Some nice times

Here’s a thing I love about parenting: I love the first time you do something with your kids that you’ve often seen other people do and that’s always made you smile. The first time you feed the ducks at the park. The first time you push them on the swings together. The first time they sit side by side in the trolley at the supermarket.

Today was a stunner of a day. A nice sunny day lifts my mood right up to that faraway blue sky.

We went to the beach.

I formed the intention in the morning, but almost didn’t bother when lunchtime came and went and I hadn’t gotten organised. Then at 3pm I decided, right, let’s do it. Packed them up, and off we went to Lyall Bay.

It was lovely. I always love the beach.

Bub sat on my knee while the little dude and I played a game of burying stones in a mound of sand. Then bub got a bit scratchety so I put him in the buggy (I should write a piece about how much I love love love our mountain buggy swift but prob don’t need to because I can link to this ode to strollers). I pushed him up and down the beach a bit, and he nodded off and I could turn my full attention to the little dude.

He wanted to throw stones in the sea, a longstanding passion of his. We went down to the water with his stone collection, and he threw them in, getting more and more excited. I swished my feet in the shallows and he copied me. I took off his trousers – “drowerdis” – and then he kept splashing so much I stripped him off completely.

There we go. First time the kid gets naked at the beach in the late afternoon, when we don’t have to worry about sunblock. First time frolicking in the waves in the nude, running up and down and around, having so much fun with the sand and the water. I kept wishing I could take a photo, but it wouldn’t have been safe to leave him for long enough to get my phone. When it was time to go and I was getting his clothes ready, he knelt down and started drawing in the sand. I took a photo of that. He is so pale he looks luminescent, like a child of the moon.

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Lull

The little dude has been back to his normal self this weeks, after two long weeks of recovery from the tonsils and adenoids out. So good to see him looking chipper again. There were a few really bad days, he was in a lot of pain but hated having the painkillers, and it was an ordeal. Took me back to when he was a small baby, teething, and would cry and cry until he fell asleep in my arms.

Bub is six months old. He is the cruisiest baby. Little baby super chill. Today we went to the pools. Bub kept getting splashed but he didn’t seem to mind at all, he kicked his little legs happily (Little dude: “Ben aving a yittle kick! Ben aving fun in da watder!”). My brother met us there so we had and extra set of grown up hands. The little dude was cautious at first, then excited. They had an inflatable obstacle course slide thing and he watched for ages then decided he wanted to give it a go – it was mainly much older kids, but ok. Flanked by an adult either side and with one of us there to catch him at the end. He was SO PROUD when he did it by himself on the third go. Wish we’d had a camera. He loved it. Tiny guy in his red sun smart suit inside on a cloudy day, classic.

We did swimming lessons for a while but stopped when he had a teacher who was a bit pushy. He last went to the pools ages ago, bub was only a few days old, my brother took him swimming to give him a little outing. I didn’t think he’d remember it but he did. Funny. I think he might even have remembered swimming lessons and how he didn’t like putting his head under, because he told me he didn’t want to go to the big pool, only the little pool.

I wonder how much he’ll remember of this year, this patchy year. A year of fumbling our way. At least with the second baby you know it’s not going to stay like that permanently. But the little dude doesn’t know. It must be so strange for him. Whenever I stop and think about it I’m struck by how much we expect from kids.

But, sigh of relief, this week marked the start of a little stretch that should be a bit calmer: from now til I go back to the office. Our last calm patch was a year ago, second trimester of pregnancy, I wrote about it then. It’s been a bumpy year, as things tend to be when a baby comes and no-one is sleeping, compounded by stress about the little dude’s health, doctor’s appointments and follow ups, then the surgery. And now, a lull, a few months where things should be pretty settled.

