There is some side-splitting stuff written about parenting these days. If you come across something amusing, even if it only elicits a smile, send it to me to share on this site.
Let’s face it; most kids love to cook and it can be a wonderfully rich learning experience for them. There’s oral language, reading, counting, weighing, measuring; the list goes on.
Unfortunately, for some parents, having fun in the kitchen with their offspring is like trying to enjoy a visit to the tax office; you’re left feeling frazzled and stressed out.
As a parent and an early childhood teacher, I have done my fair share of cooking with little ones. Making lamingtons with a class of eight-year-olds is something that will haunt me forever! With children in the kitchen, keep in mind the old adage, ‘it’s not the product but the process’, and forget about perfection for a short time. Instead, remember the 3 Ps; patience, patience and more patience.
1. Never assume
When cooking with kids, the golden rule is to assume nothing. Here are a few basic things to discuss with your little cherub before you even begin to reach for the recipe book:
2. Take care with measurements
Measuring ingredients does offer some great learning opportunities for your child, but always double check kiddy cup measurements, particularly the fractious fractions. One and three quarter cups of flour can quickly become a mountain of white if Junior reads it as 134 cups. Likewise, once the third cup of milk has gone into the quiche, it’s too late to explain it should have been a third of a cup.
Spoon measurements should be reasonably straight forward, unless there is a mix up between teaspoons and tablespoons. One and a half tablespoons of baking soda creates quite a different version of Devil’s Food Cake than the usual one and a half teaspoons. More like Devil’s Food Soap, than the traditional delight.
Don’t forget to check that your child clearly understands the differences between kilograms and grams before you embark on a jam making session. If not for yourself, do it for the jam!
3. Beware the look-a-like foods
Why do so many different tasting foods have to look so similar, especially to young eyes? The problem is exacerbated by neat people who like to put ingredients into unmarked containers (guilty as charged). This leads to salt being mistaken for sugar (nasty in a cup of tea, disastrous in a dessert), cocoa for drinking chocolate, or even worse, drinking chocolate for gravy mix. While I have to admit this created a truly original tasting casserole, the consistency left a little to be desired.
Top of the list of food tricksters would have to be the flour twins; Messrs P. and S.R. Flour. While some recipes stipulate which twin is required, others just assume this knowledge comes to all cooks innately. This is a characteristic quite unknown to most young children, who figure one flour is the same as another. The scones never did rise to the occasion, but they did make wonderful door stoppers.
4. Substitute at your peril
If you’re a haphazard shopper, you probably find you often haven’t quite got the right ingredients. Run out of castor sugar? With your extensive culinary skills, this is not a big problem. You know exactly which recipes you can substitute brown sugar in and which ones you most definitely can’t. Ditto for margarine and butter, cream and yoghurt, and of course, the many vegetables that are interchangeable in stews, casseroles and stir fries.
Children naively continue on this merry substitution game. They soon discover that boiled carrots can’t really replace pumpkin in a fruit cake, cream cheese spread is wonderful on sandwiches, but not so good in cheesecakes and soaking chicken in a maple syrup/barbecue sauce combo, really isn’t the same as a genuine honey soy marinade.
Of course, the biggest trap for the inexperienced substitution cook is the insurmountable difference between brewer’s yeast and baker’s yeast. Try an interchange and you have Tiger’s Milk which is no longer a wonderfully healthy concoction brimming with vitamin B, but a ravening beast waiting to overtake your refrigerator. Okay, I’ll admit to that blooper, but I was only 14 at the time.
5. Forget Creative cookery
If you are a free spirit who likes to create culinary masterpieces outside the confines of a recipe, please do this in the privacy of your own kitchen, without young eyes present. I know what you’re going to say; creative cooking is great for kid’s lateral development and imagination. It can also quickly lead to parent overload.
Sweet and sour is one thing; curried pikelets, garlic ice-cream and strawberry pizza are quite another. Beetroot juice does make a pretty pink icing, adding ice cubes to the pastry is a very innovative way to keep it cool and combining corn chips and milk does create an interesting texture. It’s just that there isn’t a lot of call for salad sponges, igloo pastry or nachos milkshakes!
For peace of mind and ease of stomach, encourage the children to express their creative urges at the easel, sandpit, playroom…anywhere really, as long as it’s not the kitchen.
6. Be specific
Remember that ambiguity in the kitchen can lead to the creation of some very nasty things. Never tell a child to make the biscuit icing ‘nice and runny’. That’s exactly what I got; icing that could have run a marathon. It had the consistency of hot chocolate and soaked straight through the slice and out the other side.
Many ingredients can be softened in the microwave to make it easier to beat; think butter, margarine, even cream cheese. Using a child’s logic, other cold items would also be improved by a quick whirl in the microwave. The jam and cream managed to survive the nuclear holocaust; unfortunately the eggs never made it.
The ingredients for bread and pastry are very similar, but I’m sure I explained that while all doughs are created equally, some are more equal than others. I must have been a little vague on that point, because my ‘treat bread dough mean to keep it keen’ philosophy was transposed to the pastry, resulting in a pie shell with the delicacy of a thong.
Of course, once children get older, you can afford to be a bit less vigilant. They can be relied on to chop up onions without adding too much finger to the stew and stir the custard before it sticks to the saucepan. Even then, however, some recipes can be quite confusing for the novice cook. Take the mocha cheesecake which required ‘one cup of strong, black coffee’. That’s exactly what went into the mixture; one cup of strong, black coffee powder.
These cautionary tales aren’t meant to paralyse you with fear, but to inspire you to grab your child and head for the kitchen. The odd burnt cake, broken egg or inedible quiche may eventuate, but the dog is sure to appreciate these little mistakes. Who knows what culinary delights may emerge? Remember, even Jamie Oliver and Nigella Lawson were kids once.
Our son has recently entered the teenage years and so far we have survived. Whether that is through good management or good luck, I don’t know. Whatever the reason, I am compelled to write down some of the changes that have occurred.
No, not the usual puberty stuff – pimples, deeper voice, body hair – everyone knows that. I mean the real changes, the ones they don’t write about in the glossy parenting books.
So, your little cherub is about to turn 13, what can you expect?
Lots of things really, and none endearing to a parent’s heart.
Still, it’s not all doom and gloom. As 13 heralds a new age when your teenager suddenly knows absolutely everything, you no longer have to worry about putting aside money for university. Who needs tertiary education when they are experts on life? And yes, the grocery bill will go up, but this is offset by the savings you’ll make on the fruit and vegetables that are no longer required.
Looking back, our son had been practicing for his entry into teenagehood for the last couple of years; lounging around reading, playing on the computer for hours on end and sleeping in on weekends. His 13th birthday was ushered in with a simple comment, “I’ve finally reached the age where being a sloth is mandatory”.
Remember you were a teenager once too and beneath that rude, arrogant exterior lurks a decent human being. And for all their surly comments and egotistical ways, you love them just as much – just don’t try and tell them that when their friends are visiting.
Lassie doesn’t lie (and other reasons raising a dog is not the same as parenthood)
Parents, stop me if you’ve heard this: You’re at a social gathering, out of the house and kid-free for the first time in months, and one of your friends says it’s so good to see you, which is usually code for where the hell have you been, we almost put up flyers. You lead in with the old standby excuse—which is actually the Gospel truth—you were home with the kids.
Your friend nods, then almost immediately counters, “Yeah, I know what it’s like, with Hindenburg and Hilda at home,” before thrusting a smart phone into your face featuring dozens of pictures of their twin black-and-tan dachshunds, almost invariably in costumes. You smile, even giggle a bit when you see the same pained resignation in each photo—dachshunds dressed as fire trucks, as spiders, ashamed to be seen in homemade versions of those wacky spiked helmets from World War I. Then it happens: your friend wraps up the slideshow, smiles and says, These are our fur babies. We love them just as much. We think of them as our children.
You grimace a bit when you hear it, the granddaddy of false equivalencies, then spackle a grin on your face as you sarcastically ask yourself if your friend is also planning a canine college fund or worries about Hilda the dachshund being subjected to street harassment, discrimination in the workplace or sexual assault. No, once they have kids, very few pet owners ever make the ‘my pets are my kids’ claim again.
In fact, the last time I stopped the family stroller to admire a drowsy Labradoodle puppy, my three-year-old in the front seat instantly begin wailing DADDY! A PUPPY! IT’S SLEEPING!…. DADDY! DADDY! DADDY! the volume increasing with each non-response as he manically tried to Houdini himself free from the straps.
Meanwhile, the five-month-old on the child carrier hanging from my shoulders was pushing her entire hand into her mouth, spit bubbles spilling out onto us both like a pot bubbling over on the stove. When she finally saw that she had my attention, she let loose with the bat-like gurgle-scream of her people. As I held the puppy, which was somehow still asleep, at no point did I think, Yeah, this is just like having a kid!
Now I get it—to the child-free, the analogy seems plausible, even realistic. And in some respects, they have the ghost of a point—having a pet is halfway decent training for having a kid. After all, if you can’t raise a dog, you’re going to have a hell of a time with a kid. Before I had kids, I even made the fateful claim myself—but I was wrong. Here are just a few of the reasons why.
Children are far, far more difficult than pets
And I say this having owned pets with serious health problems, pets with behavior issues, pets neurotic enough to merit their own entries in the DSM-V. We currently have two dogs. One is a rescue, a terrier-poodle-mystery-mix. When we got her, she was missing most of her teeth due to abuse, was afraid of loud noises and sudden gestures and was soon diagnosed with heart failure. (Thanks to heart medications, she’s still around!)
Because of her incredibly matted and thick fur, she also bore an uncanny resemblance to either an Ewok or a tiny Bigfoot. Inexplicably, she was initially named Serena. I also have a dachshund, which is like choosing to live with a small sausage-shaped German tyrant, except instead of the Schlieffen Plan and (very) extended vacations to France every few decades, he has a never-ending obsession with tennis balls.
I love my dogs, and they are a lot of work (especially the doxie). Walking our dogs can be especially tricky, thanks to their constant leash crossing (they zigzag so much you’d think they were part of a World War II convoy), but it’s downright relaxing compared to taking a toddler and an infant on a walk, which is like some sort of nightmare level of Paperboy.
Now we have a strict hand-holding policy near any place where there might be traffic—but that doesn’t do much to allay my fear of cars. That’s the thing: when you’re a new parent, you develop a whole suite of phobias on behalf of your child. Each phase of development has its own corresponding fears.
When the kid is brand new (especially if it’s your first), you live in almost constant fear, because every noise and activity is entirely unfamiliar. They might be crying because they are hungry, but it also could be a death rattle. You just don’t know, so you do what every parent does: internally panic, then force yourself to identify the kid’s problem and solve it. When the kid gets older though—especially when they’re ambulatory—your fears multiply exponentially, because the whole world becomes a potential threat.
Now you can’t let all these fears get to you—you can’t shield your kid from the world because the world certainly won’t shield itself from them—but certain fears are justified. As a parent, I’m basically terrified of cars. The reason should be obvious: physics. Cars are essentially chunks of highly refined ore moving at great speed. No matter how much he likes to pretend otherwise, my son is neither Queen Elsa nor Captain America. Despite this, he’ll occasionally snatch his hand loose on our walks, and I worry about a potential mad dash to the road. The traffic in our rural area doesn’t help as it usually consists of massive pickups doing forty down a residential street or squadrons of teenagers buzzing past in their 1997 Grand Ams, their custom exhaust kits making the neighborhood sound like the Battle of Britain was going on overhead.
There are other worries, too. The kid’s three and loves animals, so he runs toward every ‘nice doggie’ even when it’s roaming free and snarling like a hyena and may or may not be off its shift from guarding the gates of hell. (We’re working on this)
You can talk to your kid, and eventually, they’ll talk back
Dogs can understand some commands, and cats can too, but prefer to feign total ignorance, forcing us to wait on them. Children are a wee bit different. I can guarantee the following: When you tell Mr. Waggles that he’s a good boy after bringing back the tennis ball, at no point has he stopped what he was doing, cocked his head to the side, and asked “Why?”
Why may be the defining word of human existence; the gateway to curiosity, it’s the original spur for such endeavors as philosophy, science and literature. For the parent of a toddler, it’s also the worst word in the English language. Why, you ask? Well, when it comes to toddlers (and from what I gather, older children as well), questions develop at an exponential rate. They ask a question, you provide an answer, and then ask for an explanation of your answer. I refer to this as why squared; by itself, it’s jarring enough. But this usually augurs an endless cycle of increasingly impossible-to-answer questions. It’s equal parts legitimate knowledge acquisition and a Stanley Milgram-like social experiment.
I’ve experienced this nearly constantly lately. My son will ask a question—for example, I fielded the typical “Why is the sky blue?” yesterday. I’m a huge, huge nerd, so I usually have a pretty good idea how to answer most of his questions. If I don’t, I know how to find out the answer. But even if you know the literal answer to the question, duh, it’s Rayleigh Scattering, kid, you can’t just start spouting off about Lord Rayleigh and sunlight scattering because of molecules in the atmosphere.
No, instead you have to explain it at their level, and this can prove almost impossible, given that you’ll have to reveal some pretty weighty truths about the universe. The other day, my little guy had to go the doctor because we suspected an ear infection, and when he asked why we were going the doctors, I tried to explain the concept. This did not go well.
Dad: Well, there are small animals all over the place, but they are too tiny to see.
Child: What?! ANIMALS?!
Dad: Yep, they are all around us, and most of them are friends. But sometimes, they can be naughty.
Child: What did they do? Are they bad listeners?
Dad: Sort of, but they can make your ear hurt, so you need to get medicine.
Child: Oh, OK. Dad, what kind of animals are they?
Dad: Well, they’re…
Child, interjecting: Are they bears?! Lions?
At this point, I gave up, as I had convinced my son that he was surrounded by an invisible zoo. And sure enough, when the doctor walked into the exam room, the first thing my son told her was, “I have tiny naughty animals in my ear!”
Kids will prank you; pets will not
When your kid starts telling fibs, and then outright joking just to get a reaction, it’s a strange new world. Our little guy’s jokes started small. He’d reverse our names, and then cackle like a madman, but he soon graduated to telling ‘pretend’ stories, which he’d then announce with “I TEASING!” and a burst of manic laughter. The problem is, children have zero sense of boundaries. They have the comedic impulses of tiny Gilbert Gottfrieds, usually aiming for laughs from the most taboo subjects. An example: as I was changing our little guy (who at the time had just started potty training), and he looked at me very seriously and then yelled, “DADDY! I POOPED ON GRANDMA’S FACE!”
