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.
You were born, and imprinted on my soul forever
You may have forgotten, but I rember the moment our eyes met. Hollywood makes movies from moments like that. That moment, that first feel of your skin, the meeting of our souls, it is imprinted on me forever. As I write this I’m sitting on a train and my eyes well up with tears as I remember the moment that cataclysmically ended life as I had known it, bringing in a new dawn, one where I became a mother. At the moment while you are so excited about all the new things that the new school year will bring you I can only see you through that filter, that small baby.
Oh, if I could stop time to do again these last four years with you unaware of the world out there, with me as your world once more, oh my darling, I would, I would.
I remember the first time I got on a bus with you. I paid my fare and asked the driver how much I had to pay for you. He said “children under 5 are free!” I laughed. I felt I had won the lottery! FIVE years!! That was, I thought, practically a lifetime of free travel!
In just a couple of months, you’ll have to get your own ticket and the thought of it startles me. Where did five years go? Sometimes I still feel like that young mama, baby strapped to me, boarding a bus.
Go my girl. Go into this big wide little world in front of you. Explore beyond the bug box, beyond the sensory rice, beyond the mock snow, dig deeper than the sand pit, deeper than the treasures I’ve hidden for you.
Your first school play at Preschool
Make friends with people I haven’t introduced you to. Learn about things that I haven’t taught you. Go where your imagination takes you but always know where your home is, and where my heart is beating anxiously to hear about your day, your adventures, your experiences.
Yes, you are only nearly five, not eigteen, but if I don’t say it today, the next 12 years may soar by and I’ll be saying it again but with less time to hold on to you.
The world is out there my beautiful, strong-willed, golden-locked girl. The chocolate is yours for the taking. But be kind to your mama whose arms still carry the imprint of the first time they held you. Once in a while, nuzzle into my chest so I can still breathe you, once in a while look back and know that you are still in the centre of my world.
As parents we have this unique and rather amazing ability to forget things. From pregnancy, through birth and seemingly into childhood (and possibly further) we forget the bits that admittedly, don’t always add anything positive to the story. I’ve seen my parents do it, and while I was of the firm opinion that I would never forget a weight, a height, a date of a first word, first whatever, the truth is, you do. Then you have a second (or subsequent ) child, and somehow, amazingly, you forget.
So when Aviya recently started shouting Mine! for… almost everything…., I was suddenly concerned. When did my sweet little genteel baby become so possessive? What did I do wrong. Were we missing out on something fundamental to her development? Aren’t second children supposed to be better at sharing than their older siblings… oh, wait…. that’s right – Ameli did go through something like this. In fact, Ameli was 23 months old when we met our current friendship group, and the first few months of our meetings, I thought they must think me a horrible mother because all my child does is grab, and shove and say MINE!
Then, Ameli being six months older than most of the rest of her group, six months later I started noticing the rest of them had entered this phase and I felt such relief! My child wasn’t turning into a psychopathic monster after all! And then… then I forgot all about it. What is that about?
Anyway. Armed with the wisdom of two and a half years later, and faced with a 23-month old there are a few things I’ve learned along the way, and partly to remind myself and partly to help those of you who are facing this for the n-th time [1. that about the sum total of what I remember about mathematics from school days – ‘nth’ term is a formula with ‘n’ in it which enables you to find any term of a sequence] here are a few things to remember about children and sharing and a few gentle ways to help them through this developmental phase:
1) Don’t Force It
Think of children in terms of your best friend. How would s/he feel if you took their Kindle/iPhone/iPad and made them share it with the guy/girl you met in the coffee shop this morning? Your child feels the same about that doll/car/stick/leaf. It’s worse about things they have a real attachment to, but anything that is your child’s sudden favourite is really important to them.
Instead: Offer an alternative. If it’s something your child really doesn’t want to share, ask them if you can keep it safe until they are alone again. If you’re asking, accept that the answer may be no. Remember that you can’t teach ‘don’t snatch’ by snatching it away from them.
2) Don’t guilt them
‘If you don’t want to share, Johnny/Sue won’t want to play with you‘ sounds a whole lot like ‘If you won’t sleep with him, people will say you’re seriously lame and uncool‘ to me. Not the words, obviously, but the sentiment. I don’t want to teach my child that to be socially accepted she has to willing to do whatever is asked of her. (By the way, there’s a difference between that, and saying ‘if you hit your friends, they won’t want to play with you’. That one is simply true, and logical and pretty much applies in adulthood too. Unless you’re in a boxing club.)
And the truth is, it’s often less about the children than our embarrassment about what people must think.
3) Adjust your expectation
Gosh – I’ve uttered those words to my husband so many times. She’s t-w-o. (not even). Don’t expect six year old behaviour from her. Understand that this is a phase and that it will pass. Your goal isn’t actually – shouldn’t be, anyway – to make her share everything. Your goal is to help her understand why we want to share some things with some people.
Cornell University [2. Psychological Science October 2013vol. 24 no. 10 1971-1979 http://pss.sagepub.com/content/24/10/1971] did a very interesting study on preschoolers and sharing, where children were divided into three groups – one group had to share stickers with a puppet, the next were given a choice between keeping stickers and throwing them away, and the third group had to choose between sharing with the puppet or keeping their sticker.
