You sit in your highchair singing ‘Baby Shark’. You open and close your arms to make a shark mouth. You’re having a great time. Smiling. Making sure we are all watching you. Performing for us. Daddy starts to sing too. You hold up your hand and say, ‘NO, STOP’. You pull an angry face. You want to be the only one singing.
I look at you and I see a new you emerging. A girl who knows exactly what she wants. Someone who tells people what to do. My baby, who is now very-much-a-toddler. You already choose your own shoes and clothes. If I pick the wrong top, you act like the world is ending. You throw it on the floor and say ‘NO’. Sometimes you act much older than your 16 months.
Today I picked you up from Play School. You stretched out your arms. You gave me the biggest cuddle your little arms could make. And then I breastfed you, while Nala played, and as soon as you were done, you insisted on putting your jacket on, on wearing your bag, and then you were off, walking towards the door. Down the corridor. On your way home. It’s so funny to watch you. Always with your big bag, always your same favourite jacket, always determined to walk yourself and carry everything. Sometimes your bag and drink bottle look like they will topple you, but they never do. You look so little and so big at the same time.
A few nights ago the house was silent. You and Nala were asleep. I heard the hinges of a door opening, then little footsteps. At first I thought it was Nala, because you normally call for us, or cry if you wake. I waited to hear where the footsteps went. I heard another door hinge. Then silence. Then a voice in the darkness – “Nala. Nala”. You were standing at the edge of Nala’s bed trying to wake her. You had climbed off our bed, and, without saying a word, gone to find Nala. Your sister. Your best friend. Always the first person you run to.
You sleep in our bed. Right in the middle. You wake in the mornings one of two ways. Either, Nala comes in for a cuddle and I shuffle you across to make space in our way-too-small-double-bed; or, you wake first and I put you on the floor and you head straight to Nala’s room to wake her up. She is always so happy to see you. You hold Nala’s hand and lead her down the passage. You stand at the cupboard with your arms up and say ‘nana’ (banana) until Nala reaches up and gets you a banana. And the two of you sit on the kitchen floor together and eat bananas while Daddy has a shower and I’m half asleep. Sometimes, on these mornings, I think I’m out of a job. That is, until I come to the kitchen, and find the fruit bowl empty, and you and Nala sitting in a pile of peel and half eaten broken bananas. You two LOVE bananas… As long as they are perfect… Neither of you will touch a broken one. You have both cried long and hard over broken bananas. Many, many times.
Often I sit and watch you play. Nala walks up to you and takes your hand. “Zara let’s go to the fruit shop.” She pulls you along, so fast you almost fall. I look to check you’re ok, but you’re smiling. You follow her, as fast as your little legs will carry you, to the family room where Nala gives you pretend fruit from her fruit shop. You pretend to eat it and laugh. You’re thrilled to be included in this game. You put your hand out and request ‘more’. Nala passes you a pretend apple, then a banana, then a mandarin. Your play skills are remarkable.
As you grow I see you engaging with people in new ways and a whole world opening up to you. I’m so excited for that. I’m not sad to say goodbye to your baby days. Not because I didn’t love them, I did. You were delightful when you started to smile, adorable as a crawler. But now, I can really see the little person you are becoming. I see your personality emerging. The way you love to pass things to people. And help people. And wrap your arms around people. I can see how clever you are. And hear all your new words.
On the topic of words. Now, is my time to boast. You have over 100 words and can speak in four word sentences (I love you, daddy. Thank you Nala. My shoes. Daddy’s jacket). Hearing you speak ABSOLUTELY blows my mind.
You know so many words, but you continue to call socks ‘shoes’, no matter how many times I talk about socks with you:
Me – ‘Zara, lets put your socks on.’
You – ‘Shoes. Shoes. Shoes.’
Me – ‘You can wear your thick, warm socks today’
You – ‘Shoes. Shoes. Shoes.’
Me – ‘I’ll put your socks on first and then you can wear your shoes’
You – ‘My shoes. My shoes. My shoes.’
You simply love shoes.
You are very studious. Very focused. You can sit and read a book, all by yourself. You concentrate on the pictures, pointing and naming them, turning the pages, studying them. Once I even saw you lining up your dolls to read to them. As I said, your play skills are remarkable.
Affectionately I call you ‘my girl’. Your sister always corrects me, until I call you ‘my little one’. You are little. And you are little to me. But you won’t be defined by that. Already you are showing us your incredible mind – which will take you so many places – and also your gentle, caring spirit – which will touch many lives, but none more than mine.
You love baths, eating, drawing, the shape sorter, and singing. You have a beautiful laugh. And you’re incredibly cute.
You’re friendly and happy. But you make grumpy faces at strangers and cling to me. Like a koala. Urging me to keep you safe. Not to let you go. You have no idea how privileged I am to be the one you cling to. The special one you cuddle. The one you run to time and time again.
Sometimes these days of parenting, and constantly being needed, feel like they go on forever. But I know they are really slipping away.
Writing this is my way of holding on to the moments. Trying to remember as much as I can. Capturing the way my heart beats for you. The way it explodes with pride when you do something new. And breaks when I hear you cry. My heart is so invested in you. I knew, long before I met you, that I would love you with everything I had. What I didn’t know was the way that you would love me.
Thank you for the cuddles, the sloppy kisses, the smiles, the funny things you do. These all light up my world. My girl. My little one.