He’s a toddler, and there had been near-disasters in diaper changes before, so this was at least somewhat plausible, and I was horrified. He immediately broke into a grin and yelled, “I TEASING.” Since then, he has joked about biting kids at daycare (not true), the dog biting him (not true), and worst of all, being really, really tired and wanting a nap (sadly not true).
Often, this bad behavior is simply to elicit a reaction or get attention—we realized that our little guy was misbehaving when we used our cell phones or computers, so we’ve now banished such devices until after his bedtime, helping solve the issue.
Sometimes, however, it’s an almost perverse sense of curiosity. For example, it is one of the great ironies of parenting that you have to spend months teaching your kids how to use the toilet and once you do, you need to prevent them from throwing things into said toilet for no reason almost every day for the next several years. And as you fish out the various objects, they attempt to understand why you’re so frustrated, almost inexorably leading to a discussion of gravity-powered plumbing systems with someone wearing a Mickey Mouse Clubhouse T-shirt.
Your dog may bite you, and your cat may scratch you, but your pet will never gong you in the head with a Fisher Price plastic toy just to get a reaction out of you
You know that old saying, ‘What can’t kill me makes me stronger?’ First of all, that’s completely untrue. I’m pretty sure a terrible muscle-wasting disease doesn’t, in fact, make you stronger. And neither will being cold-cocked by some Fisher Price firepower.
It’ll hurt though—that plastic is sturdy enough to survive atmospheric re-entry—and if your kid connects, it’ll probably elicit a litany of swear words longer than an ocean liner. Perversely, when you get hurt, you have your child’s complete attention. I don’t know why this is. If I want my kid to stop what I’m doing, all I need is to fall down. Pratfalls will make him laugh, but only an actual fall (and the resulting grimacing and half-cursing) will make him stop in his tracks and stare. At moments like that, it wouldn’t matter if Anna, Elsa and Olaf and fifty-seven trolls appeared and spontaneously broke into “Let It Go.” He wouldn’t care.
Given that you don’t want your toddler to turn into the ringleader of the Pow-Pow-Powerwheels version of Hells Angels, you might attempt to avoid using a swear word even after you’ve already loudly exclaimed its first syllable. In my experience, you use whatever words come to mind: SHeep! Mother’s FUDGE ROUNDS. If you pull it off, your kid will just think you’re being silly. If you swear in front of them, there’s a 99.95 per cent chance they will repeat it for the better part of an afternoon.
Even when your dog has been bad, you still like them
The saying, ‘I’ll always love you, but I won’t always like you’ is apt for marriage and parenting, but not for pet rearing.
It’s hard not to like a dog. Even when they’ve done something bad, they don’t do it on purpose. Sure, they might look guilty for a minute or two, but they’ll quickly forget about it, as if to say, “OHGOSH, I didn’t mean to shit on the sofa. Hey, I have an idea, let’s play fetch! Also, do you know what your face needs? DOG SALIVA!”
When it comes to your kid, you’ll always love them, more than anything on the planet. But believe me, there will be times where you won’t like them all that much. When a kid is in the terrible twos (and beyond!), misbehaving is a veritable pastime, and they do it in large part just to see what you’ll do. You can see this in their expression. I’ll tell my son not to do something—standing on his chair at dinner, say—and he’ll make a big show about standing up very slowly on his char, and then he’ll look back at me and smirk, as if to say What now?
Once this phase starts, these challenges to authority happen, at least initially, all the time. While I’m sure it’s some crucial phase of social development, it’s also maddening. It’s like living with a tiny Aaron Burr challenging you to a duel here, now there, now at the dinner table about whether or not he’ll eat all of his yogurt. Your cat, I can promise you, will never do anything similar.
I’m on all fours, with my forehead squashed into a blue yoga mat. I can smell toast. I mean, really strongly. My husband’s asked, no, begged, for a heat pack three times already and I’m pretty sure I just heard the nurse say, “Just a minute, I’m making Patient X toast”.
Toast? I’m in labour here! Surely there’s no time for toast?!
A wave of pain racks me and I hear myself bellow like a dying cow. This isn’t just pain. It feels like Chainsaw Massacre married Hangover Headache and had a baby called Yanking Your Womb Out Of Your Body Via Your Bottom.
My husband is hovering. He’s wearing Reassuring-Worried Face, and patting the small of my back in wide arcs, the way we practised in birth class. I grunt my approval in between bellows and wafts of Corridor Toast Odour.
I’m trying to remember all those lovely techniques my prenatal yoga teacher taught us. The ones her Previous-Student-Who-Had-An-Amazing-Natural-Birth-Despite-Her-Baby-Being-As-Big-As-A-House came in specially to advocate. Dancing Cat, that will definitely help. I rock my pelvis in circles, until another contraction takes over. Now I am sobbing into my mat, still sans heat pack, cursing Toast and All Those Who Consume It.
Eventually a cheery midwife brings the promised heat pack. I clutch it to my belly like a miser clutches his jewels. It does nothing, but it’s ok because Cheery Midwife announces I am going to be Hooked Up To A Machine.
Finally! A machine! Machines are comforting. They make Beeping Sounds. The machine will know what to do. I clamber onto the bed and howl at another contraction. Machine does its thing. Cheery Midwife frowns and pulls my husband aside. Later, I will learn that my contraction just maxxed out the machine.
“There”s a woman next door who’s crowning. Her contractions haven’t gone anywhere near that high. Your wife’s only at 2cm.”
My husband swaps Reassuring-Worried Face for plain old Worried Face. More mindless pain. Cheery Midwife suggests a bath. They haul me to the tub. I wait for the Delicious Relaxation waterbirth proponents describe. The water is wet, I am slippery. I can”t grip the bath during contractions because I am wet and the bath is slippery. Another two contractions. My face in the bathroom mirror is grey and horrifying. We all agree the bath is Not A Success. I clamber out and put on my bra, before another contraction throws thoughts of clothing out the window.
Now I am Pantless. I decide to take advantage of the situation and use the toilet. In the frenzy of labour, I’ve forgotten my grandmother’s rule: Go Before You Leave The House. I perch on the edge of the toilet. I really need to wee.
I never get the chance; Contractions On Toilet are even more uncomfortable than Contractions In Bath. I claw my way back to the bed where I can better brace myself. I still need to go, but the contractions are coming too quickly.
Red-black pain crashes over me, relentless. I slither back to Yoga Mat. There’s a voice in my ear. A new midwife is pressing her forehead to mine. She’s a bit past middle aged, all curves and creases, with a mellifluous Caribbean accent and kind eyes.
She gives me pethidine. It barely dulls the pain, but makes me teary, which sets off my husband and Mellifluous Midwife. For a few minutes we are one big blubbery, loved-up muddle. The midwife is cuddling us and not in a weird way.
By the time the doctor (glamorous as hell, in six-inch heels and dangly earrings) arrives, I’ve already started pushing. The Urge To Push is primal. It sweeps me along like some terrible tidal force. Baby wants out.
But baby’s not coming out. I’m pushing with every shred of my strength, I’m slick with sweat, I’m screaming. I’m almost certainly putting Patient X off her toast.
My husband becomes the Puck of the Delivery Room. Like magic, he’s freaking everywhere. Even in my pain-crazed state I can see the midwives want him to take a job there. One of them actually offers him a job there.
And then suddenly, it happens. I shriek it aloud, like some terrible unnecessary voiceover. I can’t stop it. Failed Bathroom Break has come back to haunt me. I’m weeing. I’m weeing all over the bed, all over myself.
All over Glamorous Doctor.
And to think I’d put on makeup – makeup !? – this morning. Everyone knows you don’t get dolled up to wee on someone.
Days later, I’m leaving the hospital, with Magic Puck Husband supporting my arm and Flawless Little Person in tow (ok, not quite flawless: he took two hours to decide he’d rather take the Emergency Exit than the open door).
I happen to glance over my birth report. I wish I hadn’t.
Because unlike all the Seamless Bedding Changes everyone pretended never happened, there it is, in black and white, etched in neat caps for all to see. My great shame. 1:40pm: Urinating While Pushing.
Tell anyone about this, and you’re toast.
Contrary popular belief, Schoolitis is not ‘inflammation of the school’.
A close relative of the virus Mondayitis, Schoolitis appears in our household every quarter. The disease is widespread across the average playground and pays no regard to age, gender, or spelling ability. Fortunately Schoolitis is not fatal, though the sufferer would like one to think so.
Onset of symptoms is rapid and may begin on the Sunday evening prior to returning to school. Occasionally the sufferer will appear well and healthy until Monday morning, or even until half an hour before the school run. Severity of symptoms in our household are inversely proportional to the time the child has been aware that school is looming, and can include headaches, tummy aches, obnoxious behaviour, wild behaviour, idiocy and inflammation or aggravation of siblings.
A multitude of factors contribute toward the onset of Schoolitis, the biggest of which is usually known as ‘Going Back to the Grind’. The magical freedom from a timetable and release from being made to learn irrelevant facts has been over for a whole weekend or holiday and, unlike most diseases, the victim suffers withdrawals in anticipation. Added to this are particles of dread that cross the blood-brain barrier in reverse to run amok throughout the whole circulatory system and affect every part of the body; hence the onset of symptoms in the arms and legs (such as kicking one’s brothers, or picking the sultanas out of one’s cereal and throwing them at the dog).
Children who attend school are slightly more prone to infection than those who are home schooled. Children whose siblings exhibit negative attitudes toward school are not necessarily more or less at risk, despite parental concern over possible contagion. The highest risk group of all are all students at the end of holidays, and to a lesser degree, those nearing the end of weekends.
The ramifications of infection are widespread and involve, at current reckoning, every other person with whom the sufferer lives. There is of course an untold cost to the community when you factor in the impact on peers at school, and their own variations of Schoolitis may bring the disease to epidemic proportions. However, as most sufferers contain their symptoms for expression at home, accurate statistics are unknown.
Most parents are competent to diagnose a simple case of Schoolitis, especially if the condition disappears with the morning fog.
However, if symptoms persist, see your child’s class teacher. Schoolitis is a mild irritation brought about by the drudgery of reality, and should not be confused with other more serious complaints. Should your child persist in any of the above symptoms, it is well worth a visit to the teacher to rule out various forms of bullying, anxieties, boredom and the like. School teachers are wonderful people with vast experience of little humans and it is reasonable to conclude that as they don’t get paid enough, they are teaching for the love of it. For interest in their subjects and concern for the individuals in their charge, they cannot be rated highly enough.
The disease will run its course within one to two days with occasional re-infection over the weekends. Unfortunately even if parents are watchful the disease can sometimes defy all forms of counselling, vaccinations, or quarantine.
Administer plenty of cuddles and sympathy as required, and a large dose of patience. Serious lectures on unacceptable behaviour may bring on floods of tears in the sufferer and a sudden parental pang of conscience as you become aware of the underlying problem. Should this occur, double the cuddles and sympathy.
Remember too, what you felt like as a child on a Monday morning after holidays; or if you can’t, think of how you feel on returning to work after a break. After you have successfully delivered your child to school, reward yourself with a cup of tea and prepare to give some special time and attention to your child on their return home.
This is our first day back, and as predicted, one of my children had an acute attack of the dreaded Schoolitis, but he survived by the skin of his teeth and we made it to school on time. I assume, seeing he raced off to class without so much as a goodbye kiss, and returned this afternoon full of beans and jollification that he is feeling much happier now than he was at 8am, when he was trying to burn a hole in the floor by means of a ray of sunshine on a magnifying glass. The fact that it was a cheap plastic magnifying glass did not dilute Mummy’s displeasure and he received a small lecture on the benefits of Thinking About What You Are Doing, thus triggering a teary confession (“I only wanted to make a spot on the floor”) followed by a diatribe (“Reasons Why I Should Not Have to Be Educated”), before I realised it was a symptom of the quarterly disease. But now, as you can see, he has made a full recovery and his behaviour has settled back into no more than the usual level of mischief.
To conclude: Schoolitis, like head lice, is a commonly occurring problem in school aged children, but with the right approach may be successfully treated at home. Seek expert advice if symptoms persist.
Note: Language warning
A recent study has shown that if American parents read one more long-form think piece about parenting they will go fucking ape shit.
The study was conducted by Susan Waterson, a professor of behavioral psychology at the University of Massachusetts and the author of zero books, because, Waterson says, “another book at this point would just be cruel.” In the course of seven weeks, Waterson interviewed a hundred and twenty-seven families about their reaction to articles that begin with a wryly affectionate parenting anecdote, segue into a dry cataloguing of sociological research enlivened with alternately sarcastic and tender asides, and end with another wryly affectionate anecdote that aims to add a touch of irony or, failing at that, sentimentality. “I wasn’t looking to prove there was too much of this content,” Waterson said. “I’m a behaviorist, not a sociologist. Only one part of this equation interested me—the fucking-ape-shit part.”
Her study was focussed on families in central Massachusetts, but her findings were echoed by parents across the country.
Frieda Duntmore, a thirty-nine-year-old Baltimore-high-school teacher and the mother of twin six-year-old girls, recounted standing in line at a supermarket, reading a magazine article about how being a parent sucked, and then recalling that, that very morning, she’d read another article, which said that being a parent was awesome, and that anyone who didn’t have kids might as well just take their own life. “All of a sudden, I felt my skull start to split right down the middle. I put my hand up, and there was literally blood there.” Duntmore paid for her groceries and fled. “About fifteen minutes later, my skull pieced itself back together, so I figured I’d forget about it,” she said.
Paul Nickman, forty-five, was taking a coffee break at his Visalia, California, law office when he began to leaf through an article about the importance of giving kids real challenges. “They mentioned this thing called grit, and I was like, ‘O.K, great. Grit.’ Then I started to think about how, last year, I’d read that parents were making kids do too much and strive too hard, and ever since then we’ve basically been letting our kids, who are ten and six, sit around and stare into space.” Nickman called his wife and started to shout, “Make the kids go outside and get them to build a giant wall out of dirt and lawn furniture and frozen peas!” He added, “Get them to scale it, and then make them go to the town zoning board to get it permitted, but don’t let them know it was your idea!” Nickman has no idea how many minutes passed before he realized he was standing in a fountain outside a European Waxing Center, rending his clothes.
