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.

 

Saying our goodbyes

Sometimes when you say bye, the Little Mister waves. Sometimes he doesn’t. He’s getting lots of opportunities to do it this week. We have started saying goodbye to our friends and the Little Mister’s friends and playmates.

He has only known them for a year. They’re just getting to take notice of each other. Although only to take toys off each other. It’s still not quite playing together. Through Milin I’ve met some other wonderful mummies and become closer to people I already knew. He’s just starting to get to know Wellington, the city he was born in, and we are saying goodbye.

It is less than a week until we go. We said goodbye to some very good friends on Saturday. Over a drink and some snacks, while the babies played with cars and trucks at our feet, we looked back, looked forward, and I tried not to cry. It’s hit me this week. I’m leaving a life I love, I’ve already left a job I loved, and we are parting ways with too many people.

It’s too late, Tony said, to change your mind. There were boxes all around us and I still had packing tape in the hand I didn’t use to wipe away the tears.

Of course, you can’t have everything, and this has been my choice. It’s ok, I think, to be sad for what we’ll leave – while at the same time being excited for all that will be new.

On Saturday, the wind howled around us as we walked to our leaving party. It made me feel better about going. But on Sunday, Wellington turned on it’s sunniest most beautiful charm. Under a bright blue sky, the Little Mister squealed when I put his toes in the icy water of the South Coast. He might grow up like his father and rarely swim in the sea, but I hope not.

We took him to the aquarium where he got his fingers in the water and played with the seaweed after pointing at the big fish and octopus. We said goodbye to our antenatal group – our first baby club – our group who got to know each other so well because we were all sleep deprived at some point and getting desperate for tips, advice, anything that might work. Tomorrow, more goodbyes. More friends the Little Mister and I have in common.

We will wipe away tears though for this windy city, and very soon, as long as the snow clears and we can land, we will say hello.

Adventures, adventures, adventures

WHEN I think back over the last few months and comb through the memories, I can’t put my finger on when it happened. When, my Little Mister, did you become such an independent adventurer?

We have had two little trips away recently and both have made me realise how grown up you are. And that you love exploring . A lot. You, my Little Mister, must be on the move at all times. Unless you are very tired from all the moving about. You aren’t walking yet, but you are pushing around everything you can find that goes. Being outside is also a million times better than being inside. Getting your hands into mucky stuff like cobwebs and dirt and oily car wheels doesn’t bother you at all.

Up north, you loved your grandfather’s dogs. You exhausted them and had no fear. Down south at a wedding, you amazed everyone at how fast you could go, accelerating and then suddenly being nowhere to be found. Where has the baby gone, they would say? I always saw.

You always have your eyes on the next adventure. Usually, you don’t mind if I’m there or not. You can figure out all these games by yourself and, in fact, that’s the way you prefer. I’m glad you’re so brave, and so inquisitive. Your life, Little Mister, is a million miles an hour right now, just in case you miss anything out. It’s so much fun for us grown ups around you – but sometimes we struggle to keep up!

It’s been a special summer. You have two top teeth, and you didn’t complain about them at all. You met your great-grandmother, and you loved her. You discovered garlic bread and it kept you quiet and still in a high chair. You learnt the meaning of some new words – ‘rain’ was your least favourite because it meant staying indoors. But best of all, you showed me that you just want to have adventure after adventure after adventure. And I reckon that’s great.

 

 

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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Happy Eleven Months

HANGING out the washing, I could hear your laughter through the open windows. It was more than a giggle, it was a whole-body, from the depths of your belly, almost uncontrollable, wide-open-mouth and scrunched-up-eyes laugh. You were playing with your Dada.

At eleven months now, life is all about fun. Today’s favourite game was throwing socks at Dada. I came in from the garden and found you both engrossed in the almost hysteria-inducing activity. It was a high-energy ending to a day which had already been filled with delighted squeals.

Little Mister, this is the last month of your first year, and you are loving it. You love playing toys, you love crawling, you love climbing, you love being tickled, you love cuddles, you love when I pick you up high after you tug at my trousers. You love playing peek-a-boo, covering your face with fabric and then suddenly pulling it away. “Where’s Milin? …. Boo!” I must play it a hundred times a day. You love spinning the wheels on your cars, and you love pushing them along the floor, crawling behind them. You love standing against the sofa and reaching for things which aren’t toys – like the tv remote. You are trying to walk by pushing your little car/walker around the lounge, but maybe it’s not weighty enough.

