I felt inspired to write this after the sudden realisation that my baby has turned into a little girl. Literally happened overnight! Possibly while I was looking the other way. One minute she was all baby, propped with cushions into sitting up and squidged into the high chair with a blow-up insert so she wouldn’t somehow slip out. The next minute, she’s a child, long legs wrapped round me when I pick her up, chubby arms lifted triumphantly aloft, dimpled hands clapping, index finger pointing. So many tricks, so little time.
And all the while communicating, smacking her lips together to show boob or banana muffin appreciation, resting her head companionably on my chest when I whisper sweet nothings in her ear, and seeking me out when we’re in a group to show me a quick, coquettish head tilt. Isla’s head tilt is usually her response to the musical sound of a voice she likes when she meets someone new. Recently, she’s been doing it for my benefit when she’s busy doing something (which usually means chucking her plastic eggs around, nicking a toy from an NCT mini-mate or demolishing the recycling box). Isla’s head tilt, I’ve decided, is her way of telling me she’s happy, she’s chillin’, she’s down with the status quo.
She’s good company, is Isla (less so at 6am this morning, perky as you like sat next to me comatosed in bed, gamely bashing me over the head with her monkey). We’ve done some excursions across London recently, taking the overground to London Fields or the tube to Green Park, and generally she’s a pretty jolly traveller. So long as she’s presented with a suitable array of toys, books and snacks (oh the marvel of snacks!), she’s perfectly happy to roam the city with me. I love our little jaunts, and the feeling that it’s often just me and Isla, on our way to meet friends, to pick up some food or to visit the GP, exploring the world together in our own mama and baby bubble.
This morning we had just one of those, setting off after breakfast to collect a prescription through the streets of East Finchley. With a crack of dawn start, the day can feel almost half done (as can I) come 9am and I was glad I opted for a walk instead of diving back under the duvet while Isla napped. Feeling the warmth of the pale morning sun on our equally pale skin, it was easy to be mindful of the present moment (for more on mindfulness click here), as the two of us became both spectators and participants of the High Road springing to life. We saw shop vendors set up fruit and veg stalls outside, commuters scurrying past us to the station, and other mums pushing prams to the march of their own routine. As usual, Isla was sitting bolt upright in the buggy, arms held out in a constant state of motion – as if she were conducting her own private orchestra of early morning beginnings.
Are these the moments I’ll remember when my daughter’s 10, fifteen, twenty years old? Who knows. All I can say is that I’m doing my damnedest to cherish our time together now, that magical, mad, messy, and all-too-short time when we are the centre of each other’s world. When she looks giddy with delight when I walk back into the room, when she cackles at my foolish jokes, when we snuggle on the sofa when she’s bunged up with cold, when she reaches out for me because only I will do.
It’s early days, I know. When I plunge my face into her neck to breathe in that unbeatable baby smell, I realise she may not appreciate me doing this when she’s a feisty, tough-talking teen. I’ve read enough about the troubles facing today’s teenage girls to know that, instead of nuzzling into me, she might flail against me, renouncing me for who I represent rather than accepting me for who I am. But for now, I’ll take the cuddles and those special, strange moments. I find it a weird paradox that, as mamas, we’re trying our level best to give our babies as much love, safety and security as we can to help them venture away from us, to develop enough independence to go out and explore the world. I think there’s a lot to be said for being real. I’d like to say (and to borrow a term coined by psychoanalyst Donald Winnicott), I’m happy to aim for being “good enough”. For more on this concept, I think it’s nicely described here.
And so back to Isla. Well, this post is a shout out to you my love; having struggled to write freely before, I guess the blog itself is my ode to you. You: with your bonkers, throaty laugh, your commitment to having fun, your crazy, cute sounds, your thoughtfulness, spirit and sparkly joie de vivre. If I weren’t hitched already, I’d marry ya tomorrow.
Winnicott, D. (1953). Transitional objects and transitional phenomena. International Journal of Psychoanalysis, 34, 89-97