On Saturday morning, at 11:51am exactly, my baby boy turned one, and, just like that, the longest, shortest, happiest, saddest, hardest and most life-changing year ever came to an end.
The day itself wasn’t quite how I’d imagined it: a series of Insta-perfect moments, with Terry and I gathered around a smiling Max, while the rest of the family sang Happy Birthday. In my imaginings of this moment, I’d have had a shower, and Max would have had a nap, for instance. The house would be flooded with natural light and, well, clean. All of the photos would be bright and beautiful, and none of them would have a random butt in the background, say:
(I’d also look a bit like a young Vivien Leigh in this scenario, but that’s how I always look in my imagination, so, yeah. Photos always come as an unpleasant surprise to me, let’s put it that way…)
Of course, when I imagined all of this, I hadn’t factored in the most important point of all: that this was to be a birthday party for a one-year old. And that pretty much GUARANTEES things aren’t going to go to plan, doesn’t it?
In my defence, when we were planning Max’s first birthday, we DID at least have the sense to keep it pretty low-key, with just a small party for immediate family. Even that, though, turned out to be a little bit chaotic, mostly because the guest of honour picked that very morning to decide that naps were for babies, and that he just wouldn’t bother with them any more: awesome! By the time my parents rocked up in the early afternoon, laden with gifts, balloons and high expectations, Max was running on about 20 minutes sleep for the entire day, and had just had a dramatic meltdown, which resulted in him being carried off to bed, for another attempt at a nap. (I, meanwhile, had managed to dress, but not to shower. This has been the Story of December for me, basically. I know what my New Year’s resolution will be…)
(For his birthday, my parents got him Chase Me Casey, which has been a bit like having a second child, really. Terry and I, meanwhile, got him an age-inappropriate mini guitar, and some new shoes from Spartoo, which he’d pulled off within minutes…)
Unfortunately for us, that nap attempt was to be unsuccessful, so, when I carried him back downstairs a little while later, and we all sung ‘Happy Birthday’ to him, he listened politely, and then burst into devastated tears. (Which, to be fair, is pretty much how I’ve reacted to every birthday since I was, like, five or something. Hey, maybe he IS going to be like me, after all!) The tears continued for a while: in fact, I think it was the grumpiest my parents have ever seen him. They are, however, experts in the art of entertaining babies, so, by the time Max’s auntie, uncles and cousin arrived, a little while later, he was more or less back to his usual, happy little self. Of course, by that point the daylight was almost gone, and I felt like I’d been awake for 100 years. We didn’t manage to get a single photo of the three of us together in which we’re all looking in the same direction, at the same time, and all of the photos we DID get look like they were taken in a cave, at midnight. It doesn’t matter at all in the great scheme of things, obviously, but I have hardly any photos from the day he was born, either, and, given that I’ve spent most of my life – and my entire career – documenting even the smallest, and most insignificant things for posterity, I can’t help but feel a little bit disappointed when I fail to capture the important days as well as I’d like to.
This, however, was an important lesson in life with a one-year-old, I think – which is why my ACTUAL resolution for this year is to try to care a little bit less about this kind of thing. (Lies: my ACTUAL resolution is to buy a Burberry trench coat. That’s been my resolution for at least 15 years, though, so I’m prepared for disappointment…) So, I built myself a bridge, I got over it, and, once Max had opened his birthday gifts, it was time for cake:
The rainbow cake was just a shop-bought one, which we got for the adults. It was much too sugary for a one year old, though, so, the night before Max’s birthday, Terry baked him a banana cake (Banana being Max’s absolute favourite thing), minus the sugar, and with a very thin chocolate glaze. We knew things were probably going to get messy here, so I stripped him down to his vest (Er, Max, I mean, not Terry…), and let him get stuck in:
We think he enjoyed it…
And so ended, not just an incredible year, but also a pretty amazing month, really. As well as celebrating his first birthday and Christmas, in December Max also had his first flight, his first foreign holiday, and – most excitingly of all – took his very first steps! I’m not going to claim that he’s walking, exactly, because so far he’s only managed a few steps at a time, before sitting down again, but he’s growing in confidence every day, and it’s been so sweet to see him starting to toddle around. This month he’s also been experimenting with sounds: he’d been saying “mama” and “dada” for a while, but I always suspected it was just coincidence when he seemed to be associating them with me and Terry. Lately, though, he’ll very clearly say “MAMA!” while pointing at me, and, if he wants my attention, he’ll pat my leg, while going, “MAMA! MAMA! MAMA!”
His third word, meanwhile, is “BA!” which means “banana” – any time he sees a banana, whether it be a picture of one or the real thing, he’ll get very excited, and exclaim, “BA! BA!” He’s not quite got the hang of the “nana” part, obviously, but he IS also making some attempts at “CA!” for “car”, and it’s just amazing seeing how much he learns and grows every day. (Also, OMG, THE KISSING, you guys. Reading a book with him takes quite a long time now, because he has to kiss so many of the pictures – particularly ones depicting puppies, teddies, or, well, bananas, obviously. Gotta love those BAs…) At one, he already has such a strong little character, and while part of me just can’t believe my tiny little baby is a whole year old already, the rest of me is just looking forward all of the changes I know this next year will bring.
Max, you’re our person: our happy, perfect, hilarious little person, and it’s been an absolute privilege to get to spend this last year with you. So, happy birthday, baby boy: we couldn’t possibly love you more…