A Diary of Motherhood: Week Forty-Three

This Diary of Motherhood is a series of weekly letters to my first baby, my little son who I call Baby Bird. I know not everyone wants to read about the highs and lows of motherhood so you can read non-baby related posts about travelwritingfreelancing or Amsterdam instead. Alternatively read one of my short stories or check out some book reviews and recommendations.

Dear Baby Bird,

It says a lot about me and this diary and I suppose my whole approach to this motherhood malarky that when I reflected on our first little holiday as a family in last week's post, I wrote about the things that were less than ideal namely, your poor sleeping habits. What I didn't mention was how our trip to the South of France prompted us try out a new front-facing buggy (which you loved), introduce you to French bread (which you LOVED), hang out with a dog and a cat every day (which you REALLY LOVED), and to get creative about how to entertain you seeing as the sunshine I thought was a sure-thing evaded us for most of our visit. This culminated in your dad squashing you into a cardboard box and with some much appreciated input from our hosts, transforming this into a car that we then pulled you around the floor in (which you loved almost as much as your dad did). 

Most importantly, however, was that you got to meet a good friend of mine and we all met his new family and home as he recently re-located to live in the rolling countryside between Toulouse and Carcassone. I think we're closing in on you meeting many of the most important people you have to meet though I'm aware there are still many, many friends and family members on both sides that are still yet to meet.

It's interesting that a few months ago I would have said that these people are yet to meet you, but there have been some really significant changes in the last few weeks that warrant me turning it around and seeing you as a more active little person who engages with those around him, rather than you being the passive lump of baby that is passed around from one lap to another.

Not only can you competently pull yourself up to standing now, occasionally testing your luck/showing off by letting one hand go of whatever you're holding, but you've also upgraded your crawl from the military-style, carpet-cleaning stomach shuffle you've had mastered for months to the more traditional upright crawl on your hands and knees. I honestly thought you weren't going to bother with this seeing as your stealthy combat-crawl was so fast and seemingly efficient, but no, you've surprised me, again. A long accomplished clapper, you're now also doing more with your hands. We have an estimated 60% success rate with high fives and every now and again when people say goodbye to you, you raise your hand up as if to wave, but then it's like you get stuck and you forget why you put your hand up. At mealtimes, you've become more comfortable picking up food to chew or suck on, and I've noticed only in the last few days that you are using your fingers to really investigate and study the smaller details of your toys. And as for noises... well, you've been "dah-dah-dahing" and "mah-mah-mahing" for weeks, but without you looking one of us in the eye, we've decided it doesn't really count and these are just a few of the weird and wonderful, and very dribbly, noises you make all day every day as you become quite the freestyle scatman.

And then there are the completely random things you do with your body that we can't fully explain. A few weeks ago, at dinner time you began shaking your head back and forth, very fast. You did this for a few seconds, then stopped. Immediately after you looked at me, as if waiting for a reaction, which I was taking my time to express because I wasn't sure if you were having a small fit, or if you were trying to refuse the food I was giving you. Turns out it was neither of those things, you have just picked up on the fact that we have the ability to shake our head and you have mastered it. The pessimist in me was convinced it was because you'd seen me all too often shake my own head in exasperation with you, or when I was telling you not to do something, but a few days later - after your father and I had both been actively encouraging you to do the shaking head thing because it really did make us laugh - I was going to you in your cot after a nap and in response to the wide grin and sleepy eyes you offered me, I coo-ed, "You're so cute, you're so cute," while shaking my head gently side to side.

"Ah," I said out loud as a penny dropped. I've probably been doing that to you every day of your life.

Nevertheless, it served as a wake-up call, because you are going to watch us, and imitate us or at least become very aware of the things we do, especially those that are habitual - done repeatedly, almost without conscious thought. Those are the things I'm most afraid of. Because I can try and be a faultless person for some of the time, but I can't manage it all the time. You are going to see my bad habits - when I bite my nails, when I check my Instagram too often, when I swear when I drop something, when I lick my plate clean after the cake has all gone - and you will see me make the same old mistakes - when I don't pay full attention to what you're dad's telling me about the latest TED talk he watched on kinetic physics, when I lose my smile when you raise your hand and knock a spoon of food out of my grip, when I snap at you or your dad because I'm tired, hungry or both - and you will see so many other faults of mine that even I am oblivious too. I often wonder which ones you will take for yourself, but I try not to indulge this line of thought too much.

Maybe what I should focus on is the good habitual actions you will see me do. The way I like to smile and say good morning to the shopkeepers I pass on our walk to daycare in the morning. The way I like to say "please" and "thank you" even when the Dutchies don't seem to mind if I don't. The way I try to take my licked-clean plate and coffee cup back to the counter when I'm finished with them. The way I laugh at all your dad's jokes even if I don't find the ones about physics or computers as funny as the others. And maybe there are even things I'm unaware I do that are good things that you will also learn too.

Truth be told, as you enter this "monkey see, monkey do" phase of development, my instinct is to become somebody else - a less flawed, better behaved version of myself. But I've tried this before at other stages of my life - new relationships, new jobs, new friendships - and I know from these very experiences that it just doesn't last. I can keep up some good habits - running twice a week and emptying the dishwasher less than 24 hours after it finishes being ones I've mastered in the last few weeks - but I can't stay someone else forever, especially when I'm still a little sleep deprived and unsettled from post-partum depression. What I can do, is be me. I can do that, most days, with relatively little effort and more often than not with a smile on my face. Because although I am flawed with bad habits, I am at heart a good person. Time will tell if that's enough to help you grow to be the same thing.

Your high-five-ing-you-all-day-long, can't-wait-to-see-you-waving, just-you-wait-until-you-can-eat-cake-you'll-lick-the-plate-clean-too, crazy-in-love mother x

Frances M. Thompson

Londoner turned wanderer, Frankie is an author, freelance writer and blogger. Currently based in Amsterdam, Frankie was nomadic for two years before starting a family with her Australian partner. Frankie is the author of three short story collections, and is a freelance writer for travel and creative brands. In 2017, she launched WriteNOW Cards, affirmation cards for writers that help build a productive and positive writing practice. When not writing contemporary fiction, Frankie shops for vintage clothes, dances to 70s disco music and chases her two young sons around Amsterdam.
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