During Nickman’s three-day-long stay at U.C.L.A.’s psych ward, his wife, Anne, forty-four, brought him a pile of newspapers, one of which happened to briefly mention Waterson’s study. “I was so relieved,” Nickman said. “I turned to Anne and said, ‘I think I was just going fucking ape shit, that’s all.’ And Anne said, ‘I think I might be going fucking ape shit, too.’ ”
The Nickmans and Duntmore both got in touch with Waterson, and, following her advice, they began a protocol of recovery. They cancelled their Facebook accounts, and they go online only when absolutely necessary. If they leave their house, they wear horse blinders, which Waterson’s husband, an inventor, has adapted for human use, and which can be purchased on Waterson’s Web site. Upon greeting other parents, they hand out pre-printed cards (also available on their Web site) that read, “Please do not talk to me about my children or your children, or children, or schools, or schooling, or learning, or Tae Kwon Do, ballet., etc. Also, please ignore the horse blinders.”
“Most people just smile and walk away,” Duntmore said. “But, once in a while, someone wants to talk about Crimea, which is a treat.”
By Sarah Miller
So last weekend my husband and I had an apparent brain fart and decided that we would try taking both boys to a movie. Our four-year old loves going to the movies and can sit through just about anything, cartoon or not, like a champ.
But then, there’s our two-year old. We tried taking him about four months ago to a new, very popular animated movie. He made it about 20 minutes. During those 20 minutes he wiggled, he made loud noises, and he bummed popcorn from the family sitting behind us who we happened to be acquainted with, thank goodness.
My husband had the brilliant idea that we should go watch Iron Man 3 in 3D at the IMAX theatre, in a town about an hour away. The IMAX tehatre is a pretty cool experience, so I guess I let the thought of the ginormous screen paired with 3D graphics cloud my good judgment.
Well, when we arrived there was a line coming out of the building. Because we decided to go on opening weekend, of course. Because we’re just smart like that. The only remaining seats were on the bottom row, second from the very front.
I literally could have stretched my arms and almost touched the screen.
Things were okay at first. That is, until the lights went out and the previews came on. There is definitely a difference in the persona of movie goers attending an animated, kid movie and movie goers attending a non-cartoon super hero movie.
They latter are not forgiving. I’m pretty sure I got disapproving looks before my child even started making any noises.
And before he even started making noises, I realized this was a completely ridiculous idea.
I had noticed that the ticket said the movie was about two and a half hours. Now, I didn’t think for a minute that my child would sit quietly for that long. Even if we did stuff him with endless popcorn, Coke, and candy.
Well, after preview number one, I had to pull out the candy that I had hidden in my purse because we are too cheap to buy at the cinema. So we sneak our candy inside instead.
Don’t tell me that you don’t do that.
Well, it’s pretty bad when the previews have only been going for four minutes and you already have to dig into your sugary-ammunition. There are only so many Skittles in that bag. They need to be rationed.
Especially if they’re going to last through a two-hour movie. Which, of course there’s no way they would.
Keaton insisted on sitting in a chair by himself. He sat back with his little feet sticking off the end of the seat. There was a man sitting in front of him, on thevery front row. He had leaned his seat back as far as it would go in an attempt to ease the strain on his neck, I guess.
Well, in doing so, Keaton’s feet were touching the top of his seat.
This was actually the man’s fault, since my two-year old son is about the size of a big cabbage patch doll. But I guess the man didn’t see it that way. He glanced back a couple of times giving us dirty looks as Keaton tapped his feet.
We tried to get our little one to stop, but my goodness, if you get a two-year old to actually sit down for any period of time you’ve performed a miracle. Asking him to sit and keep his feet completely still is totally unrealistic.
Not gonna happen.
Well, he tapped his feet once more, even after our warnings. (Imagine that.) This time the man turned around and said, “Get your kid!” I wanted to explain to him that he was practicallysitting in my kid’s lap and that if a normal-sized human being was sitting in my son’s seat there is no way in you-know-where that he would be able to lean that far back.
Yeah, I wanted to say that.
But, instead I took that as my cue to snatch my son and bolt out of there.
As soon as we got in the lobby of the theatre I felt the sweet relief of freedom. Freedom from the judging, disapproving eyes of Iron Man die-hards. Much of whom obviously must not have children of their own or else they might’ve had a little more patience for two-year old foot tapping.
Then, I felt the not-so-sweet dread of having to keep a two-year old occupied for over two hours, while my husband and oldest son finished the movie.
Luckily this movie theatre is located in a promenade shopping center. But, unluckily I didn’t bring a stroller or anything (not that my child would have willingly sat in one). Shopping with a toddler is nearly impossible anyway. Shopping with a toddler, by you, and without a stroller, is dang near hopeless.
But, what other choice did I have?
So, off we went. On a ‘fun’ shopping excursion.
After the first store, I realized that I wasn’t actually shopping at all. That wasn’t what this was. I was actually entangled against my will in this game of hide-and-go-seek with my toddler. As soon as he would get out of my arms, off he would go. I would frantically look around the store, sometimes spotting him.
If he wasn’t spotted, most times he ended up being found under a rack of clothing or in the dressing room. So, I resorted to holding him in the store.
Which is about as dang near impossible as taking a two-year old to the movies?
And try getting your items (none of which you had time to try on) on the checkout counter, get out your wallet, get your debit card out of that wallet, swipe your debit card, and enter your pin number. All the while holding a fairly heavy purse and a super heavy child.
A child who is in no way cooperating.
He’s trying with all his might to escape, like a wild animal that doesn’t want to be caged. He all but bit me. Even he knew better than that.
By the time I left that first store, I was sweaty, holding a purse, an agitated toddler, and bag containing items that I didn’t even get to try on. In fact, I wasn’t even sure what I had bought.
In store number two, my son tried the whole hide-and-seek game once again. But, this time he was pretty easy to find. In fact, all I had to do was sniff. Of course, he had a dirty diaper. And by the smell of things, it was a whopper.
So, we left the store in search of a bathroom. We walked all the way to the end of the promenade only to find no bathroom. So, we walked all the way to the other end of the promenade. Still no bathroom that I could see.
So finally we stopped inside a small ice-cream shop and used their bathroom.
When I opened that diaper it was just as bad as I had thought. And realizing that in an attempt to carry less, I had thrown a diaper in my purse and left the diaper bag in the car.
So, I had a new diaper but no wipes.
This often is no big deal. At least when it’s a number one. But, a number two is a much different story. So, I got some toilet paper wet and began attempting to clean my incredibly smelly son.
After 10 minutes we emerged from the bathroom.
There was a sign on the wall that read ‘Only customers can use the bathroom’. So, I decided we better order some ice-cream. It was our duty as law abiding citizens. Plus I kind of felt like I deserved it. As we were eating our ice-cream I looked at the time, nervously. We still had an hour and a half. An hour and a half. Are you freaking kidding me?
Realizing that we better not go to any more stores for a while I decided to let my son down to explore. But instead of staying in the grassy area that I had let him down in, he took off for the beautiful, perfectly manicured flower garden that is displayed outside the theatre.
He was romping and stomping right in the middle of all the flowers. I kept yelling at him to get out. But for some reason he didn’t seem to hear me. Oh wait. I remember the reason now. He’s two-years old and therefore NEVER hears me.
As people walked by, some laughed at the sight of my son crushing flowers. Some gave me looks of pity, as if to say, “We've been there.” Some just looked utterly horrified at what my misbehaved child was doing.
Finally I had to climb in myself and pull him out, kicking and screaming the whole way.
Seriously. That was THE longest two and a half hours of my life. I will now cross ‘movies’ off of my list of enjoyable leisurely things to do.
Just one more thing my kids took away from me. Along with any shred of youth I might have left in this tired body of mine.
© Lori Kirtley
I have always fancied myself as a writer, spending my youth penning epics of naive poetry that could nauseate even the steeliest stomach of the wildest romantic, but by far, the most imaginative work of fiction I have ever created is my seven-page birth plan.
I’m a Virgo and like to be well prepared for any eventuality, so upon the imminent arrival of my first-born, I created a birth plan. Within it were instructions for my birthing partners detailing what to do in any number of situations; which drugs to allow, who to call, what to choose, when to take over.
I made extensive lists and scheduled all my birthing aids according to advice. Like the good Nuevo-Hippie I am, I spent lots of money on aromatherapy, homeopathy, acupressure, hypno-birthing, birdsong cd's, pre-natal yoga classes and active birthing books and my plan included when and how all these elixirs, rubs and affirmations should be administered. I had diligently meditated on the image of my vagina opening like a lotus, allowing the baby to glide through the birth channel of Buddha and I went to a psychic for posterity’s sake.
I did everything a good Nuevo-Hippie should. The birth was going to be wonderful and gentle, the baby delivered by midwives in a lovely centre that supplied a bath and a private room with a big double bed. My birth plan was neatly folded and slipped into the pocket of my hospital bag that overflowed with crystals, oils, nappies, a nightie, knickers and pictures of lotuses floating on lakes….and a whole bucket of nuts. I was ready.
I had no idea.
Little did I know when I was scrawling the imaginings of my birth, that there was actually no point to it, other than to provide myself with a false sense of security. That’s not to say that I don’t recommend writing a birth plan, I do. It’s important.
When you’re 37 weeks and you need to feel like something makes sense, a birth plan helps. I will not lie to you, birthing is a powerful experience that brings you closer to the forces of nature than any other, but it is unpredictable, fraught with danger and complication, and the only thing that is guaranteed is that it will absolutely NOT go to plan.
At one of the psychic readings I attended, aside from being told that my child would most likely be a vegetarian, it was also said that I would labour well. Apparently, I laboured so well that I wasn’t even aware it was happening until the final stages. I knew I was uncomfortable but didn’t realise I was dilating. So, as planned, I called my support people when the pains started. Of course, we thought we had a lengthy labour in front us and were unaware that by the time they arrived, I would be less than two hours away from giving birth. We established a routine of walking and talking, as planned. We made miso soup, as planned. We called the midwives when we noticed changes, all according to plan.
However, in the space of the phone call, my labour went from “ouch…it’s starting to hurt” to “I can’t breathe and have to push”, and I was urged to get to the centre as quickly as possible. It took half-an-hour to get from my bedroom to the back door, where the pain became so intense that I had an out of body experience. As I sat on the door frame watching myself gripping for support, I could hear an internal voice saying, “Oh goodness will you look at that! Poor body’s screaming very loudly.”
The centre was only seven minutes-drive away, but we only just made it to the midwife in time. She helped me to the bed and before my birth partner had heaved my hospital bag in from the car, the baby’s head was out. There was no time for a rose geranium bath, or the haunting echoes of Call of the Loon. There was only time for a superstar-baby to come bursting into life with a great big BANG! They handed me my child and the first thing I did was sing to her. Happy Birthday to You, Dear Baby….not quite the song I had specified, but it’s nothing, if not a happy song.
Unfortunately, I didn’t have much time to enjoy the double bed either. I hadn’t planned for an explosive birth that would blow my lotus petals out of the water. I hadn’t prepared the answer to the question, “Do you want local or general anaesthetic?” Major surgery and morphine were most certainly not on my list. My poor little lotus was completely in tatters. Gladly, I’d organised loving support people who smiled and cuddled my baby in those first precious hours of her life while I could not, and for that part of the plan, I will forever be grateful. For months after, I wondered how you could plan for something that you can’t imagine happening, ruminated on the desecration of flowers, did my physiotherapy and questioned my beliefs. The only answers I found are these: Fear is not your friend. To give birth, you must be brave and to parent, forgiving. If your stupid lotus doesn’t gracefully unfurl in a ray of golden light, judge yourself not, but never deny it its beauty. If your plan isn’t working, hand it over to the grand plan, stay in the moment and just… keep breathing.
It’s Venus-hot on this average weekday in suburbia. You’re frying. Everything about you seems more hefty, more pallid, more sweaty than usual and you can’t get away with, “I’ve just had a baby” anymore. (At least I smell nice. Suncream.)
There you walk on puffed-up feet against the tide on a narrow bit of the high street, where heaving cafe tables dominate the footpath. Look at all these carefree, childless people having lunch. That woman’s tuna baguette looks good. You could murder a latte. Remember what eating out used to be like? Don’t think about that now. Your stained, knackered Phil n Ted ploughs a wonky line against a stream of people to whom you are nothing but the pusher of a pushchair. You attempt the odd smile, mutter apologies just for being there but the heat and the time of day and pure bad luck conspire against you because to this particular stream of busy people you’re nothing more than an obstacle. Worse! You’re stealing away precious seconds of their life. Look where you’re going, for god’s sake! These good people are forced to dodge around you by virtue of that excess luggage currently snoozing under the bright red hood. (His name is Jonah.)
Forget them. For once, Jonah is fast asleep – or it could be heat exhaustion, but whatever, his eyes are closed and for once he isn’t demanding something from you. Take advantage. Isn’t this the perfect moment for a shopping spree? If you’re quick you'll be able to nip into this shop on your left – there’s a sale! – and try on a couple of things before he wakes up. Come on, you could do with brightening yourself up a bit. Don’t look down but you happen to be wearing a particularly saggy pair of exercise pants today. When was the last time you actually exercised in them? Don’t think about that now. This isn’t the time or place. You are who you are. Hurry in here!
This dusky pink dress is calling to you, is it? Lovely shape but, listen – not that it’s any of my business – isn’t it a bit too girlish? Too... little? Too... pink? Don’t mind me, it’s a gorgeous summer’s day and you only had yoghurt for breakfast. You’re practically a waif! Albeit in a size 14. Park the sleeping darling outside the changing room, pull the curtain across and get your kit off – quick, before you change your mind and pick up yet another billowing black shirt that would be put to better use as a parachute silk. You’ve got a whole wardrobe of those but no baby-doll dusky pink dresses.
Hurry, he could wake at any moment. Over your head it goes, arms through – ooh, it’s a bit tricky getting it over your...no, it’s fine, you’ve taken the Medium. You’re not trying to fool anyone. Smooth it down then, turn round and look in the mirror. Ta-dar!
Oh. Oh dear.
There’s something not quite right with this, can you see? I don’t mean to be rude but you look like someone who was admitted to a high security unit as a young girl, immediately after a tea party, who has remained in the same dress despite being fully grown now. Don’t get upset, it’s nobody’s fault. I agree, it looked great on the hanger. Come on, it’s no use checking if the profile is any better – I’d get it off as soon as possible if I were you.
