REFLECT. REGROUP. REVIEW.
Everyone seems to be doing a bit of regrouping at the moment. That’s what we do in January, isn’t it? To distract from the thicker waistlines and thinner wallets? 2017 is here and it’s a time for reflection, renewed hope and great intentions. Fair enough. Count me in.
People are going so far as to say that 2016 was the worst year in history. An exaggeration perhaps, but it’s hard not to focus on shootings, wars, continued terror threats, the political goings on in the UK and He Who Shall Not Be Named across the pond. It’s also hard to ignore the fact that iconic celebs seemed to drop like flies. It wasn’t all bad though, was it? Leo finally won an Oscar and Ireland beat the All-Blacks!
Before I close the door on the year that took Bowie, Prince, George, Snape and Leia, I’m going to do some reviewing and evaluating of my own. 2016 was pretty uneventful in terms of life events; no pregnancies, no births, no toilet training. It was all pretty calm really, when I wasn’t being prodded with a lightsaber or fishing a mangled My Little Pony from the loo. And with this calm came some insight. Let me share some little nuggets of wisdom that the past year has left me with.
WHAT I LEARNED FROM 2016
1. Make your peace with the madness of the school run. This is your life now.
Just to be clear, my son is in his second year of primary school so it has taken me over a year to reach a relatively zen state regarding the school run. I spent the first year complaining about the parking, the abandoned cars, the darting children and the impact a drop of rain can have on the already infuriating proceedings. In the evenings I would regale my husband with illuminating tales of which side of the (‘dangerously narrow’) road I parked on, about how long it took, about how wet we got. He even pretended to listen and care.
This year, though, I’m over it. The shock to my system has passed. This is just how it is. I know now to have my coffee first and to expect it to take 45 minutes to deliver two small people a distance of 1km. Of course it will be chaotic; there are 500 students congregating in a school that was built to cater for 300. Of course your man will park there; he’s an idiot. I am over it.
2. Never be too afraid to give a fringe a second (or third) chance.
Prior to this one, I have had two fringes in my life. The first, I got just in time for my First Holy Communion. If you’re Catholic you’ll understand the importance of the First Holy Communion. If you are Catholic and Irish, you’ll know that houses get repainted, lawns get landscaped, professional caterers and photographers are hired for the occasion and people come to blows over bouncy castle bookings. It’s a big deal. Almost as big as a wedding. What was my mother thinking? Funnily enough the second time I decided to get a fringe was indeed for my WEDDING DAY! Why? The photos still make me cringe. It stood up in the wind. It was wispy and not at all cool. It got wet and stuck to my forehead. I decided to take the plunge again and it turns out that third time is a charm. This fringe – the fringe of 2016, I like.
3. Baby-led weaning is where it’s at, y’all!
For us, baby-led weaning was almost as much of a game changer as co-sleeping. I’m pretty sure the buck was shoveled baby rice at around four months. I was new to the game and I did what the pamphlets and the Public Health Nurse told me to do. I dabbled in BLW with the middle child but I didn’t fully commit. I was still pureeing and potting strange combinations of sweet and savory into tiny ice cube trays. With baby number three I went all in. I was liberated from de-seeding butternut squashes and pulverising fish stews and it was fantastic! It was messy, it took a while to get off the ground and I got plenty of raised eye-brows and gasps from the non-believers but it really worked for our busy family. From the get-go she ate what we ate and the blender stayed in its box. I’m not sure why I haven’t blogged about it yet but I will. Soon.
4. The rain in Spain does not fall mainly on the plain.
As Irish people, we are used to rain. As Irish people, we consider rain on our sun holiday to be just about as insulting as not qualifying for the Eurovision. Weighing up the possibility of rain against the financial savings of going abroad in early May is a wise move.
To be fair, we were particularly unlucky with the Spanish weather on our summer holiday in 2016. We visited a lovely campsite near Tarragona on the Costa Dorada but we were too early to the party. The campsite wasn’t operating its full summer schedule of activities. And we were cold. And we got rained on quite a bit. When you’re sitting inside a mobile home watching re-runs of Deal or No Deal listening to the rain bounce rhythmically off the metal roof, you know you’ve not beaten the system. Lesson learned.
5. Staying at home full-time is HARD. But fabulous. But HARD.
Last year I made the decision to take extended leave from work and stay at home until my youngest turns two. It wasn’t an easy decision to make but it’s the right one for us for now.
I don’t have a glamorous job. I’m a teacher so the adjustment wasn’t huge. Three and four-year-olds aren’t unlike teenagers in some ways, after all. And I have better coffee at home. A power-suited corporate type though? That might be different entirely.
I get asked ‘how I’m finding it at home’ a lot. I am exhausted. I have aged; my hair is greying and the fringe hides new wrinkles. My house has taken punishment; walls have been written on and even more divots have been hacked out of the wooden floors. My evening conversations with Mr C. usually involve an inane round-up of the kids’ daily activities with a sprinkling of school run drama.
I get asked if I miss working? I do. I miss the adult conversation. I miss having an actual break. I miss being able to finish a cuppa without having to wipe someone’s behind. And I genuinely like what I do so I miss not doing it. But I also love slowing down the pace a bit. It has been great and I appreciate how lucky I am to be at home with them. I’m seeing parts of their childhood that I may have otherwise missed and I’m grateful for that. What one loses in sanity and finance and dignity and homeware one must gain somewhere, right?
6. Moving out of your comfort zone is SCARY. But fabulous. But SCARY.
On September 1st, 2016 I hit ‘publish’ in WordPress for the first time. All I had written was a short piece in which I tried to convince myself that I could perhaps blog about my adventures and misadventures in parenting. You can read it here – my first ever blog post! I was safe though. Whilst it was out there, floating aimlessly around in cypberspace, nobody knew about it, so it didn’t really exist! I wrote a few more entries and threw myself into learning about the technical side of running a website and going self-hosted, all the while thinking, ‘I’m probably going to chicken out of this whole business any day now. It’s a fad.’ I’m a great woman for fads.
Two weeks later, I published a link to Shinners & the Brood on my personal Facebook page and made an awkward announcement that I had a started a blog. That was it. I was outed. It was, without a doubt, the scariest thing I’ve done since having children. The thought that actual live people who knew me might read it made me feel queasy but there was no going back. It was in that moment that I decided to stop caring what anyone thought. I decided that if I wanted to blog, then I would blog. People could take it our leave it and feck the begrudgers! (This aging business had made me more self-assured and cantankerous than I’d realised.) As someone who used to care a lot about other people’s opinion of me, this was a thrilling yet terrifying departure. I’m still surprised I did it to be honest.
My initial fears were quickly abated and the response I got was wholly positive. Mr C. was 1oo% on board from the beginning, offering reassurance, pedantic grammar checks and most importantly, honesty. Friends and acquaintances were supportive and extremely encouraging. At least to my face! Even if people thought I was making an ass of myself, they didn’t say it. How kind they were.
The blog has grown, as has its audience and it’s still fun. Way-hey! So here we come, 2017. We are ready and optimistic about the year ahead.
Thanks to those of you who read and comment and to those who offer support in other ways. It has made my little blogging journey a really enjoyable one so far.
Happy 2017, one and all!
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