Monday, March 12, 2012

I Am Woman, Hear Me Roar (At The Kids).

You all knew it was International Women's Day recently, right? Well, it passed me right by.... no flowers, no breakfast in bed, not even a measly card. I know we shouldn't get too greedy - we have Mother's Day to look forward to, after all - but its not like the perks in this job are that ripe for the picking!

So, to all you women out there, especially those with small baggage in tow, this one is for you.

Ten Wonderful Things About Women:

1. The whole child bearing thing. This one goes without saying. Men, in the great scorecard of life, you are so far behind that it will take breakfast in bed EVERY DAY to make up for that one. And every time you use the word 'babysit' when referring to your own kids you start back at zero.

2. The ability to stand at the stove stirring at a constant speed, holding a bottle under your chin as you feed the whinging, clawing child on one hip, pondering why zebra's have stripes instead of spots, and why are they called zebras anyway, and no I don't think God painted them, but hey, who knows, and four-year-old could you please set the table, no three-year-old its not time for milk, oh for god's sake can you please clean up that mess, four-year-old I said set the table, no darling I do not know where your work phone is, oh hang on, I think I saw it in the washing basket, yes I am aware that it is not supposed to be washed, four-year-old I said SET the table not SIT on the table, yes, three-year-old I am quite sure zebras don't talk, yes I know Zigby talks but he is on TV, remember, we have talked about this, yes four-year-old I can see that you have wiped your bum properly, and maybe wipe the table too after you just sat on it with a bare bum, now can you stand up straight, hop out of the kitchen and dinner is served.

3. The ability to match an outfit to what last night's dinner might look like regurgitated all over your shoulder.

4. The ability to find exactly the right volume for exactly the right song in the car to suit everyone's very particular tastes.

5. The ability to prioritise attention giving by listening to each crying child's unique pitch, determining the level of importance and urgency, then drown out the noise whilst dealing systematically with each complaint. (This could also be phrased as: this ability to administer panadol to a crying infant while handing food to a whinging toddler at the same time as slotting Angelina Ballerina into the DVD player for the pre-schooler. And pouring a wine for oneself.)

6. The ability to overcome a fear of the dark and possible mugging in order to exercise at midnight as it is the only time left in the day after putting the kids to bed, washing the dinner dishes, making lunches and packing bags for the next day, folding washing and staring at Facebook for long enough to get that high pitch whining noise out of your ears.

7. The ability to frantically clean tidy the house from top to bottom throw everything into cupboards and find ingredients for a healthy (looking) meal in three minutes and fifteen seconds after your Aunty whose house is like a display home calls and tells you she is right around the corner, and do you mind if she drops in for lunch?

8. The ability to eBay (totally a verb). Who knew you could clothe an entire family for a year for just $14.57? Including shoes?

9. The ability to remember not only your kids' friends' names, but also their parents' names, where they live, where they work, how they fit into the town's social fabric and whether or not you want them to ever see your loungeroom the day before the cleaner comes.

10. Lastly, the knowledge that a sore knee gained from jumping off a top bunk and landing on their sister's shin bone will only be healed by a kiss in just the right spot, a little tickle under the arm and the magic word that only you know.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

The 30% Clause.

Well. I am not one of those bloggers that blogs every day. There's not too many things I do every day, actually. I have so many things that I need to cram into life, that I have to rotate them. Somehow, over the last two weeks, my usually busy schedule has reached frenetic levels and parenting these three wise ones has been something that has happened while I wasn't looking, meaning I haven't had any stories to tell.

On the bright side, this must also mean I haven't screwed it up too badly lately.

 As tends to happen, though, when things are running along smoothly, one or more of children will pop their heads up, realise that all has been quiet on the Western Front for too long already, and some NOISE needs to be made, some TROUBLE needs to be had. You can't let harmony run along for too long, it might start believing it belongs around here.

Last night, we heard a thump. Not unusual around here... unlike most folks, we don't reach for the baseball bat, we reach for The Confiscation Bag. (Clearly, since it happens often enough that we have a bag for the purpose, confiscating toys is not actually that effective. But, cut us a break, at the end of a gruelling day, creativity levels are low.)

We tiptoe down the passageway. Without the element of surprise, we have nothing. The Husband flings the door open.... and catches the three-year-old halfway out the window. Again. She is stuck. We fight the urge to leave her there overnight, and The Husband reaches out to pull her down. And gets poo on his hands. The blessed child has painted her hair with poo. I'm not going to tell you what he said, but the three year old learnt some fine synonyms for 'poo' last night.

Tonight, she went to bed without dinner. I can't remember exactly what sin led her there, but whatever it was, she wasn't happy. It's always slightly reassuring when a punishment we inflict results in a reaction - tears are good, wailing is better, but, boy, tonight we hit jackpot. Half an hour later when we took the four year old to bed, the three year old was laying down, looking resolutely at the ceiling. Her face was covered in blood. I gasped and asked her what happened. She stonily replied, "I had a blood nose."
I asked her how it started and she turned to me and looked at me with a cold, slightly satisfied expression on her face. "I put my hands on my wardrobe, and banged my nose on the mirror until it started bleeding." She then turned away with the victorious air of someone who has conquered.

Later, I phoned my friend. She works for DCP, and I figure that if I tell her all my stories and she doesn't put my kids in The Confiscation Bag, I'm doing alright. I tell her a lot of stories. She's kind of my litmus test for parenting.