Well? What are you doing? From here it looks like a Maori haka. You got the dress on easily enough – what’s all this struggling and flailing about the place for? GET IT OFF, WOMAN! You’re hot, you say – yes it is hot in here but this panicked tribal dance isn’t going to change that. The sleeping one could wake up at any moment and you’ve got this dress clamping you at the shoulders while your cookie-dough tummy and unshaven legs thrash about below! For god’s sake try another way!
Oh my... you’re really stuck! I thought you were joking but look at you writhing about, cursing your swimmers’ shoulders and that wide back that comes in handy when you've got fifteen bags of shopping and a baby swinging off those ample hips but isn’t quite so handy when you're STUCK IN A DRESS! I’ve never been more ashamed of you. If I could leave you here, I WOULD!
What are you going to do? You’ll have to call for the girl outside, that young one who’s modelling this exact dress only in grey and a size 6. Have mercy! You’ll have to poke your sweaty head out through the curtain and beckon her over to say “Sorry, I seem to be slightly. . . could you help me?” and then you'll have to bend right over while she yanks the thing off you. THIS IS A NIGHTMARE!
One last try. Come on. Breathe in – one, two, three . . . POP! Oh, the sweet relief! You’re free!
Put it back on the hanger and let’s get out of here.
Honestly, I can't take you anywhere.
(Oh, look! Jonah’s awake.)
Warning, if you are easily offended, it’s probably not a good idea to look at this…although it’s sidesplittingly funny!
Go the F to Sleep [PDF:1.45MB]
Imagine if, when a couple decides to have a child, they also have to decide which one of them will carry it. I know this already happens for same-sex couples, but pretend it is a standard conversation with all couples all over the world. My husband’s and mine would have gone something like this:
“You want to see if we can make a baby?” I might say, over a cup of morning coffee.
“Sure, may as well give it a try,” my husband would respond and then probably slurp on his coffee in a way that he knows really irritates me.
“Who’s going to carry it then?” I would ask, “you or me?”
“We could flip for it?”
“You can’t flip for it! It’s a child. This is a little more involved than who drives the first leg of the car trip.”
“Ok then, what are the criteria?”
“For carrying it?”
“Yeah. What do you need to be a good incubator?”
“Diet for one. You have to cut out coffee and alcohol.”
“Oh, well why don’t you do it then.”
“What!” I would rage, “that is a total copout. And it wouldn’t hurt you to cut out alcohol anyway.”
“Focus,” my husband would caution. “Don’t digress. Stick to the subject at hand.”
“I like coffee and alcohol too you know.”
“All right, all right. We’ll leave that one alone. What else do you need?”
“Well they say the first trimester can be very difficult. They recommend lots of sleep and good amounts of healthy food.”
“Eating and sleeping? Sounds like a job for me.”
“That’s the good part. The bad part is fatigue. Apparently it can get so bad you can barely stand up. Your breasts will get sore and your nipples will increase to the size of five-cent pieces. Your gums bleed because of the increased blood flow, water tastes like metal, your scalp itches, your sense of smell increases until you can barely walk past a petrol station, you have to urinate frequently – multiple times every night, and sometimes the only thing you want to eat is laundry detergent even though you know that’s really, really bad. Your emotional response to situations will often be completely disproportional to what the occasion warrants, you may swell up like a beached whale retaining fluid in parts of your body you didn’t know had room, some people get skin rashes, thrush, urinary tract infections, headaches, nosebleeds, weight gain but no baby bump so you just feel fat, and then of course there’s the nausea.”
“Nausea as in vomiting?”
“Nausea as in vomiting. I’ve heard stories of people having injections every four hours because they can’t stop. They can’t eat anything but plain crackers and sparkling mineral water and it isn’t just in the morning like the name suggests. Sometimes it lasts all day and for longer than the first trimester.”
I would pause to let some of this information digest. “Still game?”
“It can’t be that bad or humans wouldn’t have lasted this long.”
“Maybe so. But remember you’ve still got to get it out of you nine months later.”
“Oh that, well, you know, I can be tough,” he might say, “that part should be all right.”
“You reckon? Have you read about childbirth?”
“Too much information. I prefer to go in blind.”
“Take a look at this,” I would say and hand him a booklet with some gruesome pictures and a couple of choice phrases like ‘thirty-hour labour,’ ‘stitches needed after tearing’ and ‘faecal matter from force.’
His coffee would splurt out onto the bench and he would head to the bathroom to do the only bit of vomiting he was ever planning on enduring.
And so it came to be that our creator (whatever or whomever you imagine that to be) saved us all the time and wasted conversations and made it so that females were the sole bearers of children. Foolishly lining up to reproduce not once or twice, but often multiple times.
Foolish maybe, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. In fact, I reckon it’s the men that miss out. Vomiting, nose bleeds, sore boobs and all.
For homework, a class in NSW were asked to draw their parents at work. This is Jessica’s drawing:
Here's the letter the teacher received the next day:
Dear Mrs. Jackson,
I wish to clarify that I am not now, nor have I ever been, an exotic dancer.
I work at Bunnings and I told my daughter how hectic it was last week after the floods hit.
I told her we sold out every single shovel we had and then I found one more in stock and several people were fighting over who would get it.
Her picture doesn't show me dancing around a pole. It's supposed to depict me selling the last shovel we had in the store.
From now on I will remember to check her homework before she hands it in.
<Name of mother>
My husband and I went to the Birth Centre today to check out the location for our peanut’s arrival. It doesn’t look too bad if you forget what it is you’re meant to be doing in there.
Double bed with side tables, huge bathtub and shower. Couch, exercise mat, (that’s a bit ambitious I would have thought) outdoor private verandah, (with a wall too high for my husband to climb and escape) but no music player. I will have to bring my own, as I suspect I’m going to need Eye Of The Tiger on repeat to get me through this experience.
No mini-bar, no decorations and no carpet. It looked like the cheap, Spartan motel you might stay in to break a long drive, and if I’m not too distracted when I go back, I’ll be sure to check the nightstand for a Gideon’s copy of the bible.
I was concerned at how quiet the centre was, until another mum-to-be (who was only a few seconds pregnant but had already done an embarrassing amount of research) told me that the walls are deliberately sound proofed. Sure enough, when I listened closely, I could hear the dull, but unmistakable anguished cry of a woman in a considerable amount of pain. I don’t know which is worse, muffling it so you don’t know the full extent of their misery, or just letting us mums-on-the-way hear it like it is, since it’s too late for us to back out now anyway.
The midwife who gave us the tour was a nice, no-nonsense German lass who hid her disapproval of ‘medical births’ behind her thick, formal accent.
She didn’t outright condemn them, she just said things like “of course, we can’t stop you having an epidural, you just won’t be given one here. For that, you are moved into the labour ward.”
I do love the idea of a so called natural birth, but I am also aware that this birthing gig really hurts and just like I intended to run a marathon this year, sometimes the best laid plans are better rechecked by someone who is a lot smarter than you.
“We offer hot showers to help with your pain,” the midwife says as if we’re just dealing with a bump on our head, “and some women find walking and breathing helps,” she adds, but trails off when she sees our faces.
Walking and breathing? Is she serious? Does she mean the activities I’ve been doing pretty much my entire life that don’t require any thinking and don’t seem to do much other than keep me alive and transport me places?
That’s what she wants me to use to get this thing out of me?
The good part is, there is always an out and I ain’t too proud to use it.
I can, at any point, raise the white flag and tell them I want the big drugs. The midwives will leave the room in a huff of organic disdain and I’ll be left to pack up my high energy ice cubes and pre-bought heat packs by myself, and do the walk of shame past the reception, across the lobby, through the swinging doors, (which could, I imagine, resemble the pearly gates of heaven) and into the hallowed, drug providing labour ward where I can get stuffed with as many things and any things that might help me reach my end goal.
I take a glance at my husband, my birth partner, the man to bring me through this ordeal.
“Where’s the TV?” he asks, looking around the room, “didn’t she say this labour thing can last for hours?”
Today our embryo turned 10 weeks old and is now referred to as a foetus.
Weighing in at four paperclips, and with fully formed ears and upper lips, it has also started breathing (inhaling the amniotic fluid) and has decided (quite wisely I would say) to abandon its tail so it stops resembling a dinosaur and work on looking like its parents more desired result – a human.
The book I am reading goes on to say that I may even be starting to show – which I am, a lovely little pooch that I am quite enamoured with, but it follows by saying that has nothing to do with my baby, and is in fact, my distended bowel.
Now I’ve always eaten a lot (I remember as a little girl being embarrassed at sleep-overs as I always ate more than the other girls and still came home starving) and I will concede that growing your own penis or vagina (which also happens in week 10) sounds like terribly hard work, but does that really mean I need to consume the following all within a four hour period:
When my friend fell pregnant, her nutritionist told her all she needed in terms of extra caloric intake was the equivalent of half a cheese sandwich.
Half a cheese sandwich! Pre-preggo days I could eat that on my way to the table for dinner. That’s not even a snack, doesn’t even count as an appetiser, it’s just something you grabbed on your way past the fridge.
The book continues by saying that if a woman only puts on the weight necessary for carrying the baby and breastfeeding, she will have no trouble regaining her pre-baby weight. The additional one to two kilos most mothers tend to find difficult to lose, is not, the book claims, the fault of the baby, but the fault of the mother instead.
Quite simply, it says, we have over-eaten whilst carrying our young.
That seems a bit unsympathetic to me and I beg to differ.
I rarely eat pasta, haven’t even bought it in the last seven years, I don’t really like it, it tastes like glue. But now I do. Copious amounts of it, wrapped around homemade Bolognese or creamy carbinara.
This is not me, this is the being inside.
And brownies too, dangerously dropped off by a thoughtful friend. Now those I would have indulged in pre-baby as an afternoon or evening treat with a steaming cup of caffeine included tea. I would not have had it for lunch. In main meal size portions. Eating until there weren’t any more brownies left to eat.
And then, after eating to satisfy the alien inside, I am lured to my bed, or couch or head first down on the desk if it’s all I can manage. Anywhere I can shut my eyes and wake up ninety minutes later with numb arms, drool down my cheek and paper lines embedded on my face.
I’ve never been a napper, in fact I sort of considered people a bit of a daytime failure if they took one, but now I am possessed. There is nothing I can do to prevent these afternoon siestas. The worst part being that I awake and feel none of the refreshment such an afternoon luxury should provide.
Eating and sleeping, sounds like every person’s ultimate dream. But it’s hard to pull off when you’re trying to keep the reason for your hunger and lethargy a secret. The only thing I have thought of to say is tapeworm and a serious, but undiagnosed case of narcolepsy.
People seem to be buying it so far, which doesn’t say much for me. Two more weeks and then I might post a list of activities my body has been up to and see if people want to judge my behaviour then. I dare you to grow a new person’s limbs on half a cheese sandwich. I reckon you’d get as far as the big toe and that wouldn’t do at all.
Since no time is ever a good time to have a baby in the life of my husband and I, (that is, we will never have enough money, time or experience) we just decided to give it a go.
I mean it’s not like I have to swallow dirt and chew on an adder’s tongue to get there, the activity for getting pregnant is really quite enjoyable.
The only down side is the drop in alcohol and caffeine intake, but truthfully, I needed to watch that anyway.
I like to think it’s a bit of a diet too – surely I’ll lose a couple of kilos by not enjoying my nightly glass or two…or three of red wine. But priorities please, this is not about you, this is about your baby.
So I set off for the health food store to buy some pre-natal vitamins. I locate the correct aisle and find them immediately, right at eye level.
“Pregnancy platinum. One month’s supply. Reflux free. Daily nutritional support for mother and baby.” How could I go wrong, they’d even thought to avoid reflux? I pick the box up off the shelf and turned it over to check the price.
Thirty-four bucks for a packet of pills! It’s like shopping for a wedding. Mention the words ‘baby’ or ‘bride’ and immediately the packaging is pink and the price triples.
What on earth is in them? Iodine for brain development apparently, (I suppose it’s too late for me to reap any rewards from this isn’t it?) folic acid to help prevent spina bifida (fair enough) and a collection of other vitamins and minerals I didn’t know I was barely coping without.
This kid had better come out reciting the alphabet backwards.
I am ashamed to admit that old habits die hard, and I put the pink packed pregnancy pills back on the shelf and went in search of the generic brand.
The baby won’t know the difference, I reasoned, finding a pack for twenty-two dollars instead. And then, I got the guilts.
Take a look at yourself! Your baby’s not even made and already you’re a lousy mother! Here you are, scrimping on your baby’s spinal cord, its calcium deposits, its iron levels. Are you going to starve it once a week too, just to save some money? You should be embarrassed. Hang your head in shame.
I did still buy the cheaper ones, as I’m not convinced there can be twelve dollars difference between one brand of Cyanocobalamin and another, but I do acknowledge that the activity of making and rearing a child, is not one where you can expect to make a profit.
Further to that, you can’t even expect to save. Second hand clothes and cereal dinners are fine for me, but I do realise this is not acceptable for my offspring. At least not until they’re adults and I’ve kicked them out of the house and they don’t have any money for anything else. But I’ll address that obstacle in twenty-something years.
Real mothers don't eat quiche;
They don’t have time to make it.
Real mothers know that their kitchen utensils
Are probably in the sandbox.
Real mothers often have sticky floors,
Filthy ovens and happy kids.
Real mothers know that dried play dough
Doesn’t come out of carpets.
Real mothers don’t want to know what
The vacuum just sucked up.
Real mothers sometimes ask “Why me?”
And get their answer when a little
Voice says, “Because I love you best.”
Real mothers know that a child’s growth
Is not measured by height or years or grade...
It’s marked by the progression of Mummy to Mum to Mother.
4 years of age: My Mummy can do anything!
8 years of age: My Mum knows a lot! A whole lot!
12 years of age: My Mother doesn’t know everything!
14 years of age: My Mother? She wouldn’t have a clue.
16 years of age: Mother? She’s so five minutes ago.
18 years of age: That old woman? She’s way out of date!
25 years of age: Well, she might know a little bit about it.
35 years of age: Before we decide, let’s get Mum’s opinion.
45 years of age: Wonder what Mum would have thought about it?
65 years of age: Wish I could talk it over with Mum.
