This year has been a funny old year. It has contained much heart ache, less direction than I would like and the pain of watching friends go through difficult times and yet not be able to do anything meaningful to help. It has been emotional, and not in a good way. And I think we are all reaching the end of this year emotionally drained and weary with what life has revealed to us over the past twelve months.
And yet I would not change one moment of it, except the suffering of our dear friends. I would change that in a second, if it were within my power. It is not, and in the spirit of always viewing life as experience, as a constant rubbing down of sharp corners to reveal the beauty which often only God knows exists, I say again….I would not change any of it.
God is molding us right now, as a family and as individuals. The children have been exposed to hurt and pain as one friendship ends. They are bewildered by it all. But through this they have matured. As it is so often that a tree strengthens during stormy times, so I have seen our family bonds grow ever closer, holding on to one another in the storms of life. The protection this yields in each and every one of us is something special to behold. We can never protect our children from all difficulties but we sure can give them a soft landing place when life knocks them down.
Thomas has grown into a man this year. His hormones rarely get the better of him these days. His biggest lesson this year, I believe, is that the only person he has responsibility for is himself. He is not responsible for the happiness of others. His job is to love, to be kind and to be a good friend to others. And whilst love sorts out most things, sometimes it takes patience and maturity to stand back and allow a friend to heal without feeling a responsibility to be the one who does the healing.
He is also a man who met with God this summer. His faith is very much his own now, and he has come to the realisation that to have a faith of substance one needs to live a life of substance and the only way that can happen is to be steeped in the word of God. We have always had daily Bible time during our morning meetings but he felt he needed something more and because of this we now have family Bible at the dinner table. Not every night but at least five times a week. What a huge blessing this is for the family! We use a fabulous study guide and are digging so much deeper into the Bible than we were during our school times. It is honestly a huge honour and blessing for Gary and I to listen to the teens thoughts (and, I have to add, A8’s, who is proving to be very insightful) on the scripture we read. We are learning from them and they from us.
Thomas is a hard-working man with vision for his future, and a deep love of life. Gary and I could not be more pleased or proud of the man he is becoming.
Lillie is our very steady child. She just merrily plods through life. She does what is expected in the things she is less enthusiastic about (maths comes to mind….) but throws herself into her passions, namely being creative. We managed to get her a place at the local university for a Saturday art club, and both of us were so happy. At last she would have the opportunity to learn from professionals and have proper art lessons! She has been attending for the last few months and has been surprised by the fact that she has not enjoyed it at all. We watched our normally placid girl get progressively more anxious each Friday because of dreading going in on the Saturday.
Lillie has always been my home girl. She and I are very alike in this way. Neither of us like crowds and neither of us like wasting our time on something which is not working. Lillie spends all her spare time creating, and found she did less in the four hours she spent on a Saturday in art class than she did in half an hour at home. She has decided once and for all that mass education of any sort is not for her. It frustrates her how much time is lost on bad behaviour and waiting for the class to quieten down; she dislikes the swearing and lack of respect shown towards the teacher; but most of all she does not really feel she is learning anything. Lillie likes to have a purpose to her work and I think she has struggled to see the purpose in the lessons they are taught.
This January she will begin a BTEC in Art and Design from home. She is looking forward to the lessons from the comfort of her own home, without the noise and disruption from others. We have been looking over the course together and I think I am going to try to find the time to do it alongside her. I haven’t really done much art since having children and it will a lovely opportunity to spend some time together, which both of us always enjoy.
All in all, Lillie is growing into an incredible young lady, one who has purpose and a willingness to work hard to achieve her goals. She is self-aware, and whilst she would not say she has much self-confidence, both Gary and I can see a very quiet and very determined confidence slowly growing. I thoroughly enjoy any time we get to spend together and she has her brother and father completely wrapped round her little finger 🙂 Lillie is also gracious, and self-sacrificing, understanding when we felt we needed to invest in Charlotte at the beginning of the year by buying her a whole new wardrobe (clothes were becoming an issue between father and daughter – it became a non issue when Gary and Charlotte went shopping for a wardrobe they both approved of) and not complaining at all when we spent money (ear-marked for a kiln for her) on sending her brother to Northern Ireland when he needed to get away from a situation which was affecting him deeply. Lillie was just happy to see Gary and Charlotte’s relationship improve and overjoyed to watch her brother heal whilst he was away. Lil’ you are such a precious, precious girl and Daddy and I love you so much, sweetheart <3
Charlotte has, I think, come into her own this summer, although she is still plagued by the ups and downs which are her hormones. Charlotte doesn’t seem to have any middle ground between very, very happy and very, very unhappy (thankfully, these days, she is happy waaaaay more often than she is down). She has learnt a lot this year about not allowing her feelings to rule her day. I can often tell when a low patch is coming because it is often preceded by an ultra high patch. We have been learning together to help her control her highs so that the lows are not so bad. Gary and I are very blessed by children who listen to our advice and attempt to follow said advice and I can slowly see her gaining more and more control over her feelings rather than letting them control her.