I asked whatthehellIamsupposedtobedoingwiththischildofmine. She said to me that, according to some professional development she recently undertook, if we get it right with our kids just thirty percent of the time, they will be fine.

Thirty percent? All this time, and my expectations have been way too high. Thirty percent. It's like a weight has lifted from my shoulders.

So, tomorrow, I'm just going to parent like crazy until morning tea time, then they are on their own.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The One I Hope My Daughters Read When They Are Older And Hate Me.

To my daughters,

I love you. Sometimes, I wish it was that easy, that, in parenting you, I could just say "I love you" and convey in those words everything I feel about you, everything I want for you, everything I struggle with. All I ever wanted was a daughter, and I was lucky, I got two. I am a woman, I am a wife, I am a mother, and I feel so privileged to have two beautiful girls who I can help to become women, wives (or partners, I'm okay with that) and mothers themselves.

What a task. What a huge, scary, enormous task. How can I possibly define what it means to be a woman, wrap it up into a neat little bundle and feed it to you in age appropriate chunks throughout your journey to become one? How do I figure out what is really important to teach you, what you absolutely have to know, without imposing my own values unnecessarily onto you? How do I warn you, without scaring you? How do I guide you, without making you dependant on me? How do I let go, without losing you?

I really do love you. Intensely. But the dark side to love is fear, and worry, and anger, and frustration. I hope that as you look back through your life, these are not the things you remember the most. I hope you know that under it all, is a love like a slow burning fire, warming me everyday, hurting if I got too close, but beautiful, so beautiful to sit with.

You are both so different. So raw, and so vulnerable, and fierce, and joyful, and caring... but different. Four-year-old, you are my worrier. My helper. The one that needs so much from me. You wear me down, with all your questions, and demands, and the way you want everything done just right now. You love to learn, and do things, and work things out, your own way. You want me to sit with you while you figure things out, and praise you all the way to the moon and back when you get it right. You struggle with disappointment, both your own and others. You seek out the love and attention of others - your affection is hard earned, but once it is, you are fiercely loyal. Your feelings are so strong, they scare you sometimes. They scare me sometimes. You are my mirror - when I am down, you are down; when I am joyful, you are joyful. This is such a responsibility, and sometimes I react to you as if I am reacting to myself. You show me my own flaws, and I am so sorry for passing them on to you. I worry for you, because I know how hard life may be for you.... and, then again, it may not be. You are strong, and self aware, and you are not me.

Three-year-old, you are my enigma. You are a dreamer, a thinker, a creator. You live half in this world, and half in a world of your own making. But sometimes, when you think I am not looking, I see you watching, taking everything in, taking more in than you let on. You are clever, so clever, but in a different way to your sister. You come at things in your own way, in your own time. You sift through information, keeping what is important to you and discarding the rest. Three-year-old, you wear your heart on your sleeve. Your feelings are to be shared, loudly, and with great ceremony. You dance in the street, sing all day and are most comfortable in fairy dresses and Wellington boots. You are slow, so slow, and you remind to take time to notice things around me. I get frustrated at you, and try to hurry you along, but nothing hurries you unless you are ready to be hurried. You are fiercely independent, and if I intervene in your efforts to master something, you brush me away and go right back to the beginning to do it all over again. You teach me patience.

I have to parent you both differently. You tell me it's not fair - you both tell me it's not fair - but if I parented you the same, I would be missing the point with both of you. You both have your own journey, and I try to be there for each of you. I get it wrong. Sometimes I get it very wrong.  Sometimes I worry that I have gotten it so wrong, I will damage you irreparably. I know you intimately, in ways that no-one will ever know you - and yet, you both teach me something new everyday. There are days when I am heavy with the weight of you both, the burden of carrying you both through the obstacles of life, especially on the days where I find myself on a part of the journey that neither of you wanted to take. I forget, sometimes, that you are your own people. I try to shape you too precisely, and you fight me.

That's okay. Keep fighting me. Keep challenging me. Keep engaging with me, and teaching me, and loving me. If I can feel the pressure of you, then I know that we are still in it together. One day, you will be ready to move on. My role in your life will change. That's okay, too. When the time comes, I will try to be ready. I hope that you will have enjoyed your journey with me enough to revisit it from time to time.

But, for now, you are still so small. You tell me each day how big you are now, and you know, sometimes I start to believe it. I start to expect more from you than I should, and you struggle under the weight of my expectations. I will try to remember how little you are. You have been on this Earth for such a short time, and you are learning so much everyday. I will try to be your safe place, your quiet place, your soft landing. I will try to remember to carry you when you are tired, and let you walk (slowly) when your feet are ready.

So, again, I love you. I love you enough to forgive myself for my mistakes, dust myself and keep going. I will always love you, remember that, even when I am showing you the dark side of my love. I pray that I can teach you to love you, too. And to forgive. Love and forgiveness. Everything else will work itself out.

My daughters, you are my world. Thank you.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

My Second Child: The One That Taught Me Not To Judge Other Parents.

But only silently... or I will probably live to regret it.
The other day, I was driving down the road with The Husband and the small army all tucked into their respective car seats like sardines in a can. A car drove past with a little girl standing on the backseat looking out the window. I said, "Put your bloody seatbelt on!" The Husband, thinking I was talking to one of our kids (ahem, not that I ever speak to my own blessed children like that), reached behind his seat..... and calmly clicked in the three-year-old's harness.