I was driving with my three young children one warm summer evening when a woman in the convertible ahead of us stood up and waved. She was stark naked! As I was reeling from the shock, I heard my five-year-old shout from the back seat, “Mom! That lady isn’t wearing a seat belt!”
On the first day of school, a first-grader handed his teacher a note from his mother. The note read, “The opinions expressed by this child are not necessarily those of his parents.”
A little boy got lost at the YMCA and found himself in the women ’s locker room. When he was spotted, the room burst into shrieks, with ladies grabbing towels and running for cover. The little boy watched in amazement and then asked, “What’s the matter haven’t you ever seen a little boy before?”
While working for an organization that delivers lunches to elderly shut-ins, I used to take my four-year-old daughter on my afternoon rounds. The various appliances of old age, particularly the canes, walkers and wheelchairs, unfailingly intrigued her. One day I found her staring at a pair of false teeth soaking in a glass. As I braced myself for the inevitable barrage of questions, she merely turned and whispered, “The tooth fairy will never believe this!”
A little girl had just finished her first week of school. “I'm just wasting my time,” she said to her mother. “I can't read, I can’t write and they won’t let me talk!”
When I first saw one of my closest friends with her new born baby in hospital, I was happy for her. I knew she had wanted a baby and had been in the married-baby-home mindset for a hardcore period of about two years.
But how I actually felt was ambivalent.
Ambivalent about how soon or how late I would venture down the baby highway. I was one of the earliest to have married in my early 20s for love and commitment – not to immediately set up house, have a baby and be a mama as well as a wife. I actually forbade anyone using the terms ‘husband’, ‘hubby’, or ‘wife’ and ‘the Missus’. For me they conjured up a ball and chain – derogatory, unwilling positions people had been given at gunpoint and not something they willingly signed up for.
Five years later, I was in full bloom – all things baby and no things sexy.
And when the time came for my first daughter to be born, I remembered my friend’s story of her first time – the emotional rollercoaster of the birth, being a mum at home, being tired, being domestically obsessed about drawers and weeds and cupboards. By then I had forgotten any unwanted advice I may have dished out.
My comments or thoughts probably included the following:
So when we had our first daughter and our second baby I got to thinking that I must have been owed some karma from any insensitive comments I might have made.
Below are my two lists of what not to do – some things really happened or were said by family members.
Top five things to advise a new parent (when you’re not a parent)
Top five things to say or do to new parents
And this is my list of what I’d really like to see:
Our top five promises to the new parents
Six married men will be dropped on an island with one car and three kids each for six weeks.
Each kid will play two sports and either take music or dance classes.
There is no fast food.
Each man must take care of his three kids, keep his assigned house clean, correct all homework, and complete science projects, cook, do laundry, and pay a list of ‘pretend’ bills with not enough money.
In addition, each man will have to budget in money for groceries each week.
Each man must remember the birthdays of all their friends and relatives, and send cards out on time – no emailing.
Each man must also take each child to a doctor’s appointment, a dentist appointment and a hair cut appointment.
He must make one unscheduled and inconvenient visit per child to the doctor or hospital.
He must also make biscuits or cakes for a social function.
Each man will be responsible for decorating his own assigned house, planting flowers outside and keeping it presentable at all times.
The men will only have access to television when the kids are asleep and all chores are done.
The men must shave their legs, wear makeup daily, adorn himself with jewellery, wear uncomfortable yet stylish shoes, keep fingernails polished and eyebrows groomed.
During one of the six weeks, the men will have to endure severe abdominal cramps, back aches, and have extreme, unexplained mood swings but never once complain or slow down from other duties.
They must attend weekly school meetings, church, and find time at least once to spend the afternoon at the park or a similar setting.
They will need to read a book to the kids each night and in the morning, feed them, dress them, brush their teeth and comb their hair by 8:30 am.
A test will be given at the end of the six weeks, and each father will be required to know all of the following information: each child's birthday, height, weight, shoe size, clothes size and doctor’s name. Also the child’s weight at birth, length, time of birth, and length of labour, favourite colour, middle name, favourite snack, favourite song, favourite drink, favourite toy, biggest fear and what they want to be when they grow up.
All the above must be completed whilst working in either full-time (preferably) or part-time employment.
The kids vote them off the island based on performance. The last man wins only if... he still has enough energy to be intimate with his spouse at a moment’s notice.
If the last man does win, he can play the game over and over and over again for the next 18-25 years, eventually earning the right to be called Mum!
HOW DO YOU DECIDE WHO TO MARRY?
You got to find somebody who likes the same stuff. If you like sports, she should like it that you like sports, and she should keep the chips and dip coming.
- Alan, age 10
No person really decides before they grow up who they’re going to marry. God decides it all way before, and you get to find out later who you’re stuck with.
- Kristen, age 10
WHAT IS THE RIGHT AGE TO GET MARRIED?
Twenty-three is the best age because you know the person FOREVER by then.
- Camille, age 10
No age is good to get married at. You got to be a fool to get married.
- Freddie, age 6
HOW CAN A STRANGER TELL IF TWO PEOPLE ARE MARRIED?
You might have to guess, based on whether they seem to be yelling at the same kids.
- Derrick, age 8
WHAT DO YOU THINK YOUR MUM AND DAD HAVE IN COMMON?
Both don’t want any more kids.
- Lori, age 8
WHAT DO MOST PEOPLE DO ON A DATE?
Dates are for having fun, and people should use them to get to know each other. Even boys have something to say if you listen long enough.
- Lynnette, age 8
On the first date, they just tell each other lies and that usually gets them interested enough to go for a second date.
- Martin, age 10 (who says boys do not have brains)
WHAT WOULD YOU DO ON A FIRST DATE THAT WAS TURNING SOUR?
I’d run home and play dead. The next day I would call all the newspapers and make sure they wrote about me in all the dead columns.
-Craig, age 9
WHEN IS IT OKAY TO KISS SOMEONE?
When they’re rich.
- Pam, age 7
The law says you have to be 18, so I wouldn’t want to mess with that.
- Curt, age 7
The rule goes like this: If you kiss someone, then you should marry them and have kids with them. It’s the right thing to do.
- Howard, age 8
IS IT BETTER TO BE SINGLE OR MARRIED?
It’s better for girls to be single but not for boys. Boys need someone to clean up after them.
- Anita, age 9
HOW WOULD THE WORLD BE DIFFERENT IF PEOPLE DIDN’T GET MARRIED?
There sure would be a lot of kids to explain, wouldn’t there?
- Kelvin, age 8
HOW WOULD YOU MAKE A MARRIAGE WORK?
Tell your wife that she looks pretty, even if she looks like a truck.
- Ricky, age 10
It wasn’t long ago. I know that for certain, because I can still remember what I was wearing; white pants, navy and white T-shirt, new sandals. I looked crisp and efficient. I wanted to – I was meeting his new teacher for the first time, and since it was his first day of big school, I wanted to send a message that I was one of those competent, all-together mothers who was always dressed reasonably well, didn’t lose school notes, always had money and forms handed in time.
Navy and white does that. Navy and white is organised and together and in control and all very Brady bunch. I would help with reading, I thought, and math and art as well. I’d front up in the mornings, greet the teacher by name each day and we’d smile and share a conspiratorial wink.
I knew all this, because I’d planned it all out well in my head.
I knew that as the years progressed and as I’d meet more teachers and the grade numbers became higher, I’d spend less time in the classroom and more time assisting with homework, but I was ready for that. I’d even sharpened my pencil and set aside the diary space for the next seven years. My navy and whites were at the ready.
I’d choose everything with careful deliberation. I’d cover books in advance, always have spare packets of pencils and erasers at the ready. Afternoons would be a breeze of milk and cookies when we arrived home followed by homework, which would be a simple task, and then free time for both of us. I made sure he had a homework desk and a place to read and drawers to keep everything in and a place to display the merit awards and certificates he would earn over years.
Yep, I was ready.
So how did I end up with: lost property and misplaced hats, mouldy school lunches, notes from the teacher that never made it home, notes TO the teachers that never made it to school. And how did items that should have come home from school that not come home like lunch boxes, drink bottles, pens, pencils and homework; items that did come home from school that I’d rather did not, such as nits, lice, scabies, someone else’s lunch, envelopes with red letters on the front and even an extra child or two happen?
Or the stupid things done: like fronting up with my child for school on pupil free days, not supplying fancy dress on fancy dress days, wearing fancy dress on uniform days, not knowing about the two dollars for the sausage sizzle (again!), missing the bus for chess comps, forgetting parent teacher interviews, forgetting to bake a cake for the take a plate days that I didn’t know about.
Or him: losing 435 hats, hiding homework, needing remedial writing lessons, throwing a chopstick at his Chinese teacher because he misunderstood her words and a Year 5 teacher so influential we caved in and bought a Nintendo DS.
Or: doling out money after money after money for fetes and cakes and pizza days and lamington days and market days and choir practice breakfast every Thursday for seven years and violin lessons and a recorder and ‘I-don’t-actually-really-like-violin-mum-but-I’d-like-to-learn-piano lessons ’and Mrs V says should have a keyboard at home to practice on’ so let’s buy a Yamaha then.
Or things not prepared for, and things not fair: like the day I was called to the headmaster’s office because he had punched someone in the eye – and having to take him home even though he was actually standing up for some girls who were being bullied by someone else.
And while I was still trying to figure out how to manage the Year 1 tuck shop system: I would not have time to catch my breath before someone would he to remind me that it was now Year 7 so managing that task was all a bit redundant at this stage.
Just hang on a minute, my white pants and navy shirt are still at the bottom of the ironing pile, last seen in 2002.
It wasn’t long ago. I know this because he’d chosen the clothes he wanted to wear. I had no say in it, no say at all. After seven years, primary school was over, complete, finito. The graduation dinner – the 12 year old’s equivalent to a formal – dinner and a dance.
And so, we begin the venture into High School.
If I could just catch my breath, I am sure I still have the white pants and navy t-shirt somewhere here…
It started out as a pleasant journey to procure for Grandma the perfect birthday gift. The day had the markings of a Disney backdrop. Unspoiled blue sky. Brilliant sunshine. And then Annouk lobbed a bombshell that almost caused me to hit the brakes and send the three of us sailing through the windscreen: “When I’m a big girl, I’ll be able to smoke, just like Daddy.”
Britta spun to face me with an expression of outrage and drama that only a big sister can muster.
“No you can’t!” she scolded, “Smoking’s very, very bad!”
“When I’m a big girl,” chuckled Annouk, as if to clarify a misunderstanding on her sister’s part. “Not now.”
“No, never!” corrected Britt, “smoking makes you...”
“...really, really sick,” I intervened, before making eyes at Britt that requested she protect her sister from the unpleasant truth for just a little while longer.
“Smoking is very naughty, Noo. It’s bad for your body and you shouldn’t do it,” I said evenly, attempting to put the issue to rest.
Taking this as a challenge, she shot back, “But I want to!” in her especially defiant, four-year-old way.
While we left Annouk to battle it out with herself in the back, Britt and I workshopped her Dad’s addiction. As a lifelong abstainer, I’m not one to offer any light on the subject.
No pun intended.
My beloved has more or less smoked on and off for the whole 20 years we’ve been together. During the times he’s been off the rollies, I’d describe him more of a non-practicing smoker than a non-smoker.
Fortunately, my love for him has always outweighed my hatred of his habit, and so I’ve tolerated it. Just.
“Maybe we could get that gum,” suggested Britt, “and hide small pieces in his dinner. Just like Aunty Dondon hides heartworm tablets in Poppy’s food. Dad wouldn’t notice.”
While her proposal was tempting and mildly hilarious, the thought of hiding nicotine in her father’s curries and casseroles was a little too KGB for my liking. And right at the moment, a manslaughter charge and associated legal appointments would be just another thing to fit into our over-crowded schedule.
“Maybe we could just encourage him to try and give up again,” I said, rather diplomatically, “the patches have worked before.”
And it’s not like I have grounds to saddle up my dependency moral high horse, either. If the Australian government launched an advertising campaign warning about the dangers of daily cappuccino quaffing, I’d be copping Britta’s disapproving looks too. Sure, Annouk may look cuter sitting beside me sipping her baby-cino than if she were out with Anthony, her tiny pouch of baby-bacco peeking out of her Hi-5 shirt pocket.
But let’s not split hairs. A bad habit’s a bad habit. And mine is coffee. And Shiraz. Oh alright, and the occasional outburst of traffic-induced potty-mouth. As Britta so eagerly reminded me, during a recent mother/daughter conference on staying out of playground politics at school.
“It’s good to be neutral, Britt. You know, don’t get involved and be nice to everyone.”
“You’re not always nice to everyone,” she said frankly. “You called that man who was driving fast this morning a bloody idiot.”
Indeed I had.
And then a short time later at a family dinner, Annouk inadvertently dobbed me in for yet another misdemeanor.
“Oh, for Christ’s sake!” she blasphemed at her insubordinate sister during a game of hide and seek.
After expressing the appropriate amount of maternal shock, and as noise and movement had started to return to the room, I turned back to the table and asked, rhetorically at first, “Who even says that?”
Half a dozen incredulous eyes turned on me.
“No I don’t! Do I?”
My loving family confirmed that indeed I do.
It seems as a role model I am, at times, seriously lacking. The best I can hope for is that my girls see me as a fallible human being who adores them with every flawed inch of her body.
And the worst? A stimulant-dependant potty-mouth who benefits from the odd glass of red.
Oh, for Christ’s sake.
Mikey had wanted to be Mary, but he had to make do with being a shepherd. Miss Camilleri had pointed out that Mary was a lady and was therefore usually a girl, so stupid Amanda got to be Jesus” mum. It wasn”t fair. Mary got to ride the donkey. Well – it was going to be a pony, but she still got to ride it.
“You can give Baby Jesus a lamb,” Mrs Camillieri consoled. “And you get to say something. Mary only gets to say thank you.” It turned out that Mikey got to say and we have come, which didn’t sound like a lot, but Mrs Camilleri pointed out that if no-one said this, the whole shepherd bit would be spoilt.
Mikey warmed to the idea of being a shepherd; especially when Mrs C told him that they would all have a turn on the pony after the play.
“I’ve got to practice,” he told his mother when he got in the car. “Mrs Camilleri said we have to say the words very loud so the audience can hear us.” He wasn’t quite sure what an audience was, but Mrs C seemed pretty sure that they’d want to hear.
As soon as he got home, he hurried down his snack and positioned himself at the back fence.
