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.

What?

‘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.

‘Ewwww.’


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.’

Okaaaaaay.

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.

‘Yeah.’

‘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.




Friday, January 15, 2016

I Still Hate Playing with My Kids.


‘Let’s play mermaids’.

My heart sank. My intense dislike of playing with kids is well documented.

This was Number Three, just shy of four years old, and I was suffering some serious déjà vu.

Ironically, the cause of my previous angst – Curly Mop, newly six, was sitting at the table building Lego. The Bombshell hadn’t even dragged her eight-turning-fifteen-year-old carcass out of bed yet. I was stuck.

I would have preferred it if someone had asked me to wipe their butt, but in deference to the fact that she was asking so nicely (and I was curious why she was holding up a naked Ken doll), I spun around on my seat and said (as convincingly as I could) ‘ok!’

She handed me two dolls. ‘You play with this mermaid,’ she said. ‘And that’s the Mum,’ she said dismissively dropping a completely nude Barbie on the table.

‘Let’s swim!’ she said. ‘Pash pash,’ and off she went. I think she meant ‘splash, splash’ but the fact that her mermaid was locked in a tight embrace with the naked Ken doll left the entire thing open to interpretation.

A blue quilt was spread out on the floor, with some strategic cushions. ‘That’s the water,’ Three explained. ‘And these are the rocks. Put mum on the rock. She needs to work.’

I guiltily dropped the naked doll on the rock, her point well taken.

We wiggled our mermaids across the quilt.

‘Look!,’ she cried. ‘See-saw horses.’ I didn’t have the heart to correct her.

‘Shaaaarks,’ she hissed. ‘They’re sleeping over there.’

‘So we have to play quietly?’ I said.

She moved her mermaid gently along on the tip of its tail. ‘Tip toe tip toe,’ she whispered.

‘Aghhh they’re awake,’ I cried, wishing for a bit more action.

‘No,’ she said fiercely. ‘You sharks stay on the grass,’ she said in a big voice.

‘Awwwwww,’ she replied for the sharks in a small sad voice.

‘Let’s go to school,’ her mermaid said.

I was getting bored. ‘A school of fish?’ I asked, laughing at how clever I was.

She shook her head impatiently. ‘No. Mermaid school!’ she huffed.

‘Pash pash.’

Suddenly the Mop came past with two of her Lego horses. Thank god.

‘Look,’ I cried. ‘Seasaw horses!’

Three frowned slightly, then burst into laughter. ‘Muuuuum,’

The Mop began playing with Three and her mermaids.

‘Careful,’ she cautioned the mermaids. ‘People might see you.’

Three stood tall on the couch and held her mermaids up. ‘Cheese,’ she said, smiling for imaginary cameras.

By now I had slunk away, but The Mop had had enough. ‘Bye,’ she said.

‘Stay,’ pleaded Number Three. ‘I’ll give you chocolate,’ she said.

But it was too late. The Mop had wandered off, and seconds later, Number Three reappeared in front of me holding the naked Ken doll. ‘C’mon Mum. Let’s play.’
 

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Running Away From Home


‘I go to Gammas. By my own!’

Angry because we had told her she couldn’t have dessert if she didn’t eat her dinner, Number Three had decided she would go to her Grandma’s house (where apparently such rules don’t exist).

By all accounts, Number Three was ready to go. She stormed off to her bedroom – ‘I get my bag, then I go to Gamma’s’ she warned us.

I followed, more out of curiosity than any real fear she might leave. She’s three and can’t reach any door handles.

I slowly pushed open her door – she had wedged a pile of pillow pets behind it to make sure people didn’t interrupt her. She was busy stuffing dresses into her Elsa back pack, while she flung her little doggie handbag over her shoulder.

‘I pack my bags,’ she told me determinedly. ‘Toys and some clothes.’

‘Have you got knickers?’ I asked. ‘A torch? It will get dark soon, are you sure you want to walk in the dark.’

‘I don’t want to show you,’ she said quietly. But she got up and stuffed a pair of undies into her bag. ‘Only one,’ she warned me.

She stood up, as determined as I had ever seen her. Suddenly a small part of me believed that she really would leave and walk to grandmas on the other side of the city. I needed to stall.

‘Do you know what Gamma’s real name is? In case you need to ask a grown up where she lives?’ I asked.

