Wednesday, August 31, 2011
Sunday, August 28, 2011
Georgette is divine. She feeds, sleeps and squiggles around. Not a naughty peep to be heard. Ivy and Ted are being loving and gentle big siblings. And I've taken to calling Keith 'Alice' as he house-husbands around the place like a champion.
But I'm still feeling a little like an elephant sat on me. I went out last week to visit pre-school, the library, and grab a coffee. Three days later I'm still recovering from that little jaunt. I still feel incapable of really talking to anybody without leaking tears, and so I remain in my little cave.
I've lost a little too much weight I think, and I did not go into this round of baby-production totally match fit. Tonight I hoovered a giant steak. Calcium tablets are on the shopping list. And Alice is on duty for two more weeks, so I can rest, breastfeed, and get my mojo back.
Tuesday, August 23, 2011
Friday, August 19, 2011
Saturday, August 6, 2011
Especially with our first babies, we parents are obsessed with milestones. I remember poring over the books when Peanut, now four, was in her first year. I fretted that she wasn’t rolling over when she should and I felt ludicrously proud to see she was a very early pointer. With T-Bone, now two, I occasionally checked. And little Plum, some months into gestation, will probably barely make it to the baby nurse. But lately I’ve been thinking that there are another set of milestones that go largely unrecorded. The Mama Milestones. Those points in time that mark the profound transformation from the person you were before kids into a softer-of-tummy and messier-of-wardrobe creature renamed Mummy who cries watching the news and smells more Eau de Vom Bomb than Diorissimo.
First public breastfeed
Before children, the idea of getting your knockers out at a coffee shop, in front of your father or at a smart dinner party is not something most of us entertain. (Except if you live in one of those neighborhoods where the dinner parties take a certain turn after the cheese platter. No judgment.) Generally, once you have a baby (unless you plan on staying home permanently) there will be times when you need to breastfeed while out and about. In the early days, you may fiddle with wraps and covers and bosom-burquas in the safety of the stinky shopping-centre Parents Room. But after a while, most mamas get so proficient at the Unclip Bra/ Locate Baby’s Face/ Clamp and Attach/Do Not Meet a Senior Citizens Eye routine that we forget all those previous taboos against the boob flash and merrily feed the baby anywhere, anytime.
The first day-care drop-off
How can another person know the language, the idiosyncrasies, the little noises and symbols that mean your little person is hungry/thirsty/tired/bored? Will the teachers love your child? Will your child be bullied? How will you know what is really happening all day? Early day-care days are torturous, but two months in, that solo latte after drop-off is a like a heady cocktail of freedom.
First time your toddler drops their day sleep
Oh, the humanity.
First Public Humiliation.
Small children who possess language but have not yet added the civilizing aspect of tact are like a loaded social gun. Their random shots can take many forms, from ‘Mummy, why does that lady smell like poo-bum?’ to ‘Look, it’s that man from across the road that Daddy called a filfy alco-mo-holic.’ You can do nothing to prevent these verbal grenades.
First time you realize you can’t be a perfect parent
When Peanut was three, she said ‘Oh dear, my back is really sore. I haffa lie down,’ and my heart sank. She was imitating her mother, and I knew that meant that having a Mum with a ‘bad back’ was going to be part of her life story. I cried. I wanted to be perfect for her, and I knew then that I never would be.
The making of a mother, I‘ve been thinking, is a lifetime job, made up of a thousand little Mama Milestones like these; some sweet, some humiliating, and some tough to take. As my little people grow up and transform, so do I. If I’m lucky, there are many more milestones ahead for this Mama, and only a small number of them will involve neighborly disputes, supermarket shaming or public breast-baring.
This post first appeared as a column in Practical Parenting Magazine, June 2011. I know this one was written early in pregnancy because I was not yet a miserable waddling grumpy shut-in.
I woke up this morning to find four-year-old Peanut tucked under my arm. She had crept into my bed in the early hours, and her tiny pixie face was as beautiful in sleep as anything I’d ever seen. She woke up as I watched her, kissed me on the arm and said ‘Good morning Mummy. I dreamed you were Luke Skywalker.’ Trailing behind me as I crept around getting ready to go for an early swim, she chatted sweet, oddball nonsense, and I left her eating an apple on the lounge, looking through her Junior Masterchef cookbook and waiting for Daddy to wake up and make breakfast.
Swings and roundabouts, I thought in the car as I drove off. Ivy was the sweetest creature in town that morning. And yet, the night before, she could have been the poster child for lunatic devil-spawn as she refused to eat her dinner and stomped off, squealing like a piglet, into Time-Out. Parenting is all swings and roundabouts.
