A Love Letter to My Daughter on Her 3rd Birthday.

Happy Birthday Darling.

You are a constant reminder of how good things can be. You’re a shining example of happiness.
mbel2

I gave birth to you at the foot of my bed. Kneeling on the floor with your Grandmother in a headlock. At both of your births, the strength of her presence has been what assured me I could do it. She cut your cord and your Aunty came in. ‘Look! I did it!’ I told her, a sister I chose some 7 years earlier, when she hung over the fence separating our houses and tapped a bottle of Tequila on my window, at 8am, while I was eating my breakfast. This time we celebrated with a cup of tea.

Everyone went out soon after, I remember. The midwife packed and left. Your brother bundled off with your daddy, sent in search of pastries. Your Aunty doing the washing. Your Grandmother hurried home to tell your Pappous, in Greece, that you were finally here. I sat with you on the couch, in the sun, and remember feeling as if the house had never been so full. The room was you. It always is.

mbel1

You told me recently, as we were sitting on the same couch in the same sun, that I was your best hero ever. That I was like something off the television. And it was about the best compliment of my life. But then, that’s how I feel about you. That you are my daughter is one of the best things about me. And I don’t know exactly how these things work; if you chose me or I chose you, or if it’s all simply chance, but I do know, whatever it was, it got things exactly right with you and me.

I don’t know if I could ever tell you completely, how sweet you are. How you arrived in my life and completed something in me. Some search I had been on, without map or compass. You arrived and, set in my arms, came stillness. And from that stillness a quiet strength has at last had chance to make a home in me, to take a hold in me.

And I don’t know exactly if that strength that we find, comes from other people; a love that they show us, or that someone like them could believe in someone like you. Or if it just comes at certain times in your life, when you find the right light, and everything is revealed to you as simply greater than it was before. I just know that it happens.

It’s how I came to know, what people mean when they say, you’re the best thing that ever happened to me.

You’re my best hero ever.

Love,
Mama x

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