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

Love is a reciprocal torture. – Marcel Proust.

There’s a lot of whispering happening over there. I’m only as suspicious as I ever am. Four years of low-level torture has built up a surprising tolerance for these things.

Slowly, Mabel emerges from behind the couch and crawls on her little pink belly across the floor in front of me, to where the dog is lying in a small patch of sun.

‘You got any stored, Mae?’, Theo hisses at her, peeking out from around the armchair.

She reaches into her leggings and pulls out a small Phillips head screwdriver.

‘OPERATION TIME!’, she yells.

The dog lifts his head slightly. He looks at me with brief resignation, and goes back to sleep.

I almost join him.

At your convenience.

I am standing at the kitchen bench barefoot, making the children something to eat.

As I cut the crusts off a piece of toast, to Theo’s prescription, I drop them on the floor for the dog.

‘That was surprising!’ Theo notes of the commotion that ensures; flat-faced-cat trying to lick buttered edges before they are inhaled by an ever available Dachshund shaped garbage disposal.

I hand Theo a piece of toast. Buttered with hummus. Crusts, as mentioned, removed.

‘And a top piece?’ he asks of me. ‘It’s convenient that way’.

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