Tag Archives: Letter

One thousand, eight hundred and twenty-six

 

Dear Henry,

Today is your birthday, and you are five. You are asleep, finally, after an exciting day where you have made all the important decisions: bacon and waffles for breakfast, a trip to London to visit the ‘dinosaur museum’, hot dogs and milkshakes for lunch, episodes of Transformers Rescue Bots for an evening treat. At every pause in the day you have told me how happy you are. ‘Isn’t this the best day we’ve ever had?’ ‘Mummy, I’m having such a nice time’. ‘I wish we could do this day forever and ever!’ If I’d have known that this kind of loveliness would be the reward for year three, I’d have kept my chin up rather better than I did.

Because you are lovely, Hen, quite unexpectedly. I don’t mean that to sound like an insult – I mean that you are such a stubborn, inquisitive, emotional boy that you have often brushed your way through the world like a porcupine with all its quills out. Interested in everything, refusing to back down if you feel you’re in the right, never moving with the crowd for the sake of moving. Honestly, it can be (has been) frustrating having a child who is so resolutely not a people-pleaser. You are yourself, always. You mean everything sincerely. You will not perform. At school we had to find other motivations for you to try hard other than ‘your teacher will be pleased’, which left you unmoved, as much as you loved your teachers. We settled on something like ‘getting better at things makes me feel good’. These days I feel like this total, self-contained integrity will be one of your greatest strengths.

(I don’t want ’emotional’ to sound like an insult either: another one of your superpowers is that you can always articulate exactly what you’re feeling and sense what others are feeling too. That’s pretty rare, and very valuable.)

But then yes, in the past year – loveliness too. More calm, more logic. More space for your natural sense of humour to hold sway. You have let your brother keep one of your new birthday toys in his sticky fist all day, without complaint. The other day he fell over in the park, and I looked up to find you guiding him tenderly down the stairs towards me, so I could help him. (You also bicker A LOT; I mean, we’re not in Utopia here.) You are still obsessed with dinosaurs, bikes, books, sausage pie – but now you prefer showers to baths, hoodies to jumpers, cereal to porridge, and those vaguely hideous dinosaur trainers to basically everything else on the planet.

And you talk. Constantly, hungrily, melodramatically. You pick up words and facts from obscure places and bring them out later, much to our surprise. One day you appear in the doorway holding your arm and screeching ‘Teddy! You did that on real big purpose!’ Or when I’m trying to convince you to wear a winter hat: ‘I’ll never be with you if you force me to wear things. YOU FORCER’. The next day you’re refusing to go to bed until we’ve read the encyclopaedia page on the Industrial Revolution (‘Ohhh. I’ve been thinking about that.’ ‘You’ve been thinking about…the Industrial Revolution?’ ‘Yes! All the time!’) and correctly identifying, after an internal rummage, a duck-billed platypus in the Natural History Museum (‘How did you know that?’ *shrug* ‘Oh, I dust picked it up somewhere.’).

Anyway, on you go. Back to school in September, and no longer the baby. Buying a bike tomorrow with your birthday money, with no stabilisers. I exclaim twice a minute how big you are – this must get annoying – but really, Hen, I’m not sad about it. You child of my heart; you beloved, vulnerable, fiercely defiant boy. You are growing into yourself all the time. And you’re making, oh, such a wonderful job of it. I am so proud. I look at you sometimes and I can barely breathe for it.

Happy fifth, with much love.

Your mother.

Photo 19-08-2016, 6 14 30 pm

Seven hundred and thirty

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Dear Henry,

Today is your birthday, and you are two. Tomorrow I will write one of those photo-heavy posts about what we did today, and how you shouted ‘WHOA’ every time the underground train set off, and roared at the dinosaurs in the Natural History Museum, and used every cunning wile you could think of to make us let go of your hand so you could fly off and explore by yourself.

Tomorrow, that is. Tonight – because I don’t have very much left of your birthday, and you’ve been in bed for hours – I just want to write about you.

How can I stop you getting bigger if I don’t write you into a page? Your babyhood is close enough that I can still remember the smell on the top of your head, and your fierce little cry that was more like a shout. But you couldn’t have been further from that today. You wore skinny jeans and lace-up trainers, all the better to run away with. Your eyes were huge under that little-boy haircut; you kept turning back to check that we were keeping up, and just as excited as you.

You are always excited. Or furious. Or in some passion or other. Sometimes you want something without knowing what it is, and whine until I remind you to stop and use your words. I love watching you search for the right thing to say and pull it out with a flourish (‘please-a-haf, gink o’ dooce!’). You use words like a box of wonders. You talk all day, and repeat anything we ask if you think it’ll get you a laugh. You make me laugh a lot. You’ve got a good line in silly faces and exercise moves (Sarah taught you lunges), and can work a room better than either of us.

