That was back in February. He’d come signing ‘milk, milk’ and then give a cheeky smile and run away, ‘Bleurgh!’
That was one night last week, snuggling before sleep.
And so it seems that my youngest is in the process of self-weaning. It’s slow, some days it feels like he still at least half lives off milk. But it’s real. He rarely wakes for milk in the night anymore. He sometimes rolls away as he falls asleep rather than lingering there. If we’re out and busy he’ll go all day without even thinking about milk.
He is 22 months, and at the stage where sometimes he’s gently chewing or hanging on more than drinking, and I am ready in many, many ways to reclaim my body. With the exception of 5 months, I have been breastfeeding for the last 4.5 years, and some of that time was tandem feeding my toddler and new baby. I am so ready.
But my youngest will also be our last birth child, at least as far as our plans go. Once he stops breastfeeding my babies will both be gone. Our slow baby days will become slow childhood days and I will slowly forget.
So I’m going to hold these moments as long as they last. Hold them now. Maybe impatiently at times, but always gratefully.
I had a good mama moment last week, where instead of leaving Zeph to play while I tidied the kitchen, I asked him what he would like to do while I was busy. I mean, he would have played happily enough – his ability and desire to play independently has come on in leaps and bounds since he turned four in January – but still, I felt like it was just the sort of thing one ought to do from time to time when one is doing this mum business well.
First I asked if he’d like the play dough out while I washed up after lunch… but I got that response ^^.
Super messy painting it is. Did he want to paint in the kitchen at the table where I was, or did he want to go by himself to paint in the conservatory? Outside by himself.
So we got out the paints and papers (actually opened up cereal boxes that I’d been saving for him to paint on) and off he went. After a while he called to me: Mum, come and see what I’ve done for you!
And, after finishing the dish I was on and drying my hands, off I went to see (like a good mama again). He’d painted me a cake, with candles, and cherries, and some juice. He called me back three or four times, showing me the pictures he was painting for me. Sharing all the thought and love that had gone into each one. Thoughts and love I might have so easily missed if I had prioritised finishing in the kitchen over going to see what he wanted to show me. And afterwards I went to sit with him, watching, without taking my phone or any other distractions.
Because the quiet moments together are precious.
It’s so easy to get caught up in all the things that need doing. The places that need getting to. The tasks that need completing to coax each child into their corresponding clothes and shoes and out the door. And so easy to then get stressed when the schedule doesn’t run on time. When things are spilled or ripped or lost. When chaos is created in the 2 seconds after some kind of order was restored. And then everyone’s wellbeing becomes secondary to the task or the schedule. The doing overtakes the being.
But that’s not who we are.
That’s not how people are made.
So here are some ways that we slowed down on an everyday trip to the supermarket today. Ways, perhaps, of realising that while we sometimes have to be there now, it’s not always such a hurry. And when it’s not a hurry, we don’t have to hurry.
1. Take a short (or not so short) detour and walk through the park instead of down the road.
2. Look at/smell/pick the flowers.
3. Find a bench and sit down to have a snack together.
4. Look at the live seafood section for as long as the kids want.
6. Stop to throw rocks into the most ginormous muddy puddle.
7. Listen to the birds.
8. Watch the machines on the construction site.
9. Collect sticks and stones along the way.
Do you have ways of slowing down as an individual or a family? Let me know in the comments.
That was one of our books from the library this fortnight: Rhinos don’t eat pancakes, by Anna Kemp. The premise is that Daisy’s parents never listen to her, so they miss the fact that she is telling them that a huge, purple, pancake-eating rhino has taken up residence in their home.
My 4 year old rather likes it. So do I. But, and I might be being over-sensitive, I was also a little dismayed. Maybe because I’m not sure I want my son to have the negative thought pattern, ‘no one listens to me’. Maybe because it made me think about whether or not I am currently doing a good job of listening to him.
Listening, and communicating, is something I consider to be very important. It’s a way of showing care and respect for someone, and something my children deserve as much as anyone else. I try to stop what I am doing and focus on Zeph when he speaks to me, to show him that I am listening and that he and what he has to say is valuable to me. I try not to give him vague pat-answers like yes sweetie, that’s nice, or I think so because I am distracted and haven’t really thought about what he is saying. I try to answer all the four year old questions born out of insatiable curiosity and why why why. I try to repeat myself five times without taking an irritated tone when he repeatedly asks me what?
Some days I do better than others.
I want to be a listening mum.
I don’t know about anyone else, but in my house this is now a well-recognised developmental stage.
It starts with the baby wanting to drink untold quantities of water at night. And continues with the baby wanting to drink untold quantities of water at night. He asks for a drink before lights out, lies down, drinks milk, asks for water, asks again as soon as the cup is put away or the bottle is closed, lies down and wriggles a bit then asks for more water… and it happens night after night potentially for weeks.
With my oldest I was genuinely worried about why he had suddenly developed a need to drink so much water.
With my second I know he’s playing me.
Bring me sticks
Bring me pine cones
Bring me your pockets full of stones
A slow afternoon in the park, playing on the stepping stones across the river. Making sure the baby didn’t fall in. Though he did manage to dip both shoes to greater and lesser extents. Looking at the daffodils growing, wandering under the trees.
On the way home Zeph fell behind and called out to me, ‘Mummy! Wait! I’ve got to get some stones for Daddy!’
He came home with pockets full of stones and gravel bits and dirt.
He came home with pockets full of love.
I had no intention for the boys to shred the polystyrene strawberry box. But at some point while I was cooking dinner that was exactly what they started doing.
And they had SO MUCH FUN!!!
They pulled it and poked it with their fingers, they tried scissors and pencils on it, they jumped up and down on it and smooshed through the pieces.
And I let them.
Yes, it made some mess. No, it wasn’t much fun to clean up because the itty bitty bits kind of static to things and kind of float around so it’s not the easiest thing to sweep. And I was slightly worried that Elly might start trying to eat it (he didn’t). But I did have help with the clean up. And they learned and experienced.
And I cooked peacefully with not one interruption throughout.