My children were born in February 2011. The other big events of that year included the toppling of despots, the crumbling of regimes and the marriage of Prince William and Catherine Middleton at Westminster Abbey. Whilst all standout events of contrasting importance, none quite affected me as much as the birth of our twins. Five years on I still find parenting an overwhelming challenge.
When in 2013 I wrote a letter to my children explaining how as parents we wanted to spend as much time as possible with them before handing them over to school, new friends and independence, I never felt like it would really happen. Or maybe I just didn’t want it to happen. They had given me a new purpose in life.
Children rely on their parents to surround them with influences that might help guide them towards a happy direction in life. But knowing which way to point my two is not always that straightforward. I realised this recently when our son begged me not to go to school. It was a Tuesday. “Not again,” he said. He just wanted to play. And at four years old, I found it hard to say no. I tried to convince them both that these are the best days of their lives. But they don’t listen and why should they: I didn’t. Children don’t look back or very much to the future. They live in the now and right now means the animated series Paw Patrol, nail varnish and anything pink. This contrasts with what I would like them to knuckle down and focus on: to read, to play the piano and to eat without coercion.
A friend of ours recently remarked that I looked very much younger in photos taken of me five years ago, proudly holding two newborns. I do seem to have aged far quicker than my children. But it’s all been worthwhile. Watching them develop remains the biggest event of my past five years. The rewards from good parenting, however fumbled, are worth any sacrifice.