That is my second born. The one who continually reminds me not to judge other parents - because chances are, someone else is looking at me, shaking their head at how I could let this angelic looking child completely run the show.

She is the kind of child that trades on her looks. Lord knows where she got that from. I tried it, but sadly, all my looks have ever gotten me are some retail 'assistant', head cocked to the side, lips pursed, saying, "Try it in the black, dear, black hides a multitude of flaws." The three-year-old, however, has old ladies wrapped around her little finger, mothers smiling at her indulgently and burly men melting into little mushy puddles, rendered completely helpless by her dreamy charm.

This morning she informs us that she no longer has any need for her bedroom door, as she prefers to exit using the window. As all good mothers do when their children tell them things, I assumed she was bullshitting and rather condescendingly said, "When have you ever used to window to get out of your bedroom?"
"At nighttime," she tells me, "to play outside."
A quick check of the window reveals that sure enough, the flyscreen has been slit across the bottom and there are grubby footprints on the outside wall where she has clambered back in. The four-year-old confirms her story. "Yes, mum, she's never in the room when I wake up!" Unsure whether to berate the four-year-old for not thinking to tell me earlier, berate the three-year-old for roaming the garden at night, or applaud her resourcefulness, I glance at The Husband and we do what all concerned, responsible parents would do in this situation: we laugh. I tell The Husband that I deserve a bloody medal for parenting this child, and we try very hard to convey the Seriousness of her behaviour.

She is also the kind of kid who always looks like an orphan. I could dress her in a $100 David Jones dress and she will look like a street kid who has raided the leafy green suburbs' Salvo bin. Her hair refuses to conform to society's idea of what neat looks like, and I have seriously seen dirt fly through the air and land on her face, for no reason at all. She's not mad keen on underwear, either.

A couple of weeks ago, she went to three-year-old kindy for the first time. My kids go to our local private school, and, let me tell you, that is a lot of pressure for an already frazzled mother of three. There are rules. Not school rules, mum rules. The Husband laughed at me, when, on this first day, he got up from the drawing table after colouring in a picture with the three-year-old (yes! Just one!) and made moves to leave. I hissed at him through smiling lips, "You can't go yet!!"
"What?" he said. "Why not?"
"You can't be the first parent to leave!"

He thinks I take it all too seriously.  I don't tell him that I chose our current car based purely on how it would look in the afternoon school pickup car lineup. It's no Prado, but it's close enough.

Anyway, at the end of the three-year-old's first day, I throw some (nice) shoes on, brush my hair and try to look unfrazzled as I wait outside the kindy door for her to appear. She prances out, looking very pleased with herself, and I notice she is wearing a skirt. A pink, lacy skirt.
"Who's is that skirt?" I ask her.
She vaguely gestures towards the dress up corner. I march her back into the classroom and ask her to put the skirt back in the box. She pulls the skirt off..... and is wearing nothing underneath. Nothing. No shorts, no knickers, nothing. We hunt around and reclaim her shorts, but it seems her knickers have vanished. The teacher's aid tells me she has never come across anything like this before. Keep your knickers on unless you are in the toilet is now a classroom rule.

Sometimes I think I should be driving a panel van.

Now, I do try not to judge other mums. I am fairly sure children are aware of how little we mums like to be judged and how much we actually do it, and use that awareness to their advantage. So unless, you are this mum...

or this dad
you are probably pretty safe from me.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Detachment Parenting: Growing Them Up Resilient, Independent.... And, Well, Alive!

In the inevitable pram lineup that occurs whenever mums of young babies and toddlers congregate (you know the one - where you eye each others' prams off to work out where you sit in the pecking order. Best leave the $20 Big W stroller at home) my child was usually the one with a bottle propped up against a rolled up bunny rug, dummy on a string pinned to her top and a flat head from being left on the floor while I do housework. All that is missing is the flashing neon light that says "I CAME OUT OF THE SUNROOF!!"

I am not an "Attachment Parent". I'd love to have it in me, but I'm a personal space kinda girl. And the odds were stacked against me anyway, with boobs that never got the memo about why they exist, and a pelvis too small to fit my big-headed babies through. (Yep, you heard, too small - just waiting for the rest of my body parts to catch on.) When my kids started pulling themselves up to stand holding onto my trousers I'd involuntarily shake my leg like a dog when you scratch their stomach in just the right spot. The Boy is on a rotation between playmat, bunny rug on the floor with toys, bouncer and cot. Two of my most favourite parenting moments are when they learn to hold their own bottle and when they learn to swing themselves on the swingset. I wake up excited on Mondays thinking "TGIM - school day!!" I spend hours hand making toys and games and dressups for the kids but never have the energy to actually play with them.

I love my kids. No, really. But if you've been reading along you will know that I don't consider this parenting gig to be a walk in the park. Smell the roses? You've got to be kidding me. Most days I can't get the smell of poo out of my nostrils.

