Tag Archives: This Is Where We Are

This Is Where We Are: a letter to my children on Mother’s Day (6)

Every year on Mother’s Day, I write about how I mother my babies day-to-day. I think they might like to know how the little things felt, as well as the big ones. Here goes the sixth, an entire week late (this is the first year I’ve had a proper excuse). 

Dear Future Versions of Henry, Teddy and Imogen,

This has been my sixth Mothering Sunday, and you are five-and-a-half, three-and-three-quarters, and two weeks old, respectively. And this is what we looked like today.

It’s a bit odd writing this letter, this year. We have never been so far from our normal day-to-day, and I’ve never, till now, had a Mother’s Day where I’ve been here in this most intense phase of mothering, the no-sleep, hands-on one where it’s impossible to do anything else. I spend most of my time sat down under various blankets, feeding, and Daddy is home picking up all of my slack (which you love). We’ve spent this whole weekend at home, watching Conference sessions, going for walks, eating, colouring, admiring your new sister in her stripy jersey dress, making monster cars out of Lego. It’s not normal, but I am so enjoying it. I hope you are too.

***

Imogen, here you are at last. We brought you home after that unpleasant forty-eight hours in the hospital, where none of us slept and they made your little heels bleed over and over, and the three of us buried ourselves in clouds of white duvet and slept for four hours in sheer relief. I spent the first week largely on autopilot, in shock, with you an unknowable, ravenous little thing beside me. The second week it was like you’d always been here. You have a head of black hair, like your middle brother did – in fact you look exactly the same as he did, so we keep speculating whether your hair will fall out and grow back bright blonde, like his. You have a delicate pixie-ish face, chubby cheeks, long spindly fingers. One of your toes – ridiculously small – folds under the one next to it, after it spent several months crammed under my ribs.

Two weeks isn’t terribly long to be anything, and most of what you’ll be is unwritten. But you are remarkably unfussy, for a newborn. You sleep in good three hour blocks, and feed happily from me or a bottle. In the evenings you watch our faces intently, dark blue eyes wide. You only screech when we change your nappy. In the bath you stretch out in the water, sigh and close your eyes, a look of bliss on your miniature features.

There was an evening last week where I sat, too late, pyjamas on, and rocked you a little while for the pleasure of it. Little bird, I loved you. It was new, and so strong it hurt my chest. I can’t wait to see where you go next.

***

Teddy, you’re in front of me right now, pushing a toy car from one end of the piano to another, cracking poor jokes for my benefit and humming to yourself. Which is you all over: happy, fidgety, affectionate, unintentionally hilarious and so. very. loud. You hum all the time – one constant, buzzy stream of song fragments – which means we’ll never lose you in a supermarket, but also makes it hard to concentrate. Now you’re a new-minted middle child, you seem huge to us, though in fact you’ve been getting older on the sly for a while. You wake up at a fairly civilised hour, and you’re starting to dress yourself and put on your own shoes. After we’ve dropped Henry off at school we spend the morning together, then you speed off on your balance bike to nursery. You can read, now, and recognise numbers. You just rushed up to tell me that it’s very important to wash your hands after handling your pets (we don’t have any pets) and that ‘boys have eyelashes too, you know’. Apropos of nothing, as per. You represent total, uncomplicated joy to me, still.

You love Where’s Wally books, your bike, Transformers, and any Lego vehicle you can persuade Henry to make for you. You would eat pasta for every meal if I let you. You idolise your brother, even when his reticence frustrates you and your chatter irritates him. You won’t do anything you don’t want to, until I’ve counted to five. Just occasionally now you get tongue-tied and nervous, quite unlike your usual fearlessness. The threenager rages are less and less frequent, now we can see four on the horizon. Which is to say, my baby-no-longer-baby, that you’re growing up.

***

Henry, this is you. Somewhere between five and six, and in the middle of a big year. Self-contained and quietly stubborn. Cautious and intuitive. An endless, vocal worrier. You are dryly funny, an insatiable fact-hoarder, and can communicate ten sceptical things just by raising your eyebrows. You love reading, cycling, dancing and singing (strictly in private, those two), Pokemon, dinosaurs, Lego, and sausage pie for dinner. You hate having to do anything quickly, and being reminded that I am in charge. At home you are kind and capable, though you have flashes of defiant temper and always want the last word when we disagree (I have a feeling this will come up again in, say, ten years). You dress yourself, like your own space, and direct Teddy like a benevolent general when you play or do chores together. Yesterday I was in the middle of making Sunday lunch, and came in to find the two of you poring over your Pokemon encyclopaedia, you making up quiz questions and Teddy guessing the answers. You are increasingly inseparable. It’s everything we hoped for, for the two of you.