Hopefully this will be an opportunity to relax, and also to think about the habits we’re establishing, and set some nice rituals up. Be a bit more conscious of things like eating meals together, now that bub is staying awake for longer periods and having some solids. Here’s a little list of resolutions:

  • Eat meals together as a family on weekends.
  • Pancake breakfast Saturdays
  • Do the blessings for Shabbat on Friday nights
  • Decide during the week on an outing for the weekend. Lots of great places in Welly, especially now weather is perking up.
  • Create a morning routine. Mornings always feel a bit rushed, even weekends, we’re not morning people and it takes a while to get into our groove. Sometimes we end up being all snippy and grumpy in the morning and it makes us aggrieved at each other for a while, which is stupid. We’re kinda ok with bedtimes, the kids have their baths then Mr Daddy does stories with the little dude and tucks him up in bed while I feed Guzzly McGee in our bedroom. Mornings on the other hand! Plan is to mirror the night time, stories with dad for the little dude when he first wakes up, then get dressed, then breakfast, then playing together.
  • Have screen time expectations. I’m going to write a whole different post on this because it’s an ongoing matter of figuring it out.
  • Spending time every day playing with the little dude at our house or in the garden. I forget sometimes that he goes to bed way earlier than we do, so if we’re out most of the day he doesn’t get much chilling out time at home. He loves outings but he also wants to spend time here – a slow Saturday morning pottering about at home, watering plants in the garden, he really likes that.
  • There are two other blogs coming, one on screen time and one on managing relationships with a two year old, so there’ll be more resolutions in there too.

Fitting that tomorrow is Rosh Hashanah!

The sweetest thing

Tonight the little dude did his usual run renegade routine after the bath, but even more exuberantly than normal “mummy dtome chase me! Me paying dilly buddars” (playing silly buggers – yeah, ooops at that idiom being passed on). “Me aving a wild wumpus! Me wunning awound in dircles!”

For the sake of his future privacy, I’m not posting the photo I took of his naked bum peeking out from under the couch cushion “me djust hiding! Me being a durtle!”, but trust me, it was hilarious.

When I eventually got a nappy on him I said “thanks for co-operating, better late than never” and he said “me do-obiwading now”. Also, he calls his pajama pants his “sleeping trousers”, which comes out as “deeping dowderwis”.

Then bub started crying, so I took him away to rock him to sleep. The little dude is really good with accepting explanations like “Mummy needs to put Ben to bed now, so Daddy’s going to do stories and songs”. I gave him a kiss goodnight before I left the room and he said “and me dgive a diss doodnight for Ben as well”, and kissed bub on the head.

Earlier today, we’d had a nice morning out and then a challenging 45 minutes or so before his nap, standard stuff, he tipped his water bottle out on the floor deliberately (“on burbose Mummy!”) and then he ran away after I’d taken dirty nappy off but before I put new one on, then wouldn’t come back, and all this time I had bub asleep in the baby carry wrap so I was less able to wrangle big boy. I lost my patience with him and raised my voice, saying “it’s not funny, come back here right now for your nappy!” and he laughed and said “is a yiddle bit funny Mummy”. I put him in bed without a story or song because it was all taking so long and then I felt bad about it. He slept for ages, and at one stage I crept in to check on him and he’s lying there in a tiny corner of the bed, and he was tightly holding his very hard uncuddly music box while he slept.

Meanwhile, how cute is this baby. I haven’t written much about the baby. I didn’t write that much about the little dude as a baby either, I remember some pieces I discarded because they felt too gushy and mushy. Now I know those gushy thoughts have a short expiration date I want to record them better.

Bub doesn’t sleep in his cot during the day. I can either have an awake grizzly overtired unsettled baby, or I can have an asleep baby who is being carried on me in the baby wrap. I choose the second one. And we’re co-sleeping too, but even though I’m constantly near him, I want to slow down time in the relatively brief periods when he’s awake, because I’ll blink and miss it. He is fairly easy going and he has a big goofidy grin which he breaks out when I stroke his head after a feed. He comes off the breast all drunk and mellow and wobbly and he looks around, serious serious, figuring out the world; or he might catch my eye and smile me some big smiles. He likes nappy off time in front of the fireplace (new house has a gas fire – another point in favour of new house). His cry is more polite than the little dude’s was, less angry.

He likes to be in the baby carrier when awake as well as asleep. On Monday when the little dude was at creche, I went into town and bub looked jauntily out at the hustle as I walked from Cuba St to Lambton Quay. Bright yellow booties dangling down, hand-me-down from his brother, a gift from his aunty, soft sheepskin, I get so much pleasure taking him out in those booties and imagining how warm his feet must be.

