Friday, November 20, 2015

What Would You Have Said?

Sitting at the traffic lights this morning, we sat across from the University where three flags were fluttering in the wind. Usually it is the West Australian flag, the Australian flag and the Indigenous flag, but today the third flag had been replaced with the Rainbow flag.

‘What’s that flag?’ the Mop wanted to know. She always has good questions.

‘That’s the Rainbow flag,’ I told her.

‘And what does it mean?’ she asked.

Awesome question I thought, wondering how I was going to answer in a timely fashion appropriate to my audience of a three year old, five year old and eight year old.

‘It means that the things that are different about us, are the things that make us beautiful,’ I said.

‘It’s about treating everyone the same, regardless of whether you are a boy or a girl, what colour your skin is, who you love, what religion you are or what you believe in.’ 

There was a brief pause in the back seat.

‘Soooo,’ the Mop started, obviously trying to get a handle on it all. ‘It’s for people with pink skin who love cats and for people with brown skin who love dogs?’

‘Sort of,’ I said. ‘The Rainbow flag reminds us the people who love dogs are just as awesome as the people who love cats.’

‘I love bunnies,’ said the three year old.

‘Me too,’ piped up the eight year old.

‘Well, you’re awesome too,’ I said.

‘I like all the animals,’ said the Mop.

‘Animals are sooooo beautiful,’ sighed the eight year old.

‘And the Rainbow flag tells us it’s okay to love animals?’ asked the Mop.

‘And marry animals?’ asked the three year old.

Uhhhhhh. I felt the conversation was getting a little off course.

‘Well,’ I said as the lights changed and we headed off. ‘The Rainbow flag simply tells us that we are all different and that makes us special. After all, a rainbow wouldn’t be as pretty if it was all the same colour.’

‘I’m going to marry a rainbow,’ said the three year old.

‘That’s fine by me, as long as it loves you as much as I do.’
Vive la difference!

Monday, November 2, 2015

Falling in Love

I am falling I love with my middle child.

I should clarify for anyone who is concerned – but I already love her very much. I would do anything for her, including go all Tiger Mother on someone’s butt if they tried to hurt her – but as anyone who has ever been in love with someone, and then suddenly not would know, there is a difference between loving someone and being in love with them.

I am falling in love with my middle child.

I find myself staring at her when she is talking, mesmerised by the way she screws her little cupid mouth up when she is thinking. I find myself catching the light in her hair wisps. I stare after her when she walks away, hoping she will do little side kick she does when she is happy. She is completely oblivious to me and my deepening scrutiny.

I bliss out in the mornings when I stick my head into her bedroom and she is just waking up and she puts her arms out to me and I crawl into her bed, and she wraps them around my neck and simply says ‘Mummy,’ before snuggling into me.

I wish I could bottle the joy she gives me when she gallops off, legs gangling in all direction, hips one way, head the other, ungainly as a baby giraffe, but oh so much shorter.

I wish I could capture the stories I overhear her creating, alone with her toys, the complex relationships she creates between a Barbie doll, a Lego house, a small stuffed bird and a book (she likes to play with books – as toys. Yeah, I don’t really get it either, but I love it anyway).

One day she made an Elsa out of a popped blue balloon, carefully taping on arms, legs and hair that she had made out of paper. She spent ages playing with this ‘doll’ – which could easily be classified as rubbish – and I found it today, carefully packed away on her shelf. My heart ached when I saw it next to her pile of expensive toys.

When you fall in love with someone, you suddenly become aware of everything they do – and you love them for it. (When you fall out of love, you are also aware of everything they do, but it makes you want to tear your hair out. Or theirs.)

When you fall in love with someone, their annoying habits become quirks; their oddities become endearing.

I can’t say why all of a sudden I am falling in love with her, because like I say, I have always loved her deeply. But it’s like I am seeing her more clearly. Maybe at five and three quarters, she is becoming the person she is meant to be, rather than the little kid who always getting left behind, or underfoot.

All year I have been saying this is her year, and all year I have been waiting for her to share this sentiment. Finally I have understood that I need to let her become who she is in her own time.

