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.

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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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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.

And he said I love you

Tonight I fell in love again.

The Little Mister, for some reason, made a fuss about being in his cot. Everyone was tired, so, as a treat, Tony put him in the middle of our bed. He was quiet. I lay down next to him and he turned to me. He stroked the hair around my face. With the truly-baby-soft skin on his fingers, he stroked the side of my face in the same way that I stroke his.

Then, silently, he looked up at me and smiled. In the night-time half-light, I saw his happy, tired eyes, and his two bottom teeth. I fell in love with him again. At that moment, he was so grown up. He was a son comforting his tired mother. He was a child who cannot yet talk saying I love you. At that moment, there was nothing else but us.

 

A world away from a baby

A few video clips, each under a minute long, tonight reminded me of the Little Mister’s first week. I found them on mum’s laptop. I’d forgotten how tiny he was. I’d forgotten how he didn’t talk, or move much. And how his face was so puffy, but how his eyes were still moving, knowingly taking in the new world around him.

Milin is fourteen months old. He is a toddler and already a world away from a baby. Each day, I am stunned by how quickly he is growing up. Each day, he surprises me with how much he understands of what I tell him.

And Milin can also make himself understood too. He still loves pointing. His much-used pointing finger is thrust in the direction a hundred times a day of things he wants to show me. Usually it is a bus, or a bird braving winter, or something that looks like it isn’t a toy but could be fun. Most exciting of all though is pointing at a dog in the park or on the street, and Milin seems to live in eternal hope that the dog will come and play.

He knows where his toes are, where his nose is – and he can point mine out too. He can walk across the room, although he would rather crawl because it is faster and easier. He understands almost everything I tell him. If he is tired and I ask him if he wants to sleep, he lies face down on the floor to show me it’s time to get into his cot. He LOVES going outside more than anything. He loves making us laugh. He loves watching sport and claps his hand together as soon as it comes on the tele. He dances and sings as soon as music is turned on.

Only 14 months ago, this little boy was just a couple of days old. He has, of course, changed everything in that time. But many things are the same too. That we love him completely, and will do more so each day, I know will never change.

Little Mister 14 months

Little Mister 14 months

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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‘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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