When my second child turned three

Ophelia’s birthday was last Friday. Somehow she’s three?

Actually, it make sense that she’s three because the language explosion she’s gone through in the last few months has caught us off guard. I’ll admit I was starting to wonder whether we should get her hearing checked but now she’s coming out with memories that make me realise she’s understood lots more than she could communicate for a long time.

The third birthday is exciting because kids are starting to understand what a birthday is about and that they’re getting older.

I get doubly emotional at Ophelia’s birthdays because it’s not just “oh my, she’s growing so quickly!” but I have my older child Talitha for perspective on Ophelia’s age and no way was Talitha so little at three! Except she was.

Laurence’s parents came to stay for the birthday weekend and we went to the seal sanctuary in Gweek, which was such a treat. It sounds like they’re doing some pretty cool work there and you get lovely rural views of the Helston river, which is still a bit of a shock having come from living in a city.

Not having any of the right equipment and generally finding making wheat and dairy free cakes a bit of a mission, I bought a supermarket “free from” cake which Ophelia chose, along with a few sugar pirates to put on top. You know what? I think she was every bit as delighted with it as she would have been with an elaborate, handcrafted affair. Kids really don’t need much.

We took it to The Beach Hut overlooking Watergate Bay to round up the treat. The whole weekend turned into a celebration of her birthday, with one of her godparents coming to stay after her grandparents departed. It got me thinking about how important it is for children to have other adult figures in their lives, that wider family.

Having them is valuable for me too because after a long hard slog, finding myself struggling with motherhood, I got to see others having fun with my children and it reminded me that I could have fun with them too. In fact, the weekend gave me a series of highs which I’m treasuring up, hoping they’ll help carry me through for quite some time.

Age three seems like a move beyond the toddler-toddler stage. Seeing Talitha and Ophelia play, I know I have two children now. There have been a few times this week when I’ve thought, “Gosh, we really can just all hang out now.”

Lovely Ophelia, who dances all the time, who loves to shout and balance on things. So often so fearless, you surprise us every day. You make us laugh. You challenge us. You are sensitive. You are fiercely affectionate. You’ve perfected those cuddles. We are loving getting to know you, our wild three year old.

Now she is five

Somehow my first baby turned five last weekend. Like, she was this tiny newborn I was learning to breastfeed and then – suddenly! – she became this CHILD with all these ideas and opinions.

Talitha's 5th birthday-7

As I’ve mentioned before, Talitha is currently obsessed with dinosaurs so it was no surprise when she requested a dinosaur party for her birthday. Her favourite is triceratops so we asked Cakes by Rachel Clare to put one on top of her cake. Can we just take a moment over this cake, though? How amazing is it?!

I always find baking a cake the most stressful part of organising a party so opted to buy one this year and it’s practically a work of art! Rachel even made it gluten-free and with goat’s butter. Inside was the lushest chocolate cake too.

Talitha's 5th birthday-8

I was pretty nervous about throwing her a party this year as I knew I’d be bang on 35 weeks pregnant. A friend pointed out the power of the number five for our family that weekend: first child turning five, five weeks until the baby who’ll make us a family of five is estimated to be due.

Talitha's 5th birthday

So we made things really low key by only inviting a few friends and having a ready made craft. I got these dinosaur moneybox painting sets from Hobbycraft for a mere £1.50 a pop and they seemed a hit.

Talitha's 5th birthday-4

We also played musical dinosaur statues, got the karaoke machine out, had a picnic on the kitchen floor (it was raining outside) and played pass the parcel.

Talitha's 5th birthday-3

With the party over, we went to lunch with family and the weekend was made extra special by having cousins stay the night. I must admit, it’s taken some time to recover from it all but I’m so glad we said yes to a small party this year.

Talitha's 5th birthday-5

Every year feels like such a big change but five really does feel it. I’ve seen such a leap in the way she reasons and works things out and even in the way she argues with me. I won’t pretend I’m always thrilled with that last bit but it’s fascinating and healthy all the same.

I love getting to know her and look forward to seeing what this next year is going to bring her in terms of growing, changing and finding her place as the eldest of three children.

