The only sober one at the party (Or…..me, attempting to put exhausted children to bed)

There you are on the bathroom floor, spinning around on your back. Your little break-dancing move. Naked obviously; and shouting ‘Tickets please!‘ This is one of the funniest things In The World. Your brother can hardly contain himself, he is laughing so much. And once you’ve both had enough of that one, you move on to ‘You like CO-CO?’, which apparently is even funnier.

And here I am once again – the only sober person at the party; wondering what everybody else is finding so funny. Desperate to get this job done, because I know how long it all takes when you reach this slightly hysterical level of tiredness.

For the 28th time, I ask you to stand up and perhaps put your pyjamas on, but apparently this is too difficult. You can’t do it, you are too tired……’TOO TIRED’, you say…….‘Tickets please! Haaaahaaaaheeeeheeeee, you are soooooo funny. And I am sooooooooooo funny. Aren’t I, mummy? Weeeeeeeeee! Look at me spinning mummy. You like CO-CO?’

There are a few obvious differences between attempting to get my overtired children into bed and being the only sober person dealing with a drunken band of friends. You boys are smaller. You don’t smell of beer. Your language is clean and innocent.

But……well, there are some striking similarities too.

Standing up on two feet is just not possible, and so asking you to do it is, obviously, totally unreasonable. You can’t do it, you need help. ‘NEEEEEED HELLLLP!’ When I eventually manage to get you upright, you rock around unsteadily on those little feet of yours. You spin, rock, jump, hop, balance on one leg – anything rather than stand still.

Your already limited co-ordination skills have shut down for the day – the straightforward-sounding task of putting your pyjamas on has you totally flummoxed. I mean, you just can’t find them, to start with…..those pyjamas that mummy told you she was putting down right there……right in front of you. ‘I CAN’T FIND MY PYJAMAS! ……But I didn’t KNOW, mummy….You didn’t tell me where they WERE!’ But you’ve found them now which is a relief. Phew. And you get on with putting the trousers on your head and the top on like it’s a skirt. This is almost as funny as ‘You like CO-CO?‘ Obviously you have just about enough energy to run around and show everyone your new look pyjamas….before needing to flop back on the floor again.

You require constant direction, as if I’m having to walk you home. If I take my guiding hands off you for a moment, you are wandering aimlessly with no idea of where you are going or what your current task is. You require constant reminders of what it is you are supposed to be doing – ‘come on, stay with me, let’s stay on task. Remember what we’re doing. We’re brushing our teeth…..BRUSHING OUR TEETH. You don’t need to wander into your brother’s room to BRUSH YOUR TEETH. And you can’t do it while you’re lying on the floor either. Let’s get back into the bathroom and brush our teeth, shall we. Remember we’re trying to stand on TWO feet, we don’t need to do balancing right now.

You talk jibberish and burst into song out of nowhere…… and if a tired mummy who really wants to get you to bed isn’t the best audience you’ve ever had; well no matter, because you know that one or both of your brothers will find it all HILARIOUS. Mummy is so unreasonable at bedtime. Such a fun-spoiler…..I mean, she doesn’t even understand why ‘You like CO-CO?’ is so funny. And she’s always asking you to do unreasonable things like put your pyjamas on or brush your teeth so that you can get into that nice cosy bed. It’s not surprising you get so cross with her, really.

When I say cross, I mean you’re cross with her one minute but giving her a huge spontaneous cuddle the next. Because your mood switches within seconds – from being the fun joker to having a sudden outburst over why you still have your blue toothbrush when you REALLY NEED A NEW ONE! From giving spontaneous cuddles and kisses to suddenly needing to hit and cry and lash out.

The mood swings are sudden and messy and unpredictable; and they remind me just how much you need your beds. Even though you’re doing everything you can to resist.

Later on, when you are all safely tucked up, I pop in and check on you. And then I feel bad for being the fun-spoiler. For always seeming to hurry you along. For constantly asking you to stop this and stop that. I feel guilty that our hour before bed is so fractious and……well, the total opposite of calm and peaceful. But then I look at you fast asleep and realise we’re all ok. You’re in your beds, and that’s where you need to be.

Thankfully, there will be no hangovers for you in the morning. You won’t wake up feeling embarrassed at what happened the night before. You’ll get on happily with your day…..and then you’ll do it all again the next night. With that fun-spoiling mummy, guiding you towards your pyjamas and bed.

