Tuesday, March 2, 2010
Optimism is my Homeboy.
So here it goes, friends... my first column for Practical Parenting Magazine.
Every morning, I ask my three year old Ivy if she’s ready to help with the morning jobs. ‘Breakfast is finished!’ I chirp. ‘Would you like the blue sweeper or the white sweeper today? Let’s do our jobs and then have some fun!’
Every morning, she looks at me with pity in her eyes and says ‘No, thank you,’ wandering away to follow her own plans, like turning her bed into a boat, or adding a whimsical touch to her outfit, or practicing her current hobby – standing in front of the mirror and carefully painting on a moustache with a pink highlighter.
According to Einstein, the definition of insanity is to do the same thing over and over and expect a different result. With all respect to the great egghead, I think that’s just life with preschoolers. I live with two of them and apart from the frequent application of warm and tender tuggles; my key parenting tool is blind, foolish optimism.
Optimistic Plan, 9am: In search of ten minutes kitchen-time, without whinging children-as-trouser-legs, I set up a mini kitchen-sink set at my feet, with water containers, spoons, cups and tea-towels. In my head, the kids will play at ‘washing-up’, having fun and learning skills that will transfer seamlessly to real life, Montessori-style.
Sad Reality, 9.07am: Within minutes the lure of naughty-pouring has overcome Ivy. The floor is a soapy river, her clothes are off, and she is stamping wildly. ‘I haffa go to the torlet, Mummy,’ she says and ‘Off you go, then,’ I reply. Next moment, she’s is in the power squat and wee-ing on the kitchen floor. One-year-old Teddy has wandered off early in the piece, removed his nappy and done a Freedom Poo in the corner.
Optimistic Plan, 10.30am: Quality Together Time with a family trip to Bunnings. Seedlings, swings sets, sausage sandwiches, a peaceful drive home and then a nice lunchtime nap for everybody (including Mum.)
Sad Reality, 1.13pm: Ivy declines my suggested outfit and dresses herself in an overstretched t-shirt that reads ‘Bring Back Warney’, a pair of satin Wiggles boxer shorts, plastic white beads, one silver party shoe and one flowered sandal. Time warps in the Bunnings universe, causing a fatal error in lunch-timing. Ivy is so eager to attack her sausage that she burns her mouth and drops the whole thing in the car. We’re faced with a toddler food meltdown. Teddy stems the tide with old sultanas he has secreted down his car seat, and I try to salvage Ivy’s mood with a breezy chat. ‘Mummy is going to write a funny story about you and Teddy for a magazine,’ I say. ‘Write about when I did three spoos on myself, Mummy,’ she says fretfully. ‘Well, that wasn’t so hilarious from our perspective,’ I answer. ‘No, you HAFFA! Write about the spoos! The spoos, Mum!’ She’s losing it. I agree to work up some jokes about her gastric flu and desperately check my handbag for muesli bars and old bananas. Too late. ‘The spoos, Mum…’ she sobs helplessly for the next ten minutes. ‘You haffa write about the three spoooos!’
Again and again, my carefully-laid plans are thwarted by the cunning super-skills of my tiny companions. Every adventure ends in an entirely unexpected outcome. And often that outcome has some kind of human protein spilled on it, and the stain probably won’t come out.
Every day, these wily toddlers roam their territory like Kali, the 8-armed Indian goddess, scattering sultanas, blocks and boogers to every corner of the house. Ivy tries to drink food colouring, chicken stock and baby Panadol. Ted wears undies on his head and posts semi-precious items into the toilet. I follow them, armed with white vinegar, bicarb and a sense of humour, and when it’s all getting too much, I remind myself that every stain is a tiny badge of these toddler years; so precious, so hilarious and so beautiful.