Saturday, August 14, 2010

Shoe Shopping and the Path to Spiritual Enlightenment.

It was supposed to be a quick in and out visit to the shoe shop.
Ella needed new school shoes.
But doing anything with three children in tow is never quick - irrespective of how quick it is 'supposed' to be.
It is a privilege of sorts to be blissfully ignorant that say, in twenty minutes your life is about to become unadulterated misery. But at the point I pulled the car into the shopping centre, I was unaware of my future, in fact, I was just congratulating self on what a successful day I'd had with the little urchins. My mistake, I realise that now. Self congratulations are just asking for it.
I know, I know, I know.
Or, at least. I do now.

In retrospect, it is a terrible time to go shoe shopping for school shoes at 4PM on a Friday afternoon.
Terrible time.
But I was in super mummy mode, I was in, 'We will nip in, nip out, and sort this in a jiffy," mode.
It was supposed to be a quick trip.
It was supposed to be just to get Ella shoes.
It was supposed to be.

We had already waited in line for thirty minutes before the lady behind the cash register called the next "number." I had spent most of that thirty minutes chasing Cuba around, trying to stop him pulling all the shoes off the shelves. Ella sat barefoot at the shoe-trying-on station, eagerly waiting for her little feet to be measured up . She had selected three different pairs of black school shoes and they waited, lined up in front of her for the sales assistant to get the correct size.

I had waited while the man next to me had his ten year old son try on five different types of Nike sports shoes. I had waited while the lady next to him, had her twin daughters try on several pairs of brown school shoes, followed by sports shoes, followed by some other sort of shoe. Frankly I'd lost interest in how many pairs two little girls could try on in one visit. And mostly, I was concerned with the speed and agility that Cuba was dismantling the shoe displays. He was on fire. First his little chubby hand would grab one shoe, and then, in some sort of fit of shoe grabbing, that befitted a woman at her first David Jone's mid year sale, he would grab the next shoe, then the next, and throw them, gleefully aside, as his little fist reached out for the next one.

To say I was stressed out of my mind would be a supreme understatement.

Lola and Ella, bored of waiting had started to climb on the seats and pretended to be cats scratching at the wall behind them. The only thing was, the bench-style seating was 1.5 metres from the ground, accessible only by a flight of steps. They were both perilously close to falling backwards and sustaining cranial injuries. So I would in turns, scoop Cuba into my arms and dash back to the girls, admonish them for standing on seats, get them to sit back down and again find self chasing after boy child who had found an entire new row of shoes to dismantle.

"Number 97!" the lady at the front desk yelled again.
About five more couples with children had entered the shop since I had been waiting.
I was the next to be seen - as soon as Nike boy had sorted out his final shoe selection. I'd given up on the twins, they were onto the next shoe type. They would be still be sitting there at Christmas.
I eyeballed the sales assistant who was now moving towards the shoe-trying-on station, "I forgot to get a number when I came in." I said in my most genuine, endearing tone.
The sales woman was not to be charmed.
"You need a number, there are lots of people here. How am I to know who is to be served next?"
I glared at her, all charm evaporating as Cuba struggled in my arms for his freedom, "I have been waiting here for thirty minutes. I am the next person in line to be served. I was here before all these other people."
And I waved my one free arm to indicate the entirity of the shop.
The sales woman returned to the front counter and pulled a paper number from the number machine. She walked back towards me and handed me a ticket that had a number printed on it in black ink, "Here, hopefully it wont be too long."
Hopefully it wont be too long?
Are you kidding me?
I glared at her again. Actually let's be honest here. If looks could kill, I was the equivalent of super strength Baygon for Cockroaches, I mean, I was filthy, I would have ravaged this woman with my nails, if I were not so busy digging them into Cuba to stop him pulling shoes off the shelf next to me.
I handed her back the ticket, "I wont be buying shoes here today."
The woman who had arrived after me, with her teenage daughter handed me her ticket, "Please, take my number."
I tried my best to smile, but the only thing coming out of my facial muscles was a fairly taught grimace. "No thank you, I have no intention of giving this woman my custom today."
My custom? (I think perhaps in moments of high stress I am reduced to Jane Austin style speech, when really what I would much rather prefer would be Rambo style destruction. God to have been Cuba for five minutes, to have screamed my head off at the surly, smug sales lady and ripped at her stupid pony tail bobbing behind her head.)
I turned to Ella and Lola still perched up on the bench, "Girls we are leaving."
Ella started howling, "NOOOOOOO!"
The woman with the teenager offered me her ticket again.
Honestly half of me wanted to take it. But I looked at the sales lady and she was back to shouting out the next number in line. God, I wanted to kill her.
Instead I shook my head at the woman offering her ticket, and firmly instructed Ella,"Get your shoes on, we are leaving."
I bent down to put Cuba into his pram. He was having none of it. He back arched and screamed his head off. I pushed him hard in his middle to counteract the arch of his back, and deftly (as only a mother who has a pram hater can do) managed to get his little rigid arms into the pram straps, and lock him in.
He opened his mouth and did one of his Cuba, famous, blood curdling high pitch screams.
Most excellent.
Was hard to know what was worse. The poor woman standing next to me, still holding out her ticket to me, awash with empathy, sympathy and pure unadulterated awkwardness. Or the sales lady, who stood behind me, and whilst I couldn't see her, I swear I could feel the smugness evaporating into the same wash of awkwardness that comes from watching an unpleasant scene where you are powerless to intervene.

By this stage, the whole shop had stopped talking to watch our little performance.

Which of course is always rather nice. I mean if you're going to make a statement, tell someone to go get stuffed, that you'd rather slash your own wrists than buy shoes in their shop, well what you want is the whole shop watching. I had planned to make graceful, haute-y style exit, one that said, I am above this petty shoe store. One that said, I shall tell all my friends never to shop here. One that said I shall be back, aka 'Pretty Woman', with bags and bags of shoes, saying "Three children, lots of shoes, $150 a pop... lots of money spent... your commission... ZERO."
But that was not to be my exit strategy that day.
No, I was not going to be leaving gliding out the store with my three, beautifully behaved children, all giving her 'the finger' as we walked out the glass doors. No, that privilege was not for me.
If Cuba had put on a show, Ella was not going to be outdone. She was not going to leave her shoes without a fight. Like a woman who had just found a 90% off tag at an Alannah Hill sale, Ella was not be parted from her selection of three black school shoes.
"Noooooooooooooooo! Mummmmmmy! Pleeeeeeeeeeeeeeeease! I'm not leaving! I. AM. NOT!"

I physically picked Ella off the bench. And she yelled loudly, "MUMMY PLEASE DON'T MAKE ME LEAVE~ I WANT MY SHOES!!!"

I had one of those Buddhist moments at that point. Oh I've been reading about them for ten years. I just never really got to experience one before. Instead of feeling the twenty pairs of eyes locked on me. Instead of feeling the rush of pure humiliation take over me. Instead of being totally overwhelmed by it all. I just took a little step backwards. Metaphorically of course. If I'd actually stepped backwards I would have knocked into Cuba screaming his head off in the pram.

I remembered that this was just suffering. You know, for now. In ten minutes I'd be somewhere else suffering. Probably in the ladies toilets crying. But for now, this suffering was just suffering. It would be over soon, only to be replace with a different suffering next week, next month, in the next five minutes. So I took the Buddhist view of not suffering over my suffering. Or rather of recognising the impermanence of suffering.

I lifted Ella off the bench and focused on her.
"Ella, we are not buying shoes here today. There are lots of places that sell shoes in this shopping centre and we are going to buy ours somewhere else."
Ella calmed down.
Ha! Who knew this Buddhist thing really worked?
She turned half around in my arms, towards her shoes and stretched out her arms and screamed, "I AM NOT LEAVING~!"
OK, I was wrong, perhaps one needs to be born Buddhist?
I put her down, put my hand on her back to guide/shove her along and pushed Cuba's pram in front of me, "Ella, we are leaving."
Ella stood barefoot and I handed her shoes to her.
Whilst I might have been applying new Buddhist approach, I wasn't prepared to wait for ten minutes while we put her shoes on in front of the crowd still speechlessly watching.
"You can put these on outside."
And we hautily march to the front of the shop. Ha! I was going to make it out alive after all!
I heard it echoing behind me....'Muuuuuuuummmmy!"
I turned around.
Lola was still standing on the bench. I had left her behind.
This required turning pram around, taking Ella and Cuba to the back of the shop.
Where the shoes, all three, lined up in a row, were.
Bug. Ger.

"Mummy you forgot me." said Lola in her happy sing song voice.
The crowd watched. Really, could it get any better than this they wondered? Why doesn'tt she just take the number, they wondered? I'm glad I don't have three kids, they must have all murmured to themselves.
I lifted Lola from the bench.
"Ah yes, sorry about that Lola."
"Ella isn't going to get to wear her new shoes is she Mummy?" said Lola in her sing-song voice.
Ella reminded afresh of her beautiful shoes, started wailing and dramatically threw herself over the top of her shoes, like one might strap self to tree in manner of Green Activist.
"I'm not leaving them!" she wailed.
The Buddhist in me, was evaporating at a rate of knots.
I dragged 'the shoe activist' bodily along to the front of the shop.
I knelt down at the front counter and held Ella, crying and sobbing in my arms.
I took a deep breath, this moment was just a moment. I would live through it. I would live through it, and, I would drink a really, really large glass of wine in an hours time. The thought cheered me considerably.
"Ella, that sales lady was very dismissive to Mummy. I have waited here for half an hour to be served, that woman was going to make Mummy go to the end of the queue and wait again. That isn't fair, and I don't have to accept that sort of treatment. There are lots of places that sell shoes, and we will go to one of those and buy you just as beautiful shoes there. And, what's more, we will give our money to someone who treats Mummy with respect."
Ella sniffed, "What if they don't have those shoes?"
Mummy (crossing fingers behind back), "They will have those shoes. I promise."
And with that, I stood back up, flicked my hair, tried desperately to look as though this sort of palava happened every day and was absolutely nothing to get in a tizz about, and exited the store.

After we had been to three further shoe shops only to find no similar shoes, Ella said, "I think Mummy we should just go back to the other shop. They have the shoes I like. Let's go back."
Go back?
Pfft... over my dead body.
Ella undeterred; "So Mummy, if the problem was that you hadn't taken a ticket, why don't we just go back take a ticket and wait in line?"
I looked at her.
It seemed like such a simple suggestion now, so zen, so peaceful.
So Buddhist.

Buddhist it may have been but it was not for me. Instead, I was hell bent on finding Ella her shoes from somewhere else. I was not going to go back. No, way. Not now, not ever. And even if it was going to take me until 6 o'clock at night (which it did), I was not going back to that shop.

