It is 8.04am. I am doing the dishes while reciting today’s to do list. My eldest daughter is playing happily, her school uniform lying untouched next to her.
“Honey, can you put your clothes on for school,” I ask. Nothing.
“Sweetie, can you please put your clothes on for school.”
Still nothing. I sit down, touch her hand and make sure her eyes are facing me. “Sweetie, we have to go soon, can you put your clothes on for mum.”
She smiles. “Sure, Mum.”
I look down at my almost two-year-old. “Honey, try to eat toast over the plate”. Too late she has left her little table with vegemite covered toast and face and is running to her big sister who still isn’t dressed.
I go back to my list: dress both kids, wipe the table, make the beds, pack school and playgroup bag, be back to watch section on Sunrise at 8.34am about being organized, on the hope it might help. I look down and realise I am still wearing my pajamas and need to wash my hair this morning. Darn.
There is now vegemite on the wall and what is left of the piece of toast is face down on the carpet. Her little two year old smile is her shield knowing that with that face mum can’t stay mad. The school uniform is still lying untouched. I pull off my eldest’s pajama pants, and decide it’s easier to dress her myself. Tick that off my list. One job done.
It’s time to have a shower now. I add clean up the vegemite to my list and put The Wiggles on. It usually works to keep them entertained momentarily so that I can have a shower.
The shower is hot and I wish I could stay for hours. I turn over the timer. The rule is four minute showers and I always tell the kids they need to follow my rules. I shower with my eyes closed to avoid seeing it is overdue for a clean, which won’t happen, by the time I do the shopping, go to playgroup, get ready for work tomorrow, and mop so that my two year old doesn’t eat last nights rice from under the table.
Never mind. Tomorrow.
I am out of the shower, and both kids who were ignoring me five minutes ago, now seem eager for me. I am naked and dripping. At my ankles and looking up come the words: Mummy. MUUU-mmmy. I pull on some jeans ignoring the dirty marks. When did I wash them last? I dig through the tops find the least creased one and pull it on. I throw my head back and forth a couple of time to try to get the excess water off.
Then it comes.
“Mum.” Oh no, it’s going to be a request. I don’t have time. I shake off the urge to give her the look with a firm WHAT?. When I do that, she senses I don’t have time and then she says I just wanted to say I love you, and that makes me feel even worse because I ask myself: Why do you love me when I don’t even have time to listen to you right now? But the thought passes because I don’t have time right now to think it.
I look at her nicely. “What honey?” with the loving mummy look.
“Can we play a game?”
I notice two year old fingers tapping on the laptop buttons next to my bed. She has managed to turn it on. I do a quick think, and decide the only way she can hurt herself with it is by dropping it, and she won’t do that so I turn and decide that if it’s entertaining her, then great because she doesn’t need me.
“No time to play a game.” I reply. She looks sad. I feel sad. The laptop shuts with my two year old’s fingers inside. She is sad. Screaming sad.
I reach down and pick her up. Her scream is piercing. “It’s OK,” I say.
“It’s OK,” her big sister says. We stroke her head and kiss her little fingers. The tears finally stop and she snuggles her head into my neck, puts her thumb in her mouth and her hand down my top. She is smiling; I can see it in her eyes even with the thumb in her mouth.
“She is so cute,” her sister says.
At the sound of her big sister’s voice her pain is forgotten and her eyes light up. I tickle under her chin and she giggles and then tickles her big sister who yells, “You can’t catch me”. This would normally be my opportunity to escape and make the beds. But I don’t.
I watch them chasing each other in circles through the kitchen to the lounge. I listen to them laugh, and I laugh too, and it’s music.
I wonder how it happened that my children are five and two.
I wonder where the years went and how many of these moments I have missed making the beds. Too many. But not too many more.
I sneak around behind them and ROAR and they squeal and run, and then turn and pounce on top of me up throwing me onto the lounge room floor. They tickle me and we all laugh. A lot.
And then I hear, “I love you, mum.”
And I deserve it and it feels good.
Then a two year “uvvv doooo”.
I feel full.
I look at the clock. I have missed the bit on Sunrise about being organised, the beds aren’t made, the dishes are only half done.
Right now, I really don’t care.
“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