Interestingly, the children who were given the choice of sharing the sticker or keeping it for themselves, when presented with a new puppet and more stickers to share were the ones who shared the most.Read the full study on toddlers and sharing here. It’s really interesting reading.
“Here are your options: we can put the toy away, or your sister can play with xyz for two minutes while you watch, or you can swap toys and play with each other’s special toys, or you can go play with your own toy somewhere else.” The problem with giving options is that you have to be able to follow through – “should we go home and you can play with your toy alone” given as an option, means you have to be willing to go home right away. Don’t offer it if it’s not an option, and an immediate viability – “share or she won’t share her toy with you later” means nothing to a two year old with no real concept of the passage of time.
3) Highlight the benefit of positive behaviour, without being punitive
There’s a definite difference between “look how sad your friend is because you wont share” and “you shared and your friend is really happy”. The one is guilty manipulation and the other is pointing out the consequence of a behaviour.
If they choose not to share, divert attention to the other child for a minute. “Aviya really doesn’t want to share her special toy at the moment. Why don’t we let her play with it for now and you can show me your special toy?” Chances are the introduction of something else that someone else wants might just provide the motivation for the first child to share their toy after all.
Does this take longer than just snatching the toy from your child and giving it to the other child – something I’ve sadly been guilty of! Of course it does. Are the long term effects worth it? Of course.
There’s nothing wrong with a child having a sense of ownership over their items, and I find especially with second child, so many of their things once belonged to an older sibling, that having things specifically ear marked as theirs is very valuable. And after all, if they care about something, they’ll care for it, and we really do want them to have that sense of ownership so that they will learn to care for their things too.
Remember that modelling is really important to children. They will do as they see us do. (And if you want to read them a story about sharing, Mine! is a great place to start.)
And most importantly, it is a phase. It will pass. What matters isn’t what is and isn’t shared, but how their relationship with the other person – especially in the case of a sibling – is affected going forward.
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.
[pinit] The barn is attached to an orchid with a great play area, wild forest bit and a stream. It’s the most perfect place for outdoor play.
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.
There were also “bubbles” – aka clear balloons (US Link)– strewn across the floor. This provided great entertainment for the little ones. Here’s Aviya crawling after a balloon.
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- withStarfish Haribo (US Link) pouring from it like treasure, andkiwifruit 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 breadfishy 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!
A bit of a mix and match this week. I’m so busy all the time, and exhausted whenever I sit down from more than a minute at a time, but what have I been busy with? Heaven only knows!
306/366 – How Do Single Parents Get To Shower?
Are you a single parent? And you practice AP too? I’d like to take this moment to get you to pat yourself on the back. It’s bloody hard work being a single attachment parent. I’m doing okay now, but this first week? With jet lag? And children who refused to sleep at night but slept in the day? Mama Fail. But we’re back on track! I am so grateful to this chart for reminding me of who my child is, and for how best to support her. Oh and to Winnie the Pooh for letting me have a shower in peace!
307/366 – Lunch Time
Stopping for a snack after a radiology visit, Aviya got hungry too. She had her milk and my mother took a photo, saying ‘It makes a midwife happy to see’. It gives me a deep and sincere sense of gratitude that my mother is so supportive. It’s made my life and my choices so much easier.
We’ve not really had much time for much by way of touristy stuff while we’ve been here in Perth. We’re not here to travel, sure, but I do still like to get out and about and have a look over the place I’m staying. Here’s Ameli, Aviya and myself on the treetop walk in King’s Park. It was lovely to be tourists, even just for an afternoon!
308/366 – Daddy Skype
I’m so grateful for technology. Without it, Ameli wouldn’t see her daddy daily, we wouldn’t get to chat a number of times a day and family communications wouldn’t be what they are. I’m so grateful in this time of separation that we at least have that.
310/366 – First Foods
I can barely believe that my baby is weaning already. I know she’s eight months old now, so it’s probably about time, but I still can’t believe how the time has gone by. What a beauty she is.
311/366 – Out And About
An early morning stroll, out and about. Ameli and Aviya woke early so I took them to the park. Aviya slept the whole way there – no fair! I was so tired, but hey ho. Mamas run on cuddles and coffee, right? Well, this mama does.
You’re five months old today. Five months. Five months. I say the words out loud and I struggle to believe them. I write them down and they look wrong, feel wrong. Where has the time gone?! Have I held on to enough? Can I recall your scent? Will the memory of your hand clutching my little finger live with me forever? I fear I’m already forgetting every moment that wasn’t captured on film. How has it gone so fast?
I’ve learned so much about myself in the last few months. Things I’d never have known if it wasn’t for motherhood, and if it wasn’t for you. For one thing, I’ve learned that you can pick yourself up and drag yourself out and confront the world with a smile when you’ve got something – someone – for whom you have to ‘go on’. I’ve also learned that I’m made of pretty strong stuff.I knew the transition from no children to one would be huge, and I know that it was thoroughly life changing for me, in every facet of human-ness, but I had no idea that the move from one to two would be equally big, in entirely different ways.
