All posts filed under: little ones

Five

Half-term and the Moose turned five. He was, quite possibly, the most delightful birthday child ever. We woke him early — just before seven — so that he could open his presents before B left for work. (Usually B is gone before seven; back after bedtime.) We had a visit from old London friends; a day that reminded me so much of those long ago days back when T was small. There was a chocolate cake with chocolate buttons that were meant to say ‘5’ but looked more like they said ‘S’. He turned out the lights as I lit the candles & then blew out the candles before we could get to the end of ‘Happy Birthday’. Later, on the phone to my mum and then my brother he told them about his new cement mixer: ‘You put sand in it and it comes out looking like black mud!’ There was a day when three scaffolders spent the morning carrying scaffold through the house. Each time one of them passed him, Pospy would tell …

Seven, four, seventeen months

The Biscuit will be seven this week. Once she was only seven weeks. Let’s call her T to celebrate. Seven feels a big deal. Other years have passed with me thinking more of myself. A year, two years, five years ago today we still weren’t parents. I was five, seven, ten days overdue. I remember the feeling of being poised in free-fall, falling and yet not falling; and how, as the days went by, I felt less and less sure we would ever land. But this year, this year I think less about that. We have been parents forever, and it feels like her birthday is finally all about her. She rolls her eyes at me. She tears out of school, just like Bella in Dogger. She reads until late in the evening, and then again when she wakes. She keeps a diary full of exclamation marks and cryptic remarks about how much fun she and her friends had at break-time. She still skips along when she’s happy. She is, in all essential ways, just …

Books talking to books

The characters I’m reading about all seem to be doing their own reading. In A Suitable Boy, Lata is reading Emma and Haresh is reading The Mayor of Casterbridge. Sandeep Lahiri, the young Sub-Divisional Officer of Rudia, is reading Howards End. In contrast to these very English choices, Mrs Rupa Mehra recites a passage from the Bhagavad Gita each morning. Decline and Fall (1928) opens with Paul Pennyfeather looking forward to reading another chapter of John Galsworthy’s Forsyte Saga in bed. Later, Pennyfeather marks his place in a volume of The Golden Bough by Charles Frazer, taking me neatly back to my other reading, The Waste Land (1922), which T.S. Eliot acknowledges is indebted to ‘a work of anthropology…which has influenced our generation profoundly; I mean The Golden Bough‘. I love these little sparks & frissons; books talking to books. The Biscuit is making her way through Matilda for about the sixth time, which reminded me of the wonderful list of books that the four-year-old Matilda reads under the ‘watchful and compassionate’ eye of Mrs Phelps the …

The stack

A lovely weekend. B’s birthday & we milk it for all it’s worth: dinner out on Friday; the first picnic of the year (yes, really! see the blue sky & sun in the photos!) at an Iron Age hill fort on Saturday; and a trip to a hands-on science centre on Sunday (The Biscuit: “This is the best day of my life. Ever.”). Still with the something small, every day. But the small is starting to get to me. That thread of writing weaving through the days makes me aware of how little I’m doing. What can come of it?, I start to wonder. I know that this is the practice, to feel that and just sit with it. To remember that it may be small, but it is at least something. That one day there will be time for more. Continuing the frustration, I seem to be reading about five books at once and I haven’t finished one yet this year. Meanwhile, both the literal piles of books around the house and the list …

February

I’ve been rediscovering the pleasures of reading over the shoulder of a feeding baby. Daytime feeds may now involve building train track with my feet, but the last feed of the evening is accompanied by short stories (currently the collection Where the God of Love Hangs Out by Amy Bloom, someone I haven’t read since my teens). Meanwhile, my bath-time reading habit – a whole hour of reading in late-pregnancy – has now been reduced to a poem. Patti Smith’s slender memoir Woolgathering may not quite be poetry, but each of its fragments is the perfect mood-altering, uber-concentrated shot of words. Try this from the section titled Barndance: The mind of a child is like a kiss on the forehead – open and disinterested. It turns as the ballerina turns, atop a party cake with frosted tiers, poisonous and sweet. The child, mystified by the commonplace, moves effortlessly into the strange, until the nakedness frightens, confounds, and he seeks a bit of cover, order. He glimpses, he gleans; piecing together a crazy quilt of truths …

