Two-and-a-half is a magical age. One moment they are all defiance and independence, “my do it”, bringing me my shoes and brushing my hair and waving me off at the front door, and the next moment there are fingers shut in doors and great gulping sobs, and their bodies still curl up so small when they are cradled in my arms. I look at them sometimes and I can see who they will be, in ten years’ time, in twenty, and I am full of awe and wonder at the tremendous humans that are slowly unfurling within my girls. And there are other times, when their breathing is soft and they have brought me a ‘manket’ and tucked us all up, and just in that moment they are exactly my babies again.
They remind me so much of my sister and I. We are not twins, there are two years between us, but the personalities and motivations are similar. Embla is so like my sister – she is all sweetness, big-eyed vulnerability in a tiny body. She rules the house with charm, her siblings falling over themselves to do her bidding. And Olympia looks so like I did at two that sometimes, it is like looking into a mirror. And I know her, in the same way as I know myself, and that understanding makes me feel fiercely protective of her at times in a way that I don’t feel toward my other children, who are butter-side-up sort of people who find the world quite easy. I think that knowing her too well makes me want to protect her from herself.
I wanted to take some time to write about what they are like at this age, in this heartbeat’s pause between toddler and little girl. And it so happened that Zoe and I agreed that last weekend we would shoot our Sunday together and share on our respective blogs, just on the day that I had a brunch date penciled into the calendar with my favourite little ladies. My creative heart felt absolutely nourished as I sipped an oat-milk cappuccino, nibbled a sugar mouse and documented Embla and Olympia at two-and-a-half years old.
Embla Felicity Minerva, you are a force of nature. You have the whole family wrapped around your little finger, your ‘binger’, and of all of your bigger siblings you certainly have the loudest voice! Your relationships with your brothers and sisters are a delight. The boys vie for your attention and you play them off against each other; sharing your meals with one but not the other (you do not have a favourite and alternate which brother depending on the day). In the mornings we find you in Olympia’s bed for a cuddle (she loves you fiercely, you are her ‘Biggles’). The baby is your favourite friend and when you are sad, you ask to cuddle her to feel better. Everybody loves you so much, you sweet, funny, silly little girl.
You still have your obsession with Bing Bunny, which you demand every day, but you also enjoy Peppa Pig and Charlie and Lola. Sometimes you spontenously start to sing the Peppa theme song; it will be deathly quiet on the bus until you pipe up, and it always makes people smile. And you are good with people; you say ‘hello’ to everyone, at the top of your voice, waving as though you are a tiny celebrity. You are so tremendously friendly – as somebody who has always been a little socially awkward, it fascinates me to observe how easily you befriend strangers and how readily you entrust yourself to them for cuddles and for help. At two and a half years old, you have so many quirky little preferences and games. Hiding beneath a blanket you are a “ghos'”, and you are afraid of pieces of fluff that you think are spiders. You love to dress up, to fill up bags with toys to carry around. You love to brush your mother’s hair and to follow her about the house helping with domestic tasks; you load and unload the washing machine and the fridge, pick up things that we have dropped and take them to the bin. You want everything to be pink, but you don’t know what ‘pink’ is, you ask for “picture me” when you want your photo taken with the iPhone camera and your most coveted activity is to jump on your brothers’ bed.
Olympia Leto Beatrix, when I was a little girl and I dreamt of having a daughter, that daughter was you. You are so like how I was at two: fiercely protective of your sister, fascinated by the world around you and how you relate within it. You challenge everything – your mother and I, the word no, the concept of pain, social boundaries as a whole. And yet you have the biggest heart; you are inherently kind (you are a better human than I ever was), fetching offerings for the baby and checking on your siblings if ever they are hurt. You never fail to bring me my shoes before we are due to leave the house, and you lead me around the house (by my hand, by my clothes) as though you were the mother and I your own little girl. Your favourite place is still inside my dressing gown, skin-to-skin (“tuck up me!“). Over the last few months your imagination has blossomed (pointing at the window: “Oh no! It’s a dinosaur!”), but you still love to run and to play rough-and-tumble with your brothers – we call you their triplet – and to draw and paint. You are proud to introduce yourself to strangers as ‘The Poobum’, as though your title conveys tremendous status.
You are my wild child. You climb my body as though it is your body, as though it were only yesterday that you and I were part of the same body. And you laugh as you throttle me with your choke-hold cuddles, as scale my body to sit on my shoulders or on my head, holding on to my hair to steady yourself. You are a bat, upside-down on the sofa or hanging off of radiators and the windowsill. And you have no qualms about answering the front door, even when your adults are otherwise occupied! You can count to ten, drink a cup of tomato soup twice as quickly as any of your brothers and sisters, and build elaborate sculptures from magnetic tiles. When you are cross and we want you to come and comply, you tell us that you are “busy”, and when you are very cross you bite me – taking great care nonetheless to only catch my clothes and not my skin! But my fierce little girl, you have softness too: you take a ‘baby’ to bed every night and though you hide under the covers when your mother comes to give you your goodnight kiss, you cry if she leaves without giving you one. And you wait at the door to kiss me goodbye any time that I have to leave without taking you along.
These photos remind me so much of the photoshoot that we did when Embla and Olympia turned two! And yet in just six months, they have grown so much. It’s beautiful, and bittersweet. They really are little girls rather than toddlers now.
Do pop along to Zoe’s blog to read her account of tea with her smallest daughter, Lucy.