I don’t know if I’m alone in this, but I sometimes look at my children and am surprised by how incredibly small they actually still are. Because at any given moment, they are at the biggest they’ve ever been, and they’ll never be that small again, it’s easy to forget that on a whole, they’re still actually very small. Especially when it comes to Ameli, my 7 year old. Sorry, my 7 and 3/4 year old. An important point whenever she’s asked. Ameli is an incredibly fearless child. She could run at 9 months, before her brain could register danger, and she’s never stopped. By 2 she’d been to 20 countries, because she made it all so easy. She was fearless. She still is.
I had a fairly tumultuous early adulthood with a lot of heartache, many tears, and the extreme desolation that comes when you lose something you believed in your whole life. Sounds dramatic? It was.
Now with the insight of parenthood, I can see how hard that period of my life must have been for my parents. I remember one particular night when my dad came to the far side of the house, two floors down to wake and sit by me, and rock me back to sleep as I was bawling so loudly, in my sleep, that it woke him. I had no thought at the time for how much my pain must have hurt them.
Years later, I was going through a difficult time in a relationship, when my mom said to me, “I just want you to be happy.” I looked over at her, with the wisdom of maybe 25 years of age, and said to her “Mom, I don’t want to be happy. Happy is fleeting, happiness fades, happiness is dependent. I want to be joyful.”
My mom’s not around anymore, so I can’t ask her now what she thought of that, but she did many times after that, end our conversations with ‘I wish you joy’.
And that is what I wish for my children: joy. Read more: Why I Don’t Wish My Children Happiness
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.
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.
Then you came.
And you changed everything.
And I will never be able to thank you enough.
I love you baby girl, to the end of all things.
For all time.
Happy fourth birthday.
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How long will it be, till you no longer reach for my hand?
How long until dinosaurs and fairies no longer roam
and you can face everything you fear on your own?
How many more days do I have, picking dandelions with you?
Answering a ceaseless stream of why’s?
‘fore you don’t need my answers at all?
When will you stop looking to me for all the new things you see?
How long do I have before either I no longer know
or you at least doubt that I do?
How many more days can I keep you playing, in the garden, with frogs,
excited by ‘the most amazing creatures’, common garden bugs
and gross-me-out slugs?
How much time do I have left, to view the world through your eyes?
To see the magical, the beautiful, the every day
in your incredibly sensory way?
How many more days, because its passing too soon, in whirlwinds and torrents and days come to pass.
Hold on for a moment, you’re growing too fast, let me drink it all in, let me sip up my fill
then let me hold your hand, while you allow me to still.
Aviya’s 1st birthday is just over a week away, and while knee-deep in preparations for it, I realised that with the mayhem and madness of visas and flying to Australia in October, I never posted the photos from Ameli’s 3rd birthday party. For her party we had an Under The Sea party at a Puck’s Oak Barn in Compton. It’s an absolutely stunning venue and it happened to be one of the rare beautiful days of last year, weather wise. It didn’t rain, and in fact the sun came out and cast that golden hue around the orchard. It was simply breathtaking, even though it was still a little cold.
We didn’t have entertainment, because we were in an orchard, and while it took everyone a little while to ‘warm up’ to the venue, once they did I think everyone enjoyed just being outdoors. The kids made up a treasure hunt with pretend maps and it was – to me, at least, – an idyllic afternoon.
As guests arrived they walked through the door with hanging fish garlands* (US Link) meant to represent the ocean, like they were ‘swimming’ through a school of fish. I had some of these same fish on the floor inside the hall.
We had a great big blue sandpit shell that we borrowed from a friend. I set up balloons around it – they’re missing in this picture – and put a white blanket inside and set up a camera on a tripod so people could take photos of themselves in the shell, like perfect little pearls.
I spent a lot of the days leading up to the party planning and preparing food for it. There were octopus red peppers on the home made hummus, and a platter of vegetables to choose from. I had a treasure chest – far right- with Starfish Haribo (US Link) pouring from it like treasure, and kiwifruit lollipops covered in dairy free chocolate with edible fishy printed ricepaper. These icecream cones are an unhealthy favourite in our house, originated from the icecream week we did for Andrea’s Summer Camp At Home. Not quite under the sea, but close enough to the sea to be welcome.
These ice cream cones were gluten free, with cheese and chicken or ham, pressed out of bread with cookie cutters (US Link).
And there were white and brown bread fishy sandwiches (US Link) with Tuna and sweet corn and home made mayonnaise .
A lot of effort, but worth every second for this, my beautiful princess, my three year old.
I hope, my gorgeous child, that every year affords me the ability to make your birthday as special as your life has made mine.
*If you purchase through any of these links, you will not be charged any extra, but Amazon will pay me around 5% of the purchase price. If buy without an affiliate link, Amazon just keeps the whole amount!
** You can find many more ideas on my Under The Sea Pinterest Board
I realise with surprise, at times, that I am a mother, and that I have a child. No longer a baby, but a girl, a daughter. Daughters. The word catches in my throat, and my heart drops into the pit of my stomach where it knots, making my head spin. Like a player at a roulette wheel,waiting for the deciding moment when the dream, the beautiful dream, may be swept away.
