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.

Leaving Godzone

THE BALANCE has been paid, the tickets are ours, and we’re off to England. Not yet, because of course we are no-way-near ready, but in a month not far away.

So, we will leave Godzone, for six months, six years, forever – we don’t know. We will go to a place where children don’t walk to school. Where parents must pass through security and metal detectors to get into their child’s classroom. Where teachers can’t hug their pupils. We will go to a place where the Little Mister will be surrounded by cousins, great aunties and uncles, family. Europe will be a hop skip and jump away, with its castles, ruins, history and stories. We will leave our big house and garden from where we can walk to the shops, the swings, the city, the sea, the zoo. We will leave this place as the barbecues of summer still sizzle, and we will wrap the Little Mister in merino and down jackets and shield his face from the biting cold that is the English winter. We will, next year, decorate a tree while the ground outside is frosty, the nights come early, and the fairy lights twinkle from late afternoon. We will visit Christmas markets, go to see the windows and lights in town, and later make a snowman with a big orange carrot for a nose.

We will spend the next few months running around trying to get ready to say goodbye. We will cry when we hug and kiss those we love here. We will pack boxes while he sleeps, scrub window panes while he plays, and call packing companies and letting agents when he is distracted. We will worry about money, about jobs, about our new life. We will worry whether we are doing the right thing. We are doing it all for the Little Mister.

Who, by the way, had his passport photo taken. This, my darling Little Mister, looks more to me like a photo of you about to start school at four. When did you get so grown up?

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.

Space. Been there, done that.

GRADUATION, tick. Well, that’s the first one done anyway. The Little Mister has graduated from the Space programme at Playcentre. It was three ten-week terms, which at the start sounded like a very long time. It’s flown.

He slept through the entire first two sessions. Wrapped in his swaddle, on his blanket with his name embroidered on it, he slept on the floor in the centre of the room. The class went on around him and us new mummies sat in a circle. We sang songs, we made toys from household objects, we lamented how difficult it was to settle them, to feed them, we shared how exhausted we were. He slept.

In the third week he woke, for a little while anyway. Then he slept some more. By term two, awake, he paid more attention to the songs. We mummies, getting better at figuring this out, still shared how exhausted we were. But by now we had tricks up our sleeves, for sleeping, for feeding, for settling. We shared these too. Over cakes, teas, nursery rhymes, we learnt more about each other, our babies, and ourselves.

At the end of term three, the Little Mister is not quite crawling. But he has been watching his friends with envy. To think, this little one, rocking backwards and forwards on his hands and knees, was not so long ago a tiny sleeping bundle hardly aware of the babies who have become his friends. Sometimes, this third term, sessions were still cut short because we needed to get home for a nap. But when we were there for the songs, he loved them, his big eyes managing to grow in awe while the five little monkeys jumped on the bouncing blue lycra. He loved painting, water play, being pushed on the swing, sitting on grass for the first time, the wooden blocks with a truck that he figured out how to spin the wheels on. He wasn’t so sure about the sand pit. And when another little one got too close, the corners of his mouth turned down and the big fat tears rolled down his cheeks. He’s still figuring out, I guess, that these are his friends.

But now it’s done. Graduation. We made it together.

I remember not wanting to go to my own graduations (of the university kind). In fact, I think I erased the first from my memory and never went to the second. The first one, which I did go to, was more for mum and dad. Now I understand why it was so important to them. Of course it mattered.

I was so extra delighted by the Little Mister yesterday. Dutifully, I showed off his certificate to Tony. He graduated, I said. I’ve never before felt so proud, I thought. 

First Came Playtime

SOFT play. Three months ago I didn’t know what it was. And if you’d have asked me to guess, I would have got it very wrong. Today, the Little Mister went on his first excursion to a soft play venue. He was tucked up in bed, shattered, sound asleep, at 5.30pm. That’s pretty much the definition of success.

Junglerama. The very word has filled me with dread for the last few months. Frankly, it sounded like hell. It sounded like lots of snotty toddlers running around screaming and then crying, spreading their bugs around and fighting. Milin loved it.

