Tag Archive for parenting

Letters to my Three-Year-Olds

Dear Claudia,

Today, you turn three.  What an amazing year it’s been.  Looking back, I can’t believe how much you have changed.  When you turned two, I was already astounded at your grasp on the English language and how much you could say and understand, but back then you still referred to yourself, in the third person, as “Daudie”  Not only have you mastered the ‘cl’ sound, you quickly mastered the first person too.  Your sentences became more and more complex, the concepts you could understand and talk about became more and more abstract.  Every single day you will come out with something that amazes me either in the way you have expressed something or the complexity of the idea you are expressing.

You still love to sing.  Your repertoire has increased and moved on.  You like to sing in the car, often taking requests or singing a nursery rhyme over the top of my choice of radio station.  You have started putting on shows, which are a real treat.  Whilst I suspect you will never perform except on your own terms, you are now confident enough to stand up in front of a group of family or friends and sing a few songs, which you always approach with massive amounts of enthusiasm.  Even when the audience consists only of me and your sister, you will climb up on a chair and stand there singing your heart out.  You love to dance and will often ask me to put music on for you.  When we visited London Zoo recently, you couldn’t wait to see the penguins and show them your penguin dance, although you assured me that they would already know it, “because they do it, because they are penguins!”

IMG_2169

Your confidence has increased in so many ways.  I remember last summer, not long after your birthday, you becoming upset on the beach at Deal because you couldn’t throw stones far enough for them to hit the water and make a splash.  You fairly calmly but resolutely refused to throw any more stones, asking Mummy to throw them for you instead.  Mummy and I worried that we had done something wrong by you, that we had somehow compared you to your sister or made it seem as though we were only interested in things you could do well.  We needn’t have panicked.  It has taken time and practice (as all things do), but you have slowly learned resilience, determination and persistence.  Not too long ago I watched you trying to climb up a slide at a soft play centre – an activity that your sister mastered quite quickly.  I watched you climb and slip and climb and slip and climb and slip, never giving up until you reached the top with a massive smile on your face.  I couldn’t have been prouder, but, most importantly, I knew that you couldn’t have been prouder of yourself and that was what really mattered.

You are still quite cautious in new situations and can need quite a lot of physical reassurance.  You definitely have a growing group of people whom you trust, however.  You love both your grandmothers with an intensity, often staying superglued to their sides for the duration of a visit.  You surprised us all a few months ago when, after a day with Popsey and Grandad, you asked to stay the night.  We were taken aback but able to oblige, wondering whether we would be summoned back before we even reached the end of the road.  You had a brilliant time and we were able to FaceTime with you the next morning before your grandparents returned you to us by train.

IMG_0954

Your imagination is amazing.  You love to role play.  You often play ‘Red Riding Hood’, roping in your sister or a friend to be Granny.  You like to play shops and you take orders and produce your stock from a range of imaginary drawers in the footstool.  It always makes us laugh though that you never seem to have anything in that Mummy asks you for.  Luckily for me, my orders are always quickly processed!

You love Frozen and Tangled and Hoodwinked and Shrek.  You love Dora the Explorer and totally took me by surprise several months ago when you spontaneously counted to “ocho” (eight).  You have since increased your repertoire of Spanish words and can identify the colours “rojo” (red) and “verde” (green) as well as knowing “ariba” (up), “abajo” (down) and “empujon” (push).  You have an amazing memory – reciting several of your books entirely by heart or correcting us if we miss a word.  You discovered puzzles shortly after Christmas and could instantly see the way in which the pieces needed to fit together in order to match the picture on the box.  Grandma had found a set of Thomas the Tank Engine puzzles in a charity shop and you had enjoyed figuring out where the pieces went, so I bought you a set of Frozen puzzles that ranged from 12-24 pieces.  Within a week you could do the simplest puzzle in less than a minute and the hardest one in only a few minutes.  It is amazing watching you methodically testing the shape of each piece and consulting the picture on the box to check where you think it should go.  You enjoy board games and have a lot of patience and understanding.  You like to follow the rules.