All year I have been admiring her strengths – but admiration is not always the same as love. On more than one occasion I referred to her as a cockroach – because of her innate ability to survive and her utter imperviousness to what is going on around her. My husband called her a cat – because she always lands on her feet (not literally, she’s quite clumsy). These are not bad traits to have – actually they’re bloody awesome, perhaps it’s the labels we gave to them which was unfair.

All year has been building to this point – this rather tardy recognition of mine. I am ashamed it has taken me so long.

And like any woman who is in love, I am in a blissful state where the sun is a little brighter, the sky a little bluer, and I smile in my sleep.


Sunday, November 1, 2015

That Time I Talked About Masturbation at a Party

I was congratulating myself at having made it to 10pm at a friend’s 40th. It was officially ‘past my bedtime’ but I was still going strong with a glass of champagne in my hand, although I occasionally had to step out of my towering heels, confusing whoever I was standing with at the time by shrinking three inches without any explanation.

We were discussing my good luck at being able to sleep in an empty house that night – my family were away and I wouldn’t be woken by small children.

I sniffed. ‘My youngest usually wakes at 5am, but it doesn’t matter – I have been waking up at 4am for no apparent reason.’

One friend shook her head sadly, ‘I have been waking at 2am! I can’t ever get back to sleep.’

We all clucked sympathetically.

‘What do you do?’ we asked.

‘I just lie there,’ she replied.

One lady leaned forward ‘if you find you are lying there for more than half an hour, you should just get up.’

‘And do what?’ she wanted to know.

‘Anything,’ was the answer. ‘Read a book, do the dishes, anything but TV.’

It was time for my five cents.

‘Masturbate,’ I said.

I had their attention. All their eyes were on me.

‘That’s what I hear anyway,’ I quickly covered. ‘But it focuses all your attention on one thing. Your mind stops wandering, and you stop thinking about all the crap you have to do, stop worrying about things. It focuses your mind and body.’

I nodded sagely. I felt like Dr Phil.

The conversation changed quite quickly after that – it is possible that people slunk away in search of companions who weren’t chronic over-sharers like me.  It’s possible people may not be able to look me in the eye on Monday.

It’s possible that now some people might get a better night’s sleep. You're welcome.

As for me, I found a ridiculously full stomach and being up to the eyeballs in champagne did the trick. And for the record – without the kids (and husband) being present I managed to sleep in to a record time of 6.45am.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Why am I so Quiet?

I don’t write here as much as I used to.

This is partly because I have lots of other writing projects. Partly because I have been finishing my Grad Dip.

But mostly because I feel like most of what I have to say, is already being said.

There were a few lucky bloggers who started their blogs back when the rest of us were still using smoke signals and morse code to communicate. By the time the rest of us caught on, there were over 152,000,000 blogs in the world. To put that in content, that is approximately how many pieces of Lego Friends we suck up the vacuum cleaner each week. Especially those tiny little purple bows and brushes. They shit me.

152 million blogs.

Of course, five of those are mine. One I gave up on a long time ago, and one I will never admit is mine (yay, internet anonymity).

But how are we meant to be heard amongst so many voices?

I started From Mum to Me primarily as a record of my children’s early lives – a way to capture forever all their little quirks, and all my major mistakes. What I wrote about was ridiculously important to me, but also completely recognisable to everyone else. For the most part, parenting blogs such as this, are universal stories told with different names. And we share and read them, precisely because we can see our own experiences in someone else’s words and think ‘thank god, I thought I was the only one who did that.’

You are not alone.

If we could sum up the messages of 99.9% of all the ‘mummy’ blogs and ‘mommy blogs’ and ‘parenting blogs’ in only four words – that message would be YOU ARE NOT ALONE.

It’s a pretty powerful message, even when wrapped up in stinky nappies and glitter glue.

Because even though I started the blog for me, I kept writing for you, because of those wonderful comments and emails I get every now and then, the likes on Facebook, the private messages – the ones that say ‘thank you for making me understand I am not alone in this.’

That has been very powerful for me.

I am under no illusion that what I write is Pulitzer worthy or compellingly unique. Usually, it’s full of speling mistakes.

But while I am lazily inactive here on the blog, I do still share and post things on my Facebook account. Mostly because it’s a lot easier than thinking up funny topics and then finding the time to sit down and actually write about them.

I find it fascinating to see what really makes people jump – the things that people get excited about. I should point out that it’s never anything that I actually write. Sniff. But that’s ok, I’ve dealt with that.