‘You like CO-CO?’

Bedtime feet

 

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When Big Ben chimes again

Hello 2021. This is summer 2017.

I wanted to write a little note because, according to the news this week, 2021 is when we will next hear Big Ben chime out across London…..apart from very special occasions, that is. And whilst the silencing of Big Ben really isn’t that big a deal in the grand scheme of things, things like this do make me stop and think about time. So as we listened to the (mainly Big Ben related) news a few days ago, and confused little boys struggled to understand why Big Ben was chiming constantly on the radio when it wasn’t supposed to be chiming any more; I kept thinking about what life will look like 4 years from now. In 2021.

In 2021, I will have an 11 year old and two 9 year olds. I find this almost impossible to imagine.

In 2021 we will, apparently, be out of the EU. I find this almost impossible to imagine too.

And in 2021 I will be 41 going on 42…….and probably still talking about what I’d like to be when I’m a proper grown up.

I suspect our lives will be very different the next time we hear Big Ben ring out, so I wanted to try and capture a bit of us now; in the summer of 2017.

We are in what I’m sure I will look back on as a rather blissful, innocent stage free from the pressures that things like mobile phones and gaming can bring. Our house is full of Lego, fancy dress, books, games, cars, trains and dinosaurs; all of which still keep you boys happily occupied. Something tells me this won’t be the case in 2021, and just the thought of navigating the pre-teen landscape makes me anxious.

You are also still, thankfully, at an age at which you enjoy being with your parents …..most of the time at least. And when spending time with your parents isn’t quite exciting enough, thankfully spending time with your grandparents is just about the best thing imaginable.

Summer 2017 has flown by. We holidayed in beautiful Pembrokeshire, you boys spent a happy week on a performing arts summer school; we have wandered through woods, sat in traffic jams, splashed in splash parks, fed our neighbours’ cats, picnicked in the rain, celebrated birthdays, had some tennis lessons, and generally loved the feeling of freedom that comes with the summer holidays. We have squabbled too….. Squabbled over who gets to open the first packet of cat food, who called who poo, whose turn it is to get the breakfast ready, who gets to sit next to mummy at lunch time, whose turn it is to wear the Iron Man socks and who gets to choose the music in the car. I have frequently wanted to hide away in a dark, quiet corner; made what feels like 20,000 packed lunches, and almost lost the will to live over the twice-a-day battle of getting Twin 2 to brush his teeth rather than simply stand on his head with a toothbrush in his mouth.

The laundry has been never ending. That is one thing that I am pretty sure won’t have changed by 2021. And getting you all out of the house still gives me far more grey hairs than I feel it should. I’m hoping that might change.

But I have also tried to remind myself that you boys won’t want to spend your summer holidays pottering about with me forever. And that these times are hard, yes, but also special.

The time has flown, and yet school feels like a whole world away. We all need to get back into routine, although I’m not sure any of us is ready to quite yet. But we are taking small strides, and this week has largely been about doing little things to prepare for the new term. You, Eldest Boy, are starting Juniors in September, which means new uniform and new equipment for your pencil case. You have been diligently doing your ‘button practice’ every day, in readiness for wearing a shirt rather than polo shirt. The other day you tried on your new uniform, including tie, and suddenly looked about 17. We went stationery shopping too this week, and you then spent much of the rest of the afternoon staring happily at your new pens. You are so proud.

In four years time you will be about to start senior school, so perhaps 2021 will see us doing exactly the same thing. Only time will tell if your enthusiasm, and pride in your pencil case, will remain. I desperately hope so.

You are 118cm tall and have lost four teeth so far. We have just bought new school shoes – size 11.5. Having resolutely stayed the same size for at least 18 months, your feet are finally having a growth spurt. For your birthday we bought you a CD player – you love the independence this gives you and have no idea that actually, no-one really has a CD player anymore. You are beautifully indiscriminate in your music choices and are enjoying going through mummy and daddy’s old CD collection – right now, there is nothing remotely embarrassing about this. David Gray is a current favourite – you are possibly the only 7 year old out there listening to This Year’s Love as you sort through your Match Attax cards.

You are on a mission to get your little brothers to try mushy peas. I am on a mission just to get them to eat peas. Or, in fact, anything green.

