Each of my three children will be celebrating their birthday in the next two weeks. My obstetrician tells me September is the most popular month for babies to be born because of all the relaxed summer holidays action – and my mother tells me she's never buying me champagne for Christmas again.
September is always a time for celebration and reflection – and for me to take stock of the year that has been and who my children are becoming. This year my kids will be turning 14, eight and six. My "baby" is really not a baby any more. She is three quarters of her way through her first year of school and it's a period that has seen massive change each of my kids. They walk in on their first day of school a naïve and slightly helpless kindergartener, and they come out at the end of that year with incredibly strength and independence – and often a bit of attitude. And their tiny little baby teeth have started to fall out.
I see many friends lament on social media about their children maturing when they have birthdays. They're sad that they're losing their babies – that their children are growing up and needing them less. That they're going off and having lives outside the home – lives that as parents we often know little about.
But me? I'm not feeling that. When I look back on photos of a few years ago, I see cute little kids, but I also see a stressed and tired mum who had no time or energy for herself. I see a family that wasn't getting enough sleep, and kids that wouldn't let me go to the toilet by myself, let alone enjoy some peaceful time to read a book or chat to a friend.
My children were pretty good babies, but babies by definition are needy and hands-on every moment of every day. I look back and I see how exhausted and drained I was, and I don't miss that one bit
These days, I find my children infinitely more interesting than I used to. Each one has their own unique personality. They teach me things I didn't know, they tell me jokes I've never heard, and they offer their take on the world in a way that is fresh and new to me. My children have grown into genuinely interesting people that I (mostly) enjoy hanging out with.
While they certainly come with challenges – which get more complex as they get older – they are no longer hands-on. They each make their own bed and get themselves ready for school in the mornings.
My eight-year-old son vacuums the house with a level of care and precision that I could never muster. When he climbs into the car after school each day, he swears he can't remember a single thing that happened in his day. I've learned to let it lie and realise that not everything in his life is about me. In fact, very little is.
My six-year-old daughter begs to be allowed to clean the bathroom. She even asked if, for her birthday, I could buy her some new rubber gloves for cleaning. I threw the kid a bone and bought them for her early. I'm not a monster. She and I sing show tunes together every chance we get, which irritates everyone else in our house, so we do it loudly.
My teenager and I go to concerts together and talk about politics and dating. She's getting to the point where she can even babysit her younger siblings, which is the ultimate parenting dream.
These children have turned into real people before my very eyes and it's remarkable. They no longer do everything I tell them to do, and they no longer need me every moment of the day. And it's the break I get from them that refreshes me and allows me to see them with new eyes every day.
So while I enjoy looking back on cute baby photos fondly, I'm not sorry those times have passed. I'm enjoying getting to know these people living in my house, and I plan on embracing the changes with each passing year.