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.

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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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.

playground Dirt Waterplay storytime

 

Parent-judging

WHAT gave me the right to judge the man in the park who stood around with his mates while his baby slept in the swing? Was it that his little one, younger than the Little Mister, was so slumped forwards that he looked extra forlorn? Or was it that the baby was so completely fast asleep, cap on a slant, that he looked extra pitiable? Or was it that the little guy looked so especially tiny while he was surrounded by the group of men gathered around the swings?

Parent-judging. It’s ugly. But I still do it. I detest being on the receiving end. But I still do it.

The Little Mister and I, after a pretty amazing morning walk around the zoo (where we crawled on the grass and hung out with a wallaby, a giraffe, a pelican and a duck), tried to go to the swings. It’s one of our go-to activities with the park just around the corner and a bit of fresh air is never a bad way to tire the little boy out.

As we got close, I decided we’d keep on walking and give the swings a miss. At 3.30 in the afternoon, a group of young men were gathered around the bench and swings, smoking, drinking, and looking generally harmless but not particularly inviting.

But as we walked past, I saw the baby. He was small. Smaller than Milin. The swing was completely still, because he was asleep in it. His arms were hanging over the top. His chin on his chest at an angle, his head was slumped forward. He was so little, and so asleep.

Around him, they smoked, drank, laughed. He slept. I judged.

What do I know? Perhaps those parents hadn’t had sleep in four days? Perhaps the swing was the only way they could get a break, and he could get some sleep. What do I know? Nothing about them. But my heart ached for that little boy, sleeping in that swing, while the grown up boys around him got on with their day in the sun.

Magic Hugs

CUDDLES are your new game, and I love them. From you, they are the best magic trick I have ever known. Magic, because they have an unparalleled power to fill me with joy and make me the happiest girl in the world. Magic, because they come from nowhere, suddenly and without warning. Magic, because they make this life infinitely better. Magic, because they are from you to me and all mine.

You part with them mostly when you wake up and when you are tired. There’s the kind where your arms get thrown around my neck – often after smiling or crying. And there’s the kind where you bury your head into me – often after crawling up to me to have a little rest.

I already know that one day, when you feel too big to cuddle mama so often, I will miss these hugs.

I will miss too, you falling asleep in my arms each night. I will miss watching your eyes get heavy and your arms fall limp as you turn down the energy which has seen you through the day. I will miss tucking you into your cot, and watching as you turn onto your side and pull your comforter towards your face. I will miss you calling out in the night, and then staying with you until you stop crying. While all the world sleeps and it is night, I will miss holding you quietly to me. I will miss picking you up when you wake up, and trying to contain you as your excitement at being awake sees you desperate to get down and play.

Already, at nine months, I miss the things you have grown out of. I miss feeding you. I barely remember how light you were, or how we held you so you wouldn’t break. I’m not sure if I remember your squeak, that little sound you made instead of crying, and which led to your nickname. I miss how you only took up half of your bassinet, which I would wheel into the lounge so you could sleep while I did the hoovering. I miss how you calmed down when Tony danced with you around the lounge during those crying evenings. I miss how you fitted just in the crook of his arm.

All these things, they pass too quick. So while you, my Little Mister, are in such a rush to play with the next toy and crawl to the next adventure, I will try to keep you in my arms a few seconds more. And later, when you wake, while all the world sleeps and it is night, I will hold you quietly to me a little longer.

Excuse me while the anger subsides

HE JUST wasn’t ready. At five months, six months, or even seven months. But now he is eight months, the time has come for the Little Mister to eat. At last. Our progress over the last week and a half has been spectacular. I am almost at the point of boasting that he is eating three meals a day. Almost. And they are small ones.

I’m not going to complain about the fact that he only seems to want to eat very sweet and well-pureed fruit. I’m not going to complain about the fact that he will only be fed from a metal teaspoon, at the same time as holding another metal teaspoon himself. He’s gone from not eating any solids at all, to eating about a quarter of a cup three times a day. Success.

For months now my attitude has been that when the Little Mister is ready, he will eat. I’ve been confident that he has been putting on weight and drinking plenty of milk, so I’ve not been worried. But a conversation I had with a nurse about Milin’s eating habits last week did make me really angry.

