Wednesday, June 15, 2016

The Sperm and the Egg

‘But how does the man’s sperm actually get inside the woman?’

I hesitated.

This was the most direct, specific question she had asked to date and it deserved an honest answer. 

Then again, she was only nine. Barely.

We had started with a general chat at bedtime. She wanted to know when to expect puberty. She wanted to know if you could choose a boy baby or a girl baby. She wanted to know if boys bled every month like girls. They were thoughtful questions that I answered easily and as simply as I could. 

Which meant in reality, that I used ten words when two would suffice but that’s just me.

I had recently been to a seminar at school about how to talk to kids about sex without screwing it up. Pardon the pun. Originally expecting around 30 people, over 120 parents had crammed into the library – we all knew what we had ahead of us. And we were all bloody terrified.

One of the take-home messages was ‘teachable moments’, taking advantage of naturally occurring situations where you can ease sex into conversation. The other was ‘always answer their questions’.

‘Well,’ I said, crouching beside her bed, delaying this as long as I could without being too obvious, ‘with his penis. The man puts his penis inside the lady’s vagina and the sperm comes out. And if there is an egg there, it can make a baby. It’s called sex, people have sex and it can make a baby’

She ducked her head under doona for a moment before peeking out at me.

‘Does it hurt? Doing, that thing?’

‘Sex?’ No,’ I said. ‘’It shouldn’t. It actually feels nice.’

She screwed up her face. ‘Too much information, Mum’, she said. ‘You could have just said “I’ll tell you when you’re older”, like you did last year.’

Inwardly I groaned. Outwardly I remained calm. ‘You are older, now. Old enough to know about it, definitely not old enough to do it.’

‘Ewww, don’t worry about that!’

I stood up, unsure if I did well or if I had made a monumental mistake. Her head was under the covers and she wriggled around.


Methinks I need to tell her tomorrow morning not to repeat this conversation at school. Or to her sisters.

Friday, May 20, 2016

What My Child Learned from Angry Birds – and it may surprise you

We took our family to see Angry Birds – the Movie the other day.

I wasn’t overly impressed, there were probably too many gay-dance-club-naked-buttocks-in-leather-chaps scenes than there should have been for a kids cartoon, but hey, I’m not judging.

I was a little concerned about the linguistic (and cooking) nightmare the movie set up between pigs referring to eggs as ‘omelettes’ and birds referring to eggs as ‘children’, but I can live with that as well.

There were plenty of fart jokes and nastiness and bottoms, but that’s just a typical day at our place.

What I found most fascinating about this movie, was the message my four year old daughter took home with her.

She already has a bit of a reputation for being a wild one (or a holy terror, depending on who you talk to) so taking her to a movie that celebrates anger and blowing up and hitting things that displease you, was always going to be a risk.

Yet, the one thing she took away with her was the meditation scene.

Shocking, right?

A few days after we saw the movie she told me how she taught her grandma how to ‘breathe’. Mildly confused, and probably distracted by some hilarious meme on Facebook, I nodded and smiled and said ‘that’s awesome.’

Knowing she was being ignored, she sat cross legged on the floor, stretched her arms out with her palms turned upwards and closed her eyes.

Considering this was the quietest she had been since birth, I could not help noticing. I was so shocked in fact I needed a glass of wine and a lie down.

The holy terror… was meditating.

Then a few days after that I spoke with her grandma about this amazing scene. I had assumed that she had taught my daughter the restful pose, but needed two glasses of wine and a lie-down when I was informed, that it was my daughter who was doing the teaching. And that she had learned how to meditate from Angry Birds.

I doubt she will be becoming a Buddhist monk any time soon, her meditation sessions never last more than 30 seconds, but it has filled me with hope that amongst the fart jokes and naked cowboys and cannibalistic pigs of the world, a small child still notices a moment of silence.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

The Cook and the Chef

There was a tear rolling down her cheek. Her big blue eyes were wet and her lip was trembling.

She was crying over egg white and I was finding it difficult not to walk out of the room in frustration.

