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The Roundybirb Project

The Roundybirb Project

More than a decade ago I learned to draw in Photoshop. I’ve used Photoshop for the creation of illustrations and graphics far more than I have used it for photo editing. It was all I had access to at the time, and so that was […]

Toddler Craft: Colourful Paper Leaves

Toddler Craft: Colourful Paper Leaves

Our last big toddler crafting project, the Tissue Paper Watercolour Rainbow, was such a big hit both for the fun creative process and finished piece that I decided to play with the technique a bit more for our next project together. This time I thought […]

Why I Miss Being A Yayii

Why I Miss Being A Yayii

When my son started to learn to babble, he picked up syllables in a fairly standard way. ‘Mama’ came before ‘dada’, though, which is a less common ordering, and in my son’s parlance meant ‘I am sad and want comforting’, which as a Mama I gave him.

When my son started to talk in the big rush of language he experienced around the point of turning two, ‘Mama’, the concept of comfort, made enough room for a personal ‘me’, and this me was called Yayii. I don’t know why or how Yayii came about. ‘Daddy’ was said confidently and strong, and for a while it seemed that I had no name. At home, I was called and referred to myself as ‘mummy’, and my husband echoed this, but my little boy did not adopt this. I started to wonder if I would ever have a name, as words for all manner of objects: duck, caterpillar, trampoline, all made their place in my son’s language.

We joked about it for a long time, but I never actually felt upset. Other people sometimes projected on me that surely I did, but honestly I was so bowled over that we had words, and ideas, and that we were communicating that the word ‘mummy’ did not bother me. I am sure that my husband felt almost guilty that ‘daddy’ rang so clear and joyfully through the house, but then so did ‘oat bar!’, and I wasn’t going to take either personally.

Then, one day, after many months of reinforcing who I was, I had a name! But it wasn’t a ‘mummy’ name. All of a sudden I was a ‘Yayii’.

The spelling is my approximation of it. I don’t know where it came from and how he attached it to me, but soon it was the most frequently sounded word in our household. Yayii, Yayii, Yayiiiiiiiii.

And it stuck, for the better time of a year. My husband and I still used ‘mummy’ to refer to me, but Darwin had my name for me, and that was unwaveringly how he referred to me. I was his Yayii.

People will often enquire after a toddler’s speech. It’s one of the more common things to be asked during times when there is a silence to be filled. Family and friends, strangers in coffee shops, everyone wants to know ‘is he talking yet?’. Sometimes they’d just hear him say it, or sometimes, when having longer conversations or with people who I knew well, I’d mention that I was, for reasons I did not know, ‘Yayii’, and that Yayii was my son’s name for me.

Many people immediately thought that I might be upset at this (projection again, perhaps?) or even distressed that this was some marker of development. I still was not, though sometimes did felt upset that people were assuming these anxieties upon me. Were they upset that my son did not call me mummy? Were other people anxious about his development? I laughed it off and was still happy with my name. I have been worried about many things as a parent, but this was one thing that did not concern me at all. I liked my name. There are many wonderful mummies in the world, but how special to be a Yayii. There can’t be many of those.

Still people enquired if my son was calling me mummy, yet? No, I was still a Yayii. I was still his Yayii. Then, after a long pause on the phone one day, somebody said ‘hmm… that’s odd’ in a very grave way. That was the beginning of when I started to notice more that people looked uncomfortable and said ‘that’s strange’ and ‘oh dear’. Then there was even one instance of ‘I’m so sorry’ (though I was never in mourning for a name I hadn’t had). Then came the day that someone asked if I had thought about ‘taking him to see somebody about it’ and people spontaneously started giving him ad-hoc lessons on how to say ‘mummy’ because ‘Darwin can’t do it’, and I started being cut out of the learning transaction all together.

The thing is, though, Darwin could do it. He could say mummy perfectly well. He understood the concept of a mummy and the mother-child relationship. If looking at a picture of a family of frogs he’d be able to say clearly who was daddy frog, mummy frog, and baby frog (or bear, or any other animal). He knew his friend’s mummies, and would name them so, but I was his Yayii.

At this point the awkward looks started making me feel the need to prove that he could say mummy to people, in the hope that they wouldn’t call him ‘…odd’. And yes, he would say mummy if prompted, as long as he was not referring to me. This did not stop people practically telling me I should be worried or upset. I sometimes went home from gatherings or chance meetings with ‘oh dears’ and ‘how strange’ and all manner of advice ringing in my ears, until one encounter just wore me down so much and made me feel like I was being pushed into being thought a bad parent if I didn’t march him immediately to a speech therapist or child psychologist that we decided that, no, Darwin should call me mummy.

