Last night the Princess got up three times to check with her loving parents “Is it my birthday yet?” And, this morning, after 364 days of waiting, that day finally dawned. Her grandparents from Dublin are here to join in the celebrations and supply a suitable array of presents. Although they are slightly run down from the 24 hour babysitting regime they’ve been enjoying since they arrived on Sunday, I was pleased to see that they were up at 7.00 this morning to join in the birthday celebrations. Many of her relatives sent presents in the post. She got a lovely dress from my parents and I am delighted to report that after opening it she instantly scurried to her room to “get a hanger for my dress”. Breakfast was taken in front of “my Cinderella for the television”; which my brother kindly sent her. Her brothers unfortunately, ahem, forgot to get her anything for the morning but by the evening they had rectified this terrible omission. Her father took the day off work and minded babies while she went out with her grandparents to choose a suitably magnificent birthday cake.
I can’t believe she’s three; finally, she’s old enough to eat toys with small parts. I used to wonder why three was such a big watershed in the world of toys with small parts but now, I think, I understand. People say that, in ways, two year olds are like adolescents (I can’t wait, no, really) and I see what they mean. In retrospect, until she turned two, she was reallly a baby but in the past year she’s turned from a baby into a little girl and though, obviously, she will change a lot, I think I can see the child she will be until she turns 13 and the adolescent hormones kick in and we spend 5 agonising years waiting to see what kind of grown up she will become. And though there are many great things about having a baby (don’t be sarky, I DO occasionally refer to them here), it is wonderful having a little girl. She tells me that she likes my hair or my shoes or that she doesn’t. She has opinions. Strong opinions. She is quite sensible. She loves rules (No feet on the table Grandad). She is not a bad conversationalist, we can go for a cup of tea and have a chat. It is fascinating to try to see her getting a handle on how the world works. And funny. She is affectionate – before she goes to bed she puts her arms round me and whispers to me “I have a secret to tell you Mummy; you’re my best Mummy in the world”. It is not clear to me why this must remain secret, but I am gratified. She then informs me “you can have a new hug but I only have old kisses”. Old kisses are fine by me. She sings. My favourite is “Believe me if all those endearing young charms” which I started singing to her at bedtime a while ago because my mother used to sing it to me. I love to hear her lisping “It is not while beauty/And youth are thine own/And thy cheeks/Unprofaned by a tear/That the fervour and faith/Of a soul can be known/To which time will but/Make thee more dear”. She has a prodigious memory. She can sing a song in Irish (Beidh aonach amarach since you ask) even though she doesn’t speak any Irish. She knows many, many of her books off by heart. I use her as a supplementary shopping list (remind me to get shampoo on Saturday – she never fails). She is fascinated by everything. Frankly, this has its drawbacks, there are times when you feel that it’s just not necessary to explore what Mummy has in her bag and, yes, gosh, that is really a breastpump. She is fluent in two languages although occasionally there are difficulties separating things out [on the phone to her father “et maman a trouve un parking place sur le road!”]. She will frequently repeat to her father, in French, something I have just said to her. I am rivetted by this instant translation service but, curious too, her father and I speak English to each other – does she really think that he can’t understand what I say to her? She can read two words. Hey, it’s a start. It would appear that after ‘OK” the first word that she can recognise is, appropriately enough, “me”. She is beginning to dimly perceive that other people have feelings too. [“Did you have a nice time sweetheart?” “Yes, but Daddy was a bit distressed because the babies were going waah, waaah”.] I trust that shortly she might, in some way, try to accommodate other people’s needs or am I indulging optimism a little too far? I know this sounds sappy, but it is lovely getting to know her as she gets older and more sophisticated. Of course, on the minus side, this means that I lose my iconic status as full time working mother with three children under three, but what the hell. You know, being a parent isn’t as bad as it’s made out to be.