September.

Dear Babies,

You’re not really babies anymore, you know. And you do know. You tell me often. “I’m big!” you say. Though sometimes you’ll concede “I’m little”. I kiss you to sleep, as I always have done. And you wake me by making a racket, as you have always done. Though times they are a changin’. Though the song remains the same.

Right now I am sitting on our blue couch. There’s an orange cat pressing his tickle whiskers to my arm, making it hard to type. I’m listening to all the different versions of ‘Dream a Little Dream’ I can find. Everyone that hears me type says I hit my keys too hard. I’m really writing this, you know? I am really here, in this little wooden house as you sleep across the hall in your little bunked beds. There are flowers on your sheets and there are cars on your sheets and there’s Dora on your pyjamas and there’s Thomas on yours. And in the morning it will be Mabel’s birthday. There’s a grey cat on the coffee table, and she has little silver feet. There are cherry blossoms on the mantelpiece.

My love for flowers is something you know about me. You tell other people ‘Mama loves flowers! And dancing! And her favourite colour is yellow’, all of which are true. You’re my biographers. You are telling my story to me and my fingers are flying trying to take it all down. Bang on the space bar. Smashing the full stop. There are notes of our lives over everything. On calendars. Throughout my phone. On receipts in my purse. Marked on my body. Scrawled on walls in crayon I can’t bring myself to wash off, because it’s you telling your story. So there’s nail polish on the doors and paint on the floor and pen on the paint work. Because, even now, I can’t believe you’re here. That you’re mine. And this is the place we do our living. You’re telling your own stories here, too.

I walked an enormous coffee table, another roadside find, several blocks home today. It’s the perfect height and the perfect length and it has tiny carved flowers on the legs. And I want to love it. Really. I’ve spent all evening looking at it, thinking how I will make it work. The possibilities. The purpose. Because it seems like it should fit right in. I can see you drawing on it and building on it and it being strewn with cake plates and tea cups and climbed all over. But I’m not feeling it. Because a lesson I have learnt in learning the lessons I’ve learnt to learn is, less really is more. I used to feel like, the more I had, the more real I was, somehow. As if owning things connected me in some way. Identified me as a person. With things. And, sure it is easy to say, over here or out there or after, that what I was trying to do was to fill some void; to find what was missing. When really, nothing was.

And that’ll bowl you over sometimes, that nothing is missing. That you have everything you need. And you do. Right now. Even though you mightn’t believe it, or though you might be working so hard to convince yourself otherwise. Because just you is enough.

Just you is enough.

Theo: you lost your smile for a little while there. Somewhere along the line that 4 has walked us. Things got hard again, as they do in times of change. And you don’t want to say ‘oh, that’s just 4!’ because, how reductive. And I’ve been 4 and 10 and 13 and 18 and in the last weeks of 28, and you could say ‘oh, that’s just!” to any of those and be right and wrong. But it’s back now, your smile. And it’s not an ear to ear. No, I wouldn’t say that. It’s a chin to eyebrow. Your face lights up.
You talk with your hands and when you’re asking me a question, in conversation, you extend your right hand. And it’s as if I can see the words walk off your palm and out into the world. Your questioning strengthens you, darling. Don’t stop asking. You are so brave. I hope I’m half as brave as you, when I grow up.

Mabel: you sing to everything. Songs you make up. The ones you hear. From Bonnie Prince Billie to theme songs on the movies we watch and watch. You walked into the lounge the last week, ‘right’ you said, clapping your hands, as I always begin, ‘you’re gonna play the drums and you’re gonna play the pianey and I’m gonna do this!’ this, of course, being your beloved harmonica. It’s only vexation being that you can’t sing and play it at the same time. We had friends over the week before, and as they left, you came slowly inside after waving them off. ‘What’s wrong, little love?’ I asked your small down turned face. ‘Alex and Hazel have gone home.’ You sighed. ‘And we were making a band!’. You stroke my cheek when I tuck you in at night ‘sing the songs when I was a little baby’ you ask me, and I do. The same as my mother sung me. As her father sung her. When I sing ‘Baby Please Don’t Go’ you yell ‘I’m not going!’. When I sing ‘This Little Light of Mine’ you sing ‘I’m gonna let it shine!’. And you mean it. And you do.