Yesterday, some friends and I took our collective tribes to the local pool. It's a bit of a weekly ritual for us, mainly because we realised that we had Friday mornings free and were terrified at the prospect of having to entertain our kids AT HOME, for the WHOLE DAY! We set up in our usual grassy spot, and laid back to watch our kids playing in the baby pool while we compared stories about how feral they had been. Suddenly, the local homeschooling mums, with an average tribe of six kids each, came and set their towels up - in a circle around us. It was like an intervention. A homeschooling, attachment parenting intervention. I panicked. I put The Boy's bottle away, hid his dummy in the pram and tried to think of something, well, attachmentish to say. I talked about the weather. "It's been hot, hasn't it? Yesterday it was so hot I left the car running with the aircon on for the kids while I popped into - ah shit. Um... Oh, your little one looks a bit off colour. Teething, you think? You should try using amber. Panadol? Uh, yeah, I have some - never leave the house without it... ah, bugger." The Husband joked that perhaps they were on a personal development outing - reminding themselves of why they have made the parenting choices they did. Thanks, Husband.

I'm not sure why I felt like this. I said to my friend, I would love to want to be the homeschooling, attachment-y type of parent. But something in me rebels against it. Maybe its the Universe protecting me against complete and utter failure. I mean, I find parenting hard going enough, and that's WITH the help of ABC2 and school. If I homeschooled my little angels, they'd be lucky to get through Year One alive.

When I googled 'detachment parenting', some keywords jumped out at me. Playful parenting, inspired parenting, peaceful parenting, natural parenting, unconditional parenting, scream free parenting. The insecure, paranoid part of me (which is actually quite a large part of me, come to think of it) immediately gets all defensive and whispers in my ear, "See? They think you aren't natural enough, or peaceful enough, and by the way, you scream too much." I imagine a giant checklist, with some babywearing she-god checking off my parenting qualities with a frown on her face. Smacks her kids. Values sleep over the closeness and bonding opportunities of bedsharing. Forgets about baby massage.

On the bright side, though, my detachment style of parenting has yielded some pretty incredible results. The older two both learnt to walk early, no doubt aided by me shaking them off my leg when they were just beginning. They are very comfortable with other adults - probably because I have never hesitated to leave them in others' care so I can enjoy a night off. (The Foxtel salesman looked slightly concerned when it was his turn, but, hey, he won't be knocking on my door again!) They are both very resilient, most likely due to me not mollycoddling them when they hurt themselves. (This backfired on me once: the three-year-old was howling in her bedroom one night, and I stood at her door and yelled that it had better be important because if I come in and it wasn't important you'll get a smacked bottom! Is it important? No? Well, goodnight then! Turns out she had fallen out of bed and gotten a blood nose. I was washing sheets and carpet all the next day. They now know that blood noses are important.) Both of the older two know how to use the TV remotes and they can prepare simple meals for themselves. (Sultanas and dry cereal is a meal, right?)

So, detachment parenting is my thing. When I drop the kids off at school, my slight guilt at how much I enjoy leaving them there is alleviated somewhat as I sip on my iced coffee at the cafe and watch the attachment, home-schooling mums try to rush through their grocery shopping, all six kids in tow, while they worry about getting home with enough time to manage six different curriculums and still get dinner on the table. The grass is always greener, but, on school days, I kinda like my pastures.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Oh, Honestly.

Pic stolen from here

There's a point in every mother's week where The Husband comes home and we greet them at the door, say, "Tag!" and run past them, leaving them with the carnage of the day. I've been known to pull into the driveway after a day of playdates, errands and school pickups, with three whinging, arguing children in the backseat, lean on the horn until The Husband comes running (fearing the worst, no doubt), jump out of the car, motor still idling, and be hiding in the toilet before he can scratch himself.

Some days, I start blogging about how hilariously shitty being a stay-at-home mother is..... and then need to take a break because the rage is too close to the surface. (This is my life? Are you serious? Oh my God, I used to be good at something.) Some days, it's hard to find the hilarious among all the shit.

Irony. That's what motherhood is, a big fat vindictive case of irony. I remember in that thing I used to have called a career, I was good at dealing with difficult people and complex situations. Now I find myself daily facing off against a four year old - and losing. I remember thinking I'd never be one of those mothers screeching at their kids in public places. This week at playgroup I scared the bejeezus out of everyone else' kids when I lost patience at my selectively hearing impaired dreamchild and screamed in that voice-breaking kind of way, "THREE YEAR OLD GET YOUR BACKSIDE OVER HERE BEFORE I HIT IT SO HARD YOUR FUTURE HUSBAND WILL BE ASKING YOU WHOSE HANDPRINT YOU HAVE TATTOOED ON YOUR ARSE!!!" Come to think of it, I was going to be one of those parents who never smacks. Calm down, people. It's still legal. I checked.

I remember coming home from work some days and saying, "I hate my job." It's a little uncool to say that when your job is your kids. But, some days, I hate my job. Someone said to me today how much they love going to work. Going to work. And coming home. Gosh, I remember that. I immediately felt a bit defensive and said, "I'm not ready to go back to work, I love staying home." And I do. Sometimes. And sometimes, I don't.

I really enjoy blogging. I love that people enjoy reading along. I like picking through the good and the bad of each day, finding the stories that might make someone smile, or lift their mood, or make them feel normal, like it's okay to feel the way they feel. But unfortunately, not every day is funny, or nice, or makes me want to make other people feel okay. Sometimes, I just want to be able to write, today, I hated my job. Glad that's over. My throat hurts from the effort of not crying and I'm feeling full from hiding in the pantry and eating all the almonds. I'm tired, I'm overwhelmed at how much mess they make, I just want to go to bed but the sooner I do, the sooner tomorrow will come and to be honest, I'm not sure I want to do tomorrow at all.

