Wednesday, December 21, 2016

The Pain of Invisibility

I can’t even recall how the conversation started.

I think it is possible she had been complaining about her youngest sister, calling her a ‘butt’ that she was manipulating her dad to sleep with her for no good reason except that she could. The truth being, she was sometimes afraid of being on her own, and was jealous of her youngest sister.

She couldn’t understand why her four year old sister had everything she needed while she, at nine and a half, still had to battle to get noticed across the noise.

I tried to explain:

“You are all different people and you will succeed in the world differently,” I said.

“Your youngest sister walks into a room and immediately fills it. She is bright and bubbly and is happy pushing herself forward into situations other people would feel scared about. It is as though she fills the room with little explosions of glitter and noise and song and people can’t help but notice. They draw energy from her but it can be wild and unsettling for some. Some people back away from her or are put off by her energy, but underneath it all, she has a heart of gold and has a caring soul. It’s just that it comes wrapped in a Mardi Gras. She will impact a lot of people, especially those who are drawn to her energy and vitality.”

She nodded, silent.

“Your middle sister, on the other hand is less obvious and people underestimate her. You have to scratch beneath the surface to see her true value – in other words, you need to take time and make effort. The way she will impact the world is neither immediate nor obvious, but for those who persist, she will be immensely powerful and influential.’

I stroked the hair off her forehead. It was late, well past both our bedtimes, but I could see she was needing to talk, to make sense of her day.

“You, on the other hand, carry your golden heart in your hands, offered in front on you. You will enter the room and be silent. You won’t draw attention to yourself, you will simply hold your heart up in front of you. Many people won’t notice you or see you. But there will be special people who feel you, who can sense you through the crowded room and be drawn to you. You will make a powerful connection to the world, especially through these special people who are like you, and notice you and seek you out.”

It was at this point that I noticed the tears slipping down her cheek. She simply nodded quickly, as if by agreeing with what I said, would make it come true.

In a room full of people, my eldest can be the last one noticed. Her middle sister is also quiet and often unseen – the difference being that my middle doesn’t mind and she prefers her own company.

When you want to be noticed, and aren’t, that is when it begins to hurt.

“I have no doubt that you will all be incredibly successful in your lives,” I continued. “It’s just that you have such different ways of interacting with the world. So don’t judge yourself by your sisters’ benchmarks and by what – and how – they achieve things.”

“You are totally unique and so your impact will be felt differently, but I have no doubt it will be incredible.”

With a little nod, she smiled. I kissed her on her forehead and said goodnight. She was invisible no longer.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Why You Should Let Your Four Year Old Self-Diagnose

‘I have a scratchy bottom,’ my four year old told the bemused girl behind the counter.

She leaned forward to emphasis her point. ‘Every time I do a poo,’ she said.

The poor girl was silent, flicking glances at me every now and then.

‘From here!’ she exclaimed turning slightly and pointing at her butt.

‘It’s scratchy,’ she said again, giving her butt a good rub as if to prove a point.

The bewildered girl looked embarrassed. She’ll have to get over that if she wants to work in a chemist, I thought to myself.

‘Is it her cheeks or where… where the poo comes from?’ she asked quietly.

‘Where the poo comes from,’ my daughter replied loudly. ‘Poo!’ she repeated for the benefit of the old lady who had walked up behind us. ‘My bottom is scratchy,’ she told the old lady conspiratorially.

The old lady nodded knowingly.

We all looked at the girl waiting for a solution.

‘I’m going to have to get the pharmacist,’ she said and scuttled off.

Even the old lady rolled her eyes.

The pharmacist was much better prepared, stooping down to the level of her newest patient and not looking the slightest bit embarrassed at the discussion about poos and holes and whether it was appropriate to stick your fingers in your bottom if it was scratchy (hint: it’s not, especially at Kindy or at dinner-time).

After a lengthy chat with my daughter, the pharmacist stood up and gave me a smile.
‘I think the best option is to treat her for worms. If nothing changes after that, then we consider treating her for a dermatitis.’

