I have a rule when it comes to taking photos of the kids. They don't like it when I take their pictures and so I had to institute this rule in order to make my life a little easier and get some cooperation out of them (sadly begging and promising M n' M's no longer works.) The deal is that for every "nice" photo I insist on taking of them, they get to stage a silly photo. The irony of this, of course, is that when I go to collate all the photos I want to use for the birthday post, it's the silly ones I like WAY more than the "normal" ones. Those silly photos just reflect so much more of their personalities than the formal ones do - and as much as it's nice to see my son with his hair actually brushed and my daughters with a beautific smile on their faces, it's not at all a reflection of what happens in real life.
For example, this is their official birthday portrait taken on the morning they turned 11:
And this is their official portrait taken on the day they started Grade Six:
And this is the official "We got our first bank account" portrait:
Like I said, those photos are way funnier - and much more true to life - than the, "Seriously?! Would it KILL you to smile decently for once?" type of photos.
This past year has been such fun with the kids - I'm still waiting on that sullen, irritable and annoying teenage hormones bomb to hit, I guess. These three kids have managed to make my life one hilariously funny adventure and if I had to sum up this past year in one word that would be it: funny.
It's funny how they claim to drive each other mad, annoy one another, get in each other's way, and Claire often half-seriously says she wishes she was an only child...and yet when you ask them to take a group photo, the love they have for one another is very evident:
It's funny how, when you're meant to be the mature one, they do their best to remind you that maturity can be so boring sometimes. And it's funny how when you think, "I was nothing like that when I was a kid!" you realise that their presence in your life actually gives you the freedom to BE a kid once in a while:
Funnier still is when you look at their official "nice" 12th birthday morning portrait and you think, "You know, I like it better when his hair is messy," even though the five minutes before this photo you spent begging him to squish it down and make it look, "at least halfway decent." (And this realisation will not stop you from obsessively squishing his hair down at every given opportunity.)
Funny too when you look at them and think, "WHEN THE HELL DID I GRANT YOU PERMISSION TO GROW UP?!" and you realise that all those cliches are not cliches at all. You really will find that time passes a lot faster than you want it to, that their childhood will disappear in the blink of an eye, that time goes faster the older they (and you) get, and that children have a funny habit of growing up when you're not paying attention.
Perhaps the funniest thing of all about raising pre-teen triplets is, in fact, just how FUNNY it really is. These kids are just hilarious sometimes. They make me laugh with their insane stories about the other kids at school, they can make me laugh with the great expressions on their faces, funny turns of phrase, funny habits and funny quirks which make them uniquely individuals and yet uniquely attached to one another. This year my kids came into their own and it's so easy to see the traits which are so clearly "Claire-ish" or "Julz-like" or "Alexis-y." Traits which, when I think about it, they had as tiny babies but expressed in different ways.
My gorgeous super- mature Claire - from the time she was tiny she was an early riser. Now, at age 12, she's exactly the same -early to bed and early to rise and totally obsessed with being on time, organised, and having everything in it's rightful place (including the rest of us. If it weren't for Claire, sometimes I think we'd never get our act together as a family.) She has always been the most 'grown up' of the three ...but also the most adoring of of all things cuddly and squishy and cute. She keeps me on my toes, this one - because as soon as you accept that she is demanding, independent, wise, and extremely self sufficient, you realise that beneath all those things lies a little girl who really just needs a good hug more often than she admits. (And if you're wondering, no way did I buy her those insane heels! But she had a hell of a good time trying them all on.) Claire is most like me in personality, which is going to make her teenage years interesting to say the least - but then I suspect she will still manage to teach me a thing or two. For a long time Claire struggled with being bossy to the point of alienation from other kids. Her confidence and academic skill seemed to give her permission to not only be Queen Bee but also loudly announce it to anyone who would listen. This past year I've really worked with her on the concept of kindness, gratitude and humility, and understanding that not everyone can be as awesome as you might be. Much to my surprise she has taken all of that on board and is growing into a helpful, sweet kid who listens when people talk (mostly. Although she can still talk the paint off the walls.) Claire, if you're reading this (and I'm pretty sure you are, there are no secrets when you are around) - I want you to keep remembering that being smart will get you VERY far in life, but that being smart AND kind will get you further still. I adore you - you clever, cuddly, hair-obsessed beautiful girl.