The memes and links that generate the most activity is like a spotlight, pointing out the major issues that affect us all. Because we (Relentless readers) are a rather homogenous group. Roughly a third from the States, a third from Australia and the rest from across the globe like the UK, NZ and Canada. Hi everyone.

And while we are not all women (hi guys) and not all my readers are actually mums, when something spikes I can see the issues we think about. The clever meme people may have made us laugh, but they also manage to capture our concerns.

The most recent thing I posted up on Facebook was a great quote from Jennifer Garner about the fact that she has a baby bump despite not being pregnant. She totally owned it, and everyone seemed to love it.

I recently published a book 'The Brutal Truth About the Third Child' (available on Amazon here). Yeah, I actually just did that. Anyway, in the book I wrote a completely new piece called ‘What does your body really look like after three babies?’. It was quite confronting, which is probably why I never put it up on the blog.

But, like Jennifer, I like to think that my scars and wobbly bits are just a badge of honour of being a mum. I’d rather have them, than not, and I think a lot of you feel the same way too.

But if someone as lovely as Jennifer Garner is writing it, then I don’t need to, which is why I am sometimes very silent over here.

But you don’t need to be. Please keep those messages coming.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Trials of a Day-Care Mum

It’s becoming increasingly painful trying to drop Number Three off at day-care in the mornings.

There are days when I slink back to the car and I can still hear her howling with the indignity of being abandoned in a giant park-like setting with dozens of other children, grown-ups who actually enjoy playing with children (or are paid to act as though they do) and tiny little toilets that perfectly fit her bottom with no fear she will ever fall in.

She doesn’t realise how good she has it.

She tells me she would rather stay home with me. But when I probe a little deeper it’s clear that it isn’t me she wants to spend the day curled up with, but the TV. I asked her directly once ‘do you love the TV more than Mummy?’ She didn’t even have the decency to hesitate for a second before nodding enthusiastically.

All my kids have loved day-care, to begin with anyway. I am fortunate enough that my kids go to a particularly well rated community centre. They have nature play gardens, enormous cubby houses, swings in the shady trees, sand pits and bridges, teepees and enough animals to maintain a hobby farm (including what we were told was going to be a ‘miniature’ pig but someone obviously screwed up, because this pig is the size of a small car and has to be kept separate from the kids now because there is every chance he might decide one day to snack on a small child).

At home all we have is TV and a gold fish that refuses to die no matter how much we ty and neglect it.

At day-care, my three year old – who is in the ‘science’ room, learns about how the body works by handling real brains (I kid you not, there is a photograph on the wall of them poking at a brain), using sophisticated contraptions to see how blood pumps through the body, and draw outlines of themselves on giant paper and fill in the gaps (heart, brain, poo tube).

At home, my child learned about the body by figuring out that each time she poops on the toilet she gets a lolly pop. So she is learning to hold part of it in, getting a lolly, then going back half an hour later to do another poo and get another lolly. A valuable lesson for both of us.

At day-care, she is given fruit at 9am, a two course, cooked lunch in a fully equipped dining room with kid-sized tables and chairs and vases of flowers on the table, plus afternoon tea that you can smell being baked in the mornings. All the parents walk back to their cars with their heads at a funny angle, which I finally realised is them trying to sniff the delicious aromas of the kids lunch (while trying not to sniff the giant pig).

At home, we have stale bread which I can turn into a choice of a) stale sandwiches or b) toast. Which is effectively warm stale sandwiches, but since the butter is all nice and melty, no one cares.

At daycare, she has approximately 100 children between the ages of 0 and 5 to play with, boys, girls, different ethnic and language  groups, rough kids, gentle kids, kids who want to dance, kids who want to run, kids who will push her on the swing, kids who want to be pushed. 100 little people who want to do nothing but play.

At home, she has me. Who will do anything to avoid playing (including scrubbing the toilet, which needs it more often now that she is crapping every half an hour).

I try and explain this to her, but she won’t listen. She continues to howl in the mornings, breaking my heart. As I hand her over to one of her adoring carers and practically sprint out the door with the other two in tow, I leave a little piece of me behind.

She will only being going for a couple more months. Soon I will finish my last university subject, soon it will be Christmas, soon she will start pre-school.