I just hope that having gone back to work, no matter how ‘part time’ it has been, so early on hasn’t had an effect, negatively, on you.
I don’t think so though. Honey, you are the smiliest baby ever. You wake up and stare at the ceiling for a while, gurgling and being happy. It’s a foreign concept to me. Also, unlike your big sister, you are perfectly happy to lie there, watching the world go by, and then, perhaps, in a while, have some milk. It’s rather bizarre!
Everyone always asks me if you’re a ‘good’ baby. Of course you are. I mean, you’re a baby, you can’t even sit up yet. There’s not really a lot you can do ‘wrong’ in a prone position! Pedantics aside though, you are such a contended child. It’s an honour being your mama. You’re the baby books are written about!
You have a realy laid back and relaxed character. Nothing really phases you, and you smile at the drop of a hat.
Ameli adores you. The biggest threat to your safety is her all-consuming, overwhelming hugs. She lies on top of you, with her arm around your neck, and you rarely stand a chance! She loves lying next to you, picking you up onto her belly, then rolling over you and bringing you back up again. It gives me a heart attack every time, but you just smile at her, even laugh at her sometimes, which is total encouragement to her to do it again!
You’re not sitting or crawling yet, but you’re trying really hard to. In fact, you get so frustrated when you’re lying on your back straining your head, arms and legs in an attempt to get up. It’s quite funny, actually, and so endearing. You have managed to ‘scoot’ yourself off the bed twice though, so I’ve put you in the travel cot for the early parts of the evenings now.
Your wide, open-mouthed smile is gorgeous, it lights up your face. It stops strangers on the street. Everyone that meets you comments on your beautiful eyes and your amazing smile.
You’ve started ‘chatting’ to yourself, which is superbly cute. You say the ‘goo-goo’s and every now and then you’ll throw in a ‘da-da-da’. I love it. You’re so beautiful.
I was worried, once, that your ‘firsts’ wouldn’t be such a big deal, since we’ve been through ‘firsts’ before, but no, it’s not like that. Every time you do something new, I feel a thrill, an absolute wave of pure, unadulterated, unbridled joy. I have so much pride wash over me when you reach over and grab a new toy, or when you learned to jump in the jumperoo, or when you roll yourself over.
I smile at, and because of you, all the time. It’s just wonderful being part of your life. I regularly look at you and thank God for giving us you. I thank you for choosing us. I thank you for coming to us. At least once a day I close my eyes and breathe you in, trying to capture, and to remember these days, these moments.
I try to remember how you grab my breast with both your hands when you’re nursing. I want to remember how you hold on to my nursing necklace sometimes, and how you love playing with it. I want to remember how you like lying on top of my nursing as I rock you to sleep.
A few weeks ago you were asleep on my shoulder and you put your arm around my neck. A purposeful placement and I melted. I love that. I remember doing that with my dad and feeling so secure in his arms. I hope you feel secure in mine.
I am overwhelmed, sometimes, by the awesomeness of motherhood, by the magnitude of a love I spent 30 years not knowing I was even missing out on. I wouldn’t change a thing about who you are, about who you are to me.
I heard a quote about birth this week that I loved:
“The instant of birth is exquisite. Pain and joy are one at this moment. Ever after, the dim recollection is so sweet that we speak to our children with a gratitude they never understand.” ~Madeline Tiger
I think that’s true of being your mother too – I will forever have a gratitude to both my girls that neither of you will understand, until perhaps, you hold your own babies in your arms.
When life revolved around just us and Ameli and work, I thought time went by so fast. Now I have you and Ameli and work and well, there just aren’t two empty seconds next to each other in the day. I don’t think I’ve ever worked this hard in all my life. I don’t think the time has moved as far either. (more…)
My little girl is two years old. In most circles, that fact is normally followed by ghostly ‘oooh’ sounds.
That bothers me.
It bothers me that there’s an assumed reaction to becoming two years old. It bothers me that an avalanche of bad behaviour is prophetically cast over wary mothers and unsuspecting toddlers. It bothers me that it seems an inexplicable and inescapable fact: The next year of your life is going to suck. Good luck!
Let me tie a couple of thoughts together for you, and see whether you can see where I’m coming from by the end of it: (more…)
I’ve started this letter to you so many times already, and keep deleting what I’ve written because what I’m writing just doesn’t quite match up to the intensity I’m feeling. This has been a full-on month in our story.
You are two years old. We had a birthday party for you at home. It was a Winnie the Pooh themed party and despite being really tired, weak and still somewhat ill, I put on my best face for the day, and tried to make it a good day for you, whether you’ll remember it or not. (more…)
Well, from the back of the room somewhere, I can just about hear a voice going, â€œSo what’s the big deal? It’s not like you’ve never done this before!â€ And that would be rather the point. We have never done this before. We did try to set up a nursery. I painted Peter Pan pictures, and we put up a hanging nappy bag and a travel cot. Mr Husband even put shelves up in an enclave in the wall. But it was hard to spot the baby stuff among the bookshelves, printer, desk and general office stuff. (more…)