I sometimes call you Henny-Pen in public. I’m sorry about this. Also, sorry: I dress you with one eye always on button-up shirts and braces. You might never wear a shirt with a cartoon character on it. You might want to get your own fashion sense, sharpish, because at the minute you’re making do with mine.

Today I woke up early and thought about the day you were born (this is one of these sentimental things that will annoy you when you’re older). How I dressed and undressed you like you might break, and looked at you in your hospital crib without knowing what I was feeling. I assumed I would love you. I had no idea what a tidal wave that would be, how it would rebuild me entirely, leaving me new and bruised and tentative. It wasn’t always comfortable. It isn’t always now. But it became a part of me just as you did, and I could never argue with the rightness of it, or the rightness of you.

Two years, and ten thousand miles. You are my box of wonders, little boy. You may not always need my hand in the T-Rex room, or anywhere else. But it’ll be there if you want it, and if not, well. I’m glad I get to watch you run.

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To the Chinese cabbage in my uterus, with love

Dear baby, welcome to the Big Third.

(trimester, that is.)

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Big in all senses, of course. I am now so huge I struggle to fit my beachball face into a photograph (see above), and you are shooting out like a firework. This week you are apparently the size of a Chinese cabbage. I don’t know what a Chinese cabbage is, but the only alternative I found was an aubergine, and I’ve never had one of those in my fridge either. Do you think that if I ate a whole aubergine in one sitting, I’d feel like I were having twins? Don’t answer that.

But isn’t it about time I addressed something to you directly? Because you are the quietest member of our household by far, and the jabs under the ribs you give me are quite often eclipsed by your brother trying to swallow his nail clippers. Now we’re in the home stretch of this pregnancy I feel like you deserve a little more than chocolate milk on tap (though I hope you like chocolate milk, given the circumstances).

You can respond to light and sound. You have fingernails and fat layers and unknowable dreams in the half-darkness. And suddenly I feel like I ought to be making more preparations. This morning it all got a bit much.

Sometimes I wonder what on earth we’re doing, making another person. Motherhood has laid me bare, made me more aware of my limitations than I ever was before. There is endless revolving worry while Henry sleeps at night, and happiness so acute it hurts too. I’m like that kid from Mean Girls who wants to bake a cake made out of rainbows and smiles, because she just has a lot of feelings. I have a lot of feelings, these days. And deep down – alright, not very deep down – I’m utterly terrified that I won’t have room for any more.

But I would like you to know something. Yesterday Henry and I were at the park. It was blazing hot, so we [he] ran wild on the grass before heading to the playground. It was the sort of day where I haven’t bothered to iron his shirt and he finds my every move hilarious.

I thought that a scene like that, with you there as well, would be something really fine. That’s true even on the days where I cry and cry because I haven’t bought you a crib yet and Timothy is in Amsterdam and how can I possibly continue getting bigger for another twelve weeks, I mean seriously.  I think you will be someone I’ll be grateful to know.

Please come, when you’re ready (not yet). We’ll save you a seat.

This Is Where We Are: A letter to my son on Mother’s Day (2)

Having read about it here, I wanted to write about how I mother my babies day-to-day, every Mother’s Day. The first was here. Here goes the second. 

Dear Future Version of Henry,

Today is my second Mothering Sunday, and you are eighteen months old. We are sat side-by-side in the big bed, you tucked under my arm and watching your third episode of ‘Sarah and Duck’. You’ve got a dribbly cold, which is the reason we’re at home on a Sunday morning, and also the only reason you’re happy to be tucked anywhere. I’m making the most of it. Usually you’ve got too much to do.

Oh, I am in love with you, little boisterous boy. You sprint through a world of vivid colour where every last thing is so interesting it’s worth climbing a bookcase for. You should exhaust me completely – our energy levels are not, at the moment, on a par – and sometimes you do. Mostly I marvel at how keenly you feel everything: you’re always astonished or powerfully curious or hilariously excited or heartbreakingly sad. I mean, I never considered how interesting a cake fork was, before you insisted on inspecting all twelve of them in the cutlery drawer. You do not believe in sitting still, not for a second. You sleep like a champ, but only because you’ve knocked yourself out all day wrestling with chairs and sofas and me.

After much trial and error, we’ve found a routine that works for us both at the moment. Daddy fetches you from your cot in the morning, and you lie between us for an hour, hiding under the covers and tweaking our noses, until we’re ready to get up. You take long morning naps while I work, then I fetch you lunch and the rest of the afternoon is ours. You love books, red peppers, your pull-along doggy, the fluffy side of your monkey blanket, other people’s breakfasts, jumping from high places, and Daddy, always Daddy. You would give up ten strawberry yoghurts to have that man chase you around the kitchen. You hate having your teeth brushed, being made to eat when you don’t want to (often), broccoli under any circumstances, and being told ‘no’. We are working on the time-out thing, at the moment. Thus far, not an astoundingly successful experiment. Neither do any of my warning faces have any effect whatsoever. I’ll keep trying.