One had to wonder though, as I poured myself a third, rather large glass of wine later that night; if perhaps the genuine Buddhist, non-suffering way would have been to have accepted that lady's ticket and just got on with it? But as I expounded the details to Mr Husband, over very bad, home cooked and overcooked pasta, not only was I quite sure that I was never going into that shop again, I was also sure that based on the evenings culinary efforts, I should never be let allowed anywhere near our stove. Ever, again.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010


I had another one of those weeks.

You think it is only possible to have ‘one of those days’?

Well I’m here to tell you it is possible to have ‘one of those weeks.” Oh sure there have been little moments of sunshine, mostly when I’ve had my head stuck under the pillow, groaning, “Thank God the day is over.”

Do you ever have those days when you silently wish you could go back to the days before you foolishly, with little regard for life or limb, decided to have children? Well I’ve I had one of those weeks, wondering what it would be like listening to an orchestral symphony at 6PM after a lovely dinner out. I can see myself sitting down with Mr Husband, over candlit dinner, discussing the string section. I see that image drifting somewhere overhead as I stand surrounded by three little people all crying and yelling and demanding that Mummy-Cinderella, cook, clean and mend clothes for them.

And it’s not just that I had to endure two weeks of school holidays. Actually, and I can say this, without worrying about jinxing myself, that I handled the school holidays extraordinarily well. I was how you say, mother of the moment. I played with my urchins, I read stories, made cupcakes and visited friends. My vodka intake was at a level one might associate with a recovering addict as opposed to a woman in crisis. All in all, a very good start, middle and end to the holidays. It was only, and damn myself for being so brazen to have even thought to have muttered these words to Mr Husband, “It’s my last Friday before school goes back on Monday, and look! I’ve survived! The kids are still alive! I’m still alive! We made it! Ha! I think I’m really getting a handle on this mothering gig!”

Because I should have known better.

I should know better than to tempt the Gods with such blatant display of humility or lack thereof.

For they do enjoy a good smiting. I bloody well know they love a good smiting.

I think it was when I heard the 'waterfall' noise coming from behind me that I felt the first longing to be anywhere else but here. Here that is, in my life.

I turned around from the table to look at Cuba in his highchair, sitting happily eating his avocado and pasta. By happily, I do of course mean he had smeared it with some degree of aptitude across his plastic high chair, in his hair and all over his body. I wondered not for the first time, why I even bothered with the pretence of using a bib at all.

And there was the waterfall sound again.

Had he dropped his drink of water on the floor?

No, there sat his little Thomas mug, filled with water.

So where was the waterfall...

And then I saw it, mustard coloured liquid pouring from out of the highchair.

It's funny how your brain tries to interpret information.

"Mustard liquid," I mused? "Mustard? But avocado is green"

I sat there dumfounded as more mustard liquid poured forth, splashing on the floor, on the kitchen wall, and neatly on my shoes.

I had, might I briefly mention just finished cleaning vomit off the carpet. Lola’s vomit. Miss I have been throwing up for three days was looking rather forlorn, sitting as she was, in a pile of puke. I took Lola in my arms, pulled her stained clothes up over her head and cleaned her up. Dressed her in her fifth outfit that morning, yes fifth, she had puked five times in a row since six o'clock that morning and then went to sort out the mess on the carpet.

I put Lola back on the couch, put cartoons on the television and set about doing the hundredth pile of washing for the week. Since Lola had started vomiting the washing machine had been on a twenty four hour cycle.

It's not that I mind getting up in the night to Lola, to strip her bedsheets, put on clean bedsheets, put her back into a clean nightdress and then get up and do it all over again two hours later. And then two hours after that. And then two hours later again. And it's not that I necessarily keep count of how many times I did it the night before last (four times) as I yell in frustrated manner at Mr Husband, “I am not COPING!”.

No, it's not that.

And it's not even that I'm so tired by morning that all I want to do is take large bowl of coffee and stick my head in it. Although it is that.

It's not that.

I looked at the mustard liquid running like river from the highchair and realised, this was no avocado puree. This was chronic diarrhea. Cuba, he was sick now too. Hard to know where to start when the diarrhea is on your shoes, on the wall, on the kitchen floor, all over the seat of the highchair, all over Cuba and all over his clothes. I indulged, in that millisecond of recognition that the mustard liquid poo was going to require yours truly to clean it up; I indulge in a very, very, long millisecond moment of why oh why did I pick motherhood instead of say, going back to uni and studying political science?
I indulged in the fantasy of not going to the chemist that day to buy folic acid, of not reading about ovulation and best times to have sex. I indulged in that moment of what if Richard and I had said instead of let's reproduce our own DNA, that we had pondered, why not Paris?

I mean really, surrounded by all that poo, what would you do?

Other than of course, start an action plan as to either 1. How to deal with it. Or 2. How most effectively to run away.

Don’t ask me why, but in that moment of playing with concept of just getting up, opening back door and walking out, I stared at the yellow splashes of diarrhea on my sneakers. It occurred to me, I should at the very least, clean this first. So I delicately took to the mustard crap on my converse trainer. It was a bit, I surmised, like dabbing with a linen napkin a stray spot of gravy under your lip when someone has thrown an entire lemon meringue pie in your face.

I am, I confess an industrial spray and wipe girl.

It's not that I am much of a cleaner by nature. I leave that task to Mr Husband. But when I am in the mood, or when I am required to clean, as in the case of mustard liquid poo, which I might note, seemed to have spread quicker across the kitchen floor than the Ebola virus. But during such times that disinfecting and sanitation is required, well then and only then do I like to indulge in a bit of spray action.

I was I think, perhaps that day, I was the domestic version of Lara Croft circa Angelina Jolie.

Instead of gun, I had spray and wipe sprayer.

Instead of sexy leather pant suit outfit I had industrial vomit protector tee-shirt and jeans.

Instead of trying not to gag over dead terrorist slaughtered by assassin, I had to try not to gag over liquid poo stench.

I was woman of action.

And as this woman of action sprayed and wiped and cleaned, I could hear the dulcet tones of Lola throwing up again, this time all over the couch. I wiped the last splash of poo off the skirting board and sat back on my knees.

Lara Croft, honestly her job was easy.

The nice thing about sick children, as opposed to say just whinging annoying children, is that you are called to action. And when you are in Laura Croft action mode, you don’t have time or the inclination to yell at your children to stop crying and whinging. No, a room covered in poo, and a child drenched in it, is enough for you to move past initial feelings of desertion and stimulate the Mother-gland. The gland that says, “Stay, help the little people out. Give them a hand.” And the other gland, the getmethefuckoutofhere gland, is suppressed which means the accompanying feeling of wanting to strangle the little people is momentarily suppressed also.

And so, poor Cuba, I picked his poo soaked bum out of the highchair and contemplated taking him outside in the rain and applying the garden hose to him. And perhaps if the Mother-gland where not in full chemical response mode, I might have. I just might have. Instead, Mummy-cinderella moped, cleaned, washed, wiped, sat in a corner and tearfully wished she had another life, stripped, changed, washed, detergented, sprayed and wiped, cleaned, moped, cried for so long she had red eyes, cleaned, washed, collapsed in heap, wiped, stripped more sheets, moped, cleaned, cried some more, wished for fairy godmother, wished not to be Mummy-cinderella, cleaned, moped and washed.

For six days.

And then the sun came out. And the house stopped smelling like a sanatorium in World War I. And finally, Mummy-Cinderella put down her broom, stopped texted messaging her Husband about living in the Ebola Ward of Hollywood film script. Mummy-Cinderella dusted off her glass slippers. It meant that she was going to be able to go to the ball afterall. So she called the babysitter and let her know that the kids were well enough to be looked after and could she still come and babysit? So while she waited for the fairygomother to arrive she put on her best frock, and blew the dust off her make up bag and got about the serious business of disguising the bags under her eyes and applying eye drops to her red tear stained eyeballs.
The babysitter fairygodmother arrived and Mummy-Cinderella and her Prince Charming went to the local ball (read: pub) to meet all the other people in the kingdom who hadn’t been contaminated by the Ebola virus. And Mummy-Cinderella so excited to be free of the shackles and demands of the drudgery of her life and so intoxicated by the freedom and wearing a bit of lippy, she accidently drank her body weight in champagne.

Which meant the next morning when she woke up and realised she had turned into a pumpkin, she had the worst hangover in the history of Mummy-Cinderella’s life. Whilst her kids had finally stopped vomitting, she had just started.
But fortunately, little Lola, who was by that stage, well versed in throwing up, brought Mummy a puke bowl, and told her, “It’s alright Mummy. You’ll feel better soon.”

And with that, she stroked Mummy-Cinderella’s forehead and gave her a kiss to feel better.

And Mummy-Cinderella realised, hangovers were probably never quite so sweet as when your three year old is there to offer kisses and a her dolls tea set, to puke into.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Men, what are they good for... absolutely... (just joking dear..)

I was going to spend this post pursuing the mysteries of the male mind. Mostly I’d been inspired to delve into these strange, foreign waters because Mr Husband had yet again, neatly, and with seemingly little effort, completely baffled, perplex and astounded me. I wondered why, as I got out of the shower, that instead of finding all the kids dressed, I should find Mr Husband rooting around in the kitchen drawers, emptying out the entire contents and swearing profusely.
Towel gripped around my chest, I wandered past, and made no comment.

I have learnt to make no comment.

Years of living with Mr Husband has taught me, to make, no comment.

Even if the whole house had been tipped upside down, one makes ‘comment’ at ones own risk, and usually to ones own detriment. The inner processes of the male mind, I have come to conclude, can only ever really make sense to the male mind.

I passed the girls room to see Lola half dressed, Ella still in her pj’s and Cuba wandering around in a nappy. And as I whipped a couple of drips of water from my forehead, I heard another profanity drift up the corridor from the kitchen and perhaps a wrench or something equally heavy drop onto the floor.
Again, I refrained from making comment – aloud.

I towel dried my hair and decided once I was dressed I would take over the task of getting the children dressed. Clearly some sort of electrical/mechanical/carpentry emergency had befallen Mr Husband which was the reason he himself had not got them dressed. As I pulled on my jeans, he came into our bedroom, opened his wardrobe and started digging around. He pulled out his tool box (yes he keeps it in his wardrobe, sadly not for some kinky reason, but rather due to the restrictive storage requirements we endure. One of the less savoury aspects of living in the worlds smallest Sydney Terrace.)
Curiosity got the better of me.

What could he, I wondered, possibly be looking for?

Me, “Um… Are you looking for stockings for Lola to wear?”

Husband, not amused, “No, I am not looking for stockings. Do you think you would find stockings in a tool box?”

I raised my eyebrows, well who was I to know what men kept hidden, lurking in their tool boxes?

He irritably growled, “I am looking for a wrench!”

Me, “Oh right. And finding this wrench is more important than say, getting the kids dressed?”

Well look I couldn’t help it could I?

I mean I’d ask him to do one thing, to help me get the kids dressed while I had a shower. Instead what do I find him doing? Buggering around in his tool box, making a bloody mess and the kids still aren’t dressed. I mean. Hello? Even a saint would be hard pressed not to snap.