Keith and I are having what we think of as a Step-Up Week, a sudden naughty patch that requires us to pull out more heavy-duty discipline. Normally we respond to the demands of life with pre-schoolers by using endless negotiation, constant counting to three, and retreating to a quiet place inside our own heads. But this week both Ivy and her two-year-old brother T-Bone are displaying what you might call challenging behaviours. On a good day I might call it Testing Boundaries. On a bad one I call it Sucking the Very Life from My Soul, and to recover from a day of it, I must lie horizontally on the couch in a vegetative state applying chocolate to my mouth for at least an hour. More like two, if I’m honest. Sometimes three. The chocolate/couch ratio is heavily dependent on how much the children have worn away my will to live that day.
This week Peanut has been fighting in the classic pre-schoolers battleground: the dinner table. She is a wily opponent who tries to divert attention from her lack of eating through vivacious conversation. She’ll chat away like a talk-show host on a variety of increasingly desperate topics to avoid the actual eating of the food, as one by one, her privileges and treats are revoked. Dessert is off the menu. Charlotte’s Web won’t be read tonight. Stuffed animals will be sleeping on the naughty shelf. She stomps, making unearthly noises, in and out of Time Out.
This week, three nights went on this pleasant manner and then Keith offered a helpful hint. ‘Maybe if we had something nicer for dinner tomorrow,’ he suggested. I looked at him for a long moment. ‘That didn’t come out right,’ he said.
Meanwhile, T-Bone, is going through a little separation anxiety phase. Yesterday, as we watched Peanut in her swimming lesson, I tried to talk to the person next to me. T-Bone saw this as a monstrous betrayal of our relationship. ‘Turn you face around! Turn you face around!’ he begged, pulling desperately at my chin. In case he hadn’t made his point, he then banged his fists on my leg and shouted ‘Mine! Mine! Mine!’ for a good five minutes.
The new baby, on the other hand, has its own needs. Gestating away merrily, this month it has demanded lemon cordial, gherkins, mountains of Turkish Delight and lazy nights watching cooking programs. Frankly, I’m delighted with the good behaviour of Child 3. Now I just have to sort out the other two.
This post first appeared as a column in Practical Parenting Magazine, April 2011. Sorry for the confusion, I'm a little behind. And a-big in front! I'm here all week, try the fish, etc.
Pre-schoolers don’t inhabit the same world as adults. Have you noticed? Not just because they see everything at half height and have that enviable lifestyle where Parent Servants anticipate and fulfil their every need. But more importantly, because they live in a world of magical possibility, where grown-up rules of reality, logic and social behaviour don’t apply. In developmental psychology, this age is called The Magic Years, and when you are a stay-at-home parent, you spend a lot of time in this psychedelic wonderland.
Through the eyes of a small child, nothing is too outlandish to be possible. Bunnies bearing chocolate? Flying reindeers? Fairies that trade teeth for cash in the dead of night? To a child, these are no more outrageous than play-back tape recorders, or drive-through hot chips, or hair-drying machines that can blow hot air right at your face!
Little-person life is enchanting. Four-year-old Peanut lives a rich fantasy life in which she can inhabit a dozen characters before breakfast and T-Bone, at two, is just starting to enter the world of make-believe. Last week he began insisting that he was addressed as Trixie-Jeff. This would have been fine except that T-Bone is the most agreeable of children, while his alter-ego Trixie-Jeff was a demanding, obstreperous diva. No matter the question, T-Bone would answer ‘No! But I Trixie-Jeff! But no!’ (And once, memorably: ‘No! But I Trixie-Jeff! And I dot a fruity poo-bum!’)
I love this free-ranging imaginary world. Sometimes, however, I’ve found that it’s important to establish the line between fantasy and reality. Last Christmas, for instance, Peanut became obsessed with genies. She might have been confusing them with Jesus - it was the season - but we explored it anyway.
'What do genies do exactly, Mum?' she insisted. 'Well,’ I said, ‘they live in old tea-pots and if you rub the pot gently they come out and grant you three wishes.' Peanut’s face took on the familiar fervour of intense pre-school passion. It was as if Luke Skywalker and the Wiggles had delivered her to the Jurassic period on a giant blueberry. 'Here are my grant-wishes, Mum', she cried joyfully. 'A walking apple, a baby made just for kids, and a pineapple pie.'
She hounded me to the kitchen to search for teapots. I found two, and we sat on the floor and rubbed the first one. 'Genie, genie, talk to me,' I droned. 'Grant me wishes: one, two, three!' Ivy threw open the lid and looked inside. 'Not today,' I said.
T-Bone did the next one. 'Genie, genie, what you do, wake up!' he sang. Ivy looked inside that lid too, desperately, and finding it empty, her little heart broke. 'Oh no!' she wailed as she threw herself on the rug and sobbed with the painful realisation that no pineapple pies or pet babies were forthcoming. 'Peanut, honey, genies aren't real,' I said. 'They just live in books and in games. But they are still wonderful.'
The sweet, fleeting magic years hold a special charm for parents too, as we see life through the pre-schoolers prism of magical possibility. As my little ones grow up, their worlds will widen, Santa will be outed, the Tooth Fairy debunked, and life will be, sadly, a little more realistic. A world without bunnies bearing chocolate? Not for a few more years, I hope.