Let it shine, baby loves.

And make sure you really love the coffee table, before you walk it all the way home.

I love you. I love you. I love you.
Mama xx

January / February / March / April / May / June / July / August

A letter to my 2 year old daughter, after we fought over a sandwich.

Dear Mae,

You wanted to make a sandwich, like your brother now can.

It might seem odd, to row about a sandwich. But anyone who has ever cohabited with anyone will be sure and tell you, when pressed, or barely pressed at all, of the suffering they endured at the hand of a person they shared their house with.

You got the bread out of the bag and selected your slices. You would only be contented with tomato sauce as sandwich filling, which I am sure I should feel more shame than I do about telling the internet. I, personally, am not one to judge a person on their sandwich preferences. That’s very personal. But, you know how people can be. It was on white bread too. Which we only ever have in emergencies. Like, when I simply cannot face the supermarket and we have run out and I have to buy a loaf from the dairy. So, a lot.

We have this kind of high-powered tomato sauce, you know? One of the ones with the lid at the bottom? And it’s fairly full. So you’re standing there, using a dining chair for your table, bread laid out just squeezing the ever-loving crap out of this bottle of tomato sauce, which is, in turn, shooting over, not only the bread, but the chair and the wall, because this is real life, and that’s what happens. And I am trying to let you do your thing; it’s only mess, there’s worse things already dried on that wall, I’m sure. Saying supportive things like, ‘That’s wonderful, darling! You’re doing such a good job of getting the sauce out of that bottle! Do you know who Jackson Pollock is?’ When you begin to weep.

I ask you what’s wrong, only as taken aback by this sudden turn of emotional events as anybody who has spent time with a toddler would be, as these big, perfect Man Ray tears are rolling on down your little apple cheeks.

‘IT DOSEN’T LOOK LIKE MY NAAAAAAAAAMMMMMMEEEEEE!’, you tell me. In between sobs.

And I remember all to well, that feeling.

The abrupt realisation that things were not turning out as you imagined.

I help as best I can. Offer solutions, many and varied, all of which you reject. Because sometimes there is no helping things. Some times all you will want is for your tomato sauce sandwich to read your name, though you can’t spell it, and that’s just how things are. There’s nothing else for it. And I get that, darling. I hear how frustrating things can be. How trying. But feeling those feelings is part of this whole thing we’re doing. Connecting and growing.

Because, one day, you’ll sign your name to all sorts of things. Things you’ll make. Futures you’ll envision. And some of them might be challenging. And some of them might yield more happiness than you could have ever imagined they would, when you dared to dream of them. You have to begin somewhere.

 

This isn’t what the row was about, obviously. The row was when I went to put the top on your sandwich, and you lost your tiny mind, yelling at me that I had done it wrong.

‘THAT’S NOT THE LID, MAMA!’

It’s not?

‘THAT IS THE PLATE I MADE FOR MY BREAD! I MADE IT FROM MORE BREAD!’

Which? Totally genius. And so you.

Though you ended up covered in sauce and asked that I kiss your cheeks to clean them.

Which? Totally adorable. And so you.

And then your brother poured you both a glass of milk and asked you if we were having a celebration. And you told him you had some paperwork to do.

And I stood there a moment, in this green kitchen we spend so much time in, and I thought about writing this down for you. Because one day, maybe, you’ll be here, or there, and this kitchen will no longer be the centre of our universe, and you’ll be having bigger and better arguments over the same feelings. So here is some relativism for you.

It so often starts with a sandwich.

I love you,
Mama x

August.

Winters is over now. The Summer is coming for us.

We’ll live on the deck, under the sun shade. I’ll cut flowers from the garden with orange handled scissors. Posies will perfume every room. You’ll help me grow vegetables, your tiny fingers digging in the dirt. We’ll walk to the dairy, hand in hand, for ice blocks of every colour. The washing will dry on the line, and the sun will bleach the stains left by fruit with stones. We’ll buy dark green avocados by the bucket and we’ll live on guacamole. We might get chickens.

