Friday, February 7, 2014

The Six Words Most Parents Dread

Six little words that strike fear into your heart.

Six little words that can bring you to your knees, take you down to the ground, break your back, and muddle your mind.

‘Mum, will you play with me?’

Curly Mop, newly four, had just started Kindy, and we were suffering through a fortnight of half-days.

I had picked her up at midday and we now had three hours before we had to return to collect the Bombshell. After a sandwich, she peered up at me through her lashes and uttered those six words.

Some of you will hate me and call me a bad mother, but I’m just being honest when I say I cringe when I hear those words. I hate ‘playing’ with kids. Give me a Barbie doll and I will dress it and undress it happily for hours. Give me a book and I will read it to whoever is listening. Give me some Lego and I will build you something amazing. Give me a board game and I’m happy to roll the dice. But don’t ask me to ‘play’, because there is nothing fun about playing.

‘Pretend it’s the circus now, but I’m not a clown. Pretend I’m a butterfly. Ok, mum?’ said the Mop.

‘Ok,’ I replied.

‘You have to say “here comes the butterfly”’ she told me.

‘Ok,’ I said enthusiastically. ‘You’re a butterfly. I love your sparkly wings. Can you teach me how to fly?’

‘No Mum, you don’t say that. You can only say “here comes the butterfly”. Okay?’, she said crossly.

‘Ok. Sorry. Here comes the butterfly,’ I said, chastised.

‘I’m not ready yet, Mum. You can’t say it yet.’ She dashed into the next room and I heard the contents of the dress-up box being emptied onto the floor. ‘I’m ready,’ she called.

‘Here comes the butterfly,’ I called. Out she danced wearing some wings. She did a whirl and promptly went back into the playroom.

‘Ok, now pretend this is a show, and I’m a Barbie bride girl, and this is my wedding.’

‘Ok,’ I replied.

‘You have to say “here comes Barbie bride girl”’ she told me.

‘Ok,’ I said. ‘Here comes Barbie bride girl.’

‘I’m not ready yet, Mum. You can’t say it yet.’

I was beginning to detect a theme.

‘Playing’ with the Mop basically consists of her telling me to ‘pretend’ something. We don’t actually get to do whatever she is pretending, it’s strictly a verbal thing. Pretend I’m a mermaid. Pretend this is my home. Pretend you’re a shark. But I don’t get to BE a shark. I just have to SAY I’m a shark.

So I find myself doing the most horrendous things to get out of ‘playing’.

I need to go to the toilet. I need to make a cup of coffee. Is that the phone ringing? I think I hear the mailman. And the worst: I’m just going to check my email, which is just slightly better than ‘would you like to watch TV instead?’

I know that it won’t be long before all my girls are too old to want to play with me anymore. I am sure that I will feel bad that I didn’t play with them more when they were little. I feel bad about lots of other things, what’s a little more mother guilt piled on top?

I relish the ‘shows’ the girls put on, where they dance and twirl and sing. I love them because they’re cute but also because I know my place. I am the appreciative audience. I ooh, I ahh, I clap and I take pictures. I am not expected to be involved and that is fine. I will genuinely be sad when the shows finish, when they grow into self-consciousness, and no longer want to be the centre of attention.

But imaginative play where there is no opportunity to use my imagination drives me nutty. Being barked orders by a four year old is no fun, and so I will continue to live in fear of those six little words, ‘Mum, will you play with me?’

What words drive fear into your heart?



Sunday, February 2, 2014

B.I.B (Boring is Beautiful)

Growing up, photos were taken only of special occasions: birthdays, christenings, Christmas. Mum would take out her old film camera, open the shutter, check to see the film had been wound on. She would peer through the tiny viewfinder, and with a call of ‘cheers’, we would stop what we were doing and smile at the camera. The flash would dazzle us, and we would return to what we were doing.

Only a few precious albums exist from my childhood: people simply didn’t ‘waste’ photos. As such, I now pour over each image intently, studying all the details in the background. The scratchy brown couch and burnt orange curtains (height of 70s fashion), the length of my Dad’s moustache, the length of our denim shorts in the 80s, the posters of boy bands my sister had on her wall (Bros, NKOTB), Dad painting the kitchen in paint-splattered coveralls, Mum – her face covered with cold cream –mending Dad’s shirt. I find these ordinary memories really precious, and from them, more memories spring.

When I got my own camera as a teenager, we had the choice of rolls of 12 or 24 films. That meant we could take only 24 images on a single roll, each of which needed to be wound on by hand to ensure we didn’t end up with double exposure. When the roll was finished, you would wind the film back into the canister, and then take it to the nearest Kodak shop to be developed.

The wait for your prints could be a week, and it could be excruciating. Would the photos work or would you have paid $22 for twenty black or blurry pieces of shiny paper. That moment when you went to collect your photos, handing over your money, tearing the edge of the packet to release the envelope of pictures, sometimes even before you left the shop. That moment of elation when you realised a photo worked, or the disappointment when you realised that the blurry mess was now just a lost opportunity.

Like everyone else, I now own a digital camera which I adore. I can easily take dozens of photos in an afternoon, hundreds during a short vacation with the kids, and literally thousands in the first few months of having a new baby. Almost all of them are pretty near perfect since I can see them as soon as I take them, and edit as I go.

And probably only 1% of them ever make it into a photo album.
Last week I realised I had not printed any photos since April of 2013. I had taken about a million photos in those nine months, and it literally took me two or three nights of trawling through my hard drive deciding which to print, and then another two or three nights uploading them to be printed.

Halfway through selecting photos I realised I was choosing all the photos where the kids were being cute, or funny or wearing a strange outfit, or not wearing anything at all. They were photos that captured the kids, but they were not showing anything about our life, our house or anything that in ten or twenty years you could look back on and say ‘that’s what we did, that was my childhood’.

Sure, they might know that the Mop looked like a cherub with big eyes and curls, but they wouldn’t know who went to her 4th birthday party. You’d be able to say that Baldy tended to smear food over herself when she ate, but she wouldn’t be able to see what her room looked like when she was two.

I love this photo taken on Christmas Eve making White Christmas because it shows the girls hanging out en masse with their Aunty and Grandparents, it shows the fact that they love cooking (such an old Aussie favourite that everyone makes but no one eats), you can see the glasses of champers on the table, mess everywhere, but everyone is relaxed and happy.

So I made a decision to print the mundane pictures as well, the ones that showed our everyday life. The ones that might be poorly framed, or a bit blurry, or – dare I say it – a bit boring.

The picture of the three girls crowding around my husband on a Saturday morning as he cooks them pancakes.

The picture of the Bombshell intently building Lego with her dad at the kitchen table.

The picture of the three girls ‘doing a show’ in the backyard.

The picture of what we had for Christmas lunch.

The picture of all the Christmas presents under the tree, before the kids woke up.

Pictures of the girls’ rooms.

These are the photos that in a decade’s time will be of most interest to my daughters  (ok, nothing will be of interest to them when they’re teenagers, but maybe later on) as they will remind them of the constant, small things which make up our childhood. 
We need to remember to capture and keep the ongoing, behind-the-scenes moments, which might not be as immediately memorable at the big events, but which make us who we are.

I love this photo which was taken at my sister-in-laws birthday dinner at our place. I love that we totally overdid the desserts, I love that it shows the disposable plates because I hate doing the dishes, the plastic sippy cups and bib on the table (totally capturing a stage of babyhood), my husband wearing his Muppets shirt and my Yummy Mummy apron, my father-in-law with the Star Wars mug of coffee that will only be half finished, the Bombshell in her fanciest, sparkliest frock with her hair a complete birdsnest...

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...