By Alexia Saoulli
Before my twins were born, someone gave me a set of cards as a baby gift that I could use to write down their key milestones. Things like their first words, or when they got their first tooth, or took their first steps etc.
Then, as they got older, I remember my mum telling me to make a note of some of the cute things they did or said because I’d forget them as the years went by. She said my paternal grandmother had told her to do the same about my siblings and me but that she never had.
But, when they were first born, I was too exhausted and shell shocked to think about anything other than making it to their next feed, which was on the hour every hour. The only thing I did do was take a voice recording of them feeding, which at the time I thought was the cutest sound I’d ever heard.
Their first tooth came and went. I’m not even sure when that was. I vaguely remember it being around the four- or five-month mark and them having a case of explosive diarrhoea and yet another sleep regression.
By the time they were six and a half to seven months old, they were sitting up unaided because that’s when we started baby-led weaning, which means we skipped the whole pureed food thing and let them feed themselves finger foods right from the start.
They were fascinated with the texture of foods and loved examining a piece of broccoli or a banana from all angles before squidging it in their chubby hands as they tried to manoeuvre it into their mouths.
By the time they were one, they had eaten all sorts of foods including every seasonal vegetable you can think of, olive pies, falafel, pastourma, cherries, curries, fillet steak, pasta, salmon, fried eggs and toast, spaghetti Bolognese, chicken and ham pie, makaronia tou fournou, burgers, sausages, bacon, croissants.
The beauty of eating this way was that it meant we ate as a family right from the start and, although mealtimes were messy, it was more of a social thing, and it meant I didn’t have to prepare separate meals for them and us.
When they became toddlers, we spent all day, every day outdoors. I have quite a lot of video footage from those days but all the cute things they said and did isn’t recorded because you can’t stage spontaneity. Like the time Leonida got bitten by a swan in Hampstead Heath and the time Katerina hit a much older child for picking on her brother.
I also remember the first time I took them to Hyde Park Winter Wonderland. They were two years old, and we used to go every afternoon before Christmas. They were too young to go on any of the rides, but they loved all the lights and the noise. One time, a gentleman offered to give them a free ride and Katerina jumped at the chance. However, he had to stop it because she was sobbing so much. That was the last time either of them asked to go on a ride.
On our way home we’d then stop off at one of the Lebanese takeaways on Edgeware Road. They both absolutely loved tucking into lamb donner kebabs, and by the time we’d get home, their winter snowsuits would be covered in tahini and bits of meat. My husband and I used to empty their pram footmuff in the Heath because there was just so much leftover food in there. The crows would have an absolute field day and eat the lot. When the kids caught wind of the crows enjoying their food, they used to feed them all their corn crackers.
I remember Leonida was obsessed with tractors and called them crackele. Most of them were in Regent’s Park and I would sometimes spend hours trying to find one just so he could watch it, mesmerised.
When we went to ZSL for the first time they were most fascinated with the monkeys and the aquarium, but they wanted to know why the lion looked so sad.
I know they used to say plenty of cute things, but I can’t for the life of me remember them all. Gloves were glubs, cheeks were chinks, pockets were ckopets, I was Mama Sia, Sheeraz was Baba Shaz, Katerina was Nina and Leonida was Dida, their cousin Matilda was Teetee, their Auntie Sibel was Apple, my mum became Gagou because they could say Papou, but they couldn’t manage Granny, so they dubbed her Gagou.
My kids are now five and a half and I don’t have a written record of any of it. And there’s much I don’t remember. Some days I panic and think to myself, ‘Oh no, what have I done? What stories will I have to tell them when they are older?’ Then other times, I remind myself that they do cute things every single day and that if I were writing things down, there would be no end to it. I remind myself that it’s better to be fully present and to enjoy them, in the here and now, than to be worrying about making a record for the future.
So often in life we worry about tomorrow, that we forget to live in today. Better to be excited for what’s to unfold in the present day than to always be looking back. Having said that, I do enjoy looking over my old photos and videos because it brings back so many fond memories and reminds me of all our adventures together during those very early years.