I've been writing to you for nearly two and a half years now. In some ways it feels like only weeks since I put that first tentative letter in the post. In others, it feels like half a lifetime.
Actually, I suppose it is half a lifetime - Marie is twice the age she was when we started our correspondence. Bottles and babygros were still recent history for me back then and I'd barely got used to having unbroken sleep. I never went anywhere without a buggy, a large packet of wipes and a selection of plastic bags. The house smelled strangely swampy...
Things have changed somewhat since then. I only usually need a small packet of wipes these days, for instance. The buggy has been retired, babygros look laughably small and most of those 15,000 nappies I changed have faded from my mind. (Although one or two will live on in my nightmares forever.) It's a pleasantly long time since I've been vomited on.
Of course, our first contact must seem even longer ago to you. You've gone from having one toddler to possessing a school child and a toddler. Never mind remembering what life was like - you probably struggle to remember you own name most of the time. I'm glad to hear that Daisy's teething is almost over, though. With a proper night's sleep on a regular basis, you'll be better equipped to cope with all the children choose to throw at you (both literally and metaphorically). It's still a while until Daisy is at nursery but, in the meantime, there's a string of milestones to look forward to. Soon you can ditch the high chair and the changing unit. Before long, her speech will become clear, allowing so many misunderstandings to be avoided. She won't learn to say 'thank you' without prompting for another decade, admittedly, but life will only get easier from now on.
Well, up to a point anyway...
There seems to be a sweet spot around age five or six when kids are relatively low maintenance. They're old enough to wipe their own bottoms, get themselves dressed, entertain themselves if they wake up early and to not go into a hissing tantrum for hours if they don't get their own way. They're still young enough, however, to mostly do what they're told and to go to bed early, while still being cute enough to get away with being rude and obnoxious in front of elderly relatives. Sadly, this stage doesn't last.
We stumbled across a recording of one of Fraser's school shows the other day. It was strange looking back on how he and his classmates used to be before the boys got all gangly and the girls swapped girly bunches for sleek ponytails. They're in Primary 4 now and we assumed the footage was taken not long after they started school.
Turns out that it was from barely a year ago. Sometime in the last twelve months, they've all mutated into Tweenies.
Er, no, hang on, that was a typo. I meant tweenies. Still, the accompanying mental image of a class full of brightly-coloured, furry humanoids with googly, animatronic eyes is worth holding on to. I may be lumbered with a stroppy and opinionated pre-teen but an invasion of glorified muppets would be worse...
Hmmm... Anyway, on realising Fraser had moved up a demographic bracket, quite a lot of his recent behaviour started to make 'sense'. He always did argue with everything but now he's lippy with it. He's big enough that being rude and obnoxious no longer comes across as adorable mischief; it's simply insolent and occasionally scary. He would embarrass us all evening in front of visiting elderly relatives but they go to bed before he does.
Basically, he's not a teenager yet but he's working on it. He'll be demanding brand-name trainers before long.
Oddly, despite growing more independent, he's becoming higher maintenance again. He needs help understanding the complexities of the world and human interactions. He questions everything. He takes up a larger space in the lounge for more of the time. The sweet spot is past. It's going to be a long summer.
Remember all those things the crazy old woman down the street told you just after Sam was born? There you were, exhausted and shellshocked, holding your first child, and she kept saying stuff like, 'Enjoy your kids while they're still young. They grow up so quickly. Don't wish they're lives away. They'll have left home before you know it.' Etc, etc.
I've never particularly agreed with her, and experience has only strengthened my case - two and a half years really has felt like half a lifetime...
I'm maybe beginning to see where she was coming from, though.
Yours in a woman's world,
PS Fraser went to the park on his own after school for the first time last week. There were plenty of other parents there who knew him and I set a time he had to be back by, but it was a momentous occasion, nonetheless. We got him a mobile phone to celebrate.
The next step is giving him his own key. It will save us money in the long run - he's taken to phoning me to open the front door rather than ringing the bell.
Oh, and I called him down for tea yesterday and he texted me to say he'd be a few minutes...