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Monday, 21 January 2013

Of Childhood and Chocolate

I sit, writing in solitude
My feet under a blanket
A cup of perfect hot chocolate on my lips

The fire sizzles and crackles before me

Little sparks dancing in the dark

Outside the snowflakes fall thick and fast
Silently enveloping the world in white

My boys – my two loves – are fast asleep

And I sit
Writing in solitude
With a smile on my face

Last night I read something that touched me more than anything has in a very long time. It’s a piece by Bethany Meyer called “Up and Away He Grows” where she talks about her oldest boy informing her that she doesn’t need to sing “his” bedtime song anymore, how he’s too old for it now. And how – for her – this little declaration of adulthood is so much more than just that. It’s a rite of passage, the end of an 11-year ritual.

“Up and Away He Grows.”

And this is why I love this piece.
It’s simple and it’s straightforward and it’s from her heart.
And it tugged at mine.
Not only because her words are so lovely.
But also because there are very, very real.

I share her piece on Facebook – “for everyone with boys,” I write, "please read." Many write back, relating, agreeing, sharing their own experiences. And so, I think about her words. And those of my friends. And I try to peel away the layers to get to the core of just why this is so difficult for us – for all of us – as mothers.

And I think – but I’m still not sure – that it’s partly because they grow while we don’t.

Yes, of course we grow older – there’s more grey in our hair, those pesky lines under the eyes – but our real growing up – the definitive step changes that turn us from baby to child, and from child to adult – is all done. And this – I think – is what is so difficult. This incongruity. How we’re done growing up, and they’re only just beginning.

And so we continue to do what we’ve always done since the day they came into our lives. We sing the bedtime songs and hold our babies close and give them a billion wet kisses and speak to them in that special language that only the two of us share.

This is not learnt behaviour. It’s from the gut. Primal. instinctive.
This is what we know.
This is what we think it means to be a mother

And then – all too soon and much before we’re ready – we realise we can’t do this anymore. Any of this.
We need to change.
We need to change what we know.
We need to change what we think it means to be a mother.

And that’s huge.
And hard.
And real.

And so it hits me, this. It's what I've known all along, but it hits me now, after reading someone's story. Because it could be my story. So it hits me. How time flies. How it’s so important to make every little moment count before it’s all too late. How I need to be a child with my child, because soon – too soon – he’s going to stop being one. And with that, I’m going to need to stop too.

So I do something today that I’d never have dreamed of doing a few years ago.
Sid and I make a snowman.
We do it all wrong, making a funny pyramid-mountain for the base, instead of a round ball, so he looks more like a snowdog than a snowman but who cares!

And honestly, this might seem like no big deal to you, but to me it is. Because I hate the cold. Positively do. There is absolutely nothing appealing about being outdoors in the cold and the wet, shovelling piles of snow and making them into little balls (or mountains as it turns out). I’d rather be doing almost anything else. 

Until today.
Today, I get out into my snow-covered garden.
And I make a snowman.
Just for my baby.
Just to see his eyes light up
Just to hear him clap his hands and say “Wow! Snowman!” “Hello Snowman”

And just by doing this small, silly little thing, I surprise myself.
Because I have SO MUCH FUN.

We roll about in the snow, making snowballs and throwing them at each other, laughing and giggling like little kids.  Our little snowman (snowdog) stares back at us with his beady eyes and carrot nose. I think he wants to smile but we haven’t given him a mouth! My fingers and toes are numb from the cold, but it feels amazing.

I would do it again.
Not just for my baby, but also for me!

And as the evening light fades to dusk, we traipse back in, exhausted but happy, taking off our wellies, shaking off the snow from our gloves and coats. “Bye Snowman, Later” little Ranbir says, cheeks flushed, waving hard.  Sid picks him up and swings him around and I am amazed – yet again – at how similar they look. Those same almond-shaped eyes.

My two loves.

Before I put Ranbir to bed, I think of Ms. Meyer’s words again.
So I smell him. He stares at me with sleep-filled eyes curiously, wordlessly. I inhale long and deep, searching for that baby smell, suddenly fearful it’s gone.

But it’s not.
It’s still there.
That unbearably delightful mixture of milk and honey and applesauce.
My baby is still my baby,

I lay down on the nursery floor legs stretched out
And pick him up, out of his cot, and into my arms

I place him on my stomach.
His head fits perfectly in the nape of my neck

I can hear his quick rapid breathing
Mamma? He whispers in my ear.
“You’re my baby,” I whisper back.
“Yes.” he agrees, nodding into my neck.

He kisses me then, on the side of my neck, just below my ear where I have a little black beauty spot. The exact place that he’s got his.
They come quickly one after another – fierce, protective little kisses.
He’s feisty, this one. Just like his mamma.

I reach under his t-shirt, place my hands on his back.

His skin is soft and smooth.

I hold him like that for a long time.

I am filled with an unspeakable pleasure.
Warm and gooey.

Like perfect hot chocolate.

Here’s what you need:

- 250 ml whole milk
- 250 mil semi-skimmed milk
- 1 cup Good Semi Sweet Chocolate Chips
- 1 handful marshmallows

Here's how you do it:

Combine the whole and semi-skimmed milks in a small saucepan. Warm over medium heat, then stir in chocolate chips. Stir until melted, then plonk in a few marshmallows. Remove the pan from the heat and pour it into a large lidded flask so it’s about half-full. Screw on the lid tightly and shake well to give it froth. Pour into a mug and have a long, delicious taste.  

And hold on to the feeling!

Lots of love xx


  1. this is so beautifully written...loved reading it...arti

    1. Thanks darling, sorry this is so late. I tend to disappear in the winter :0