A new year approaches and, as ever, a blogger’s mind turns towards producing reviews of 2017 to serve as post-Christmas ‘filler’ before ramping up again for 2018.
So before we wave goodbye to the old and hello to the new, here are ten of my favourite posts from the 120-odd I have written this year. They’re a mix of some of my most popular posts and personal favourites which cover the breadth of topics I write about. So you’ll find everything from a post about Taylor Swift to, er, another post about Taylor Swift. In between you’ll find reflections on parenting life, terrorism, individuality and the unmitigated disaster that was my first attempt at Facebook Live. Oh, and one of my parody songs – because no blogging year is complete without one.
So, in the style of Friends episode titles, let’s start with …
1. The one about not being Taylor Swift
Most of us can (just about) carry a tune at a local karaoke night. But that doesn’t mean we’re one break away from being the next Taylor Swift.
The reality is that not every blogger can be a huge success and earn enough to make a full-time living. That’s just not how life works. But even if we’re never going to be to blogging what Taylor Swift is to the music world, that’s okay. Success is whatever we define it to be. We can be good on our own terms.
2. The one about terrorism
Are we ready to set aside the presumption of innocence that is the most basic tenet of our legal system and detain thousands of people without just cause? Personally I’m not.
Three weeks after the terrorist bombing in Manchester, I put finger to keyboard again in response to the London attacks on June 3rd. Terrorism is a horrible, calculated act designed to provoke fear and outrage. An extreme and simplistic knee-jerk reaction is rarely the best solution – and yet that’s what so many people call for in the aftermath of something like this. No. Just no.
3. The one about birthdays
Be yourself. Now more than ever … It took me too long to learn that lesson for myself.
I still can’t quite believe that our eldest, Isaac, turned ten earlier this month. He has changed – and continues to change – so much. In my annual birthday letter to him I summed up what has been at times a challenging year but one where he continued to grow and develop.
4. The one about responding to death
Grief is not a simple, linear process. It’s not so much a gentle train ride as tiptoeing unsteadily along a tightrope … and then falling off just when you think you’ve got it sorted.
Toby didn’t show much reaction to the death of Heather’s mother at the start of the year – at least not initially. But when the emotions did hit him, it was a reminder of how difficult death – and the realisation of your own mortality – can be for a young child to process.
5. The one where it all went wrong
There are moments in life when you just want the ground to open up and swallow you whole.
I’ve always been more comfortable with audio than video. My first attempt at doing a Facebook Live was a case study in everything that can possibly go wrong. Even so, it hasn’t put me off trying again.
6. The one where I was dead
Take the best lessons your mum and I had to teach you and use them to be more than just the sum of the two of us. Be more. Be you.
I took on an interesting challenge: writing a letter to my children from the perspective of having just died. How to sum up all my thoughts and feelings in a few hundred words? What advice to give them? This is what I came up with.
7. The one about individuality
Different is not wrong. Different can be good. Different can be great. Who wants to live in a world where the only flavour of ice cream is vanilla?
We live in a time when we are increasingly taught to fear or distrust anyone who is different to us. We are encouraged to seek the safety of the crowd and to deal out mob justice to those who refuse to conform to accepted norms. But why? I don’t want our kids to grow up as carbon copies of us. I want them to explore their own individuality without fear of consequences. Who wants to be the same as everyone else anyway?
8. The one about being #FamousNotFamous
I know I’m not a bad writer. But equally I’m not a bad driver either and no one is going to mistake me for Lewis Hamilton.
I’m not good at handling praise. It’s partly a self-confidence issue and partly recognising that I will never be one of blogging’s big stars. But that’s okay. And having your ego stroked every now and then never did anyone any harm …
9. The one about my daughter
She does more than just occupy the fifth seat at the table – she fills our lives with her infectious laughter, her playfulness and, yes, her diva strops.
We nearly stopped at two children but Heather persuaded me to try for a third. Now I can’t imagine family life without Kara in it. She’s not a piece of the puzzle; she’s the final piece of it. It’s only when she stayed with her grandparents for a few days that I realised how empty our house feels without her.
10. The other one about not being Taylor Swift
So I went to bed too late, late, late, late, late
Now the kids just want to play, play, play, play, play
Baby, I just wanna make, make, make, make, make
Make it stop, make it stop
I started with Taylor Swift so let’s finish with her too. In 2017, I added 11 new parodies to what will one day be a best-selling compilation of parenting songs. (Yeah, right.) This version of Shake It Off isn’t my favourite one of the year – that would be my parody of the Pet Shop Boys’ It’s A Sin – but it was my most popular and also the one that made me laugh the most.
So there you have it: my top ten posts of 2017. Which was your favourite? And if you have written a post or article of your own that is your personal favourite, let me know.