You still love pink, but you are also in a real Disney phase when it comes to your clothing.  You love anything with Minnie Mouse on and you recently picked out a very bright pair of leggings with Cinderella all over them.  You love a stripy navy dress we were given as a hand-me-down and adore getting dressed up for a party.  You are very proud of your hair, having finally grown it enough for it to be considered long.  It is fantastically curly and you like to admire it.  Every evening, after I put your pyjamas on, you look in the mirror and gently pull your hair out of the neck of your pyjama top.  Often, when you put on an outfit, you will ask, “do I look beautiful?” and I tell you that I always think you look beautiful.  We all spend a great deal of time marvelling at how much you look like Mummy and Mummy’s side of the family, when of course there is no genetic link, but when I dug out the photograph we have of your donor at a similar age, we were really astounded at how similar you look to him.  It’s incredible.  I guess it shouldn’t be really because of course you were made with half of his genetics, but because he isn’t a part of our life it is easy to forget that.  It really is amazing to look at his picture and see you looking back at us.

You are a social person and love to spend time with your friends.  You hold their hands and hug them and tell them that you love them.  It has been amazing watching you start to talk to children you don’t know as you have started to learn about social etiquette and how to engage other children in play.  You love to include others in your imaginary world.

You love to help me in the kitchen.  In fact you love to help me, full stop.  You help sort the washing or press the buttons to operate the dishwasher.  You will usually help me tidy your toys away.  You like to make people happy and your mad moments are as entertaining as the small quiet moments when we are snuggled together and chatting about your day.

IMG_4416

I am so excited to see the new and different ways in which you will blossom over the next twelve months.

I love you so much,

Mama x

Claudia Turns 3 from Becoming Mums on Vimeo.

Dear Imogen,

Two has been an amazing age with you.  Your personality has developed and solidified.  Your tenacity, persistence and strength of will have become even more apparent – in ways that delight as well as frustrate us!  You know what you want and you are determined to achieve it.  You are unwavering in your pursuits.  Whilst this can cause us to clash at times, it also shows a fantastic strength of will and an admirable single-mindedness that I want to nurture, rather than diminish.  You can be exasperatingly destructive, but I feel like you are starting to understand the permanence of your actions, even though you can’t always control your impulses.

You are a problem-solver.  You love to figure things out or negotiate a solution.  As your language has developed, your suggestions have become more thoughtful, complex and harder to dismiss!  You also love to share your knowledge and skills.  You like to help people and can often be heard explaining or demonstrating a particular skill or technique to someone.  You are very sensitive to other people’s emotions.  You show concern every time we hear a baby or toddler crying and you want to make sure they are being looked after.

You can be so gentle.  I watch you with your dolls and you cradle them and kiss their faces and talk to them and it takes my breath away because your tenderness is astounding.  You are the same with us, kissing and cuddling, knowing when we need an extra hug or a kiss.  You come and find me when I’m busy cooking or sorting the washing and demand a cuddle on the sofa and I come and snuggle with you for a time.  When you are tired your thumb goes in and what you really want is someone’s arm – not to go around you, but to sit across your body so you can stroke its elbow and press it close to your face.  You need that human contact when you go to sleep.

IMG_2324

In April, I panicked because I realised that you hadn’t breastfed in several days – maybe even a week – and I couldn’t believe your last time had passed without me marking it.  I spent a few days telling people I thought you had weaned and then of course you contradicted me by asking for milky at bedtime a few days later.  Since then you have gone longer and longer without, only latching on for a second or two when you do.  I no longer worry about not knowing the precise date when you will stop (or indeed, whether you already have) because I have accepted that this is how this process works – a gentle, slow cessation that is on your terms, not mine.

