The hardest (and sweetest) year of our lives

Ella turned one on Saturday. One! And all our family and friends were like: “Where did the year go?” I was not: I can tell you in painstaking detail where the year went. And that’s not a negative reflection, just a fact. It has without doubt been the hardest year Mark and I have ever had. But also absolutely the sweetest.

Was it so hard because Arty was a pretty easy baby and so parenthood hadn’t been that hard till we added another human being to the mix? Was it so hard because a 2 year 2 month age gap is actually extraordinarily close (despite much of the Western world seeming to choose it)? Was it so hard because I really, really, really like alone time and quiet and I really, really, really didn’t get any? Or was it so hard just because the first year of two children (no matter what age, no matter how easy or difficult) is just so hard?

I don’t know. And I don’t think it matters much.

What I do know is that I’ve learnt a hell of a lot this year. About myself, and the limits I have and how far I can push them before I snap. About snapping. (There is an incident of weeping on the kitchen floor and having my neighbour jump the fence to find out if I was okay that I will not soon forget!) I’ve learnt that I have an extraordinary husband: kind and patient and funny and sardonic and loving and human.

Side note: One of my favourite Mark stories from this year. In the pits of really serious, really bad sleep deprivation, we were driving into town on the coastal road. I turned to Mark and said, “If you drove off the cliff now, we could all have a lovely long sleep.” Mostly joking…
Now what would you think a husband would do? Outline all the many reasons to live, reassure you that it’s not actually that bad and it’s just a phase and this too shall pass? That’s what I expected. But no.
Mark thinks about it for a minute, then says, “But what if we didn’t die? Then all four of us would be in a hospital room together. That would be even worse!”

Aside from the sleep deprivation, and negotiating with a terrorist/toddler every day, and having no time to myself (so, you know, no biggies there!) it has been so exceptionally sweet. Seeing Arty and Ella play together, hearing them giggle, watching their love for each other turn from boy-and-moving-doll to siblings, has brought me some of the deepest joy I’ve ever felt. Mark and I were watching them splash in the bath the other night and they were both laughing so hard, and it was pure joy. We’re a family: a complete family. And I know how lucky I am to be able to say that.

I also know (mentally if not yet emotionally) that this is a phase. That one day they won’t need me that much and I’ll miss elements of this.

Ella is in the unbelievably cute phase of learning to hug and kiss and my goodness me, it is amazing. Arty wants to translate the world and comes up with the funniest sayings on a daily basis. He tried to take a toy from her last week and she snatched it back and shouted at him. It made me laugh out loud… And fear for the future. Her iron will seems every bit as strong as his. Oh deary me.

So it’s the end of the hardest and sweetest year of our lives. We had a delightful party for Ella on Saturday and toasted ourselves and our family and friends with lots of bubbly that we drank out of spotted yellow and green paper cups. The next day both kids were little terrors but that’s to be expected, no?

And now we forge ahead, into the glorious unknown, and figure out what happens next. I wonder what delightful things are going to happen to us this year?

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