Twins 1 and 2, you are 112cm and 114cm tall respectively, with size 10.5 and size 11 feet. You haven’t lost any teeth yet. At the moment, life is all about superheroes, Star Wars, fire engines, your new walkie-talkies and singing ‘I like to move it move it‘. You have moved up to two-wheeled scooters with no problems, but have not quite mastered your new roller boots….. yet. You have loved feeding our neighbours’ cats over the last few weeks and will miss your little summer job hugely now it has come to an end. If it wasn’t for the fact that you have two allergic parents, I would consider getting a cat.

But you do have two allergic parents, so I’m really not.

You are valiantly ploughing through your birthday thank you cards, and it has been an almighty struggle. But you are doing them, and when I think about how far you have come in a year, I am ridiculously proud of your just-about-legible scrawls.

And finally, finally; this summer you got your bunk beds – you have been asking for bunk beds for at least two years now. This week I made the mistake of taking you along to the shop to choose some new bedding and we came home with the most garish Avengers duvet covers imaginable. I really should have known better.

The delay in getting your bunk beds is characteristic of mummy & daddy’s rather sloppy approach to getting anything done in the house. We have needed new blinds for the last 7 years at least, and this summer we finally got round to measuring up and even looking at fabric…..but no further than that. It is entirely possible that we still won’t have our new blinds when Big Ben chimes again. In fact, I am pretty confident that our house will exist in the same state of chaos as it does currently.

But aside from a cluttered house, shabby blinds, and never-ending laundry; I have no idea what our lives will look like in 2021. What you boys might be reading, watching, or listening to. Whether you’ll have realised that CD players are no longer the thing to have. And whether or not you little ones will finally have been convinced to try mushy peas.

But this has been us in summer 2017; and we’ll just have to see where life takes us between now and that very famous bell chiming again.

DSC01548

 

 

 

As you turn 7 and 5 – a birthday post

How many sleeps until our party, mummy? / How many sleeps until our birthday, mummy? / And how many sleeps until MY party, mummy?

This has been the soundtrack in our house for the last couple of weeks at least. Three little boys, with birthdays two days apart – the first being tomorrow.  Piled in the corner of my bedroom are party bags, pass the parcel fillers, presents and cards. There is a giant penguin cake under several sheets of foil in the kitchen, and another cake waiting to be transformed into a space rocket.

Birthday season is well and truly underway – one little boy is approaching 7, and two are approaching 5.

7 and 5.

7 and 5!

I am having a bit of trouble with this one – these ages sound…..well, not grown up; but not really like I still have little ones. In my head, it feels like the baby/toddler years weren’t that long ago, but then when I’m out and I see mums with change bags and prams, mums trying to get babies to sleep, mums heading off to baby massage classes, mums lugging around car seats and mums putting babies in highchairs I realise that yes, we are well and truly in a different stage now.

Part of me still misses the baby and toddler days, but then another part of me loves the ages we are at right now. I feel I spend a lot of time either looking back, feeling apprehensive about the future, or attempting to cling onto the present (only the good bits, obviously).

So this is my attempt to cling onto the right now – little snapshots of you, my three beautiful boys, as you approach 7 and 5.

Eldest boy:

You are: 

Confident in your own quiet way, cautious, determined, hungry for knowledge, routine-loving, easily pleased, inquisitive, uncoordinated; an old-fashioned soul in a fast-moving world.eldest boy reading

You love: 

Books, maps, train timetables, names, lists, dates, football, kings, queens, dates of birth, a family tree, cosy jumpers, a hearty meal, twiddling your hair, school, answers to questions, Christine and the Queens; days at home with a pen in your hand, books and plenty of paper.

You can often be found: 

At a table with a pen and reams of paper, making lists.

Sitting on your bedroom floor surrounded by books.

In the garden playing football with your own running commentary and a list of scores by the door ready to update when necessary.

Likely to say: 

‘I have made up a new train line, mummy. It goes from Chorleywood to Aston Clinton.’

‘I’m going to draw another map of my made up town, North Moor.’

‘How many caps did Luther Blissett get for England, daddy?’

‘I still have quite a bit of my work to do you know, mummy.’ (Your work being your lists, charts, maps and tables – it is never-ending.)

Nightmare scenarios: 

Practising bike-riding. Again.

Not having time to finish your ‘work’.