When we go to a new place, you are always keen to explore and rarely look back.  We have always thought of you as confident and adventurous.  There are times when you are so keen to investigate a new place or go in a particular direction that I have to actually chase you down, wondering if at any point you would have wondered where I was or if I was still following you.  But we have also discovered this year, that you actually need us more than we think.  You are confident to the extent of parental-fear when you know where we are, but you actually become very distressed if you can’t find us.  You are usually less keen to spend time away from us or away from your sister, although you do have fun with your grandparents.  When a film is scary, you need us to sit with you and with Snow White you needed me to recount the story of the Queen drinking the magic potion over and over again.

You feel all your emotions in a big way.  Your upsets are big and loud and scary but your happiness can be just as huge and your smile couldn’t be bigger or wider if you tried.  However, you are fiercely protective of your own emotions and I have had to teach myself to ignore my instincts when you are upset (all I want to do is sweep you into my arms) and instead allow you the space to express your emotions before you are ready to come to one of us.  You are a complex character, whose feelings aren’t always obvious or easy to name.  You definitely don’t wear your heart on your sleeve, although with a bit of help, you can usually name your emotions and tell us if we’ve upset you.

You love to be thrown around and you’re never happier than when you are climbing or jumping.  Soft play is your Promised Land and you climb to great heights without looking back.  You love the woods.  Now, the mud is dry, but in the wetter months you got as muddy as could be, flooding your wellies with water and silt.  Now it is dryer, you enjoy paddling in the streams and lakes, filling buckets with pebbles and catching tadpoles.  You love the beach.  Frustratingly, we’ve not been as many times as we would have liked so far, but we have plans for the summer to take you a lot more often.  You run into the waves without a glimmer of fear.  You splash and dig and build sandcastles and laugh in the face of British weather that might mean it’s not quite warm enough to enjoy the cold sea.  You love theme parks.  We have visited two now and you never stop talking about them. The first time we went, you mentioned it every day until we visited again a month or so later.  You are a thrill-seeker and we have yet to find a ride you haven’t enjoyed.

P1040593

You get frustrated quite easily.  You don’t have a lot of patience with slower activities that require attention to detail, but your favourite game is to care for your dolls.  You will tell me things about your baby and what you’ve been doing together.  Baby comes everywhere with us, more or less.  She’s been to our forest school and helped you catch tadpoles, she’s been to Mummy’s work and played in the playgrounds.

IMG_2334_2

You are happy playing alone, although you reconnect with your sister from time to time.  You get overwhelmed by crowds of people and take yourself away from the action.  You like us to all be together, the four of us, and miss your sister terribly if you are away from her.  You have a big heart and fire in your soul.  I can’t wait to see what adventures the next year will bring!

Love always,

Mama x

Imogen Turns 3 from Becoming Mums on Vimeo.

This is Not a Blog Post

Basically this is me not writing a blog post to tell you that I don’t have time to write a blog post. (Time – or some other lame excuse; it just isn’t happening at the moment.)

There is so much I want to write about – things the girls have done, the way they are constantly changing, how much more in love with them I am every day, parenting decisions we are making as we roll along, feminism, politics, that debate between Peaches Geldof and Katie Hopkins, how mothers relate to one another – particularly when they disagree on a parenting style…

All of the words, I have them in my head. But yeah, these days there is not much chance of them finding their way onto a page. The girls don’t nap much and I do have chores to keep on top of when they give me a chance, which is really boring but true.

So apologies. I hope to find the time really soon. If you want to keep up with what the girls are doing, the best way is to follow my Instagram feed (@starrynite81) or check out When Sally Met Sally (whom I owe a post to before the month is out).

Thanks for sticking around despite my severe lack of input.

Fragility

Before the twins were born I knew they were safe and snug in my belly. I loved feeling them wriggle and kick (although I preferred it when they weren’t aiming for my ribs or bladder). I was prepared once they were born to feel a bit bereft to no longer have them inside me, and to feel anxious that my body was no longer protecting them, as I had heard others say. However, I felt neither of those things. I was overjoyed to meet them and be able to hold them in my arms and I knew that L and I would do everything in our power to keep them safe.