I have in-jokes with the baby “you stay right there, I’ll be back soon” (lol! You can’t move! Of course you’re staying there!). Last night, bub had a bath and the little dude tipped a bucket of water on his tummy “me helping get Ben nice and dean!”, and there was a lot of splash onto bub’s head, and he didn’t even cry, just blinked in surprise. Such a chill bubba. With such a nice round tummy.

And blue eyes. Both boys have my husband’s eyes (mine are green). I find it satisfying that they match.

The zoo at twilight

What is a good day with small children? When I was on maternity leave with the little dude, the first few months, I kept thinking when will my good day come? It seemed a long time before I reached the end of the day and felt like it had been more enjoyable than not. There was a turning point, when I realised I might be  looking for the wrong thing. Like an optical illusion, I was waiting for the point where I couldn’t see the dark image rather than looking for the light image and letting the dark fade from vision in comparison. Once I realised the trick of what to look for, it was clearly there all the time.

Yesterday was a good day. There were little toddler tantrums, and there were moments of them both crying, and there was too much Peppa Pig (I have a love/hate relationship with that pig; the little dude has a love/love relationship). There was an awkward parenting fail when I left bub on his tummy on his playmat while I made the little dude some food, and then bub started crying and I thought it was generic “bored” crying so didn’t tend to him because I needed to get the little dude’s food sorted, and when I got to bub he was lying face down in a puddle of spit up and was covered in his spilled milk. Poor thing.

But still, it was a good day.

I love living in Newtown. Being walking distance from amenities makes life with kids a million times easier and less isolated. We left the house several times, we went to the supermarket, we went to the park, we went to the zoo. There was no-one else at the park when we were there, and bub slept in the buggy while I played with the little dude (goal, tick; goal, tick). We all had an epic nap and didn’t wake until 3.45. I had been meaning to meet up with a friend and her two girls at the zoo in the afternoon. The little dude is morphing from a toddler to a child in his understanding of things, and when I said we needed to go quickly because the zoo was going to shut soon, he co-operated pretty well. Even so we didn’t get there until 4.45, which was 15 minutes before closing. We briefly saw our friends as they left and we arrived.

The staff let us in: 5pm is closing time, but they don’t kick you out at 5, they just let you wander out at your leisure through the one-way after hours gate. Horay for zoo pass.

It was deserted.

We didn’t really see the animals. The animals are a peripheral attraction for the little dude. We went to the area with the rock that sends up a jet of water when you jump on it. The little dude did “make it rain djumping” for a while. There was a brisk breeze and it gusted the water across the path, mist in my face, droplets on my glasses, the baby stirred in his carrier but settled again.

The animals made a lot of noise at dusk, we could hear the lions roaring and we could hear birds shrieking and all sorts of eerie wild sounds that I couldn’t identify. At dusk, the zoo felt like what it was: an area where wild animals live in cages. We mainly spent time in the farmyard section, the little dude looked at the rabbits and played with the drinking fountain. The light started to fade. I told the little dude we would need to go soon, that the zoo was shutting, that there was no-one else here. “Just me and just mummy at the roo” he said, then as an afterthought “and Benman”, then “and the yions and bunny rabidts and birdies”.

On the way back to the gate we passed the aviary with the kea, and they were making a right racket, and the little dude got scared. I picked him up and he buried his head in my neck and said “me hiding from da big noise”.

A child’s fear, innate, primal, the human fear of wild noises at dusk.

An adult’s fear, imaginative, the mother and children locked in a zoo after hours, a premise of a tense psychological thriller, a box office hit?

Later, I read this, “Brief raptures in deserted places”. There is solitude of being fully alone, and there is the shared solitude of being with someone else in a quiet place, and there is a different shade altogether being alone with your small children somewhere unfamiliar and exciting. Part of my consciousness is at his level, aware of things that will be interesting to him, things that will be obstacles, dangers, things that will alarm him. In the moment but not completely, alert to what will happen next, aware of the need to leave before dark, to allow time to get to the car, to stop at the drinking fountain, to ask him to put his hood up against the wind. Aware too of the rhythms of the baby’s breath, the length of time he’s been asleep, aware of when he will next want a feed.