You love the garden and being outside. Weeding is one of your favourite games, as is watching the birds. “Birrr!” Is still your most-used word, used frequently when we chase sparrows in the buggy, your finger pointing to every bird we see. You are getting braver amongst other children, my little hero who has so much courage.

You climb face first off the fireplace and over the middle beam of our dining chairs, before turning around and doing it again. You love new people, you charm them of course with your words and – if they are lucky and funny enough – your smile. You love books and being read to. Every night after bath Dada reads you a few, you know them well. Through the day, we read others together, or you sit down yourself and talk to them. Your favourite these last few weeks is Mr Croc. “Mr Croc, how do you feel?” Tony reads it every night.

Little Mister, every day with you is a joy. Your smile, your laugh, your words, your pointing finger, your arms around my neck – you have made me and Tony the luckiest, happiest people in the world. Happy eleven months, Milin Charlie, you are so grown up! X

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With each new second

THE COUNTDOWN is on. In two months today, we will leave Wellington. First stop, a week catching up with family in Thailand. Final stop, London.

It’s so hard to imagine what the Little Mister will be like when we get on that plane. Two months ago, he had just mastered crawling. Now, he shoots around the house so fast on his hands and knees that he wins every race. Two months ago, he was still bringing up even the tiniest lumps in food. Now, he will eat a bit of a Cruskit – and he seems to enjoy it. Two months ago, the thought of him standing up was so abstract I couldn’t picture it, let alone wonder when it would be. Now, he pulls himself up against walls, doors, the oven, the sofas, and, still holding on tight, takes a few testing steps sideways before deftly sitting back down.

Time changed when the Little Mister arrived. It started passing so incredibly quickly, and it keeps speeding up. At the end of each month, it’s amazing to look back at the progress he has made in just four, short weeks. But looking forward is harder. Will he be walking when we go? Saying some more words which sound more like real words? But, I don’t want to wish away the time between now and then, so will put those questions aside.

What the Little Mister has done has given me a new appreciation for time. It’s fine to look forward now, it’s exciting. But it’s also exciting to make the most of every second we spend together. He grows so much each day, so yes, the days pass quickly, but they are filled with discoveries too. Today, he laughed at the baboons at Wellington Zoo. They were playing at the front of their enclosure. He’s never noticed them before. Tonight, he put his big toe in his mouth. He’s never managed to reach it that far before. In the last few days, he has started tapping on the first page of his Mr Croc book. It’s because the book starts with a knock on the door and Tony always taps the book when he reads it. The Little Mister knows not to tap on any other page.

Yes, I wish time wouldn’t pass so fast. But while it speeds by, it is also filled with a richness that wasn’t there before. And as long as I’m watching for every new discovery, and treasuring the laughs or babbles or expressions that new seconds bring, it’s still a time I wouldn’t change for the world.

This time it really is progress

TONIGHT our little family ate dinner together for the first time. Let me explain.

We’ve tried it before. But the Little Mister is generally uninterested in food. By dinner time in particular. And it usually involves one of us distracting him while the other tries to trick him and get the spoon into his mouth. Sometimes we get two mouthfuls in, sometimes it’s five. Our food gets forgotten. He throws his toys on the floor. You see, we never eat together.

But tonight, the Little Mister held a piece of a corn wafer in his hand, and sucked and sucked and chewed and swallowed. He finished it. We ate our dill and lemon baked fish with vegetables and watched him. We finished ours too. He wasn’t sick.

I’ve been to the doctor twice about the projectile vomiting. Until now, anything not pureed into liquid form has come straight back up after a few scary moments of near-choking. At nearly 11 months, the Little Mister still has a very sensitive gag reflex. Apparently. Apparently it’s nothing to worry about. The doctor, who perhaps viewed me as a neurotic housewife with too much time on her hands, suggested we see a private specialist if we were really concerned.

I know that for under ones the most important food is milk – but that birthday has been rapidly approaching. And until now, there’s been no discernible progress. So, as much as I’ve tried not to be, of course I’ve been concerned. Recently though, it’s more that I’ve been sad for the Little Mister. He wants to eat. Sand, soil, bits of brick – he gives it a go (and then vomits over the kitchen floor again). I watch his friends with their lunchboxes. I’m jealous.

I have no idea why in the last few days things have changed but they have. Lumpy banana – he ate it. Buttered bread – he only gagged a bit. FORK MASHED CHICKEN AND PASTA – HE ATE IT (mixed in with creamy rice pudding, but that had lumps in it too.)