So, we started to really push the name of mummy. Not harshly, and never with frustration, but reinforcing the idea that, no, my name was mummy, to call me mummy, that I am mummy. When he started to pick up the gentle insistence that I was called mummy we greeted each ‘mummy’ instance with a big cheer and a cuddle, until, all too soon, Yayii was gone.

And it’s typing those words that has made me cry.

Whatever other people may think of it, it is my biggest regret that I’ve experienced as a parent, because I took away my boy’s Yayii. As soon as I noticed that he had stopped saying it, I regretted it, and a feeling dropped through my body like an icy cold sickness. I remember where I was standing when I realised that I had lost my name. I told my husband, and I think he immediately knew that I was hurting, hard. He, I think in desperation, did something he’d never done before and referred to me as Yayii to Darwin, to prompt him to say it again, but I knew it wouldn’t work and it wasn’t right if he wasn’t calling me it naturally, plus I did not want to confused him further. I had to accept that Yayii had gone, and all because I was stupid enough to let people in wider society, many of whom I don’t even know well nor care about, and certainly none who I could love with the same depth I love my family, slowly deposit their fears and anxieties, preconceived ideals and perceptions onto me.

I thought about this a bit during my worst depressive episode in seven years, one that hit me like a sledgehammer on the back of more unwelcome bad health news. It was by no means the cause of it, but it was tied into a few wider worries. In the skewed logic of panic and anxiety that there was no way that I could believe that I was a good parent. It was just another way that I had let my child down, but one that echoed to me in his voice every day (every few minutes of every day, because that’s what toddlers do).

I know that I cannot bring my boy’s Yayii back, but I can preserve the memory of my most special name. I do not trust my memory to keep my special name for me, because it is dealing with so many things to remember, and so I bought myself a necklace. It is a simple reminder of Yayii and child in silver, that I am wearing now. I’m pulling myself out of my depression slowly, and I’m trying to accept myself as being a good mummy. I am a loving mummy who is dedicated to helping my son have a happy and loving start to life, and being Yayii will be a memory I will always cherish.

Paper & Found Twig Art Of A Garden Bird

Paper & Found Twig Art Of A Garden Bird

A good friend and very special person to me recently commented that she loved the blue tit papercuts I had been working on. They were not intended for any particular project and I hadn’t yet worked out what, if anything, I could do with them. A […]

Tissue Paper Watercolour Rainbow – A Toddler Art Project

Tissue Paper Watercolour Rainbow – A Toddler Art Project

Here’s a fantastic project that you can do with your toddler or guide an older child to complete themselves that involves minimal cost and effort to prepare. The idea for this project came about whilst we were making the Tissue Paper Sun-Catcher Butterfly, and the […]

Tissue Paper Sun-Catcher Butterflies – A Toddler & Child Art Project

Tissue Paper Sun-Catcher Butterflies – A Toddler & Child Art Project

The summer break from nursery is upon us and so we are embarking upon a summer of toddler arts and crafts.

The UK is currently experiencing a heatwave, and the oppressive heat has given us even more reason to stay indoors in the shade and do some nice gentle crafting. What better way to at least make the most of the sun than by making a sun catcher? This butterfly sun catcher is the perfect way to make the most of those rays of sunshine that we rarely see in such abundance.

Materials

You will need:

  • Black card
  • Scissors (for use by adult)
  • Tissue paper, assorted colours
  • Children’s PVA glue
  • Paint brush or glue spreader
  • Cling film, clear plastic bag, or large laminated sheet
  • Craft Knife and cutting mat (for use by adult, also optional)
  • Optional Butterfly Cutting Template Files (SVG for cutting machines and PDF for manual cutting both included), or you can draw and cut your own butterfly shape.

Preparation

I like to prep our craft activities the night before if I have to create anything in advance, otherwise I tend to prep materials in the quiet moments between breakfast and mid-morning. For this toddler craft activity I prepared the paper butterfly the night before. I actually drew up a computer file to use with a cutting machine (the SVG included in the download) and cut two indentically shaped butterflies. If you have a cutting machine you can use the SVG to do the same. If you don’t have a cutting machine then there is a PDF file included (see below for usage instructions). I cut out two identical butterfly shapes so that the tissue was ‘sandwiched’ between the layers of black card, so it looked the same from both sides, but this is down to personal preference and the project is still great fun with just one.

How To Use The PDF file

If cutting by hand, start by securing a sheet of black card to your cutting mat with masking tape or similar. Stick the print out of the PDF above it with more masking tape, printed side up. Using a craft knife and cutting through both layers, cut out each of the smaller shapes within the wings. Once all of the shapes that make up the ‘windows’ in the wings have been cut, cut along the outside line. This will prevent the papers from becoming misaligned when cutting.

