“They grow up so fast.”
I’ve come to the conclusion that this is nonsense. They grow up at a perfectly normal rate. One day at a time. Except when they’re potty training. Then it’s unbearably slow. A more accurate saying would be “they grow up so gradually that you don’t really notice, and then one day it hits you in the face.” Not quite so snappy, I’ll admit. But much more truthful. A lot of the time it passes you by, and occasionally, very occasionally, you have a day when it seems to pause and you can soak in all that growing. Today was one of those.
It’s easy to see Joel growing. He’s just turned 10 months old, and so every day brings a shiny new skill. In the last few weeks he’s learnt to climb the stairs, stand by himself, taken a couple of steps and even said his first word…”Elva”…guess who’s been teaching him to talk! Suddenly he’s clapping and waving and eating slices of quiche and getting so incredibly strong that changing a nappy feels like a wrestling match.
It’s harder to see with Elvie. She’s nearly 3. She’s got the basics down, so it’s all in the fine-tuning. You have to pay attention to spot it, and I’ve not done that lately. But I noticed this morning, when she chose her own clothes and got herself dressed. When she put her own coat on ready for our trip to the market. Admittedly she had it on upside down, and it was 25 degrees outside but still, she’s never managed that tricky second sleeve before.
We walked to the market this morning – both of us. With Joel in the buggy. It must have taken us about an hour – stopping on the way to feed the ducks. But she walked, the whole way. Didn’t moan once. In her little shoes that she had done up by herself. Wearing the pink backpack that the Children’s Centre have loaned her, and which is currently her pride and joy. She walked round the market, and then round town, and chose herself a seat on the bus home. Not even the seat next to me – she was quite content to sit by a random old man and look round at me every few minutes.
The last few months have been tough for Elvie and I. We’ve fought a lot. She needs more stimulation than I can give her, especially with a baby in the mix. She gets frustrated, so do I, and there are meltdowns. Not all hers. My image of her has been skewed by her constant tantrums and my constant exhaustion. We’re holding on for September and nursery, to give us both a break. But today was beautiful. A little breather in the midst of all our madness.
Today I got to see my little girl for who she really is. The little girl that everyone else sees. The little girl who picks endless flowers from along the path, so that she can present them to the cashier at the corner shop – “these are for you.” The little girl who asks for a ‘sweet treat’ at the market, and is wildly excited when she gets a strawberry. Who sees scratches on my arm and says “Don’t worry Mummy, I can fix them.”
Elvie is interested in everyone she meets. She asked every single shop assistant we saw today what their name was. Told them what we were buying, and who we all were. She even asked one girl if she was wearing “clompety shoes.” This is Elvie’s highest accolade. Clompety shoes are any shoes with a heel – hence the clompety, from the noise they make. Her greatest wish is to wear clompety shoes every day. And a backpack. For the moment – indeed since she was born! – she makes do with borrowing mine.
This morning’s adventures left me in awe of my little girl. And the sweet, funny force of nature that she undoubtedly is. Parenthood is tough and relentless and brutal. But then there are days like this, squeezed in the middle, that make it all worthwhile. Little steps that we take together, and little moments to stop. And breathe. And look. She’s growing up at a perfectly normal rate, and I’m determined to notice the little changes as she grows. Because, before we know it she’ll be off exploring the world by herself. Learning new skills. Making friends. Making people smile. And all in clompety shoes.