You were the first. You looked like a plucked parrot when you entered the world, jaundiced and shriveled and with a fuzz of dark hair that stood straight upright unless we smoothed it down. Compared to your brother, a whole pound plumper and robust, you seemed impossibly, shockingly small. Still, you were wondrous to me. So I held you in the crook of just one arm and honestly felt sorry for the mothers with only beautiful babies because you, my little gremlin, you had character.
You grew. You learnt to laugh as we played peekaboo with you, popping out from behind muslin cloths. Your teeth came in slowly, and then crawling became a whole new source of hilarity as you threw yourself about the floor, biting at my feet. Even when you were very small, you preferred to be upside-down, a grin like a half-moon on your face as you dangled from our arms or from the sling. Once, I realised that you had been strangely quiet for all of ten minutes and, much to my horror, realised that you had climbed the ladder and were in the loft. You were not yet one year old. Kirsty stopped letting me watch you whilst working, after that.
You grew some more. More hair, more teeth, you became steady on your feet and liked to walk, to run. You love to dawdle, five metres behind the rest of us because you cannot bear not to stop and look at the cracks in the pavement, the flowers, the way that the light glints off of a window, as your brother resolutely plods on ahead. I call you Dolly, short for Dolly Daydream, because it is virtually impossible to keep your mind on where we are going.
You are just so. damn. proud. of me every time I manage to have a wee on the toilet, but heaven forbid that I should want a turn flushing for myself. Or that I press the ‘stop’ button on a bus, or the button requesting that the cars stop for a green man crossing. You are religious about the sanctity of ‘turns’, but only you and Sasha get to have them. Full stop. And yet you are so polite. I think that you finish every request with ‘please, Mummy’ because you know that it undoes me every time, because you know that I can refuse you nothing when you ask me in that tone of voice as your round owl eyes gaze so imploringly. Yes, child, I will crawl on my hands and knees around this public space so that you may ride on my back. Yes, little boy, if it makes you happy then you shall have it.
All the same, I was not particularly impressed by your whining to ‘Go home PLEASE, Mummy’ all of the way through your first cinema experience. You LOVE that certain pig, and tickets are expensive, you know. But you are a little boy who knows his own mind and all was forgiven when you curled yourself up on my lap like a little cat and I realised that you were unwell.
Oh, Zoo, I love that about you. I spent most of my childhood trying to pretend that I wasn’t trapped in a body and then there is you, so physical, so eager for cuddles and kisses and tickle-fights and to sit on a mama’s back and ride about the garden. You demand to hold your brother’s hand often. You annoy him to the point of tears sometimes with your spontaneous python hugs, the way that you wrap your arms around him and constrict and just don’t. let. go. And the number of times you’ve sent your sisters flying..! And then launched yourself at them, straddling them and squashing them, to kiss their baby heads.
I see that you are on the cusp of big-boyhood now, that at 2.5 years old you’re not a baby any more – you’re not even a toddler, really! And oh, it is so exciting. There is a certain sense of freedom in you and your brother giving up naps, barely needing a pram, listening and understanding and complying so well these days that it’s not scary to take you out alone any more, that we can just get up and go, as far as we would like, on the bus to feed the ducks, on the train to London. We’re not fazed by any of it any more, are we, Zoo? And my heart leaps and swells every time you master a new concept, every time your understanding of the world deepens and grows.
But I wish that I could keep you right here at 2.5 a little longer, because this age is magnificent. I want to savour you right here, right now, ten steps behind me on the path and muttering to yourself, throwing away other people’s litter, protesting fiercely at the threat that I might rain down that pink blossom upon you for a photo. And when you stop dead and demand to be carried, because your little legs just can’t quite manage that final five minutes home, I hope that I will treat you gently rather than scold you, that I will remember that before long you will be three years old, you will be five, you will no longer sit so snugly against my hip, fit so neatly into my arms. Because some afternoons, the scent of your small head and the feeling of your sticky mouth against my cheek is everything.
Firstborn. My Balthazar, my Zaza, my Zoo.
In these images, Zoo is wearing the Muddy Puddles Pac-a-Mac, which is part of their new collaboration with The Bright Company. It is incredibly lightweight – definitely not for use as a replacement for a coat, but perfect for those late Spring days where rain is almost inevitable if you forget your umbrella, in which case it would be dead handy to have one of these stuffed in your handbag. Much to my consternation, I’m finding that Zoo and Sasha are suddenly outgrowing many of the brands and prints that I loved so much on them a year ago, so the sort of style favoured by The Bright Company in particular really appeals to me – it’s colourful enough to be lively without seeming babyish, the patterns are interesting, he’s not infantilised by a jacket like this one but nor has it aged him… he’s still just a little boy out in a raincoat, making the most of the sun on his face and the extended afternoons of play.
I have a WHOLE new post to write about coming to terms with updating the boys’ wardrobe. Brace yourselves!
How are you dressing your two-year-olds? I’d love to know what brands you favour.
Many thanks to Muddy Puddles for the jacket, which was sent to me in exchange for an honest review.