“AND WE HAVE COME,” he shouted at the top of his lungs and ran back to the house to consult with his mother.
“Mum, am I loud enough?” he asked anxiously.
“Just a bit more practice,” his mother advised. She had nearly finished feeding Sophie. “You go back and I’ll listen again.”
Mikey could hardly wait. He was dressed in his dressing gown and tea-towel nearly an hour before they were needed to leave. Nana and Poppy were coming and they were going to the Pizza Hut afterwards. His mum wasn’t sure if Jesus liked pizza but said he probably did.
“AND WE HAVE COME.” He practised several more time until his dad said he’d better save his voice.
When they arrived, Mikey slipped some chewing gum into his mouth. It was his dad’s, but Mikey was sure he wouldn’t mind. Dad said it calmed him down. So it was probably a good idea. By the time he joined the other shepherds, he was feeling quite sick.
Children milled around like frenzied sheep and Miss Camillieri had to ring her bell to quieten them down. The adults were seated on tiny chairs. Daddy looked funny with his knees under his chin. They were all talking, but when Mrs Thomas started to play Away in a Manger, everyone became very quiet.
Mikey waited in the wings with the other shepherds. He his tummy was feeling worse and his head felt like it wanted to fly off. Mary, Joseph and the doll were settled in the stable. It was time for the shepherds and angels who were ushered in by Brian’s mum.
“ANGELS WE HAVE HEARD,” bellowed Peter.
“ON HIGH,” shouted Tina.
Everyone looked at Mikey. His mother nodded encouragement. Mrs Camillieri whispered, Go on, Mikey. That was when Mikey vomited over his lamb. Nicorettes will have that effect on a five-year-old.
A group of kindergartners were trying very hard to become accustomed to the first grade.
The biggest hurdle they faced was that the teacher insisted on NO baby talk! “You need to use Big People words,” she was always reminding them.
She asked Chris what he had done over the weekend. “I went to visit my Nana.”
“No, you went to visit your GRANDMOTHER. Use Big People words.”
She then asked Mitchell what he had done. “I took a ride on a choo choo.”
She said “No, you took a ride on a TRAIN. You must remember to use Big People words.”
She then asked little Alec what he had done. “I read a book,” he replied.
“That's WONDERFUL!” the teacher said. “What book did you read?”
Alec thought hard about it, then puffed out his chest with great pride, and said, “Winnie the Shit.”
One day my mother was out and my dad was in charge of me.
I was maybe 2½ years old and had just recovered from an accident. Someone had given me a little tea set as a get-well gift and it was one of my favourite toys.
Daddy was in the living room engrossed in the evening news when I brought Daddy a little cup of ‘tea’, which was just water. After several cups of tea and lots of praise for such yummy tea, my Mom came home.
My Dad made her wait in the living room to watch me bring him a cup of tea, because it was “just the cutest thing!” My Mom waited, and sure enough, here I come down the hall with a cup of tea for Daddy and she watches him drink it up.
Then she says (as only a mother would know) – “Did it ever occur to you that the only place she can reach to get water is the toilet?”
Today I got to wear my ‘worst mother in the world’ hat.
My son, 11, has been chosen as part of a tem to represent his school in chess competition. It is today. The bus left school at 8.00 to transport the team across Brisbane. (How did I miss this information?) I dropped him off at 8.15, as usual, with a kiss and a wave.
I am home less than 30 seconds (and it’s a 15 minute drive) when the mobile chirps. It seems there is a very distraught boy in the office who missed the bus.
Righto, since I am already in the running for mother of the year, I’ll head back and collect him and drive him to other side of Brisbane to the High School where the tournament is taking place. Guilt pangs as I hoon head back to the school.
Now let me interject here for a minute.
I abhor lateness and am always upping my family for tardiness. This morning, after my shower, I put on my oldest daggies and thongs. I never leave the house in thongs, unless I know I am to be one of the great unseen.
When I unlock the car and park my rear, I am met with a warm wetness and a distinct smell of mushrooms. Oh look, the sunroof was left open on my CRV. And it stormed here last night. Intensely. So I am in my daggy house pants, oldest pool singlet, wet hair lathered in conditioning treatment combed through and no make-up, never-leave-the house thongs – but that’s all OK, because it’s not late and I have time to drop him off at school and have a leisurely cup of tea, open up the car in the sun, take out the floor mats and then do something with self to face the world proper.
Back to the matter. Still looking like someone who would not dare go out in public, I hoon back to the school in my wet car and race to the office, where reception eye me dubiously. She tells me that geek boy is down in the library with two other boys who have missed the bus. If parental permission is attained, would I consider taking the other boys as well?
Seeing this as an opportunity to redeem myself in front of my son, I am graciously quick to affirm that indeed, I would be happy to do so. So by 9.45 , I have three 11 year old boys in wet car smelling like mushrooms (the boys and the car, I think) and I am zooming across town.
An hour later, the repercussions of being a bad mother come to haunt.
I have no choice but to walk through a hall and yard full of high-schoolers, my wet hair now dried, plastered to my scalp on the crown and frizzy ends, thongs on housewife feet, house clothes and all. Only the profuse thanks and looks of gratitude and appreciation on the face of my three charges stop me from slinking red faced back out the way I came.
The whole procedure ate three hours out of my morning. The rest of my day will be spent finishing the celebration guilt chess cake.
I have one, you may have one and frankly we both need a laugh. I’m talking about our beloved toddlers. The ones we can’t imagine life without and yet spend significant time dreaming up ways to escape. After surviving three toddler earaches in less than 10 weeks and general teething grumps and temper tantrums, I am ready to either list my little one on eBay, or have a bit of a laugh.
My top ten tips to surviving the toddler years with your sanity mostly intact
1. No, meeting friends at a coffee shop is not going to work. The sooner you admit that meeting your friends (especially if they don’t have toddlers) in the local café is not EVER a good idea, the sooner you will re-grow some of that hair you are currently pulling out. What is ‘little people friendly’ about being strapped in a high chair or pram while the adults around you drone on for hours? They don’t understand what’s dangerous about running around while waiters walk the gauntlet with hot drinks and elegant cheesecakes in hand.
You have two options; meet at the park or go without toddler.
2. Yes you do need the nappy bag. Toilet training is for home, nappies are for shopping centres. Enough said.
3. Sure, your toddler can walk holding your hand. As long as you are happy to play ‘chasey’ through the department store or walk slower than the ants scurrying by you. Or maybe you have nowhere to go and no time you need to be there, then definitely, let you toddler walk holding your hand. You might discover a use for the bit of shiny paper they just picked up off the floor.
4. Don’t freak out about the germs. I am pretty sure no toddler has died from eating sand, half a cockroach or partial contents of their nappies. I know, it’s gross, but just wipe them and try to serve fruits and veggies. Not that they are going to eat the fruits and veggies, but you’ll feel better for having offered.
5. Kiss your mother-in-law and ignore the advice. Unless it’s good advice of course. She’s probably still so traumatised by his toddler years that she has completely forgotten the episode involving the puppy, her son, the highway and her banshee screaming. He was no sweeter than your child and she didn’t cope any better.
She just has a permanent state of amnesia.
6. Teething sucks. They should be born with teeth. It’s a design fault really. Eventually they get a full set of pearly whites and you¹ll forget the grumpy bundle currently squirming in your arms.
7. Naptime is for the strong only. So is bedtime and any time that you require your darling to sleep for longer than the twenty-minute catnap in the back of the car. Similar battles are raging across your state, so chill.
One day you¹ll have a teenager that you can’t get out of bed on Saturday morning. Then you can have your revenge.
8. Sharing is for the weak. They learnt the words ‘no’ and ‘mine’ just after mumbling ‘dada’, and they mean it. Everything belongs to them; especially what the other child has in their mouth. That sucked on toy just became their favourite, must have, need-it-yesterday fixation and no, they don¹t want to share. Hold the faith. Most adults (though not all) have learnt the art of sharing, so most mothers did succeed in the end.
9. Crackers are a whole food group. As is yoghurt, cheese sticks or whatever other food obsession your toddler has at this point. No, they don’t want the pumpkin they happily ate yesterday. Today is a new day and the feeding rules have changed. Try to keep up with it mum! Eventually you discover that whatever you’ve lovingly cooked will be thrown at the family dog or mashed through their hair so, once again, just breathe. They somehow eat enough of the right stuff to sustain their temper tantrums, general growth and well-being.
10. Lastly, remember; toilet training, eating, sleeping, bedtime, bath time, and outings are all eventually conquered. You’ve read the end of the book. You know you win. Try to enjoy that dimply chubby currently throwing himself of the floor, because every age has its ups and downs. And remember, they will probably have children of their own one-day. And you get to watch! See, there is justice!
I was out walking with my four year old daughter. She picked up something off the ground and started to put it in her mouth. I took the item away from her and I asked her not to do that.
“Why?” my daughter asked.
“Because it’s been on the ground and you don’t know where it’s been, it’s dirty and probably has germs,” I replied.
At this point, my daughter looked at me with total admiration and asked, “Mummy, how do you know all this stuff? You are so smart.”
I was thinking quickly. “All mums know this stuff. It’s on the Mummy Test. You have to know it, or they don’t let you be a Mummy.”
We walked along in silence for two or three minutes, but she was evidently pondering this new information. “OH... I get it!” she beamed, “So if you don’t pass the test you have to be the daddy.”
“Exactly,” I replied back with a big smile on my face.
I’d like to share with you a story.
A true story of a boy who could foresee the future, and with it, a crisis that would one day confront his own parenting skills in order to save his son from the clutches of a fast-food phenomenon.
However, to share this story with you, we first must travel back to a time long ago, to a galaxy far, far away…
Melbourne, Australia, 1976.
Cholesterol didn’t exist, chocolate was an essential life-giving nutrient, and an eight-year-old boy named Kenny, whose world, like his primary school tuck-shop, overflowed with sugary treats, hamburgers and hot chips.
But little Kenny foresaw a problem – a health crisis loomed.
Kenny tried to warn folks that a clown, yes a clown, with floppy yellow shoes and a bright orange wig, along with an old man concealing a mysterious bag of eleven herbs and spices, were planning to build an evil Empire. (No, really, it’s true)
He envisioned a fast food phenomenon that would completely sweep the nation, and one day force corner-store fish and chip retailers to charge upwards of five bucks for a piece of flake and minimum of chips. And, most frightening of all, would convert a once proud and energetic nation of healthy children abound in a land of sweeping planes, to sit in front of their TVs, PCs, DVDs, and PSs gobbling down cheese burgers by the dozens.
Naturally, nobody believed his tall stories – five bucks for fish and chips, as if? And he was told to lay off the sherbet bombs for a while. (I miss those things, do they still make them?) Anyway…
Time passed. Before you could say Michael J Fox, or thin leather ties, it was the 1980s.
Australia, distracted by a new craze called Video, MTV, and Richard Wilkins’ hair style, had not noticed the increasing might of the Empire.
Meanwhile, Kenny trained as a chef, studied nutrition, and armed himself against the fast-food phenomenon he so knew was coming.
He was all set for battle, when he met a beautiful girl and fell madly and deeply in love. Sadly, she left him for someone better looking, and he spent years crushed and alone tramping through every seedy, low life bar in the country until, at last, Cupid’s arrow of true-love struck and reignited his soul (Bit much?). Anyway, by now it was the dawn of a whole new Millennium, and the Empire was out of control.
It’s here that Kenny bore a son, well, he held his true-love’s hand during the 18-hour long delivery – almost had his hand ripped off at the wrist, was yelled at, whacked, repeatedly sworn at, told to “Get out,” and then, “Where the hell do you think you’re going?” And, because it was completely his fault, he promised to have the bathroom renovated and a landscaped garden to match – Oh, the pain of child birth.
When his son, Max, turned five, Kenny sent him off to primary school, equipped with the most bizarre lunch: a salad of Cos lettuce, mint leaves, coriander, tomato, cucumber and capsicum, along with a wholegrain sandwich of tuna and cheese, and a piece of fruit.
Unfortunately Max’s healthy lunch returned home untouched, and the next day the same thing. For days Max’s lunch was untouched, and people everywhere were saying, “What’s that smell?”
It was soon brought to Kenny’s attention that his nemesis, Pizza the Hut, and others of the Empire had captured his son’s imagination. Of course, they did throw in a free Pepsi with every small pizza, as was the promotion at the time.
Max wasn’t the only one either. Here in the dawn of this New Millennium, many children had not seen a capsicum, or tasted a banana. I kid you not! Such foods, real foods, were fast becoming foreign to many children. Frightening.
The time had come for action. Kenny’s mission, if he chose to accept it, was to bring forth exciting and fresh ideas to rescue his son from the clutches of the fast-food Empire.
A voice echoed over and over in Kenny’s head. “Look to the Force, Kenny. Look to the Force…”
But Kenny had no idea what that meant, so he tried a few ideas of his own.
First, he tried a bribe, but that bribe failed.
He tried more bribes, and larger bribes, but those bribes failed.
He then flat-out demanded his son eat the food prepared for him or be sent to his room with no television.
Low and behold, that also failed – Darn that Game Boy.
Kenny, sensing the magnitude of the task, and despite his psychiatrist’s warnings, began listening to the voices inside his head, “Look to the Force, Kenny…”
Kenny asked around and discovered that this ‘Force’ was indeed a powerful and mystical force that once lay at the heart of an ancient civilization (Frankston).
Over the coming days, Kenny felt the Force moving within him, though that could have been due to an over consumption of sprouts. He closed his eyes and meditated, but mostly he slept, and with that a brilliant idea emerged. Kenny, sensing this idea was the answer to every parent’s prayers, and so simple an idea, he would put it into place immediately. Then, pending its undoubted success, would share it with the world.
Want to hear his idea?
Are you sure you’re ready? It’s a biggie.
Well, here it is:
Hide all the green vegetables under the mashed potatoes.
Surprisingly, Kenny’s mission failed miserably.
Kenny was ridiculed and told never to bother the Force again.
Moral to this story, apart from don’t eat too many sprouts, is Kenny discovered that you can’t force or trick kids into eating healthy foods consistently.
(Wow, and yes I hear what you’re saying. All that story for so crappy a moral)
However, the story doesn’t finish here. Kenny learned a valuable lesson.
He learned that children are people, (Get outa here), no they are, and like all people deserve the respect to be consulted in their dietary requirements. A revelation.
