Thursday, 31 December 2015

Six

In between all the festivities and Christmas bustle, our girl turned six.


I’m currently reading Hands Free Life, and something the author wrote resonated with me, as I’m sure it must with all other mommies out there.

‘And although my rational mind knew I would love the older version of my beautiful child just as much this pocket-sized one, my heart hurt knowing I would never see her just like this again.’

I still have those moments when I want to hug my baby tight and beg her never to grow up, to stay exactly as she is. When I look back at the photographs of her over the last six years, I am amazed by everything. The sweet innocence, the starfish hands, the toothless smiles, the unsteady, determined steps when she first learned to walk. The physical changes, all of them accompanied by behind-the-scenes growing up. Dummies, nappies and formula, relinquished one by one. The way her chubbiness melted away, and the sadness I felt the first time she slept without her beloved ‘lala’.

Six years into this parenting gig, and my smiling, compliant baby has turned into a small human with very definite thoughts, opinions and desires of her own. It isn’t always easy, especially since her and I are so very similar in many ways (an endless source of amusement for my parents).

But oh. There is so, so much I absolutely love about right now.

Her independence, which means I can sleep in for an hour after she wakes up in the morning, because she can quietly keep herself busy. The same goes for afternoon naps - who knew I'd be able to have those again?

Her empathy for the world around her. Mama. I feel so shamed for these beggars, because they have no clothes and nowhere to live.

Her sheer physical energy, which has a life force of its own – always playing, running, jumping, and swimming swimming swimming. She’s constant movement and constant motion.

Her gentle, generous heart.

Her easy laugh, the way she sings her way through her days, her sense of humour, and her gracious way of postponing things she wouldn’t like to do now.

Her ability to squeeze such an unbelievably huge amount of LIVING into a 24-hour period.

But mostly what I love is the connection. A chosen thing, that goes beyond mother/child dependence, and moves into a completely different space. The mornings when we have fingertip hugs at the robots on the way to school. The evenings when we curl up together, talking and snuggling and trying to outdo each other with ‘I love you more than…’.  The times when we whisper ‘I’m sorry’ to each other, because we were both in the wrong and we’re both grownup enough to admit it. The constant, tiny, thoughtful gifts when she isn’t with me: flowers, drawings, insects, uncountable tiny treasures presented with love and pride. Reading in bed, which now comes with questions, and observations, and feelings to explore. Hand holding, and tickles, and singing to our favourite songs. Holidays exploring new places, talking about what we’ve seen, what we’ve done, what we liked and what we didn’t like. Weaving dreams together for the future (a Paris trip when she turns sixteen, Christmas in the snow, ice skating at Rockefeller Centre). Cooking and washing up together.

Small, sparkling moments that always outshine the mistakes and the stumbles along the way.

**
Some pictures celebrating our special girl turning six.

:: We had a Paw Patrol party. Which was totally trumped by the wave slide. The day of her party was overcast and chilly, but the kids threw themselves down that waveslide, blue lips and all.































:: A Barbie after-party with her dad, once all the gifts were opened.







Every year on her actual birthday, I take the day off  work. Sometimes we do something special, sometimes we just hang out and enjoy the day. This year, we took her and a friend for a day of sun, 'sea' and sand at the Valley of Waves.

:: I loved watching these two together. The way Nosi (who is much taller) helped her jump up over the waves, hovered over her, checked that she was okay the whole time.





:: Wardrobe malfunctions. I caught this picture of them on the bridge, Immy re-tying the bikini top for the hundredth time that morning.



:: Exploring Adventure Mountain. Last time we were here, she couldn't swim. Now, it's all we can do to keep up.









:: The Wave Pool. They spent virtually every second of the day in this pool. I would watch anxiously as those huge wave rolled in, crashing over them, while they went tumbling head over heels to be washed up in the shallow end, laughing and choking on mouthfuls of water.



:: A rare photo of me and my girl.



I took this photo just before we left, after hours spent in the pool, and in the sun. We weren't in the car five minutes before they had passed out, curled up on the backseat.

It was a perfect day.



I've been rushing around all day, doing laundry, washing dishes, sweeping and mopping. Immy has been quietly helping, or playing in the background. I told her how proud I am of her, of how well she behaved all day and she said: Well mama. Six year olds always behave, and they never give up on they mamas. 

Which doesn't make sense entirely, but I'll take it.

To six.

And to standing on the edge of the old year, arms outstretched, ready to step off the edge into 2016.

Happy new year!

