I seem to say this every year but where have the last 12 months gone? In looking back over 2014, a lot seems to have happened in our family’s little world, from new jobs (me) to new schools (Toby) and a whole host of stuff both big and small in between. From the 100-plus posts I’ve written on this blog over the course of the year, here are ten of my favourites.
1. A letter to me
When I started writing this letter I thought I’d be jealous of you. That I would envy the life I used to have – the life you currently have. And yet I look at my three kids, and the reality is I’m not jealous at all. I love being a dad, and you will too.
I’ve written several posts this year in the form of letters to someone. At the risk of sounding narcissistic, my favourite of all is a letter I wrote to myself seven years previously, just before I knew I was about to become a father for the first time. It won Blog Post of the Year in this year’s LoveAllDads Awards, so I guess it struck a chord with other people too.
2. A letter to Kara
You, my daughter, are strong-willed (for which read ‘stubborn’), determined (for which read ‘stubborn’) and won’t take no for an answer (you get the idea). But you’re also affectionate, cuddly and have a smile which lights up a room and never fails to melt my heart.
On Kara’s second birthday, at a time when she seemed to be changing dramatically with every passing week, I recorded a snapshot of the girl she was at that moment – a mental picture of how she will always be to me in my mind’s eye.
3. A letter to Isaac
I look at you and I still see the tiny baby you were. But I also see the growing boy you are now. And I can glimpse the fine young man I know you will become.
Isaac turned seven earlier this month. I’m constantly amazed by how quickly those years have passed and by what an incredible young man he’s already becoming. No matter how inadequate I feel as a father sometimes, I can look at him and know that, on the whole, I must have done something right. I can’t wait for him to grow up and yet I want him to stay exactly how he is now.
4. The other brother
I see in the way Isaac is with Toby how things might have been for me with Michael. What might have been.
This post was three years and a dozen drafts in the writing. I could never find the words to talk about the brother I never had the chance to grow up with, until one night the words suddenly flowed from my fingers and this was the result. I don’t generally write posts with other people in mind, but this piece more than any other was one that I needed to write for my own catharsis.
5. Kids growing up
As parents who have spent virtually every waking moment of the last 6½ years dealing with incessant requests for entertainment, snacks and ceasefire/peace negotiations, I cannot begin to say how much of a relief it is to have even a few minutes’ downtime.
Over the past few months we have passed an important milestone – the first time in nearly seven years that we haven’t had to worry about having a non-toilet trained child in the house. With all three children now past the 2½-year-old mark, we’re starting to reap the benefits of not having to monitor every move every minute of the day. And while older kids present a whole new set of challenges, we’re enjoying this temporary hiatus in stress while it lasts!
6. The day before the first day at school
It’s not about where you go or what you do but about who you’re with and knowing what will please them the most.
I took a day’s holiday to celebrate Toby’s last day before starting primary school. We didn’t do much but we did what he wanted and he had my undivided attention for the day. It’s one of the best one-on-one days I’ve ever had with any of my kids, and it was a reminder to me that you don’t have to go big on days out to make kids happy.
7. What am I?
The simple pleasure of watching letters and words flow from my fingertips and coalesce into something I can share with others is something that is difficult to explain to those who have never felt it.
I’m not normally one for existential navel-gazing or caring too much about what other people think of what I write, but I did take some time out to ponder whether or not I’m right to consider myself a writer as well as a blogger. The answer? Yes.
8. A girl growing up fast
We won’t ever again go through the joys (and challenges) of having a freshly minted newborn or a crawler or a toddler. No more night-time feeds. No more cooing over first words. No more potty training.
Kara’s growing up so fast that I wanted to collect more memories of what I love about her now. So I did.
9. Learning from our mistakes
Without risk we would not make mistakes. Without mistakes we would have fewer opportunities to learn. Without learning we would not progress. Without any of these, we would not have cars or electricity or the internet or The Great British Bake-Off.
When Isaac got upset about making one mistake when showing off a new maths skill, it gave me pause to think about the danger of putting so much emphasis on achievement and the importance of supporting our children when they make mistakes. It’s when we get things wrong that we learn the biggest lessons, and how kids learn to deal with failure has a big influence on how fully they go on to realise their potential.
10. Just a few minutes more
Given the choice between crawling out of bed and snuggling up to my daughter for a few minutes first – well, it’s an easy one.
Why staying in bed for a few extra minutes to cuddle my daughter is worth all the additional delays getting to work that inevitably result.