We reached the gate and got into the car. The little dude can climb into his own seat now. It was dark by the time we arrived home, though not late, we were out for less than an hour in total. It’s almost matariki, the day was sunny and bright yesterday but the nights are drawing in sharply. The curtains of our house were open and the kitchen light was on. “Yight on in me ouse!” said the little dude, as he waited for me to unlock the door. I let him in and went back to get bub out of the carseat. The little dude had found my laptop and opened it, and I could hear that confounded Peppa Pig as I entered the house with the baby.

 

Tonight thoughts (slice of life)

Yesterday I was sick. I think we failed to properly reheat some food from the freezer, I was vomiting all day – ughhhh. Mr Daddy had to come home from work to take over the parenting. I pretty much stayed in bed from the time he got home. Bub wasn’t getting full satisfaction from the weak milk and so wanted to feed more frequently. Little dude was content to watch Peppa Pig all day so at least one person in the house was happy. I was still recovering this afternoon and had a nap without setting an alarm, so it was 5pm by the time I arrived at creche today. After creche we went to get Mr Daddy from work, he’d texted earlier saying he was now sick too. Damn.

The little dude chatted away in the car, telling his little brother all about the day (“Me did painting Benman!”, etc).

Bub cried a lot in the car, so between the crying and the toddler commentary, it was quite the cacophony. The little dude used to cry in the car too as a baby. It stressed me out then. One nice thing about second time round is that the crying doesn’t bother me as much. When the little dude was a baby and would cry, I’d feel myself get all tense and flustered. When bub cries, I don’t have that emotional response – it’s more like, ah well, babies cry, he’s just communicating his needs and I’ll meet them asap and it’s fine; or he’s expressing discomfort but he has to put up with it because this is something that has to happen and he’ll get used to it (cars, putting clothes on). Weirdly, having a toddler also helps – when bub is crying, I try to explain to the little dude in what I hope is a reassuring way, and that reminds me there’s nothing to stress about. The little dude has been a little too receptive to the explanations. When we’re at home and bub starts crying, he will announce loudly “Benman crying, need more milk drink Mummy nipbles!!”, which is accurate but it’s only a matter of time before he says it in public and I’ll be mortified.

So I’m driving along, and the little dude is all “what dat shop dere Mummy?” and “yook Mummy, yook Benman, bus! What number bus dat bus Mummy? Where going?” and
“red yight means stop, geen yight means go” and “me go Daddy office? Me go see Daddy office?” and “oh no pick nose too much, nose bleeding”. Toddlers in cars: so much more distracting than checking a cellphone, yet not illegal. But it’s cool, the car chats. I like it.

Later, while I was putting the little dude to bed, I could hear bub crying in the other room. I tried to cut our lullaby session short to go give bub a feed, but as soon as I left the room he started crying and calling out for me “Mummy dtome back!”. Mr Daddy looked like he might collapse if he got out of bed, so I just passed him the baby once fed and went back to little dude. He always wants extra lullabies on days when he hasn’t seen much of me. He looked up when I opened the door, still crying, and I climbed into his bed to comfort him. I lay down facing him and stroked his hair, and he smiled and stroked my hair too and said “only want more Mummy dsing dsongs and Mummy yie down in me bed and no Mummy say dgoodnight.” It’s a lovely stage where he can verbalise what he wants yet also not apply any self-conscious filter to the way it’s expressed.

As I write this, I’m sitting up in bed and bub is asleep on my chest. Mr Daddy is on the couch so he can get a good sleep. Bub woke a short while ago, I’d put him in his bed after a feed and just as I was about to get in bed myself he cried and I went to him and found his outfit and bedding covered in spit up milk. Fortunately he went back to sleep quickly after he was changed.  Now I’m holding him upright for a while in case, don’t want a second spill.

He’s so cuddly and snuggly. His outfit is a grey merino onsie so he looks especially like a baby koala.

 

Miss you already

The little dude will be 20 months in a week or so. He’s now one of the older kids in the under-2 room at his creche. When he started in January, he was one of the younger ones, and those toddlers with their competent walking and their words and their haircuts seemed impossibly old.