So he began offering Max an outlet for attaining knowledge of what real food is; where to find it, how to eat it, and how to prepare it. And amazingly, his son actually became interested, albeit slightly interested. Well, he listened long enough to keep his headphones unplugged from his ipod. And they spent several Saturday mornings wandering through the many food stalls at the local market, drinking down freshly squeezed juices and discovering all the delicious fresh produce on offer.
Kenny spent the coming weeks showing Max the benefits of a nutritious diet. How fresh ingredients with vitamins and minerals can boost the immune system, increase memory, create endless energy, offer protection, help attain peak physical fitness, and thus help transform him into a Rock Star, a Sporting Superstar, a Science genius, an Adventurer, an Astronaut, an Accountant, or an Acrobat.
Amazingly, Max’s interest levels registered higher again. He actually put down the ipod. (Impossible, I know)
Finally, he introduced Max to the variety of colours, flavours, and textures available in real foods; and together they conjured up various creations, and a very messy kitchen. They were yelled at and told they couldn’t go out and kick the football until the entire mess was cleaned up. Total bummer! Astonishingly, these crazy food combinations sent a whole new sensation up Max’s tongue to his brain and his head totally freaked-out. Way Cool!
Today, Max, armed with his own sense of culinary adventure, and no noticeable footy skills, enjoys a variety of foods, some of which I’m very happy to announce are fruits and vegetables, I kid you not.
Kenny now knows that healthy foods are not to be hidden away. Along with a healthy dose of fresh air and exercise, they are an adventure to be embarked upon, and to be shared with those you love.
But, anyway, that’s Kenny’s story. You’ll need to find one of your own. (Okay, it’s actually George Lucas’s story, Kenny stole the theme)
May the Force be with you! But, please, stay away from the sprouts.
The names in this story have been changed to protect me from my daughters. The story I am about to tell you happened last weekend and according to my daughters was totally humiliating and totally unnecessary. Such drama queens!
My girls are 12 and 13 and they have grown heaps over the last six months and we needed to go shopping. When Cate and Emma were little they wore cute little crop top bras but it was now time to buy their first ‘proper’ bra. I was so excited.
I remember mine and I once again told the girls about my first bra.
I’d loved my first white bra with pink flowers. I don’t remember going out to buy it but I do remember I was late to the bra thing and was the only girl at school who was still wearing white Bonds singlets when I was 15. I was so jealous of my friends who actually had something to put into their pretty new bras and I wanted one too.
According to my girls – too much information!
We headed to the shops and Dad went off to do the grocery shopping.
Cate and Emma wanted to go with him and skip this whole exercise but no, I dragged them off TO BE MEASURED!!
We found a helpful sales assistant and she took them and her tape measure into the fitting rooms. Each retreated to a separate change room as they weren’t going to share this experience. Unfortunately for them there were quite a few ladies trying on garments and they had to share. Once they were measured they started trying on bras. They wouldn’t even let me in until I demanded to have a look and made sure the bras fitted and looked nice. I couldn't believe my babies were so grown up.
To make matter worse the lady next door popped her head out and asked, “Is this first time shopping?”
This started a conversation amongst the ladies in the fitting rooms about our first bras and just added to the humiliation as the girls had no choice but to listen to a bunch of middle aged women discussing trainer bras!
Forty five minutes later and after trying on all the bras the sales assistant and I dragged in to show them, they made their choices and we left the lingerie department. I was feeling very warm and fuzzy about the experience I had just shared with my daughters. They couldn’t wait to get out of there.
It was made perfectly clear to me that this day would never be spoken about and I was never ever to put them through this experience again.
I can’t wait until next time!
Seasonal: It must suck to be pregnant in this heat!
PS – Don’t touch the pregnant belly unless I can touch your belly!
I barricaded the stairs. I’d be safe upstairs. It couldn’t get to me there. I could hear it though. I could always hear it. It had a voice that screeched; it couldn’t be ignored. It made my heart race and entered my whole being though my stomach until I felt sick.
Where had it come from; this parasite? How had it managed to steal its way into my life? I turned my head for a moment and there it was. Nothing was the same any more. Now I lived in fear.
Two years ago my life was sweet. I had moved to a beautiful seaside town. My children were happy, my husband was happy and I was happy, at least I thought I was. But something sinister was lurking. Something lay hidden just waiting for the right opportunity, the right person to invite it in. I was that person. New to the town I trusted everyone, everything. I suspected nothing. To be honest though, I was happy for the distraction. My husband was working, the children were at school and I admit I was a bit lonely and I was curious but you know what they say about curiosity. And then it began to change. No longer happy with our symbiotic existence it detached itself and stole its way into our lives. I was responsible and now I felt helpless. There was no escape. I was trapped.
It’s not like it was violent although sometimes it would smash things on the tiles and the walls. It never seriously hurt any of us, just a slap in the face now and then. It seemed to find this pass time amusing and we all felt that it was important to keep it amused. We didn’t want it upset. We didn’t know its capabilities.
Earlier, as I tried to go to the bathroom it caught sight of me and with a voice that could wake the dead; it demanded that I come downstairs. It was hungry. It was always hungry. Panic rose in my throat. It howled. What did it want this time? Its preferences were always changing. Sometimes bananas, then only yoghurt or cheese or fish. What did it want today? I gave it a banana and waited. Its face was big and red and swollen. Its sparse teeth looked like tombstones pushing their way out of a deserted graveyard. Its hair was thin and unkempt.
And it smelled. It smelled really bad. I had to hold my breath to keep from dry retching. It bit into the banana and tiny bits of drool ran down its chin. It sneered at me and pushed more into its gaping mouth. I was nearly sick. Still it jammed the banana in and never once did it take its eyes off me. I didn’t move, then it swallowed and grinned its evil grin; banana filled the gaps between his teeth. It burped and clapped its starfish shaped hands.
Thank God, it was over. It let me go. I ran. I ran as fast I could barricading the stairs behind me. I cowered in the corner of my room and tried to block out the memory or its huge red head.
What was that? The stairs! What was that noise on the stairs? There was no doubt. It was coming up. It had broken through the barrier and it was coming up the stairs. I could smell it, my stomach heaved. I looked widely for a place to hide, in the wardrobe – too obvious, under the bed – no room. I froze. It pushed the door open, rushed at me and slapped me in the face. It did it again and again laughing hysterically. I held my hands up trying to protect myself but it kept coming slapping, scratching, pinching, biting and all the while laughing.
Then as suddenly as it had began it stopped and left leaving its stench behind. I could hardly breathe. I thought I was going mad as I rocked in the corner. It was looking for my children it had heard them come in from school and I could do nothing to protect them. I was paralysed with fear. A muted sound escaped my throat, I couldn’t swallow. I felt light headed and when I tried to stand everything went black. I awoke to the sound of my children screaming.
God help me – what was it doing to them?
“Mum!” they wailed. “For God’s sake Mum! Hurry up and change this stinking BABY!”
Congratulations to all the kids who were born in the 1930s, 1940s, 1950s, 1960s and 1970s:
First, we survived being born to mothers who smoked and/or drank while they carried us.
They took aspirin, ate blue cheese dressing, tuna from a tin, and didn’t get tested for diabetes.
Then after that trauma, our baby cots were covered with bright colored lead-based paints.
We had no childproof lids on medicine bottles, doors or cabinets and when we rode our bikes, we had no helmets, not to mention, the risks we took hitchhiking.
As children, we would ride in cars with no seat belts or air bags.
Riding in the back of a van – loose – was always great fun.
We drank water from the garden hose pipe and NOT from a bottle.
We shared one soft drink with four friends, from one bottle and NO ONE actually died from this.
We ate cakes, white bread and real butter and drank pop with sugar in it, but we weren’t overweight because....
WE WERE ALWAYS OUTSIDE PLAYING!
We would leave home in the morning and play all day, as long as we were back when the streetlights came on. No one was able to reach us all day. And we were okay.
We would spend hours building our go-carts out of scraps and then ride down the hill, only to find out we forgot the brakes. After running into the bushes a few times, we learned to solve the problem.
We did not have Playstations, Nintendos, X-boxes, video games or movies, 99 channels on cable, surround sound, mobile phones, text messaging, personal computers, Internet or Internet chat rooms.... WE HAD FRIENDS and we went outside and found them!
We fell out of trees, got cut, broke bones and teeth and there were no lawsuits/legal from these accidents.
We played with worms (well most boys did) and mud pies made from dirt, and the worms did not live in us forever.
Made up games with sticks and tennis balls and although we were told it would happen, we did not poke out any eyes.
We rode bikes or walked to a friend’s house and knocked on the door or rang the bell, or just yelled for them!
Local teams had tryouts and not everyone made the team. Those who didn’t had to learn to deal with disappointment. Imagine that!
The idea of a parent bailing us out if we broke the law was unheard of. They actually sided with the law!
This generation has produced some of the best risk-takers, problem solvers and inventors ever!
The past 50 years have been an explosion of innovation and new ideas.
We had freedom, failure, success and responsibility, and we learned HOW TO DEAL WITH IT ALL!
You might want to share this with others who have had the luck to grow up as kids, before the lawyers and the government regulated our lives for our own good.
… and while you are at it, keep this to show your kids so they will know how brave their parents were.
I have never been brave. In fact, I have a morbid fear of needles, blood and gore. Two small boys haven’t diminished this sensitivity. If anything, their continual scrapes and skirmishes have only made it worse.
Recently, an alarming trend began in my son’s preschool class. Gaps started appearing and children developed a fascination for teeth – wobbly teeth!
I have observed that once a tooth wiggles, it must then be picked, poked, prodded and twisted through a sequence of garish manoeuvres. It is rarely let to stand up straight in the mouth, but sits askew, or hangs by a thread of root with jagged bits and fleshy gums exposed. Nothing is left to the imagination, and every gruesome stage must be broadcast far and wide, with visual evidence.
The fact that every child eventually loses a tooth – great gob fulls of them, in fact – doesn’t make the scenario any less disturbing.
Recalling childhood memories brings no comfort either. Slamming doors and fencing pliers were often mentioned, not that I succumbed to those. Catch me if you can! The potential blood, pain and scream factor still stands my hair on end. And I have to wonder at the hygiene of rusty pliers that roll around in dust and grit on the floor of the work ute? Not the cleanest things to go into a child’s mouth – always assuming they fit, of course!
But the real questions remain… What do you do when the dastardly tooth is dangling by a thread, but not falling out? More to the point, what will I do when my son, fingers clasping the offending incisor, blurts out excitedly, “I’f go’ a wobbwy toof!”
It’s enough to set my teeth on edge!
I've been a good mom all year. I've fed, cleaned and cuddled my children on demand, visited their doctor’s office more than my doctor and sold 62 cases of candy bars to raise money to plant a shade tree on the school playground. I was hoping you could spread my list out over several Christmases, since I had to write this letter with my son’s red crayon, on the back of a receipt in the laundry room between cycles, and who knows when I’ll find anymore free time in the next 18 years.
Here are my Christmas wishes:
Well, Santa, the buzzer on the dryer is ringing and my son saw my feet under the laundry room door. I think he wants his crayon back.
Have a safe trip and remember to leave your wet boots by the door and come in and dry off so you don’t catch cold. Help yourself to cookies on the table but don’t eat too many or leave crumbs on the carpet.
Yours Always, MOM...!
P.S. One more thing...you can cancel all my requests if you can keep my children young enough to believe in Santa.
1st baby: You begin wearing maternity clothes as soon as your pregnancy is confirmed.
2nd baby: You wear your regular clothes for as long as possible.
3rd baby: Your maternity clothes ARE your regular clothes.
Preparing for the birth:
1st baby: You practice your breathing religiously.
2nd baby: You don't bother because you remember that last time, breathing didn’t do a thing.
3rd baby: You ask for an epidural in your eighth month.
1st baby: You pre-wash newborn's clothes, colour-coordinate them, and fold them neatly in the baby's little bureau.
2nd baby: You check to make sure that the clothes are clean and discard only the ones with the darkest stains.
3rd baby: Boys can wear pink, can't they?
1st baby: If the dummy falls on the floor, you put it away until you can go home and wash and boil it.
2nd baby: When the dummy falls on the floor, you squirt it off with some juice from the baby's bottle.
3rd baby: You wipe it off on your shirt and pop it back in.
1st baby: You change your baby’s nappies every hour, whether they need it or not.
2nd baby: You change their nappy every two to three hours, if needed.
3rd baby: You try to change their nappy before others start to complain about the smell or you see it sagging to their knees.
1st baby: You take your infant to Baby Gymnastics, Baby Swing, and Baby Story Hour.
2nd baby: You take your infant to Baby Gymnastics.
3rd baby: You take your infant to the supermarket and the dry cleaner.
1st baby: The first time you leave your baby with a sitter, you call home five times.
2nd baby: Just before you walk out the door, you remember to leave a number where you can be reached.
3rd baby: You leave instructions for the sitter to call only if she sees blood.
1st baby: You spend a good bit of every day just gazing at the baby.
2nd baby: You spend a bit of everyday watching to be sure your older child isn’t squeezing, poking, or hitting the baby.
3rd baby: You spend a little bit of every day hiding from the children.
Swallowing coins (a favourite):
1st child: You rush the child to the hospital and demand x-rays.
2nd child: You carefully watch for the coin to pass.
3rd child: You deduct it from his allowance!!
A woman (Emily) renewing her driver’s license at the Transport office was asked by the clerk to state her occupation. She hesitated, uncertain how to classify herself. “What I mean is,” explained the clerk, “do you have a job, or are you just a ......?”
“Of course I have a job,” snapped Emily. “I'm a mum.”
“We don't list ‘Mum’ as an occupation...... ‘housewife’ covers it,” said the clerk emphatically.
I forgot all about her story until one day I found myself in the same situation, this time at our local police station. The clerk was obviously a career woman, poised, efficient, and possessed of a high sounding title like, “Official Interrogator” or “Town Registrar.”
“What is your occupation?” she probed.
What made me say it, I do not know... The words simply popped out.
“I’m a Research Associate in the field of Child Development and Human Relations.”
The clerk paused, pen frozen in midair, and looked up as though she had not heard right. I repeated the title slowly, emphasizing the most significant words. Then I stared with wonder as my pronouncement was written in bold, black ink on the official questionnaire!
“Might I ask,” said the clerk with new interest, “just what you do in your field?”