Time passes

‘Well, we must wait for the future to show,’ said Mr Bankes, coming in from the terrace. ‘It’s almost too dark to see,’ said Andrew coming up from the beach. ‘One can hardly tell which is the sea and which is the land,’ said Prue.To the Lighthouse, Virginia Woolf A thin white January sky. The Biscuit is five and a half, the Moose is two and three-quarters, the Pip Pop is five weeks. Like Max in The Wild Things we have sailed in and out of weeks and this is where we have landed: here in the thick of parenthood, here with three car seats lined up in the back of the car, here in a thick tangle of love and children.

Slow/fast

There’s one apple left on the tree at the bottom of my neighbour’s garden. Each morning I open the blind and peer out of the back window to check that it’s still there. Somehow while it clings on surrounded by yellowing leaves it must still be autumn, not yet winter. The biscuit turned six months last week on a clear November morning when the first frost was scraped from the car windscreens and the gas supply to our whole street was turned off for the day. Six months since the afternoon we brought her home cocooned in a white Peter Rabbit jacket and lay her on the red bedspread. How could we ever not have known her? May/November: it seems like both forever & just one long amazing moment. Time is still a big issue. There’s so much more now, but somehow I seem to ‘waste’ it. Not surprisingly, the biscuit is happier watching her mummy busy about in the kitchen than read a book. I’m still not good enough at grabbing the moment, at …

Reading over her shoulder

The biscuit is three and a half months. A letter arrives from our local health visiting team. ‘As your child is now approaching the weaning age,’ it reads, ‘you are invited to attend our "Messy Me" weaning workshop.’ I suddenly realise that my days of reading over her shoulder are numbered. Those early weeks of breastfeeding torture have turned into the most cherished parts of my day. Six months though, I’m sure they don’t need to eat until they’re at least six months. I phone and book a place on ‘Messy Me’ for the start of October. ‘Bring baby along,’ says the health visitor and I’m left wondering what else she might have expected me to do with her.

Miffy

The biscuity one sat on my lap for her first bedtime story on Sunday evening. We made it into the National Gallery shop the other week and I couldn’t resist buying a copy of Miffy. Reading to her for the first time was such a lovely feeling, but I’m not sure that this is the right message about motherhood to give to my tiny baby daughter If we could have a baby now, how lovely it would be, said Mrs Bunny, I could shop and cook and sew for three! On the other hand, I’m with Mrs Bunny when she tells the chicks that they can’t play with Miffy yet I’m sorry, Chicks, you’ll have to wait, kind Mrs Bunny said Miffy’s too young to play with you babies must stay in bed! and at least now I know how she fits all of that cooking & sewing in. —– Happy 3 month birthday biscuity xx

Reading aloud

When the biscuity one was very small, during the long evenings in which sleep (hers/ours) seemed an impossibly elusive state, we rediscovered the pleasures of reading aloud. One of us would joggle, baby on shoulder; one of us would read, eyes straining against the gathering darkness. B finished his epic reading of Nicobobinus (started last year, but hampered by my habit of falling asleep mid-chapter). I read the The Means of Escape, drawing us into the strange yet complete worlds of Penelope Fitzgerald’s short stories. Both suitably surreal for the endless hours that had once separated night from day. But there was one book so painful and so funny, so connected to us that it appeared to have been transferred directly from life to the page by a process of black magic. I first read Rachel Cusk’s searing account of motherhood in 2002, at a time when, though I knew that I wanted a child above all else, it was still a comfortably distant prospect. I can remember compulsively gulping whole chapters even then, peering …