At school – such a huge part of your life now – you are the youngest in your class, and I think you feel it without knowing precisely what ‘it’ is. You are quiet and unshowy there. Sometimes you struggle with who to play with in the playground. You feel things very deeply. It can be difficult for both of us. I try hard not to wish away your sensitivity because, my love, I want you to remember that emotional literacy is a powerful thing, and not something to be ashamed of. To know always what you’re feeling and how others feel too – do you know how rare that is? If you can work up the confidence to listen to yourself, you’ll be a wonderful friend: the sort of steady light in the corner that people are drawn to; the sort of person people feel safe with. And I couldn’t ask for anything better for you to be.

So there we go. I don’t know what our normality will look like over the next few months; I expect things will be chaotic for a while, and you’ll have to be patient with me, as you have been for the best part of a year now. I hope it counts for something that I love your company. That’s all I wanted to say: that I love your company, and I love where you are, even with all your contradictions and complexities.

(I’m also very tired.)

Here’s to our new gang of five.

Much love,

Your mother.

This Is Where We Are: a letter to my sons on Mother’s Day (5)

Every year on Mother’s Day, I write about how I mother my babies day-to-day. I think they might like to know how the little things felt, as well as the big ones. Here goes the fifth (late again – will this become part of the tradition? Yes).

Dear Future Versions of Henry and Teddy,

This has been my fifth Mothering Sunday, and you are four-and-a-half and two-and-three-quarters, respectively. And we look like this.

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In previous years we’ve taken Mother’s Day photos in natural light, somewhere outdoors, possibly with matching outfits. We ran out of time for that, this year, but I’m glad. When I look back at this phase in our lives, this is how it will feel. We are dishevelled and muddy from walking home through fields. I wear those trousers every day despite the giant hole in one knee, which I got from kneeling on asphalt wrestling Teddy into pushchairs. Henry in school uniform – hasn’t that been a transformative, defining part of the last six months – and Teddy wearing a piece of everything he’s eaten today. I need my hair cutting. I always need my hair cutting. We’re a mess, but it’s a good mess.

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Ted, you still wake up first. Will you always? It feels like it. Six am, on the lucky days. We have an unspoken rule that the parent you’re shouting for is the one who has to get up for you. You seem to be favouring Daddy this month (yessss). You are way past two-and-a-half, and it still hasn’t occurred to you to try climbing out of your cot. (Much more cautious than your brother, who climbed high and early and often.) You are getting taller, suddenly. Long fingers, long feet. Still the blue eyes, the half-ton of white-blonde hair. You are quite heart-stoppingly beautiful, altogether. We don’t really know how it happened.

You are also, alas, the twoiest two-year-old that ever lived. Once you had full sentences and strong opinions in your arsenal, we were sunk. You are constantly nattering, shouting, protesting, singing. Singing! That’s a new one for us. You pick up songs from nowhere and sing them to yourself – accurately and in full – in the bath. Your current favourites are Hey Jude (by ‘zer Beatles’), Life on Mars (by ‘Starman’) and the Frozen soundtrack (while you provide an audio commentary to explain what would be happening on screen right now, if we could see it).

You also love: your stuffed dog and cat, your rainbow wellies, books, the ‘little wed boike’ you inherited from Henry this year, Thomas the Tank Engine, grapes and yoghurt, and all the beleaguered pets belonging to our neighbours. You hate: having to get in the pushchair, having to get into your car seat, getting out of the bath, sending Henry into school and not being able to follow, having to do anything you weren’t going to do anyway. You are the best and most exhausting of daytime companions, the teller of terrible jokes, the giver of spontaneous hugs. ‘I baaaaaack!’ you shout, as you run into a room you left thirty seconds ago. We three introverts couldn’t do without you for a moment.

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Henry, my love: isn’t being four fantastic? It feels like a crossroads of an age: we get occasional flashes of toddlerhood, when you struggle with taking turns or decide you don’t like chicken again today; then sometimes I look at you and can see ahead, to the quiet, capable and fascinating boy you’re going to be. So soon, so soon. You are so much calmer, more able to articulate your ideas and feelings. You do a heck of a lot of both, being you: interested in everything, and also hyper-aware of how you and others feel. It’s a funny old (sometimes exhausting) mix. All this emotion makes you a worrier who tends towards melodrama (‘my TEARS are BURNING MY FACE!’ you screeched at me last week). I’m hoping you’ll feel more at ease with time, and that you know you always have a safe place here with me.

