A lot has happened in a year. When we moved our family across the globe, from London to Barbados in August 2013, I didn't really think about the effect it would have on our children. Not really.
Yes, I imagined them playing on white sandy beaches and chasing each other behind the banana trees in our garden. But the truth is, while we've been adjusting to this new life, my three have changed. A lot. That's partly because they're growing children. It's what they're supposed to do. But there's something about moving four thousand miles away from your home, your school, your family, that has a profound effect on who you are. And who you're going to be.
My youngest, Iris, was just ten months old when we arrived. And was crawling.
She's now approaching her second birthday and can run like the wind. For her, life is about playing on the beach with her brother and sister, her plastic baby and her Gorilla book. And dancing. To reggae. She says 'Morning!' (no matter what time of day it is) with a big smile to everyone who walks past. Always. She loves mac pie (a local staple). The sunshine-and-palm-trees-life of Barbados is all she knows. But she'll be four when we leave and I often wonder how much of this place she'll bring home with her...
Five-year-old Oscar loved the beach the moment we arrived. And made friends quickly.
He spends most of his time arranging battles with his toy knights on the veranda and making guns out of driftwood. He loves to watch men pulling in nets at our local beach. He's learning to swim like a fish. And his best friends are Eva and another boy called Oscar. So although he talks about children from pre school in the UK (with a slight Barbadian accent), he's forming those all-important early friendships here. And that means a lot.
Lila, now nine, had her world turned upside down when we moved here. She was just eight, and left behind very close, see-you-every-day, relationships. For months and months she missed her grandparents, her cousins, her best friends, her school. She
hated the hot weather, the beach, she wanted to go home.
Now she's come through the difficult, intial phase of moving abroad, and it's amazing to see how she's grown. She's gaining a new inner confidence. And a deeper understanding of the world. Instead of dismissing her surroundings she enages with them. She worries about the man at the supermarket who asked to wash our car. 'I'm so glad you said yes mummy. He looks like he doesn't have very much,' She notices the clouds, 'Wow! That one looks like a mountain!'
She's always been a keen artist, but rather than exclusively drawing cartoon animals and imaginary characters, she'll now sit, sketchbook in hand, and capture her surroundings. Last week, at our favourite bar, she sketched the beach. In the foreground: her mango coctail, then a parasol and sun lounger, the waves of the sea and in the background, the setting sun.
She's made close friends too. Although we keep in touch with people from the UK, Lila has found a group of children (thanks to her wonderful international school) who she feels comfortable with. They have playdates where they climb our giant breadfruit tree and swing endlessly in the hammock then shut themselves in her bedroom to listen to music while making loom band bracelets. She's finally happy to be here. And therefore, so am I.