Monday, December 24, 2012

Thank You.

Home from our holiday, just in time to get Christmas morning party-times ready for the little ones. But before I finish wrapping presents, and eating Santa's biscuit, and ignoring the washing-up on my way to bed, I want to say thank you to this blogging community that I love so much. Thank you all for your support and friendship this year.

This year has been tough, perhaps our toughest yet, as I have struggled to cope with the demands of parenting three kids and keeping a household running. I have wobbled under the heavy backpack of motherhood, I have staggered, and I have lost my footing more than once. I have fallen in puddles, and my pants have fallen down, and I have made my snotty, ugly cry-face, and I have felt overwhelmed and exhausted and  panicky.

But I have also felt elation and incredible joy.  I have felt a deeper connection to humanity in all its forms - somehow, motherhood has bound me all to all mothers everywhere - and a sense of inching closer to the bravery of knowing myself,  warts and all.  I feel changed. I am locked to these kids and this man for my lifetime, and the massive, incredible, wondrous idea of this family of ours is at the centre of who I am.

One foot in front of the other, one snotty ugly cry-face at a time, we step into the future together.

Thank you for sharing this year with me.


Monday, December 17, 2012

The Disappearing Woman (or Emotional Postcards from a Mother on Holidays)

I burst into tears today, for the second time these holidays. The first time was 2 days in, when I realised that I would not be leaving the housework behind for two weeks, but rather increasing its scope by being away from my normal systems and equipment and adding three naughty parrots to my feed-and-water-and-worry-about list.

Today I cried after a little jaunt down to the shops. Basically, I keep failing to learn my lesson that a mother of three kids under seven should not leave the house. And several citizens decided to let me know that this morning.

It was hot. Georgie was grumpy. Ted switched between running headlong at full pelt and dragging his heels in slow-mo. All I wanted was a coffee before we got to the park. In fact I was likely imbuing the coffee with the impossible task of turning my whole morning around.  I tried and failed to find Georgie a sun-hat, while preventing Ted from spinning the hat-display at warp speed. Public shouting happened. Then Ivy spotted a wishing tree covered  in labels. There was a box with pens and string, and so I let her write a wish while we waited on the footpath. George tried to fight her way out of the stroller and Teddy got under the feet of every passerby, but I stood my ground. I often feel, with three kids, that mothering involves meeting the needs of each, one at a time, while the other two wait, frustrated, for their moment of warm and intimate attention.

Ivy wrote this note: 'I wish I was grown up so I cood be a acstronart'.

Then, some wrinkle in the universal fabric had three senior citizens, one at a time,  stroll past to disapprove of my parenting. Each of them did the same trick, where they speak only to the baby, and not me. 'Oh, you're very hot, aren't you darling? You want to get out of this sun, don't you?' Quick sideways glance at the bad mama, and off they trot. Three! In a row!

Fuck off, grandma, I thought to myself as we pushed sweatily off down the road. I bought all three kids a 'natural' ice-block, which distinguished itself from its'unnatural' counterparts by being twice as expensive and half as big. We headed to the park and stopped at the cafe outside for my coffee, the one shining moment of the morning, the one aspect of the outing that was based around my own needs, and while I waited, the big kids sat at the pinball machine. I watched them a bit nervously - ice-creams and all that - but they were fine. Nearly finished. No dramas.

'Small latte,  no sugar' called the barista. 'That's me, ' I said, but my 'thank-you' smile froze on my lips as he added loudly, playing to the crowd,  'Now get out before they melt everywhere.'

At the park, the contempt in his voice repeated in my head as I tried to manage the kids with a hard little lump of shame in my throat.'Now GET GET OUT'...' It was a hopeless outing. George is obsessed with the swings, and as much as I tried to lead her back towards the dog bowl at the tap (her other love), she fought out of my arms and staggered like a lemming towards the swings, both of which were in use.  I had to chase her, scoop her out of the way of flying feet, and carry her back to the dog bowl, where she struggled out of my arms and then ran to certain death once more. She already has a bruised, swollen and bloody nose from a fall yesterday; this independent baby that will not hold my hand.

Finally I called an end to the madness. Teddy wiled about the unfairness of life all the way back to the car, and I burst into tears when we got home. Being in the moment is overrated, I thought wildly.  The good parts of holidays with kids lie in the planning, and the reminiscing later. The present sucks!  In the moment, the baby is running into the surf, and the big kids are falling off the slippery dip and making an obscene amount of mess and there is no milk and somebody is whinging 'I'm hungry.' In short, I am constantly battling with my own selfishness: where is my holiday, dammit? 

It's nothing original. Any woman's blues, you might say. In fact I think mums all over the country might be having this same little meltdown right about now.Keith is working half the time while we are up here, holed up at his desk writing code and doing....physics....thing (trails off ). When he's off duty,  he is full of energy for the beach and the babies. He's a great partner. But I've lost my mojo. I am going for a massage this morning to tackle the pain in my body, and I might ask if the massage therapist can do a little adjusting of my attitude too.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Accidental Party Babies

This column was originally published in Practical Parenting Magazine, November 2012

      A long time ago, Keith and I got kicked out of a nightclub to which we had inadvertently taken our newborn baby. It sounds like something you would only do once, but recently, we sort of did it again. We took all three kids to a late-night music concert.  By accident.  

      On the whole, we don’t like leaving the house, but the Holly Throsby kids show sounded like a fun family night out. We love her CD. Unfortunately, this show wasn’t for kids.  Nope, it was an adult gig, in a drafty hall, featuring two interminable support acts and uncomfortable chairs. You might imagine that by ten pm our three kids under six were getting a little ratty.

      I had stuffed up, big time.  We really had to exit, but even then, Keith and I pushed things just one step too far. ‘Two more songs?’ we mouthed to each other. During the next number things were going beautifully. The baby was asleep in my arms, the sweet faces of the big two gazed at the stage as they curled up against their dad, and people in surrounding rows were glancing and smiling at us. I felt like a total funky hipster mama.  But we were on borrowed time. As the notes for the second song began, it all fell apart dramatically.

       ‘I – haffa -go-hoooome!’ said three-year-old T-Bone suddenly, and burst into noisy tears.  He woke the baby, who started to cry too. Keith and I looked at each other in horror and quickly started to gather our obscene pile of possessions – slings, nappy bags, snack packs, handbags, hats, and jackets, while the wailing rose in pitch and volume.  Eventually Holly Throsby had to stop the show. She made a few gentle jokes, and the whole audience watched as we wrangled our weeping, stumbling pile of children down the aisle.

       ‘Worst parents ever,’ I joked weakly in apology. ’Coolest parents ever!’ shouted one kind and deluded bastard down the back.  Thanks, buddy, I thought.  I’ll hold that close to my heart tomorrow as I fold washing and listen to Radio National in my fluffy bed socks.

        And then, there was the incident of the baby in the nightclub.  When our eldest daughter Peanut was born, she preferred screaming over sleep.  Breastfeeding was difficult to establish, and the whole experience was a massive shock. When Peanut was three weeks old, my best friend had a dinner for her birthday. Keith and I decided it was time to discard our stained tracksuit pants, and take the baby on her first night out.   
Unfortunately, the restaurant turned out to be a cocktail bar in Kings Cross. 

        After parking, we had to walk the main strip with tiny Peanut clutched to Keith’s shoulder.  Strip club bouncers heckled us as we passed, and things went from bad to worse when we found the bar and went inside to tell my friend Lucy that we couldn’t stay. The bouncer followed us in and tapped me on the shoulder. ‘You can’t have that baby in here,’ he said slowly, looking carefully into my eyes as though he was talking to a psychiatric patient. ‘Yes, yes, of course,’ I said, ashamed. We retraced our steps, back past the hookers and the winos and the bikers, home to the lounge room, where we put our tracksuit pants back on, ate a pizza and toasted our tiny daughter, who had just gotten kicked out of her first nightclub. I only hope it’s not a portent of the future. 

Monday, December 10, 2012

Rancho Relaxo.

Here we are, in Lennox Head; parrot, chicken and guinea-pig sitting.

Keith, Ivy, Teddy and George are fast asleep, it's raining heavily, and the grass outside is an intense, psychedelic green. The rooster is crowing, the parrots are squawking grumpily and a cow just wandered past the front gate. She's looking for higher ground. We were going to swim today, but instead, the weather is dictating DVD's and books and toast and Miles Davis. Maybe a little rainy drive into Byron Bay or Bangalow this afternoon.

George has discovered the chickens water bowl, just hours after she became obsessed with the dogs water bowl at the park. She thinks life could not get better. 

Ivy is beach-shaggy and loving sleeping in a big girls top bunk. 

 Keith, exhausted from the last year, is sleeping as much as he can and he has, over the last five years, learned how to sleep through ANYTHING. 

Teddy has found a book that combines two of his great loves: cooking and Winnie-The-Pooh. 

Late yesterday afternoon, Keith and I sat out on the grass drinking wine while all three kids chased rabbits in the nude. Teddy fed peanuts to the parrots, Ivy practised skateboarding and Georgette, always happiest outside,  pottered around and babbled noisily.

As for me, I'm enjoying the personality of these parrots, determined to find where the chickens are hiding their eggs, reading the gorgeous cookbooks in the house, looking forward to watching Anne Of Green Gables with my big girl and feeling the holiday vibe creep into my bones...

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Lotsa Action, Less Pain.

Oops, I think I worried my mother and my sister with that last post. I am fine, I tell you. Nothing permanent or serious happened, just a bad couple of days with no opportunity to pause and recover. It's the crazy season. Everybody's losing it! And pain sucks. And also,  this blog is a built-in self pity platform when it is all getting a bit too much. (Thank you for indulging me.)

The days roll on in constant activity.

Our trip up the coast (house, parrot and chicken-sitting) is only two days away and I am nothing more than an epic to-do list. Teacher gifts are made and wrapped, suitcases are nearly packed, road-trip fun-bags are fully stocked, and Christmas is almost wrapped and carded and hidden away (we arrive home on Christmas Eve).

Right now I am downloading The Wizard of Oz (read by Anne Hathaway) onto CD for the long car trip ahead, as well as Keith Richards autobiography Life (read by Johnny Depp, thank you and goodnight) for Keith and I to enjoy during those long, peaceful hours while all three kids sleep. (Delusional you say? I prefer 'optimistic'.). We've got Serge Gainsborough and ABBA and the Cat In The Hat and sticker books and Cut The Rope on the phone. I think we will just limp over the finish line to hit the road, and soon after that, the beach.


Monday, December 3, 2012

Spirit Willing: Flesh Weak.

I'm in recovery this week after a trip to town for the last of this mega-series of 40th birthday parties. Crushingly, during three out of four of them I have had to retire injured, and my inner party animal is having to face some painful truths.

This last party was 1972 themed and my friend Emma-Jane went all out with spectacular vintage Woman's Weekly finger food, including a bowl of curried Nutri-Grain. It was so revitalizing to see old friends, so good for the soul to have catch-up conversations and belly laughs and cocktails.

But I started to fall apart half-way in. The problem is that I live out of town so I'd had an evil 3-hour traffic-jammed trip in, and my body betrayed me. There was a terrible moment, when I had to sing for the crowd to  start off our sort of flash-mob birthday performance and an hour before, I was fully up for it. I was ready to commit to an earnest, nobby delivery that would have Emma feeling painfully worried for me, before the crowd burst in to save me from social suicide.

But when the time came for the speeches, I felt awful. The grinding pain in the middle of my back was making me feel sick, and the humidity was intensifying my queasiness. I felt trapped - I couldn't engage in conversation, but I couldn't exit the party. I can't sing, I thought. Fuck, I can't not. I have to sing.

Do. Not. Spew, I told myself as I climbed the little stairs, and got through the song. It was more shaky than comedic, but I didn't throw up. After that I lay down in Emma's room for an hour or so, and rallied again to chat and hang out at the end. I was so happy to talk to old friends, but I felt, and still feel, a seething, angry emotional reaction to the incident. Part humiliation,  part anger, part fear of the future.

Sometimes having a bad back - or any kind of chronic illness, I imagine - is like being trapped in a tiny room with an obnoxious relative. One minute, you're hanging out the washing, or baking a cake, whistling quietly to yourself and thinking about peanuts, when bang! You're in the stinky, airless, uncomfortable closet again with Uncle Trevor. You are stuck. You cannot un-have a relationship with them.  You cannot get out.  You just have to wait until they move a little further away from you, and give you a little space to breathe.


To breathe.

Soon, I hope.

I wish you all the same. x