My baby girl turns two tomorrow, and I have all manner of mixed emotions about this. There’s the obvious HOORAY, we kept another child safe for two whole years, which considering our parenting style (absent minded) is no mean feat. Well done us! Then there’s the YAY, we don’t have a baby in the house anymore, which means I’ll never have to breastfeed, or sleep train, or wean, or look out for obvious choking hazards ever again. Which means there’s also the OH MY GOD, NO, we don’t have a baby in the house anymore; I’ll never get to breastfeed, or sleep train, or wean, or look out for obvious choking hazards ever again.
I’ll never get to bring a tiny bundle of baby home from the hospital, so small she gets lost at the bottom of the pram. I’ll never get to feed a baby in the middle of the night, just me and her, cuddling in the cold of the wee small hours. I’ll never get to hold my breath and watch, captivated, as my baby takes her first spoonful of homemade pumpkin puree. I’ll never get to let go of tiny hands to watch a little creature in dungarees take her first, tentative steps. I’ll never get to celebrate the first tooth, the first roll, the first sitting up, the first crawling steps, the first “mamma” and “dadda”. The first “wuv oo”. I know there’ll be plenty more firsts – for all three of my children – but none quite so precious as the tiny baby firsts.
I’m not sure if you’ve picked up on this, but I’m having trouble dealing with my baby girl turning two. Perhaps if my babies had been little shits I’d be a lot more okay about Alice growing up, and waving goodbye to infanthood. But my babies – all of them – have been pretty close to perfect. Soz and that.
Alice, in particular, we’ve barely noticed. She’s the classic third baby, or so I’m told. Being only 17 months behind Frankie, she kind of had to fit in or fuck off, to quote Australia’s far-right racist contingency. We really didn’t notice her until she started walking, aged 10 months, and even then I’m sure she took her first steps so early because she was all, like, GUYS, GUYS, I’M HERE, REMEMBER ME?
She never peeped, as a baby. Never bawled, or grizzled, or demanded attention. She sleeps like a boss, entertains on demand, and eats what she’s given. In fact, she’s learned to eat like the youngest of three, stuffing Tim Tams in whole before her big brothers can hoover up the crumbs. It’s funny to watch.
Alice is my shining light, although there’s every chance she doesn’t belong to us. Seriously. I was knocked out for the birth (that’s a story for another day, when I’m feeling more emotionally resilient. If I talk about it now my heart will crumble and you’ll have to scrape me up from the floor to make the birthday cake), and didn’t come round until a good hour or two after she was born. They kicked Paul out of the delivery suite, and the first he saw of her was when they handed her to him in the corridor. And honestly, a more Oriental baby you’ve never seen. Bearing in mind my two boys are so fair they’re transparent, to be handed a dark-skinned newborn with a head of black hair and dark, almond eyes, well, you’re gonna be asking questions, no? We always say there’s an Asian family wandering around Joondalup with a fair-skinned ginger child, shrugging and saying, “Genes, eh?”
But, parentage aside, she can stay. She is perfect. To me, she is the epitome of true beauty, with her big eyes and curly hair and olive skin. But her real beauty goes deeper. This beautiful, beautiful girl has the kindest soul – comparable only to her brothers – and a deep, dirty laugh that would melt the hardest of hearts. She is FUNNY, this kid, and has spent the last two years perfecting the fine art of making her family stop what they’re doing and just laugh. She’s feisty, yes, but that’s what you want in a girl, no? Not for me these meek little creatures who won’t say boo. Alice is a baby girl powerhouse, with such charm and character that people literally stop in their tracks when we’re out and about to wave and say hello. She makes people SMILE.
Every night, at bedtime, I sing her a song (Close to You by The Carpenters, or sometimes Kooks by David Bowie, if I'm feeling reckless) and then I tell her that she is beautiful and kind and smart and funny, and she nods, as if to say no shit, and I tell her to never, ever change.
To my wonderful, beautiful, kind-hearted two-year-old daughter, I say HAPPY BIRTHDAY. Please can we keep you?