You started school in September and you took to it immediately, much to our relief. You like to learn, as I said, and once you had a small circle of friends to call your own, you flew. Writing, reading, solving little counting problems – all new, and you seem to thrive on it. We walk home with you peppering me with facts and questions from your scooter. This morning you asked me to locate and explain all of your major organs, and the kidneys were your favourite. I suspect because they work with wee, and toilet jokes are king. All this is total joy.

Other things you love: dinosaurs, sausage and mash, your scooter, your books, your dinosaur trainers, your red Oxford hoodie (worn so often you’ve broken the zip), and our giant box of Duplo. You eat well and you’d sleep for much longer if it weren’t for Teddy bouncing on your head. You’re growing out of all your trousers simultaneously, again.

So there we are. I wonder, often, what you’ll remember when you’re older, now you’re starting to remember. From my vantage point I can see it all, of course, including the hard and terrible days. I know that I am often tired and bedraggled, that I’m not very patient, and that I make dinner too late (does that ring a bell? Like, 6pm at the earliest?).

But we’ve been walking home through the gorse this week. All out, and all blazing yellow. We made up a rhyme between us to remember its name, ages ago, and you always do. You tell me jokes and I laugh because the telling of them is funny even if the joke isn’t (it isn’t, sorry). We take off our wellies and come into the warm and I put the kettle on. I hope you’ll remember that feeling, the same one I get when the kettle starts to boil: I love this, and you – so much I can’t really articulate it, after all this – and I wouldn’t be anywhere else.

Let’s stay here as long as we can.

With much love,

Your mother.

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This Is Where We Are: A letter to my children on Mother’s Day (3)

Dear Future Versions of Henry and Edward,

Today is my third Mothering Sunday, and you are two-and-a-half and nine months old, respectively. We are tucked up in bed again, this time because you have hand, foot and mouth virus. Before I had children I thought HFM, if I thought about it at all, was a disease for cows. Motherhood is not so much a learning curve as a learning ski jump, with no skis attached.

You first, Teds? You don’t often get to go first.

Henry and I call you ‘bear’ at home, and it suits you. You are a golden-haired, roly-poly, beaming little thing, and you remind me more of a bear cub than a baby. Your eyes are an untroubled, unclouded blue. Honestly, Teddy, I could go a hundred miles and not find another person as sweetly lovely as you. You are the sort of boy who sits in a two-inch bath clenching his fists and squealing, because nothing has ever been as good as this bath, ever. I can put you on the bed with a piece of paper, and twenty minutes later you’ll get a bit bored so I’ll need to mix it up a bit and show you an interestingly coloured sock. You’re that kind of lovely. You’re the sort of lovely that smiles so wide there’s not room on your face for the whole of it, because that’s the kind of smile you think everyone deserves.

You love cherry tomatoes (what?!), apple puree, your purple spider, bouncing on your chubby feet, being in water, anyone who will look at you twice, and your brother, who is the brightest thing in any room you’re in. You hate…well, actually, I can’t think of anything. Except maybe being ignored for too long, at which point you bellow so loudly the glass shatters in the photo frames. You eat well; you sleep well; you throw up like it’s an Olympic sport. When I pick you up and you huff contentedly into my hair, I squash my face against yours and look sideways. All I can see is cheeks.

Two babies has been an adjustment I can only think of in natural disaster metaphors: a tsunami, a tidal wave, an earthquake. But it hasn’t been a disaster at all, and that’s because of you. Do you know how rare it is to find someone who evokes in you utter, uncomplicated joy? That’s you, my darling. So bright I can’t look at you straight. You have the sort of light that people are drawn to, and I’m only grateful it landed on me first.

***

Henry, you quicksilver boy: you are skinny, sandy-haired and full of burning energy. Your eyes are blue with the most extraordinary rings of greeny-yellow: they remind me of those fire-veined pebbles you find on beaches, still wet from the sea. If I told you this you would fix me with that look you get, eyebrows raised, mouth quirked up on one side: that, good madam, is ridiculous. You love a good joke, and I’m often your best one.

You love books, sausage pie, the twenty-seven ‘waysing cars’ you have stashed everywhere, Finding Nemo, sprinting, sitting in patches of sunshine in your bath towel, and Daddy. You hate salad, being made to take off your towel and get dressed, sitting in the Tesco trolley, and being reminded that I am in charge. You are rapid-fire chatter, ingenuity, single-mindedness, throat-gurgling laughs. When I push you high on the swings, you close your eyes and tip your head back to the open skies. You invite me to dance during the closing credits of any film we watch, and I would never dream of turning you down. You are clever as heck. Let’s say that now while you’re too young to get it. Oh gosh, you really are.