She wasn’t crying because she had broken a bone, or had a fight with her friend or because people are dying in refugee camps across the globe. She was crying because I had been unable to find freeze-dried egg white at the local grocery store.

Frigging freeze dried egg white?

Her misery had started because she had found the recipe for peppermint creams in one of those Christmas craft books that I always buy in anticipation of the festive season, but forget about until sometime after Valentine’s Day.

The ingredients consisted of dried egg white, half a fresh eggwhite, peppermint essence and icing sugar.

What was I meant to do with the other half egg white, I wanted to know?

I had warned her that it was an unusual ingredient, but she is rarely one to let reality get in the way of a good idea. I trekked around the shop three times, looking at various sections before admitting defeat and asking one of the shop managers to look it up on the computer.

The strange look she gave me was probably deserved. ‘Yeah no. We don’t have that here,’ she said. ‘I don’t think anyone has that anymore,’ she said rather unnecessarily.

When I told the Bombshell I couldn’t find the dried eggwhite, she seemed to take it quite well. We’d try at a different shop, I told her. People make pavlova from it, I said. Someone will have it. And she had shrugged and walked away.

But as usual, bedtimes congeals the smallest disappointment into a puddle of distress. A puddle that needed to be dealt with so that I could make my escape to my own bed.

And so the tear was rolling down her face, and something she had clearly been dwelling on for 12 hours was bubbling up inside her.

Frigging egg white.

It took some gentle prodding to get to the real issue. Already a competent baker of muffins and cakes, brownies and biscuits, she wanted to try something new. She was getting stale (my pun, not hers). She needed to branch out. She wanted to make lollies and sweets.

Aware of what I was getting myself into, but too tired to care, I went to my stash of cookbooks and came back with an armful of books: ‘Pies and Puddings’, ‘Sweets and Toffees’, ‘Ice-creams and Sorbets’.

Her eyes widened and she greedily grabbed at the books.

‘Tomorrow,’ I said. ‘You can tell me what you want to make tomorrow.’

And with that I disappeared upstairs to shower.

Ten minutes later the door slid open. I shouldn’t have been surprised but I was still annoyed at having been caught unawares. And nude. ‘Always knock,’ I warned her. ‘Or one day you might walk in on something you don’t want to see.’

She looked at me, puzzled, but decided it wasn’t the time to ask what I meant. Instead she held a book out in front of her.

‘I found something,’ she said. ‘I want to make this and I am sure we will have the ingredients.’

‘Ok,’ I said, noticing she was holding the Ice-cream and Sorbet book. ‘Which yummy treat do you want to make?’

‘Pumpkin ice-cream!’ she said with glee, showing me the recipe.

Pumpkin, friggin ice-cream.

I’ll let you know how it goes.

Monday, March 14, 2016

When Your Eight Year Old Daughter Starts Thinking About Boys

‘I’m going to need talking time tonight, Mum’ my eldest daughter whispered to me.

Just shy of nine, the Bombshell is in that twilight zone of wanting to be a kid, but knowing that something big is just around the corner. Tall, bright and thoughtful, she is a lovely person to be around – except when she is practicing to be a teenager, which seems to be happening more and more often these days.

Talking time, which usually happens in bed before lights out, is our way of connecting with each other. A one-on-one chance to discuss things that might be troubling her or just a chin-wag without pesky sisters listening in.

‘You know how you said I couldn’t get a boyfriend until I was 18…’ she began.

I didn’t recall saying that exactly, but it seemed like good advice and it hardly seemed the time to debate the point.

‘Yes,’ I said in my best non-panicked voice. Where was this going?

‘Well, do you think it is ok if I have a friend who is a boy?’

She looked up at me with her big blue eyes, hopeful and pained at the same time.

I knew exactly who she was talking about. Earlier that night we had been for a class dinner at the local food court, and despite the enormous turnout of a dozen families and more than 45 adults and kids, I had seen them at one point, sitting by themselves at a long, otherwise empty table. I couldn’t hear what they were saying, or if they were talking at all.