The moment passes, and I know, with your heads resting in the nooks of my arms, I know that this is forever, you will always be mine. My baby, my child, my daughters. In making you, you remake me.
You, young lady, are the new benchmark for sisterhood in my world. You have surprised me, blown my expectations out the water and a few tough days aside, have made our transition from three to four so much easier than I thought it would be.
During Aviya’s birth you were such a star. We baked a cake, then you were in the pool with me, and later, while I was giving birth, you were next to the pool, busy with Nana sticking your stickers, building your puzzles, and every now and again looking up and checking in to see what was going on.
I loved having you close by. I loved being able to see you. While we were in the pool, before you got out, I pulled you closer to me and I gave you a huge cuddle. I don’t remember what I said, exactly, but I know I was crying. I was saying good bye to my only child.
After we raised Aviya out of the water, you came around to have a look, and the first thing you asked was “Can it walk?” We did laugh at that.
After the birth, you were the first to want to cuddle your ‘baby sister’ and over the weeks that have followed you’ve taken every opportunity to cuddle her, hold her, kiss her, and lie with her. When I put her next to you in bed, you put your arms around her, when I tandem feed you both, you hold on to her. Your affection is amazing. Hearing you say to her, unprompted by us, “I love you so much baby sister..”, well, it melts me and I feel like the most blessed mother in the world.
In the weeks since her birth you’ve been so helpful, and considerate. If I’m feeding you and she wakes up, you’ll finish before you’re really finished so that I can feed her. When I tell you I’ll do something with you once she’s asleep, you’ll play quietly (most of the time) so that I can get her down. You really have accepted her in so wholly, it’s been incredible to observe.
The health visitor came along when Aviya was two weeks old and asked how you were adjusting. When I told her how well you were doing, she said it was a massive compliment to us, and to how we parent you. She said it means that you’ve not felt threatened or replaced, the way it should be. It was vindicating and incredibly nice to hear, especially at such an uncertain time.
Having a sister has definitely impacted on you. In the weeks leading up to her birth, you finally at almost two and a half, started sleeping through the night. It lasted for about three glorious weeks. Then you reverted to four times a night waking and nursing. That’s more than your newborn sister!
On the up side, after a few days of attempting to get you onto a potty, then giving it up again for almost a week, you woke up one morning and went on the potty all by yourself. It was a fantastic week with just two accidents. Then, for no particular reason you regressed again and we have as many hits as misses right now. Never mind… it’ll take as long as it takes, I guess!
You are so incredibly outgoing and friendly. Sometimes it scares me a little, actually! This week we walked out of the house and I said ‘Now where did daddy park the car?’ A lady happened to be walking past and you said to her ‘Do YOU know where my daddy parked the car yesterday?’. No, she said, but what colour was it? “Silver and black is our car”, you said. We found the car, in the end, but it made me laugh.
A few days later we were on the train to London. You asked to hold ‘my sister’ – whom you sometimes call Missy Pops! – so you were holding her while I folded up the sling. There were two guys sitting opposite us, and you turned to them and said “This is my sister. She was born in the swimmingpool and I was wearing my red swimming costume.” They asked you if you’d been at the birth, and you responded: “Yes, my sister was in mama’s tummy.” I was happy to stop the conversation there!
I’m trying to get better at things like crafts and so on with you, but I do find it hard. I hate mess, and I get really frustrated that you’re still too young to draw in the lines and so on, but that’s totally on me – you do perfectly well for your age.
It’s been quite full on since Nana left. We do okay, but I’m tired a lot. I work a lot to try to keep this here roof over our heads and food on the table, but it means I’m tired and very, very busy. I wish this part was different. I wish I didn’t have to work so much and I wish I could give you both more of myself, and of my time. I wish this babymooning phase could be more babymoon and less stress. But, we’re all doing the best we can.
I’ve felt quite acutely, the addition of another to our little unit. I’ve gotten into bed with Aviya at night, and reached over to your spot in the bed, knowing that you’re not there, but with daddy, and I’ve cried for missing you so much. I miss the closeness of our relationship, and I’ve missed our one on one time together. I really look forward to having some of that again down the line. Today, with Aviya almost six weeks old, you and I went to the shop on our own together for the first time. It was nice. I love my baby, but I do miss my little girl.
Well, that’s all for now, as I can hear you stirring upstairs, and I need to get our lunch ready and feed Aviya too.
I love you Ameli.
For all time, Big Girl.
I’m a few weeks late with your 28 month letter – so late, in fact, that it’s nearer to a 29 month letter now, but I really wanted to write to you one more time as an only child. I suppose technically you haven’t been an only child for almost nine months now, but you’re just not aware of it yet. While Daddy and I have been making space in the home and our lives, hearts and thinking for this new baby, you’ve been blissfully unaware of how everything in your world is about to change.Read more: Letter To A 28/29 Month Old – Last Letter To An Only Child
Happy 27 months my girl. I was putting you down for a nap this afternoon and lying there, watching you I thought, “this is a kind of magic”. You had your one arm under my neck and the other on my waist and as you were drifting off you whispered, “Don’t leave me, Mama.” I lay with you for a little while and stared at your face. This is a kind of magic.Read more: Dear Ameli – Letter To A 27 Month Old