Friday, 27 December 2013

To Eleanor, on your second birthday

Dear Eleanor

So, you're two now! I can't quite believe it. It's a cliche, but it really doesn't seem that long since I first held you in my arms. But at the same time, I look at you now and I barely recognise you as the same person as that baby I held. You've changed immeasurably in such a short time. I suppose I have changed quite a lot too. My life certainly has changed - when you came into this world I had no idea how much of a difference you'd make. I didn't know that just months down the line I would make the decision to give up work and stay at home with you. But I'm glad I did, because you change so quickly and I know I'm extremely lucky to not miss a minute.

It seems bizarre to think that just a year ago, you couldn't walk or talk. In fact I remember being worried in the early months of this year about your walking abilities and speech development. Now you never seem to stop walking and talking! You run, you march, you tiptoe and you dance. You're desperate to jump at the moment but it's not quite working out for you (don't worry, kid, you'll get there). And talking - why was I ever worried?! At first we kept a list of the words you could say - that list stopped at 18 months when you already knew 100 words, and I suspect you've trebled or perhaps quadrupled that now. You repeat lines from books, songs and TV programmes with no logical link from one sentence to the next. Your memory is incredible - you must know around 20 books almost off by heart now! I now feel like an interpreter for you, explaining which book/programme/song you're referring to when visitors pop around and translating some of your mispronunciations and made-up words. You're losing more and more of those though, which makes me sad because some of them were really cute. One day I'll tell you that you used to call cats 'rararaps' and you'll think I'm making it up. But you really did!

More exciting than your ability to walk and talk (and believe me, they are exciting to me) is watching your personality grow. In some ways we're very alike, frustratingly so - you have the same, sometimes explosive combination of a dogged determination and a short temper. If that doll doesn't sit exactly how you want her to, all hell breaks loose. But in other ways you're so very different. You're almost totally fearless - a couple of weeks ago, when a spider was dashing around the living room, I tried desperately to hide my terror while you chased the arachnid around and even poked it! I couldn't stop myself squealing when you did that! Today when we took you to meet some animals you were totally unfazed, even when faced with a massive snake!

You're so confident and outgoing too, in a way that I've never truly been. I can fake it, but you're the real deal. I started taking you to a few new playgroups and classes this year and you got stuck right in, wandering off to play or getting up to dance around in the middle of the room. Yesterday at a family party you marched and danced around the room, shouting, "HELLO EVERYBODY!" and loving the attention. So unlike the shy girl I was growing up! I really hope you don't lose these qualities. I know inhibitions may set in over the next couple of years but when I see my sociable, exuberant little person I am filled with pride.

I have to say there are some things about you that challenge me - your sleeping habits particularly! How I long for a full night's sleep, and how lovely must it be for those people blessed with a child who goes to bed at 7pm so they get the evening to themselves! But that's just who you are right now - I know that one day you will start sleeping through the night, and maybe I'll get to reclaim my evening a little bit more. I've lost count of how many times I've been advised to try sleep training you, but I know that's just not right for us, so I'm willing to stay tired until you finally figure out that sleep is actually a good thing. (Please, though, make that sooner rather than later!!)

As you enter your third year, so many people have muttered something along the lines of, "ooh, terrible twos!" I'll admit it, Eleanor, I am worried about how I'll cope with what the next year brings. Your tantrums are already hard for me to deal with, especially as we're both 'blessed' with the same short fuse. I know I've raised my voice at you in recent weeks, but I'm doing my best not to do it again, because I don't want you to hide your feelings out of fear. And that's all a tantrum is - feelings. Really, really big feelings with no control mechanism. You need me to help you deal with those feelings, and I promise I will do my best to be there for you when you feel overwhelmed, now and always.

Above all else, I'm so proud of you, my darling Eleanor. You are brave, feisty, independent, confident, determined, creative and (whether you intend it or not) pretty darn hilarious. And I will do everything I can to help you keep these attributes. Because, flaws and all, you're wonderful just as you are.

Happy birthday my lovely girl.


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