Mr Husband, “If you must know,” he said in that supercilious way that people do who are about to impart knowledge to someone who is intellectually challenged. “If you must know, I am looking for a wrench to do up Lola’s dress.”

I sniffed.

And I was the intellectually challenged one?

“Her dress?”

“Yes, if you must know, her zipper is stuck and I need a wrench to pull it up.”

“So you’ve spent the last 20 minutes looking for a wrench, turning the house upside down in order to do up Lola’s dress?”


“Well why didn’t you just get her a different dress to put on? We have three children to get dressed and out the door Richard and you are buggering around with tool boxes. We don’t have time for this.”

“She LIKES that dress.”

I sighed.

Sometimes one just has to wonder.

I went in to see Lola, found her half naked waiting for her dress to find a wrench. We had a quick discussion about the zip needing replacing and we found her another dress. Then I dressed Cuba and by that stage Ella had pretty much finished dressing herself. Now there was just the small matter of the upside down kitchen drawers to address. I yelled out to Mr Husband to see if he could make us some coffee…

“I can’t.” he yelled back, “I’m getting myself dressed! I can’t do everything you know!”

And so, I was going to discuss this issue today. You know, thrash it out, throw around some theories, take a stab in the dark and see if we couldn’t brain storm and work out at least to some degree, the way the male mind operates.
But that’s not what I’m going to ponder today.

No, instead I’m going to ponder something quite different.
Today I ponder social standing. I ponder social groups. I ponder social tribes. And I ponder that even as a 37 year old woman, how it can be that social tribes are just as relevant now as they were when I was a fifteen year old school girl. And the interesting element is, that very rarely as a 37 year old woman, do I have the opportunity to change tribe, to intermix with a different tribe, to experience the exclusion, the elitism, the isolation of the tribal mind/gang. But how fascinating it is when one does.

Let’s take Mrs Suburban Mum, that’s me, living Mrs Suburban Life, that’s me too, and before I get too depressed about how depressing all this suburban living is, let’s cut to the chase. When you take Mrs Suburbia (I want to write Mrs Normal, but really what is normal anyway?) and you put her in a tattoo shop in Crown St Surry Hills well Mrs Suburbia comes hard up against Mr I’m Not One of You and Mr I Wouldn’t be caught Dead Living your humdrum Boring Handbag Life.

Not that the guy with all the facial piercings actually said that to me, but I knew, I knew from the way he looked down his nose at me and demanded in a less than favourable way, “What do you want?”, that he wasn’t really all that thrilled to see me.
And I think, well I know, I was feeling suitably intimidated by the whole experience.

I guess the thing is, you can tell right from the outset that I’m not a tattoed lady. I don’t have half sleeves of beautiful flowers winding their way down my arms (although I do fantasise about it). And I don’t have any tatts you can see from a quick once over of my exposed skin. But let’s face it, he’s not picking up on what tatts he can or can’t see. He’s reading a whole other range of sub-cultural information. As soon as I walked into that shop he was sizing me up. Was I one of them? Or was I an intruder? Had I wondered into someone elses tribe? And if so, would he accept or reject me?

It’s not just that I wasn’t in dressed in leather from head to foot. And it wasn’t just that I didn’t have piercings to the same degree he did. I knew, that at any airport he’d be considered a security risk. That much metal, you just knew he was used to being stripped searched everytime he caught a plane from Sydney to Melbourne.

But he’d gauged my tribal suitability and found me lacking. Whether it was my clothes that gave me away or the way I spoke or perhaps the way I smiled a lot. I was taught to smile to be polite. I’ve subsequently come to understand it’s much better to scowl in tattoo shops, or if not scowl, then at least perfect the look of total disinterest. Smiling. Well smiling is for mugs. Or yuppies. And frankly, they are not predisposed to serving either. Particually yuppies.

Normally, being spoken to as thought I were a Leper with open sores, would put me off, well let’s be honest, reduce me to tears. But I’d been through this distain before. I was rather used to the tattoo professional looking down their tattoed nose at me. The first time I’d been into a tattoo studio I’d taken my then one year old baby Lola with me. Mostly because I just needed to nip in, make the appointment and nip out. You know, as one might who is nipping into say hairdressing salon to make a time to get your hair trimmed.

But make no mistake tattoo studios are no hair salons.

They are not out to win the Tony and Guy Best Customer Service award.

They are not out to win friends and influence people.

In fact, they are hardly there to speak with you at all. Preferably, if you could, they’d rather you not interrupt them full stop. After all, they are busy people dealing with people they like. And they don’t like you. They don’t like non tribe sorts. Non tribe sorts need not apply, need not pass go and need not hang out with one year old daughter at front counter.

The young lady at the front desk looked as though I had just asked her to swallow a python. I could see the extensive tattoo work she’d had done on her arms and chest before the ragged, black tee-shirt covered the rest. She sat across from me, sullen and moody with her dark eye-shadow and black eyeliner, her eyes glistened with contempt.

Her rich, red lips curled up with distain, “You want a tattoo?”

I like the idea of breaking the ice. When one tribe meets another I always think a bit of humour is needed to help grease the wheels, you know, help massage the situation.

I gave her my most delightful smile (note: was blissfully unaware that smiles were the kiss of death). I jiggled the baby perched on my hip, “No the tattoo is for my daughter Lola, it’s her first one.”

Seems my tribal, ice-breaking joke went down like The Titanic. Her face remained impassive and possibly (although even now I wonder if it was in fact physically possible) more contemptuous than she’d been five minutes earlier. I was about to give up trying to charm her into liking me when I heard a rather rawkus laugh coming from the office behind her.

And out he came, the biggest bikie dude I’ve ever seen, with his big, big dog.

And as he laughed, he told me his dog was called Lola too…

There is nothing like a baby and dog to take the frosty chill from the air. And soon Miss-I-Eat-Spiders-for-Breakfast was all smiles and we booked my appointment in for the following week.

But the next time I went in for a tattoo I was ready. I was prepared for the what-rock-did-you-crawl-out-from-under-look. This time I was ready for the, we-don’t-serve-people-like-you scathing look of contempt. And so when the gentleman in question told me that they didn’t tattoo the back of necks I rather felt that it was his special way of telling me I wasn’t going to get into this nightclub. That there was a “Private Function” going on in there tonight, or that if I wasn’t on the guest list, I wasn’t getting in. So I left that tattoo studio and I went off to have a think of another place I could get my cherry blossom neck tattoo done. But at the same time, I did have to wonder, if getting a tattoo was a service, then what had happened to customer service?
You see, as I stood there, feeling exposed and naked, irrespective of all the middle class suburban clothing I wore. I realised, I didn’t need him to like me, I didn’t need him to be my friend, the truth was, I knew if I had five minutes with him, I’d have charmed my way into his hardened little tattooed heart. But I knew I wanted something from him. I wanted a service from him. He didn’t need to like or respect me, and frankly I didn’t need to like or respect him, but I didn’t understand what had happened to the basic civilities of being decent to each other?

I pondered on my walk home. How Mr I’ve got every piercing ever documented in my face, would go meeting up with say the Paddington Mother’s set. I often find the Paddington mother’s set just as intimidating as the Tattooed Dudes.

The thing I have found endlessly fascinating about the Mothers Tribe is that they, like any tribe can be as exclusive and cliquey and mean as any other sub-cultural group. Not all of them mind you. But some of them. There is something about middle class women who have become mothers, that can be insanely critical, rude and exclusive. It is an extension of tribe, that is, either you are part of their mothers tribe or you are not. I know some mothers from the Inner West who see the Eastern Suburb mothers as superficial, highbrow and profusely inane. I even know some Eastern Suburbs mothers who also see Eastern Suburb mothers the same way. But even in amongst the subsets of these groups – and let’s be clear it’s not just about who has money and who doesn’t. Inner West mothers have their fair share of Volvo driving, million dollar Sydney terraces as well, it’s not just the Paddington mother’s who are flashing the cash. I think I was initially surprised to find this meaness in mothers, this exclusivity in mothers, because, well, they are mothers. Aren’t all mothers supposed to be nurturing? Kind? Thoughtful? Aren’t we all out there teaching our children to be accepting, to be honest, to be inclusive? But there it was, staring me in the face, as I read article after article, and heard comment after comment, we mothers seem predisposed to tearing shreds off other mother’s choices. The, I work and send my child to childcare mother against the I have a nanny so I can work because I’d never put my child in childcare, versus the I stay at home and raise my children myself so that no-one else raises my child. The complexities of mothering, the complexities of the backstabbing of mothering, can be profoundly disturbing. It is I have a found a pathology all unto itself. It’s starts with the choice of birthing, moves on to breastfeeding and then continues I suspect until your little darlings have long since gone to university, or started up their own tattoo studio. The question I want to ask is why? Why do mothers do it to each other? Why when we are all so desperate for support are we all so damn critical of each others efforts?

So I wondered as I walked home, how if being a mother, you could still be eaten alive by other mothers, how Mr Tatted Up would cope in the same room as them? How would he cope with their looks of distain? How would he cope with their exclusion? How would he cope standing in the middle of their tribe?

Well clearly he would feel like crap. Paddington mothers are well known for their ability to use shock and awe techniques that would make the American Military quake in their boots. But the point I’m trying to get to is that I recognised early in the piece, that I was going to have to be made of tuffer stuff at my next visit. After Miss Spider Bite and Mr Tatt Man, I knew I’d have to pull out the big guns for the next visit into my cultural foray.

But before I get around to my last visit to the tattoo shop, this time Bourke St in Surry Hills. I would like to briefly return to a pilates class I went to yesterday. Now speaking of cultural twists and turns. I’ve always seen the place I do pilates as a bit of Barbie Village. That is, everyone looks like Barbie there. They are all toned and thin and have big boobs, or no boobs, the big boobed ones look like barbie and the no boob ones look like ballerinas, I mean really, everyone there is just gorgeous. Which as you can imagine is it’s own version of intimidating.


Well let me tell you, after a few months of trodding along to pilates class after pilates class, I don’t even notice the brunette and blonde barbies, I just do pilates. I don’t even notice how rake thin and drop dead gorgeous the girl is next to me, because really I’m busy staring down at my own gut wondering if I will EVER get rid of that last bit of baby belly.