I feel a great deal more pressure now you not only need to be fed and clean and rested, but also stimulated and taught: given good habits, trained out of bad ones, exposed to people and principles that will open your eyes and make you everything you could be. It’s a lot to do in an afternoon, and I am no great paragon of any of it myself. But somehow, despite all that, I feel more secure now in mothering you than I ever have before. This has been my favourite age so far. You are good company. I can see so much of what you are, and it gives me hope. I want you to keep forging new paths. I want you to be graceful, and grateful, and kind. I want you to read the whole of Roald Dahl’s back catalogue, but that’s probably a goal for another year.

I can’t tell you how much being your mother has changed me for the better. You have my heart and soul and everything in between. I hope you can feel it. I finally begin to understand that the glory of motherhood is this: no matter how far you move away from me, some part of you, for me, will always be that little boy lying between us and kicking his legs in the bed, babbling secrets into the half-darkness. I’ll have that forever. What a gift, my dearest boy. What an inexpressible gift.

With love,

Your mother.

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Dear Future Version of Henry, my hair doesn’t always look like an insane person’s wig. Promise.

Timing

Dearest firstborn son,

Thank you SO much for coating your entire bottom half in hellish-smelling, khaki-coloured poop, exactly three-and-a-half minutes before we had to leave the house to catch Daddy’s train. It took the combined efforts of two adults and thirty baby wipes before you were clean enough for the car seat. The bit where you put your foot back in the nappy swamp right at the end was an especially exciting twist.

I have no idea how to deal with babygros that look like you’ve been wearing them while rolling around in a pigsty. But I think a bath may be in order for both of us.

With love,

Your mother.

Terrible things have happened in here.

A Note for 4th July

[Written earlier in the week, but forgot to post…]

Dear Americans,

On this, your special fireworky celebration day, I would like to take the opportunity to thank you personally for this:

…the peachiest-smelling substance I’ve ever had in my house. Or in my whole life, in fact.

It is peachier than a baby’s bottom. It is peachier than being covered in peach juice and rolled down a cobbled street where the cobbles are made of peaches. It is like washing your hands with essence of Roald Dahl.

I find myself making excuses to have clean hands these days. Luckily, I use the loo quite a bit more than I used to.

I hope you’re proud of your peach bellini masterpiece, dear Americans. I don’t wish to trivialise your many illustrious achievements, but I think this may be the best thing you’ve ever invented. And I say that in full awareness of the Oreo cookie. I know.

Happy 4th July to you!

Rachel.

PS: What’s a bellini?

Catching Up (27 + 5)

Dear TJ,

You know that light sensitivity thing you’ve been getting so good at? I’m really sorry about the torch. It was Daddy’s idea. Hope your retinas are still in one piece.

Sorry as well about the constant hiccups. Have you tried drinking amniotic fluid upside down?

Oh, what did you think to that egg and cress sandwich? I was pleasantly surprised, myself.

PS: nice work on the acrobatics. You’re going to be the bendiest little gymnast baby outside of the former Soviet Union. Dream big, my love.

Your mother.

A Virtual Post-It Note (25 + 5)

My dear Timothy,

While I’m all for daddy-daughter/father-and-son bonding time (and by the way, men with babies = most attractive thing ever, in case you didn’t know), I don’t think that throwing a nerf gun ball at my stomach counts as ‘playing heads and volleys with TJ’. Especially as this morning was the first time your first-born had stopped battering my insides for about 36 hours.  

PS: Remember those days when s/he just used to kick? Good times.

PPS: This is conclusive proof that a diet of toad-in-the-hole and chicken pie is ideal for baby-growing. Clearly this child does not lack for energy.

PPPS: Gosh, imagine if I drank coffee.

On the Rocks

Dear Work,

Please don’t take this personally, but I wasn’t very pleased to see you again this morning. I’ve had five days of sleep and sunshine and books and beautiful things, and wasn’t ready to come back to your alarm clocks, air conditioning and angry authors. I know you pay for our flat and petrol and the occasional Tesco Indian Meal for Two, but this relationship isn’t really working for me.

Could we be penpals instead? It’s not you – it’s me. Oh, ok. It’s mostly you.

Thanks,

Rachel.

A Letter (9 + 6)

Dear TJ,

I hope you like pot noodles. Your umbilical cord will start working in a couple of weeks, and that’s pretty much all I can stomach right now. Which is your favourite flavour? Mine is chicken and mushroom.

PS – What are you doing to my insides? I spend more time on the loo than I do asleep.

PPS – If one of the qualities of a good mother is sheer, bloody-minded determination, then by the time I’ve got through another month of first-trimester full-time-journal-editing, I’ll be a natural. Seven hours a day is an Olympian feat (I will tell you the meaning of Olympian when you’re old enough to like dictionaries as much as your mama).

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