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 OUT....now 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.


24 comments:

  1. That barista is a horrible person, I hope the holiday gets much much better.

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    1. It always starts getting better after you have a big meltdown Lila I think....and I agree, he was a dickweed. xx

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  2. Parenting is hard work. The barista needs a good kick in the shins. And, you are doing an amazing job, even when it feels like the world is falling down around your ears.

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    1. I thought of you actually V, and your breastfeeding hater. Maybe they're all out this month?

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  3. Shy long time reader delurking here to say...that barista is clearly a complete ass. At least your readers around the world now know that:)

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  4. Just because it's not original doesn't mean it doesn't count!
    I am sorry to hear about those encounters with such impolite and rude people. I see it that way: you went to the shops and you managed to get yourself a coffee with three kids in tow AND you went to the park with them - all in hot weather! And that, in my opinion, is a great achievement. Bravo!

    I hope the holidays get better and the massage helps with the pain!

    Fine

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  5. I agree with the other comments, people are VERY annoying and should keep their remarks to themselves. It has been said before, but, it seems that from the minute you start to show in your first pregnancy suddenly people feel entitled to comment on your baby/children/life! I also think your trip out with three kids (in a foreign environment also) sounds like a huge achievement. I have one 2 year old and an 8 month old and would not attempt such a trip in my own city, much less on holiday! Brava!

    Cat ( I am a long time reader/lurker, love your blog always honest, well written and hilarious, thanks for making the effort)

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    1. Thanks so much Cat. Its true that somehow babies are a conversation-opener...they are often the catalyst to encounters with benevolent strangers too, and I love that. But it's always when I am having a rough day that the meanies come out.

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  6. You know what? You are such a kick-arse writer.
    AND mother. Boo to the snarky barista.

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    1. Thanks KK. Let's hope the next set of kids in his joint pass on some day-care gastro.

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  7. What is it about Grandmas? They are either wonderful, or not so much. I had one try to rouse on Chet for moving chairs, at my father's wake. Chet was 2 and the only kid there, she was a church lady who was making sandwiches for the wake ... I let her have it, in very polite terms and she pulled her head in but still ... I hope the massage helps xx

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    1. OK Meliss that story beats all. I am so glad you toold her off. Love to little Chet xx

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  8. Oh darling! I hate to feel uplifted by your misfortune but it makes me feel much better that I'm not alone. I was shouted at by some woman at swimming lessons after Griff got a bit too amorous with her child and it ruined the next 3 days. I really hope you get a bit of Rach time soon xc

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    1. Thank you so much for that Chrystie. My day has improved just by the thought of Griff pashing in a rashie. I am feeling much much better. x

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  9. What is it with old people and their erroneous belief that they have a god-given right to comment on the parenting skills of others. Damn their eyes. I thought it was only French crones, I am continually being told that my kids will die of cold or get run over. Recently one old dear told me that I deserved to have someone snatch my child. I have started to answer back, I'm sick and tired of being harangued by complete strangers. Most parents are already tough enough on themselves without others ploughing on in.

    I also have hopeless outings too. The triumph of hope over experience. Only I don't possess your great skill for writing them up in an entertaining and amusing way. I hope it provides you with some catharsis, obviously the experience itself is anything but...

    Yours in sympathy and soon to be solidarity. Bx

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    1. Somehow, I imagine the French crones as much, much more terrifying.I could never be sure they were not about to start beating one across the head with a baguette...

      And all of parenting is the triumph of hope over experience, maybe. Blind, hopeful optimism...

      Hope you are feeling well. x

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  10. I do love your way with words Rachael. Even when (especially when) they are tales of woe. The intensity and the struggle of just getting through the day with young kids in tow. I hope the universe throws you some relaxing pain free days, filled with encounters with kind helpful strangers and easy breezy happy kids.

    rachel xo

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    1. Thanks Rach! Things are looking up (just as we prepare to go home.)x

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  11. Oh man, I would have let that barista have it! What a despicable human being.

    It's definitely not easy taking children out of the house, especially three of them. Hurrah to you and boo to the old fuddies, they should really mind their own beeswax. x

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    1. One day he will have kids Anna....and then his karma will arrive. Hope all is well with you and your fat belly. xx

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  12. Just found your blog and I love it! Silly old people, working the guilt trap! Hope your holidays get better x Michelle

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