But yesterday, well yesterday I went to class with a tattoo on my wrist. I’d hand drawn it on, to get used to the overall feel of it. No point getting it inked on your arm and hating it five minutes later. And I realised puffing away in my pilates class, that my tattoo (albiet a hand drawn one) gave me some form of protection. That is, whilst you think as a non tattooed person looking at heavily tatted people, that they are the vulnerable ones, the ones that everyone is staring at, in fact it works the other way around. I could see people staring at my wrist tatt (mostly I suspect because it was rather on the large size, I got a bit carried away and overscaled it). But I also realised that people judge you with a wrist tatt. Where they dare I say it, a little afraid? In awe? Perhaps having a wrist tatt made me more intimidating or less fluffy? I became less Mummsie with my drawn on wrist tatt. I was less Mrs Housewife and more Mrs Biker Mole. Haha. No not biker mole. But tougher. I seemed tougher. I felt tougher. And let’s face it, I’m no shrinking violet to start with, so perhaps tougher was the wrong word. And as I grunted to pull on the wrist straps completing the excercise that was designed to stretch my back muscles, I realised I felt impenetrable with my mandala painted on my wrist. I felt protected. Even the mean pilates instructor, (she’s blonde but she’s bitchy, you know, she aint taking no shite from anyone, and that’s on a good day). Well look, it might have been my imagination but even she seemed a little less bitchy and a bit more respectful towards me. Perhaps I thought, this is what the tattooed person gets? This level of protection? People don’t want to take potshots at people with tattooes, people don’t want to take issue with you. Maybe behind my long dark hair and charming smile, I was less charming, more mean? And for the first time, I think I understood part of the charm in having obviously seen tatts, it’s not just for the aesthetic value, you get something from society for it. And I think, I think it’s a sort of begrudging respect.

Well that was it then, I’m all for a bit of begrudging respect. God knows I don’t get much of it in my household. So the very next day I booked in to get my Buddhist Ohm symbol forever engrained on my wrist.

I was determined however not to look like Eastern Suburbs housewife going in for tatt though. That much was certain. Although, and it has to be said, why did everything I pull out of my wardrobe make me feel identifiable as flagrant yuppie material? Even the all black wardrobe I selected still seemed destined to ex pose me as conservative middle class housewife instead of the Boho groovester I was really hoping to project. Even my boho outfits seemed ridiculously overstyled. God I was the queen of grunge in the 90’s – where the fuck were all my clothes that would blend me seamlessly into the tattoo culture lurking down on Crown St in surry hills. In the end I opted for black. Black top, navy jeans and black biker boots. And yet somehow, instead of biker I still looked too Country Road. Man, what had happened to me? I knew, I could fix this with eyeliner. Lots of it. And black eyeshadow. Ok, sure it was 10AM but if a bit of black eyeliner and eyeshadow would cut me some slack with the bitch at the tattoo counter, well I was prepared to weather the storm of funny looks at school drop off, with all the mummies wondering what had happened to jeans and sneakers mrs Mcardle, to gothed up, biker boots dark eyeliner mummy – I mean where the hell does she think she’s going at 10AM?

And frankly Mr Husband was rather surprised too…

“Where are you off to looking all dressed up?”

“Never you mind.” I said over my shoulder as I nipped out the front door.

I had no intention of revealing my clandestine appointment with Mr Tattoo.

No, far better for him to imagine affair with Gothic lover than guess my real mission.

You see, I cant talk to people before getting a tattoo. Mostly because I’m so impressionable. As soon as someone says they don’t like the idea, and Mr Husband is very vocal about not liking tatts. Then I find I don’t like them either. I show someone my latest butterfly tatt idea and they scowl and all of a sudden I think butterflys are naff too. You get the picdture. So I have to act on instinct. You know, just do it. Otherwise I find myself tormented and twisted in circles over whether I should or shouldn’t, all based on someone elses opinion.

But I did tell someone.

My other Tattoo Mummy. She’s my friend from a million years ago, my artistic, thoughtful, cool and groovy Mummy friend. I met Ms M a long, long time before there was any words as uncool as Mummy prefacing our names. I can send her a million ideas for tatts and she’s always open minded about them. Even when I went through my 1920’s fairy phase, she’s was still tactful. And she has a great eye. So I make sure I’m fairly confident about what it is I like (keeping in mind I sway like the wind based on opinions, design opinions that is, not political opinions or ethical opinions, design opinions!) and then I shoot her a picture, or a photo, or an email or a text or any of the plethora of media devices we have available to us, and she gives me her thoughtful artistic opinion. Ms M knew, but no-one else did. And there is something nice about being secretive about planned tattoo events. Makes one feel sixteen again, and young, and rash and reckless. And really, at thirty-seven going on ninety-seven, that feeling is GOLD.

I headed off to tattoo studio with my war mask on, my face painted ready to take the withering stares of contempt. And perhaps I had slathered just enough black eyeshadow onto my lids, or perhaps I’d picked just the right shade of red lippy, because instead of the How-about-you-go-get-fucked attitude, the gentleman behind the counter was rather charming. And even though all the tattoo artists said they were busy, he found one that could squeeze me in at 3.30 in the afternoon. And then he gave me a flirty little smile when I left and asked me to make sure to call if I was going to be running late. Well who knew if you made yourself look like Elvira a person got a bit of R.E.S.P.E.C.T.

So now I have my tattoo.

And rather than feeling the protective powers of intimidating wrist tattoo, all I’ve been feeling is the pain. Man, if I haven’t bumped and jostled and damn nigh hit the bloody thing a hundred times. The skin on the inside of ones wrist is constantly moving due to the rotation of the arm and hand. Which means the healing tattoo is constantly moving and cracking and scabbing and catching, on clothes, on children. Frankly it’s been pretty damn sore. And who knew, the day after getting tattoo done, two of my kids would go down with a filthy gastro bug, which would mean I’d be picking them up a hundred times over the next three days, more hugs and cuddles and knocks to the wrist than I’d normally sustain in a week!

The Day of the Triffids ain’t got nothing on The Day of the Endless Vomit.

But then, that’s another story.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

To Tattoo or not Tattoo... again?

I’m hankering for my next tattoo.
It never ceases to surprise me that I should have found such an interest for them since becoming a mother.
I rather suspect it’s for the same reasons I got married instead of remaining de-facto. Or the reason I married first and then had children. As opposed to doing what most of my friends did, which was to have children first, and then marry.

And whilst to marry, then have children, or indeed, marrying at all, seems to be the conservative option, the truth is, if everyone else is NOT getting married, and everyone else is having kids prior to tying the knot, then my actions where not the conservative ones, in fact, I was doing what no-one else was doing. I was doing the opposite. I’ve always done the opposite. Mostly just to be a little shit I expect. There has always been a little me inside shaking my fist yelling out, “I will not comply!”
And then there was always a bigger me inside, a wiser me, that said, “Well you don’t have to comply but you know, one should always keep it civil. So why don’t you pick something low key to not comply over, you know, don’t make a fuss, just keep the non compliance reasonable, don’t set fire to anything, try not to destroy public property because they’ll just lock you up, and if you must chose to not shave armpit hair to make a point, make sure you wear a good quality lipstick.”
My rebellions have always been understated affairs.
Marriage appealed because no-one else was doing it
Getting my husband to take my surname appealed because no-one else was doing it
Getting my nose pierced as a professional business woman, working in the city, meeting “Executive Business Sorts” appealed because no-one else was doing it (I rather liked watching CEO of Big Wig Company crane his neck to work out if he did indeed just get a glint of diamond shining off my nose in the late morning Sydney sunshine. I do half think I was inspired to see if I would get fired for having nose pierced. I rather liked the glamour of being sacked. Sadly no such dismissal came my way).
And getting tatts appealed because no-one else, that is, no other mummies, were doing it.
Oh sure.
They all did it in their teens, their 20’s. They pierced noses, had stars tattooed on their ankles and butterflies on their stomachs in their heady days of youth - precisely when I wasn’t interested in doing it. No, I seemed to want to wait until it was unseemly to do it. You know, when people look at you and wonder if the reason you’re doing things like this is because you’re mid nervous breakdown (actually, this could be the real reason). Or they wonder perhaps it’s because you’re having a midlife crisis (how scary to think I have reached the last few years of my thirties and actually qualify for mid life crisis!)
But instead, they don’t realise that it’s just the juvenile rebel in me.

It is as though my small inner rebellion, my next tattoo, is concrete evidence, that I am not part of the mold, that I broke the mold, that getting a tatt sets me apart from the conservativeness of motherhood. That somehow by getting ink it will make me someone different, that it highlights my individuality, it rebels from all the demands that motherhood places on me. It says, “I am not a real mummy. I will never be a real mummy. The idea of being a real mummy makes me feel trapped inside. It makes me feel like I am dying inside.”

I have this picture of a 1960’s housewife, dressed in her apron, standing mutely at the stove, smiling benignly at her perfect family, her perfect husband. And I want to tear the image to shreds, I want to scream at her to stop smiling. I feel fear prick in my heart that this image might be me. That somehow the vibrant woman I was prior to having children might morph into this plastic version of a person. That all the mummy gigs will turn me into a Stepford wife, that next time I look in the mirror I’ll be smiling benignly even if my heart is crying and screaming out to be released.

And so I see the tattooing, the ink, the planning of the ink, the beautiful images I picture being drawn upon my skin, as a way of celebrating that I’m still alive inside, that I’m still a person, that I am yet to be assimilated into the Borg. I’m not just a number with the word Mummy trailing after it.

It’s not that I don’t see any beauty in motherhood. It’s not that I don’t experience deep, transcendent moments holding my children. That dancing with Ella, or sweeping Lola’s now, very long, straight hair from her face doesn’t bring me joy. It’s not that I don’t take my girls in my arms and sweep them into the air and watch their eyes light up and not feel a passion that is almost inexplicable to describe. There are moments in motherhood, moments that shine with truth, an inner truth that hold a beauty, where I’m connected with the nurturer in myself, the protector, the teacher, and in those fleeting moments I feel whole again. I am not searching for me in amongst the days of accidental parenthood. In those moments I am complete, both sides of me, the wild girl who wants to drink vodka til the sun is rising, and the mother who wants to lay beside her little girl and hold her safely in her arms, are the same woman. And I don’t feel the lack. I don’t feel the need to differentiate myself from the boredom of motherhood, that 60’s housewife, trapped in the day to day drudgery of cleaning and cooking and bum wiping. I don’t feel that need to yell out, “I am more than the sum total of my motherhood parts!”

I used to wonder in my 20’s if I would ever have children.
I felt that as soon as I bore my own clan, it would be their lives that became important and my life would slowly fade into the greying world of motherhood, no longer an entity in my own right, merely a tool for the progression of my offspring’s lives.
But even though I fought against the survival of my own ego, my own life, I knew that if I had a child (for the longest time I only saw myself with one child, a girl child) that she and I would be close. But I realise now that my image I had of myself and my daughter, wandering around Manhattan, me looking sensational in groovy boho outfit, daughter equally gorgeous. Me, fabulous career woman off to book signing launch, daughter fabulous side-kick, was all about my ego too. Daughter was nothing more than the ultimate accessory to me. Perhaps why I only saw myself as having one? God knows how one would manage several children in that scene? After all I was fabulous career woman, tottering along in high heels, not Maria from the bloody Sound of Music, taking them for a stroll in Central Park getting them to sing about their favourite things.

