Leanne Jade Photography

Eliana, this is you at 18 months:

Your words are coming thick and fast although to the untrained ear they are still a secret language that only we understand. Apart from happy, which you pronounce ‘appy’ like the French, and which you shout with gleeful abandonment. You’ve also decided daddy is Papa so we’ve taken your cues and rolled with the continental rebrand. You’ve inherited his photic sneeze reflex and when we go out as a family your sneezes synchronise as soon as we step into the sunshine and we laugh about the predictability of it, every time. From me you’ve inherited

a sweet tooth and night owl tendencies, hereditary heirlooms, if you’re inclined to look on the bright side (and you are), that were bred into me by my mother and her mother before that and which are likely to be with you for life. Let’s plan a midnight feast together circa 2022.


The postman is ‘Ma’, as are our neighbours, Matthew and Mark whose coming and going never goes unnoticed by your pin-sharp hearing. Every morning you scramble up to the back of the sofa and deftly unlock the window latch to look for them or to wave to mothers rushing the ‘babies’ to nursery or to watch the bin men (‘ma!’) go about their business.


Animals are your favourite. You can spot a horse, or a picture of a horse, or the hint of a carousel horse on a poster for a fairground from half a mile and shout ‘meigh’ (a mispronounciation you learned from your father) which has me thinking we ought to start saving for pony club. You have started elaborating on an already lengthy bedtime routine; every evening you enquire after the woof woofs, miaows and meighs and like to be reassured that they’re all sleeping before you succumb to sleep yourself. You still insist on full body cuddles when you sleep but where you used to fit snuggly into the curve of my body you now take up most of me and I realise how far we have come and yet how we are still so fiercely connected. Sometimes you laugh, or talk or shudder as you cry in your dreams and I am glad I am there to hold you through it. When you see someone else snoozing – the cat, your granddad, someone catching some sun in the park – you shush me, Twiglet-sized finger to lips, to make sure I know to be quiet.

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You love coconut water, chorizo and asparagus and while I didn’t have a lychee until I was in my twenties, you devour them like air miles are of no consequence. Despite your exotic tastes, Philadelphia is a pre-requisite at every meal. You have your own chair and table and are keen to be independent, telling me ‘off’ when you want to do something by yourself, insistent in being the master of your own fork.

Your ability to show empathy is emerging and at 18 months old you are more instinctively nurturing with a fake baby where many grown adults fail to show the same aptitude with a real one. You like the real ones too mind, and stroke other children’s heads and call them ‘baby’ even when they’re older than you. You are persevering in your attempt to befriend Sgt Pepper (the cat) but it is an unrequited love so you have learnt to mime a stroke and say ‘ahhh’ from a safe distance.


You’ve started role-playing, feeding your dolls and playing tea-party hostess. The gender divide is beginning to make itself known so a train set is next on the shopping list to keep your horizons open. That said, your tea set is the toy du jour and the way you say ‘cuppa tea’ has us FaceTiming family to show off your new trick. These are the faces you know, the ones you instinctively trust, the ones you aren’t upset to be left with because you know when you’re with them that you are their sunshine.


You like washing your hands, have overcome your fear of hand-dryers and enjoy stopping to lie down in the middle of the pavement for no particular reason, even in the rain. Rain, while we’re on the subject, is quite wonderful as far as you’re concerned, for it makes puddles and puddles are endlessly fun.

You run, and run and run. Eventually you look back but then wait it out until I run to you to retrieve you at which point you squeal with delight. We comment almost daily on the growth of your hair and yet you still have the least of your peers although the two white blond curls that have escaped behind each ear are a sign of things to come.


You are familiar with the tube now and get excited when you feel the rush of air that precedes a train’s arrival at the platform. This month you spent an afternoon playing on Trafalgar Square where an American girl gave you a balloon, someone stopped to take photos of your shoes and you enchanted crowds of Japanese tourists. Everyone remarks on your eyes. ‘You could sweep the floor with those eyelashes’; it’s the phrase the midwives said of me to my mum but now it’s true of you too. However, you might find they come in more useful when trying to get out of a parking fine in twenty years time.136jess-eliana-web-sized 89jess-eliana-web-sized

You dance to The Lumineers’ ‘Flapper Girl’ with Papa and every time I watch you I imagine you on your wedding day, dancing together, head still weighing heavy on his shoulder and lips pouting. Your separation anxiety is keen; it is emotionally exhausting for us both, tests me physically and mentally but I know it’s your way of paying me the most sincere compliment. You insist you are the only baby for me and protest loudly if I dare to hold another. In return for my fidelity you shower me with affection; you pick daisies for me, you take food out of your mouth to put in mine, share your raisins with me and whenever you sit on a step, which is every step you come across, you pat the ground next to you to insist I sit by your side. I do, and we chew the fat a while, talking about grazed knees (complete with the necessary kisses better), passing dogs or the colour of the sky.


Your love is limitless, your humour infectious, your mischievousness charming and your curiosity boundless and I hope that stays that way because you are, without exception, the best person I have ever met.


All photos courtesy of the very talented Leanne Jade Photography who knows a thing or two about bringing out the best in kids. Please do not reproduce without permission.







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