Our house will be filled with music and people and we’ll send them home with full bellies and their black clothing covered in the hair of our daft cats. We’ll get in cars full of family and dogs and sandwiches and songs and go on easy adventures. You’ll go to bed before the sun and there will always be sand in your sheets.

I am so tired, darlings. This past season was long. I couldn’t be more ready to sit in our overgrown garden and watch you grow, ever skyward; my sunflowers.

It is so important to appreciate where you are. And who you are there with. There have been times in my life, where I couldn’t imagine things getting easier; being any different than there were every day. Making changes can feel impossible. To let people in. To let go. To tell your truth. But you can. You really can. Have courage. The beauty you see around you is your beauty.

Mae-Mae. When I am with you, I feel the perfect sweetness of the world. When you and your brother were brand new, it kept me awake nights, worrying how I would protect you, from all there is to run from. What I realise now, is that it is for me to stand with you, not to keep you from all that is meant to be yours. There will be times when you need to be so brave, my love. When you will need to hold on, with all your might. There will be times you could never imagine. Times you couldn’t hope for more. Our human experiences are what shape us. I am with you. We are in this together.
You have this crazy hair, you inherited, from a fine line of wild women. You ask me to hold things for you, ‘for safe keeping’. You love to be spun around, turned upside down. A small pink acrobat, that screams with laughter during every act. When you and your brother gang up on me, you are always the muscle. Mae-Mae the Merciless. Mabel the Muss. You don’t take any shit, that’s for sure. I admire that about you. Your Aunty took your photograph the other day. ‘No flash photography!’, you told her.

Theo. You are obsessed with technology. You sigh, wistfully, when you recount the computer of your Uncle. You moon over idevices, when we encounter them. I threw an (already) broken VCR off the deck (the screws were too tight!) last week and let you have at it with all the screwdrivers I could find you. It should be added that most of them I found stashed under your mattress. Which would be worrying, if you weren’t Capitan Sensible.
I want you to know how loved you are. Because I see you sometimes, can see you realising your singularity. And how it frightens you. It used to frighten me too, that feeling of separation. And how it makes you seek out connection. You are okay, Bubba. You are not alone. And you’ll learn, over the course of things, that alone dosen’t have to mean lonely. I am with you. We are in this together.

Hold on. To each other.

Love,
Mama xx

January / February / March / April / May / June / July

A Love Letter to You.

This is to say thank you.
Thank you for reading what I write. Thank you for the validation it brings. Because it’s more than the validation of a number or a notification.
It’s you being here with me.
And that’s all anyone is ever looking for.I like you too, you know. I like how your eyes look after you’ve been crying; from laughter or otherwise, all red-rimmed but clear, like you can see more now than maybe you did before.  I like your nose, how you’ve grown it in the centre of your face. I like how you mispronounce words sometimes, but you think that trying is more important than how failing may feel. You’re right. And I like that about you too. I like how sometimes you sit down or fall down or feel down and think you may never get up again, but you do. I like that there’s something that you really love, something that makes you know what they mean when they say ‘it’s dear to my heart’. Writing has always been that thing to me, and you being here has helped me not be so afraid to say that, instead of whispering it, when no one was listening. I like that everyday your future is finding you, wherever you are. And I like that, somehow, we are connected in that, even though some days it’s only across this technologsea. I like that we can make each other feel less alone, because we’re not, really. You’re here and I’m here.
Thank you.

I appreciate it.
With love,
Alice Andersen.