We have a more complicated bond these days: you want things and push back when you can’t have them; I lose my temper over your stubbornness more often than I should. We are parenting now in earnest, and often I feel a terrible tearing mix of frustration and fear and pride and love. I suppose that’s how you become less of me and more of you, and there’s something wonderful in that. I love you fiercely for your wholeness and integrity. Regardless of who’s watching, you are always most perfectly yourself. I have this sense of you as a poised arrow: fearless, determined, ready on the string. I can’t fathom where that headlong rush forward will take you, but I can guess. So high, my love, so high I can only watch you: so blazingly, beautifully high.

With love and some hair-pulling (on all sides),

Your mother.

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Now it’s your turn! Want to write your own This Is Where We Are? Click below and add the URL for your post and see the others. The linky will be open for a week. I would love to read it!

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If you have a child and a blog, I have just the project for you

The other day, I wondered casually why there are no photos of me and both boys together.

This is why.

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(The hair-blinding. The escaping trousers. The determined ninja foot. Let’s get this cracker on the wall, sharpish.)

I’m going to need a better effort for our Mother’s Day photo this year, so watch this space. Ug.

In other news: if you’ve been hanging out here for a while, you may have noticed one of my dearest Mother’s Day traditions is writing a letter to my children about how it feels to be their mother. I hope they’ll want to read these in years to come – but they also mean a lot to me, as a record of where they are, where I am, where we are together.

This year I thought it might be nice to read other people’s, so I’m going to turn it into a linky. Which is, if you don’t know (I didn’t for ages) – a blog post with a form at the bottom for you to enter a post of your own. It appears as a little thumbnail at the bottom of my post, so anyone can find your blog from mine.

It can be funny, heartfelt, sad, exasperated – anything, as long as it’s true. I value women’s raw experience, here in this community. I don’t take it lightly, and I’d love to gather some together here. Perhaps we can make a day that can be upsetting or guilt-making for some more uplifting. The linky form will be open for a week, starting on UK Mother’s Day (30th March), so don’t worry if you don’t have time on the day itself. But I’d love you to join in! (I’m also frightened that it will sit alone and unbothered for the whole seven days, so if you’re undecided, well – here’s my best pretty-please face.)

It’s called This Is Where We Are: A Letter to my Children on Mother’s Day. My previous letters (here and here) are now called this too, because you can do this on the internet, and that is why blogs are better than journals for indecisive people.

I do love you, dear readers! I mean, I don’t want to get all weird or anything. It’s just, I suppose, that I’m very glad you’re here.

Fist-bumps from the woman with three kinds of snot in my hair today.

Rachel.

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.

This Is Where We Are: A letter to my son on Mother’s Day (1)

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

Dear Future Version of Henry,

Today is my first Mothering Sunday, and tomorrow you will be seven months old. I am sat in a puddle of quiet, feeding you before your nap. You’re not much interested in feeding these days apart from as a comforting book-end to sleep. The knowledge that this connection between us is winding to a close is breaking my heart just a little. You are so big now. You are so completely yourself. You’re hardly my creation at all.

It has taken us this long to cobble together something like a routine, but we’re getting there. Neither of us are great at sticking to a routine – I am too indecisive and you are too energetic – but it does us both good. You nap twice in the day if we’re lucky, and most of the night. You will eat sweet potato till it comes out of your ears (or nose, more often), but choke extravagantly on anything more solid. You do everything extravagantly: lunging at things you want to put in your mouth, burying your face in my neck in a fit of excitement, bouncing like a grasshopper in my lap. You are always in the throes of some passion or other. You are never, never still. I think you’re going to give me a run for my money as soon as you can actually run.

You love singing, Sir Prance-a-Lot, your door bouncer, books that are solid enough to get in your mouth, labels, my hair and Daddy. You hate pasta, getting dressed, and doing anything for longer than five minutes.

In some ways I struggled with the transition to full-time mothering, needing more validation and more structure than you were able to give me, but I’ve grown into my life as you’ve grown into yours. I’ve been surprised at how natural it all is. I know every inch of you. I can sense what you need without really having to try. You want Daddy when you want to be happy, and me when you want to be sad. I know I won’t always be able to fix your problems so easily, but oh, I wish I could.

I have so many hopes for you. I want you to be independent and confident and curious. If I could have you be anything, I would have you be kind. I worry about you constantly. I suppose it will always be like that. But I love who you are and who I’ve become since you arrived. I only have you to thank for that.

With love,

Your mother.

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