I saw my independent life as colour. I saw a life with children as grey. I saw a life with several lovers, perhaps some I married, and perhaps some I didn’t, as colour. I saw life with one man, living in a house mortgaged to the hilt, 2.5 children and a dog, as the ultimate in suburban suicide. I couldn’t understand how people could aim so low. Demand so little. What on earth I wondered, would motivate people to sell their dreams for the suburban nightmare of everydayness, of conservativeness, of boringness? Why would you pick a monotonous life of wife-dom, motherhood and paying bills? Who I wondered would want that as their dream? And why? Why on earth, why?

But you do end up wanting that don’t you?
One day you’re at a bar full of thin, waif, model types and you’re all sipping wonderfully overpriced cocktails and you see that world for what it really is, a transparent, glossy, nothing-ness. And you find yourself aching for something more, something meaningful, something that your soul resonates with.
And then of course you have another vodka, and you find someone who smokes cigarettes and then you feel 16 again sitting outside being naughty smoking and you forget about that soul ache, that need for something more.

But once you realise that you want it. That you want children, a family, a life mate, a house (God who knew I would lust after the concept of having a house, a big house with a garden, somewhere for my kids to play on swings and jump on trampolines and play hide and seek, that I would lust after the dream of paying a mortgage, of being able to knock great big nails in the wall to hang my artwork wherever I wanted. That renting, or living in an apartment shoebox, or wanting something as mundane as a proper laundry would be the stuff of inspiration to me?) Who knew that I would crave that suburban sameness, the suburban dream? Who knew what I once saw as suburban madness was to turn into the only thing I could ever remember wanting with every fibre of my being?

Is it any wonder that one is driven to drink?

For pity’s sake. Can we all get on the same page here? Bohemian life of wandering around the globe chasing down dreams, or motherhood withwifehood and mortgagehood? Pick which one and get on with it!
The duplicity of even our own wishes and desires!

Don’t make me a mother! I am me! I refuse to be part of this con, this joke, this oppression of person!
Please, please, please, make me a mother! I want to share my life with my children. I want to watch them grow, to feed, to nature and care for another being, to cradle them, to care for them. I want to feel the sun come out when I see them smile.

And that duplicity continues within me.
I struggle with that, at my Mummy gigs I struggle with it.
And I practice ‘surrender’ on days when the struggle threatens to overwhelm me.
And on the best days, on the days when I am fully alive as a person because I am a mother, on the days I am illuminated by it, I remember to be thankful for it.
I remember to watch the glow inside me, to remember that it is there because of the decision to have my babies. They are the reason for my completeness.

And on other days, the less complete days, well I can get a similar glow from vodka, it’s more of an internal heat followed by a sharp cough but it’s not a bad substitute.

I do love that real glow, the one that steals up on you when I put the girls to bed and watch them sleeping. My hand rests on their little bodies, as I watch their breathing, the fall and rise of their chests. I can feel that glow diffusing into my cells, travelling through my skin, flooding my being. I feel the tears well up in my eyes, wondering what I would do without them. How would my spirit cope if they were taken from me? How would I cope if I were taken from them? I would I know, struggle with death himself to stay with them, I would fiercely fight him, strangle him to make sure I could sit forever by their side, watching them, holding them, lying down next to them, breathing in the breath that they exhale.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Stop. Rewind. Let's start the day again.

Some days are like that aren’t they?
I mean you're out of bed for like a total of five minutes and you already wish it were the end of the day and you were crawling back in.
Buddhism explains that this is wishing our lives away, wishing the moment away. That by wishing our suffering away, we are depriving ourselves of living in the moment. Of living our lives. Of being present.
That immersing ourselves in our suffering, not fighting it, not wishing it to be anything other than what it is, this is where we strengthen our spiritual practice. That by living in the moment, and not trying to make it something else, should part of your daily practice. They say meditation is all fine and all, but life, life is where the real spiritual practice is at.
I feel like that when I'm drinking vodka. I never wish the moment were something else. I never fight the moment, and I never try and make it something it isn’t. I am a true reflection of Buddhist philosophy when drunk.

I just need to work on it sober.

I reminded myself not to make my suffering more suffering by exacerbating my suffering by focusing on my suffering as I opened the pile of bills that had accumulated on my kitchen table.
And as I peeled open envelope 45, this one from the motor registry office, I did that double take thing. Where your brain reads information but doesn’t understand its content. So, in my case, I opened the letter and noticed that my car registration was up for renewal on May 11.
I stared dumbly at it.
But we were in June. Could I honestly have been driving an unregistered car for over a month?
I called Richard.
No answer.
I put the notice into the BILLS TO BE PAID PILE.
(Now a rather hefty look'n pile).
Richard I knew had been paying bills; I'd get an email from him with a copy of the mortgage payment. Or a foxtel paid email would pop up in my inbox. I had no idea how he'd worked out what needed paying and what didn’t. Perhaps vodaphone sent him emails? Because one of those Vodaphone paid accounts also arrived in my email inbox from him.
And so, naively, I opened most of the bills thinking they had already been paid.
I opened perhaps the tenth AGL Electricity bill..
Bla bla bla.
And I supposed that Richard must have paid that one too. I don’t know why. Perhaps I thought he was working on intuition. Or using The Force?
But as I delicately put the 10th or 11th AGL Electricity notice in my pile the doorbell rang.
I wandered down the hallway and opened the door.
There stood a rather pleasant looking man who handed me an AGL account.
"Could I leave this in your capable hands please Madam? It needs to be paid."
And I took the piece of paper from him and smiled.
Who knew AGL hand delivered outstanding accounts to be paid?
And what a coincidence I told him, "I have about ten of these that I've just opened."
I gave him a smile and shut the door.
Imagine, AGL hand delivering bills.
Well wonders would never cease.

I picked up my cup of tea and prepared to address the rest of the pile of unopened bills. I glanced at the photocopy of the bill still in my hand.
It was a disconnection notice.
The lovely man had come to disconnect me.
His letter was to tell me, I was disconnected, that I'd need to pay $99 to reconnect and then pay the outstanding bill to boot.

No electricity for me.

I took the Buddhist view. All things pass, the very nature of suffering is that it is fleeting; it moves only to be replaced with a new suffering. Rather than immersing myself in this suffering, I should instead let it float on by, like a cloud, watch it, and let it go.

I put the disconnection notice on the table and resumed my envelope opening safari.
No point getting upset about it I rationalised. After all, getting upset wouldn't put the electricity back on.

Cuba woke up from his nap.
And only after 20 minutes.
Since we've had the Baby Whisperer come in and fix his wagon (teach him how to sleep) he always sleeps for two to three hours.
I was not impressed by this 20 minute effort.
Nor was I impressed by whinging, crying baby who was cranky and not letting me finish my pile of letters.
God was it any bloody wonder I never got to open bills when I have a baby that whinges and carries on like a pork chop the minute I put him down to do something for myself.
I took his temp.
Not well.
And that annoyed me too, I mean after all, antibiotics are supposed to fix you. He was almost at the end of these and he seemed worse than ever. And bloody hell, I had work I needed to get done and he'd only slept for 20 minutes.
He refused any food, and shoved all offered morsels off his high chair tray onto the floor.
Which was also bloody annoying because I'd only just swept it and now it was covered with sloppy kid food.
I picked him up and tried to carry him around on my hip.
But look. Cuba is no small fry. This little monkey is 11 kilos.
And carrying a cranky, hot, 11 kilo beef burger around while you try and open envelopes is no fun.

Oh I know.
I should have been nicer to him. I should have been mrs cuddly mummy. But I wasn’t. Ella first got sick a week ago, followed by Cuba, followed by Lola. I have been up to three sick kids every night for over a week, followed by looking after three sick, whinging kids all day. OH MY GOD it's all I could do not to dig three holes in the back of the garden and stick them in it!
If pick up one, the other one cries because she wants carrying. If
I pick up the three year old, the one year old loses it. Then I find the five year old slumped over on the lounge almost dead and I drop the whingy ones and dash to her aid. I feel like Florence Nightingale meets Egyptian slave. And on top of all the mummy nurse time, mr husband has worked late almost every night. So I’ve had sick kids all day and then had to put them all to bed every night on my tod.
Honestly, at the end of the day I'm ready to book flights to Mozambique and be one of those mummies that just went for a walk one day and they never found her again.

So when Cuba woke up, sicker, and even more whingy. Well I wasn’t impressed. And his whinge. Well it's like a buzz saw. It's at that exact pitch, eeeeeee, eeeeeee, eeeeeeee. Drills into your brain.... eeeee, eeeee, eeee.

I tried to give him Baby Panadol and he threw it across the room.
Don’t get me wrong, I really dig that my kids are spirited. I like spunky kids. I like kids with personality. But I do not dig kids who throw stuff all over my CLEAN kitchen floor.
And before you know it, I was suffering in my suffering.
I was wallowing in my suffering.
Why me, as I looked down and the little snot monster grabbed my leg, "eeeee. eeee. eeeee."
I picked him up.
I ditched opening the rest of the letters and decided to go for a walk.
After all, the sun was shining for the first time in weeks.
Why not get some fresh air, and I wiped the fresh snot from my jumper where Cuba had rubbed his face into my chest.
Yes fresh air.
I took a deep, long, slow breath.
Must remember not to wish my life away. Must remember not to wish he was 18 and moving out. Must remember to enjoy the moment, or at least to accept it. Must not try to make it something it isn’t.

I was going to have to walk to pick up Lola from Pre-school and walk to get Ella from school. Which meant leaving over an hour earlier to do the round trip. Damn bloody car for not being registered.
Tried Richard on the phone again.
No answer.

I bundled Cuba into pram.
He screamed his head off in protest. (Cuba not a fan of the pram.)
I took deep breath, don’t wish life away.
And I walked past our car, lifeless, unusable.
What I wouldn’t give to strap QB into a car seat and drive around the block til he fell asleep and then pull up in the sunshine and read a book.
Instead I looked down at my little man, face scrunched up letting out his Tyrannosaurus Rex scream.
Must not wish moment is anything other than what it is.

I glanced at car rego sticker.
Expiry date: 30 DEC 2009.
December 2009????? I had been driving the car unregistered since December last year? Holy Farkamoly! Almost 6 months!

I could drag you thro the rest of that day. But why torture you as well. And frankly, I've already lived that day, why torture me as well.

I called my friend up and explained that I was going to have to ditch meditation class tonight as I really needed red wine.
I decided I needed a moment (well several hours if truth be told) of participating in an event where I would genuinely not be wishing it away. And consumption of red wine fitted that description well.
After all, it is easy to be Buddhist and spiritual and not wish moment away when one is actually enjoying moment.
I informed her I would be on her doorstep at 7PM with wine and packet of cheese and onion chips (nice to bring dinner as well I thought).
I cheered immeasurably as I prepared dinner for the three sick urchins.
I even took it in my stride when Cuba dumped the entire scrambled egged contents of his bowl on the floor.
I even smiled when Ella pushed her plate away and said "I hate scrambled eggs."
And I even hugged Lola when she knocked over her glass of water, soaked the table, the floor, all of her eggs and half of her dress (I note hugged as opposed to strangled).
Because you see, I was going to be enjoying bottle of red (I had just mentally upped one bottle to two bottles) with girlfriend in just over an hour. I could do it. I could make it thro horror day and get out the other side.