It seemed like one of those moments in the movies, when the world continues to rush around you, while the main characters remain motionless, unaffected by what was happening around them.

My other two kids were part of the crowd, running like ferals through the food court. The youngest (now a Kindy kid) was bailing up the Year Five boys and threatening them with her water bottle, while my middle was flirting with someone’s popular older sister. Kids were everywhere. Parents were chatting over each other, moving around the tables, greeting each other warmly. Food was being passed around, drinks were being poured, everyone was in a state of flux and action.

Except those two. Heads together, a moment of solitude amongst a carnival of noise.

It didn’t last, but later that night it was obviously on her mind.

‘Of course,’ I said. ‘I would hope that you have friends that are boys as well as girls.’

‘But...’ and I could tell there was more, but she couldn’t articulate it.

‘Do you want to hold his hand?’ I asked, choosing the most innocent of activities I could think of. Kissing is still considered gross and shocking in our house.

She screwed up her face. ‘No!’ she said with disgust.

Ooops, too far, I thought.

‘Do you get excited when you see him?’ I said.

She rocked her head side to side thinking, then shrugged.

‘No… not excited’ she admitted.

I thought again.

‘Are you just glad when you see him, and glad to know he is at school?’

She smiled broadly – ‘that’s it,’ she said. ‘I’m just glad he is there.’

I couldn’t resist cupping her face in my hand. ‘I’m sure he feels the same way, and that’s how all good friends feel. You feel reassured to know they are nearby. Girls, boys, whatever. What you are describing is just special friendship, and that is totally ok to feel like that.’

She smiled, obviously reassured.

I was reassured too. Earlier that night I had heard parents of older kids discussing the fact that boys and girls who had been friends since pre-school, were worried about being teased for walking to school together. While the divide between the sexes was inevitable at some point, I hoped it was a long way off, and that my daughters could just look at people as friends and evaluate them on what type of person they were, as opposed to whether they were a boy or a girl. Naïve, perhaps, but still a worthy dream.

‘Thanks Mum,’ she said and reached for her book, her problem obviously sorted.

I wandered out, feeling the thrill of managing to solve a problem without stuffing it up, the warmth of affection towards my growing daughter, and the stab of panic of what might come next.


Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Lock them in their rooms

My (almost) four year old and I were playing.

Normally I don’t do this type of thing, but every now and then I put my ‘good mum’ hat on and try and do the things they tell me to do in all the parenting books.

So we were ‘mum friends’ and we were dropping our children off at school. My ‘daughter’ was a stuffed duck, she had the pig.

‘Bye bye darlings,’ she sang. ‘Time for school.’ She dropped the toys unceremoniously on the floor and then turned to me.

‘C’mon mum friend,’ she said. ‘Let’s get coffee.’

I swear this is all my family think I do with my time – drink coffee with my friends. It’s not true. Except on Thursdays.

So we sat at the kitchen table where my coffee was waiting for me.

‘Uh, I’ll have a milo,’ she told the imaginary shop girl.

She nudged me with her elbow. ‘Get me a milo, please.’

Sitting down with our beverages, she turned to me and said ‘we’re having a meeting now, mum friend.’ This is slightly closer to the truth with what I do with my days: ‘meeting’ covers a multiple of events involving other adults.

‘What shall we talk about?’ I asked innocently.

‘My kids! They’re crazy,’ she suddenly shrieked. ‘And your kids – they’re crazy too.’

‘Oh my,’ I said, mildly concerned at the sudden change in direction. ‘What shall we do?’

‘Lock them in their room,’ she said bluntly. ‘They’ll never do it again.’


I was a little shocked at her draconian measures. Sure, I have sent the kids to their room when they’re being naughty, but locking them away forever is a little extreme, even for me. Apparently to an almost-four year old though, they’re practically the same thing. Point taken.

‘Do you think that will work?’ I asked

‘Yeah,’ she said. ‘They’re so silly.’

‘What else shall we talk about,’ I said sipping my coffee.

‘We should scare them,’ she told me conspiratorially.

‘Who? Our kids?’ I wanted to know.


