Ameli was born in October 2009 and aside from a single prenatal class on breastfeeding, the sum total of my thought and planning on the subject of breastfeeding was “we’d best get in some formula, just in case”. I hadn’t considered “in case of what?” I certainly didn’t plan on becoming an active breastfeeding advocate.
I’ve been thinking a lot about a dying-out medium, that of letter writing, and specifically, writing love notes to children.
My mom and I had what I remember as a difficult relationship during my teen years. Not an uncommon story, I know, but still something that impacts into your adult life.
A few years ago, my mom’s cancer took a terminal turn a few weeks before Christmas. On Christmas eve, the UK was deluged in rain and our garage flooded, along with many parts of the country and some of our neighbour’s homes. On Boxing day, my mother died, and all flood debris was ignored until a few weeks later.
I was going through a trunk full of old photos, cards, letters, and other things I had at one point deemed important enough to keep, when I came across letters that I had quite honestly forgotten about. Discovering them was shocking to me, because I had forgotten their existence. But it was powerfully affirming of my mother’s love for me. I mean, I knew she loved me but seeing those letters reminded me of the days I’d come in from school and find a letter from her on my bed. Read more: The Importance Of Writing Love Notes To Children
A few months ago, we had a good look at our lives, and came to the conclusion that we weren’t exactly doing the best we could with our lives and with that, the lives of our kids.
Our home was crowded, cluttered and overwhelming. The children’s wardrobe was so full of clothes, it was bulging at the seams. No matter how many loads of laundry we did, it was never enough. I did a preliminary clean up of all Aviya’s clothes, and removed no fewer than 200 – two hundred – items of clothing, still leaving more clothes than she could wear in a month!
Ask my girls what they’d like to do, and the answer was always something that started with “watch” or “play” (a device). Ask them to play with their toys, and it would end up with boxes of toys strewn over the room, nothing really played with, everything just thrown about, and either an epic mission to get it all back in place, or I’d have to do it myself – clean up would take longer than play lasted, time after time, and it was becoming disheartening.
I felt like a failure as a mother. All our PlayLearning, all our Montessori style set-up and my kids had no imagination, no motivation and no interest in anything not screen based.
Your First Day of ‘Big Class’ – You didn’t want to pose for a picture as you didn’t want to be late.
My most beloved big little girl
It’s the day before your last day at preschool and the world is changing again for you and for me. I watch you sometimes and the mannerisms, words and thoughts that come from you are no longer those of an infant or a toddler. I’m scared to say it as you are still only four but they are often barely those of a child and at times, when you speak, I feel like I’m faced with an adult – a short little grown up.
It’s strange for me, you know. I know this is your whole world and right now you are standing at the furthest reaches, the outposts of the world you know, standing on tip toes and stretching your hands out. Like a counter from which you can smell, but not yet see the chocolates. You think you see the whole world. All of life. And you feel so big, so ready for it.
I can’t imagine how I will feel when you reach the end of school, university, singledom, child-free, or when your little girl heads off to her last day of preschool. But I do know that on that day you will look at me and there’ll be a little understanding, a little sympathy for what my heart feels right now, when I look at you and see the smaller version of the future you.
There’s definitely a hint of spring in the air, with lots of flowers everywhere.
82: Bring On Spring Inspired by our trip to the Moonpig Mother’s Day event a few days earlier, we made a lollipop flower garden so we could give a few special people some flowers.
84: Gift Basket Friends of ours came back from a holiday in Australia, so we dropped a care package on their doorstep so they wouldn’t have to rush out for breakfast, or worse, milk for coffee first thing off a 19-hour flight. I know what it’s like coming ‘home’ from a trip ‘home’ and never really belonging in either place. It’s hard.
85: Breakfast We receive the Disney Cakes And Sweets Magazine every month, and this month, the freebie with it was a pan for making these fab Mickey Mouse pancakes. So yum using our regular recipe, and the girls just loved it.
Although it’s two weeks after the fact, we’re having Aviya’s birthday party tomorrow, so I’ve been making flowers for the cake. Unfortunately I didn’t think to actually flour the shot glasses, so most of them broke taking them off. Lesson learned. I was quite happy with them to that point though!
87: Messy Play Party At some point I’ll get round to blogging Aviya’s messy play party. Suffice to say it was super fun though.
88: Firestation! Another thing I have to get round to blogging, is our trip to the Farnham Firestation as part of our Emergency Services PlayLearning week. Doesn’t she look pleased with herself though?
The dreaded week has come and gone. These are truly sad and sore times.
