When we first found out I was pregnant, my sister and I agreed what you would be like. You would be a girl, obviously; none of the noise and dirt of my four nephews for me. You were going to be precocious and quiet, and oh so serious. You would follow me round in your perfectly neat clothes, impressing everybody with your walking, your words, how closely you watched the world. You would somehow have big, dark eyes and hair, despite the blonde and light brown hair and blue eyes of your parents. Self sufficient, self contained.
When I was a teenager, my best friend and I decided what sort of husband I would have. He would be tall, dark, chisel jawed and oh, so mysterious. Quiet, but when he spoke it would always be important. Intense, devoted to me, even if he wasn’t always so nice to me. Unpredictable, a little bit tortured and exciting, I would mould my life around his.
Your father had other ideas of what would make me happy. Not so tall, not so dark. Not even a little bit quiet. Not always important; but always energetic, and always involved. Devoted to me, but straightforward and not even a little bit complicated. Happy. Happy all the time, to the point where reality sometimes cannot defend itself against that relentless optimism. Easy to love. Easy to want to spend every minute of every day with.
With such a father, how could I have thought you would turn out as planned? I thought the scans were wrong; that you would still be a girl. But you were ripped out of me as a very definite, very red headed, boy. You have never been quiet. After a miserable first 2 months, where something in that round stomach of yours stopped you settling for more than a few minutes at a time, your personality erupted.
I would ask your father every night “did you see what he did today? Did I tell you about the smile? Did you see his face light up?”
I was wrong about the child I wanted. You have always smiled at strangers. By 6 months old you would bury your face in my shoulder, and look up at them coyly through your long lashes. Your father and I cannot flirt like that. You didn’t learn it from us.
You are round and flame haired and funny. You stare people on trains down until they can’t stop grinning at you. You stop people in the street to tell them your latest adventures. You never crawled, you walked late, you don’t climb. You haven’t needed to do any of those things; why bother when everybody jumps to fulfil your every need, simply for one of those smiles? You sing to yourself in your cot. When you learnt to say car you would repeat it to yourself in the night with utter glee and reverence. Your father melted when I woke him to hear it.
You won’t be reserved or shy or self contained. You sit delighted in the middle of noisy groups of children. You delight me every day. I cannot believe we created something so perfect and so full of joy.