The littlest person in our house turned two this week. Just a year ago, she could barely walk or talk. Now, she can not only walk, but she can dance, jump and run. She can not only talk, but she can sing, shout and make jokes.
Just two years ago, we beheld for the first time a new-born baby, in all her fragility. Now, we have a beautiful little blonde toddler, who bumbles merrily about the house, being perpetually doted upon by her older brother and sisters. She has established a special relationship with each of her siblings, and she loves to play particular games with each.
She’s too young to fully understand the whole concept of birthdays, but she was vaguely aware that this meant a party and presents. On the morning of her big day, she was greeted with hugs by everyone in turn. Then she was permitted a little bowl of coco-pops – a mandatory birthday treat in our household. Her presents were given out piecemeal during the day, so as not to overwhelm her.
At her request, the whole family headed off to the beach for the morning. The older kids went swimming while she paddled on the edge of the water, and splashed in the warm pools. After a picnic, it was time for the main outing of the day – a trip to the wildlife park. Lions – or “raa raas” as she calls them – are her favourite creatures. She has lion teddies and t-shirts. When we arrived she ran excitedly towards the lion enclosure, and spent a long time gazing at them and talking to them. One cub even approached the fence and looked curiously at her, returning her intent gaze.
As it was her birthday, she led the way, and so we strolled around at her pace, stopping to look at the creatures she loved most. She gazed in equal awe at the giraffes, the cheetah cubs and the wild ducklings crossing the path.
Later, her grandparents and uncles came laden with dishes of food for her birthday party. More presents were opened and more treats were had. Her older brother put together one present, which was a little slide, she played delightedly on this in the sunshine, climbing up with the aid of her older sisters, before announcing “look at me!” and sliding down with a delighted shriek.
At last, the time came for her birthday cake. I carried it towards her amid a rousing rendition of “happy birthday”. Suddenly, her face turned into a little pout, as she became overwhelmed at the singing and the attention, but just momentarily. Her mother whispered to her, to blow out the candle. Delighted with the flame’s sudden disappearance in a puff of smoke, her smile returned. She then patiently and intently made her way through a whole slice of cake, before looking up at me contemplatively with her big blue eyes and saying: “Daddy, I like my birthday.”