Friday, September 28, 2012

The Things They Learn at School

I don't even remember how it started.

I had obviously said something the Bombshell didn't like, because I was shoving the kids into the car, screaming that we would be late. AGAIN. And she was howling at the top of her lungs how unfair it all was.

'I don't love you anymore,' she sobbed.

'Well, that's just ridiculous,' I said. 'Of course you still love me. You don't stop loving someone just because they say "no" to you.'

'I don't love you,' she repeated. 'And don't say that bad word to me.'

'What word?' I asked, wrestling with the seat belts. "No"?'

'Ri-diggy-luss. That's a bad word.'

'That's not a bad word,' I told her. 'There are lots of worse words. Like saying to someone that you don't love them anymore.'

'That's not a word, Mum,' she told me grandly. 'That's a sentence.'

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Why I Will Never Sleep Again

I've never been very good at the whole controlled crying thing.

When a baby cries I have the following reactions:
- leaky breasts
- achy heart
- clenched fists.

It just depends on what time of day (or night) it is, and how much crying has gone on beforehand.

So, my babies don't tend to sleep through until they are closer to two.  Years, that is. For my first child, I used to pounce the minute she made a peep - partly to comfort her, partly to comfort me, and partly so my husband could sleep, as he used to spend three hours a day in the car getting to work and back, and I hated the idea of him falling asleep on the road.

The second child, I used to pounce the minute she made a peep, for all of the above reasons, but also so she wouldn't wake the oldest child who had finally learned to sleep.

By the time Baldy Baby came along, I had a whole host of bad sleep habits which I liberally used. 

Cry. Boob.
Cry. Dummy.
Cry. Sob.

I have thus spent the last seven months praying that she would finally drop her overnight feed, and her mid-morning (ie 4am) playtime and karaoke session.  I would trudge downstairs for her 1.30am feed, and stumble down again at 4am to silence her warbling. And at 11pm and 3am and 5.30am and probably a few other times in between.

Down. Up. Down. Up.  Down. Up. Down. Up.

So this morning, when I woke suddenly at 4am to complete silence, I completely lost it.  Baldy Baby had not only missed her 1.30am feed but she wasn't up and yelling for play time.

She must be dead.

Don't be ridiculous.  She's just sleeping. This is what you want.

She probably learned to roll over and has smothered on a teddy bear.

Calm down, woman.  Everything is fine.  Go back to sleep.

My baby is gone!

I lasted three minutes before I got out of bed, went downstairs and stood over her cot, waiting (desperately) to hear her little breaths, her tiny baby snores.  Then I stood there and watched her sleep for ten minutes.

By the time I went back to bed I was wide awake.  I fully expected that she would wake now for a feed, so saw little point in going back to sleep.  So I lay in bed, hating myself for being awake, straining to hear any little noise until about 5.30am when I fell back asleep.

When I woke again at 6.15am I could hear noises, but it was only the Bombshell and Curly Mop fighting about god knows what.  Baldy's door was still closed.  She wasn't awake?

Now she must be dead.  No child of mine has ever slept for 12 hours without waking.

And so I did it again.  I went into her room, and stood over her, waiting anxiously until I heard her draw a little breath.  Five minutes later I was reassured enough to finally leave her.

She finally woke, fresh as a daisy and happy as Larry at 7am.

Meanwhile, I have been skulking around all day, sleepy as normal, but extra grumpy for wasting my (probably one-off) golden opportunity for sleep.

Careful what you wish for, because one day you might get it. And screw it up.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Out of the Mouths of Babes

I am constantly on at the Blonde Bombshell to speak nicely to me.  My catch phrase at the moment is: 'if you wouldn't say that to Mrs E [her pre-primary teacher] then don't say it to me'.

Don't roll your eyes at me.

Don't growl at your sister.

Stop telling me you're bored. You have no idea what bored even means.

Leave her alone!

Be quiet.

Which part of 'No' don't you understand?

Then, the other morning before school, after what felt like hours of my asking the girls to do X and they were doing Y, I yelled at them.

The Bombshell turned to me, and very clearly (and politely) said 'Mum, if you want us to listen to you, use your normal voice and speak nicely.'


Of course, she was merely parroting what I had been saying to her for the past year or three, but it suddenly occurred to me that I say things to my children that I would never say to another adult. Because it would be rude. Or impolite.

But I say it to my children, who I love - it's fair to say - more than any adult on this planet.

