New Year is a time for reflection and, in a year which has undoubtedly been a mix of highs and lows, I think it’s important to really focus on the positives, to document all it has taught me, and all it has given us, so that in moments of doubt over this coming year, I can look back and see how far I have come. This year I have realised 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 are never truly alone. In that way 2018 has taught me so much.
1. I am not the perfect parent, and nor do I have to be.
Almost fifteen years and five children later, I have finally accepted that it is perfectly okay to live an imperfect life. Parenting is hard work, the toughest job in all the world no doubt, and all that really matters is that I am the best parent I can be on any given day.
Because when I asked the children to share their memories of 2018 with me, not once did they mention the days when I was tired or ill, when the house was a mess, or they ate chicken nuggets for four days running. Not once did they recall the moments I had sent them to school without their PE kits, their reading books, their homework; the nights I screeched at them to get to sleep, the mornings I lost my shit when they took forever to get their shoes on.
Instead they told me about the holidays we had taken, the special moments we had shared; they recalled the days we built sandcastles on the beach and paddled in the sea, the times we watched movies and ate popcorn in our pyjamas, the moments when I held their little hands in mine on another adventure, when we laughed until our sides hurt, when I looked at them, and they looked at me, and we knew that all we ever needed was each other.
I am not the perfect parent, and nor do I have to be, but in their eyes I am doing the greatest job in all the world. And that’s all that really matters.
2. Things change.
This year has taught me that nothing stays the same and, 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 may not be stood beside you through the bad.
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 at the end of the year and I will be holding each of them close and making a real effort to spend more time together in 2019.
3. A little kindness goes a long way.
We all talk a lot about kindness – as a society, as people, as parents – and yet this year I have really tried hard to put it into practice and sprinkle a little kindness everywhere. I’ve learned that kindness comes in many forms – it’s lending an ear to those needing a friend, it’s saying thank you, saying sorry, saying congratulations, saying I’m here. It’s biting your tongue when you know you’re in the wrong, turning a negative thought into a positive comment, it’s opening your mind when you’re struggling to understand others. It’s learning to forgive, learning to forget, learning that unkind comments don’t necessarily make for unkind people; knowing that mistakes are made, things are said, but with a little kindness we can all live and let live.
And most of all I have learned that the first person you need to be kind to is yourself. It’s been said you can’t give away something you don’t have and it’s near impossible to be genuinely kind to others if you do not treat yourself well.
4. We never truly lose someone we love.
With every passing year I feel my heart breaking that Joseph is even further away, that slowly but surely his name is spoken less by others, that it becomes harder to associate the child he would be today with that tiny baby in my arms. And so for such a long time I clung to my grief in a way that, even throughout 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.
In a year where I have received tremendous support following my appearance on both television and radio sharing our story, I 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 has 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 inside 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 genuinely happy – that he chose us, that he changed our entire world, and that he made me who I am.
And when I look at the children, at the sparkle in their eyes and the sound of their laughter, I know, without a moments hesitation, that he is never far away.
5. Extraordinary things happen to ordinary people.
When I first started my blog just three and a half years 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 2018 I never thought for one minute that I would be succeeding in a job I love, travelling with my family by my side, being recognised amongst countless publications, and ending the year in the top 10 of UK parent bloggers.
And 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, 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 a story to tell and the knowledge that, with a little hard work and determination, the sky really is the limit.
6. I am far braver than I give myself credit for.
I have made no secret of my battle with my mental health over the last two decades and, although I have made so much progress, anxiety is still a huge part of who I am. This year I pushed myself to my limits (albeit after many sleepless nights, hysterical tears and, of course, Valium!), and faced my fears head on. Not only did I board a plane for the first time in six years but, just two months later, I boarded a plane alone and flew to Tenerife for a week long press trip away from my children.
There, I overcame the catastrophic thoughts which plague my every day and finally learned to just let go. I went in a submarine, up a volcano, zoomed down water slides and danced until my feet hurt. I drank cocktails and ate delicious food, read my book in the sun, swam in the pool, and I laughed, a lot. For the first time in fourteen years I remembered who I was before the children came along and, in the space of a week, I learned to let go of all of those fears and realise that life is far too short to spend it worrying about something which hasn’t yet happened.
It sounds very cliche to say that it was a life changing experience but the truth is, it was. I came home from Tenerife a very different person and, although my anxiety is still there lingering in the background, knowing how brave I can be, and have been, makes me want to keep pushing myself further out of my comfort zone until one day, it simply becomes second nature.
7. There is always something to be grateful for.
Despite the fact that this year has seen several lows, particularly when it comes to the health of my children, I have realised that there will always be something to be grateful for.
2018 has been filled with so much love and laughter in our home, it has given us the most amazing 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. And whilst 2018 took us on a roller coaster of emotions and uncertainty, for every tough day there was always my husband to come home to, four precious children to hold in my arms, and the knowledge that, regardless of what life throws at us, 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 2019 brings you everything you wish for. xxx