Recipe for birthday letters of love (just add toddler tantrums)

I’m casting a sideways glance in the direction of Valentine’s Day this week. This is as close as we’re likely to get to romance and roses, given that one of us is pregnant and knackered, and the other is my husband.

Of course we have our romantic moments, that’s how we got into this mess in the first place, but I sense that our best bet for spicing things up this year will be a quick phone call to the curry house.

Anyway, this week I focused on my project of writing ‘birthday letters of love‘ to my daughter, which I will give to her when it feels right. Like many of my projects it was still in the early stages, with both 1st and 2nd birthday letters now due.

I began writing following a morning that shall henceforth be referred to as Black Friday. Black Friday was the day before the toddler’s birthday, and we were preparing to host our first children’s party. The balloons had arrived, presents were wrapped and cupcakes were being baked. Not by me, I hasten to add. The last time I made the toddler a cake she spat out the first bite and then hid whenever it made a reappearance.

I should have been busy drafting a Facebook post about how glorious the last two years have been, and how the toddler brings us joy every day. And those things are true. But this particular morning was one of mayhem and meltdowns, culminating in me bursting into tears outside a café, and being brought a coffee by a sympathetic stranger.

The toddler later explained that she had been ‘vay cross’, and I said that was ok and that I had been ‘vay hormonal’. According to my husband, ‘hormonal’ wasn’t the only word I taught her that morning, but moving on…

Sadly, that evening my grandmother passed away. It was peaceful and expected, but sad. When I sat down to begin writing the birthday letters, I was flooded with memories from my own childhood tangled up with those from the first two years of my daughter’s life.

I remembered eating cornflakes in my grandmother’s kitchen, perched on tall stools that we used to climb up onto. It only just occurred to me that these are the same as the knee-high stools I remember from latter years. I thought about how lucky the toddler was to have met her great grandmother as well as to have close bonds with her own grandmothers. I was filled with gratitude, alongside fresh guilt over our disastrous morning. But I guess life isn’t all cupcakes and cuddles.

Gran had 91 year’s worth of stories, and both my brother and I had begun recording some. But, sadly, by the time we started this project she was too tired to talk for long. It’s important, I decided, to preserve your own stories whilst you’re still able to remember them (or at least agile-minded enough to make up good ones). I felt good about beginning to write my daughter’s story.

In my heightened emotional state, I felt that some structure would be useful and so, as well as the rules about being 100% honest and sticking to a word limit of 1000 words, I devised a ‘recipe’ as a basis for the letters of love. Here it is, along with a few of the things I wrote about.

1. Something that made us laugh:
The ridiculous fake laugh you do when you want to feel included in adult jokes.

2. Something that made us cry:
Your feet in our eyes and your fingers up our noses during those wonderful bed ‘sharing’ days.

3. Something you said:
‘No minutes’, in response to my, ‘just a minute’.

4. A challenging time:
3am, every night for the first 18 months.

5. A regret:
Investing your birth cheque in some catastrophic shares. Sorry.

6. A hope for the next year:
That you enjoy getting to know your new sibling, and withhold any advice you may have with regards to acceptable sleeping habits.

Revisiting the early months made me extremely broody. I shall take precautions when it comes to writing the first birthday letter for our next child, like making sure my husband is out of the country. Or living with a one-year-old and a three-year-old. Yes, that should do it.

The birthday party went well, and we all collapsed happily in the lingering debris of half-finished conversations and half-eaten cupcakes. The following morning the toddler stumbled into the living room in her pants, and asked a limp, inflatable pig, ‘where everybody gone?’. It turns out children’s parties aren’t actually all that different from the grown up ones.

Next week’s pause is another heart-shaped one.

I’ll be trying a very short and very simple ‘Loving Kindness Meditation’ that was introduced to me by yogi and mindful mama mentor, Hunter Clarke-Fields.

Just recite the text below to yourself. The first verse obviously applies to you, and there’s no need to move beyond that. But, if you do, the second verse can be repeated as many times as you like, focusing on a different person each time. For example, a loved one, someone you have a difficult relationship with or even someone you cross paths with often but don’t actually know.

Loving Kindness Meditation
May I be filled with loving kindness.
May I be well.
May I be peaceful and at ease.
May I be happy.


May you be filled with loving kindness.
May you be well.
May you be peaceful and at ease.
May you be happy

Hunter runs free online mindfulness retreats, and there’s one starting soon – click here for details. The course includes a recording of this meditation.

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