So, I'm sorry this post isn't funny. I'm sorry it doesn't have a nice, neat, happy ending. Not all days in the life of a mother have happy endings. I hope that's okay. I hope it's normal. I hope my children won't be scarred by having a mother who doesn't always see the positives. I hope they know how much I love them, even when I'm not loving being around them. 

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Slow Down, Take A Deep Breath, And Just Stay CALM!

Picture stolen from here

I'm currently trying out a new parenting technique. You may have heard of it - it's called Staying Calm. I've had mixed results with it.... earlier in the week it didn't go so well, but the last two days have been quite wonderful. (We did drop the kids off at their grandma's house and spend the night in a hotel.... that's right, no kids..... no, not even the smallest one.... it's called Detachment Parenting and it makes me Very Calm.)

Now that we have the spawn back again, my Calm is being tested. (As I type this, the older two are supposed to be tidying their room. It is 43.2 degrees in there and they have precisely three things to put away. So far, it has taken them thirty-three minutes. The four year old walks in whining that the three year old hit her on the head with her metal water bottle - well, chicken, you have two arms, two legs and a metal water bottle of your own. Work it out! The three year old then comes in declaring dramatically, "I can't walk!" The Husband says, "Oh no!! How did you get here then?" She looks at him disdainfully and says, "With my legs!")

Anyway, I am not one of these parents that just Stays Calm naturally. I have to work at it, and I am generally opposed to things I have to work at. My usual response to the whining/dobbing/pestering so masterfully dished up to me by my children is to put my hands in the air, close my eyes and say "I don't want to hear it! I don't want to hear it!" repeatedly until they give up and go away.

But now that I have managed to stay calm for the forty five minutes, I consider myself quite an expert and would like to share with you some of my tips on how to Stay Calm in the face of a small, determined army.

#1: Instead of yelling, sing. Turn whatever you were planning on yelling into a song. The kids will think you are being nice, and you won't get that nasty sore throat you get from screeching at them. Also, they are more inclined to do what you ask. I don't know why, but it works. Just ask Mary Poppins.

#2: Socialise.... a lot. Us mothers are ALWAYS nicer to our children when we are around other parents. No-one wants to show off the veins in their forehead to their friends.

#3: Count to three. Any more than three wines is just irresponsible parenting, but three definitely takes the edge off.

#4: Take some time out. Barbados is nice this time of the year, I hear.

#5: Play a game together. Some of my favourites are musical statues (take the time to enjoy a nice, long bath while they are 'frozen'), hide and seek (my no-fail hiding place is in the next door neighbour's chook shed - be sure to remember your book and a block of chocolate!) and the one where you throw a pack of hundreds and thousands open on the kitchen floor and tell them to pick up all the blue ones.

#6: Try meditation. It relaxes you, and with any luck, while you are sitting cross-legged on the floor humming, the kids will tire of waiting for a response from you and leave you alone.

I hope these suggestions help. You may look a bit silly sitting in the neighbour's chook pen, singing the words of your favourite book while shovelling chocolate and wine into your mouth, but at least you will be Calm!

Monday, January 23, 2012

Parenting Qualification #3: Surviving Witching Hour.

Witching hour is the biggest myth about parenting out there. Parenting books will have us believe that our children are mildly unsettled for an hour or so right about the time that we are attempting to serve three versions of the same wholesome, delicious meal, catering to each child's particular tastes, whilst supervising bath time. Here is the truth. Witching hour begins when your child wakes from their afternoon nap, and continues right up until bed time. Which, lets face it, is probably going to be an hour after you planned it to be.

Witching hour actually goes for Four. Freaking. Hours.

I'm not too sure where the term 'witching hour' originated from but I suspect it involves fleeting visions of burning the little darlings at the stake. Or perhaps it has more to do with the otherwordly shriek that mothers use to communicate during the last few hours of wakeful parenting each day.

I dread witching hour. In my house, it's the time of day most likely to see me hiding on the toilet with the laptop, while The Husband is left to wrangle the spawn through dinner and into bed. I have tried establishing a routine to make things run a bit more smoothly, but the sad, sorry truth is that my children often climb into bed unshowered, in various states of undress and, more often than not, with that evening's dinner still clinging to their hair.

Last night, witching hour began before The Husband arrived home from work. The kids' god-awful Fairies DVD had been on a constant loop and let me tell you those songs are bad enough when performed by whiny, underpaid university students being whored for the junior masses, let alone when re-enacted by two slightly off-key fairy wannabes. Through gritted teeth, I informed the three- and- four year olds that it was quiet time now and the TV was going off. The TV went off..... and so did the fairy wannabes. (I always managed to convince myself that my kids didn't watch too much TV..... until the three-year-old's birthday party invitation wishlist resembled ABC for Kids' afternoon line-up. I'm sorry, honey, I really don't think Angelina Ballerina will be able to make it to your party. Once you're inside that TV, it's damn hard to get out again.) 

I resisted the temptation to join in the wailing, and herded them off to the bedroom to tidy up before dinner, while I attempted to rummage up something halfway nutritional, colourful and appealing to everybody in the family. Jamie Oliver promised it would be easy and my family would love it. The kids came to me screaming something about pulled hair. I sent them away to 'work it out'. They came back arguing over who has to put the knickers away. I poured myself a glass of wine. The four year old worked out that closing her sister's fingers in the door could be classed as an accident but still guarantees a very satisfying reaction. I told Jamie Oliver where to shove it and stuck some two minute noodles in the microwave.