9. To See You Again. We went to the undertakers to view my moms body. My dad wanted to be sure it was her in the coffin. I wanted to have a chance to cry without a room full of people. We opted against embalming and two weeks had already passed, so we weren’t sure what to expect. She looked so thin, but healthy. Her hair was soft and brushed. She looked lovely. In life she often abstained and followed certain habits because she wanted to be a beautiful corpse. She sure got her wish. 10. Funeral day. Informal, no priest or stranger leading the ceremony, just me. Leading the family in words, in song, in placing lilies on the coffin. A lot of tears. And after, lunch with every person she knew in the country there. 11. Driving day, all the way to Wales at the foothills of Snowdonia. And a big thank you to everyone who has supported me over the last few weeks. 12. Bittersweet. Knowing she was meant to be on this holiday with us, was bittersweet. Knowing how much she would have loved the mountains, equally so. 13. Bed Hogs. A king size bed, and there’s still no room for me. Sigh. 14. Garden Decor. Some weird garden decor in the town of Machynlleth. Certainly a talking point! 15. Mountains, Gandalf! Mountains! I could take a picture of this mountain every single morning and it would never look the same two days in a row. If I lived there, I’d totally do that. With a timer to go off every day at the same time. It was an exquisite view.
My mother and father came to England to visit us for a holiday. Her cancer was in remission, miraculously and it was time to visit the grand children she loved so much. We were all so very excited. I’d planned visits to Santa’s grotto. A Christmas Train ride, visit to a Christmas through the ages exhibit. I bought a huge Christmas tree. We had things planned for every day. Winter Wonderland. Fairytale Wander. A visit to Pooh Corner. So many plans.
The hospital arranged a hospice for my mom in the next town up from ours, but also said she could come home while she was ‘well enough’ to do so. There would be community nurses that would come round daily and check on her, and refill her morphine driver.
The decision would be mine, my mom said – my home, my children, my choice. I felt strongly that she should be home with us and that we would send her to a hospice when she was no longer able to go to the toilet on her own, or we felt that we were no longer able to cope. But I believed that while she still had awake and lucid moments, her place was with us, in our home, surrounded by the noises and sounds of her family.
Right now, four years ago, I was in the throes of labour. I had been since 4am the day before, but had managed a little sleep, and was ready to do this. I thought at the time, that I was having a baby, and then life would go back to normal. I was so happy, but I really didn’t know what it meant.
The moment our eyes locked, I fell in love with you. I changed forever. That may sound clichéd, but it’s true. Not much about my life, those two seconds apart, has ever really been the same since.
I knew the practicalities: babies grow into toddlers, who grow into children, but I had no real idea of how mothers grew from mothers of babies, to mothers of toddler to mothers of children. I didn’t see that coming.
I didn’t know that those first weeks and months would be all consuming. I didn’t know that I would learn a mountain of new skills, and master them too. I didn’t have the faintest inkling that I would become passionate about birth, or breastfeeding, or baby wearing, or any of the things you led me to, by refusing a pushchair, and flaring up when we used normal baby bath products, or having a bad reaction to Calpol.
I had seen babies smile before, but what I had not seen was how their mothers melted on the inside. I had not known how the curling of lips could wipe away days and nights of tiredness, and the complete upside down-ness of those early months. If someone had told me, I would not have believed it, and if I had believed it, I would not have grasped it. How could I conceive of something I’d never even imagined?
You were always in a hurry. Always trying to get to the next thing. At four months, you were crawling around with the seven and eight month olds in our baby group. At 8 months you were running rings around them. You were always in a hurry. You were speaking in full sentences by 20 months. Always on the go, always chattering, always showing me the world through eyes I never anticipated would captivate me. I see the same world you see, but you show me colours, and stories, and imaginations I would never have seen.
You have taught me the limits of my patience. You have shown me how I can go on, even when I thought I had nothing left in me. You’ve shown me that I do know how to play, that I can actually draw, and that anything can be fixed with a kiss and a cuddle.
You’ve taken me to the limits of the worst of me, then stretched out your arms to bring me back to a place of love. Our place, as mother and daughter. You’ve shown me the best of me. The things I now treasure most about me.
If four years ago you’d told me that all of these things were going to happen, that I was going to change fundamentally and wholly, and that my life was going to become wrapped up in you, I would not have believed it. I would have denied it. Oh, how I laugh at my own foolishness now.
I thought I knew what it was going to be. I had drawn the boundaries, made the plans, laid down the laws.
The theme for this month’s Carnival of Natural Parenting was Sibling Revelry, as opposed to sibling rivalry. It’s a subject I’ve thought about since before deciding to add to our family after Ameli, and in the hope to avoid or lessen rivalry, I chose to continue nursing through pregnancy, and tandem breastfeed.
Unfortunately I wasn’t able to get my submission for the carnival in on time, but I wanted to share the beautiful sister moments between my daughters anyway. Kind of a celebration of the moments that make it all worth it.