Celebrating your littlest daughter’s very first ever birthday isn’t exactly everyday or ordinary, but it is a moment from this week that I want to wrap up and tuck into the sturdiest part of my brain, to store away as a forever memory, engraved on the synapses, not a ‘what do I need to pick up at the supermarket this week’ fleeting scrawl, washed away in the next wave of lost socks and empty shampoo bottles.
Our Elma turned one. I may have mentioned that a few times this week. It is I suspect a bigger deal for me than it was for her. Not that she didn’t enjoy herself, but I suspect that even having attained the grand old age of one, she doesn’t really have the cognitive skills to know precisely why everyone was making such a big fuss over her, she just sat back and revelled in it all (what am I talking about – she is of course the superest specialist snowflake that ever was and of course is clever enough to work that out!). But for Mamas, and probably Daddies too, the end of the first year is an achievement worth celebrating.
With Kitty her first birthday marked the year in which we’d found our feet as parents, learned to trust our instincts, and found, mostly by trial, error and a bit of gut feeling, how we wanted to raise our beautiful girl; and a year in which that tiny miss had grown and blossomed. Elma’s first year has been a massive learning curve for all of us once again, probably a tougher one than the first time, as we learned how to balance and meet the very different needs of our two daughters, Kitty learned how to be a big sister, and Elma learned to do all the wonderful things that babies learn (and how to look pleadingly at her sister for a taste of chocolate button).
Last January I wrote about trying to find my way with Elma and Kitty on our first day with just the three of us, and I said at the time that I knew there would be a moment where I’d look back and wonder what was so hard. It’s not that it wasn’t hard at the time, it’s just that imperceptibly, somewhere during the year it all started to fall into place, parenting two became our everyday ordinary. It didn’t stop being hard exactly, and I still have my moments where I know I’m not giving them the best of me, but as my confidence and trust in my parenting has grown we moved from surviving to thriving, both when it’s just the intrepid duo and me, and as a family of four. And that is definitely worth celebrating.
For the day itself, we kept things quiet and low key. Well, quiet for us. H and I had worked a little birthday magic in the lounge overnight, putting up the birthday banner and a new banner with Elma’s name on it, and as I did a little last minute sewing (more on which later), H did a fabulous job wrapping a whole host of interesting shapes and sizes that had arrived through the post in the last couple of days.
With the birthday girl serenaded several times before she got downstairs she’d started to realise that something was different about today, and she was definitely intrigued by the pile of parcels waiting in front of the play kitchen. And with Kitty more than happy to show her how to take off the wrapping paper, Elma soon started to get the hang of it, albeit far too slowly for Kitty’s liking. The speed with which one year olds unwrap brings back all to clearly the reason why we were still unwrapping Christmas presents in the early evening of Christmas 2011!
H and I gave her a pram, complete with that last minute sewing – a little quilted pram mattress to tuck in the bottom, and Kitty added a gorgeous soft squishy little dolly (now named Pippin) that is just the perfect size for little hands to tow around.
And for the next budding artist in the family we also added a set of block wax crayons, perfect for masterpieces, and perfect for taking out and putting back in the tin. What is it they say about the box being more fun than the toy?
And of course, there was a birthday dress.
Elma opened cards and parcels from family and friends, and by the wonders of the internet we got to see her aunt and cousin in London, and even more impressively, her grandparents who were in a Floridian Target at the time. We spent our day curled up on the floor of the lounge playing with wonderful new toys, making noise, making a big mess, and just enjoying being in each other’s company.
As there’s only so much cake that any one family can eat inside two days, I didn’t make a full birthday cake for her birthday, but saved it for her party instead, so on her birthday we made lemon sponge cupcakes, smeared a little icing on the top, added a ring of fresh plump raspberries, and then stuck a candle in each of them.
The look on Elma’s face when I came through the doorway into the darkened lounge holding the tray with four lit cupcakes was utter joy; she loved the twinkle of the candles, and their soft glow lit up a face so content and happy it was all I could do not to scoop her up and cover her in kisses just because. With H and Kitty helping she blew out her candles, and tucked in with gusto.
It wasn’t a day with big fanfare and shebang, but it was a day of celebration, of wall to wall smiles, a day where excitement and joy shimmered in the air, and a day of cake. Perfect.