In a haze of hastily blown-up rainbow balloons, a new Tayo bus set, and an episode of Vampirina roaring in the background, our darling baby boy turned two.
Atti’s second year was fairly crazy. As soon as he’d got fully settled into his two days a week at nursery, we upped and left Ipswich and moved 100 miles away from all the friends and family he’d got used to seeing on the regular, to Worthing – the town I grew up in. Along with a house sale, we had huge work changes, as I took on the role of sole financial provider and my boyfriend became the lead parent. We traveled a fair bit (first long haul flight was ticked off with minimal to moderate scarring), went for lots of beach walks, ate ice cream and continued to hunt out the finest leopard print toddler garments from across the digital high street.
But despite the chaos, and the undeniable river of stress sloshing about in the background, 2019 was, in every way possible, so much easier than 2018.
Because I know people say toddlers are a fucking handful, but honestly, nothing seems to even come close to how I felt when I first came home from the hospital and was in charge of a newborn. I look back at those first few days, week and even months and it seems silly to say, but I wish I’d found a way to enjoy it all more. Of course the sleep deprivation twists things and shapes them into dark monsters where there is none, but the two things I remember most from this time, are the fear of cot death and the fear of losing myself.
Atti was a baby that liked to be held all the time. In hindsight I wish I’d just bought a sling. Or gone to a sling library. But hey, that’s the joy of growing wiser and older and gaining distance from situations. Whilst pregnant, I’d been told over and over again from midwives and my NCT leader and in every article I’d read online, about how my baby would and should sleep in a cot or moses basket (or even a cardboard box as they do in Finland). That it would likely wake every two to three hours and need feeding. And I was ready for that. It needed ideally no blankets, but a sleep bag would be OK. What I didn’t expect was that my baby would have other ideas, my baby would only want to sleep on my chest. It made me feel like I was doing something wrong, that I was letting him down and risking his life. Was I supposed to let him scream it out? Or was I supposed to hold him to my chest and watch Say Yes To The Dress UK on catch-up TV at 2am to stop myself falling asleep whilst I was holding him?
I also felt this immense rush to return back to who I was before – perhaps largely because of social media, but also because I desperately wanted to recognise something, anything from the old me when it felt like everything had been so drastically shaken up. And so I forced myself to do things – put on make-up, take photos, go to London, appear to be busy, before, perhaps, I was really ready to do any of that. It was like I felt shame by allowing myself to feel the baby bubble, to enjoy it, to get too comfortable.
But as Atti has got older, my life feels as if it’s got richer ans richer. The first turning point come around the year-mark, he was sitting, standing (not quite walking, we got there at around 20-months), saying a handful of words and beginning to be fascinated by objects, toys and the world around him. He became funny. He learned new things every day. His smiles and his love for me made me feel so completely validated – and I know maybe that’s an odd thing to say, but it’s around that time when I think I finally got the mum thing. Without knowing he was even doing it, he mended me in places I never knew I needed mending. He became my beautiful blonde-haired medicine.
And then again at around the 22-month mark, he become even better again. That kid is like a fine wine, just getting bloody better with age. He has these strong ideas, and a wild imagination and he knows what he wants (YouTube, cars, chocolate and the beach) and what he doesn’t want (any sauce on his pasta, to stay in bed past 6.30am or to read boring bedtime books). He fascinates me more than ever and I am truly, truly adoring this age.
I love the little smell of his morning breath and his wild curls when I lift him out of bed in the morning. I love the way he says ‘mummy cuggles!’ when he wants to sit on my lap. I love the way he says ‘bye mummy!’ when I go to work in the morning. The way he lines up his cars and buses on the sofa, the way he giggles when he farts and the way he claps his hands together when he gets excited.
We’ve been fairly lucky in the tantrum department – he’s grown out of the really, really fun stage of launching himself backwards and banging his head whenever he gets frustrated. I’ve found that he’d get more angry and lash out when he couldn’t communicate properly, but now things seemed to have settled down again as he’s pretty good at letting us know what he wants and needs and can understand us offering him alternatives. But hey, who knows what’s in store as we delve further into the ‘terrible twos’.
Sleep-wise, it’s been delicious to get eight hours sleep most nights, give or take the odd hideous bout of teething or illness which has had us up watching Hey Duggee at 2am trying to plead with him to just please open his mouth for some Calpol.
Food-wise, we’ve gone backwards. In fact I looked through all the old photos of Atti on my phone the other day so I could print some off for his baby book and was utterly shaken to my core from all the foods I’d forgotten he used to eat. Roast carrots and parsnips. Sweet potato. Roast chicken. Pasta with cream cheese. Quesadillas. These days I’m lucky to get fruit down him, I’m pretty sure at any given time he’s 80% toast, 20% Rice Krispies.
Activity-wise, we went to the cinema for the first time last week and he actually stayed on our laps (wasn’t keen for his own seat) for the whole film. We mostly stopped eating out with him because it became too difficult to keep him in a high chair for longer than three minutes, but recently on holiday we took him out every evening and he was a bloody joy, so maybe we can risk a Saturday Wagamama this weekend. He’s not hugely keen on soft play, but loves being able to run and explore. He’s just started up two mornings a week at playschool and seems genuinely excited in the mornings, so that’s something.
He counted to five on his own this morning, but I haven’t managed to get him to repeat it. Maybe I misheard him before I’d had my 7am caffeine fix.
He still has a dummy for naps and bedtime, but is always co-operative at handing it over if he finds one under the sofa during the day.
Still in a sleep bag and a cot – we tried the pillow and duvet twice and he hated it, so I’m in no rush to force it on him.
He has milk in the mornings. From a bottle – I know, I know, we should have weaned him off a year ago. I tried, he yelled at me, I let it slide. But he’s not bothered about having it cold from a beaker, or at drinking it before bed.
All in all, life is sweeter and calmer and more full of contentment than perhaps it ever has been before. I appreciate everyone’s journey through motherhood is completely different but, at least for me I am sure, it just gets easier and better and more fulfilling. I cannot wait to see what the next 12 months hold for us.
I bloody love you Atticus Robert Rudolf x.