And then Richard called to say he was working late.

On my wine and cheese and onion chips night?
On my disconnection of electricity night. My car is unregistered for 6 months night. My children are sick going on 7 days night. My I'm about to have a nervous God damn break down night?

I mean how nice for him.
Working late.
Here I was surrounded by screaming kids all demanding my attention, food all over the floor, water spilt from one end of the kitchen to the other, trying to administer antibiotics and baby Panadol, trying to get Cuba in a clean nappy as he tried diligently to grab his own poo. And where was husband? Richard, Richard, why he got to sit at work in a nice quiet office, doing nice graphic, design, artistic stuff, whist I was in the fucking trenches. I was in World War Two and he was quaffing champagne aboard the Love Boat.
Where was my LOVE???

And so I digged deep.
Well you have to don’t you.
You have to dig deep to find strength, compassion, spare change to buy bottle of Absolute.
And I gathered my snotty, whingy little clan and dumped them in the bath.
Took chai tea out of overhead cup'd and brewed self a cup with two teaspoons of sugar (let's face it, I needed sweetening up).
And I must say I felt far better after sending nervous breakdown style text to husband. I figure why suffer alone? (Think this needs to be added to Buddhists texts.)
And soon, all three were in bed. And I was happily ensconced in front of tele watching MasterChef. Ignoring incoming phone calls from Husband (obviously worried about my repeated references to digging holes in garden), I felt myself cheer immeasurably. The day was finally over.

I have however decided, next time I wake up like that, I'm skipping Buddhist philosophy, and getting straight back into bed.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

How many days apart from your children does it take to miss them?

I pondered that question as I boarded my flight.
Actually in truth, I pondered it as I stood in line, fifty deep, waiting to check in on my Tiger Airways flight. I noticed, with some mild amusement that I wasnt stressed out of my brain, or feeling adrenaline coursing through my body. Airport queues, specifically long airport queues are generally torture for me.
And I wondered as I stood there, all zen like, what was different about this queue, this long, long line that I stood in? Why was it that I didnt feel like the top of my head was about to explode and steam come pouring forth from my ears?
And of course, the answer was blindingly obvious.

I had no children with me.

Richard had dropped me at the departures gate and I'd kissed my three little gremlins goodbye (whilst they stayed firmly strapped in their car seats). I briefly hugged my husband, wished him well, told him where I kept the secret stash of vodka and then turned to face the sliding doors of Sydney airport.
Like Aladin's Cave they silently slid open, and I walked through.
The hum of the building's airconditioner provided a white-noise cloak around me as I made my way to join the world's longest queue.
This is what happens when you are required to be at check in two hours prior to departure, there are a lot of people waiting. But I felt no angst, no irritation, and certainly, I felt no need to delicately shove the person in front of me so that we might move a little faster to the front of the queue.
No, I stood in a zen like trance, enjoying, neigh, delighting in the calmness.
Which made me wonder.
How long would it be before I missed them?
How long would it be before my heart started to ache and my arms want to reach out and hold them?
I stood in line and moved one person further along.
Tick tock.
Not missing them.
Thirty minutes later I was checked in and drinking a coffee.
No children to crawl up on the table to dismantle the sugar container.
No children to fight over who gets to hold the salt shaker and who is going to use the pepper grinder.
No arguments over who gets to eat the last piece of banana bread.
I with almost glutonous abandoment, devoured my entire chocolate muffin to myself.
No sharing MY muffin with greedy, noisy offspring.
Ah, I let my body sigh to itself and appreciate the implicit difference between coffee at the airport with three children in tow, and coffee at the airport on my own.
Zen, I'd move past zen. I was now in emotional release stage 4, I was crying with joy at the simply pleasure of enjoying a cafe latte without having to gulp the scolding hot coffee down in order to vacate seat and move children on before the chaos broke out.
I put my finger out and picked up the last chocolate crumb on the plate.
Did I miss them yet?
Not. On. Your. Life.

By the time my plane had landed, I was rather intrigued with this concept of many hours or days or perhaps weeks (dare I even suggest months?) it would take for me to miss my children.
And I felt guilty, I mean genuinely guilty when I realised, I perhaps could easily go a week, without a second thought about them.
I suspected, and I mean this in a dark way, I suspected I could probably go several weeks without missing them.
I suspected, well I suspected I should audition for Masterchef next time around and become a contestant that is forced by the nature of the show to be absent from her family for three months.
And that thought of being away from home. The thought of spending three months in a Harbourisde mansion with the other contestants, also taken forcibly from their homes, without their children, well it warmed me. Note: one did not delve further into fantasy, one obviously needs to be able to cook to audition for Masterchef and if nothing else I'm astute enough to realise that preparing Two Minute Maggi Noodles would not be enough to wow any Australian Food Critic.
However the idea of being MIA, to not be responsible for little people.
To not worry about dinners, lunches, snacks, nappies, bedtimes, baths, reading books, car ferrying, play date organising, pram parking, shopping, cleaning, washing, to be forcibly removed from well, my life, sounded...
*she says very very quietly so that no-one can hear*
Well frankly, it sounded like my idea of Heaven.

And then mother guilt kicked in.
Grabbed me by the goolab jamonds and shook me.
You cant expect to be away from your children for three months and not miss them!
But I strongly suspected I could.
I strongly suspected I could do three months, and then do another three without even stopping to catch my breath.
I realised, in all probability that joy I'd felt, the joy of thinking of a lengthy absence from them, made me a bad mother.
But it's not hard to fall into the bad mother catagory these days.
You used to be able to beat your children, starve them, send them to bed without any dinner and stick them up chimneys, and still be considered a good mum.
Not so these days.
If it's not organic. If it's not sugar free. If it's not parenting like you're negotiating on behalf of the United Nations, well then you're buggering up your job. These days you can read every child raising book in Dymocks and still get it wrong. If you put your child in childcare, if you hire a nanny, if you raise them at home, if you leave them to cry as babies, or if you carry them around in a sling all day, if you breastfeed, if you dont breastfeed, if you home school, if you co-sleep, if you put baby in a different room from birth, if you start solids too early, if you start them too late, if you yell at them, if you slap them, if you talk to them like their grown ups, if you talk to them like employees, if you teach them to read too early, if you teach them to read too late, if you help them every step of the way or you leave them to sort it out on their own, if you let them call you by your first name, if you make them call you mum or dad... doesnt matter which you pick, you are labelled a bad Mum.

Fortunately I was a bad teenager, so I'm familiar with the role.

It's not that I dont love my children, I do.
It's just that I see being away from them as an exceptional opportunity to be free of the great big ball and chain that is clasped around my ankle. And God, what I wouldnt give for a few days out of that detention centre.

And so I pondered this question with my own mother as we drove from Adelaide airport.
I never understood these women who couldnt go out at night and leave their kids with a babysitter because they would "MISS THEM."
God, for the chance to miss them!
For the chance to feel that stiring in the loins, the mother tiger feeling of wanting to be there to love and protect, instead of the adolescent desire to flee.

"I wonder how long it would take for me to miss them?"
"The kids."
"Oh you'll miss them by this afternoon." my Mum happily announced.
"I strongly suspect I wouldn't miss them by the end of the week!" I defiantly declared.
"Well you're tired, it's a big job bringing up three children so close in age. You need this break. And it's only for one night. You'll see them tomorrow." And Mum patted me on the knee. All would be right with the world after a hot dinner and good nights sleep.
(Mum never did learn the benefits of liberal doses of vodka).

But the question continued to resonate inside me.
Mostly in the sense that I was wondering how to test the question.
How for instance would Richard feel if I were to ring up and say that I wanted two weeks away?
That way, not only would I be able to test hypothosis, I'd also be able to have two weeks away.
Do other Mother's think like this I wondered?
And then I realised. We Mother's dont like to talk about escaping our families. That the idea of being away from our kids is a joyful idea. We dont like to look like we're not coping, or even that we might enjoy time away from our offspring to recapture who we are again.
And then I paused.
Perhaps other Mothers dont talk about it because they don't feel that way?
Maybe everyone else is happy in their mother utopia, they're totally into 'the little people'. They're rocking out motherhood and feel no need to escape, to run for the hills, to liberally apply vodka.

I shelved my concerns and focused on the reason for my trip. To meet my new nephew. Little Callum, little 6 day old, I'd forgotten how tiny they come, Callum. I think it's because he's my sister's baby that I want to wrap him up and take him home with me. I know I want to take her other child home. He has warmed my heart since I first held him as a baby, I held him so tightly that first time. I'd lost my third child, a rather intense miscarriage, a few days after he was born. And so I've always felt a special bond with him. That as my baby left the planet, his soul entered. And I never felt jilted by that, instead, I felt really lucky, blessed, to hold a little bubba, and a gorgeous blue eyed creature in my arms, so soon after saying goodbye to my own yet to be born baby.

I stood holding baby Callum and felt that singing in my heart that you get when you hold a newborn. And I cuddled him closely and pat pat patted his bum until his little cries dropped off and he was soon sleeping peacefully in my arms.
And I mused as I held this dear little body in my arms, how funny it was, because in truth, I'm not much of a baby person. Not terribly fond of them. I much prefer them when they walk and talk and you can have a laugh, pour a glass of wine and dicuss politics with them. Ella isn't fully au fait with the political situation and Kevin Rudd doing backflips on ETS's but she understands the wine pouring bit, and the posturing and the gesticulating. And I suspect by the time she's 6, well I suspect she'll have some fairly interesting views on both the wine growing regions of New Zealand and The Greens.

After taking a hundred photographs, which I also found amusing, funny how a girl can claim not to like babies yet feel drawn to taking enough photos to fill ones iphone. And then it was time to go, Mum, Dad and I kissed all nephews, sisters and husbands goodbye and headed out to lunch.
Dad, Mum and I all had a laugh about how long I thought it would take for me to miss my own children.
Again, I was sure, as I sipped my cold reisling, sans enfants, sans chaos, sans having to order food that is kiddie friendly, without chilli, without gorgonzola, I was sure, I could become accostomed to lunching out with adults and enjoying the peace and quiet of the sophisticaiton that comes with only discussing adult topics and not refereeing arguments between three and five year olds.
And as I sipped my wine I recounted a rather amusing Lola story.
Which lead the waitress to chime in about her own son.
And almost 45 minutes later we were still discussing her son, my next Ella story and finishing with a little ditty I had on Cuba.
God, how nice to be without kids I mused as I finished my plate of spicey blue swimmer crab.
How nice.

