World and Orbit
Well. A year ago this became my world and orbit. And one complete orbit of the wider world on, here they are again.
In so many things, everything has changed. And in some ways it hasn't. We just had the same dinner from the same chip shop as a year ago. Except with both ate it this time.
So, as is my habit, if yesterday was the celebration, this will be the reflection.
The past year has been the most exciting journey of my life so far. I've learned things about myself, SPS, us, MJ, and the people in our lives who matter. Some matter all the more, some new ones matter, some others matter less as priorities re-oreintate.
Different and the same is an overwhelming theme.
Someone asked me the week after MJ was born if having her was the best thing I ever did. It was a Schrodinger moment as the answer was both yes and no. Yes because patently it is, and no because from the moment we saw her, it wasn't like her arrival was a new event, but something logical that was just waiting to happen in space time.
I'm the same person, doing the same job, in the same house, the same bed...but a different person. The arrival of a child opened the door to another whole space in my self, which i've been coming to know. But it also opened a shared space in SPS and I's relationship, in the relationship with my parents and family, and in my working life.
It is odd to imagine MJ's arrival having such an effect on how I think about my work. My work is pretty much a vocation, as any reader will know. And yet the depth of tolerance, sense of the value of time and the appreciation of the importance of family time and holidays has changed the way I approach managing myself and others. Work was always a priority, the mission. Now family is an equal at least. I retain my ambition, and have an increased clarity of what I want to achieve in my career, but this is shaped and tempered by what the reward of that both material and in terms of moral can give to us as a family.
I've had the chance to put into practice a lot of how I think about the world, what I think about parenting, and what I know from my work about the importance of early years and attachment. It's been wonderful to find in SPS a partner whose approaches and beliefs both complement and contrast mine. We haven't argued, nor contradicted. And it seems thus far that we've done OK. I have a big interest in mental health and technology, and we have both noticed that our habits in relation to device use has impacted on MJ already. She already carries SPS's iPhone around in an Otterbox case. Her arrival is forcing us to look at ourselves, and we should and are doing so.
I'm aware of the duty I have as a man in raising a daughter in the modern world. I'm a feminist, to the extent that a man can be, and in some ways more of a vocal, obvious and activist in equalities that SPS. I, and we are determined that MJ grows up with the skills to love and respect herself and others, appreciate and understand the risks and opportunities that life presents, address her demons, and be the best MJ she can be. That might come across to some as an insistence in not adopting gendered clothes or toys in any great way, and ensuring she has access to role models who come from the widest range of perspectives possible.
I'm sure we seem achingly middle class. I'm sure we are. She had balsamic glazed strawberries for breakfast yesterday. It annoys me that the advantage we can give, with our good jobs, our two degrees, our family backgrounds ensure that we can and do things that people who don't have those opportunities can't. I'm not going all guardian and I won't be eliciting sob-stories on Gumtree when giving away baby stuff to make my cockles feel warm. But again, it does make my work, so centred around inequalities, all the more important.
I've though a lot recently about how MJ appears in blip, and on Facebook, especially when people share my pictures, and how i'm exposing her life to online scrutiny by goodness knows who. I haven't solved that one yet. A year of blips of MJ, and we have an archive which we will always treasure. Family have seen her grow, and so have many strangers, and close blip correspondents. Some of the early photos we have have helped SPS to reconnect with some of the weeks after the birth which were especially difficult. And yet I have a thousand pictures which never made the one a day which tell the wider story, and which we never see and never print.
I'm currently wondering whether to enter the birth portrait in a competition. I'm torn. So personal and private, yet already so public. Private in public. I don't know. I certainly decoupled blip from Twitter. From now on, I don't know whether to continue blipping her as often as in this first year, i've certainly noticed her start to be camera aware, which I don't want in terms of letting her think she is centre of attention. I hope at least to find more time for more diverse photography again.
I know for many people I know that i've crossed into the parent zone, the land of the perfect child, and the Christmas letter. At the same time, i've met lots of parents, and felt part of the 'club' as reflected by other parents I know. We have been very lucky, to have a wonderful baby who has been no trouble, has slept, eats everything, behaves well...it could have been the opposite and the story might be different.
But you deal the hand you get given. I've just been lucky with this pair of aces. But it takes a village as they say. And we, and MJ have a close network of family and friends who have made it all possible, as well as a wider group of people who check in from afar. Thanks you everyone who is part of the team.