Yesterday we had a perfect day. It was glorious weather. We went to the park in the morning. It was still sunny when the little dude woke from his nap so we took the now defunct baby bath outside and filled it with water and he had fun filling up his bucket and carrying it to the drain, then tipping out the water and watching it disappear. We picked some camellias from the hedge and showed him how flowers float in water. He tipped his bucket all over his bare legs and feet and said “oh no!”. Because we hadn’t gone to the supermarket in the morning, the cupboards were full of useless things like flour and lentils and the fridge had a jar of gherkins and a jar of marmalade and half a wilted and pathetic celery, so we got burgers for an early dinner. The little dude had bits of burger and bits of chips, and cried when he accidentally ate the amazingly delicious sauce that the burger place makes from scratch and slathers over the chips, and which is fairly spicy. He stole my gingerbeer and ran away with it like a miniature drunkard, giving me terrified visions of him tripping up and smashing it on the ground and cutting himself.

It was still warm and sunny, so we went to the beach. The little dude went down the big slide on his dad’s knee. We took his shoes and socks and trousers off and we swung him up by his shoulders and skimmed his toes over the waves. Mr Daddy made a sandcastle and the little dude smashed it completely. I bought an iceblock and the little dude had a nibble (cold… but sweet… “MOAAR!”).

I sat on the sand watching my husband and son throw small shells into the sea and felt the baby, the new baby, the one in my belly, wriggle about a bit. The little dude barrelled towards me yelling “MUMMY! MUMMMMEEEEE”. When he wants a hug his approach is to tackle me.

After he went to bed that night, I saw his shoes and felt surprised at how small they are. Is he really such a small person? He feels pretty full size when he’s awake.

Last winter when the little dude was teething and crying a lot and sleeping badly and the days were wet and dark and I was at home by myself, I guiltily wondered when I would have a day that didn’t include several moments of feeling like parenting sucked. Yesterday wasn’t the first such day, but it was notable because at no stage did I have a moment of wishing the little dude was older. Maybe it’s the effect of being pregnant again, and wanting to enjoy this period where the little dude gets my full attention (and wanting to enjoy this phase of the pregnancy when I don’t feel like staying in bed all day any more but I’m also not all awkwardly full of a baby yet). Maybe it’s because last weekend my sister was visiting with her two gorgeous boys, and they’re 7 and 10, and it doesn’t seem so long ago that they were toddlers. They grow up! Her older boy is off to intermediate next year.

I didn’t mind when the little dude went from newborn to smiling laughing baby. I didn’t mind when he went from that baby to the bigger version that could crawl and play. I liked that version a lot, the version that lasted from about 8 months til 12 months. Then the walking version came along, and he was also fairly awesome.

Now we have the running climbing talking version. His language is coming on leaps and bounds, except that you have to really know him to figure out what the words mean. Sometimes when he can’t do something that he wants to do, he says “Mummy!” in a particular tone of voice that means “help me do this thing!”. When he sees a cup or a plate in the lounge he picks it up and says “AWAY!” and takes it through to the kitchen, and puts it on the table. When I’m singing him his lullaby and he’s falling asleep in his cot, he sometimes lifts up his arms and says “Mummy” and I say “more cuddles?” and he says “yeah” and nods his whole body. When he wakes up from his nap he stands up in his cot and says “ALL DONE!”. He calls all cats “Diddis”, which I think is a combination of “Freddie”, the name of our cat, and “Puss puss”, as interpreted by someone who can’t say the letters F or P. When Freddie comes and brushes himself against the little dude’s leg, he says “ah, Diddis!” with a voice full of laughter.

He loves balls, all balls, and apparently peas are balls but the big paper lampshades over the lights in our house are the moon. He likes buttons, a lot, and has been known to throw a tantrum when we got into the lift at my husband’s office which is one of those fancy modern ones where you press the button outside the lift and it directs you to lift B and there are no buttons inside. He loves babies. His favourite thing to watch on youtube is the extended trailer for the movie Babies. He loves reading a baby picture calendar that came free with an Oh Baby magazine and has been in our house since I was pregnant with him. He loves cars and anything that goes brrm, such as ceiling fans. At my parents’ place, he rides the rocking horse that was mine when I was his age.

