with him happiness, so his life is joyful and he wishes the same for others.

But one day too, I can be honest. When he asks about the world’s pain, its lies and its senseless evils, I can answer his questions. I probably still won’t know the answers, but I’ll answer as truthfully and as completely as I can. I won’t ever be able to tell him why. But I will still be doing everything I can to fill his world with love.

Cars, dirt, and gender stereotypes

IT DOESN”T matter what I give the Little Mister to play with. He’ll find the cars, the toys with wheels, the things that spin, and the muckiest adventures will be all his. His little girlfriends, meanwhile, will sit on their mothers’ laps content to look cute and watch the action. They might put some stuff in their mouths, but generally they’ll be pretty still.

When did it happen? My Little Mister decided, all by himself, to conform almost perfectly, to the stereotype of little boy. It’s not because I dressed him in blue. It’s not because of the games I play with him (muck isn’t my style), and it’s not because of the toys we’ve bought (he has plenty of stuffed toys, including a bear who wears a dress). Yet he has sought out the trucks so he can race them round the floor making brrrrm brrrm noises. He loves bikes, cars, trains, anything that goes. He wants to be outside ALL THE TIME. How dare I bring him in when there is so much mucky dirt to eat, smear all over his face, and get beneath his fingernails.

And he is so busy exploring. Set this Little Mister on the grass and he is off. He doesn’t look back to check that I’m watching. I am. I watch as he chases birds. I watch as he finds life’s debris on the ground and inspects it. I watch as he puts soil to his mouth. I watch as he races towards the steps, or the rusting nail, or the unstable toy. Life is one big adventure for him, but sometimes, I’m right behind him ready to ruin his fun.

Maybe I’m being crass, but I do believe that looking around his playmates, all nearly a year old, the boys and girls are different. The girls sit still far more often. They aren’t wriggling to be set free as soon as they are picked up. They too like bouncy balls, but wheels they give or take. Their actions are more deliberate, their movements more agile. Am I pigeon-holing by seeing them all this way? The Little Mister does love his books and being read to is one of his favourite things. But it is also one of the few times he will sit still.

Perhaps the Little Mister is just a free-spirited, independent adventurer. I hope so.

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The Kiwi grinch that stole Christmas

The excitement, the anticipation, the festivities and feasting – I’ve always loved Christmas. The Little Mister is going to love it too, because we will make a fuss, and I won’t be able to stop myself. But that might be in the years to come, years, that is, in the Northern hemisphere.

Because this year, on baby’s first Christmas, I’m struggling and I’m going to have to keep my excitement in check. Christmas will consist of just our little family being together on the day. The Little Mister, his mama, and his dada. For me, Christmas at home was always a big family get together, so it’s hard to think that this little boy won’t have that. But then, to make the blow easier, it’s also true that he won’t remember a second of it anyway.

And do we spoil him? Well of course I will. But, with a removal company coming two weeks later to ship our boxes to London – do we really need to buy more toys just to send them half way across the world? (Where he will of course be ridiculously spoilt on arrival.) The Little Mister’s favourite toys right now are cardboard boxes. Is it mean to wrap a couple up for him? I know he won’t remember, but there will be photos. Fast forward ten years time to Milin looking at photos of his first Christmas. He’s alone with his parents, there’s no tree, but he’s opening big presents, beautifully wrapped, and perfectly box-shaped. “Mama,” he will say, “what was in those presents you gave me for my first Christmas?” What will I do? Lie? Or tell the truth – “We didn’t get you presents darling because we were leaving town soon, so those were just empty boxes. But you really did have fun with them, promise.”

The not-getting-a-tree-thing is something I’m still undecided about. Part of it is because my Little Mister is so adventurous these days that it would need to be somewhere up high and well out of reach. The lights would NEVER be on while he was awake, courtesy of these southern hemisphere long daylight hours at this time of year, and there might not be many presents under it. So do we get one? Just for the three of us?

I have brief pangs of worry that Godzone has turned me into a Christmas grinch, with its lack of all things festive. There are no roasting chestnuts, few lights, fewer window displays, and no Christmas markets. Instead, there are barbecues, camping trips (not for us), and a distinct lack of Christmas-themed festivities.

My reasons for loving Christmas are of course not religious, but they have a lot to do with history. As a little person, it was always a time when the whole family got together. Everyone was on holiday. It was an excuse to spoil each other, to be extra good to each other, a time to be grateful for each other and forget about our worries. So what if I’ve bought into the commercialism of it? I have no apologies for using a few public holidays each year to be happy and try and make others feel the same.

But this first Christmas for Milin will be different. It will be a little quieter, a little less extravagant, and perhaps a little less festive. We will still sing to him, spoil him, make sure no work is done, laugh with him all day, and of course dress him up in his Christmas best. But it will be a very southern hemisphere Christmas.

(I got my first chance to dress him up yesterday, by the way. He missed the Santa parade as it unhelpfully clashed with nap time, but we made it, briefly, to the Christmas party at Waitangi Park. The music was a bit too loud for him, and the tree wasn’t lit up, but he liked crawling on the grass.)

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Getting ready for the Christmas party with Aunty Julia

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Christmas parties in the sunshine, not particularly Christmassy.

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Our first family Christmas is a-coming