Wow. Thanks! Your support of my writing was one of the best things about 2020, the one I would like to focus on as we start a new year. So far over 200 of you have become part of this new community, and many have also become paying subscribers. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
I recognise many of your names from The Correspondent. It’s heartbreaking to mark the end of The Correspondent today, as I – as well as many of you – really believed in this project. But we can do something with this belief. We can try and recreate a similar spirit of exchange and learning over here at The First 1,000 Days. We can create a space where we can all mingle and interact, and where I can invite experts you can quiz on everything from children’s political aspirations to how to build a child-friendly city, from breastfeeding to play – like we did at The Correspondent. I will act as your host and writer, as a bridge among different realities and a translator of difficult issues.
For those of you who are new here, this is not a parenting blog. Many childfree people are part of this community. After all, we were all once kids and understanding how we grow into adults helps us understand our own lives better.
But yes, this newsletter will surely be useful to those who care for kids. You can’t learn how to raise a kid from books or articles, but you can certainly feel less lonely by sharing your experiences. It’s certainly been useful to me: sharing my experiences as a new mother with you has made my journey more purposeful.
So please, do have a think of those around you who may enjoy my words, and forward this newsletter to them. The more we are, the stronger our community will become.
Childhood looks so different around the world that I will only be able to reflect on some of those differences myself. But the wider and larger the community we build, the more diversity we will be able to include, the better we’ll understand whose stories we’re not telling, and why.
What my child taught me about life during a tough year
I had very ambitious plans for 2020, and I shared my wishes with you, readers, last January. Accidentally that email was sent out to 87,000 people, rather than to my core 700 followers . I received so many emails and tips, that I need more than 1,000 days to work on them.
Looking back at my 2020 writing plans, I’m surprised to see that I delivered on many of the stories I had promised: breastfeeding, play, abortion rights. I say I’m surprised because in every other realm of my life my plans for 2020 unravelled over a weekend. I’m sure yours did too, in one way or another.
As for my family, back in March we ended up spending over three months in a strict lockdown with my parents, with whom I barely talk now. Then Miguel died. He called me mijita italiana, and I called him my Ecuadorean father – our relationship mediated by one of my best friends, María José, one of his three daughters. I didn’t get a chance to hop on a plane and say goodbye in person.
In November, just as we were finding a new work-life balance with our toddler in a new country, Greece, another lockdown shut down nurseries. And then came the final blow: losing my dream job at The Correspondent and being plunged into a new cycle of financial uncertainty and soul-searching.
I’ll be honest. There have been days I want to cry and hide away, my self-esteem a vague memory from the past. But my son is always up as the sun rises and his smile forces me out of my mood, and out of bed. I often resent him for that, I sometimes shout at him for the wrong reasons.
But when I sit down with him and hold the sticks he’s playing with, and assist him in making them stand in a row, the internal noise disappears. The same happens when I catch the sunset as it paints our white walls in oranges and reds, and as I deseed a pomegranate, picking one red juicy seed after another.
Lorenzo likes to recite the things he’s experienced over and over again: a black dog, a hungry cat, some yellow flowers. But he mostly knows how to be in the here and now. This is what I’m thankful for, in this difficult year: to have an unknowing master teach me how to exist in the present and be playful, as I try not to let worries and grief have the best of me.
What about you? Do you have nothing but complaints about 2020? Or are you also thankful? And if you spent more time at home with your kids, what did you take away from it all? I would love to hear from you. You can get in touch by responding to this email.
One festive viewing tip to reflect on play
Imagine a town where children are not allowed to play with one another and are told their neighbours are enemies, not friends. Imagine parents asking them to actively fight against other children. What would happen?
In the fictional snowy town of Smeerensburg, a century-long feud between the Ellingboe and Krum families results in a dysfunctional town where kids can’t read or write, people don’t eat properly, plants don’t grow. Things don’t work and children are sad.
It is a kid’s sad drawing that sparks change. The unlikely alliance of Jesper, the newly arrived postman, with Klaus, a reclusive woodsman, brings toys to Smeerensburg’s children. And as soon as toys start to circulate, and kids start to play, the walls between neighbours start coming down.
No more spoilers for you. But if you or the kids around you are after a nice film to watch, check out Klaus by Spanish animator and director Sergio Pablos. It’s the perfect holiday treat, and a great way to reflect on the revolutionary power of play.
See you on 13 January
I’ll be back in your inboxes on 13 January, and then every Wednesday. Before that, I hope to take a short break from the screens and spend more time playing and being in the present.
Until then, I hope you can get some rest too.
With love and care,