My littlest sometimes doesn’t get a look in. His older brother, Charlie, is loud, demanding, attention-grabbing. Even when you try and ignore him so you can focus on Miko, Charlie will do something like actually fall over and genuinely hurt himself, so you have to go to him.
But at the moment I feel very conscious that this little Miko bear won’t be here for much longer. He’s now 20 months. He’s nearly two. I can’t really call him a baby anymore, but he’s not far off. He’s starting to talk. He can say:
- Bye bye (to things he puts down, “bye bye digger” “bye bye book”)
- Up (both ‘get me out of this chair’ and ‘give me food’)
- Duck (followed by kark, kark), dog (followed by wowow) and all farmyard animals, plus the big five (lions, tigers, bears, elephants and dinosaurs, followed by roars obviously)
- Mama, papa
- Nose, mouth, general face words (with pointing)
- The last word of every line in ‘When Santa Got Stuck Up the Chimney’ (this is unbelievably cute), Alle Meine Entchen, and Twinkle, Twinkle
- Peppa Pig (today, George too, oops, it’s become a bit of an overused tool for me to get stuff done at the moment)
- Most of the words in the beautiful My First Words book we read every night with such joy. He stops every night at the page with pictures of vehicles. He used to point so gently, waiting for you to say the word. Now, he jabs at each picture with a giggle, waiting for you to giggle too. He will only let you turn the page when he’s ready. He stops you with a gorgeous, rasping “nein!”
He is so beautiful. I said to him the other night as I was putting him to bed, “you know, you’re the baby everyone wants, and we got you.” And I meant it. He has a calm and content nature that’s alien to everything I learned (or didn’t) when Charlie was a baby. Sorry Charlie. You’re lovely and amazing too, but you weren’t so easy as a baby.
My dad used to call him a therapy baby. When he broke into a smile, you felt like you’d had an epiphany. He is such a contrast to his big brother, who is equally incredible, but in a very different way, and one that comes with challenges.
Tonight, I took Miko out of the bath and wrapped him in his light blue baby towel with a bear face on it. He always looks so adorable, standing there with little bear ears, all wrapped up so all I can see is his face peeking out, his huge grey-green eyes looking up at me. As I always do, I sweep him up into my arms. He smiles and looks at me with that wide, direct, totally not-loaded smile, eyes shining, his gappy teeth exposed, happily wrapped up like a caterpillar in my arms, waiting for me to sing to him. I look at us in the mirror and think, this is it, this is it right here.
I sing Rockabye Baby, as I always do, rocking him slowly. He lets out the tiniest of giggles at the edge of each rocking motion. I sing ‘When the bough breaks, the cradle will…’ and carry him over to the changing table, perched in the window alcove (a space of many happy memories). I pause. He looks at me, waiting, he laughs. I sing ‘fall’ and lay him down with a bump on the mattress. He laughs fully now, looking straight at me, leaving no room any more for any thoughts of being ugly or old or not good enough or rubbish at this job, or the day job, or being a wife, or a provider, or a person. There’s no look like the look of a baby laughing with you. I put my face in his little chest to tickle him and, as he always does, he says, “herro”, lying there, no baggage, no intentions, just “hello”, with a big toothy grin, eyes looking directly into mine, an inch away from my face.
They talk about a mother’s love. I struggle with it, as it’s a strange quantity that I still haven’t come to grips with. Not that I don’t have it, I’m full of it, two times over. But it’s very hard to keep it present. For me, it’s a giant gold bar encased in a rough concrete shell made up of day-to-day tasks like washing, cooking, taming tantrums, working, and so on. It’s moments like this, these tiny nuggets amongst the chaos, that open a little chink to show you the huge, burning love that is always, always there, and always will be, even if, most of the time you’re too busy to examine it. Personally, I need the casing, or I’d spend the day as a big, useless puddle.
Because I know I will forget everything, all the little details, the extreme feelings of love at the littlest of things, like drying him after the bath, I wanted to write it down. I know that to others, this is a nothing story, but to me, it’s big. And I know that, though the words will remain, the sensations will fade: the feel of his pillow-soft cheeks against mine, the thrill of having his short arms circle my neck and pull tight, the smell of his cocktail of baby creams, the sound of his breath in my ear. One day, though, it will be all I have, and the thought of these moments disappearing entirely is entirely too much to bear.