Saturday, 26 December 2015

Christmas

This fleeting gap between Christmas and the new year always gives me pause. It's as if time slows down for these few days, gives me more hours to gather my thoughts, sift through my memories, think about where I've come from and where I'd like to be. 

I think about Immy, and being a mom, and how parenting seems to get easier and harder at the same time with every new year. 

I think about where we were this time last year, and where we will be this time next year when we unwrap the baubles, string up the tinsel, and lay the Christmas table for our traditional meal.

I think about the ordinary rituals that make this such a special time. Boney M's 'When a child is born' which always brings tears to my eyes. Wrapping the gifts late at night, each one chosen with love, a reflection of the person receiving the gift as much as a reflection of me. Reminding myself to let go of any expectations I may have of everything being perfect, relaxing into it instead, enjoying the moments for what they are.

I think about love, and family, and togetherness and healing, and how thankful I am for all of it.

Our Christmas this year played out like this.

:: Christmas Eve dinner. Laying a beautiful, simple table, hosting family and friends in my home - these things make my heart sing.



:: Family. Last year, things were still very broken and we were unable to have Rob share in our Christmas meal. I am so grateful that this year we could be together, celebrating this special time with our daughter.






We missed having my parents with us. But we extended our arms to a family friend instead, hugged her into our home, enjoyed how it felt to have one more at our dinner table.




:: The prize for best gift-wrapping definitely went to Rob.  Ribbons and brown paper and bows are our thing.




:: Christmas crackers, and the corny jokes that come out of them.



:: Eventually Immy was in bed, everyone had left and we set the scene. Snowy footprints, chewed up carrots, half-eaten biscuits. I sat in the dark, taking it all in. The twinkling tree, the gifts, the wonder and magic of Christmas through the eyes of a child. The air itself felt hushed, our corner of the world waiting quietly for Christmas morning.






Christmas morning. She woke up at 6am, and told me, eyes wide, how she HEARD the elves in the night, squeaking on the wooden floorboards. She woke Rob up, and we all headed downstairs to see if Santa had come. I didn't take pictures, because I wanted to LIVE it, be part of it. Her wonder, and excitement and grownup way of talking talking talking through it so that she wouldn't seem over-eager. Examining the footprints, rubbing the 'snow' between her fingers, before settling down to open her gifts, tearing the paper off, eyes bright with happiness.

I know it's not about the toys, or the food, or the tree. Maybe next year I'll scale back a bit.

But for now, for this year, all of it made the best gift - wrapped up in a bundle of love, and gratitude, and peace.

Merry Christmas to all.

Thursday, 17 December 2015

Christmas details...

Immy came home on Saturday from a 10-day holiday in Knysna with my folks. Although I enjoyed the freedom (late dinners and cocktails with friends, no food in the fridge, hours of uninterrupted reading), the house felt mournful, and unlived-in. She'd only been back a day, and there were toys everywhere, shoes littering the floor, paintings drying outside on the table and cut-up pieces of paper strewn like confetti under her table. Feels like home, and my heartstrings are once again anchored to the earth, to this small human who holds my hand and helps me find my way through the world.

We've been unwrapping our annual Christmas rituals. Every year different, and also the same. Different in the spaces we occupy, the growth that comes from twelve months, the rhythms we've settled into that are new and old at the same time.

***

The annual Swarovski star. Our collection is growing, star by beautiful, sparkly star. This year I opted for the Little Star ornament, and we love it.



Her annual ornament. I hadn't bought one this year, but she spotted this one at the airport the other day when we dropped my mom off. She loved it, so here it is. Her 2015 Christmas ornament.



Bells and baubles and cosy Christmas things.









We put up our tree. My favourite part of this is when Rob puts her on his shoulders, strands of glittery tinsel in her hands. He walks around and around the tree, while she unwinds the tinsel across the branches, top to bottom. This year felt bittersweet in the knowledge that one day soon she'll be too big and this will be another childhood memory,  stored carefully away for future years when we'll take it out and dust it off and replay it over and over.

Garlands. This is the second year in a row that we've attempted to put this garland together. It always starts off so well but we never seem to finish it somehow.





Brown paper packages tied up with string.



We have lots of fun things planned for the holidays. Rollerskating. Swan Lake on Ice. A visit to the Garden of Lights. Picnics and swimming and hot summer sun. And of course, our beautiful Christmas traditions. Dinner on Christmas Eve, reading by the light of the twinkly tree, a visit from Santa complete with snowy footprints, gifts, half-eaten cookies and all the other things that make this a magical time.

May your festive season be merry and bright.