My best buy during my time on maternity leave with Adrian was my shopping trolley from IKEA. I wouldn’t call it life-changing, and it doesn’t rank quite as high on the awesomeness scale as baby slings, but it made a big difference: it let me get things done with a lot more ease.

Now that I am back at work, transporting kids and things is still a major part of everyday mothering. This season the challenge has grown because they need to go to different places: Adrian is still at nursery but Ingrid goes to school. Ingrid transports herself, really, but she is not old enough to do it all on her own, so I get to do a lot of walking.

On a normal Friday afternoon I spend just about two hours walking back and forth across Spånga. Train station, school, other school, nursery, supermarket, other school, home.

Spånga is full of hills, and this has been a rainy autumn. So this season’s best buy is a rain coat. Not a waterproof jacket but a proper coat in rubberized nylon that reaches down to my knees and keeps me drier than an umbrella. Just like the trolley, it is not life-changing but it makes daily life a lot easier. No more struggling to push a stroller up a steep hill with one hand, while holding my umbrella with the other (and a bag of groceries with the third).

A lot of mothering seems to boil down to having enough hands. I’ll buy anything that frees up a hand or two.

Ingrid and I made chestnut critters this year again.

Back row, from the left: Rabbit, giraffe, snow man.
Front row: Elephant, hedgehog, six-legged dog, space alien looking for a hug.

This was the month of will and wanting – and not wanting. The two most commonly occurring words in Adrian’s vocabulary are min (my, mine) and inte (not).

Well, Adrian’s min does not really mean “mine”. In reality I believe it covers a wide range of meanings, from the actual “mine” through “I want to have this thing” to “I like this thing”.

When I pick him up at nursery, he proclaims min mamma! to everyone who ventures close, and holds on to me just in case they intend something sneaky. Also min vagn! (stroller) and min macka! (sandwich).

Other people’s mums are important, too, and he points out all his friends’ mums and dads when we run into them. Hanna, our friends’ daughter who is just two days older than Adrian, is his best friend. He always greets her happily when she comes to nursery in the morning, shows off his Pippi shirt, says Hanna kom! and drags her off to some activity. He almost always points out her house when we pass it.

At meal times at home there is a lot of min mumin!, meaning “I want my Moomin plate and cup”. He got a set of Moomin tableware for his birthday and now effectively refuses to use anything else. As the bowl gets emptier and the design at the bottom becomes visible, he happily points out the characters.

Pippi is his favourite character, in all shapes and forms. He would wear his Pippi shirt every day if he could, he loves the Pippi books and movies, and he adores the Pippi song. At Ingrid’s birthday party, after we had sung Ja må hon leva for Ingrid, the whole family sang the Pippi song for Adrian. He was overjoyed.

But he’s a fan of various other branded characters as well – not only Moomin but also Bamse and Barbapapa. He has a Bamse t-shirt which is his second best after his Pippi shirt; he asks for Barbapapa clips on Youtube. The only characters I know he doesn’t care about is Teletubbies. He seems bored by them.

Another favourite brand is the jingle for SF, the Swedish movie studio behind the Pippi movies as well as all the other film adaptations of Astrid Lindgren books.

inte comes and goes in waves. Sometimes it seems like all he can say is inte. He can say inte macka! (“not sandwich!”) and at the same time take the sandwich he is offered and bite into it with gusto. He can walk around mumbling inte inte inte to himself.

Nappy changes are almost always inte. He hated them so much that we’ve switched from cloth nappies to disposable ones. Brushing teeth and brushing hair is sometimes OK and sometimes a fight. He often has very strong opinions about clothing, wants this set of pyjamas and not that, this hat and not that. He likes his rubber boots and a soft stripy jersey hat with a fleecy inside (which Ingrid also loved for years, and only gave up because she outgrew it).

Usually he is relatively sensible about his clothes, so I let him choose. Once we’re outside and he realizes that his choice may not have been ideal, he has no trouble admitting that and putting on more clothes. Sometimes he wears less than I would, but he doesn’t seem cold. But he’s not at all as warm-blooded as Ingrid, who could cycle home from nursery in her indoor clothes in +5°C. Adrian always wants at least a fleece when we go outside.

I guess he gets to hear a fair amount of inte at nursery. I sometimes hear him repeat phrases like inte knuffas and inte bitas – “no pushing”, “no biting”.

Other phrases that Adrian has picked up from nursery: illa dig där (“hurt yourself there”), låt det vara (“leave that alone”).

There is also a lot of flytta på dig and akta på dig (“move over”, “get out of the way”) which could come from nursery but he may well have picked those up from Ingrid as well. For him they seem to mean “this thing is in my way” – he can say flytta på dig! to a chair that is blocking his way when he tries to push his step stool to the kitchen counter.

The nursery staff tell me that he is always very busy during the day. He wants to do everything that the others are doing. When three kids around him are doing three different things, he wants to do all of these. There is a lot of rushing around, trying to keep up. And he is so frustrated when he cannot manage to do everything that the slightly older kids do.

