So much of parenting is about looking forward. What will their personalities be like? What will the do for a career? When will I be able to lie-in on a Sunday morning again?
What you don’t always realise is just how much of parenting is looking back.
From the moment you discover you’re pregnant, you enter a weird sort of short-term nostalgia. Suddenly, you find yourself getting misty eyed at things you’d otherwise take for granted.
It’s not about being ungrateful or regretting the change in your situation, it’s just that, before you know it, you’re fantasising about how easy it used to be to go out for coffee (even though you never did it much in the first place).
Now your wife is pregnant, she can’t have caffeine, the seat she uses must be comfortable, and if the heating rises even slightly above room temperature, you’ve practically got to take her outside and hose her down.
And it’s the same after pregnancy, you spend nine months dealing with discomfort and flatulence (which, oddly enough, is the name I would choose should a publisher wish to turn this blog into a novel), only to miss it the second it’s gone.
It’s hard to explain the sensation, but when you find yourself fighting back tears for the time your wife couldn’t lie on her right hand side for fear of firing out a child in her sleep, it’s fair to say your sense of perspective is somewhat skewed.
And so it is that I come to today. Mother’s Day. It feels like a massive milestone in our children’s lives – and Lucy’s too. Her first Mother’s Day.
Only, it’s not her first. It’s her second. Somehow – and completely without our knowledge – a whole year seems to have flown by and we find ourselves wondering where all the time went.
We are so happy with where our daughters are now – growing up healthy, happy, inquisitive and far more manipulative than we ever thought possible. And yet, as happy as we are, we still look back at a year ago with a sense of longing.
Sure, back then involved a lot more impromptu nappy changing, and living your life in a three hour cycle of feeding, winding and wiping is no one’s idea of a party, but we still miss it.
Lucy and I tend to look back at photos from this last year with ridiculous frequency. It’s not that we’re unhealthily obsessed with our children (though we would probably be diagnosed that way), it’s just that we like looking back to see how much Ruby and Willow have changed. And it’s a lot.
You only need to go back a couple of weeks to a month, to see massive changes. Where once you thought your child was this fully-formed being full of personality, wisdom and life behind their eyes, you look back to see little more than a slab of sausage meat with a pulse (sorry girls).
You distinctly remember seeing their characteristics forming in front of your face but, on reflection, it’s too hard to discern. It’s understandable why so many parents feel their child is smart enough to take on world chess champions, or to sit their MENSA entrance exam aged 4, it’s because you become so blindsided by love, that you don’t realise they’re just like every other baby – small, pink and full of wind. Or to put it another way, a little bit naff.
Another reason for the nostalgia trips is down to change. With a baby or two, things change so much that you’re always looking for that constant. The one thing that remains unchanging throughout so much evolution. Yes, the regularity with which we use our JustEat account could pass for a benchmark, but when it comes to your children, you’re looking for something a little more obvious, something that doesn’t come with a free 2ltr bottle of Pepsi.
With Willow, it’s her smile. From very early on she seemed to develop a very distinct smile; cheeky and knowing with a slightly patronising hint. It’s still there to this day, though one suspects that the thoughts going through her head have become somewhat darker.
Now, with Ruby, it’s here eyes. It took her personality a little while to shine through, certainly in contrast to Willow’s devilish grin. But even in those quiet, expressionless days, her eyes were a laser beam burning into your soul. She would look at everything with the same level of intensity as she still does. Fascinated by you, you mouth, the lights, the light switch, plugs, sometimes empty corners. She has always stared, and I suspect she always will (as long as she doesn’t do it on public transport).
When I try to find other constants, I struggle. Babies change so much, and so often, that as soon as you’re getting used to one tick or routine, it all moves on again. Like messing up during a game of Tetris, you slowly start to see things building out of all control. It’s hard to keep up to it, but thankfully, by having Lucy at my side I feel we’re doing so much more than just keeping up.
In fact, if I had to pick a constant throughout this whole thing, it would be Lucy. Looking back, from that first moment when we pissed on a stick and declared it a winner, Lucy has been unshakable.
That’s not to say she hasn’t come up against difficulties. It’s not to say she hasn’t had moments where she’s struggled. But despite the challenges that being parents to twins throws up (and we have to admit we’ve been ridiculously fortunate with the luck we’ve had) Lucy has remained strong and confident in not only us and our abilities, but in our girls and how brilliant they are.
Through the entire pregnancy she took it all her stride. During a labour that many would have been too terrified to contemplate, she didn’t falter (and she kicks up a fuss if she’s got to make her own toast) and since then, as we’ve had to navigate a new life with two little girls, she has embraced each new challenge wholeheartedly.
Put simply, Lucy became a mum the second she peed on that stick. And each and every day since then, she has grown in confidence in ways that still amaze me.
I look back at last year, and the year before, and I see myself slowly developing into the sort of father I want to be for my daughters, but Lucy has been there since day one. A brilliant mum, a perfect parent and the only person I would want to do this with.
And I hope, as the girls get older and look back at how far they’ve come, they will see what I see: their mum. Being brilliant. Always.
Happy Mother’s Day, Lucy. Again. x