The Husband walks in and I mumble something vague about it being his turn now and take off into the bedroom for some space. I spend ten minutes cooing at the youngest who I am very afraid will grow up being hated by his big sisters because he never gets yelled at. I reassure them from time to time that I spoke nicely to them as well when they were babies and I'm sure he'll get his fair share of being screeched at when he learns to talk.

I eventually surface from my voluntary exile just in time to see the three year old try noodles out as a new hairstyle, as the four year old knocks her drink onto the floor during a particularly exuberant ballet twirl. I send them off to get their pyjamas and they walk a trail of noodles into the carpet, get to their bedroom, forget why they were there and come back emptyhanded.

I speak. very. slowly. They move. very. slowly.

The three year old finally comes out dressed for bed in yesterday's t-shirt. I sigh and check it for obvious food deposits. The four year old announces she is going to bed naked, which is more about her laziness than the weather. They argue over the three year old's toothbrush, they argue over which book to read for bedtime story, the Boy chooses now to screech for a bottle.

We finally get them into bed and shut the door on their procrastination. I spend two minutes in the passageway outside their room silently shouting all the swear words I had bitten back during the evening, then get dressed to go for a walk. As I leave the house, both girls are standing on the windowsill doing their best impersonation of naked starfish. I check that none of the neighbours are observing, use sign language to demonstrate that they will be in Big Trouble if they are still awake when I get home, and I Get The Hell Out Of There.

I'm halfway around the block when I realise... bugger. They went to bed unshowered - again.

I did a Google image search for 'witching hour' and this is what I ended up with. Seriously, Google, that's the best you've got?? I don't think Mr Google has kids.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Grocery Shopping: Extreme Sports For Mothers.

When my children began walking and talking, the fortnightly excursion to fill our pantry stopped being called grocery shopping and instead became GROCERY SHOPPING. Just like that, in big letters. I now write the shopping list with a big glass of wine. It's that much of a big deal.

Us mothers all have different tactics to help us survive the GROCERY SHOP, and yes, we all get together sometimes to talk about it. Debrief, if you like. Share survival tips, swap war stories, offer advice after particularly traumatic experiences. I told you, it's a bloody big deal.

Some mothers only shop late at night, when dads are home to watch the little ones; some mothers 'pop down' every few days for just a few items at a time; some really clever metropolitan-area-dwelling mothers use Coles online, and all of us rural mums are VERY JEALOUS of those mothers.

I don't tend to do things the easy way, so I do the GROCERY SHOPPING in one big go, once a fortnight. This is serious business. It involves planning, time and a bloody big trolley.

A few days ago, I did the GROCERY SHOPPING with all three children, for the first time. The Boy is eight weeks old now, and the kids were getting sick of eating weetbix and dry crackers. Something had to give, and it made sense that it would be my extreme fear of shopping with all of the terrors in tow.

Naturally, I chose a 38 degree day to undertake this grand outing. I piled the kids in the car, left my re-usable bags sitting proudly next to my front door and drove to the butcher/greengrocer. Some very considerate soul had left a shopping trolley right next to where I parked my car. (This happens a lot in our town. Considerate souls are always leaving trolleys right where the next person might need them.... at the end of the shopping centre carpark, at the doctor's surgery, outside Centrelink, at the bottom of the river.....) I balanced The Boy's capsule on top of the trolley, dumped the three year old in the trolley seat and marched the three of them into the shop. I was halfway through teaching the four year old to select good apples (you can't start too young, I feel. It won't be long, and I'll be able to send her to do the GROCERY SHOPPING while I sit back in my rocking chair with a gin and tonic) when the three year old started wailing, "I'm stuuuuuuuckkkk!". I look up, and the dear child has managed to get her knee jammed in the leg hole of the trolley seat. I note with interest that she is knickerless once again, and calmly tell her, "Yes, darling, you are supposed to be stuck." The green grocer looks mildly alarmed at my apparent lack of concern and comes round from his counter and offers to help extract her from her predicament. He, far more gracefully than I would have done, coaxes her knee free and sits her back down in the trolley. She throws him a dirty look for not setting her free to roam the store.

We complete our fruit and vegetable shopping and discover that the shop's EFTPOS machine is not working. "Never mind", I tell the grocer, "I'll just pop across the road to the ATM." He looks relieved and grateful at not losing out on our $150 sale until I say, "I'll just leave the kids here. Be back in a minute!" His face falls, and I flee the shop before he can protest. I consider popping in for a coffee at the cafe next to the bank, but remember that I have frozen meat in the trolley that will defrost and waste me $50.

We eventually make it to the supermarket and by the time I have unloaded them all, selected a trolley big enough to handle a baby, a toddler and a motherload of shopping, I'm red faced, panting and dripping sweat. The terrors sense my weakening spirit and lie in wake for the kill. They wait until I am precisely halfway through the shopping list, and the three year old says, "I need the toilet."

You what?

I consider my options. Rip open a packet of training pants and whack one on her? Tell her to wee slowly in the trolley seat as I walk quickly around the shop? (Surely people are less likely to notice a trail of drips than a rather large puddle...) Leave my trolley half full, give up entirely, go home and feed them more dry crackers while I enjoy my bottle of wine?