Adrian likes and/or notices sounds, and often points them out to me. Låter! he says when an airplane flies past, or we pass some loud machinery, or hear a neighbour’s chainsaw in the distance.

He has started to play with his food. A piece of bread will often become a car that drives around the edge of his plate, or a boat, or a crocodile (when the slice of bread looked like jaws after he’d taken a big bite out of it).

But the playing rarely distracts him from eating – unlike Ingrid, I have to say. She can get so lost in her daydreams or playing that she totally forgets to eat. Adrian has been eating quite a lot, although his diet is not much more varied than it used to be.

Anything that looks unfamiliar gets flat out refused. It’s the looks that matter: I can make courgette fritters which consist of maybe 85% courgette, 10% egg and 5% flour, but they look like pancakes, therefore they are pancakes, and thus edible.

Most veggies he refuses. He eats peas and sweetcorn (and calls both of them corn) and that’s about it. But he eats most fruits and berries. He eats raspberries but refuses bell peppers and tomatoes which can taste much sweeter.

He is almost always hungry when I pick him up at nursery, because they don’t let him eat whatever he wants. For their mid-afternoon snack, for example, the kids get one flatbread each, and after that they can have as much crispbread as they want. Adrian likes soft bread much better than crispbread, so he goes hungry instead. And sometimes he probably doesn’t eat much at lunch, either. I often hand him a sandwich as soon as we’re off, or we go straight to the supermarket to buy bananas.

He is also hungry early in the morning. I stopped feeding him at night about six weeks ago. After several weeks he was generally sleeping well all night, but he kept waking at around 5 or 5:30 every day. He’d cry and just could not go back to sleep for a long time. Some days we had to get up at 5:30, other days he fell asleep again after a long while. Eventually I figured out that he might actually be hungry (duh) and I started nursing him again at that time. Now he wakes, feeds, and goes back to sleep, all within 10 minutes. During the rest of the night I refuse, and he has no trouble accepting that.

I took away his dummy during daytime and that has generally worked pretty well. During the first couple of days he was immensely upset. He screamed all the way from nursery to Ingrid’s school (that used to be a time when he would always suck on the dummy). But after a couple of days he forgot that habit, and now there is no screaming at all on the way home, and not much during other times either. Generally he has been taking it very well. Only sometimes when he is really upset about something, he wants a dummy to console himself. But he has been nursing more in the afternoon, replacing the rubber nipple with the real thing.

He likes numbers and counting. He can “count” to four (in both languages I believe) but I don’t think he really understands anything above two. It’s just like a kind of a verse.

Ingrid discovered that she can calm him by counting: one day on our way home from school he was upset about something, and she just started counting for some reason – “one, two, three…”. At around four he became quiet. When she reached ten and stopped, he was all calm, and didn’t start up again. She tried it again this evening when Adrian wanted to nurse while I wanted to finish my dinner: she counted slowly to ten, which kept him calm so that I could finish eating. A very cool trick, I have to say.

We’ve reached a point where Ingrid sometimes understands him better than I do. It used to be that I had to tell Ingrid how to interact with him, to tell her that he doesn’t seem to like this or that. Now she notices behaviours and reactions that I don’t, and comes up with tricks and ideas that I wouldn’t even think of.

This was the month of waiting for the birtday. Really Ingrid has been looking forward to the birthday for way more than just one month – already during summer she was telling me how she was looking forward to autumn because that’s when her birthday is. But now the longing was intense, and so was the planning.

Many weeks in advance she was already planning what games she would play with her friends, and what activity they would do to get the goodie bags, and whom she would invite, and where they would sit, and so on. Some of the plans were quite fixed early on, while others kept changing.

She wrote party invitations for her friends and decorated them with foam stamps. We walked and cycled to the friends’ homes to put the invites in their letter boxes. For two of them we had to send the invites by post (because they live in apartments and the front doors are locked), and for these she wrote out the addresses herself, and then put the letters in the post.

Interestingly (to me) the focus was all on the friends and activities, and not at all on the presents. This was not the case last year, when she had a long wish list of presents. (Or maybe that was for Christmas? Same same.)

Friends are important to her. Or rather, her peer group is important to her. It used to be that she cared about a small number of friends that she played with. Now she seems to be more aware of being part of a group, and looking up to older kids, I guess.

In particular, she is picking up new speech patterns from school: things that others say, that sound cool, that she uses without quite understanding them. There’s lots of “gud va”: gud va bra, gud va kallt det är, gud va gott, and I’ve even heard some occasional “shit va” as well as one “fett bra”. (After that one she stopped and wondered out loud, What does that actually mean?) Things, objects, are often den här dumma x, “this stupid x” (bag, bicycle, …)

When she talks about her day at school, she usually tells me what they ate, what special Friday activities they did, and (when applicable) what body part she hurt or who hit whom. Otherwise they just “did stuff”. I am glad for the weekly newsletters from school – this way I have at least some idea about what they do all day long.

