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.