If ever there was a person who wrote the book on love and affection, I'm pretty sure my son Julian would be it. A gentle giant, Julian is the child who teaches me how to love unconditionally, how to love others without judgement, and how to love even when you are not feeling in a loving mood at all. This is my sensitive soul - the one who cries at the drop of a hat (literally), who reads a book with a sad ending and will feel real, true desolation about it. His emotional side does not always serve him well - because frankly there are times I think he needs to stop the crying and just take action on things - but it always reminds me (when I see those big tears about to fall) that it's ME who needs to take action, give him a hug and help him to move forward. He might be the height of an adult, but a bit like his sister, underneath it all likes a boy who just needs a hug. At his recent parent teacher interview, his teachers all told me the same two things - 1) that he catches onto concepts very quickly, and 2) that his perfectionist streak and dedication to a specific process drives them all a little crazy. I had to laugh at both of those only because they could have been talking about his Dad! Like father, like son - they both love without limit, get stuck on the details, and are the smartest people I know. Julian, I know you're reading this (because you can't stand to be left out), I want you to know that sometimes there is more than one way to do things. Rule following is important - but the fun comes when you stop following the rules so much! Thank you, boychick, for all the love you give me and your hilarious wit. I'm pretty sure the Universe could not have gifted me a better son than you if for nothing than those gifts alone.
Oh...Alexis! These two photos represent you SO well. Those many moments of your life when you are full of laughter and joy and those moments when you are loving us all with such fierce loyalty. I look at you and your eyes always seem to have a little twinkle of mischief to them, as though you know some great cosmic joke that the rest of us don't. You are the MOST determined person I've ever met - determined not only to achieve the things you set out to, but also determined to live your life with a sense of fun. You just BOUNCE your way through life, sometimes literally. This year you were so worried about the demands of Year Six, and yet a few weeks ago when I commented on how well you're coping, you said, "Well, it's really not as hard as I thought it would be!" Your determination is quite simply amazing. You have always had to fight harder to achieve things - my little "away with the fairies" child needs to work twice as hard as the others do - but you've never once let that stop you. Your teachers ALL comment that they've never met a child with such a strong work ethic and such a belief in her ability to improve and learn and grow. Your Dad especially has learned how to get you through the rough moments when you forget just how capable you really are - and his love and determination has paid off in dividends this year. You've become so independent this year, too - a Patrol Leader at Girl Guides, travelling interstate to go camping, learning to be a girl who stands up for what she believes in and being someone who always puts her own special spin on things. Your endless notes and funny drawings always seem to appear when I need them most. Alexis, since I'm sure you're reading this too - thank you. For being exactly who you are, which is my funny, sunny, determined Lola girl. You make the sun shine just that little bit brighter with the light you have glowing from within.
It's been a wonderful year for the kids, it really has. I tried desperately to think of something throughout this year- anything - which would somehow not be quite as sappy and lovey-dovey but I couldn't come up with anything. Sure, we have our moments when it's not all unicorns and rainbows...but on balance, it's been a pretty damn good year parenting these kids. After all that thinking, I realised why I found no glaring instance of them being challenging. The past year of my children's lives has been a very difficult one for ME - business was difficult, family matters were difficult, finances were difficult - I've just spent this past year being in a bit of a mess, honestly. You know what WASN'T a mess through all of that? My amazing kids. They have been the one constant thing which has saved my sanity these past 12 months. They made me laugh, they wiped my tears away (quite literally), they offered hugs and encouragement and JOY. Ridiculous moments of sheer, unbridled joy at a time when I needed it so very, very much.
I had a really fabulous Mother's Day with the kids and David about 10 days ago. At the end of the day, I turned to David and I said, "You know what? We might not be perfect parents. I'm sure we stuff things up. But you know, on the whole, I think we're doing a damn fine job of raising them. We really are."
In true David fashion, he smiled, looked as though he was going to cry, gave me an enormous hug and said, "Yup. We sure are."
You know what? It's funny just how wrong we are about that.
The three of you are doing a damn fine job of raising US.