‘Why? I’m not sure that is a great idea.’

She looked at me. ‘Ok. We’ll just lock them in their room.’

I tried to change tack. ‘Mum friend,’ I said. ‘I need your advice. My kids don’t listen to me. How do I get them to listen to me?’

‘Just pat them on their heads,’ she said. ‘They’ll be good.’

‘Does that work with your kids,’ I asked her.

She hung her head dramatically, peeking out under her fringe. ‘I only have one kid,’ she said. ‘And she be very sick.’

‘Oh my,’ I said. ‘What does your husband think?’

‘Ewwwww,’ she cried indignantly. ‘I don’t have a husband! And my dad died,’ she added.

‘So you don’t have a husband, your dad is dead and your kid is very sick? That’s so sad,’ I said to her softly.

She put on her best sad face, looking up at me with her big eyes, her mouth pouting.

I waited for her next grand statement – maybe a dead dog? Burned down house?

Except she farted. A huge, bubbling fart that rippled against the plastic chair.

We both cracked up.

The game was over.


Friday, January 29, 2016

The Third Child Starts School - Part 1

It was easy to tell the first timers from the old hats.

The new parents shuffled in cautiously, unsure what to expect, their children’s school supplies tucked under their arm. Their eyes would scan the room, hoping for a familiar face. There wasn’t one. If they came with their partner they would move towards an empty table, and busy themselves reading handouts on developmental milestones and State frameworks, pretending that this wasn’t killing them inside, wondering how they were going to cope on Monday when they needed to say goodbye.

Us old hats blundered in like we owned the place, which we kinda did.

After the initial disbelief of being given directions by someone who was clearly completely new to the school (our lovely new teachers assistant it turns out) we pulled up chairs and rearranged the library, making space for old friends, laughing loudly at the exploits of our children over the holidays.

I remembered the whole time how it felt being one of the new mums, knowing no one, feeling in awe and slightly intimidated by some of the old hats, who clearly felt relaxed and knowledgeable in their role as school mums. I just remember feeling distinctly sweaty and out of control.

I looked around the room at the group of parents whose children would be attending Kindy with my youngest child. There was the young dad, asking questions about security and child/adult ratios, wondering whether kids would be able to scale the fence and escape before a teacher realised.

There was the older dad, who calmly told the younger guy not to worry so much, because the fence was electric. A ripple of nervous laughter spread throughout the room, until the smiling teacher reminded everyone that no – the fence was not electric.

There was the shy young aunty, sent in as a representative for parents who were obviously at work. She was clearly out of her depth and I felt for her as she smiled eagerly at every new face who approached her table.

Behind us the heavily pregnant woman, perhaps only weeks away from delivering. That was me four years ago, taking my eldest to full time school for the first time, while I was 100 months pregnant. I bumped bellies with a small lady also holding hands with a little girl. The girls eyed each other as I eyed the other mum. Her bump was so small, so tidy. She was looking at my sprawling mass.

‘It’s my third,’ I told her as though it would explain away my giganticism.

‘Me too,’ she said. I hated her immediately.

Tonight, she was sitting next to me as we swapped stories about our third children. I confessed I was nervous about Number Three’s offensive new habit of calling people ‘Buttface’ when she didn’t like what you were telling her. My friend was concerned about her son’s habit of pulling down his pants and weeing on everything.

We laughed as we imagined ourselves being called to the Principal’s Office to explain our children’s behaviour.

Meanwhile I could feel eyes on me. In awe, maybe. Intimidated, perhaps. Wishing we would shut up, quite likely. Awe and intimidation are only temporary until you get to know someone. Wishing they would shut up, I have been told, is permanent. As I looked around the room, I wondered if my new BFF was in the room. I wondered what experiences I would share with these mums and dads, which of their kids would become part of my daughter’s life.

This is the third and final time I will be doing this – taking my child to ‘the first day of school’. There is a luxury in doing things for the third time, a sense of familiarity and control. Even though the school might not be ready for Number Three and her potty mouth, I am ready for this final journey.

Bring on Monday.

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