Archive for July, 2013

Birthday cake and a dollop of embarrassment on the side.

Sunday, July 28th, 2013

I don’t know about you, but during the winter in Vico, the highlight of our weekend can often be a birthday party. Pre-kids, you know that life you once had, this meant getting dressed up and hitting the town for lots of bubbles and laughs. It was fun, sometimes messy, but always fun.

Ah how life has reversed. Now it is always messy and sometimes fun.

The only bubbles on offer are the snot bubbles coming out of kids noses who are freezing themselves silly outside in the cold. And instead of the beer niggles the next day, my sugar coma induces a fresh reminder of what embarrassment my offspring have put me through in the latest public encounter.

One of the toughest things about having kids for me is seeing the parts of myself that I don’t like very much rearing their ugly heads in my little boys. Now I have never gone around hitting people at parties who stole my balloon, and thankfully the wild child has realised you don’t make too many friends this way. But it still seems that  even when he is being as good as is humanly possible for him, he still manages to have another kid in tears.

Today was an accident, but another gorgeous little one was in tears and it was my kids fault. No big deal and yet it makes me feel like an old version of myself. Saying the wrong thing to someone at a party and upsetting them, or more often, myself. So the highlight of my weekend now entails chasing my kids around in the rain, sweeping up the glass The Stink smashed on the ground, apologising to another mother for my kid kicking a ball too hard, having sentence long conversations and carrying a crying wild child around who cut his finger.

The food was delicious and the hosts were their usual lovely selves. There were lots of people there I would have loved to chat to, but even after four years of being a parent, I still can’t work out how to have a decent conversation with anyone socially while The Stink is up to his armpits in a bucket of water or the wild child is kamikazying off the top of the cubby. I have endless admiration for those parents who either don’t have to worry about what risk taking behaviour their kid is trying out, or are cool enough not to worry if they do.

Instead I hover, helicopter whatever you want to call it, trying to avoid the public humiliation I clearly didn’t avoid today. In fact if I wasn’t there when the ball got kicked then I probably wouldn’t feel bad.  I might have actually been able to stop and listen to someone else for five minutes instead of squeezing my one sentence into a conversation and then dashing off. It’s not a big deal, and one that wont last forever. But I’d already had a crap weekend and then my highlight got spoilt too.

Can’t wait for next weekend though, a massive birthday for a community organisation and a christening. Let’s just see if we can top this one. Strangers and a quiet church service. Surely nothing could go wrong with that picture!

At least there will be cake…

 

Secrets and heartbreak

Monday, July 22nd, 2013

I learnt something this weekend. I learnt it the hard way. I didn’t like it much, but it’s a good lesson to learn.

Everyone has a secret. At least one, some people have a few. Every now and then part of that secret peaks it head out, sometimes it slaps you in the face and sometimes it sneaks back away. For a moment the person you think you know becomes someone else. They remind you of another time and place. They remind you of pain and heartbreak. They remind you that we all keep parts of ourself hidden.

You learn things about people that absolutely blow your mind. They consume your thinking for a day, or more, because although it seems absolutely totally unbelievable, there are a few clues that keep flashing back to make you question just how much of your life you take for granted. I take everything on face value. I accept first impressions as the absolute truth about how that person must be, and often how they always were. I’m notorious for not always finding the right group to fit in when I start somewhere new. I latch on to whoever I think seems similar to me, and then once I actually get to know them I realize that I’m far too bogan for that friendship to work. So I try and weasel my way out of that new-found group of besties into another one. And I am not lying when I say I have done this, it happened at uni, at two work places, even in Mother’s Group.

I have secrets of my own. None that I am particularly good at keeping, but some that have stopped rearing their head quite as often. And I need to remember that in every conversation I have. Whether it be with strangers at the park, or the café, work colleagues who I am delighted are back in my daily life or even my dearest friends and family. You never quite know what the reality is like for them. What their day has entailed before they arrived at wherever they are now. Or whatever they might return to after they leave.

