My baby turns three on Sunday. She is exceptionally excited at the prospect and telling all and sundry that she will be a “big three” - while holding up at least four fingers.
Her requests are simple. She wants a tea party with yellow balloons and Hellow Kitty “cup-a-cakes”. She wants to play ‘Ring a Rosie’ with her cousins and to play races in her granny’s living room.
Thankfully all notions of big old birthday bashes in play centres have not reached us yet - not with her anyway. The day will be, relatively, calm as we celebrate our gorgeous (not that I’m biased) little lady turning three.
It’s a strange time for me - as I watch her grow up. A mixture of pride as to what is to come and a little bit of sadness of what has passed and won’t come again.
Of course I had similar feelings when my son was growing up but at that stage I suppose I always thought that one day, some time in the future I would have another baby so my days of baby rearing were not well and truly done.
But as we reach her birthday, all traces of the baby who was mine are melting away. The bars have come down from her cot. She looks to have her drinks from cups with no lids. She is (slowly) getting there with potty training (Yes, I know she is three... but we have tried, honest!).
She could talk the hind leg off a donkey and knows her mind. The buggy is only a very occasional companion on long walks.
She has already started making her own sartorial decisions - refusing to wear mismatched pyjamas, coming up with interesting tutu/t-shirt/frilly socks/coat combos. Just this week she learned to zip up her own coat (a skill her eight year-old brother still struggles with - hence four coats this school year and four broken zips...).
Every day she makes me laugh with her increasingly quirky sense of humour and every day this little lady hugs me close and makes me feel like the very best mammy in the whole world.
Just last week, while watching Mr Tumble on CBeebies she answered him when he asked, “Who is your best friend?” with “My mummy is my best friend”, and that made my heart melt.
I know it’s one of those cliched things to say but it really does feel like no time at all since she was placed in my arms and I was introduced to my wee daughter.
It has shocked me how fast time has gone, how the months have melted so very quickly into years. And how the baby stage is already something being assigned to the past.
Her younger years have gone quicker than her brother’s. There have been many times I’ve wanted to hit the pause button and keep her at this delightful stage for as long as possible.
There were times, of course, when she was super tiny, when I probably wished the days away, or at least wished the sleepless nights away.
No matter how much you tell yourself you will cherish every second when you have a tiny baby squawling at three in the morning, you can’t help but wish for that first precious night they sleep through. You long for the milestones - the first tooth, the first words, the first steps. But there is a sort of grieving process when they have been passed - that a stage in your life is passed and won’t be replicated.
I’m perfectly happy never to have another child. Pregnancy sends me mental in the biggest way - hormones and me are not jolly bedfellows. Despite having a very positive experience last time, giving birth is not up there on my “would love to do that again” wish list and I’m very much enjoying re-discovering small elements of freedom which come from having an increasingly independent toddler.
How I love being able to walk around a shop holding her hand, instead of carrying her while trying to balance the rest of my shopping.
I love how we sit together and talk and she can tell me what she wants, what may be ailing her and what will make her better. I love the private little jokes and sayings we share, the way we pull funny faces at each other and know exactly what makes each laugh.
Kisses must come in sets of two, hugs in sets of three. Impersonations of sharks and crocodiles are de rigueur at bathtime.
The fact that she is no longer a helpless little baby, but still relies heavily on her mum is heartwarming. It is wonderful to see the person she is becoming - the sharp, witty, frequently a little crazy whirling dervish of a girl who keeps us entertained and on our toes.
There is no doubt this little girl came into our lives and changed every part of me for the better. And I’ve no doubt the day will come - probably when hormones hit her - when we will want to kill each other - but for now, I’m making a resolution to try harder than ever to appreciate each moment. It’s all so fleeting - and all so precious.
And there are only so many times in any grown woman’s life when she will be able to get away with dancing round the aisles of Tesco singing at the top of her lungs before the men in white coats come calling.