On the car ride home to my parents' house I told them all about Lola organising the kids at preschool to sit and watch her perform a dance. The preschool teachers said Lola had entertained the entire group for over an hour, and had become rather annoyed when another child had decided he too wished to dance for the group. In no uncertain terms she had put him in his place and told him to bugger off. In fact I told them, Lola just that day had told me that her zip was buggered and could I fix it.
We all laughed heartily. Nothing like listening to a three year old use words like 'bugger' in context.
Then I told them that I was going to have to stop using the F word. Basically because Cuba's second word was 'FUCK'.
And that he repeated it in rapid sussesion whenever he could,
Ah they mused, they knew eventually their wayward daughter would need to clean up her act.
We discussed how Ella had in her early years also used the F word.
The time she'd asked a man, "To get out of the fucking way."
And the man and I, both shocked, looked dumbly at Ella.
And all I could think to say was "PLEASE. You say, "Get out of the fucking way, PLEASE."
And Lola when she was two, as I heard her little squeeky voice coming through the baby monitor, "Ella! Stop fucking whinging!"
Yes, it was high time this trollop of a mother, stopped pretending she was a rebel without a cause, stopped clamining 'accidental parenthood', and started acting like a proper Mummy. A decent Mummy.
Perhaps I should also give up vodka.

Well there was no need to throw the baby out with the bathwater, I just needed to address the prolific nature of my profanities. We could hardly have Cuba out there swearing his head off. It just wasnt seemly.

So we pulled into the driveway.
And I wandered into the house that I grew up in.
And my Mum wondered off to make us all a cup of tea.
"I suspect", she said, "that whilst you think it would take you several weeks to miss them, that you dont realise, that you havent stopped talking about them since you got off the plane."
I blinked.
Could that be right?
She continued, "And what's more, each time you mention them, your face lights up, and your eyes shine."
"Oh that's just sleep deprivation Mum. You get shiny eyes after FIVE FUCKING YEARS of no sleep!"
I got the Mum look that only mothers can give their children when they say the F WORD.
And I sipped my tea thinking.
Could I honestly have spent this entire time talking about them non stop?
And then I piped up, "Actually speaking about speaking about children non stop, Lola, honestly that child does not pause for breath. You know they were sitting in the back of the car last week...."

And I finshed my tea, enjoying the fact I didnt have to get up and wipe anyones bum, that no one was going to interupt me to get them a juice, or make them a sandwhich , or change the tv channel or get them their pencils...
I sat and enjoyed the fact I was sans enfants.
Even if I hadnt stopped talking about them since I'd arrived.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Wake Up!

I think it's safe to say that most of my parenting career has focused around sleep.
Either it's getting the kids to sleep through the night or getting them to stay asleep until the morning. And by morning I mean anything with a 6 in it. Excuse me, anything starting with a 6. That is 6.01AM onwards. My kids have always had an affinity with waking around 5AM. Or earlier on some awful occassions.

"Tell them to wake up when the sun gets up."
"Give them a digital alarm clock and tell them to get up when it says 7AM"
"Give them a regular clock and show them where the big hand needs to on the 12 and the little hand on the 7."
"Give them vodka." (finally a reasonable suggestion).

But it never mattered.
If one woke up at 5AM I was always too worried that by forcing them to stay in bed, they would by virtue of their loud protests, wake one of the other two. And whilst it's terrible to be up at 5AM with one kid, it is far, far worse to be up at 5AM with all three children.
And so, through fear, fear of the early riser yelling head off, we have been (well I say we, but let's face it, Richard is no earlier riser, and at times that I have unceremoniously kicked him out of bed to deal with the early rising child, I have felt terribly sorry for said child as Mr Grumpy yells head off and bangs around house and makes enough noise that he then wakes the other two, at which point he then has all three children awake and then everyone is yelling which means I dont stand a chance of getting back to sleep anyway. Instead, Richard and I have come to a gentleman's agreement. I get up at Dawns crack, manage the rugrats, and at 7AM I wake him up and crawl back into bed. At 7AM Mr Richard is a far sunnier individual to be around, and I feel safe in the knowlege that he will look after them, as opposed to finding large cushion to suffocate them.

I recall the Dora the Explora alarm clock we bought Ella, or perhaps it was the Hello Kitty Clock. After studiously explaining to our two year old what the number 7 looked like, she took off with the box and sung it to sleep in her dolls pram. Later I think she dropped it, inserted steel blades into it and tortured the alarm clock, because aside from her never really understanding that the number 7 takes about 2 hours longer to appear than the number 5, by the time she was old enough to appreciate numbers, she had completely destroyed the clock.

Then came the lessons in regular clocks.
This is the big hand, this is the little hand, you have to wait until the little hand is here.
Points helpfully to the number 7 on the dial.
But again, when your now three year old wakes at 5AM, the patience required to wait until the little hand is on the 7 is almost non existant.
By the time first child was 4, we were working on the sun technique.
"You get out of bed when the sun comes up."
Ella arriving at 5AM in my bedroom.
Pitch Black.
"Ella, the sun is not up."
"Yes it is."
"No, ah, no, it is not"
"Yes it is, I can see it."
*Looks around in pitch black room for mobile phone to read time*
"Ella it is bloody 5 AM !"
"Is that when the sun gets up Mama?"
"Ella you can tell when the sun gets up because you can see in your bedroom without turning the light on. Mores to the point honey, you can see in Mummy's bedroom without turning the light on."
And on and on it went, week after week. Ella waking up with no intention of waiting for the sun to join her, and me too scared to make her go back to bed.

Oh I hear you.
Reward charts.
Yes, had them, thousands of them, all sorts of stars, all sorts of stickers.
Nope, she's not interested.
Nope tried that. No good.

But bribes.
No-one had mentioned bribes to me.
They say you get more honey catching flies.
And doesnt one just!
"Ella if you sleep until the sun comes up tomorrow morning Mummy will give you a chocolate doughnut."

Yes, terrible.


It worked.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

A quiet word with the Principal

I'm new to this school business.

And I suspect like any new venture, one takes some time to familiarise self with the lay of the land.

School, that is primary school, has been a series of miscommunications for this mother.

For some reason, I thought school would consist of me dropping my child at the gate at 9.30am and retrieving child from the gate/classroom/grassy knoll, at 3.30pm. I thought life was supposed to become hassle free, and free free, that is free in a monetary sense. I mean after all, public schooling in Australia is free, well, that is if you avail yourself to the public system rather than the private one. I thought, well I just figured that once you had hand-reared them to the age of school admittance, then life got easier. I figured I'd really only have the other two kids to worry about, to make demands on my time. To suck the life out of me.

But turns out all my preconceptions were tragic misconceptions.

Turns out, as luck would have it, that parent participation has never been more full throttle than at 'big school' (to delineate from 'pre-school' where the 2 to 4 year olds go).

Turns out turning 5, means making Easter Bonnets (means mother makes Easter Bonnets, or rather has to source all the materials to make Easter Bonnet hat in order for child to make hat at school). As luck would have it, this mother has missed most of the announcements that get sent home in form of school newsletter. Mostly because school newsletter is in the form of email, which is only accessible from the school website. That is, one is sent an email, telling parents to log into website to retrieve school newsletter. This means one needs to have time to log onto school website, type in code word (which one forgets every time because one is so sleep deprived one can hardly remember offspring’s name let alone school website's log in word).

If it were not for the mothers that this mother meets haphazardly outside of the classroom, then she would have missed out on some fairly crucial information over the last 10 weeks.

But, and I do say BUT, because on this particular occasion, I had versed myself in the requirements of the Easter Hat. And on the day in question, had in manic random fashion, torn the house apart the morning of Easter Hat making day, in order to find materials for Ella to make her hat. Turns out, house is not overbrimming with items to make suitable Easter Hat. Instead I ripped tin foil from foil roll, grabbed some cotton wool balls and pulled ribbon off teddy bear's necktie to use for decorations. Lola (middle child, 3 yrs old) saw my poaching of teddy's neck tie and duly confiscated it declaring that there was no way Ella was using her Teddy's ribbon for any Easter Hat.

Ella did however have a little bag of decorations to take to school with her that day, which meant I was feeling rather proud of self for finally stepping up and become a 'good' mother.

Turns out pride was short lived.

Easter Hat making day was the following Tuesday not the Tuesday I had thought.

Teacher takes small bag of decorations for good keeping until Easter Hat day the following Tuesday.

Following Tuesday.

Teacher has lost the previous Tuesday's Easter Hat decoration bag.

Ella, now bereft of any decorations for hat was also, bereft of hat to decorate. Seems Mum had missed some fairly important items on the list, namely, provide hat for decorating.

Ella was the only child in class with no hat and no decorations.

But Ella, a bit like her Mum, seems to have that sort of luck where she lands on her feet. And instead of a fairy godmother, real life mother's took pity on little Ella and amply provided for her in the form of a red sparkly top hat covered in yellow chickens.

I suspect, it is only a matter of time before I can stop claiming that the reason I'm so disorganised is because I'm managing a baby, a 3 yr old and a five year old. I suspect at some stage the baby will be a 20 year old and I'll still be claiming the reasons I'm fluffing everything up is because I have three children to look after.

At some point, I do recognise that mumbling that excuse is going to wear thin. I get that the other mother's on the P&C will whisper together, "Oh that's the mother who's always mumbling she's sleep deprived with new baby and toddler and five year old...When really it's because she's drinking enough vodka to keep the Russian economy going for the next century."

And frankly they'd be right.

About the vodka.

And the mumbling.

I do realise that the excuse will wear thin.

But for now, it seems to be holding water.

But back to the requirements of school aged children and parental participation.

You see, it's not just the Easter hats, or the ubiquitous permission slips asking for money to attend this or that, or the walk-a-thons, or the sports days or the mother's day gift stall or the cake stall that you have to make a cake for (am most sure I am the only mother who raced to the local shops to buy ridiculously over priced cake to stick in cake box, mark with my child's name and deliver to cake stall making gushing smile of protest that really it didn’t take any time at all to whip up said Nigella Lawson style cake extravaganza).

The other mother's seem to have taken pity on me.

They let me know when there is some craft thingo on where I'm supposed to provide something for Ella to bring to school or if there is a fundraising thing on in the playground that afternoon that I'm supposed to give Ella money for. A couple of them even offered in the first few weeks of school to take Ella home with them because I got the time wrong to pick her up, all week. (Well I mean really, the school website says pick up at 3.30pm... turns out they had sent home a green form that said kindy kids were to picked up at 3pm... green form? How did I miss a green form? I thought all info was web based and required knowledge of passwords?) Seems it was in the front pocket of Ella's school bag. I'm lucky to know what's in the front pocket of my handbag let alone anyone else’s bag.) So it's just as well they've taken pity on me. I know it's pity because when they talk to me they do it in that voice that sounds like they're talking to a toddler, you know, using a loud voice, speaking slowly and smiling a lot. But I'm fine with this. At least it means I don’t have to try and remember the log in word for the school website.