We were at the doctor’s just over a week ago, when the doctor we don’t usually see suggested I speak to the health nurse while I was there – she was kind of the equivalent of a Plunket nurse. She weighed the Little Mister straight off and I rejoiced. She didn’t. I had an inkling he was packing on the pounds with formula and the scales showed I was right. At 7.1kg the Little Mister is no longer in the 0.4th percentile. He’s made it up to the second.

But of course, a lengthy discussion about solids ensued. How much does he eat, she asked? About two teaspoons of solids a day if I’m lucky, and up to eight bottles, I answered. I was actually quite pleased that he was eating that much – it was far more than he had been taking previously.

“He should have no more than five bottles a day and he’s not eating solids because he’s full. You must stop feeding him at night so he eats more solids in the day.” She said, or something to that effect anyway. It was a lecture.

I know one size doesn’t fit all, and I’ve stopped caring about all the advice that gets thrown at first-time mums, but this woman made me angry. It took a few days before I could again believe that I was doing the right thing with the Little Mister and following my instinct by letting him guide our pace.

As for giving up night feeds, I don’t mind getting up. He’s a little baby, and I think he’s young enough that if he wants his mum at night and the comfort of a feed, I’m going to give it to him. If I’m tired the next day, it’s not as if I can’t take a nap when he does.

Yes he drinks a lot of bottles instead of eating the prescribed amount of solids, but he is thriving. Plus, after the dramas we had trying to get him to take formula, I don’t mind if he doesn’t give it up in a rush.

I left with another copy of a colourful poster showing what foods to introduce at what age. The colours correspond to the colour of the jars at the supermarket. I also left with a leaflet questioning whether my baby was getting enough iron. It contained a whole load of recipes for beef and lamb dishes for babies – most of which took two hours to cook. Because yes, that’s what I feel like doing in my spare two hours to myself every night. Cooking shepherds pie and blending it into mush. Not surprisingly, the leaflet was from a particular lobby group with an interest in encouraging me to buy copious amounts of beef and lamb.

On another day, I wouldn’t have been angry, I would have beaten myself up about failing to feed my son well enough. I would have gone and stocked up on beef, lamb and colour-coded baby food jars. I would have tried to force feed my proudly independent Little Mister. I would have forgotten that his nutritional needs are being met, despite what meat lobby groups tell me. Nobody would have won.

For first-time mums, the industry that has grown around marketing baby products can be overwhelming. It can make you question whether what you are doing is right, and it can make you doubt yourself. Surely though, no-one knows what a baby needs better than his mother does? And surely, if a mother is trying her very best, that’s what her baby needs?
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A Day for Firsts

Lying on his rug in front of the fire, Milin rolled from his back onto his tummy tonight. Well, it was really more like he launched himself onto his belly and then wasn’t quite sure what had happened.

He’s been trying to roll off his back for weeks. Which is interesting, because he hates being on his tummy. So tonight, after his bath and nightly massage in front of the fire (I know, lucky boy), the Little Mister surprised himself. The move usually starts with a serious back arch, then he looks all the way over his right shoulder, chin angled up, and tries to push himself round. Tonight he managed it, and landed rather unceremoniously with his face planted on his mat. He was shocked. I picked him up quickly, gave him a cuddle, and we continued with some good night songs.

And then he did it again. And again. Except when I didn’t pick him up these two times he got rather upset. He realised he was on his tummy, and with one arm stretched out underneath him, he couldn’t roll back. Ah the joys we will have if he rolls onto his tummy at night…

Of course, I am suitably proud of my Little Mister. I’m also filled with awe at how much he is learning. He has so much to figure out, and every day, he figures out a little bit more. Sometimes he gets frustrated at what he can’t do, but mostly, he just tries again and he gets it eventually. Amazing.

He showed me today how much he is growing up. We went down to Island Bay for a walk along the south coast and a hot drink at a cafe stop with Tony. What a beautiful winter’s day it was out there. Milin had enough after a while in the buggy and I got him out and held him as we walked.

He’s seen the ocean before. But today, he really saw it. He was transfixed. He didn’t even want to look at Tony, his favourite person. He couldn’t take his eyes off the huge moving blue mass which stretched into the distance. I wonder what it is like to see the world for the first time. And to like it. It was a day of firsts.

Watching the ocean