Special skills: 

Keeping yourself amused.

Plotting train routes.

Inventing towns.

Recalling the dates of birth of family members, the Royal Family, and 85% of Watford FC’s players.

Twin 1:

You are: 

A beautiful, affectionate, eager, sensitive, messy, cuddly whirlwind of emotions. Happy to be looked after, always ready for a cuddle.

Twin 1 climbing

You love: 

Roast potatoes, chipped potatoes, most other potatoes, climbing, dancing, superheroes, big drums, motorbikes, skateboards, funny voices, fast slides, funny faces, cake, biscuits, ice-cream in a cone.

Can often be found: 

Climbing to the top of something.

Likely to say: 

‘Mummy, when can I have a skateboard?……. And what about a surfboard?’

‘I tried peas mummy and I like them. But I am only eating ONE.’

‘Can I have some more roast potatoes, please?’

‘I am NOT tired.’

Nightmare scenarios: 

A grazed knee.

A bowl of greens.

Your very precious skateboard top being in the wash.

Being told there are no more roast potatoes.

Special skills: 

Eating all the roast potatoes.

A continually grubby face, whatever the activity.

Twin 2:

You are:  

Helpful, earnest, observant, loyal, stubborn, growing so so fast, cuddly, affectionate, independent but not keen on being alone, a snazzy dresser; sometimes shy, sometimes a performer…..And absolutely never, ever in any rush. Twin 2 fireman

You love:

Observing your surroundings, parsnips, creepy crawlies, helping with jobs, feeling like a grown up, undivided attention, holding open doors, pulling funny faces, emergency vehicles, fancy dress, dot-to-dots, custard tarts, mummy’s necklaces / watch / rings /  buttons; bow ties, smart hats, flamboyant shirts, doors, locks, hand-dryers, a sensor flush.

Can often be found: 

Still sitting at the table long after everyone else has finished.

Drifting along at the back of a group.

Holding open doors.

Testing out toilet doors / locks / flushing mechanisms and the pedals on sanitary bins.

Likely to say: 

‘But I don’t want to be LAST FOR MY MIIIIILLLLLKKKKK.’

‘Can I help you, mummy?’

‘But I can carry it all by myself!’ 

‘Mummy, do you remember that day when we went to the park and there were three tunnels and we saw a blue bin and two ladybirds and a butterfly?’ 

Nightmare scenarios: 

Being the last one to put milk on your cereal in the mornings.

Being interrupted.

Feeling like you’re not being listened to.

Special skills: 

An incredible eye for detail – you notice everything.

Happily spending an hour over your breakfast.

three boys at the seaside

Happy birthday to you, little ones, as you move into your new, more grown-up sounding ages.

Let’s see what 7 and 5 have in store.

You can go now, mummy

You can you go now mummy”, one of you said, engrossed in your Lego construction.

I thought I had mis-heard, or misunderstood…..I must have done. This wasn’t the way we did things. I am always there until the bell goes and the bell wasn’t going for at least another 5 minutes. At least. I didn’t need to go; you don’t usually want me to go. What about sitting you down on the carpet like I normally do? What about the kisses and cuddles and then waving at the window?

“What do you mean?” I asked.

You can go,” they said…..almost as if they’d agreed this between themselves beforehand. Apparently Boy A’s mummy leaves before the bell, and so does Boy B’s daddy, and….. well, that meant that I was supposed to go too.

For a moment I felt a bit lost…. I didn’t really know what to do with myself. I was convinced that you would soon change your minds, so I aimlessly wandered around the classroom before realising that I looked like a bit of a spare part.

You barely even registered my bizarre behaviour.

I left the classroom feeling like I had left something behind. I peeked through the window but everything was as it should be – you didn’t even look up from your Lego.

Where did this come from, boys? It had felt like a normal morning……Well, mainly normal, but maybe a little bit different too. As we walked the short walk to your school, you shouted across the road to greet your friends – hi to this one, hi to that one. It doesn’t sound like a big thing, but I had never seen you do that before. As I dropped big brother off at his classroom, you both ran after a friend into the playground. You didn’t stand at my side as you normally do, giving shy stares to the other parents around us.

Then you were off again with another friend, racing towards your classroom. You were in the classroom and taking your coats off before I even got there.