July

Dear Babies,

20 things to think about:

  1. Most new experiences will be hard and weird and interesting. Hang in there.
  2. Ask for help. Ask questions. Ask people their names.
  3. You are never too old to make new friends.
  4. Figure out what happiness looks and feels like to you. That way you’ll know it when you find it. And it makes it easier to remember it when you lose it sometimes.
  5. Never be afraid to say ‘this doesn’t feel right’ and stop as soon as it doesn’t. Don’t rush.
  6. Try not to put too much pressure on other people to give you the love you should be giving yourself.
  7. Everybody is just looking to feel cared for, in a way that feels right for them.
  8. It’s the people, it’s the people, it’s the people; be good to the ones that are good to you.
  9. Make art with your friends.
  10. Take road trips and flowers.
  11. Try not to show up empty handed and always offer to do the dishes.
  12. No one ever regrets buying quality.
  13. You can do literally anything for 15 minutes. Clean your bloody room already.
  14. Say sorry when you hurt a persons feelings. Even if you didn’t mean to or if you feel embarrassed because you did. You will be surprised how meaningful an apology, and changing your behaviour, can be.
  15. If you do the things you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always gotten.
  16. Spontaneous musical numbers are good for you. Put a little air behind it.
  17. Dance wherever and whenever it feels necessary. It’s good for you to remember your body in a joyful way.
  18. Remember your manners. Your Great-Grandmother always said they lubricated society…She also said to always flirt with the butcher…
  19. Everybody feels better after a cup of tea. Or a bath. Or a poo.
  20. It feels good to laugh.

 

Mae; you have the creepiest laugh I have ever heard, and a grin that could power a city. You crawl into bed with me still, some nights. Sleeping with your little foot pressed up to my ribs and stealing the blankets. When I am trying to talk to your brother, discussing the consequences of his actions, you roar in the background: ‘take him away, Mama! Take him away! You love animals and the garden. There’s a pit-dober-weiler that barks at us on our way to the dairy. ‘Be quiet, Puppy!’ You yell back at him. ‘Be a nice dog!’. You’re incredibly bossy, in a good natured way. You come with me to the grocer and take our fruit and vegetables up to the counter. I handed you some ginger recently. ‘Gabba had this when she had a cold! She cut it up and made tea to help her feel better!’, you told me with earnest urgency. You are wary of shopkeepers, or store assistants, other adults at Playcentre. You don’t like to be spoken to by people you don’t know. You can be slow to show affection, but once you decide you like someone you ask after them constantly, enquiring as to their state of wellbeing. You told me today that you were a super fairy. I am inclined to believe you.

Theo; this month you turned 4 years old and had a party that you didn’t want. ‘No friends’, you told me. ‘Just my family’. We had afternoon tea on the Sunday before your birthday with Gabba and Pappous and your avalanche of honorary Aunties and Uncles, but we weren’t allowed to call it a party. There were two cakes, as is our tradition. And you got a little daunted when they came out be-candled, as if their presence was what distinguished this gathering as something more. But you blew out the candles and said thank you and ate more cake than anybody. You don’t like to be the centre of attention, even though you so often command it. You love to listen to music through headphones and when I ask you to lower your voice when you’re telling me what you like about the song you’re hearing, you turn to me and yell ‘I’M NOT YELLING!’. You never stop talking. You ask questions from the moment you wake up until I sing you to sleep at night. The Nearness of You is your favourite song at bedtime. I imagine you dancing to it in the future with the person you love. They’ll be so lucky you do.

 

  • (And one for luck:)  Just be yourselves. There’s a reason that that piece of advice is so popular. It’s because it’s good. And you’re great.

 

I love you all the love,
Mama xx

 

January / February / March / April / May / June

A letter to my son on his 4th birthday.

Dear Bubba,

Theo4

 

You’re 4. Right now. Today. Sitting on our yellow couch watching Sesame Street. There’s popcorn kernels in the hallway and a slice of bread on the floor of the lounge. These things are not indicative of it being your birthday; they’re just indicative of how things can be sometimes. Things that will probably end in ants.

You’re 4. Right now. Today. And I remember so clearly, the moment you were born; in a plastic paddling pool in my mother’s kitchen. How heavy you felt; out of my body and in my arms. Finally; after 9 months, after 2 days of labour, after my whole life changed. You made me a mother in that moment, physically. You have made a mother of me every day since. I had so little idea, really, of what that would mean. That with you would come such meaning; a complete purpose; a new identity.  It was always  important to me that I not lose myself to my new title, that I held on to some semblance of balance. That who I was before was not eclipsed by who you had made me. So I mother you with who I am. Because as much as we are one another’s, we are separate. Even though we are made for and from each other. I respect you for who you are, as your individual you.

