Wandering through Oxford’s very sweet Christmas market this week we came around a corner past the scented candles and the giant cheese, inhaling deeply past the churros, and there before us was a carousel.
A little one to be sure, with two sets of six small pink and gold horses each pulling a tiny sleigh, but with all the lights and twinkle and excitement of something so much bigger.
Kitty was entranced. She stood with wide eyes while her brain rattled through whatever combination of asking, pleading and bargaining she thought would be most likely to secure her a ride. One look at the sparkle in her eyes and we made it easy for her, “yes, but later”.
And so as the sun started to dip behind the spires we returned to see Kitty safely installed on a horse named Jane.
But then as we stood back there was a wriggle and a squeak from Elma, perched up on H’s front in the sling.
And among the wordless noisy protestations, one phrase came through loud and clear, “Me do it! Me go too!!”
I’d honestly never even thought about seeing if she wanted to go on it, or even if she was big enough. I think it’s very true that your second and subsequent children stay littler for longer in your mind, and I wonder whether that’s the counter balance to what I was talking about a couple of weeks ago, the bit of parenting that has you sharing some of your passions and your most favourite things with your eldest before they’re quite old enough to really get it. That having got that excitable impatience out of my system with Kitty, I’m much more relaxed about Elma and happier to wait for her to be ready; possibly to the point of not quite always realising what she can do.
I wonder too whether it would be different had Pip been another girl, whether the fact that Elma is still the baby girl of the family, even if she’s not the baby baby means that I still see her as younger than her full two years.
It’s a lovely age two, for all the bad press of the terrible twos, there’s so much they can already do, and so much that they’re just on the cusp of; in one moment Elma is still my tiny baby girl again, snuggling in for her milk, sleepy eyes closing dark brown eyelashes onto little pink cheeks, and in another she’s one of the big girls, running off with Kitty, talking up a storm and making the monumental discovery that she can reach the pretty things on the top of Mummy’s dressing table.
And at two it turns out that she is old enough and big enough to go on a carousel by herself, safely seat belted into the sleigh being pulled by her sister’s horse.
They circled gently around, smiles fit to burst, Kitty turning back to check on her sister from time to time and singing first Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer and then Jingle Bells. And as they did H, Pip and I stood and watched their giggles; two little sisters, big enough to share their fun – but always both of them my babies!