Well, it finally happened, after all your patient waiting over the last few days: you turned 3. You’ve opened all your presents, eaten the cake, danced yourself giddy (even though there was no music) and had your friends round for a tea party; and now that it’s all over, I’m sitting here surrounded by balloons and bits of new games, wondering where the last 3 years have gone to, and how it can also feel like you’ve been here forever.
I’ve been thinking about the day you arrived, my pumpkin baby. We called you Pumpkin when you were just a bump because your due date was Halloween – and, for the last trimester, it certainly felt like that was what I was dragging around with me everywhere. Of course, you were late. Knowing what it’s like trying to get you anywhere now, I strongly suspect that you were probably hanging around in the hallway of my uterus, balancing your coat on your head and yelling about putting your shoes on without actually getting round to putting them on your feet. I should have known then that I stood no chance of ever being on time from that point onwards.
I can still remember the moment you were laid on my chest, brand new and grumpy, blue knitted hospital hat stretched over your too-big head (me, still painfully aware of exactly how massive your head was). In the weeks and months to come, if I was struggling to fall asleep after a night feed, I would relive that memory, over and over, think of the feel of the soft skin of your back, your warmth, your tiny little snuffles as you got used to breathing, what it felt like at the moment I became a mother.
It couldn’t have been long after that when I became aware of how vulnerable you had made me. Before you, I had moved miles away from my family, spoken at conferences, travelled abroad alone, jumped out of planes – but the most terrifying thing I ever encountered was you, tiny boy, and the love that I grew for you. It’s easier to live with now (it has to be, otherwise it would be unbearable), but in the beginning, it was huge and all-encompassing, drowning everything else I had ever known.
Three years on, and oh, my Alex, I couldn’t be prouder of the boy you are today. You make every day better. I can’t tell you how lovely it is to live with somebody who is so relentlessly happy. I’ll admit, when you ping out of bed at 6am, full of the joys of spring, that can be slightly painful to deal with, but you are at least the cheeriest alarm clock I have ever known. Yes, of course you have your toddler meltdown moments, but most days I genuinely adore being with you, and there is nothing better than picking you up from nursery and walking home with your little hand in mine, hearing you talk about your day. Most of the time I haven’t got a clue what you’re talking about, but it’s nice all the same.
And you are so beautifully, perfectly, unapologetically mad as a box of frogs. You spent weeks asking for a birthday badge, I hunted everywhere for a card with one, then (naturally) you refused to wear it. You’re insistent that Santa brought your birthday presents. You burst into song at random moments and make strangers jump. You apply toddler logic to every situation, and have stern words for adults who don’t follow the rules (victims include a woman crossing the road alone – “that lady didn’t hold hands!” – and the mortifying time you told off a scary-looking fully-grown man for not having his hood up in the rain). You make moustaches out of spaghetti and, when I try not to laugh, you can see my true reaction and you do it again, just to make me smile.
You tell me all the time that you’re a big boy now, that you can do it by yourself. I watch you run ahead down the street, exploring your world, testing how far ahead you can get, and I don’t call you back, no matter how much I want to. You’re growing fast, small one, and I will always encourage your independence and help you to run that little bit further, even if I really love it most when you crawl into my lap for a cuddle, or when you wrap your arms around my neck and squeeze tight.
The years are flying by, as old ladies on the metro always told me that they would. This somehow feels like your last “little” birthday, and the ages you’ll turn after this promise growing and changing and starting school, leaving toddlerhood far behind. I want time to slow down, but at the same time I can’t wait for all our next adventures.
Happy birthday, best buddy. Thanks for turning my entire universe upside down.
All my love