I no longer have a baby. On wobbly legs she toddles, round and round.
Zigzagging she sways through rooms, to where big sister catches her in widespread arms.
They leave the the hall door open, and before I can blink, she is up the stairs. From the top step she waves down, cooing triumphantly.
Tijm and Linde trek up as well, rug sacks on, to play in their room. Jasmijn follows, quick as a dart. Tijm clicks the stair gate, safely shut behind her.
I want to get her, take her down, secure under my watchful eyes.
‘No,’ Tijm shouts. ‘You can’t come up.’
Three a row, they grin at me from behind the gate.
‘I just want to get Jasmijn,’ I try.
‘No,’ says Tijm. ‘Jasmijn has to stay here. She is our friend.’
Linde nods. ‘Our fliend.’
I go back down, my heart in my mouth. Upstairs I hear clattering, laughing, bumping. Only a few screams. When I go up to check, around the edge of the door, six eyes eye me indignantly. Defeated I retreat.
I no longer have a toddler boy. With his tongue between his lips, in utmost concentration, he writes. Tijm, he writes. And 4. Linde, papa, mama and Jasmijn. Tom is easy, that is just like Tijm. In mass production he draws trains, trees, monsters giraffes and people with heads, bodies and feet.
Then, he rushes to the laptop, ‘type, mama, can I type?’
His fingers dance over the keys. Opa, oma. Opi. Omi. Omama, Roos, Bas and Maas. Others are more difficult and mama spells it out. An F, an R and an E. Slowly Frederiek appears on the screen. Then the A, for Anneke.
Later he nestles in the corner of the sofa with the Ipad, hidden under a plaid. He plays Sonic, Agry Birds, until I catch him on You Tube, staring at blazing guns and bombs, and I hide it on top of the fridge. Were we living back home, in the Netherlands, he’d have started school. He is so ready, my big boy.
And then there is Linde. The most incredible 2 year old ever. With bold, big eyes she defies me, staring over her plate.
‘Don’t want it,’ she pushes it away.
Where Tijm, who is so handy, refuses to put on his shoes, she needs to do everything herself. Everywhere dolls sleep, under blankets, tea towels and dishcloths. Everywhere Linde goes the dolls go too. On the Ipad she plays doctor, cooking and colouring. With felt tips she draws circles and curls, on paper, her head and her hands. She draws the L, for Linde, which she loves so much she uses it everywhere, in warking and rovely. Mole kisses, she demands, in bed, until she decides no, mama, enough, now she will teep.
Linde knows what she wants. And when she looks at me, from under her spotted hat, with those steel-blue eyes, I know one thing will never change. She will always stay my wilful child.