Everyone does these “looking back on the previous year” posts, and so I’m going to do one, too.
2014 was a great year. A hard year and a wonderful year and a year of adventure and simplicity and enough. Really learning that I have enough. That I am enough. I think that over this past year I’ve gained a better perspective on myself, all my faults and talents, of my job as a mother and a wife, learning to accept that there are bad days, that I have a bad temper, and then praying for peace as I approach each situation.
Each New Year’s Eve we spend a little time as a family reflecting on the past year, and telling each other things we have loved most about each one throughout this past year. Usually the kids don’t pay much attention, but this time, whenever it was someone’s turn to say what they love about Ellie, she turned so intently to them, soaking up every word of love and encouragement they had for her. She was so eager to know what her family loved about her. It melted me a little bit. To see her growing into this person, a person who is so kind, compassionate and also passionate, who is knowledgeable and lovable and loving.
My kids, in general, have been especially grand this year. Henry turned from a very cranky 9-month-old, to a more well-adjust 1-year-old. I feel like we understand each other a lot better now. And now he’s the perfect “littlest” for our family. He’s learned to talk so much since the Christmas season! I guess Christmas is a great time to encourage talking because then he can ask things like, “I want candy cane.” and “Please help stuck.” about his new toys. He’s super snuggly and goes around hugging everyone all the time. It’s the best. My favorite thing he does is when he climbs up into my arms with a toy and then just hangs out there as long as he can, fully enveloped in my arms, fully content to be beside me.
Olivia is our little light. This past year has brought on a more uneven temper for her. But she is still our snuggle bug who just wants you to be with her. I always say to the kids, “I’m going to keep you forever.” and she has started saying it back to me randomly, “Mama, I’m just going to keep you forever.” She is so imaginative and bright. There is always a new story playing in her head. She loves to sing and draw and practice her letters. She is the perfect intermediate child, playing so well with the cars and trains and also the dress-ups and princesses. She and Ellie can certainly get on each other’s nerves, but it is always clear that they love each other very deeply. They are always taking care of each other and reporting on the other’s needs and talking for hours into every night. (Which always makes me curious as to what they have to talk about for so long? I need a Go Pro or something to figure that one out.)
And Ellie. Ellie is my star. When Henry was littler and more, ahem, difficult, she had to take on the role of caring and getting less care of her own. I feel terrible, being the older sister myself, and knowing that she was taking on too much responsibility because I needed her help. Her needs grow less and less tangible and immediate, and so the ones who are crying for food or sleep get taken care of first. But when she started school again this fall we began reading chapter books every day. I’ve read A Little Princess and Little House in the Big Woods and we are almost done with Little Women. (And perhaps we should break out of the “Little” titles – 101 Dalmatians, Charlotte’s Web and her Kit books are next on the queue). How I have loved this time with her. Definitely there are afternoons where I’m just tired and don’t want to read to her, but it’s the one time of day that is just hers. She snuggles up to me and we read and talk about what we are reading and then you’re bound to hear me reference the books we’re reading a little too often. Mallory can attest to the number of times I’ve started a sentence with, “Well, in Little Women“…. I have really seen her blossom during this time together. Ellie is becoming so thoughtful, changing more and more to have her own thoughts and ideas. She is creative and pays attention to the details of things. She loves and listens and laughs readily. And she cares so deeply for her brother and sister. She never wants to grow up (which she reminds us of daily) and I never want her to.
I am learning more and more each day to be patient, to let the little things go, to realize that I don’t have the perfect way to do things, to let them be kids because they don’t get to be for very long. I have embraced imperfection a lot more this year, learned to not apologize if my house isn’t always clean, because we’re living and loving and being here, and it would be a shame to interfere with all that for cleaning. (Although we do clean sometimes. Usually before people come over, because my mother taught me that was the polite thing to do. And also, it’s gotta be cleaned sometime I guess. But if you drop by unannounced, do not be surprised if there are toys and laundry everywhere.) My motto recently has been, “The secret to a fabulous life is to live imperfectly with great delight.” So what if I just cannot be organized and creative at the same time? So what if I can’t make up my mind? So what if I sometimes say the wrong thing? So what?
I think we live in a world bent on perfection, or at least the facade of perfection, but really, it is the anomalies, the outliers that bring beauty. Someone photographed on Humans of New York Instagram said, in reference to her boyfriend, “I love everything about him. The good. The bad. Everything.” At first is struck me as odd, loving the bad about someone. But as I’ve thought about it, that’s what love really is, isn’t it? Accepting and opening up to someone completely, flaws and all. Loving them because of their flaws, instead of in spite of them.
One of my favorite speeches of all time is by the comedian Tim Minchin. He’s got a lot of great advice in there, but one of the things I like most is when he talks about defining yourself by what you like instead of what you don’t like. I think there can be a tendency to say, “I don’t like this or that,” and that can become what people know about you. But wouldn’t it be better to be known by what you love? What you’re passionate about? “Be pro-stuff, not just anti-stuff.” And by stuff, he/I don’t mean actual tangible things like clutter or whatever, but stuff like art or serving or teaching or loving. Let’s be pro-living, pro-being, pro-people.
So this year, I have no resolutions like “exercise more” (because if I feel the need to do that I should start that day and not wait for a new year to come). Instead, this year, I want to just embrace. Embrace life in whatever way it comes to me. Embrace imperfections in myself and others. Embrace beauty and hope and pain. Embrace life in all it’s bumpiness, all it’s rough edges and quiet strength.
Around here, our little family can’t get enough of life. We’re always trying to squeeze in a little extra by talking late into the night or having a pizza movie night or singing Frozen karaoke until our ears bleed. We’re going to keep doing that this year. Not waiting for special occasions to throw a party or show affection, because our whole life is a special occasion. Today is our someday.