There is a special drop-off arrangement for Reception children at your school – us parents can, if we wish, be in the classroom for the first 10 minutes of the day to help you get settled and organised. And so this is what we always did…..up until today, that is.

I always stayed up until the bell rang. I was always there to see where you sit on the carpet and who you sit next to (even though you sit in the same place and next to the same children every day). At least one of you would usually be hanging off my arms or legs; and often there would be a squabble over who got to show me their carpet place first. Once we were ready to say goodbye, I was required to give you several cuddles, kisses, a high-5; and finally wave and blow you kisses through the window.

You were never upset at being left, but this was your routine…..this was what you were used to and what you were happy with. We had done it this way since September. There was no sign, even yesterday, of you being ready for this to change. There was no sign that I was about to hear “you can go now, mummy”.

Is this it now, boys; or was this morning a one-off? Is this the start of your independence? No more hanging off my legs or begging for another cuddle. Are these the words I will hear every school drop off from now on?

“You can go now, mummy.”

I know it is a good thing. I know it is what we all want for our children and what we all need to happen at some point. And I feel proud of this huge step you have taken. Proud of the smiles you both gave me as you reassured me this was what you wanted. Proud of the simple, uncomplicated way you had decided that you wanted to try a new, more grown-up way of doing things.

But at the same time I feel slightly deflated and like I just don’t know what to do with myself for those extra 5 minutes you have just granted me.

And really….. a little bit desperate to feel you both tugging on my limbs just once more.

Adjusting collars

 

School holidays are made for bickering

This year’s Easter holiday was when you perfected the art of telling tales. You had been working on it for a while but this holiday gave you a good couple of weeks to really work on your skills.

He called me poo.”  

“He says he’s not my friend.”

“He called me a BUTLER…….Did you hear me, mummy? He called me a BUTLER and it is NOT funny…….No, I don’t know what a butler is, but he just said it AGAIN.”

“He just TOUCHED me on the HEAD!” 

“He said I don’t know how to do my SEATBELT!”

“He tried to eat my SHOULDER!”

Don’t get the wrong idea, boys – I love having a job which is term-time only. I love not having to worry about childcare over the holidays. I love not having to think about sticking to a timetable. I probably spend around 80% of my work days looking forward to the holidays; I really do. I have grand ideas of things we are going to do during during our long and leisurely days…..We are going to make a pizza from scratch. We are going to make Easter cakes and biscuits. We are going to grow cucumbers (HA!).

I suggest that you write a list of some of the things you’d like to do over the holidays. Not today, you say – you’ll do it tomorrow. The list never gets written…..obviously.

But still, list or no list, we begin the holidays optimistically.  You enjoy the simple things – having time to play in the garden and to re-acquaint yourselves with your toys and books. I am doing my very best Julie Andrews impression – it is exhausting, let me tell you.

By the end week one, I am ready to poke my eyes out.

Apparently you all need to talk at the same time, nobody is able to talk at a normal volume, and everything mummy says has to be repeated at least three times. I wonder how anyone possibly manages to home-school their children. Seriously…..how would you get ANYTHING done?

But at the same time, I know that in a few years you will be doing your own thing during the holidays and I will probably long for these days back again. I won’t long for the fights and the squabbles and the tale-telling; but those bits probably won’t stand out to me as much as the special times. The excitement on your faces when I tell you that we’re gong to stay with your grandparents for THREE WHOLE NIGHTS over Easter. The cuddles and the squeezes and the little hands holding onto mine. Easter crowns, sitting at the front of the bus, picnics at the park, running up and down hills, ice-cream moustaches; and you begging mummy to join you for a game of football.

I know that at some point in the not too distant future, the very idea of mummy playing football with you will be truly horrifying.

The excitement when you, eldest boy, lost one front tooth and then the other a few days later. That beautiful, gappy smile and your eyes twinkling with joy when you found your coin from the tooth fairy.

I know that these days won’t last forever. I know that us tired, flustered parents need to do our best to see through the bickering and the squabbling, and treasure the special moments. And I will treasure them, honestly I will.

But it would help enormously if you could just remember that you are NOT poo (even if a four year old says you are, you’re really not), that despite your squabbles over who gets to choose their cereal first, you are all friends; and that…..well, there are worse things in the world than being called a butler.

boys on the bus

 

 

 

 

 

A twin journey

“I think you need to look at the screen”, said the sonographer. So I finally looked up.

