Dearest little girl,
Yes, that’s you. No longer a baby, but a full blown toddler, walking, (sort of) talking, toddler. My beautiful little girl. I don’t even know where to start. Our life hasn’t exactly been normal since your arrival, has it? We’ve not had the ‘normal’ first year with baby.
We arrived in South Africa on your birthday, met by your Oupa and Nana. Daddy had missed the flight due to a tube strike in London, so it was just you and me for 16 or so hours. Well, you and me, three suitcases, hand luggage, a pram, laptop bag and nappy bag. But you were so good. You made friends with everyone around us. You were so well behaved, I felt blessed to have it be you with me.
Our first weekend here, you were a beautiful flowergirl at your aunty Wendy’s wedding, and our second week was pretty uneventful. I was sick and very, very tired, and just not doing well, and again, you were so well behaved, as if you knew.
Our third week we went to the Cape to visit my Granny and Ouma and you were a hit, as usual. You and Granny have a beautiful relationship. It’s awesome for me to see you get on so well with the person who has been my best friend for years. Ouma adored you too. She knitted you a teddy bear, a winter hat and jersey, and just loved holding you. She has pictures of you all over her house, which made my heart sing a little.
We went to the aquarium in Cape Town, which you cried your way through, and we went to see the Penguins in Betty’s Bay, which you cried your way through. You were so unsettled all week, and I noticed on of your top teeth coming through. It’s still not out now, but it really bothered you that week.
The following week we went to Dhikololo with Nana and Oupa. It was a really good week, out in the bushveld. We spent most of our time in the indoor pool where Nana helped you float around the pool. You learned to go under water and come up clapping and we even went down a supertube! You were dragging US up the stairs to go again! I was very impressed. You had an audience too. People couldn’t believe you weren’t even 13 months yet and so comfortable with water. I think it’s because we’ve never shown you fear in the water, but maybe it’s just because of who you are.
You have learned a few more words this month. Not real words, but sounds that you put to use in the right places. You say ‘tee’ for gentle, like when you play with the butterflies we put around the garden for you. You say ‘ta’ for please and thank you. You say ‘mummeeee’ and my heart melts. You say ‘dadeee but you’ve been saying that for a while. You walk around talking to yourself almost constantly in your own little language and you don’t seem to know why we don’t understand you. You look at us with such seriousness sometimes, intent on telling us something we just can’t understand. It’s very amusing.
You’ve also taken the first steps to tantrums. You lie yourself prostrate on the ground and cry, although you’ve not yet discovered the joys of kicking your feet or pounding your fists. I’d love to know where you got the manual on how to be a toddler, since we don’t watch TV and you don’t have many other friends your age!
On the flip side, you’ve begun giving the most beautiful hugs. Sometimes in your sleep and sometimes when I pick you up you’ll put your arms around me and hold on really tight. It’s enough to make me melt. I treasure those hugs and I think they’re powerful enough to stay in my memory for ever.
Today, your 13 month birthday, I walked in to the room to find you putting your shoes on. I was so surprised. You couldn’t do up the buckles yet, but you were in your shoes and ready to go. It really awed me. I just think you’re so clever!
I’m so careful with you, not to make you my reason for things, not to depend my happiness, who I am and what I aim to get out of life on you and just you. I don’t want to give you the burden of ‘making me happy’. I don’t want to give you the burden of having to love me. I don’t want you to ever feel that you have to ‘make me’ anything. I want to always love you with no conditions and no expectations, and hope that that will be enough for you to love me back beyond these years of needing me.
I never want to be emotionally dependent on you, nor do I aim to be your friend. I will always be your mother first and if from that, in my later years, a friendship can blossom, then that will be the reward for my years of mothering you. I wish to watch and help you grow, develop and reach for and beyond your goals â€“ things I already see in you every day.
I want you always to know how proud I am of you, and how much joy you fill me with. Even when I’m tired, cranky and sleep-deprived. Even when I’m not having a good day as a parent. I’m always proud of you and always, always, without exceptions, love you.
For all time, little girl.