Sometimes its stuff we know and forget or gloss over. Sometimes its stuff that seems trivial to us. Sometimes its things that they are using every part of their body to suppress. And sometimes all it would take is a genuine conversation and a little bit of time to share. But most importantly, sometimes we don’t actually need to know the details, we just need to stop for a moment longer, listen a little more carefully and take a little more care. Maybe then our own secrets become a little bit lighter too.

Take that mother guilt

Monday, July 15th, 2013

I went back to work today. My first day of full time work in my old workplace for five whole weeks.

And I loved it!

For the first time since I have had my boys I walked back into my old school, that I love, and did not feel one ounce of guilt. Well, that is not entirely true, for a brief moment as I walked across the yard saying hi to people I haven’t worked with for ages, I felt a bit guilty that I didn’t feel guilty. How’s that for good old Mother Guilt.

Most of it was because my Wild Child and The Stink were home with their beloved Dad. They had swimming lessons this morning and the sun was out, so no matter what, it would be a pretty fun day. And part of it was that this was my husband’s idea. His work is an absolute debacle, so before we went on our trip he suggested we try this out for a bit and he could work part time for a few weeks. It might be the future normal in our house so it is an absolute luxury to be able to try out the switch before it might become a long term thing. And the final part was that I miss teaching, not fill in, chat to the kids and do some other work up the front teaching, but real create a lesson, build relationships and see some learning happen teaching. (The other 25 periods I can still much around on the net.)

I got to leave my house without too much crazy rushing, I even had time to do my hair, put a tiny bit of make-up on and get a coffee on the way. I got to have many, many conversations with adults I admire and some who make me laugh in a dangerous way with my wobbly pelvic floor. I got to talk about ideas and improvements and skirmishes and solutions. Someone even asked my advice, and a few hugged me in a way that made me wonder what exactly those year 10 boys had in store for me. I got to remember that this was a job filled with great people and with mostly great kids and that it was something I was okay at.

Sure, it was one day and I was a long way from the politics and kids swinging from the rafters that teaching is filled with. But it was also different. Different for me, different for my boys at home, and at this stage, most importantly it was different for my husband. I walked in the door to a happy house, everyone was a winner.

Now for tomorrow when my husband leaves at 7am and I wrangle the kids out the door dressed and fed and packed not much later to a wonderful friend for daycare. Only problem is The Stink hasn’t been there before and given he cries when we arrive at anyone else’s house because he thinks I am going to leave him there and never have, tomorrow will have a double dose of guilt. As I peel the barnacle off my leg and leave him screaming with a stranger, work might not have quite the same pleasure.

But that’s okay, at least I can talk to someone about it. And I might even get to have a cup of tea while I’m at it.

 

Warning: this may scare the absolute bejeezus out of those about-to-be-a-mum readers, but believe me you have to know this stuff

Thursday, July 4th, 2013

So you’re up the duff.

Not just up the duff, but ankles swelling, weeing more often than breathing, skulling bottles of Mylanta pregnant. You are about to do the equivalent of squeezing a chook out of your nostril, and then post a pic of yourself on facebook hiding the pure shock and replacing it with that ‘glow’.  You know that look of bliss new mums get from being so bloody grateful the birth is over, and too early to realise what is actually about to happen. You’ve read books, you’ve checked the web, you have carefully asked friends for advice, and let’s be honest, vagued out through the gross stuff. And no doubt you have received tons of unwanted advice.

Well dear girl, here is a bit more. This is the stuff that no-one tells you, but you really need to know.

BIRTH

1. The only thing you can actually hope for about giving birth, is that there is an anaesthetist on duty when you are in labour. (Aim high and hope for someone like Patrick from Offspring, but believe me if Cleg walked in wearing drag, you would be that bloody grateful for what he had in that needle that you wouldn’t even notice!)