Occasionally I would allow myself a glimpse of what it might feel like if tragedy struck and I knew I would be absolutely destroyed if something were to happen to either of them. But I wasn’t scared.

I was pretty sniffy about the SIDS advice. I didn’t think we would want them in our room until they were 6 months and I was happy for them to nap in their cots rather than in the same room as me as soon as I felt I was reading the tired cues correctly. I put Claudia to sleep on her tummy for a while because she seemed to hate being on her back, screamed if we swaddled her and had a strong Moro reflex that made lowering her into her bassinet on her back a real challenge.

I always felt that the two of them seemed just so robust and strong – even at the beginning when they were weighing barely 5lb – and it just seemed impossible that anything could happen to them. When Immie first started sleeping in her own room (Claudie was still in with me), L made me check her when we came up to bed, and we used to debate whether it was worth the risk of disturbing her. She was always fine, as I always said she would be.

I never felt anxious; I took everything in my stride. My babies were strong and tough; SIDS was what happened to other people. L says she would have abandoned BLW weeks ago because the babies’ gag reflex freaks her out so much and she worries they are choking, but my calm and confident attitude to it reassures her, and they do always manage to either swallow or spit out whatever they are struggling with. I’ve never (yet) had to deal with an actual choking situation, but have always trusted the babies to move the food around their own mouths – and it’s worked. Claudia would sometimes look so still sleeping in her buggy that I would have to poke her to check she was still breathing, but I never really worried and would send L jokey picture messages saying Claudie was playing dead again.

In early February, however, I heard news of two babies dying in their bed, within a week of one another. These weren’t tiny, helpless newborns, but strong and robust babies of 9 and 15 months. Their parents didn’t smoke, hadn’t been neglectful, just suffered from awful, terrible luck. Both babies were still being breastfed. Both babies spent a lot of time in their parents’ beds or being carried in a sling…

IMG_4202

I have to keep checking the girls now when they sleep. They’ve been taking longer naps, which I’m not complaining about, but it has made me anxious and I’ve had to check on them several times. Immie has also started sleeping on her side or tummy, which is less desirable than her sleeping on her back.  One morning Immie fell asleep on her side diagonally across the top of her cot, with her forehead pressed against the cot bumper and I checked her every twenty minutes or so for the whole two hours she was asleep because I was just so afraid. I have felt the need to check on her on my way to bed again, which we haven’t done in ages.

The other night the babies were with L’s parents and we were walking back from a really lovely curry when a car sped past us doing way over the speed limit. We both glanced at one another, shocked that someone would drive so recklessly through a residential area. My stomach lurched and I had a horrible vision of the car careening across the pavement and taking us both out. Obviously I have no desire to be killed by a speeding car anyway, but the realisation that such an event would leave the girls as orphans sent shivers down my spine and my stomach churning.

There is nothing like parenthood to make you appreciate the fragility of life; to feel so terrifyingly out of control and unable to guarantee the safety of your progeny. The thought that something might happen to us and leave the girls without their mums is unbelievably gut-wrenching, and the concept of something happening to one of them is almost unthinkable. It’s like having your skin peeled back, exposing nothing but nerve-endings, each one screaming in agony as another fearful thought brushes roughly past.

But these things happen. God, tragedy happens every day and not because people were neglectful or careless, but because sometimes bad shit happens.

And all I can do is hug my girls a little closer and try to be a little more vigilant and hope and pray that tragedy won’t strike us. And as I sit here, writing this, with Claudia’s slightly clammy head tucked under my chin and her arms draped sleepily over my body and her little heart beating over mine, I know that I’m one of the luckiest people alive and I cling on to every precious moment I get with my beautiful family – my three wonderful girls.

IMG_3887

And that, Mr Jones, is a warm and safe environment.

%d bloggers like this: