Wednesday, September 26, 2012

The Parenting Olympics


This column was first published in Practical Parenting Magazine, August 2012

Olympic sportsmen and women are thrilling, it’s true. They are incredibly impressive athletes. And yet, I wonder.  Can these heroes catch a projectile vomit in their bare hands? Leap across a couch in time to stop a baby choking on a googly eye from the craft box? Shriek at a naughty child in a pitch so high that the dog runs away? Every day, I feel,  domestic Olympics are staged in homes across Australia. And the time has come to claim our shiny medals.

Mount Washmore Laundry-to-Drawer Relay
This degree-of-difficulty rises with this sport at each step of the laundry process. Placing the washing in the machine and switching it on is quite satisfying, but each step following becomes harder. Athletes must hang the washing out, bring it in and fold it on the dining table. The final act of actually placing the clean, folded items in their proper cupboards is beyond many domestic athletes. Gold goes to the competitor that manages to do so before the folded piles have become so sullied over time that all items require re-washing.

Weightlifting: massive toddler division.
Raised on beef, dairy and sunshine, the average Australian toddler is the size and density of a sack of potatoes, and yet ‘Mummy, up! Pick me up!’ they beg all day long. Gold goes to the mother who has maintained enough physical strength to parent a two-year-old without simultaneously funding their osteopath's extended summer tour of Tuscany.

Synchronised breakfast ballet
While Partner A makes toast, holds a baby and punts cheese sandwiches into school and work bags, Partner B plaits a squirming child’s hair. Partner A showers while Partner B dresses the toddler, then they change places seamlessly.  The routine builds in speed and intensity as the minutes pass.  In a rapid-fire conclusion they coordinate sunscreen, hats, nappies and daily plans. Gold medal to the pair that manage to achieve this balletic performance without leaving the kitchen  in almost irreparable disarray.

Gymnastic Guilt Juggle  Olympic sportsmen and women are thrilling, it’s true. They are incredibly impressive athletes. And yet, I wonder.  Can these heroes catch a projectile vomit in their bare hands? Leap across a couch in time to stop a baby choking on a googly eye from the craft box? Shriek at a naughty child in a pitch so high that the dog runs away? Every day domestic Olympics are staged in homes across Australia. And the time has come to claim our shiny medals.

Mount Washmore Laundry-to-Drawer Relay
This degree-of-difficulty rises with this sport at each step of the laundry process. Placing the washing in the machine and switching it on is quite satisfying, but each step following this becomes harder. Athletes must hang the washing out, bring it in and fold it on the dining table. The final act of actually placing the clean, folded items in their proper cupboards is beyond many domestic athletes. Gold goes to the competitor that manages to do so before the folded piles have become so sullied over time that all items require re-washing.

Weightlifting: massive toddler division.
Raised on beef, dairy and sunshine, the average Australian toddler is the size and density of a sack of potatoes, and yet ‘Mummy, up! Pick me up!’ they beg all day long. Gold goes to the mother who has maintained enough physical strength to parent a two-year-old without simultaneously funding their osteopath to take an extended summer tour of Tuscany.

Synchronised breakfast ballet
While Partner A makes toast, holds a baby and punts cheese sandwiches into school bags, Partner B plaits a squirming child’s hair. Partner A showers while Partner B dresses the toddler, then they change places seamlessly.  The routine builds in speed and intensity as the minutes pass.  In a rapid-fire conclusion they coordinate sunscreen, hats, nappies and daily plans. Gold medal to the pair that manage to achieve this balletic performance without leaving the kitchen in almost irreparable disarray.

Gymnastic Guilt Juggle                                                                                 
In this event, parents must weigh up whether to finish the washing-up or do puzzles on the floor with her pre-schooler. If she doesn’t finish the kitchen, the house will remain mired in chaos. But if she doesn’t play with the toddler, she will later regret those ‘lost moments.’ Housework! Playtime! There is no way for the stay-at-home parent to do both well. And so every day she must perform gymnastic feats of reading books, colouring in, discussing the Wiggles and building towers while simultaneously chopping vegetables, sweeping the floor, and feeling completely over whelmed. There is no winning this event, and there is no prize.
                                                                             
Spew-Flu Marathon
When everybody is the house is struck with gastro, Mum must still manage to feed and look after her small charges, even if all she wants to do is lay her head on the cold tile of the bathroom floor and beg for the salvation of death. Athletes must crawl into the lounge room, switch on the television and lay a packet of Weet-Bix out on the coffee table.  Prize: gold medal, packet of Lomotil and the loss of two pesky post-baby kilos. 

Overall Good-Humour Gold
This medal, the most prestigious of all, is awarded to the athlete who manages to spend a day at home with small children and retain a sense of humour. This requires staying twenty minutes ahead of the meltdown curve by presenting snack, games and naps in the perfect order to keep toddlers, pre-schoolers and babies happy and well-behaved. Winners receive a gold medal, a cup of tea and a nice long sleep in front of Masterchef. 

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Thanks for talking to me. I don't got cooties. Oh, except for when I got cooties.