I know I will miss this version of him forever. It’s not that I want him to stay like this. It’s that at this stage, everything that is potentially annoying or challenging is the flipside of something wonderful. I read an article about how toddlers can be frustrating because they need to be told things a million times, but actually in terms of their brain development it makes sense – their world changes at breakneck speed because they develop so quickly, so they constantly need to test rules to see which ones have changed. A couple of months ago we were trying to prevent the little dude from climbing onto the couch in case he fell, now he grabs a book, puts it on the couch, climbs up next to it, looks at the pictures, then shuffles himself off again. Things that we perceive as constants like “no biting”, “no throwing food”, “no hitting your trucks against the window”, and so on, are just some rules among many. It’s incredible to think of how it must be for him living life in such flux. It’s humbling that in that flux, his dad and I are the sources of guidance helping him navigate his world. It’s amazing.

When he’s big enough to get up and make himself cereal and watch cartoons and let me stay in bed a while, I’ll miss these days when his dad brings him in with us for a cuddle before we get up, and he blows raspberries on my cheek and runs his hand over his dad’s stubble. When he’s big enough that he understands that he can’t run straight towards a ledge and jump, I’ll miss the days when he had complete faith that I’d be there to catch him. When he’s big enough that he talks in full sentences, I’ll miss the days when I could understand him best. When he’s toilet trained I’ll miss tickling the back of his knees after I’ve put him in a fresh nappy. When he’s big enough to understand that bad things happen, I’ll miss the way I could make things better with a cuddle and a quick distraction. When he’s big enough to walk sedately and be careful with traffic, I’ll miss the way his first response to a wide open space is running, heedlessly, laughing at the delight of freedom.

I think most of all, I’ll miss this little body he has now. I’ll miss the chubby little forearms. I’ll miss how ridiculous he looks when he’s wearing just his singlet, so small. I’ll miss how he can lean his head on my shoulder and sit in my lap while we read stories, and how he tells me he wants to do this by saying “knee, knee.”

This is 17 months

At the beach, the little dude trying to make seagull noises, approaching them cautiously, then waving “buh byyyye” when they fly away.

On my lap on a swing, saying “bup, bup, dowwwn”.

Walking along, he holds my index finger in his whole hand and I wrap the rest of my hand round his, looping my thumb round his wrist.

He loves his Miffy book but before we read it we have to find his Miffy doll.

When I arrive to pick him up from creche he will stand up and point at me and say “Mum! Mum! Mum!” and come over as fast as he can, then he will stop and lay one hand on my arm as I kneel down to greet him, and he will hold up whatever toy he’s been playing with and present it to me and solemnly say “dis.” This is a gift for you mum. I was playing with it but you’re here now and it is for you!

When he gets naked for the bath he loves to play Belly Drums.

In the bath, he tries to cup the water with his hands and is fascinated by the way he can’t hold it.

His word for “food” is “yum”.

He loves to play a game called “Kanikani, kāti!” I say “kanikani, kanikani, kanikani” and he dances by stomping his feet and moving around the room then I say “kāti!” and he stops and bursts into hysterical laughter.

He says “YAY” whenever he’s proud of himself.

When he knocks over a tower of blocks he say “Ahhhhhno”

When he’s finished his food he says “AHHHDON” and then when I try and wipe his hands he seizes the cloth to wipe his high-chair table clean.

Sometimes he comes up behind me and says “bidge, bidge”, which is my cue to open my legs so he can go under the bridge.

At night, we read stories and put him in his sleeping bag in the lounge and then one of us carries him through to bed. On the way to the bedroom he cuddles in and rests his head on my shoulder and then kisses my neck.

Today we went to the library

The little dude is sick. Just a cough and a cold, but a nasty cough, the doctor says croup which I had thought was one of those illnesses that died out but apparently not?

There’s a pared down simplicity to caring for a sick child. You let the dishes stack up, because he needs you to hold him upright while he naps so that he doesn’t wake himself coughing. You defer the weaning, again, because a breastfeed at 2am is going to soothe his rasping throat and settle him back to sleep. You give him porridge for lunch because he ate his whole bowl at breakfast but refused toast for morning tea, so maybe he just wants smooth things that don’t hurt the sore throat.