In addition to the paper butterfly, you will also need shapes cut from tissue paper. Older children may be able to cut these shapes themselves, but younger children will benefit from having the shapes pre-cut, or being given sheets of tissue paper to tear. If cutting the shapes for a toddler, use geometric shapes such as squares, rectangles and triangles so that you can have fun naming the shapes and colours as you craft.

Make The Butterfly

Start by laying down a clear plastic bag, area of clingfilm or a large (A3) laminated sheet, This will ensure that you are able to remove your butterfly in one piece once the glue is dry.

toddler's hand applying glue to paper butterfly cut out

Lay one of your butterfly shapes down and let your child or toddler brush glue onto the shape. Do not worry if the glue goes onto the plastic sheet beneath, this will strengthen the butterfly when it is finished. It is OK if the tissue paper shapes go beyond the edge of the butterfly as they will be trimmed later.

Once there is a reasonable amount of glue on the butterfly, have fun laying on layers of tissue paper shapes. Make sure that they overlap and help to fill any gaps if necessary.

Once the entire butterfly is finished and entirely covered with tissue paper, help smooth down any edges with the brush and distribute any large areas of glue.

Leave to dry on the plastic sheet. Once dry, carefully peel up from the plastic and trim away any tissue paper that goes beyond the edges of the butterfly’s wings. You may wish to go over the entire butterfly with another layer of glue to strengthen it further, and you can also stick on a second, identical butterfly shape to so that the tissue paper is sandwiched between two card layers if you wish. Leave to dry on the plastic sheet again.

Once dry, the butterfly is ready to hang. It can be easily taped or blu-tacked to a window, or hang as we have done by piercing two tiny holes with a drawing pin into a ball of modelling clay, tying on two lengths of sewing thread, and threading and tying buttons onto the free ends to allow it to be blue-tacked to the window frame and hung to flutter in the occasional breeze.

Enjoy making your beautiful tissue paper butterfly sun catcher!


Coddswallop

Our First Two Years Together

Our First Two Years Together

It’s been two years since our family grew by one. I think we were always a family, Russell and I. From, perhaps, the day that I felt like I trusted in his goodness to let go of that little bit of certainty and security of the path I was on, soon to have my own little place to live, and took the leap that I could trust in this human to be good and to care and love enough that I could uproot once more and move in with him to a pokey little cold flat in Whitley Bay. Boy it was cold. And it was so tiny! But perhaps it was my favourite of all the places that I have lived due to it being where our story began and the first place in which I had felt safe in a very, very long time.

But my favourite chapters of the story so far all burst into colour two years ago when a tiny human popped into our world, a mixture of Russell and I. This whopping great blackcurrant stained baby shot into the world at a faster rate than I could really handle it. But after all the worry and panic there lay this 9lb bruise with a wrinkle for a nose and Russell and I cradled pure love in our arms. It had not been so very long previously that I did not think that I could trust anyone to truly love in my lifetime, and now I had these two pillars of love, one huge and protecting and one (not so very) tiny, heartbeat fluttering fast upon my chest, and I knew that I would never feel the same again. And our family was strong.

I truly love being a parent, but as so many people will tell you, parenthood is tough. Gosh, yes we have our off days. Tired, grumpy days, days of illness and the mystery maladies of baby and toddlerhood, sometimes that write themselves apparent three days after the screams and sobs with a scarlet rash and sometimes which manifest on no physical symptoms that you will ever detect and are put down to some mystical condition which may or may not have existed. And you are always, always doing it wrong. So says that lady in the supermarket, or the health visitor who you’ve known for four minutes of your life, or that relation who’d do that differently, or the neighbour who is old enough to remember when babies did not cry because in those days 10 month old babies did as they were instructed, and probably earned their keep down the mines at the same time.

If my little boy knows or feels anything I would hope it is just how perfectly I love him and that I love learning from him more than from any of those people. I hope that Russell and I can teach him, above all else, how to be kind, how to be thoughtful and how to have empathy for all the people whose lives touch on his. I do not expect that as he grows and natually makes mistakes for him to always be good, or that he will always make the right choice, but I do so hope that we will always have time to put three chairs around the table and to talk about how we feel and how others might feel, and the effect of our actions on others. And from him I am learning how to best see the world anew. How the most basic and fundamental feelings that I have can be best nurtured and put to use. I am tougher in my resolve to surround myself with good and kind people and to not let damaging influences into our lives without guard, and to that end I have a strong determination to stand up for my family and to know when to say ‘no more’.

I hope that our third year together will be one of greater learning and growth. I hope it will be full of rainbows and colour, but when there are grey days that we can make things better with love and understanding. I hope that that there will be laughter, kindness, and, importantly, dinosaurs.

 

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