You are not a baby anymore. Your round cheeks and protruding belly still remind me more of the baby you once were than the child you are becoming, but you are not a baby anymore.
Every day you learn more. You roll new words across your tongue, wrap your mouth around the shapes of vowels and consonants, experiment with the way the different combinations of sounds feel as they clumsily trip over your lips.
You are a little scientist, making new discoveries. Closely studying your wrinkled hands after bath time, you giggle with delight when I call them raisin fingers and nibble on the tips. You are deeply interested in cause and effect, and proudly inform me that you are wet after you have poured water down your shirt. ‘Peas!’ you shout, as you let handfuls drop to the floor and the dog scrambles after them like a hungry hippo.
I have lost track of the number of times that I have lost my patience.
You are headstrong and certain of your desires. Yesterday you wanted a throne of cushions so you could perch high upon the sofa; today you want to sit next to me, leaning against the armrest; tomorrow you will want to sit on my lap, but not if my legs are crossed.
I so often let you down.
You stand with tears pouring down your face, your cheeks splotchy and pink, your nose running ceaselessly. You are furious because you want to wear both your new shoes and your old shoes. At the same time. You sob and gasp for breath, and my emotions swing wildly between sympathy and tenderness and frustration and fury.
Sometimes I shout at you.
But you are like a day in early spring, your moods unpredictable and varied. The dark cloud of your face clears to reveal beaming sunshine, delighted squeals and happy chatter as you find a puddle to splash in, show me a leaf or spot a plane overhead. I remind myself to be patient. I remind myself to teach you patience.
Today you have been hard work. Today I have felt frustrated and angry. I have felt cross. I watch you look at me, mischief in your eyes, and do the thing you are not meant to do. I roll my eyes when you stomp your feet in frustration and flop to the floor like a wet noodle. I speak sharply to you. I count down the minutes until bedtime, tuck you in and then just wish you would go to sleep.
You don’t. You cry and writhe and whinge. I sit on the floor next to your bed. I will not make eye contact. I will be boring. It is bedtime.
You reach for my hand and place it on your tummy. You run your little hand up and down my arm. Up and down my arm. I move my hand away. You grab it and put it back on your tummy. I feel your soft, chubby, warm palm stroke my arm. You are not a baby anymore, but if you want me to stay here a little longer, I will. In this moment, my hand rising and falling with your breaths, I see that impossibly tiny infant you once were, all baggy skin, delicate bones, squinting eyes. I place my lips on your forehead. I will stay with you a little longer if that’s what you want because I know you won’t always want me to, and because you are still my baby, and because we are made from each other, and because I will fail you so many times, but I will never stop trying to be the mother you deserve.
Rebecca is an American living in England. A mother of twin boys, she used to enjoy baking and gigs but now spends most of her time singing nursery rhymes and answering the same damn questions from strangers over and over again. She is a part-time secondary school English teacher. You can also follow her on Twitter