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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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

Adaptation

LIFE has changed completely, and I wonder whether the Little Mister remembers how things were a month ago. We were in Wellington, it was summer, he played outside in the sun all the time, and our little household of three was generally quiet and calm.

We have lived in our new home in London now for three weeks. Milin loves it. I am still amazed by how quickly he settled in. A new routine, a new house, a new season, a new family around him – he hasn’t taken long to accept it and embrace it. Well, apart from the cold, Milin’s not so keen on that.

How is it that a little boy who is 13 months old can adapt so fast and make such a major transition so smoothly? Of course, to him, moving across the globe brings no worries of the practical things in life. He knows he is loved and safe; his mummy and daddy are still beside him, and everyday is filled with fun and laughter – perhaps it doesn’t matter what continent he is in.

Since we left Wellington, my Little Mister seems to have grown up so much. He still doesn’t want to eat, but he now spends his days practicing how to walk and talk. Suddenly, he is a little boy. Soon, I will have to call my baby a toddler.

With his arms waving beside him for balance, with his toes hip-width apart and his feet flat on their soles, he is taking his first steps. They are slow, purposeful, and usually in my direction. He claps at his achievement when he reaches me. His smile takes over his whole face. He is SO HAPPY he can walk.

All around him, we clap too. All the time. Because Milin is constantly doing things which make us laugh. He knows the radiators are hot. He won’t touch them but he points them out to us and blows out as if trying to cool down hot food. He does the same when he watches us drink cups of tea. The entire household thinks he is the cleverest boy in the world.

Milin knows not to touch the fireplace, the plugs, the compost bin. Again, he points them out to us. This time he shakes his head. No, he is telling us. How can we not admire his communication skills?

And all day, he talks. “Daddy” is his favourite, most-used word. It is not used sparingly, and everyone is Daddy. Sometimes things are Da. Sometimes he says Ta when given a toy or a biscuit. But mostly, it’s Daddy.

Our Little Mister is growing up in a new world. He has a new park with a slide he can climb up and a new library where there is a creative room with paint and a toy room with cars. He has been on a tube and looked at the Thames. He has seen the snow and didn’t like touching it. He is nearly a toddler.

 

Life as he hasn’t known it

OUR new life in London has begun. The Little Mister is, so far, unimpressed by the cold and snow, but otherwise delighted with the turn of events in this big adventure that is his life.

We have of course had hiccups along the way. Thailand was hot, and Milin was very jetlagged after a horror daytime flight. We were there a week, and then, the big one – London. A pro by the time we got on that plane though, Milin slept for most of the journey. Phew.

It took us an hour to leave the gridlocked car park at Heathrow. What a welcome. My little superstar hardly complained. His daytime routine was quick to sort out, and now, over a week later, we’re hoping we’ve cracked nights – but we’re not celebrating that milestone just yet.

What the week has really been about though has been visitors, and the Little Mister has coped wonderfully. Only initially unsure for a short time, he has realised that attention is a wonderful thing. Smile, and the adults smile back. Watch the bigger kids, the cousins, and learn. He is fascinated. Already, he is getting better at being with other babes. Relief.

We showed him the snow today. There was no sledding or snowman building as he wouldn’t touch it – too cold. But from within the house, he was transfixed. He pointed at flakes, his eyes opened wide, and he told us ooh, aah, while watching the white stuff fall to the ground.

Indoors, the Little Mister can stand alone without leaning on anyone. If he feels like it, he will take a few slow steps.  I can’t wait for him to walk now, I feel like it will help him enjoy being outdoors a bit more. Funny the difference a season can make. He wanted to spend every second of summer outdoors. Now, in England, he has already learnt it is just too cold out there. He’s smart, this little one.

 

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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