Birthday Girls

The whole family is gathered outside a cafe for tea and cake. MsUrbanDaddy is fishing a teabag from her foampack cup. Grandma V busies herself marshalling errant bits of gift-wrap into a plastic bag. The high sun is in full conspiracy with our bistro table to near blind me with reflected light. Maybe that’s why it takes me so long to light the candles on our shop-bought Victoria sponge.

Our eldest reminds us that the cake has not even been cut, still less served; a state of affairs she clearly regards as criminal. I agree, but cake cutting duties have been given to our 2 year-old birthday girl and she just is not following our script, preferring instead to sit and quietly chew her plastic spoon.

Suddenly, MsUrbanDaddy stands up and starts hopping from foot to foot. Her hands flash between open palm and clenched fist, her breathing is deep and measured. Her eyes could start a blaze in the middle-distance over my shoulder. I say nothing.

Her tension subsides and she sits down. The children are completely oblivious to mummy’s strange behaviour. MsUrbanDaddy decides the time has come to get the party started.

“Shall I help you cut the cake, lovely?”

Birthday girl is suddenly ahead of us, cutting a tiny, mushed-up strip of sponge and giving it to her sister. Ha! You go, girl, I think to myself. This will likely be the last birthday cake she’ll have for herself. MsUrbanDaddy confirms my suspicions as I take Grandma V and the girls home. “Don’t be long. This is happening”.

Barely two hours later, daughter number 3 arrives, express. The midwife doesn’t even have time to put her gloves on, catching her instead with a towel. At four weeks pre-term, she’s caught more than our midwife on the hop. We need to pick up a few things – a bigger car, for starters. But the logistics can wait. I’m looking at my second birthday girl of the day and she’s beautiful.

Get Busy

The eldest comes skipping out of pre-school, waving some pieces of paper at me. It’s a school portrait in which she’s braced, ram-rod straight, smiling a vaguely terrified smile, the way you might smile if your photographer were a 6-foot bunny rabbit with the voice of Timmy Mallett. The youngest takes advantage of my distraction and pulls the pic out my hand, into the buggy. She wants to look at it, which means chew it, obviously.

In the 25 minutes it takes us to make the 5 minute walk from school, we have a discussion about funerals , a low blood-sugar tantrum and countless gentle prompts on road safety that pass in, through and out the other side. One day the youngest, who routinely ignores everything I say, will learn how to ride a scooter properly. Then things will be interesting.

Actually, things are going to be interesting a lot sooner than that. Thins are re-emerging from the loft: a carrier seat; a Phil and Ted’s cocoon. And lots of very small clothes. We are about to get very busy in our house. I’ll enjoy these relaxed school runs while I can.

 

Dear Father Jack: A Poem for my Youngest Daughter

apple babyYou like to sing in your cot.
When you sleep, you sigh
You fall over a lot
you smile with your eyes
You like to wear your wellies even when we’re inside
And you are the apple of my eye

You leaped into my world with a Fosbury flop
caramel skin, loose-curls on top
a moment so magical I laughed as I cried
you are the apple of my eye

You shout mono-syllables; a mini Father Jack
It’s fair to say that patience is the virtue that you lack
yet when we meet new people and you seem a bit shy
I know you’re the apple of my eye

I love to watch you, when you let your heart shine through
like when your sister sneezes and you’re off to get tissues or
when you stand by the stair-gate and wave me bye-bye
You are the apple of my eye

Big sis’ gets attention of a slightly different kind
perhaps because she comes out with all the funny lines
But know I love you equally, a love with no divide
you two, are the apple of my eye

Your sister had to learn how to share us with you
but sharing us is all you’ve known, it’s really nothing new, so
next year, when we hope to be a family of five
You’ll know you’re all the apples of my eye

So sing your heart out in your cot
keep snoozing with a sigh
(maybe don’t trip up so much, I hate to see you cry)
but keep your smile
and know my love is bigger than the sky
And you are the apple of my eye