dear wren (13 mo)
Last week you turned 13 months. I used to think that this whole month-by-month thing was a bit silly, that surely a parent could simply say “she’s a bit over one” or “nearly two”, but I now realise why we count age in months rather than years with babies. It’s because SO MUCH happens to them in the span of a month, a lifetime of new experiences that we can’t even comprehend as adults.
The big news this month is that YOU ARE WALKING. Properly walking. One wobbly foot in front of the other, all on your own, like an orangutan being led by your belly, hands up in the air. A bona fide biped. And you’re damn proud of it too, as you should be. The other day we met your friend Arlo in the park. I plonked you down at one end of the park and you clocked him at the other end and you squealed with a delight that I’d never witnessed before and proceeded to stagger towards him as if to say “Look, I can do it tooooo!”
We bought your first pair of shoes at the weekend, which was probably more momentous for us than it was for you. You’re not really keen on having your feet confined. I get it, I’m a barefoot kind of gal. But I’m sorry to stay that until you’re more sure-footed, or at least, until you know how to avoid dog poo and broken glass and all the other obstacles that one comes across on city sidewalks, shoes must be worn.
You’ve become mama’s little helper this month. Whenever you spot a mess (which you spot easily because you are generally the one to have made the mess in the first place), you grab an item of clothing from the clothes basket or a kitchen towel off the hook and you clean it up. And then you put the item of clothing or the kitchen towel back in its place. It’s ridiculously cute.
You’re devouring cherry tomatoes and grapes by the kilo this month, though your love for cheese is unparalleled. You’re also getting quite proficient at using a fork. I give you a fork for everything now. Even toast. Because I know that within minutes of sitting down, you’ll want to steal mine.
This month, you went to the circus for the first time. I thought perhaps you might be too young to appreciate it but you loved it. You actually managed to hardly fidget for an entire hour. I’m still in shock. Other firsts include: strawberry picking, attending a Boden press release and swimming in the paddling pool at the nearby park.
We celebrated dad’s 38th birthday last month. He took the day off and we went out for lunch and visited the Switch House, where you tried to propel yourself over the edge of the viewing platform. I can see now why parents buy leashes for their kids. You also spent quite a bit of time crawling (before you could walk) in the wide open space of the Tate Turbine Hall, attracting dozens and dozens and DOZENS of people around you. Do you have some sort of magnet concealed under your skin? What is this spell you cast on everyone?
You have become insanely bossy. You grab our hands with vice-grip force to lead us wherever you want to go. And you screech like a T. Rex when you want something. This is very unbecoming. I wonder when you’ll be able to say: “Mummy, please may I have another piece of banana?” in a civilised manner. I think maybe your speech is a bit delayed because we speak to you in English and French. You seem to be stuck on da and that and dog. But maybe that’s normal. Still, I can tell that you’re starting to get frustrated when we don’t understand you so I’m trying to teach you sign language. My hope is that there will be less screeching and more signing in our near future.
You are completely addicted to the record player. First thing in the morning, you walk up to it, point at it and say “dat, dat, dat, dat, dat, dat” until I turn it on. And the very moment the needle comes off the record, you demand for it to be played again.You’re particularly fond of Vivaldi. I’m quite pleased that you love music as much as I do and I’m looking forward to expanding your musical horizons by taking you to the used record shop later this month.
We started going to the library recently. I thought it would be a good idea since you love books so much. But it turns out that you love to fling books off the shelves more than you like to read them. So I spend my entire time putting books back on the shelf while you run off towards the next shelf. You are a hurricane, a tsunami, an earthquake. Nothing is safe when you are around. How can something so small cause so much damage is such a short amount of time?
We’ve entered a “I want to do it myself” phase, which is fine until you no longer want to do it yourself and then I have to use my powers of telepathy to figure out that you need help and I better do it quickly before you revert back to wanting to do it yourself. I think it must be really confusing to be a one-year-old. I thought I had a tall to-do list, but at least mine doesn’t include: learn how to walk like a biped and how to say banana.
When you were ten months old, a friend of ours gave you a very pink and very loud piggy bank with plastic coins. The idea is that if you press on his nose, the pig talks “Ouch, that’s my nose” or sings a jingle “Counting’s fun… one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten”. The kind of jingle that stays stuck in your head ALL DAY LONG (thanks C, we love you :)) You’ve been opening and closing the piggy bank’s door for months and then last week, you suddenly got it. You figured out how to put the coins in the slot. Just like that! And this seems to be how you reach all of your milestones. You appear to be just bumbling along, but you’re not. You’re constantly observing, always practicing in your head and then, BOOM! Check out what I can do, bitches! Except that you don’t say bitches. And you want be saying it for a loooong time, ya hear?