But this afternoon, after several days trapped inside, he seemed recovered and so I decided to take him to the central library. We got the bus, because BUS! BUS! BUS! and he enjoyed the ride and was in a good mood when we arrived at the library. There was another boy, three years old or so, who had just made a house out of the giant lego blocks and was very concerned that the little dude might damage it, and made this known quite firmly “NO! HE CAN’T PLAY WITH IT! HE MIGHT BREAK IT! THIS IS MY HOUSE!”. His mother was trying to convince him that sharing is good, and the lego is for everyone to enjoy, etc etc, and apologised to me for her son’s behaviour (meanwhile her son was saying loud and clear ”HE SHOULD GO OVER THERE SOMEWHERE ELSE!”). I assured her that it was ok, the little dude is too young to pick up on the bigger kid’s attitude and was content just to look at the lego house. Also I sort of felt sorry for the older kid, because it had probably taken ages to make the lego house, and toddlers are very interested in dismantling things, so he was being fairly reasonable. The little dude was so completely oblivious to the three year old’s animosity that he just smiled and offered this kid his manky half-eaten piece of crusket. No-one wants your half-eaten cruskits kiddo but bless your heart for offering!

Before long they left, and the little dude did start playing with the giant lego / destroying the house, and another kid arrived, about eight maybe, and sat down quietly and opened up a lunch box. The little dude raced over and tried to get in on the lunchbox action (tubs! tubs with lids! tubs with lids and cherry tomatoes inside! wow! wow! wow!). I removed him, and apologised to the kid, and distracted the little dude with his very own tub of snacks (”that’s not your one darling, that’s for the big boy, this is your one over here”). The kid was absolutely charming and said “it’s fine, I understand he’s only little.” Then this older boy finished his food and started building a tower from the lego. The little dude had clearly taken a liking to this kid and walked over and passed him lego blocks to add to the tower. This continued for a little while and then the little dude wandered off to climb on the couch again. I was just taking my phone out to get a picture of him on the couch, when quick as a flash he got down and raced over to the tower and knocked the whole thing down before I could stop him. It was a sink into the floor moment, the very nice eight year old looked absolutely crushed as I apologised, and said in a sad but resigned tone “it’s ok, I can build another one”. I steered the little dude away to a different area of the library so the big kid could build in peace.

The three year old was big enough that he probably wouldn’t have destroyed someone else’s tower because he could see how that would upset them, but small enough that he would have been ballistic if someone destroyed his house. The little dude is small enough that he has no conception of creating something to last, he builds towers with the express purpose of knocking them down. The eight year old is big enough that he has learnt to be polite even when he is feeling sad that his creation was bowled over. Whereas adults don’t even make lego towers.

The little dude’s charming impulse to share the cruskit is borne from the same developmental stage as the impulse to go and take the other kid’s cherry tomatoes. His understanding of possession is based around “in my hand or in my mouth” – he is just too small to comprehend the idea that the tomatoes in the box held by another kid are for that kid only.

On the way home, the little dude smiled and babbled at the woman sitting next to us, who was elderly and engaged with the little dude, playing peekaboo and letting him pat her puffer jacket, and letting him play with the buckle on her handbag. She didn’t seem to speak much English and just smiled at me and stroked the little dude’s head but didn’t say anything when I asked if he was ok or whether he was bothering her.

I find his winsome way with strangers so endearing. Adults don’t generally interact with strangers on buses in this city. But he doesn’t know that strangers are strangers, because sometimes he meets people that he can’t remember meeting before but they’re actually relatives who shower him with attention.

Anyway, I’ve been thinking lately about how the exact same things that are challenging in one context are delightful in another context. His innocence of social convention is wonderful and temporary and not really inherently difficult, but just difficult because of the risk always that other people will be harsh and unaccommodating. He lives only in the moment, that’s literally all he can comprehend, I think his sense of the future is limited to “I’ve just had my bath so next is stories then bed”. Even something like “eat your dinner and then you can have a kiwifruit” is beyond him, let alone something like “you’ll see Nana tomorrow”. I don’t think he has discerned the rhythm of five days creche, two days mum and dad – days are just all days that might go in any direction. I’m pretty sure that every time he’s sick, he thinks it’s a new and awful experience; and every time we go to the bouncy castle at Tiny Town he thinks it’s the BEST THING he’s ever experienced.