Charlotte and I have become incredibly close this year. It is honestly through the rough times in life that relationships flourish. She was the child most hurt by the dissolution of a close friendship and yet we have watched her blossom through the pain and rekindle friendships with each family member. She and I have always enjoyed a close and loving relationship but in helping her understand her bewildering range of emotions and supporting her through these stormy years I can feel a tenderness and mutual respect growing between us. A week or so ago she sent me a song to say that each time she listened to it she thought of me, that the words of the song was what I did for her:
I sat at my computer listening, huge tears rolling down my face.
I wanted to include this, not just so I would have a record of it but also to encourage all those parents of teens who have ups and downs. Ever since Charlotte turned tweenie and the hormones hit she has struggled with the sheer power of her emotions. She has been the child both Gary and I have lost the most sleep over. She is a young lady who is highly (highly) intelligent. She thinks about things very, very deeply. Nothing in her life is blase. She is incapable of not feeling strongly about anything. Everything matters. Everything.
She is also the child who has struggled to find who she is. And because of this, although she is incredibly outgoing, she struggles hugely with having the deep (and quiet) confidence in herself that her older brother and sister seem to have as they mature. Because of feelings which threaten to over-power her, she sometimes lacks the control over her tongue which might be prudent in certain situations. I am the same. At home, where I feel comfortable, I am natural, fun and easy to be around. Get me in a crowd or with people with whom I feel less comfortable and I don’t shut up. Seriously. I should come with a health warning. Or some masking tape. Or both.
I laugh at myself because if you smooshed a Charlotte and a Lillie together into one person they would become a Claire. They are my two halves, and sometimes I think maybe Charlotte got the rough end of the deal. But then I watch her, as she gradually begins to understand herself. I watch with utter pride when she does battle with her mouth and she wins. I watch as she allows others to be the center of attention even when being noticed is so important to her. And I watch as very gradually I see the beauty of who she will one day be in Christ gently emerge. In God’s time, learning the lessons God has in store for her.
This year we made the decision to let her write. As in all. day. long. Apart from maths and morning meetings she spends her whole day writing, furiously as if she is possessed by some power greater than herself. And her writing is exquisite. I will be sharing some next year, but she is such a natural writer, and writes with a passion, allowing her to unleash all those feelings, which threaten to overwhelm her, onto the paper. She now belongs to lots of young writers forums, and spends her Saturday afternoon in the library, as if becoming a writer could be absorbed simply by being in the presence of so many good books 🙂 She comes home each week, hands full to the brim with books about writing, grammar and getting herself published, a happy smile on her face full of stories of what she has learnt and her plans to become familiar with all the grammar rules by the time she is 20 🙂
What has been really quite wonderful is the twins exploring their future options together. They have begun to notice that their individual talents complement the other’s. They are toying with possibilities of collaborating together with Charlotte writing a book and Lillie illustrating it. As if to consolidate this as a plausible prospect, we have found an online arts university which offers BA(Hons) in Creative Writing and BA(Hons) in Illustration. Obviously they are very young to be making such plans, but in my experience, a teen with a plan is a happier more focused teen, so I am very happy for them to be exploring this aspect of their future.
A8 has been much of my focus over the past few months. Both Gary and I are determined to help her in the coming year improve on her basic skills. She has always struggled with concentration issues, and I believe it is her lack of concentration which is impeding her progress with her school.
On the one hand, I am so grateful that I homeschool her. She is unaware of the difficulties she has and is able to work at her own pace. On the other hand I worry that she is ‘behind’ because of something I did or didn’t do. I think she might very well be ready for me to up the ante. The last few months have shown me just how much she enjoys being busy academically, especially when she is doing what she calls ‘fun’ school (her project based learning). I also never hear any complaints when I ask her to do science and maths. Anything requiring writing though is a big no-no and it is here her skills are lacking. Her spelling is extremely interesting and very phonical, so I think I need to work a bit harder on that.
Apart from that A8 is a delight. She is very placid, very laid back, very loving and is loved by all 🙂 The project on Endangered Animals has been a huge success and has resulted in heaps of learning. She is definitely a scientist at heart and we will be encouraging both that and her love of all things natural. It will be very interesting to see where it leads us.
B5 is coming on leaps and bounds with her reading and enjoys her short but sweet lessons each day. She is my other little artist and loves to do anything which is hands on. She is not so keen on learning to write. One day…. but for now she is happy to keep us all amused by her antics.
As we roll on to the end of 2016, I think our whole family is very much looking forward to 2017. I will have been cancer free for five years; Gary is starting a new job on the 2nd January. He is excited because he will be getting a car with the job 🙂 The older children will be focusing very much on their own studies, which frees me up to focus more on the littles. I have been offered an opportunity to turn some of my posts into a real course, which I am most excited about! It’s going to be a good year.
For those of you who have made it through this mammoth wrap up post I wish you and your family the most happy of Christmases and a very very prosperous new year. Thank you all for joining me on my often wobbly way through life xx