2016 has been such a difficult year for many of us, myself included, and in some ways I am relieved to see the back of it. In other ways, I am actually quite sad that the months have flown so fast, that my children have grown in the blink of an eye, and that we will never have that time again.
New Year is always a time for reflection, to look back on the highs and lows, and I think it’s so important that, even in what has undoubtedly been a tough year, we still look for the positives and take from it what we can. This year I have found that there is a lesson to be learned in every hardship, that anything is possible with a little self belief, and that with the right people beside you, you will never feel alone. In that way 2016 has taught me so much.
1. Reach for the stars.
When I first started my blog 18 months ago, it was simply a way of clawing back a little “me” time, giving me somewhere to channel all of the weird and wonderful thoughts in my head, and a way of sharing our five little doves with those who have supported us along the way. At the start of 2016 I never thought for one minute that I would be ending the year in the top 250 of UK parent bloggers, that I would have made it as a finalist in the MumsNet 2016 blog awards, been given so many wonderful opportunities as a family, had my work published in various magazines, or that I would be earning a living doing something I love.
As someone who has never wanted to be anything other than a Mother or a writer, I genuinely feel like the luckiest person in the world to be combining the two. With my blog going from strength to strength, a children’s book coming out in the new year, and slowly but surely penning my way through my first novel, I have found a real determination to make a success of our lives, to give my children everything I can possibly offer them, and to wake up every single morning with fire in my belly and the knowledge that the sky really is the limit.
2. Motherhood is about raising and celebrating the child you have, not the child you thought you would have.
I have made no secret of the fact that life with Megan can be quite tough at times, and this year was not without its difficulties. Despite the fact that I carried her inside of me for nine long months, gave birth to her and cared for her, every minute of every day for the last three and a half years, it has taken me a long time to really get to know my daughter. With having Lewis and Eva, I had assumed that I knew everything there was to know about being a parent, and yet it turns out that I knew very little about being a parent to a child such as Megan.
It has been an on-going battle to learn to understand how her mind works, the motives behind her emotional outbursts, the reasons for her melt downs, and the realisation that the things which make her different are the same things which make her special. This year I finally realised that Megan is exactly the person she is supposed to be, and in that way she has made me the person I am supposed to be. Seeing the world through her eyes is a real privilege and one which I hold on to, even on the bad days.
3. Things change.
This year has taught me that nothing stays the same and that, no matter what you do to try and prevent it, things will always change. More specifically, people change, and those who stood beside you through the good times aren’t necessarily still standing beside you through the hard times.
I learned that everyone who comes into your life will teach you something, be that good or bad, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they will stick around. People will surprise you with their capacity to change, in the same way that they will surprise you with their capacity to change you. Whatever the reason for someone coming into, or out of, my life, I have realised how incredibly lucky I am to have so many wonderful people, old friends and new, standing beside me through the good, and the bad.
4. You can’t live a positive life with a negative mind.
One of the most important lessons I have learned this year is that life is too short to sweat the small stuff. I have spent thirty six years of my life worrying that I’m not smart enough, not pretty enough, not thin enough, not good enough, and after a horrendous twelve months of health worries, both of my own and for those I love, I realise now that none of those things matter. In the wake of my test results last month, when we were fully prepared to accept the very worst, I simply woke up and stopped caring. It was almost as though somebody had flicked a switch and all of a sudden I could breathe again, I could see more clearly, and I knew, without a shadow of a doubt, who, and what, truly mattered to me.
I have wasted far too many years trying to make other people happy, allowing negative attitudes and opinions to affect my own, failing to recognise jealousy and unkindness, and suffocating in my own pessimism. And now, with what feels very much like a second chance, I am determined to make 2017 the year that I face my fears, worry less, laugh more, believe in miracles, and to accept that I am doing the very best I can, and that’s okay.
5. It’s okay to be happy.
I have spent the last decade fighting an internal battle of wanting to move forward, but being too afraid to let go. For such a long time I was terrified that if I dared to claw my way out of the dark hole I was in, to detach myself from all of those negative feelings and emotions that I associated with Joseph, it would mean that I would forget him. I clung to my grief in a way that, even through what should have been the happiest times of my life, I still focused solely on the negatives, perpetuating that endless cycle of misery, always living with one foot in the past, never allowing myself to be truly happy for fear of betraying Josephs memory.
This year, with what should have been Joseph’s tenth birthday, where we celebrated his life amongst family and friends, I suddenly realised that his legacy was not one of sadness, but one, very much deserving, of happiness. Although losing him was the hardest, most painful experience of my life, I am so proud of the way in which his tiny footprints left such a huge imprint on the lives of many and the countless ways in which he enriched our lives.
And although I cannot change what happened, nor erase all of that sadness from my memory, when I think of him I want to focus on the positives, on those long summer days when he kicked in my tummy, that very first moment when he was placed in my arms, his shock of dark hair, those beautiful rosebud lips and the most perfect little fingers and toes. And I’m finally ready to be happy; that he chose us, that he changed our entire world, and that he made me who I am.
6. There is always something to be grateful for.
It would be impossible to hide away from the fact that 2016 has seen such an extraordinary amount of tragedy in the world, even more so than any other year I can remember. And it would be very easy to focus solely on that, to rant about the curse of 2016, to reel off the list of celebrity deaths, the devastating situation in the far east, the terrorist attacks throughout Europe and the cruel, senseless crimes carried out on our doorsteps. As much as there are days when I want to turn off the news, lock the doors, hold my children tight and tell myself that none of this is happening, I think one of the biggest lessons I have learned this year is that despite all of this, there is always something to be grateful for.
2016 has been filled with so much love and laughter in our home, it has given us two fantastic holidays, weekends away, countless days out and memories made. We have shared birthdays, parties, new experiences and opportunities, moments that we’ll never forget, and a whole lot of nothing in between .
I’ve watched my little doves grow into the most beautiful, talented, fierce individuals who have made me laugh, cry, and so unbelievably proud, a thousand times over. 2016 took us on a roller coaster of emotions, worry, uncertainty, and far too much heartache, and yet, for every tough day, there was always my husband to come home to, four precious children to hold in my arms, to tuck up into bed each night, and to know, without fail, that I am the luckiest Mummy in all the world.
And that’s what it’s all about.
Happy New Year to you all, I hope that 2017 brings you everything you wish for. xxx
Candyfloss & Dreams