On turning 30, milestones and success

My 30th birthday was last Thursday and I doubt it’ll come as a surprise that I had mixed feelings about this milestone. I know how ridiculous that may sound to those who’ve already been here, done that and know it’s not suddenly a big shift from being 29. It’s even less so for me because I didn’t have a “typical” twenties, not least because I got married at 23 and had Talitha two years later.

On turning 30

If anything, this birthday has hugely reminded me that there is no one path we all have to take, no one route that’s ultimately successful. I look around at other friends turning 30 this year or next or recently and we are all in such different places, doing different things.

On turning 30-7

On turning 30-3

I think the main reason I’ve struggled with thirty is that there were things I thought I would have done by now. I thought I would have written a book for example – or something longer form anyway. Now that I’m here, I think it’s ridiculous that I had an unspoken cut off point for that. I know it will still happen. I also know I don’t have the mental space to offer a project like that right now and that that’s OK. I’m doing other things I didn’t expect to be doing and who knows where they’ll lead?

On turning 30-5

On turning 30-6

My 30th was spent walking around National Trust property Stourhead with my little family. I was surprised at how well the kids and I managed getting around. I look at them and am reminded that motherhood has profoundly affected the way I view my life and the way I measure success.

On turning 30-4

So much of parenting involves just getting through the day. Especially when babies are tiny and incredibly vulnerable, you get down to the bare bones of what’s necessary; anything outside of that will just have to wait. As they get older, coping with their changing needs and your own can be, as a mum friend of mine put it, an intense form of therapy. It’s an opportunity to change, to go deeper, to grow. Success is in the little things, it’s not a final destination.

The Thursday I turned 25 and liked it

I started off planning to blog about woman-focused pornography and then remembered that the day this post is meant for will be my birthday. In fact, if the postman hadn’t just dropped off a package that I’m “not allowed to open” I probably would have forgotten altogether. So, uh, yeah, we’ll leave the porn for another day.

Obviously, the actual writing has happened beforehand. Sadly, this is not because I’ll be spending the day lying in a bath of maraschino cherries and cream (wait a minute, that sounds sticky and not fun, anyway). Instead I’ll be busy finishing off helping with a law book thing. It’s a rather grown-up way to spend a birthday, wouldn’t you agree?

Being born in April has usually meant that I’ve had the luxury of birthdaying in the Easter holidays. Of course this means little when you’re no longer in school but at twenty-five I’ve yet to have a birthday when I was confined to a desk for a nine to five.

The upside of having time flexibility has meant that I’ve been able to make a fuss of it myself, shopping or painting my nails. The downside has been that time has allowed me too much space to over-think things and fall into the birthday-slump that so many of us do.

Why are we so depressed that another year has passed? Often I’ve felt that I wasn’t where I’d planned to be by now or that I’d wasted those 365 days. I know this might seem ridiculous given my age but everyone can look back and wish they’d put more effort into something.

In the past I’ve wished I’d studied harder and thought more carefully about what to study. Last year, I was happy with the career I was about to embark on but wished I’d been more disciplined at keeping the bonds strong with my family.

This year, I probably wish I was further along in my career or was sure about what I’m doing but I’m actually not too fussed. There are bigger, more immediate things on the brain. And I like being 25.

I think I’m cool with where I am because having a baby at this stage in my life always sort of made sense to me. We base a lot of our assumptions about the world on the reality our parents demonstrate and because my mum had me at 25, I probably always saw that as a good age to have a baby. This wasn’t a conscious decision but the idea was there.

By outsiders’ standards, it probably wasn’t a good time for my parents to start a family either. They weren’t financially secure and, in fact, my mum had to start a small sewing business from home to help make ends meet. I learned all sorts of thrifty tricks from seeing her do whatever she could out of necessity. Little did she know, her habits would later become fashionable. Not the hand washing nappies though, mum. That was hardcore.

For once, I’m neither overly excited nor dejected by the coming of my birthday. I’m simply content, grateful and looking forward to someone else’s birthday, oh, some time round the end of May or beginning of June.

Little one, may you be better at birthdays than your silly mummy.