Awesome, I thought. Worms.

‘And I’m sure you know you will need to treat the whole family,’ she said.

Even better, I thought.

Clutching her chocolate-lookalike medicine as we walked back through the shops (someone deserves a medal for making worm medicine look and taste like chocolate) my daughter was very excited. It could have been the prospect of no longer having an itchy butt, but more likely was the fact that she got chocolate medicine.

At home, the rest of the family eyeballed the chocolate squares I put in front of them.

‘And why are we taking this exactly?’ asked my eldest daughter, sniffing it suspiciously.

‘Just take it,’ said the middle daughter, her mouth already full. ‘It’s yummy.’

My husband knew exactly what it was. ‘Awesome,’ he said drily. I just shrugged.

Two days later and my four year woke up complaining.

‘I have a scratchy arm,’ she pouted. ‘I think the ants went on my bom bom and now they went on my arm and that’s why I’m itchy.’

‘Ummm… I don’t think it’s ants,’ I started.

‘It is,’ she replied with the determination that only a four year old can muster. ‘I think the ants bite me because they think I’m a sandwich.’

She shook her head sadly.

‘I don’t like being a sandwich.’

Monday, August 22, 2016

73 Words Explaining How Important I am to My Children

We were driving home from swimming lessons and had barely left the carpark when:

Four year old: My seat belt! It's not done up. I will be arrested and they will take me to jail!

Me: Actually, I will be the one they arrest and take to jail.

Four year old: Good

Six year old: NOT good! Who will make us dinner?

And thus, my place in the world has been made clear.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Why You Will Never Win an Argument with a Four Year Old

‘I don’t want to go to school. I hate school!’ came the voice from under the blanket.

My husband and I exchanged looks.

‘It’s booooring,’ came the voice.

‘You know what’s boring?’ I asked. ‘Having this conversation every day,’ I muttered.

Half way through four year old Kindy, and my daughter seems to think she is done. I don’t want to imagine her disappointment when she realises she has at least 13 and a half more years ahead of her, even without university.

A loud farting noise came from under the blanket, where she had secreted herself in front of the fireplace.

‘Was that your bottom?’ I asked.

‘My bottom HATES you,’ came the reply.

My husband, packing his bag and about to escape to work, stifled a giggle. I raised my eyebrows in a ‘see what I have to deal with’ look. He just gave me a big cheesy grin and walked out. ‘Bye!’ he smirked.

‘And my arms hate you. And my tummy hates you. And my head hates you. We all hate you,’ the little voice continued.

There was silence as she waited for a response.

‘I just want a ham and cheese toastie from canteen!’ she shrieked.

Ah, so that was what this was all about. Getting lunch from the canteen.

But I was silent.

‘I don’t want to listen to you!’ she yelled from under the rug.

It was a very one-sided conversation and I was beginning to wonder if she was hearing imaginary voices.

‘I WANT HAM AND CHEESE TOASTIE’ she shouted, finally sitting up, the blanket falling away, revealing her little face pink with anger and warmth from being under the rug.

I raised an eyebrow and put on my best ‘mature Mummy’ voice, though it was far from what I really wanted to do.

‘You know that when you speak to me like that, I don’t listen - so you won’t get what you want,’ I said calmly.

Her face dropped.

‘So I won’t get dinner?’ she wailed.


‘No pyjamas?’

Hang on, where is this going.

‘No fishies. No cuggles? No painting?’

She made her eyes look big and sad and pouted her mouth, trying to imply I was an evil mother who wouldn’t feed or love her child. I wanted to grab the blanket off her so I could hide under it.

I just looked at her and held up her lunch bag which I had been packing with sandwiches and fruit and cheese and crackers and a piece of cake fresh from the bloody oven.

In defeat, she tossed her hair. ‘Well,’ she said. ‘I’m going to hide from you and you will never ever find me and I won’t go to school.’

‘Where are you going to hide?’ I asked.

‘Here.’ And she pulled the blanket back over her head.

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.

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