“There’s baby number 1”, she said. “….And there’s baby number 2.”

I hadn’t wanted to look up until then. Because the last time I’d been on that bed, there was an awful silence. One of those silences which is heavy with meaning. One of those silences which means there’s a problem.

And so when I was back on that bed, my head was very deliberately turned the other way.

Baby number 2? …….. Baby number 2?

It took a moment.

There were definitely tears…..tears of panic, really. I was thinking of giant buggies and new cars and the fact that since having baby #1 I had always looked at anyone with twins and thought ‘how on earth is that possible?’

“But we’ve already got one”, I said to the sonographer – as if that piece of information might change things. “What are we going to do?”

“First time is the hardest”, she said. “You’ll find it easier this time.”

That was about five years ago now. It almost feels like a different life.

Since then, I have thought I can’t do this more times than I can count; but also known that I don’t actually have a choice, because I have to do it.

I have felt bewildered, overwhelmed and at times totally inadequate.

I have watched crawling twins, climbing twins and walking twins gain in confidence as they worked out how to get to all the things which had been deliberately put out of their reach…….And I have felt like things were rapidly slipping out of my control.

I have eaten too many sweets, a lot of cake, and tripled my coffee intake.

I have accepted kind words from strangers and tried to stay strong when people have felt the need to be unkind.

I haven’t completed any of the baby journals or scrapbooks that I completed for my eldest boy. Instead there are hospital bands and locks of hair and scan photos strewn casually around the house. Sorry about that, little ones.

I have struggled my way through hundreds of painful, over-tired bedtimes.

I have cried. A lot. Tears of exhaustion, frustration, joy and everything in between.

I have despaired over squabbles about who gets to open the bedroom door first, who gets to go to the toilet first, who gets to wear the Spiderman pyjamas, who gets to choose their cereal first, who gets to wear the stripy hat, who gets to choose the music in the car, who gets to be the one to open the front door on the way out (this is the most coveted job of them all, and is always worth fighting over).

I have felt like the world’s worst referee.

I have spent nights being budged out of my own bed, nights lying on the floor next to small boys’ beds; and too many Sunday mornings trying to convince little ones that 5.30am is just not an acceptable time to start the day.

But there is also this – the fact that you, Baby number 1 and Baby number 2, are now a proper team….. a unit. The fact that, as you get older, you are increasingly able to take comfort and confidence from each other. When I think about your play, your chatter, your day-to-day fun….well, I’m just not particularly important anymore. Apart from for logistics……and snacks, obviously. At four years old, you are now able to cooperate, share and take it in turns – of course you still have your moments, but who doesn’t? The skills are there, and you display them more frequently than you used to. You consult each other on which television programme you should watch next; you arrange to swap hats and trainers. You have got used to always taking someone else into account – sometimes this doesn’t suit you…… of course it doesn’t. But this is your life and you understand that. You are proud of yourselves when you manage to reach a compromise…… I am proud of you too. You organise your play meticulously: it always involves each other and only occasionally involves me – let’s play Fireman Sam and Elvis, let’s play doggy and his owner, let’s play daddy and baby, let’s play cow and farmer.

Frequently I feel like I am talking to myself – you are too busy in your own world to take much notice of me and…..well yes, that can be infuriating. But then when we’re not in a rush, I remind myself to take a moment to watch and listen to the way you talk to each other. The way you manage to work out a compromise. The way you adjust each other’s school uniform. Even just the way you use each other’s names. Because these are the things I know I’ll be desperate to hold onto as you get bigger and my window into your world gets smaller.

‘Impossible’ is what I used to say about having twins.

It isn’t impossible, as long as you adjust what you expect of yourself.

But the struggle to hear myself think, the feeling that nothing is being done quite as well as it should be, and the physical exertion required to get two small children of the same age through the most basic tasks…..well, somehow it all seems worth it when you see your twins manage to come to an agreement over who gets the top and who gets the bottom half of a hot cross bun.

Well done, boys – mummy is so proud x

arm-in-arm

I wrote this because February is TAMBA’s #lovemultiples month. Yes, I know I am sneaking in at the last minute on the very last day of February, but I feel like I’ve been chasing my tail all month so the fact that I’m a bit late to the party with this one too seemed fitting.

2016 was…….

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

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