Sunday, January 2, 2011

Snow, Sand and Bounce Houses: Reflections on a year

Every year I make a photo book family album. Given that we spend most of our leisure time up in Tahoe, this years offering showed beaming children posed in the snow, frolicking in the sand and water, then back to snow again. The new camera that I got last year for Christmas has given me the chance to stretch my photographic skills, and I was really quite delighted with how the book turned out. Browsing through it you would be forgiven for thinking that our year consisted entirely of joyful snow play, sunny beaches, mountain hikes and a surprising number of bounce house parties.

The continuous mode on our digital cameras allows us to select only the perfect moments and discard the rest. For every cute picture of a child on a sled there were probably three or four thirty minute tantrums getting the snow suits on. For every gleeful splashing beach picture, an afternoon punctuated by children throwing sand in each others eyes.

The sheer effort of getting out of the house to create these magical moments is missing from the finished glossy product. The blood curdling screams of protest at putting on sunscreen, the almost perfect days marred by a forgotten glove, diaper, snack or change of clothes, the miles hiked with a howling child in a backpack that situates that child's mouth far too close to a parents ears. those moments don't make it into the album. Only I know that a split second before or after that perfect shot, the seemingly angelic child was hurling rocks or smearing snot on my jeans.

Writing this, I was reminded of the graph shown by Rufus Griscom and Alisa Volkman in their TED talk about parenting. As you can see, being the parents of a young child coincides with some of the lowest overall reported periods of happiness in a persons life. The flip side of this is that the peaks and lows are more extreme. My photo album only shows the peaks. Those peaks are real and beautiful, and since the children seem to remember the high points more than the lows, it is my challenge as a mum to find that zen, and live in those moments.

2010 has been a good year with many of those high points. The children are growing and learning. They are strong and healthy. We have work and health and love, and are very fortunate.

It is interesting to have the blog to go back to and reflect upon how our lives are slowly moving along.

Geekygirl, though still emotionally demanding, is so much more mature now at almost five. We haven't had a night like this for a very long time. She and I took a trip to visit my family in England, just the two of us, and had a wonderful experience. Geekyboy is a little boy now, not the baby. His toddler years have had a few of the expected challenges, but he is emerging into a sweet and funny little boy. The children's room reflects that we are now the parents of big kids, not babies.

This year I managed to get the kids to the dentist for the first time, thus alleviating a huge burden of motherly guilt that had been following me around. We made some new friends. I got a new job.  The terminal exhaustion of the baby and toddler years now subsiding into a more manageable motherly malaise left me with just enough energy or insanity to take on a new challenge, career wise. Just when I really needed to be impressing my new bosses, and didn't need to be taking a lot of time off, we got nits . We had visits from both sets of Grandparents, and we got the whole family dressed up for halloween . It was also the year that I and one of my dearest friends turned forty.

I took blogging to another level, and met up with some cyber friends, fellow Brits in the USA; (iota, Nicola, expatmum, nappyvalleymum, and Califlorna) in Chicago on a chilly winter weekend filled with stories and warm spirited chatter

2011 is going to be a big year for us. Geekygirl will go to Kindergarten. The whole Geekyfamily is going to visit family and friends in England and Denmark in July. I'm going to get my first mammogram, and perhaps not coincidentally, my first tattoo. And that's just what is planned. Who knows what else will be thrown at us this year? We're bracing ourselves for another wild ride.

Life is like sledding. You only think you're in control.