Coolly, without any trace of fluster in my voice, I heard myself reply, “I have a continuing program of research, (what mother doesn’t?), in the laboratory and in the field, (normally I would have said indoors and out). I’m working for my Masters, (the whole bloody family), and already have four credits, (all daughters). Of course, the job is one of the most demanding in the humanities, (any mother care to disagree?) and I often work 14 hours a day, (24 is more like it). But the job is more challenging than most run-of-the-mill careers and the rewards are more of a satisfaction rather than just money.”
There was an increasing note of respect in the woman’s voice as she completed the form, stood up, and personally ushered me to the door.
When I got home, buoyed up by my glamorous new career, I was greeted by my lab assistants – ages 10, 7, and 3. Upstairs, I could hear our new experimental model, (a 6-month old baby), in the child-development program, testing out a new vocal pattern. I felt I had triumphed over bureaucracy! And I had gone on the official records as someone more distinguished and indispensable to mankind than ‘just another mum’.
Motherhood.....What a glorious career! Especially when there’s a title on the door.
I was driving with my three young children one warm summer evening when a woman in the convertible ahead of us stood up and waved. She was stark naked! As I was reeling from the shock, I heard my 5-year-old shout from the back seat, “Mum! that lady isn't wearing a seat belt!”
My son Zachary, 4, came screaming out of the bathroom to tell me he’d dropped his toothbrush in the toilet. So I fished it out and threw it in the garbage. Zachary stood there thinking for a moment, then ran to my bathroom and came out with my toothbrush. He held it up and said with a charming little smile, “We better throw this one out too then, ‘cause it fell in the toilet a few days ago.”
On the first day of school, a first-grader handed his teacher a note from his mother which read: “The opinions expressed by this child are not necessarily those of his parents.”
A woman was trying hard to get the ketchup to come out of the bottle. During her struggle the phone rang so she asked her 4-year-old daughter to answer the phone. “It’s the minister, Mummy,” the child said to her mother. Then she added, “Mummy can’t come to the phone to talk to you right now. She’s hitting the bottle.”
A little boy got lost at the YMCA and found himself in the women’s locker room. When he was spotted, the room burst into shrieks, with ladies grabbing towels and running for cover. The little boy watched in amazement and then asked, “What’s the matter, haven’t you ever seen a little boy before?”
While working for an organisation that delivers lunches to elderly folks, I used to take my 4-year-old daughter on my afternoon rounds. The various appliances of old age, particularly the canes, walkers and wheelchairs, unfailingly intrigued her. One day I found her staring at a pair of false teeth soaking in a glass. As I braced myself for the inevitable barrage of questions, she merely turned and whispered, “The tooth fairy will never believe this!”
A little girl was watching her parents dress for a party. When she saw her dad donning his tuxedo, she warned, “Daddy, you shouldn’t wear that suit.” And why not, darling?” “You know that it always gives you a headache the next morning.”
While walking along the sidewalk in front of his church, our minister heard the intoning of a prayer that nearly made his collar wilt. Apparently his 5-year-old son and his playmates had found a dead sparrow. Feeling that proper burial should be performed, they had secured a small box, then dug a hole and made ready for the disposal of the deceased. The minister’s son was chosen to say the appropriate prayers and with sonorous dignity intoned his version of what he thought his father always said: “Glory be unto the Faaaather, and unto the Sonnn .and into the hole he gooooes.”
A little girl had just finished her first week of school. “I’m just wasting my time,” she said to her mother. “I can’t read, I can’t write and they won’t let me talk!”
A little boy opened the big family bible. He was fascinated as he leafed through the old pages. Suddenly something fell out of the Bible. He picked up the object and looked at it. What he saw was an old leaf that had been pressed in between the pages. “Mama, look what I found”, the boy called out. “What have you got there, dear?” With astonishment in the young boy’s voice, he answered, “I think it’s Adam’s underwear!”
These answers were reportedly given by 2nd-grade school children to the following questions:
Mum/Mom, Mummy/Mommy, Mama/Ma, Dad/Daddy, Pa/Papa
Long-term, team players needed, for challenging permanent work in an often chaotic environment. Candidates must possess excellent communication and organisational skills and be willing to work variable
hours, which will include evenings and weekends and frequent 24 hour shifts on call. Some overnight travel required, including trips to primitive camping sites on rainy weekends and endless sports tournaments in far away cities! Travel expenses not reimbursed. Extensive courier duties also required.
The rest of your life. Must be willing to be hated, at least temporarily, until someone needs $5. Must be willing to bite tongue repeatedly. Also, must possess the physical stamina of a pack mule and be able to go from zero to 60 mph in three seconds flat in case, this time, the screams from the backyard are not someone just crying wolf. Must be willing to face stimulating technical challenges, such as small gadget repair, mysteriously sluggish toilets and stuck zippers. Must screen phone calls, maintain calendars and coordinate production of multiple homework projects.
Must have ability to plan and organise social gatherings for clients of all ages and mental outlooks. Must be willing to be indispensable one minute, an embarrassment the next. Must always hope for the best but be prepared for the worst. Must assume final, complete accountability for the quality of the end product.
Responsibilities also include floor maintenance and cleaning work throughout the facility.
POSSIBILITY FOR ADVANCEMENT & PROMOTION:
None. Your job is to remain in the same position for years, without complaining, constantly retraining and updating your skills, so that those in your charge can ultimately surpass you.
None required unfortunately. On-the-job training offered on a continually exhausting basis.
WAGES AND COMPENSATION:
Get this! You pay them! When you die, you give them whatever is left. The oddest thing about this reverse-salary scheme is that you actually enjoy it and wish you could only do more.
While no health or dental insurance, no pension, no tuition reimbursement, no paid holidays and no stock options are offered; this job supplies limitless opportunities for personal growth and free hugs for life if you play your cards right.
If you have a toddler, chances are you have your own collection of Toddlerspeak. They range from the shocking to the amusing to the downright get-down-on-your-knees funny.
One scenario: four-year-old boy-next-door Josh loves coming to our house to play with my three-year-old Sanghaya. He’s so considerate and patient with her – the perfect gentleman – that she was prompted to propose one day, “Will you marry me?”
“No!” was the reply, but he was back the next day and held her hand all the way to the library (and back).
Then there are times when you are on the brink of erupting and they say something to put you back in perspective. A memorable one, as I struggled giving Sanghaya a bath:
(Irritated) “Stop Mummy! When you wash my ears I cannot hear!”
Such ‘cuteness’ though could sometimes be dangerous. Like the time she announced, rather loudly, “A big fat man!” with pointed finger to a man merely a foot away.
Or the embarrassing, “What a hunky guy!” when it was a younger, leaner man.
Good thing they are often forgiven by these people with whom we share footpaths and roads and parks. The reason being that they are “just kids.” Huh, I know better.
Don’t be deceived by their looks. Three-year-olds have very strong opinions on everything. And their take on certain world truths can sometimes be amazing.
“If we don't have boobies we will die.”
I’ve been teaching now for about fifteen years. I have two kids myself, but the best birth story I know is the one I saw in my own second-grade classroom a few years back. When I was a kid, I loved show-and-tell, so I always have a few sessions with my students. It helps them get over shyness and usually, show-and-tell is pretty tame. Kids bring in pet turtles, model airplanes, pictures of fish they catch, stuff like that. And I never, ever place any boundaries or limitations on them. If they want to lug it to school and talk about it, they’re welcome.
Well, one day this little girl, Erica – a very bright, very outgoing kid – takes her turn and waddles up to the front of the class with a pillow stuffed under her sweater. She holds up a snapshot of an infant.
“This is Luke, my baby brother, and I’m going to tell you about his birthday. First, Mom and Dad made him as a symbol of their love, and then Dad put a seed in my Mom’s stomach and Luke grew in there. He ate for nine months through an umbrella cord.”
She's standing there with her hands on the pillow, and I'm trying not to laugh and wishing I had my camcorder with me. The kids are watching her in amazement.
“Then, about two Saturdays ago, my Mom starts saying and going, ‘Oh, oh, oh!’ Erica puts a hand behind her back and groans.
“She walked around the house for, like an hour, ‘Oh, oh, oh!’ Now the kid's doing this hysterical duck walk, holding her back and groaning.
“My Dad called the middle wife. She delivers babies, but she doesn’t have a sign on the car like the Domino’s man. They got my Mom to lie down in bed like this.” Then Erica lies down with her back against the wall.
“And then, pop! My Mom had this bag of water she kept in there in case he got thirsty, and it just blew up and spilled all over the bed, like psshhheew!” This kid has her legs spread and her little hands are miming water flowing away. It was too much!
“Then the middle wife starts saying ‘push, push, and breathe, breathe.’ They started counting, but never even got past ten. Then, all of a sudden, out comes my brother. He was covered in yucky stuff, they all said was from Mom’s play-center, so there must be a lot of stuff inside there.”
Then Erica stood up, took a big theatrical bow and returned to her seat.
I’m sure I applauded the loudest. Ever since then, if it’s show-and-tell day, I bring my camcorder, just in case another Erica comes along.
Follow these 15 simple tests before you decide to have children.
Women: To prepare for maternity, put on a dressing gown and stick a beanbag down the front. Leave it there for 9 months. After 9 months remove 10% of the beans.
Men: To prepare for paternity, go to the local chemist, tip the contents of your wallet onto the counter and tell the pharmacist to help themself. Then go to the supermarket. Arrange to have your salary paid directly to their head office. Go home. Pick up the newspaper and read it for the last time.
Find a couple who are already parents and berate them about their methods of discipline, lack of patience, appallingly low tolerance levels and how they have allowed their children to run wild. Suggest ways in which they might improve their child’s sleeping habits, toilet training, table manners and overall behaviour. Enjoy it. It will be the last time in your life that you will have all the answers.
To discover how the nights will feel…
1) Walk around the living room from 5pm to 10pm carrying a wet bag
weighing approximately 4-6kg, with a radio tuned to static (or some other obnoxious sound) playing loudly.
2) At 10pm, put the bag down, set the alarm for midnight and go to sleep.
3) Get up at 12pm and walk the bag around the living room until 1am.
4) Set the alarm for 3am.
5) As you can't get back to sleep, get up at 2am and make a cup of tea.
6) Go to bed at 2. 45am.
7) Get up again at 3am when the alarm goes off
8) Sing songs in the dark until 4 am.
9) Put the alarm on for 5am. Get up when it goes off
10) Make breakfast.
Keep this up for five years. Look cheerful.
Dressing small children is not as easy at it seems…
1) Buy a live octopus and a string bag .
2) Attempt to put the octopus into the string bag so that none of the arms
hang out. Time allowed for this - all morning.
Forget the BMW and buy a practical five-door saloon.
And don't think that you can leave it out on the driveway spotless and
shining. Family cars don't look like that.
1) Buy a chocolate ice cream cone and put it in the glove compartment.
Leave it there.
2) Get a coin. Insert it in the cassette player.
3) Take a family size package of chocolate biscuits, mash them into the
4) Run a garden rake along both sides of the car.
There … perfect!
Get ready to go out.
1) Wait outside the toilet for half an hour.
2) Go out the front door.
3) Come in again.
4) Go out.
5) Come back in.
6) Go out again.
7) Walk down the front path/driveway.
8) Walk back up it.
9) Walk down it again.
10) Walk very slowly down the road for five minutes.
11) Stop, inspect minutely, and ask at least six questions about every piece of used chewing gum, dirty tissue, and dead insect along the way.
12) Retrace your steps.
13) Scream that you have had as much as you can stand until the neighbours come out and stare at you.
14) Give up and go back into the house.
You are now just about ready to try taking a small child for a walk.
Repeat everything you say at least five times.
Go to the local supermarket. Take with you the nearest thing you can find to a pre-school child. (A full-grown goat is excellent). If you intend to have more than one child, take more than one goat. Buy your week’s groceries without letting the goat(s) out of your sight. Pay for everything the goat eats or destroys. Until you can easily accomplish this, do not even contemplate having children.
1) Hollow out a melon.
2) Make a small hole in the side.
3) Suspend the melon from the ceiling and swing it from side to side.
4) Now get a bowl of soggy cornflakes and attempt to spoon them into the swaying melon by pretending to be a plane.
5) Continue until half the cornflakes are gone.
6) Tip the rest into your lap, making sure that a lot of it falls on the floor.
You are now ready to feed a 12-month-old child.
Learn the names of every character from the Fimbles, Barney, Teletubbies and Disney. Watch nothing else on TV for at least five years.
Can you stand the mess children make? To find out, smear peanut butter onto the sofa and jam onto the curtains. Hide a fish behind the stereo and leave it there all summer.
Stick your fingers in the flower beds then rub them on the clean walls. Cover the stains with crayon. How does that look?
Make a recording of Janet Street-Porter shouting “Mummy” repeatedly. (Important: No more than a four second delay between each “Mummy” – occasional crescendo to the level of a supersonic jet is required). Play this tape in your car, everywhere you go for the next four years. You are now ready to take a long trip with a toddler.
Start talking to an adult of your choice. Have someone else continuously tug on your skirt hem/shirt sleeve/elbow while playing the “Mummy” tape made from Test 12 above. You are now ready to have a conversation with an adult while there is a child in the room.
Put on your finest work attire. Pick a day on which you have an important meeting. Now:
1) Take a cup of cream, and put 1 cup lemon juice in it.
3) Dump half of it on your nice silk shirt. Saturate a towel with the other half of the mixture.
4) Attempt to clean your shirt with the saturated towel.
5) Do NOT change. You have no time.
6) Go directly to work.
Go for a drive, but first:
1) Find one large tomcat and six pit bulls.
2) Borrow a child safety seat and put it in the back seat of your car.
3) Put the pit bulls in the front seat of your car.
4) While holding something fragile or delicate, strap the cat into the child seat.
5) For the really adventurous… run some errands, remove and replace the cat at each stop.
You are now ready to have kids!
“A gender-equal society would be one where the word ‘gender’ does not exist: where everyone can be themselves.”*
I’ve always been aware of gender conditioning and actively tried to combat any lingering prejudices or stereotypes in my own parenting, even down to encouraging dolls with my boys when they were little. It’s great to read people writing about gender issues they’re experiencing with their kids. For too long these subjects have been discouraged or silenced. I’d love to publish some more creative writing on this topic, especially if you are struggling with a child who actively tries to move away from gender normative preferences. A society where everyone can be themselves – thanks Gloria for those aspirational words.
* Gloria Steinem