My favourite brother-in-law, Ron, (OK, my only brother-in-law) was chatting with me the other day as he folded clean laundry off the sofa. He was bemoaning the fact that the ONE thing that I am really, really obsessive-compulsive about had not been included in my sister’s DNA.
I am fanatical about my washing (when I do it)…it must be washed in a certain way (so that I know the tissues have been taken out of everyone’s pockets). It must be hung in a certain way (because I don’t iron). It must be hung in a certain order (so it can be folded and put in people’s rooms without me traipsing back and forward through the house). And it must be folded as it is taken off the line (read above about my not-ironing policy).
See, he thinks this is fabulous and very efficient – in reality it is the bad housewife’s way of keeping everyone who cares in clean, if crushed, clothes.
Anyhow, my brother-in-law Ron wanted to know why his wife couldn’t AT LEAST get a load of washing on the line before she took the kids to school…after all, all she had to do was make sure they finished the breakfast he started them on, get them dressed and get their lunches into their bags. They have a child in Grade 1, a child in Kindergarten and a two-year old.
“HAH!” may have been my reaction…I hope I wasn’t that rude. I would like to think that I simply raised an eyebrow, but I’m pretty sure I actually said “HAH!”
“Favorite brother-in-law Ron,” I said “Let me tell you about the mornings before school with two little kids and a toddler. It goes a little something like this.”
“Sam, come back in here and finish your toast. It doesn’t matter if you’re not hungry, you need to eat food so you can listen properly at school. Yes, you are going to school, I’m pretty sure if you can drag your little brother up and down the hall by his feet then you don’t have a tummy ache. Eat your toast. Ruby, get dressed. Your clothes are on the end of your bed. Yes, they are. Yes, they are. YES they ARE. If I need to come in there and find them for…..Good girl!
Henry, do you have a stinky? I think you do, let me look. Ewwww. OK Ruby, that doesn’t help. Sam eat your toast…you weren’t anywhere near him, so you couldn’t possibly be put off your breakfast by his stinky nappy. Well, yes you were dragging him up and down the hall but…don’t argue with me…you ARE going to school. If you are not going to eat your toast, you can go and get dressed.
Henry, lie down. Lie down, Henry. Don’t move or you….eeeeewwww. Henry! Mind your business, you two and GO AND GET DRESSED. I’m going in to get some clean clothes on, when I come out you two need to be dressed, OK? Good!
There…that’s better. Ruby, you’re dressed…thatta girl. Now, get your shoes and socks on. No, you can’t wear Princess shoes, it’s school today. No, you can’t wear your tap shoes, it’s school today. No, I’m pretty sure your teacher did not say you could wear the tap shoes and do a show for the class…please get your school shoes on. Yes, and socks.
SAM! Get dressed…oh, sorry…well brush your teeth, good boy. Henry, get out of Mama’s handbag, here have some of Sam’s toast. Ruby, put both shoes on. It isn’t lost. Look under your bed. No, under your bed. Did you look under your bed?!!! Here, LOOK what I found under your bed….yes, I’m certain that I said UNDER the bed. Yes, I did. Yes, I did. Yes, I….I’m not arguing with you.
Sam, why are you crying? I gave Henry your toast because you said you didn’t want it. No, you didn’t. You did NOT want it, because if you did you would be eating it RIGHT NOW! ENOUGH…both of you in there and BRUSH YOUR TEETH…NOT ANOTHER WORD!! I can hear you!!! Henry, come here so I can blow your nose. OK, ohhhhh Sam…you have toothpaste down your front, go and get your other school jumper, quick. It’s in your drawer. The top drawer. The very top drawer. Well, look in the other top drawer. Yes, it is.
Ruby can you get your backpack, so I can put your lunch in it? Well, where are you supposed to put it when you get home? It should be there, if that’s where you put it last. Henry, stay still. Crikey child, your whole brain is running out your nose. Blow, Sweetie. Blow. Like this. Blow…good boy.
Sam! That jumper is filthy! You can’t wear it. You do need to wear a jumper, it’s winter. It doesn’t matter if you don’t feel cold now, you will feel cold later. You will. You will. Get the other jumper. The one with the toothpaste. I’ll clean it up with a wash cloth. It’ll be OK. The teacher won’t mind. No one will notice. It WILL BE FINE!!! I just know, because I’m a mum and mums know! You’ve got your backpacks, YAY! Here’s your lunch. It’s Vegemite. You do like Vegemite. Of course you do. You do. Well, I don’t have time to make anything else. No, you’re not having a lunch order. Because you DO like Vegemite sandwiches. You cried yesterday because you wanted Vegemite and I gave you honey, that’s why I gave you Vegemite today. Well, you can’t have honey. You know what, you will forget all about this by lunchtime and you will be so hungry, they will taste delicious. Because I’m a mum and mums….don’t you be rude to me young man!
Are you ready? Ruby, are you ready? I don’t know where your Reader is…where did you put it? I didn’t touch it…you read it, and then I signed it…OK I DID touch it but then I gave it back to you..you’re splitting hairs…splitting hairs means…we don’t have time we ARE LATE…Come on! Let’s go. Where’s my keys? Where’s my keys? Henry, where’s Mama’s keys? The keys, Sweetie, for the car. Want to go in the car? Well, where did you put Mama’s car keys? Oh, man – you stink!!! Again??? What have you eaten?!!”
Do I need to tell you that my favourite-brother-in-law Ron, begged me to stop about thirty seconds into this story? I like him because he learns fast.
“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