2. Don’t bother buying anything to give birth in. Ultimately, by the end of it, you’ll be as naked as the baby you are squeezing out of your vajutz and you will not even notice.

3. Feel free to write a birth plan, but you may as well leave it wrapped up in the bag with the outfit you bought to give birth in, alongside the CD you made and underneath the scented candles you had packed for the occasion. Birth is miraculous, there is no doubt about that. It might go well, and even then it is gross, painful, overwhelming, scary and will teach you more about what you are capable of than anything else you have ever done in your life. And if you still want to bring a birth plan, then make sure it says CALL THE ANAESTHETIST AS SOON AS POSSIBLE.

BUBS

3. If the nurses at any point agree to take your precious bundle of joy away so you can sleep. Let them. They know far more about what they are doing than you do.

4. Allow visitors at the hospital. Believe me, you will survive 27 people coming in to check out that gorgeous baby within in the first 8 hours of being a mother. And you want to see people. The adrenaline is pumping, you are desperate to share the joy with others, and here you can have everyone all at once without having to move off the bed or make a cup of tea. The alternative may well be the next month of back to back visitors, without nurses coming in to tell them to bugger off. (IGNORE THIS IF YOU GET MOVED TO THE HILTON. SOAK IT UP AND ORDER AS MUCH FOOD AS YOU CAN)

5. Everyone will give you advice about everything. Ignore it, all of it. Including mine, until you need it. Because until now, every conversation about sleeping, eating, feeding, birth, stitches, hemorrhoids and vomit has been on the sidelines, meant for someone else. This is all about to change. Seek advice if you need it, ignore what doesn’t feel right, go with what does. While no-one knows your baby like you do (blahblahblah) they have at least cared for a baby of the same species and some stuff might just help.

BOOBS

6. If, like me, you have been wearing two sports bras to do any kind of physical activity since puberty, then your boobs were never your best friend. And if, like me, the size of your gigantic pregnant boobs were the main indicator of your pregnancy , then I am afraid you haven’t seen anything yet. Those Pammy Anderson knockers that suddenly stand up all by themselves will take on a life of their own, and it will happen overnight. With my first baby, the nurse asked to have a look at my boozies to see if my milk had come in. With my second baby she didn’t even need to ask. Those first few days my boobs woke me up more than my baby. Don’t panic. They will soften again and slightly reduce. And if not, soak some nappies, pop them in the freezer and tuck them into your singlet in between feeds.

7. Breastfeeding is wonderful, but it is by far the most difficult skill I have ever had to learn in my life. It sucked (pardon the pun). And by the way, babies are born with mouths filled with razorblades. Birth was painful, but there were drugs and it ended. Breastfeeding for me, was monotonous, and for a while I was petrified of that next feed. I persisted and it was worth it. (I think) But you do not have to. No one can point to the toddlers in the playground and tell you which one was bottle fed and which was breastfed. Go with your gut on this, or rather your boob.

8. And while you might not love the pregnant boob, or the breastfeeding boob, by far the worst boob of all is the I breastfed two kids for a year each boob. Because now they are like stockings with sand in the bottom of them. And these days, there is very little need for those two sports bras.

……………

Having a baby is absolutely a gift that I adore. It is a privilege and one I don’t take lightly. But if you want the images of warm, clean, smiling, sleepy newborns, then you can watch a Kleenex commercial. You will get these moments. They might just be in between using the Kleenex for wiping your own tears away, or cleaning another baby vomit off your clothes. So before it’s too late there a couple of things to do before life as you know it ends;

  • Drive your car, with your own music on, casually and in no screaming hurry to get anywhere.
  • Sit at the table and use both hands to eat dinner, that you have cooked yourself and finish the entire meal while it is warm.
  • Go to a cafe. Sit down. Order. Enjoy. Read the paper. Sit some more. Breath. And smile at the woman with the crazy children who is JUST TRYING TO GET A DAMN COFFEE.
  • Have a conversation. In full and with your full attention on the person talking to you. You may never do this again.
  • Walk around the house with no top on. Don’t be ridiculous I hear you say. You’ll laugh later, believe me.
  • Have sex. Even if you don’t feel like it, because there is a fair chance you still feel like it more now than you might for a really long time.

