Weekly moments // gentle birthdays

Brown burlap bunting against a white wall. Letters on the bunting spell out Happy Birthday

This week Ben turned two. I turned thirty three on the same day, but no one really pays attention to that anymore. Thanks kiddo! We actually share the same birth minute – 6:29am on 23rd July – thirty one years apart.

Our shared day began as most days do, with a tousled sleepy toddler squirming into our bed for a cuddle and a doze at around 6am. Possibly my favourite minute of the day, right up until the part where he starts prodding me in the ribs with sharp little feet and demanding, “Mummy up bed!”

We’re still figuring out our family approach to celebrations and particularly presents. Chris and I often give each other experiences rather than things – this year Chris has asked for some time to go mountain biking – and especially while Ben is little we are keeping present-giving to a minimum, sticking loosely to the ‘want, need, wear, read’ approach. Although I deliberately keep Ben’s clothing to a minimum, so our list looks more like ‘want, need, read, read’. Ben doesn’t show a lot of interest in unwrapping either, and once he has a new object or book to explore he wants to give it his full attention rather than moving on to the next thing. So we had a lovely slow morning where playing and chatting and exploring took precedence over unwrapping, which I enjoyed very much.

One particularly precious memory is how much Ben liked his cards. He thought they were story books, especially the one with Thomas the Tank Engine on the front, and kept asking “Mummy ree Thomah Tan Ejin!”

(Note to self: possible business idea – story cards for two year olds…)

My mission for the summer is to spend as much time outdoors with Ben as possible, because it does us both so much good. We have the enormous privilege of a good sized garden, and it has become Ben’s little kingdom. He has his favourite tunnels under the bushes, he knows where to find the cinnabar moth caterpillars, and he loves helping Daddy water the veggies in the evening before bed. I may sound deeply ungrateful at this point, but this week has been far too hot for me! That is us Brits in a nutshell, always complaining about the rain, but if the temperature gets above 25 degrees centigrade you know we’ll have Opinions. Our garden has one nice patch of deep shade, around the side of the house right next to the railway cutting. There is enough space for a paddling pool, the hose, and a deckchair for Mummy. I had intended Big Birthday Plans involving lunch a deux out and maybe a trip to our favourite children’s farm, but sitting in the shade with my new book and having my feet watered by Ben was all the relaxation I needed.

(FYI, don’t be put off a house just because it’s by a railway line, because for a toddler there is nothing better in the whole world than having trains go past the window.).

July is family birthday month, with Gaga (my mum), Gigi (Chris’s mum), and my brothers, all squeezed into the space of a few weeks. So Ben has had a lot of practice with how birthdays for grown ups work. His favourite part is the cake, specifically operating the mixer, and sneaking fistfuls of cake mixture when he thinks I’m not looking. But perhaps most important is lighting and blowing out the candles. When I explained to Ben that it was his turn to blow out some candles, on a cake of his very own, the excitement on his face almost made me cry. He loved it so much we had to relight the candles twice so that he could blow them out again. I will never get tired of seeing the world and all its magic through his eyes.

What do you think?