This post was first published in Practical Parenting Magazine, December 2011. It was written after George was born, but before her accident, and before my thyroid disruption was diagnosed. It's funny -odd for me to reread this, a few months on. Seasons in parenthood are changing so fast for me now. My last thyroid blood tests show it's overactive again, which explains why I've been feeling weird and anxious. I have to re-test it in two weeks and then talk about options if it is still out of whack.
My mother-in-law came to visit me shortly after I gave birth to my third child. I sat in the middle of a towering pile of laundry – sleep-deprived, vomit-stained and overwhelmed. ‘Don’t worry, Rach’, my saintly MIL told me. ‘If you get to the end of the day and the children are all still alive, you’re doing your job.’ It was excellent advice. But I wasn’t prepared for how literally I would need to take it.
Our new daughter – let’s call her Pudding - is adorably, kissably perfect. The whole family agrees. But her three year old brother, T-Bone, loves her a little too much. In fact, it’s a little like having a Labrador puppy as a part-time nanny, and he’s in danger of killing her with the force of his affections.
‘My Pudding, my darling Pudding, my little baby Pudding’ he croons, while patting her with a technique better suited to tenderising a schnitzel. If she cries, he races to her bedside. ‘Don’t rurry Pudding! Don’t rurry!’ he shouts an inch from her face. He likes to replace her dummy, but his method is to grip the back of her head with one hand and jam the dummy into her mouth with the other, whether her lips are open or closed. Four-year-old Peanut, on the other hand, ‘helps’ by perching at the end of the bassinette and telling the baby at length about her jewellery. (I think of it as The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills method of baby-care.)
Mothering three kids under five has given me moments of absolutely transcendent happiness, but I admit at time I have gone a little nutty. Military discipline has become necessary. I’m not a huge shouter generally but yesterday I was driven to bellow at the children: 'You are MASSIVELY busted!’ The details of their naughtiness elude me but it likely involved property crime (Peanut took the good spoon) or actual bodily harm (T-Bone kicked me in the ears) followed by theatrical, high-pitched screaming. They both got sent to separate Time Outs before being recalled for a short lecture about behaviour in my Sergeant Mother’s tone. They both gazed at me calmly. 'Do you understand me T-Bone?' I concluded. 'Well, Mummy,’ he said. 'Did you know I has this penis?'
Another recent evening I found myself simultaneously trying to comfort a crying Pudding, coach toilet-training T-Bone through a difficult potty episode, ignore a Peanut tantrum and fix a recalcitrant Peppa Pig DVD. Inside my head the howls were deafening. 'Is you doing your best, Mum?’ asked T-Bone. Yes, I replied hopelessly. 'Well, is not very good', he said.
Today I left both kids constructing puzzles in the lounge room while I fed Pudding in my quiet bedroom and watched My Great Big Gypsy Wedding on YouTube. I thought everything was going really well until I emerged to find both children paused in a guilty tableau. Peanut had climbed a chair to turn the ceiling fan on High, and T-Bone was standing on a table trying to poke a broomstick into it.
Pudding is six weeks old tomorrow. In time, I might set my parenting ambitions a little higher, but for today, still alive at bedtime is good enough for me. And if you’ve managed that today, my readers, I’m proud of you too.