The class seems to have a “self” theme/project at school, which they’ve used across subjects: they’ve done several kinds of self-portraits, had a homework assignment where they answered questions about their favourites (colour, food, activity), measured themselves and compared their current height to their height when they were born (hanging paper tapes of the right length side by side on the wall) etc.

We the parents got to see some of the results of these projects during a parent/teacher meeting some weeks ago. Looking at the paper tapes I saw that Ingrid was the 2nd shortest in her class. Looking at her self-portrait I saw that she can be quite observant in her drawing, not depicting herself as a cookie cutter girl with a triangular dress and long eyelashes. She had drawn her actual clothes that day, and a proper body-shaped body, and the face too. But then within a week of this she also drew her family, with stick-shaped men and triangle-shaped women. Easier that way, I guess, especially when she cannot actually look at as and has to draw from memory.

Ingrid herself was not too happy with the result – the nose looked wrong, she said. This is pretty representative of how she judges her own achievements right now: if it isn’t perfect, she is unhappy. Never mind that the self-portrait is otherwise really carefully done – the nose isn’t just right so she’s “no good at this”. Never mind that she is the only one in her class to read and write fluently – she struggles with her spelling in Estonian (her 2nd language) so she is “no good at this”. I keep telling her that she is doing great, that school is for learning, so it is all about doing things you can’t quite do yet.

Yes, she is now also getting Estonian lessons at school. Every Friday afternoon she has a one-hour lesson together with two Estonian boys. Their tasks are adapted to their skill levels; Ingrid has been writing – once it was the names of body parts, once parts of a house. So it’s both vocabulary and spelling practice. Estonian spelling is simple but the letter sounds are not the same as in Swedish – Ingrid;s first attempt at spelling “juuksed” came out as “joksed”.

Speaking of languages, I suspect that she knows way more English than we get to hear. On one occasion she quoted The Great Mouse Detective at us: “Guards! Seize this despicable creature!” But she can also construct grammatically correct sentences of her own: one morning she said something, and unfortunately I forget what it was, but roughly like “I was just drinking some milk”, with the correct word order and tense and everything.

In the afternoon, after school, she still usually watches a movie or plays with the iPad. She has learned to play Reversi and can actually manage Field Runners, a “tower defense” type of game, too. She’s also had enough persistence to learn Tiny Wings, which is a game that takes some practice before you can really play it.

The evening ends with a fixed bed time. It is semi-fixed, or perhaps you can call it blackmailing: if she is in bed by the time we’ve set, we will read a story for her; she can stay up later if she really is not tired but then there will be no story. In practice she stays up until the bedtime we set, on the minute: she really doesn’t want to go to bed but she really wants a story, too. Recently she’s had trouble getting up in the morning so we moved bedtime forward by 30 minutes: now screen time ends at 8 and she goes to bed at 8:30.

She has been sucking her thumb when falling asleep until now. I told her she was too old for that, and she stopped doing it on the day of her birthday, so two nights ago. These two nights she’s been sleeping with a glove on her sucking hand. It seems to be pretty easy for her, which neither she nor I had expected.

On the nights when she has trouble calming down and going to sleep, she likes me to rub her back or her tummy. When she really cannot calm down, I take her through a relaxation exercise, going through all the parts of her body, relaxing them, making them heavy and warm and limp and dark.

Ingrid is still quite rule-oriented in her thinking, and wants things to happen the same way they happened before. She wants to play the same game in the same situations: the “letter game” (I Spy) on car and train journeys; the “humming game” (where we take turns humming a song and the other has to guess which song it is) while cycling home from school.

Likewise she tries to recreate happy situations from the past by repeating important-seeming elements of them. She wanted the goodie bags at her birthday to be handed out by a pirate “like at Elin’s party”. She wanted to have dinner at a local restaurant on her birthday, because her preschool class went there for their “graduation” lunch. (We did both, and I think she was happy with the outcomes.)

(In Sweden it is traditional for everybody to stand up while singing Ja må hon leva, while the person whose birthday it is remains seated. Kids stand on their chairs.)

Adrian looks tired. I ask him, shall we go sleep?
He checks, tiss? (“nurse?”)
Yes, I say, we’ll nurse before sleeping.
“Nurse sleep!” he shouts and happily runs toward the dresser to put on his pyjamas.
Then he shouts “Brush teeth!” and when we’re done with that, “wave?”
Yes, of course, go wave good night to daddy and Ingrid.
“Good night Ingrid! Good night pappa! Good night iPad!”

When you see a piece of clothing in a shop and immediately think wow, this is exactly what I have been hoping to find, this is it! and then you look at the price tag and realize that it is about 3 times more expensive than the most expensive item of clothing you have ever bought. Then you decide to try it on anyway, just because – and you realize that it looked much better on the hanger than on you.