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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