I snarl at her, "Hold it in" and finish the shopping in record time. I'm over budget by $100, but I'm not about to go through my bags to decide what to leave behind. I get back to the car and analyse which order I am supposed to load the car. I finally decide to load the groceries first because I am pretty sure that any thief worth his salt would prefer to steal a trolley full of groceries than three snot-faced children. We all make it into the car alive and I finally realise why bottle shops have drive through service.

It's for mothers who have finished the GROCERY SHOPPING.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

When Bad Days Are Normal, Censoring Is Optional.

What is a 'blog'?

Well, it's like an online journal, except it has people reading it, which means I end up censoring what I write and not saying some of the things I may be more game to if it was truly for my eyes only. I don't do 'journalling', though, I'm not sure why, or how blogging is different. I think it's the extrovert in me (or, as I am into being totally honest, it's probably got more to do with my deepseated need for validation - but anyway, that's all a bit heavy for a lighthearted blog like this.)

Today was another one of those bad days. The kind that drive me to blog, to spew it all out onto paper (or screen) and tell it like it really is... humour with a tinge of anger, because fuck! No-one told me it would be this bloody hard! We seem to go through patches where the good days are rare, and the bad days are worse than normal. I'm sure it's pretty common, I'm sure every parent feels this way sometimes, but here is what they are not likely to say out loud.

Sometimes, I don't like my children.

Sometimes, I like one of my children more than the others.

Sometimes, it feels like a long time since I liked a certain one of my children the best of all.

Sometimes, it feels like leaving would be a very easy thing to do.

Sometimes, I wonder if motherhood is really for me.

Sometimes, I am quite certain my children go to bed not having heard a single warm thing from me all day.

Don't misunderstand me. This is not how I feel all of the time. But certainly more than I would like. And the guilt that results from these feelings sets me off on an awful merry-go-round of useless, tired emotions, and useless, tired days.

But, here's the thing. It's normal to feel this way. I know it is, because I have very good and forgiving friends and when I whisper fragments of these feelings to them, they don't look at me in disgust. They nod their heads. And they share their own stories. And after some time in their company, I begin to feel as if I could go home and keep plugging away.

I read a blog post today that took my breath away. And not just mine, judging by how quickly it's gone viral. This mother has captured how millions of mothers around the world feel about parenting their own little ones, in such an honest, insightful way. And it got me thinking.

So, I wonder if it is enough to just catch glimpses of the good days in between all the shitty stuff that happens as we parent. I wonder if it's enough that my children experience me as being warm and loving, just sometimes. I wonder if they go to bed knowing that I love them, even when the words have not fallen from my lips that day.

Mothering is damn hard work. I joke about it alot, whinge about it more, but rarely do I stop and commend myself for doing the hard slog through the bad days as well as helping to create the good days. The good days are easy! Its the bad, heavy, bickering days that we need to be congratulating ourselves for surviving!

I may not be the best mother in the world. But I am most definitely the best mother for my children, and trying to get better all the time.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Parenting Qualification #2: The Ability To Be A Bitch.... In A Nice Way!

I have been blessed with a wonderful Mothers' Group, but I have heard some horror stories about others out there. And, to be honest, I'm not surprised, because mothers are bitches. We totally are. Some of us hide it better than others, but it lurks inside all of us.

Don't agree? Well, think back to when you had your first child. Attending that first mother's group. Hoping everyone will like you. (You only hoped that because, deep down, you know mothers are bitches.) Checking out everyone else' babies and noting with some satisfaction that your dear little one is not only by far the most beautiful, but is obviously the most advanced. Oh dear. Except for little Johnny over there. He's already rolling. Well, its ok, I bet his mother is a bitch.

Remember the concerned conversations about other mothers in the group? "Oooohhh, is she not coping very well? Oh dear, I must stop by." whilst hiding the smile lurking at the corners of our mouths behind a cup of green decaffinated tea. Don't lie to yourself, now, we all did it. There was some kind of perverse satisfaction we gained from thinking that other mothers were not swimming through motherhood.

By the time you have your third child, its a different story. Now, your conversations about other mums are more likely to go "well, of course she's not bloody coping! She has children!" You know that anyone who looks like they are swimming through motherhood are either full of shit or taking their kids' ADD medication.

It's the same with weightloss. All mothers are concerned with their weight. And yet, every now and then, I will come across someone who claims to love their stretch marks, as they are constant reminders of carrying their three precious children. Bollocks. Anyone who says this is lying. No woman loves their stretch marks. My stretch marks are indeed reminders of my three children, and I tell you, that knowledge does not make it easier to love the little darlings on those bad days. Also, I seem to collect an extra stomach every time I have a child. And not in the convenient "It's ok, I have an extra stomach especially for dessert" kind of way. More like, if you saw me naked you could be forgiven for thinking that all three of my children crawled right back up there.

To make things worse, at school pickup, there are always the merry band of Lycra Mums. And I'm not talking about the Lycra-wearing mums that convince you in one unfortunate glance that anything made of Lycra should NEVER come in a size larger than an eight. I'm talking about the ones who must have made some god-awful deal with the devil to be able to keep the bodies they had when they were 16. We tell them they look wonderful, they did such a good job of losing the 100 grams of baby weight they had after popping out their fourth child and pretend we know what they are talking about when they go on about getting a high from running. "Bitch. I heard she's shagging her PT. I bet when she stops getting 'free' sessions, she'll swell up like a blowfish."

