There's a nice easy choice up at the Writing Workshop this week: What were you doing this time last year? What has changed, what have you achieved, what are you still struggling with?
I love these "Behold how different my life was [fill in blank] years ago, and behold how far I have come since then" nostalgiafests, although I do have to admit that this will probably be among the all-time duller examples of such. What I was doing this time last year, after all, was juggling the same job that I'm now doing with the same husband and two children as I now have, in the same house, while trying with the same limited degree of success (actually, an even more limited degree of success) to occasionally find time to write entries for the same blog. After the times in my life when I've been able to look back on two changes of job with accompanying moves across the country within the previous year (my SHO days), followed by the consecutive upheavals of engagement, marriage, and the births of two children during the early years of this century, it feels quite strange to look back on a year in which nothing very much happened.
Things did happen, of course. And things have changed. The children, for two. This time last year Jamie was still at nursery – now, I'm the mother of a schoolboy. This time last year he had barely mastered staying dry at home – now we leave nappies off with impunity on all but our longest car trips. And Katie, of course, has made vast strides literally and metaphorically. While I found the Early Toddler phase less ghastly to live through second time around, I will never regard it as anything other than one of the tiresome bits that you have to get through to get to the part where children actually become interesting and fun to be around. Katie has now reached that point. I loved the two-years-plus period with Jamie, and I'm loving it all over again second time round.
The relationship between the children has changed. This time last year, the two of them were like matter and antimatter – two forces irresistibly drawn to each other with mutually destructive effects. I suspect the accuracy of my physics in that analogy may leave something to be desired, but you get the general idea. Katie wanted to do everything Jamie was doing and Jamie wanted to guard everything he was doing from Katie and the results were explosive on a continual basis. Then, somewhere around the middle of Katie's second year, Jamie started realising that there was more to her than her role as Evil Stealer Of Toys And Interferer With Games, and that she could, in fact, be extremely entertaining. Not only could she repeat 'Ba!' very loudly when he said it and copy his stompy dances, she could even be naughty. And, really, can a five-year-old boy ask for any finer trait than that in a sibling? She still gets in his way and they still argue and fight, but it is now possible for the two of them to co-exist in a room together without an adult needing to be constantly present and on red alert, and they can even, in delightfully entertaining ways, now enjoy each other's company.
And, with those changes, life has eased that crucial bit. Jamie is out at school for more of the time; Katie is at an easier age than she was last year; the two of them, both separately and together, need less intensive policing than they did a year ago; and parenthood is correspondingly less of an all-encompassing effort. Last year, I felt as though I was swimming as hard as I could just to keep my head above water enough to breathe. This year, I'm freeing up bits of time to work on the things that I've either meant to get done for ages or really want to do. I'm finally at the stage that new parents dream of but don't believe will really happen – the stage when it Starts To Get Easier.
Of course, none of this is exactly dramatic excitement – if I were to be scored on whatever that scale is that psychologists use to measure life change over the past year, I'd barely register a blip. There's a good reason for that; the main point of all those job changes/house moves/assorted major life changes was to get, via some admittedly circuitous rambles, to the life I've got now. I've got a job I love, a great husband, and two wonderful children. I don't want any more major changes in my life. I want to do exactly what I am doing – keep on enjoying what I've got.