• Aisha Iqbal

Two, too fast

It's almost comical how the day after Zain's second birthday, he turned into the very stereotype of a two year old: bursting into angry tears if I stop him from banging a toy on the glass door, or because I try to put the rain cover on his pushchair (child, we live in England, you gotta make your peace with this one!), or when we get back from the nursery and he actually has to come inside the house... there is the standard collapsing onto the floor on his back and flapping about like a fish out of water, the movie-style tantrum.

Then there is the dramatic falling to his knees, pouting to put any aspiring model to shame, running away and into a corner and then stealing back looks to see if I'm coming (cries if I am approaching gently like a patient mama, cries if I am not approaching and ignoring him like a nonchalant mama).

In the last few days I've learnt not to taking these meltdowns personally - nor too seriously. The number of times Zain throws himself to the ground (sometimes just for 10-15 seconds, sometimes longer) should not dictate whether a day was or will be good, whether we are happy or whether he has been a 'good' boy.

Many times I can remember he isn't doing this to be difficult - it's just growing pains really. There are all these new emotions and interests and curiosities and then on the other hand there are these big people just *always* telling you what to do and where to go and that it's time for food/nap/nappy change now, when all you want to do is ride your bike or smear some yogurt on the table ... And how would a two-year-old know that glass breaks if you slam things on it (till it happens I suppose, but some things are better discovered on a TV show)?

I remind myself, like other challenges in these last two years, this is a stage.

By now I've learnt not to rush things or will them to pass too quickly - because already I can tell I'm going to miss this phase even more than the last.

To be honest, I really adore toddlers.

They surprise you with their intelligence, they melt your heart with kind gestures (getting a toy back to a baby, giving a hug to someone who looks sad, touching a friend who just fell down on the shoulder and asking 'you okay?')

They also make you laugh by saying the most unexpected things (I can never tell with Zain if he knows what these sentences mean or if he's just repeating things he has heard) - 'it doesn't matter at all mama,' he will say as I'm trying to put soap on his back in the bath.

'It's so dramatic', he told me the other day when I finally managed to put him in his pushchair after 15 minutes of chasing and pleading and finally yelling to get his coat on.

They're like little clowns, talking to themselves, learning new words every day, copying our mannerisms and actions and making everything cute in the process. Even when Z smushes his face against mine and burps loudly just before falling asleep I think it's funny and weirdly adorable.

'That's not a ball,' he will say as he throws a toy car in what he calls his 'bowling action'.

There is this contagious joy bubbling in them, the incredible ability to live in the moment and enjoy the present (as long as you don't stop them from any of these joyous activities they are immersed in).

The excitement at seeing the same mundane things every day - every time we walk back from the nursery we shout in delight at the same cars we see parked on the road, the plastic flowers in the window of the school nearby, the exhaust fan of a warehouse.

Never will you find a creature more eager to throw things in the bin than a two-year-old.

And if you get a bubble machine out - the excitement is insurmountable.

Z helps me be more present, to focus on the now, to be happier, to keep seeing the magic in bubbles and stories and glitter and puddles. He reminds me to see the humour in life. He laughs at the silliest things so I continue acting like a clown around him, laughing because he laughs.

And while we do Pinterest-inspired toddler activities with mornings at the playground, painting with ice and eating banana-oat pancakes, some of our happiest moments are more unexpected - listening to Coke Studio while lying on the play mat, sharing pot noodles on the couch and dancing after each bite.

You hear it quite often now - motherhood is really hard (I won't get into the common litany but the gist is you are constantly sleep deprived and are thinking of another being before your needs - even the most basic ones like peeing!) but the truth is, those annoyances and frustrations that are part of every day are surface level. They come and blow over, like froth on a coffee, like ripples in a lake, like sunshine in England.

But the joy of your toddler bodyslamming you and saying 'iloveyou!', the content that settles in and around you when your baby is cuddled in your lap, the love that crests inside as you watch them sleep - that is absolute. That is deep, that is real, that is what lasts at the end of each day.

Zain is growing too fast and there are so many things I want to pen down because my memory is like a sieve - and these things are just too adorable to forget:

Like the way he says 'ba-yoooo-tiful' when he seems something colourful. He somehow has one of those desi accents (for some words) that they used for all brown people in Western TV sitcoms back in the day

The way we read books together - Zain being more and more independent each day, rushing to finish my sentences (we've read all of them a million times and Z seems to have a good memory!).

His sense of humour and weird chuckles and the look on his face when he sees a biscuit unexpectedly.

The way he says "bye." with a full stop, hand outstretched in the most suavest gesture, too cool for school, solemn as a mouse in spectacles.

His continued obsession with fans (fanD, he still days sometimes), his love for all things with wheels.

Some of the more strange things he does like bending down to stare at me and poking my mouth when I'm saying my namaz (he never does that in a different situation!).

The way he inadvertently shames me by repeating things I've said to him (or his dad maybe!) in annoyance or anger. He says them at the right time too - and I don't think he directs them at me but is just offering it as an acknowledgement of his own behaviour. "What's yo poblem?" he said after I'd had to launch myself straight from the toilet to stop him hopping excitedly on the stairs (which he very well knows not to do and also knows will get me to him in seconds no matter where I am!).

The way he likes his blanket draped around his shoulders, and the way he ducks his head and races around the house on his bike.

His increasing ability to converse with us. His funny faces and eye rolling and being coy and cute. His love for puddles. And Hey Duggee.

So many other things that slip my mind as my bedtime approaches - (almost 10pm, gotta be in bed or else I turn into a zombie approximately six hours later!).

I'm just so grateful to have you in my life and as the weeks turn into months and years, I'm going to hang on to every day and let you lead by example - 'its a wonderful life'.

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