I’ve been optimistic before, but this really is progress. Maybe the Little Mister will be eating his first birthday cake with us after all.

Adventures in Oz

FOR what felt like an hour, and probably longer for the strangers around us, the Little Mister screamed. Our first family holiday had been a success, but now it was home time. He wasn’t happy. He was tired out, cooped up, over-awed by all that was going on around him, his ears probably hurt, and he just wouldn’t stop screaming. It was everything I’d been afraid of. The flightmare was underway.

Tony and I kept looking at each other with the same hopeful look in our eyes, desperate for the air to swallow us all up. I kept telling him we’d never see any of these people again. The Little Mister kept screaming. Once we realised he wasn’t going to stop, we acted fast. And, thanks to the wonders of modern medicine, he slept all the way through to border control. Success, again.

It was the only blip, and really it was a small, short one, on an otherwise wonderful practice run for our big journey next year. The Little Mister was a super traveller. Everything was new and exciting and the six days were one very big adventure.

He loved meeting his aunties, uncles and cousins. He impressed me with his easy-going attitude. As long as Tony and I were close and he wasn’t too tired, he was happy to be passed around, held, cuddled, spoiled, treated, and generally made a fuss of. He played ball. He charmed, grinned, babbled, and generally made everyone fall in love with him.

The fancy apartment was perfect – sparse and therefore very baby proof. The airport was a big, empty space ideal for crawling around and exploring. But the highlight without question was the beach. He ate bucketloads of sand. He picked it up and watched it fall back down as he opened his fists. He spied seagulls and crawled after them, making a beeline for the shoreline. He splashed his toes while we dipped him in the waves. He sucked the salt off his fingers all the way home. He crawled so far on his beach adventures he got sandburn on his little baby-soft knees. That evening, our tired Little Mister was too sore to crawl anymore.

Sadly for us, he woke at 4am each morning, still on Wellington time. But though he lacked sleep, he didn’t moan or grizzle. Everything was too much fun.

In six days, I feel like he grew up so much. He spent so much time pulling himself up, now home, he is standing up against whatever he can. Buckets that move, the back of the sofa that has no grip, the foot rest on the bar stool. And he wants to be outside all the time to keep the adventure going.

We didn’t only learn what a great explorer he was on the trip though, we learnt lessons too. We learnt that he loves other people, so why not hand him over and take a rest. Eating a meal is so much easier without the Little Mister on my lap. We learnt to take it in turns to get up with a jetlagged baby. We learnt how much the beach and the pool will tire him out. We learnt to keep the buggy with us to the gate. And, perhaps most importantly, we learnt that Calpol is magic.

Election Night Hopes

SITTING on my lap, rubbing his eyes and clasping his beloved bunny, the Little Mister stayed up late to watch tv. He watched as thousands of people waved little flags in jubilation. He watched them singing, chanting, smiling, crying, and clapping. When the just-elected president walked on that big stage, he watched.

The thousands of people clapped their hands in celebration. The Little Mister, somehow aware this was the moment we had waited for, clapped his hands too. (Well, it was his version of clapping.)

It was his first election. He knew something was up because me and Tony had the tv on during the day. He sees the news occasionally, but this was different. It wasn’t just on for the headlines. And we were quiet, waiting, watching, transfixed by the screen in the corner. He crawled to sit beneath it. He looked up, eyes wide, and waved his hands towards it but couldn’t reach the newsreaders and experts and statisticians.

Hours after we had sighed with relief, he wasn’t quite ready for bed so he sat up and waited. A little superstar, up an hour past bedtime, he listened to the entire breath-taking speech. He knew we were listening, and he wanted in on it too. What did he hear? Perhaps he heard a brave man whose voice was filled with hope. A man whose voice was in those moments inspiring millions of people in every country in the world.

What did you hear Little Mister? Did you hear the desire for something better? For a world less divided and more stable? Did you also hear your Mama and Dada hoping for some of those very same things?

It wasn’t our election, but it didn’t stop us wanting so very much the better world we heard about. We want it for you, Little Mister. Because you, with your wide open eyes and whole-face smile, and grasping hands and precious cuddles and delighted squeals deserve the very best world we can make for you. We hope it is one which sees less of the destructive wrath of mother nature – one which is stable and calm. We hope it is one where you can have whatever you wish and work for – one which is open with opportunity. We hope it is everything your innocent heart hopes it will be. We hope it is filled with love and peace and joy. We hope it is safe.