It's embarrassing to admit this, because it has taken me five years to figure out. But I give my kids verbal lashings of frustration, sarcasm, and directness to the point of rudeness that I would die before dishing out to even a well-deserving adult.

What is wrong with me?

I constantly berate the Bombshell for the fact that she behaves so well at school, at Grandma's and at friend's houses, yet she comes home to me where she suddenly transforms into a bossy/smarmy/cheeky/irritating/deaf/out-right rude five-going-on-fifteen year old.

'Why?' I appealed to her one day. 'Why are you so good for other people, but then you are so mean to me?'

She looked at me and told me: 'Because I don't have to live with them.'

At the time, I didn't quite understand her response.  But I get it now.  She does exactly what I do.  Saves up all the frustration and boredom and smart-arse comments that she probably wishes she could freely express all day, then comes home to the one person she knows she can trust, and lays it on thick.  A big nasty, verbal and attitude diarrhoea.

Because she knows that I will always love her, and I know she will always forgive me.

But she shouldn't have to.

So, added to my 'essentials list' of:
- write 100 words of my novel every day
- use sunscreen every day
- don't eat more than half a bag of lollies in a single sitting

I will add: if I wouldn't say it to Mrs E, then don't say it my kids.

Because it's actually me they're learning from.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Small Things

I am known to celebrate pretty much anything.  I don't need much of an excuse to crack open a bottle of champagne and don a party hat.

Half birthday?  Cheers to that!

Finally made some cash writing for Weekend Notes! Cheers to that!

Slept for four hours in a row. Cheers to that!

So the fact that this is actually my 200th blog post is something that has been weighing on my mind for a few weeks.  I wanted to do something big, something special, something timeless. Something that would go viral and earn me a Pulitzer or a book deal.

But life's not really like that is it?

For every Glennon Melton, Amber Dusick and Kerri Sackville whose hard work has earned them international fame and a book deal or two, there are hundreds, probably thousands of everyday bloggers like me, plus tens of thousands of ordinary mums who carry on in the anonymity of their every day lives, with their relatively small successes.

I had a conversation this morning with a friend about the general 'lack' in our lives. A lack of progress, lack of achievement, lack of personal grooming (in my case at least).  This parenting gig, even five years down the track, still astonishes me on a daily basis.  How all encompassing is it, how time consuming. How the six hours between school drop off and school pick up can evaporate into nothing more than a load of washing and a few breast feeds.

I'm not complaining, though it may sound like I am. 

I spent almost thirty years studying and working and being told to perform and achieve, and being rewarded for performing and achieving. And it doesn't matter how much you love your kids, how much you cherish your time with them, whether you carpe diem or not - it's not as though you can instantly turn off that voice in your head that has told you that success comes from (choose one): money, promotion, position, publications, qualifications, status, public recognition, or perfectly manicured nails.

Because that voice does not exist solely in your head.

Even if you have come to grips with the fact that your project management skills are now being used to write the playgroup roster, or your engineering degree is now being used to help build towers out of Lego, you can't stop the relentless (albeit well-meaning) questioning that inevitably starts up again about when you will go back to work, and what you spend your time doing.

Life with children takes you to not only another planet, but another dimension. It has its own sense of time, and its own sense of achievement.  While the years fly past without us realising it, the minutes can drag.  Our babies are suddenly grown and leaving for school, yet the last fifteen minutes of the day before our husband (or wife or partner) walks through the door can become nightmarishly long. And brutal.

Where we once may have celebrated a completed project, a new degree or a closed deal, we now view success as an attempt to sit on the potty, a merit certificate from school, a shopping trip without a tantrum. Small successes.

Some days I have trouble finding a single thing to discuss with another adult that doesn't involve talk of sleep (or lack thereof), poo, or kids deviant behaviour. Some days I don't even manage the most simple household chore - beds remain unmade, dishes unwashed, breakfast bowls still on the table. Those are the days I question my greater contribution - beyond my own household and to my kids, who obviously think I rock.

And so I postponed writing my 200th blog post, waiting for something incredible to happen to me so I could write about it. 

And I kept waiting.

And in the end I decided that I didn't need something huge to write about.  That's not what I do anyway.  I write about the small things that are instantly recognisable to most parents.

And then when I was about to hit publish, I realised that Blogger counts all my unfinished, unpublished posts.  Relics of days that I couldn't even string together a few paragraphs worth publishing. There's been a few of those.

Which means, I am nowhere near my 200th post.

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