Well if you are like me, and lycra makes you look less like Catwoman and more like an overweight elephant seal, then you may take comfort in this short clip. It's gold.

All mother are bitches.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Parenting Qualification #1: The Ability To Switch Off.

I went to uni for four years to train to become a teacher. Along the way, many of my peers dropped out of the course, usually after realising that even though teaching was one of the easiest courses to gain entry into, it did not automatically follow that they actually WANTED to spend the rest of their lives stuck in a classroom with other people's spawn. And that, apparently, a teaching qualification is not entirely earned at the pub.

I'm sure I'm not the first person to wonder if the world wouldn't be, even slightly, a better place if there was a similar four-year-training requirement before people were awarded the right to become parents. Pipe down, please, all you political correctness zealots, I'm not about to suggest compulsory sterilisation. But who among us has not stood in line at the checkout revelling in silent disgust at the dreadful parenting of those in line before us? (For crying out loud, no means NO! Don't say no fifteen times then hand them what they want when their insatiable whinging finally gets to you! Its been getting to ME for the last ten minutes and you don't see me shoving a chocolate in their mouth!)

So, not so much to solve the problem of an overabundance of appalling parents as to make myself feel better about co-existing with them, I have decided to write a series of blog posts outlining what I see as the necessary skills for effective parenting. Feel free to let me know if I overlook any.

The first on my list is the ability to Switch Off. This is a skill that you will need to utilise many times a day, for the rest of your life. It begins in pregnancy when you will be required to maintain an interested and grateful demeanor whenever you are offered unsolicited advice-slash-opinions about your size/sex of the baby/impending birth/future parenting style.

But it is a skill that truly comes into its own when your children begin talking.

Switching Off is particularly handy when your children engage in their frequent battles with one another. There are few sounds less harmonious than the sound of siblings shrieking at one another, unless it is the ensuing tale-telling and whining about whatever injuries they have managed to inflict on each other. Switching Off not only preserves your sanity in these instances, it also provides a 'teaching moment' to the children - that the noisier you are, the less mum cares.

Switching Off is also useful on those long car trips, particularly when your child is firmly entrenched in either the "Look, Mum!" stage of development, or the "Why....?" phase. Car trips often result in a running commentary that starts out mildly amusing but ends up ringing in your ears like the whine of a lone mosquito  emanating from the back seat. Injecting the occasional "Really?" or "Mm-hmm" into the endless drone from your child will ensure the best results.

Tools to help you Switch Off include locks on the toilet doors, headphones and loud music. Sometimes wine can help too (but only if the little darlings are safely tucked up in bed, obviously.) If you are not confident in your ability to Switch Off effectively, I recommend observing your husband while the cricket is on. They have that shit down.

Monday, January 2, 2012

The Things My Neighbours Know.

Next door neighbours are the bane of a frazzled mother's existence. They know things. They hear us at our worst, see our yards when we haven't frantically tidied them for visitors, count our weeds over the fence. They know how often we wash, when we break the sprinkler ban, when we haven't bothered cleaning out the chook pen.

They see us ambling out to the wheelie bin at noon in our pyjamas, hanging more than the washing out when we go outside with no bra on, they watch our clothes languish on the clothes line for nearly a week at a time before being bought in to make way for the next week's worth of banked up dirty laundry.

They hear our children playing unsupervised in the front yard, with just the occasional token glance out the window to make sure all heads are accounted for. They are the invisible witnesses to our outbursts at husband and children, and are the only others to hear us screech in shrill voices til our throats hurt. (I said don't YELL!!) Keenly observant neighbours also know how often we feed our children takeaway by examining the contents of our recycling.

In summer it's worse. We have our windows open. They hear the things we can usually hide behind closed doors.

Our neighbours are an elderly Romanian couple. They spend alot of time weeding their lawn, which I find daunting, as my lawn gets about as much attention as the hair on my legs. (Fortunately, I can hide my legs under some trousers. I don't have this option with the lawn, although my children try their best to hide it under all their toys.) Our neighbours speak very little English, so aside from a smile and a nod, we don't interact with them very much. This suits me fine, because, as I said, neighbours know things. Its very hard to make friendly small talk with someone who has heard you loudly threaten to sell your children on eBay.

Now that summer has hit, we leave our bedroom and ensuite windows open. We don't have airconditioning in our bedroom and I don't sleep too well when it is hot. For this reason I also sleep undressed. When The Boy wakes up, I turn the ensuite light on, stumble out to the kitchen to make a bottle then feed him in bed, before changing his nappy on the changetable in the ensuite. The Husband doesn't seem to mind me wandering around naked, and who can be bothered dressing in the middle of the night just to feed a squalling baby?

Every time I got up and turned the light on, I would hear a strange noise, a high-pitched creak. I assumed it was some kind of nocturnal frog or night-bird, and thought nothing of it until I began hearing it during the day as well. It occurred to me that I only ever heard it on that side of the house, and wondered if we had a nest somewhere.

Until, one night, I heard the creak as I sat down on the toilet.... immediately followed by the elderly Romanian lady next door yelling at her husband what I can only assume translates roughly to "Stop perving on that woman next door!!" The creak came again, followed by a thud as their screen door slammed shut.

So. Apparently my neighbours also know what I look like naked.

I tried to include a picture in this post, but unfortunately doing a Google image search for "dirty old man" gave me far more than I bargained for.