In what has become a bit of a blog tradition, please excuse me as I take a moment again this year to pen a letter to Leila in honour of her birthday. Sorry for the self-indulgence, it’s long and not terribly interesting.
Where did the last 12 months go bub-a-lubs? It seems like only yesterday we were Thomas-the-Tanking it up for your third birthday and here we are now, tidying the remnants of your Alice in Wonderland extraordinaire! So much has happened this past year as you’ve taken some serious steps towards becoming a proper kid, no longer a sproglet but a bonafide little girl with the sass to back it up. As I sit here trying to recall the moments and peculiarities that have made this past year such a joy to share with you, I’m overtaken by the realisation at just how much you’ve had to adapt in this time.
In 2012, we moved from Nanny and Pop’s house to our new flat… a monumental occasion that you would have done absolutely anything to reverse. “Do you like your new flat?” we’d ask, ever more hopeful each time…
“No”. Would come the reply. “Can we go back to Pop’s now?”
Each Thursday night, when I take you for your sleepover with Nanny and Pop, it’s a grand reunion with more melodrama than a night at the TV Soap Awards. “But I’ll miss you Mummy!” you say with all the sincerity of a politician. Sometimes, you even phone me an hour later just to remind me that you’re still missing me. “Would you like me to come and pick you up?” I offer. “Oh no! I’mokMum, seeyoutomorrow!” you say faster than Usain Bolt on speed. *Click* goes the phone. You big spoofer.
As if that weren’t change enough… last September, you started pre-school and things didn’t run smoothly. Your usual, cheerful little self turned upside down and inside out as you struggled to cope with such a huge watershed in your life. Not used to the company of so many other children, you rejected the noise and clamor of the environment you’d been thrust into… that is, until you actually stepped through the door. And so this continued for months, dismayed by the thought of returning to nursery while at home… but not wanting to leave it whilst there. Apparently, this is pretty common for children who haven’t been brought up with other children around them. Knowing this didn’t help ease the transition at the time though.
But now, as you turn four… you’re desperate not to have to leave pre-school this Summer. You know that “big” school is around the corner and I can see the cogs turning as you think about what this means for your future. The thought of leaving your beloved “teacher” Susan behind at nursery is too much to contemplate, even though you seem to be the only child there who likes the rather prickly, older lady (and I can’t help but love you even more for that). I’ve heard that you and her sing show-tunes together while you do all the jobs that the other kids don’t have the patience for. Susan tells me that you are a methodical child who completes her tasks with care and precision, I secretly think that this may be code for OCD but either way, you’re definitely your father’s daughter when it comes to your perfectionist tendencies. God help me.
Talking about your inherited personality traits… today, I watched you dance around on a makeshift stage that you’d conjured up from a set of paving stones and I wondered where you could have possibly come from. Unlike both me and your dad, you love nothing more than to perform. I always roll my eyes and say “trust me to have gotten the jazz-hands kid”, feeling terribly disloyal all the while. Because you see, it’s not a fair description of your passion for a performance. You’re a storyteller my little girl, and a good one at that. You’re actually a bit of a shocking dancer, with the grace of a thousand, heavily sedated elephants but what you lack in finesse, you make up for in your sheer determination to put on a good show.
But perhaps, out of all the things that have happened this year, the most groundbreaking has been your discovery of The Princess. You told me yesterday to save a birthday cupcake for your “prince”. When I asked if you meant Daddy, you couldn’t have looked more horrified (poor Daddy). I don’t know much about this mystery prince of yours but apparently he has red hair and a kind heart. He sounds alright to me, just make sure you leave it until your 32nd birthday before introducing him to Dad. And how could I forget Galahad, your imaginary steed who accompanies us wherever we go, helping you ride safely over kerbstones whilst avoiding the cracks in the pavement. You don’t know it yet, but you’re going on a pony-trek as your birthday surprise next week. I can’t even wait to see your face.
Other memorable milestones of your third full year included a trip to Disnleyland Paris (where you met the beautiful Snow White), a Christmas spent with your family from Australia, a bout of chickenpox (and croup), a couple of day-trips to Chessington (you’re a daredevil rollercoaster rider), and a summer holiday in the exotic climes of Liverpool & Manchester where you could barely contain your excitement at the trams, no really.
You still only really like chicken nuggets and IKEA meatballs. Sometimes tomato soup and always, always cheese. Like a little mouse, I know your Pop sometimes sneaks you a slice to eat in bed after you’ve brushed your teeth on a Thursday. Co-conspirators. I pray you are gifted with many more years to bask in your Grandparent’s adoration for you. You refuse to get your hair cut. After watching Tangled, you’re convinced that, like Rapunzel’s, your hair will turn brown if it meets with a pair of scissors and I haven’t got the heart to tell you that your blonde locks are already looking darker than they were six months ago.
You’re still fascinated by people’s earlobes. You reach up to play with mine at least 10 times a day, a comfort thing I’m sure. I shall be one of those old ladies with ear lobes that reach their shoulders and I shall blame you for it.
The final thing I want to remind you of in years to come is your solemn promise to never grow too old for a cwtch. Right now, as I write this after putting you to bed, you love me to the moon and back… although sometimes you only love me “zero” and I have to tickle it out of you until your arms are outstretched in demonstration of how big your love is. You’ve taken to calling me “Mama” and although it sounds so frightfully middle-class, it melts me every time. I’m sure you know this. You’re not daft my girl.
Happy birthday my dearest darling duck, you’re such a plonker and I love you more than “baninna” ice-cream.