And it felt great to say all that stuff I've been bottling up for a while.
The many many positive moments of 2012 are something I have found easier to share than the grotty ones, and once the anguish of them had passed it felt safe to write that piece. So please know that I am past the worst of it and in a positive space right now.
But now it feels safe for me to express some of my frustration from last year that I could never find the right words for..
Last year we struggled, and felt helpless at times, with daily tantrums and power-struggles with our youngest boy. Both Pete and I have gone to bed many a night feeling pretty useless, bewildered and exhausted by the ferocity of Alf's moods.
It feels like we have spent too many moments in the last year treading on egg-shells with him. He can be astonishingly sweet, loving and kind, but the flip side we have been living with has been screaming tantrums, a very demanding attitude towards everything, a very unforgiving attitude towards anyone or anything that doesn't go perfectly his own way, and a jekkyl and hyde personality which we have blamed ourselves for and taken to heart.
As someone who loves babies and children, parenting for the fourth time for crying out loud!, and someone who trained in Montessori and early years development, worked as a nursery nurse, and is a writer on parenting this has perhaps been the hardest thing I have ever had to deal with. I feel silly that we are having these struggles fourth time round, when the others were never really like this. I keep thinking surely it should be a piece of cake by now - no? I feel like we have devoted so much time in our approach to the kids, have spent thousands of hours reading parenting and home ed books, and tried to create a nurturing and fun environment for him, so to be faced with this kid who just rages at every little thing has felt very very difficult and soul-destroying.
There were times on our travels when we would go to bed and hold each other in our arms and just keep saying "Why?' "What are we doing wrong?" 'Why does he have to get like this?' Having an hour long screaming fit because we felt he shouldn't have a packet of sweets one time when we were in a french supermarket, to a horror-stricken audience of shoppers, was one of the lowest points. Along with him paddying and scratching his grandmas face when she kindly looked after all the children for us when we arrived back in England, so that we could go out for an evening with a posse of old friends. The shame of that was pretty crushing for both Pete and myself, even though she herself is of a holistic and extremely gentle bent and took it in her stride.
Ach, it's been a real soul -searching year. We have tried to remain loving and understanding and endlessly patient, but when this approach hasn't worked, then out of sheer exhaustion resorted to "Ok, we aint gonna take any more of this crap!" attitude, an had to physically restrain him, in that moment, so he wouldn't hurt anyone. When a child is a danger to himself and others, when they cannot hear reason in a moment of childish fury - what else can you do? When they are being actively spiteful? I keep thinking - but we are a nice family, we aren't like this! I could understand it if he was growing up in an abusive or vindictive family himself - but we are peaceful, gentle people and fun-loving people on the whole. Not perfect - but not monsters or anything.
He always calms down eventually, but by then it has reduced Pete and I nearly to tears. And occasionally the other children have been moved to tears by it too. Which is perhaps the most frustrating of all, since they didn't do anything wrong to him - but he can have a habit of being spiteful to them too.
Alf if you ever read this in future, I don't blame you. I don't blame anyone.
I know is that we will work it out. We will get through it.
And in the meanwhile, we will try to be as loving and have as much fun along the way as we can. There may have been some tears this last year but there has also been an incredible amount of laughter and tenderness too.
Pete and I are made of strong stuff, and we have a fantastic circle of supportive and caring friends. My soul sisters care for me and hear me and give me good counsel too. If you are reading - thank you - you know who you are.
I know it will get easier as he gets older.
So at this point I am actually feeling more positive and hopeful about things than I have done in the darkest moments of 2012, and excited about new possibilities and shifts in our family dynamic.
However we educate the children this year, I can hold my head up high that the kids are mostly enjoying life, mostly enjoying their education. Mostly is good enough for me. Who enjoys their job every single day of the year? Who enjoys being with anyone 24/7, 7 days a week? I can see that getting us all out and about independently this year will be awesome all-round.
I asked Indie today, in a very casual way, "Do you like being home educated?" As he roller-skated past me he joyfully flipped off a "Yeah - it's brilliant!" and went away singing happily to himself.
And Finn amazed me yesterday with his maturity - as we walked round a lake he said something very mature for an eleven year old boy - "The swan is a really noble beast, isn't it, mum?" (!!!)
Herbie is constantly reading and building and making things, masterminding so many projects in the house.
And as I write, Alf is feeding me chocolates, and being very sweet! And when I asked him what he wished for in the new year, my ninja lego crazy four year old tapped his chin and rolled his eyes mischieveously before proclaiming - "Thousands and thousands of fairies!!!!"
So yes - there are dark moments to tell, there are low moments. There are fears and doubts and moments of exhaustion.
But there's also a lot of magic sprinkled amongst it all, and when I look back in years to come I'm sure we'll all be able to laugh about the dark moments and there'll be lots of happy times we shared. It was mostly awesome with a hint of shitty.
Onwards and upwards!!!