 

Theo9

You’re 4. Right now. Today. You have taught me more about myself than any introspection has. The practical application of caring for you. The strength and patience and resources it takes you treat you in the manner you deserve to be treated.  How being connected to you has connected me with everything. Son and sun at once.

You’re 4. Right now. Today. The house needs vacuuming and I haven’t decided what to cook you for dinner, though you’ll just want pizza. I’m looking at you now, I feel like I’ve spent your whole life just staring at you. You’re wearing stripes and jeans and your favourite boots. You’re playing with your hair. You’re balancing a helicopter on the back of a plastic truck. You’re talking to your sister.

Today.

Right now.

You’re 4.

 

Happy Birthday, darling.

 

You are endless to me.

 

Love, Mama xx

 

 

June.

Winter arrived this month. I chase you around the house in the mornings, still dark; trying in vain to get you to keep your socks on; to sit under a blanket on the couch while you watch cartoons. You wear striped thermals under all your clothes; your super hero second skin. I tie towels about your shoulders at bath time, and fly you into bed.

I assembled your bunks this month; Theo on the top, Mabel on the bottom. Our nightly ritual now including me banging my head; catching a shoulder; injuring myself somehow, just trying to get to you for kissing; on your castle, in your little cave. They are a pain in the arse to make, to make nice of the nightly knots you make of your bedding, but I do, because doing so is a part of our rhythm. Like dance parties before dinner. Like 1000 kisses a day.

There are some parts of parenting that took no consideration for me. They arrived with a knowing, just like you both did. I knew I would have you both at home. I knew I would stay home with you once I had you. These decisions decided themselves. They were just what was going to happen. I never measured them alongside anyone else. I think we get so lost navigating by the belief that we are having a comparative experience with others. That my not doing what you have done is a judgement upon your choices, or vice versa. Where we are lucky enough to be empowered with options, what works for one may just not work another. It’s a process, not a competition. Try to remember that.

Mae; you are a party girl. When you were a baby, you thought that was your name. You responded to it; looked up at us, from where you bum-shuffled; hands full to treasure or contraband, usually one in the same. “What you doing, Party Girl? Where you going?”. You would invariably hit us with the full force of your grin, your whole face the Sun. Before scooting off somewhere new, ready to party; somewhere the chaperones weren’t such a drag. You can fall asleep standing up, and did so this month, further testament to your party girl powers, and some serious Darwinning. Most of your top teeth are chipped; from dancing, from falling, from your hereditary perilous sense of adventure. Your language is developing in leaps and bounds. You decided at 1 that you spoke English; ready to communicate, to express, to get together and feel alright. Now 4 months shy of 3 years old, you are all the time refining, elaborating, exploring language and all it can lead you to. Sitting on the couch last week, you danced in to the room and took me by the face. You took a deep breath before yelling, point-blank, ‘THESE ARE MY EXTRA SKILLS” apropos of nothing.

Theo; you know your left from right; which is often confusing and frustrating for both of us, because I don’t. Not without having to think about what hand I write with, anyway. You told me the other day that you wanted to be a doctor. And a digger. And to work at the dairy. You love Louis Armstrong and can tell the difference between a trumpet and an oboe, which is a pretty great party trick, for a 3-year-old. You have mastered the art of the leading statement, often opening with, ‘so, I’ve been thinking…’. You’d live at the library, if only they’d feed you. You asked me just now, ‘what’s the good news and what’s the bad news?’, which is pretty demonstrative of your thought process. What are my options here? Is there room to negotiate? What are the benefits? What are the drawbacks? You hate to be rushed, but are easy to reason with. Except for the times there is no reasoning with you. You get that from me.

You are all the colours at once, the pair of you. Flags held high, tales trailing behind you. Filling yourselves up. Forging new ground.

May which ever road you choose, always rise up to meet you.

 

I love you without measure,
Mama xx

 

January / February / March / April / May