We went to the beach for the first time last month. It was a super hot day (in English terms) and dad was away for the weekend so I thought, hey, let’s go on an adventure. We took the train all the way to Margate and back. A two-hour journey both ways. I spent most of the time walking you up and down the aisle and entertaining you. I was exhausted before we even arrived. And then, malheur!, buggies don’t budge in sand so we left our pram by the stairs and I carried you, and all our stuff, to the water. We’ve already discovered that you don’t like sand pits (hate sand pits) and here you were in the biggest sand pit you’d ever seen in your entire life but I thought that your love of water would override your dislike of the sand. It did not. And then a wave crashed into us and whatever curiosity you had about the water soon turned to disinterest. And then I tried to change your nappy on a towel in the sand, which was a ridiculous idea because the thing about sand is that it gets EVERYWHERE, in every nook, in every cranny, in little bums and fannies. I might as well have dipped you in water and rolled you around in the sand.
To make up for my complete failure, I had the brilliant idea of buying you an ice cream cone. Your very first gelato. But you’d never had refined sugar before and giving it to you for the very first time, minutes before embarking on our return journey, was the mother of all bad ideas. OH! MY! GOD! There’s a reason why sugar and toddlers don’t mix. That shit is like crack. You went MENTAL. Like Ellen-Burstyn-frantically-hoovering-in-Requiem-for-a-Dream mental. Up and down and up and down and up and down the aisle we went, you alternating between whining and laughing like a maniac. Thank God for the fairy godmother with the unicorn phone cover who distracted you for twenty minutes. We were completely spent by the time we got home. The next morning, I woke up with a stomach bug. And the following morning, you woke up in a puddle of your own vomit. We went to Margate and all we got was a stupid stomach bug*. You didn’t even get a beach ball out of it because the one that I bought for you rolled down the aisle when I wasn’t looking and got picked up by a young boy and I didn’t have the heart to tell him that it was yours.
I learned quite a few things on that trip. One: always have more snacks than you think you’ll need. Two: bring a couple of toys (duh). Three, and most important: take a wingman with you. Four: A cocktail at the end of the day makes everything better.
Lately, eating out has lost its appeal. Gone are the days when you sat quietly while I enjoyed a meal, or at least a coffee, with a friend. Now each bite is punctuated by me running after you or having to pick up something you dropped (read: flung) or having to figure out how to distract you when you’re having a mini fit, which generally happens when you don’t get what you want (to be fair, that doesn’t happen all the time). However, I’ve discovered that a piece of croissant buys me five minutes of peace. This is my new currency. I thought the terrible twos started at two, but apparently it can start anytime after 12 months and evidently it has. We have entered… the toddler years. Dun, dun, dunnnn! I get it, you can’t communicate, which must be totes frustrating. And I do try to be as patient as I possibly can but scratching my face and yanking my glasses off, the glasses I need to see and make sense of the world around me… well, it’s enough to drive a mom insane. This is why we finally hired a nanny for two mornings a week. I now have a few uninterrupted hours to actually get stuff done, to look for work, to answer emails, to get organised. It make all the difference. And you’re so good, Wren. You’ve taken to her with such ease and I’m so proud of how adaptable you are.
Sometimes I forget that I’m your mom. I feel like I’m the babysitter and then I catch a glimpse of you and I’m reminded that you’re ours and I just marvel at every little inch of you. The nose is mine. Those ocean blue-green eyes, your dad’s. Your outgoing and sociable personality, all his. Your impatience, I’m afraid, comes from me, but we are working on that together. It’s your sense of humour, however, that I love the most about you. You’re such a joker! You actually tried to force out a fart the other day to make me laugh. No word of a lie.
For all my petty moans, I wouldn’t trade you for a thing, kiddo. You and your bruised shins and the dirt in the small creases of your feet and your orangutan walk and your fine hair that blows all over the place. Every single person who meets you comments about what a happy girl you are. You have a strong personality, there’s no doubt about it, but you also have this smile that’s like a disco ball, reflecting light in a thousand directions and everyone is touched by it. That magnetic field of yours has such a strong pull on my heart. And when I step away from my to-do list and when I stop for a while and when we sit on the couch and read a book and you snuggle into the pit of my arm and you point at something (usually a dog, or a duck, or a fly) and you look up at me with eyes so curious and all the wonder in the world, I forget everything and those are the best moments of my day.
Thank you for choosing me to be your mom. Thank you for teaching me every day how to be a better mom, a better person.
*Don’t let my moans deter you from going to Margate. I loved the place, just not the circumstances. Before the beach “incident” we had the most amazing time at my friend’s Bus Cafe, a must-see if ever you are that way. And the Turner Gallery is also gorgeous. And the beach is awesome, unless you’re a one-year-old who doesn’t like sand, then the beach is like a torture chamber.