And I am pretty sure when she realises next year that she will be expected to learn and wear uniforms and can only play in the playground for limited times every day she will begin to understand how good she had it. 

When she starts getting homework and is expected to learn to read, when there are only two teachers instead of four, when the pig is traded in for a tank of hermit crabs, she might realise that hey, day-care was pretty good.

But I feel confident that she will truly appreciate the awesomeness of day-care when she opens her first lunch box that mum has packed, and it only has a banana and a stale sandwich.

Then she will probably cry and demand to be taken back to day-care.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Cock Porn at 2am

‘Where are you going,’ my husband asked groggily.

‘She’s calling out she’s done a poo, I’d better go and see’ I replied.

It was 2.15am. As in the middle of the effing night.

I trudge downstairs and open her door a crack. No tell tale waft of death, but I can hear her sniffing. She’s crying, I think. Oh no, what if she has diarrhoea? I mentally begin rearranging the following day, trying to determine how much work I can get done if I have a sick three year old at my side.

‘Why are you sad honey,’ I ask her, walking toward the bed.

‘Because I want cockcorn. I hungry,’ she said in her tiny adorable voice that suddenly wasn’t so adorable anymore.

What? Did I somehow mistake ‘popcorn’ for ‘poo’? I suppose when you’re ASLEEP it is easy to mistake all sorts of things.

I stare at her shadowy shape in the dark and resist the urge to throw a doll at her head. Instead, in my calmest voice I simply say ‘No. Go back to sleep’, turn, and leave the room.

Only after I close the door do I say a very rude word…

…which is drowned out anyway by an almighty shriek and indignant howls of misery that erupt from within the room.

I pause momentarily and assess my level of anger. Pretty high, I think, based on the fact that someone – either my husband or one of the kids – has woken me pretty much every single night for the past eight years.

There was no way I was going to deal with this in a calm, responsible manner, so I kept walking. I needed to pee anyway, so I just left the volcanic mess behind, which was now throwing itself against the door demanding ‘cockporn’.

Besides, I could hear my husband heading down the stairs. Let him deal with her, I thought, although it was entirely possible his way of solving the problem would be to actually give her a bag of popcorn at 2 o’clock in the morning.

By the time I had finished in the loo the house was dark and silent. Unbelievable. I made my way back upstairs and as soon as my shadow loomed in the door, I heard a chirpy little voice say ‘hello Mummy’, followed by some enthusiastic bouncing on my pillow.

F*ck, I thought. I would have rather he gave her the popcorn.

‘She won’t sleep,’ I muttered climbing in to bed and hauling the blankets off the other two.

It was irrelevant anyway. Whether she slept or not was not the point: the point was that I would not be able to sleep. And just like the 3,000 or so nights that preceded this one, I would not get a full night’s uninterrupted sleep.

If I’m being honest – and I usually am – I am a total bitch between the hours of midnight and 5am. 

The rest of the time I quite a nice person, but unless you catch me at the tail end of a rather awesome party (rather unlikely these days when parties finish at 5pm so we’re all in bed by 8pm) if you find me awake during these hours – I WON’T BE VERY NICE TO YOU. Even if you sprang from my loins (or are trying to spring for them) I don’t want to know you.

Now that my Third Child is three and my eldest is eight, I figure I have been having crap sleep through pregnancy, breast feeding and kids not-sleeping-through for long enough, and it is time for me to reassert my physical right to six hours uninterrupted sleep.

Note how I didn’t ask for eight or ten. Just six. Uninterrupted.

Before I had kids I was an awesome sleeper. I would have won an Olympic gold. My parents installed a smoke alarm in my bedroom when I was at uni because I used to burn incense in there and they quite rightly were concerned I would burn the house down. 

One night a spider walked across the alarm and set it off. Those bastards are loud but I slept straight through it (much to my parent’s disgust) because I was a teenager and I used to be an Olympic gold winning sleeper.

These days, one of the kids can fart in their sleep downstairs and it will wake me up, because I am a Mum, and Mums develop a rather useful (but annoying) desire to ensure their kids are safe.

Enough is enough.

No more farting. No more cockporn in the middle of the night. I need to reclaim my sleep.

So if anyone has any good advice, please let me know: how can I reclaim my sleep?

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