The markers of another year have passed - Easter, Christmas, the car rego notice - and around we go again.
But, as parents,time gets registered in other ways. Years aren’t 12 months. They stop being cycles of anniversaries, annual leave, and tax returns. Instead, they become these extraordinary, and entirely unrepeatable, passages in the lives and growth of the human beings we brought into the world.
|2002 - with my younger daughter Zoe (aged 18 months)|
We watch our kids constantly change, and stay the same. Step by step they move away. And circle back. And move away again. Each circle reaching out just that bit further toward the independence that is our children’s deepest goal (even if they don’t always know it) and their birthright.
Parent years are slow as a honey tsunami and fast as a lifetime in a lunch break - or a dropped cup. Your baby is there and then they are gone. Your two-year-old becomes three. Your crawler walks, your gabbler speaks, your listener reads, and your Jolly Jumper gymnast gets their driver’s licence and a tattoo.
Parent years are unrelenting. They are made up of wake-ups, heartache, the impossibility of it all, and joy. And the way they run feels reckless.
And so here you are. Another parent year ahead of you. A summer, an autumn, a winter and a spring. Four school holidays. Some birthdays, a handful of weekends and a bucket of moments in the car.
You will of course have moments when you will feel like screaming at the year to please hurry and grow up into 2019, for the dishes to be more considerate, for the mornings to be more patient, and for sleep to sit down and concentrate.
But this is also a year that you will always remember. It is the year you were a parent of a kid of a certain age. An age they will never be again. A one-time offer. No re-dos, no pause, no double-or-nothing. Just now.
|2016 - with my older daughter Mahala (aged 18)|
You won’t fit every “I should” into the year, let alone every “you should”. But for your sake, not just your kids, make plans this year for memories.
Go camping, at least once. Spend a little longer at the beach. Leave your phone at home when you go to the park. Get the bikes out. Go to a national park. Swim. Sit in the garden together and talk quietly and make up names for the birds that come and see you. Give your kids as much time to play as you can.
My youngest turned 18 a couple of days after New Year’s Eve. I don’t have kids anymore. Daughters, yes. Children, no. I now have two young women in my life who are, and are not, the mushy-pea faced babies, fairy skirt wearing toddlers, and the scruffy-headed school-kids my wife and I have loved so relentlessly all these years.
Our parenting is far from over, but our time with children is done. We don’t get to make childhood memories anymore. It will happen to you before you know it. In the meantime punctuate 2018 with as much time outdoors with your kids as you can. Trust me on this, you will not regret it.