It took until the final week of term to find out there was assembly every morning in the top playground. The website (seems this is not the purveyor of all knowledge) says school starts at 9.30am and to have child at school by 9.25am. This works well for us because right up until 9.20am we have a baby that needs nappy changing, a three year old that is busy trying to direct her own orchestral movement, and a five year old pouting in the corner because she cant get her tooth to wiggle out. Every spare minute we get in the morning to stay inside the house is one in our favour.

Now what I thought was interesting, each day as we dropped Ella off at 9.25am all her little class mates were marching down the hill to her classroom in two's. Just like the animals in Noah's ark, two by two down the hill they came, with one child on the end without a partner, ostensively I now realise, because Ella was not there to finish off the two by twos.

Now, keeping in mind, at the beginning of Ella's first year at school, I was still up several times a night with Mr Cuba, the baby boy who never slept. Now whilst I recognised this two by two pairing anomaly happened every day, I was too tired to really work out why it was happening. I just nodded, handed Ella to her teacher and took the rest of my mottle crew back home, knowing in full certainty that the website said that children needed to be at school by 9.25am.

Seems I must have missed a pink bit of paper or a green one or some other colour, because one day we got to school early to find there was an assembly up in the top courtyard. Ella was obviously completely out of her element. She'd never seen an assembly before, nor had I. When I spoke to Richard (Husband) about it later that day he said he thought there were assembly's on a Tuesday and we should make some effort to get there earlier on that day.

The following Tuesday I stood with Ella in the teaming playground full of children, and mentioned to one of the mothers how I'd had no idea that there was an assembly every Tuesday morning. One mother laughed, "There's an assembly EVERY morning."

EVERY morning?

I felt like Galileo finding out the world was round.


"And do they march two by two into the ark after assembly?" I enquired of the mother.

"Two by two? What ark?" She seemed perplexed.

"Do they line up in pairs and walk to the kindy classroom from here?" I asked her.

"Oh right, yes, they do."

Oh it was like someone explaining the nature of DNA, the semi helical shape, how the pairs all slipped into line. Finally there was an explanation for the kindy kids marching down the hill in pairs! An assembly!

Turns out, quite unexpectedly, that this was not merely an assembly that young Ella had been missing. I had noticed over the last couple of months that Ella was seemingly less and less her exuberant self. Her confidence seemed low and she wasn’t nearly as enthusiastic as she had been about being at big school. I was at a loss as to why she was slowly changing from the outgoing, little girl that she was, to the shier, less confidant child. But missing assembly got me to thinking. Not only were all the kids there at 9.15 for assembly, most of them it transpires, were playing in the playground together from about 9am. By the time they had all marched down the hill to the ark, they were forming lovely little friendships, friendships that my Ella was missing out on. As soon as the children got to the classroom it was all business, they sat studiously on the carpet waiting for words of wisdom to trickle from the delightful Mr Business's mouth. There was no time for buddying up during wisdom hour. And so, Miss Ella, who often arrived just as everyone was seating themselves on the carpet, was missing out on some much needed social interaction time with the other kindy kids.

Well, Mrs Mother, is nothing but not organised when she finally has the penny drop. So this term, second term, we have arrived punctually at 9am, and Miss Ella, has been playing with her little buddies in the playground and attending assembly and marching two by two into the ark, and bless, there is no left over child missing a partner because Ella is now there to make up the numbers.

And Ella has started to blossom again, she's back to being the rambunctious, frankly annoying self that she was prior to school starting. She's back to bossing everyone around, telling people where to sit, getting everyone to sit still while she recites a poem she's made up. And, most interestingly, she's started telling me what's happening at school.

Which brings me to the title of this post, my quiet (hysterical) word to the principal.

Three kids piled in the back of the car, rain sleeting down on the windscreen and Ella announces she saw a movie that day called the Baby Kidnappers.

"The baby kidnappers?" I enquired with some disbelief. I mean, after all, Ella is only 5.

"Yes, they steal babies. And I'm scared after watching that show."

Hmm I wondered, perhaps this was some sort of social justice class where they instructed children on the types of injustices that happen when say parents steal there own children in custody battles? And then, even for me, that theory seemed a little far fetched.

Perhaps it was to instruct children on ...

To say I was at a loss as to why they would show five year olds this sort of material was an understatement. but it occurred to me that perhaps Ella could elaborate on it. Surely the teachers had prepped them on the nature of the DVD prior to showing it.

"Did the teachers talk to you about the DVD before they showed you the film honey?"


"Did they talk to you about the content of the film after you had watched it?"


"How did you know it was about baby kidnappers?"

"Because they kidnapped the baby."

"You saw them kidnap the baby?"

"Yes, his mummy changed his nappy and then the baby was kidnapped. I'm scared Mummy."

Hmm... well only one thing to do. Call friend who has child four years older and who understands this school gig much better than me.

Friend, "You have to call the school."

Me, "What right now?"

Friend, "Yes, right now."

Me, "But it's Friday afternoon at 3.45pm? Will anyone be there?"

Friend, "Yes of course, they'll be there til 4pm. Ask to speak to her teacher."

Now here's the thing, I'm not really much of a phone person at the best of times. I'm good with email, letter writing and texting on mobile phone. But talking on the phone, well , see, not really my thing. My Husband informs me that the thing my friends find the most annoying about me is that I never answer my phone. Well sure. Ok. But then, that's what voicemail is for isn’t it?

Now if I don’t like answering my phone, you can imagine how keen I am to actually use the phone to call someone. Honestly, I have no idea where this neurosis stems from. In real life, I'm a fairly gregarious individual. I like a good chat, find people engaging and interesting, and for the most part, enjoy social discourse. But put a phone between me and the other party, and it all goes pear shaped. I have often wondered if it's because I cant read their body language over the phone? Or perhaps I find I stretch to much trying to read intonations in their voice, or perhaps it's too much effort for me to intonate my voice to compensate for the lack of visual body language they have. But whatever the reason, unless I know the person exceptionally well, that is EXCEPTIONALLY well, I mostly avoid answering the phone, or making phone calls. That is, until I feel ready to make a call, have fluffed up my psyche and prepared to go into 'phone call mode."

So to ask me to call the school at 3.45pm on a Friday, and after all my procrastinating it was now more akin to 3.50pm on a Friday was not far off asking me to do a quick lap of the block naked in the rain. But I think I'd have preferred nakedness, in rain, giving the neighbours a quick thrill.

"I call and ask for her teacher?"


A little glimmer of hope popped into head, "But what if he's gone home? After all, it is Friday afternoon?"

"Then you ask to speak to the Principal."

The Principal? Oh God, this had just gone from bad to worse? The bloody Principal. Frankly I was still in awe of said Principal. I was still haunted from my student days, with my matriarchal Principal who would have been more at home in a Freddy Kruger film than at a school. I'd been giving Ella's Principal a wide birth but now I had to potentially call and ask to speak to him... at (looking at watch) 4.58pm on a Friday?

"Surely not the Principal?"

"Absolutely. The Principal needs to know what's going on in his school, and will probably know all about the film anyway."

"He WILL?"

"Of course. He's the principal."

"But she's in Kindy."

"Even Kindy kids he knows about."

My worst fears where confirmed. Principals were omnipotent after all.

"Call me as soon as you've spoken to the Principal." and with that she was gone.

I held lifeless mobile in hand.


I had to call the Principal. Hmm... last time I called friend with lots of experience for help.

Instead of calling the Principal, I called one of the other mother's.


So I called another Mother.

She answered.

"No, he didn’t mention anything." Said mother in regards to her son having possible meltdown from Baby snatchers DVD.

"Still mostly everything has been eclipsed by him losing his tooth today. But you need to call the Principal, that's not ok."

Bloody, bloody, bloody, bloody.

"Yes, ah, that's right, I do need to call. Um but I ah, well see, I don’t have the school's number so I'll have to Google it and find it."

"No need I'll text it to you. Call me and tell me what he says."

Once again holding lifeless mobile.

Bugger. Bugger.

Phone buzzes. And in front of me in white glowing letters is the school's number. Well I wasn’t going to go straight to the Principal, I'd start off with Ella's teacher.

I press call.

Phone rings.

Lady answers.

"Oh hello, (funny how you talk in your best voice when calling to speak to nameless person who answers phone at school.. oh hello sounded a bit like best of British comedy when I said it.. O, hair-low) I wonder if I could speak with Mr Teacher."

Lady on other end, "No, Mr Teacher has gone home."

Me, "O"

Lady, silent.

Me, "O, do you think I could speak with Mr Principal then?"

Lady, rather snappily, I mean after all it was now (looking at watch) 4.10pm on a Friday "Mr Principal is not in his office."

By now I was rather in a tiz, I had the sort of heart palpitations that one experiences before a mild stroke. I was all geed up, ready to declare the insanity of showing five year olds social justice issues about Muslim men stealing babies from Anglo wives and taking them to Saudi Arabia and how it wasn’t appropriate to show images of desperate women who couldn’t conceive their own children stealing babies from women who were in the throws of post natal depression and not fast enough to stop baby from being stolen from under their very eyes after a nappy change. And here I was, with no one to vent to.


Lady, "What's this all about?"

And so it came pouring forth. My little girl was scared, she'd seen a movie about babies being stolen...

Lady, (Cutting me off before I could start into my theory on the time and place for social justice issues to be raised.), "Absolutely I'll get Mr Principle."

Seems she managed to find Mr Principal because in a couple of minutes he was on the line apologising for not being with me earlier.

Perhaps I wondered, they knew that the baby kidnapper DVD had been meant for the year 6 students and by some dreadful mistake, it had ended up replacing Bambi in the Kindergarten classroom?

Mr Principle, upon hearing my abridged version of events concurred he had no idea why the class had seen a movie like that, told me he was off to investigate, and would return my call.

I hung up shaking.

Well, now that wasn’t so bad.

I had done my duty as Mother, had called the school, neigh had called the PRINCIPAL. I had declared my position, asked for an explanation, and had defended the rights of my child to be safe and feel safe whilst attending school.

I let myself have a short moment of pride, and then got about the business of cleaning up banana squashed into new rug. I did however wonder how Mr Principal was going to call me back, after all, I had only mentioned my name once, and never left a contact phone number.

Less than ten minutes later Mr Principal was back on the phone.

My eyes widened. Truly principals are omnipotent.

Mr Principal; "The children watched a DVD today at lunchtime as it was raining. The title of the DVD is "Baby's Day Out." it is rated G and is a comedy about a baby that has an exciting adventure roaming around.... "

And he continued to read the blurb on the back of the DVD . Turns out that whilst the baby is kidnapped, the whole laugh a minute is based on the baby being far more of a handful for the kidnappers than they had anticipated.

I thanked the Principal for following it up for me and hung up.


Nothing like calling up Mr Principal, hysterical mother upset about social justice issues and permanently scaring my child's psyche when the whole show was a comedy. A comedy!

Hardy har har.