Babies are confusing, scary, difficult and demanding. But they are also absolutely spectacular and the smell of a new baby, especially your own, washes every other moment away. At least until the next feed.

And the next adventure begins.

Wednesday, July 3rd, 2013

We made it home. More importantly, we made it all the way up to our favourite place on the coast, and all the way back.

The 5 o’clock start pretty much everyday was harrowing. It meant early bed times, grumpy, dark, cold mornings and some long days. But the rest of it was pretty good. Beaches in winter that are actually appealing, a birthday, lots of visits to lighthouses, some of the most stunning houses I have ever seen, let alone stayed in, markets, yummy food, excellent coffee, terrible coffee and playgrounds. So many playgrounds.

We all got along pretty well, most of the time. Which in some ways is surprising as it was by far the longest time my husband and I had spent together  since we travelled overseas many, many years ago. We fought and got frustrated by the lack of sleep and an overwhelming lack of time to do what we really wanted. It never ceases to amaze me that being up at 5am doesn’t give you more hours in the day to do things, it just creates more time you feel rushed and trying to get somewhere before its lunch time or sleep time or dinner time.

And while we were both on duty and pretty much shared the cooking, the packing up, the looking after kids, the coming up with what to do today I still found it hard to relinquish control. I would still keep us on schedule a bit so the kids got to have a sleep or a rest and not go too mental. I still tried to limit the treats and increase the vegies. But now we are home there a few new questions to figure out. And our jobs are on the top of the list.

We have loved so many places on that coast and seriously considered heading up there, and we haven’t totally ruled it out yet. But we are still waiting on a few things we have to make decisions about. The stress of my husbands job was the reason for the trip. We had to get out of here for his own mental health. The situation hasn’t improved since we have returned and so after the reality of being home with two little boys for two months, he is now a bit more knowledgeable about what he might really be signing up for. So we are trying to decide who goes back to work full time, and who works part time and looks after the kids.

It is a fortunate decision to have to make really. I can work, I like working, I have the options of lots of employment open to me. Many people do not have any choice about what their work looks like. But we do, and we are feeling the weight of it. The boys would love to have their Dad home. They can build cubbies, ride bikes, cut down trees and go to the tip. There wouldn’t be any dance classes, or toddler gym, or visits to the shops. But it might mean they don’t really see their friends very often. I’m not sure my husband would happily ring up my friends and invite them and their kids over for the play during the week. I’m not really sure what dinner would look like, or the washing for that matter. But it would sort itself out eventually. Wouldn’t it?

So we are having a crack at it. A trial run, for five weeks. I am heading back to my old job, to teach bigger boys, some of which actually listen to me! I get to have lunch, adult conversations, use my brains and do a job I love. It is an interesting experiment to say the least. I am worried about relinquishing control over the household. I have spent the last four years making all the decisions at home and feeling like I have done a lot of the parenting too, at least the daily grind of parenting. I am worried that the job I love might not actually be that appealing, when the best job in the world is the one I have given up. I am worried that it might just reveal how shoddy my parenting is, when they have their dad home with them full time.

There will be lots of awesome things about this social experiment. And lots of questions, and lots of changes. It will be their Dad who has to orient them into their new child care place, and finally appreciate how heart breaking it is to peel a child off your leg and run out the door. It will be me who gets to exercise after spending all day at work (one can hope) and walk in the door to the madness that is dinner hour. It will be me who gets greeted at the door at the end of the day with hugs and kisses and the excited patter of footsteps down the hall.

I don’t really know what it will be like, but it will be interesting to see. And maybe then we can really decide if this is a long term change, or just an extended holiday for both of us.



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