With our Monday morning coffee group, we decided to give a new, local, venue a try. Junglerama it was. As it turns out, the coffee was cheap ($3.50) and not undrinkable. But that came last. First came playtime.

This massive play zone built for kiddies is about a ten minute walk from our front door. Milin and I arrived just after a decent morning nap and I couldn’t believe how big the place was. We were a small group today, but the Little Mister and his buddy spent a good bit of time in the ‘four years old and under’ corner. The manky carpet was softer than our wooden floor for trying to crawl on, the brightly coloured balls went straight to his mouth, and there were lots of bigger kids to watch and babble to as they ran around. The Little Mister was happy.

He sat, initially looking rather shell shocked, for the first few minutes. And then he realised I wasn’t leaving him, the balls were quite fun, and he could try and climb on the soft animals. He started smiling.

The more mobile kids pretty much left us alone, which was nice. And on a weekday morning, it wasn’t too bad. On the next rainy day when the swings are ruled out, and the Little Mister gets bored of me at home, we might head back there. As long as it’s not after school’s out or it’s the weekend or the school holidays.

I did get my coffee, but that was the beginning of the end. The Little Mister didn’t like the high chair (perhaps he was too small for it, and perhaps me trying to feed him lunch didn’t go down well either), and probably he just wanted to keep on playing. He made his dissent clear when I tried to pack him into the buggy to leave. We had a disagreement about this, it took a bit of time, but I won – despite his best arched back attempt.

I’m glad we won’t be here once he is older to take a little more in. (Although I can imagine I’ll face worse problems in London.) In the cafe, junk food lined the counter. Brightly coloured bags of sweets for the kids were on offer if they didn’t want hot chips, just behind a sign saying no food from outside was allowed in. What a nightmare it must be for mums with older kids. I’m glad I won’t have to try and say, ‘No Milin, you can’t have anything to eat here, wait until we get outside and I’ll give you a pear’. Goodness.

But all up, I like soft play too. I freely admit I’m struggling with the mess a small person makes. I’m fighting the clutter. There are so many toys, meal times take mess to another level, and I know this will only get worse. At least at Junglerama the mess stays behind the door when you leave. I worry sometimes that I’ll be a rubbish play companion, but at Junglerama, they’ve made it a little easier.

 

My Tiny Tour Guide

I’VE LIVED in Wellington for five years, and never been inside the grounds of Government House until today. I finally made it because of the Little Mister, who once again has shown me a side of the city I’d never noticed or experienced before.

Along with at least 60 other mummies, (and even the GG himself) I pushed my buggy around the grounds on what was a rather damp and drizzly morning. Milin slept through the first half of the walk, then woke and had a bit of a crying fit, and then chewed on a teething ring for the last part of the outing. I’m not sure if he was too impressed with the gardens, but I was. I’ve seen lots of this city through work, but somehow, had never been inside the gates of Government House. So on this grey winter’s morning, I decided I wasn’t going to let a little rain stop me from having a little look around.

The buggy walk, organised by Sport Wellington, was the perfect way to spend the morning. Milin had been fed up at home, I hadn’t lit the fire, and it sounded like the perfect way to get some exercise in. It was also pretty much on my doorstep, with the start of the walk only ten minutes walk from home.

There’s been open days and concerts at Government House, but I’ve never quite made it before. But Milin is like a little tour guide, because with him around, I’m starting to explore new places and discover a different side to the city.

I’m now, for example, very familiar with the back room at The Southern Cross – I’d never been in there before. We’ve taken a buggy walk around Zealandia – I’d only ever been there for work. I’m getting more familiar with different areas of Te Papa, and spots around Wellington’s coast. And I definitely know the streets of my own suburb now. The houses which have sold, the ones where progress that has been made on renovations or where the garden has been paid some attention – I can point them all out.

I think I was too busy to notice some of the simplest things around me before Milin came along. And I probably also thought I was too busy to explore new places or seek out different experiences. Of course, some of the new discoveries I’m making are wholly baby related – I never needed to know before which cafes had decent change facilities. But in other cases, I’m being led towards new things because of Milin, but the experience is all mine.

He has no idea, this little six-month-old of mine, how much he is teaching me.