She thought for a second then gave a solid nod. ‘Grandma,’ she said. I sighed inwardly.

I looked around the room in desperation. My eyes fell on a Dora toy.

‘Have you got a map? Dora always has a map,’ I said.

Her little face brightened and she gave me the thumbs up sign. ‘Good job Mum!’ she said. ‘I need a map.’

We wandered out to the kitchen where she grabbed a piece of paper and a fat mauve marker. She drew some long lines, and then marked a couple of ‘spots’.

‘That’s where Gammma lives,’ she said. ‘And that’s us.’

She rolled up the map and shoved it in her backpack.

‘Ok family,’ she called out. ‘Bye Dad, bye Mum, bye sisters. I go to Gamma’s now.’

She pulled a hat off the rack and slid her feet into a pair of shoes. Standing at the door with her bags and mismatched socks, she looked at me expectantly. ‘I need the keys Mum,’ she explained. ‘Open the door.’


So far we had managed this whole episode with the utmost calm and harmony. But I knew that the second I refused to open the door she would melt into a tantruming three year puddle of fire and spit. We needed a distraction.

As if an answer from the angels, suddenly the opening theme of Dora came floating from the family room. Her little head automatically swivelled in the direction of the TV.

‘Do you perhaps want to stay for a while and watch Dora, and you can go to Grandmas later?’

She glanced at the door behind her and the TV in front of her. She was losing resolve.

‘I leave my bags here?’ she asked. ‘For later?’

I nodded and gently took her hat off.

She ambled toward the TV, running away to Grandma’s forgotten momentarily.

 Thanks Dora, I owe you one.


30 minutes later.


‘Ok mum, I need the keys now.’

What? I thought it was finished.

‘I go to Gamma’s now. I need the keys.’

She rummaged through the drawer, coming up with some window keys.

‘Bye Dad,’ she called out. Dad wandered out, ‘where are you going now?’

She humphed, as only a three year old can humph.

‘I got the keys so now I drive the car,’ she explained.

‘But it’s dark now,’ her dad explained.

There was a pause. ‘I be so brave,’ she said.

‘Maybe,’ said her dad. ‘But you need a shower. Grandma doesn’t want a smelly visitor. Let’s go.’

And she went!
 

Monday, January 4, 2016

My Barely-There Parenting Goals for 2016


Four days into 2016 and last year is already gone in a blur of over-eating, over-shopping and general over-consumption of practically every consumable product available. Good times.

This year will see some major changes in our household: my youngest, Baldy Baby (who is neither bald nor a baby anymore) will be starting kindy this year, I have finished my Grad Dip which means I will have more time for other things (like washing clothes and making school lunches) and this will be the last full year where I can still claim to be in my 30s.

I’m pretty lousy at making New Year resolutions. I usually make them around the 30th of December and by 10am on January 1st, while stuffing a huge muffin into my mouth as I muck around on Facebook I realise I have already broken them.

So I’m taking it easy on myself this year. And more importantly, I’m taking it easy on my kids.
Here are my goals for 2016:

Enforce a ‘one pair of underpants a day’ rule: while on holiday over Christmas, every time the kids got in and out of the water, out came new undies, until we had thirty pairs of barely worn knickers on the floor and everyone was complaining they had run out. One pair of undies per child per day = save washing and good for both the environment and my sanity.

No more fighting with my oldest daughter about screen time: I will only let her have her charger once a week – and she can decide when and for how long to use her tablet but when it’s gone flat, that’s it until the next weekend.

Practice what I preach: last year I was constantly telling my eldest to calm down, get off her tablet, to be patient with her younger sisters, control her anger, tidy her mess, to hurry up. She quite irritatingly (and correctly) pointed out that I do all those things myself, so I have decided for the sake of household harmony, to shut the hell up.

Throw out all kids’ dresses and bathers that have cross-over backs: no child can put this crap on by themselves, therefore they have to go.

No shoes with buckles or laces for anyone under fifteen: the time it takes for my kids to negotiate buckles and laces is directly proportional to my risk of an aneurysm. Velcro for everyone.

Limit my area of control: Mess makes me anxious and narky so I have made a deal with the kids that if they agree to keep the family room tidy and keep all their crap off the kitchen bench (my domain) then I won’t harass them about how messy their bedrooms are (their domain).
 
I think I should just about be able to manage that.

What are your parenting resolutions for 2016?
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