I like to sum up the year for you, boys; but this year I really struggled with where to begin. When future history students come to study 2016, things will have been tidied up and put into context. Crucially, they will know what happened next; whereas right now, well we have no idea. We know what we think, but we don’t know whether that will put us on the right or wrong side of history.
This was the year that millions of people went off to bed feeling hopeful, and woke up completely stunned by the events they saw unfolding. Twice.
It was the year that we voted to leave the European Union, that the Prime Minister resigned, that the opposition fell to pieces; and that, whilst the whole premise behind leaving the EU was the prospect of ‘taking back control’, the country felt completely out of control. It was the year that people knew what you meant if you referred to yourself as one of the 48% or one of the 52%. It was the year that we realised the country was completely divided, and no-one had any ideas on how to move us forward.
It was the year that the USA voted in as President a man who, during his campaign, promised among other things to ban all Muslims from travelling to America.
It was the year that we saw more and more images of villages, towns and cities that had been totally annihilated. Pictures of desperate people of all ages just seeking a safe shelter. It was the year that we would remind ourselves to be grateful that we had safe shelter.
And then every few weeks (or so it seemed) another major cultural icon passed away. Singers, actors, funny people, wise people, interesting people. All gone, in this extraordinary year. As a backdrop to all of this, the Queen turned 90, England lost to Iceland in the Euros, Rio hosted the Olympics – all of those things seem like trivialities against everything else and are easy to forget.
Of course normal life went on too, although there were also major changes on our doorstep. Our normality consisted of school runs, swimming lessons, days out, after school meltdowns, ‘please get your shoes on‘ and ‘please keep your bottom on your chair‘. We managed our first holiday abroad as a family of 5 – it wasn’t without incident, but we did it; and we’d love to do it again….. if we can get any Euros for our pounds that is. Days out suddenly seemed much more manageable, and we could zip around London on the tube without having to battle with a giant twin pushchair. For us as a family, it was a big year.
Eldest boy – you are 6, and 2016 was the year that you……
- continued to develop your love of lists, maps, figures and information.
- found your group of friends. For the first time you would come home from school having played with the same children most days.
- gained a ‘best friend’. You watch her doing handstands and cartwheels; she listens to you talking about clouded leopards and imaginary cities. It works well.
- finally discovered football, thanks to the Euros. You have a go at playing, but putting your foot to the ball isn’t your greatest skill. You have, though, discovered that with football come all sorts of facts and stats. Players’ heights, their dates of birth, club locations which can then be cross-referenced with maps – you happily spend hours poring over such information.
- continued your discovery of the world, thanks largely to your wonderful Lonely Planet Travel book. In particular, you developed a real interest in life expectancies – not the most obvious interest for a 6 year old, but you love to work out how long various members of the family would have left if we all happened to move to Monaco.
- asked with tears in your eyes why we were leaving the EU – it just didn’t tally with the way you saw the world.
- made your way through a phenomenal number of chapter books – Humphrey the Hamster, Mr Gum and the Treehouse series are all current favourites. I listen to you giggling away, and I love it.
- decided that Maths is your favourite subject. Your love of maths manifested itself with your new interest in dates, years, and particularly working out someone’s year of birth based on their age or vice-versa.
- discovered the computer – looking at Google Maps, plotting bar charts of life expectancies, writing your own school newsletter. You find joy in the most unexpected things.
- pored over train timetables, and planned your own extensive train routes. Corby, Kettering, Carlisle and Leighton Buzzard all have excellent new services planned; timetables and all.
4 year olds, 2016 was the year that you……..
- continued to develop your role play skills: ‘Mummies, Daddies and babies‘, ‘doggy and man‘, ‘Station Officer Steele and Elvis‘. Every day sees you taking on different parts. Sometimes we get parts too. It is brilliant to watch, and exhausting to be part of.
- embraced fancy dress, which enhanced the above.
- developed the concentration to sit through a film, play a game, or do a puzzle. Not all the time, but you are getting there.
- started to draw actual things rather than furious scribbles. You were the first, Twin 1 – my level of excitement was totally disproportionate when you drew your first ever person.
- started school and surprised me by taking it all in your stride. The opposite to your big brother, school for you is a social whirl – I can’t keep up with all the names you mention. You come home grubby and usually too exhausted to be pleasant to me…. I can just about deal with it, and am ridiculously proud of how you have embraced your new routine.
- began to hold your pens properly and learnt how to write your names. This has taken some doing.
- realised that children’s television does not begin and end with CBeebies and Peppa Pig. CBeebies is now of limited interest, and we have all but said goodbye to Peppa. Snort. 2016 was all about Fireman Sam, Paw Patrol, Thomas, Minions and Wallace & Gromit.
- embraced the superhero culture in which big brother never showed any interest. Captain America, Hulk, Iron Man, Spiderman are all now very much part of your lives.
- Twin 1 you continued to put 100% into absolutely everything – your cuddles, your laughter, your running, and your rages. You go at everything full throttle. Your dream is to visit Portugal. And to be a chimney sweep.
- Twin 2 you are stubborn, affectionate, and eager to please. When you’re feeling co-operative you love being helpful, particularly in the kitchen. Shy, but at the same time a little performer – I keep wondering whether you might enjoy drama classes. Your dream is to visit China. Obviously.
This time last year, I couldn’t have imagined what 2016 would bring us. But this year has taught me that there are many things which may be hugely important to us but over which we have very limited control. As we move into 2017, what I want to say to you boys is this – be kind, have the confidence to be yourselves, and hold onto your wonderful curiosity about the world and everything in it.
Happy New Year, and here’s hoping that 2017’s summary will be a bit more straightforward x