Bloody hell we expect a lot of kids don’t we? I think of the other mother at the library apologising for her son, and me apologising for mine, and the gracious eight year old, and then the adults on the bus who all sit silently looking at cellphones or out the window, not talking to anyone in case they annoy someone. As parents we have to try and smooth off the rough edges of our kids, they do have to live in a society with other people after all… and yet somehow it seems that in removing the rough edges, the sparkle is dimmed as well. Adults all end up so boring, and kids are anything but boring. Even exciting adults are boring compared with kids.

I want to let him help me jettison some of the things I didn’t need to learn, and I want to help him keep as much of the sparkle as he can even as we shape his behaviour to fit in with the needs of other people. And cats. Well, especially cats.

16 months and one week

Soft golden curls.

Pointing out every bus he sees when we’re driving in the car “bus!!! BUS!!”, so excited, just thrilled by the delight of the big yellow trolley buses.

Climbing on everything, no sense of self-preservation, everything is worth exploring, total faith that an adult will be on hand to catch him or to warn him or pick him up after a tumble.

Says “bye bye” when we turn a page of a book. Loves books. Sits out my lap to read when I’m cross-legged on the floor by backing himself up then plonking himself down.

Says “yay!” whenever he’s pleased with himself. He climbs to the top of the stairs and puts his arms above his head and says “YAY! YAAAAYYY!”.

Little boy racer, little explorer. Loves sliding doors but is too short to trigger the sensors. Loves elevators. Would happily ride up and down an elevator indefinitely. Have not yet found a place where he can do this without causing inconvenience.

Loves to run in a straight line, barrelling along on a mission to get as far as possible as quickly as possible, as soon as I let him out of my arms. Loves to be a free agent.

Keen to learn how to give me a kiss on the cheek but hasn’t quite mastered it yet.

Loves to press buttons at road crossings.

Likes to wear gumboots all the time.

Enjoys riding in his buggy, but enjoys pushing his buggy even more.

His face is round but his body is long and lithe.

Totally boundless sense of humour, totally gorgeous laughter, a giggle and belly laugh that lasts until he runs out of breath.

When he cries the tone is one of betrayal and outrage.

When he is asleep he still looks like a baby.

He’s exhausting and beautiful and energising.

Capture the moment

I feel like the little dude is at a lovely stage at the moment, and I’m really trying to cherish it. His sleep has gotten better (still plenty of room for improvement, but it’s manageable now). He is eating solids with enthusiasm, giving me a chance to leave him for longer periods, but breastfeeds several times a day as well and is still a cosy bundle to hold on my knee as he has his milk. He is big enough to play with – he even initiates games, mainly dropping things so that I’ll pick them up again. Small enough that I can carry him on my hip and wander about with him without him wriggling to be released straight away. Big enough that I can put him down and let him crawl and explore. Small enough than I can easily scoop him into my arms and give him a little toss in the air. Big enough that he knows the people he sees regularly; small enough that he quickly comes to trust and accept new people.

Today we went to story-time at Te Papa (there is basically only one thing to do in Wellington on a wet day). It’s super cute, they read the kids a story and then pull open a curtain and there’s a whole play area behind it with a miniature treehouse and a slide and lots of tables with things on them for the kids to investigate. The little dude went down the slide several times, with me lifting him to the top then holding both his hands the whole way down (it was a short slide). There was an older girl at the session, 16 months, and she confidently climbed the steps to the slide and went down all by herself, then joined her four-year-old brother at the playdough table, she took books off the shelf and “read” them to a stuffed toy (“Book! Book! Book! Book!”). In short, she was not a baby, she was a toddler. By my next birthday, the little dude will be a toddler! That was a phase I looked forward to while pregnant, and before having children. I’ve spent a lot of time with toddlers through babysitting and part-time creche work while at uni, and toddlers are great. But seeing this girl, I didn’t feel excited for the next phase, I felt aghast that I would lose my baby so soon.

It’s the first day of December, this year is almost over. How can the months go so quickly when the days go so slowly?