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Archive for the ‘Motherhood’ Category

It would be an understatement to say that whole new worlds have opened up to me as a result of parenthood, for example when the NDM blogged about ‘indoor pay centres’, I didn’t have to visit Wikipedia to be hip to this hot scene. No, I just had to be the mother of a toddler for this world to be known to me (kind of like how an underworld brothel bar could be right under your nose, but you wouldn’t know unless you knew where to look).

But what really brought this ‘whole new world’ thing home was discovering the toy section of a department store. You would think as a mother of a toddler, or perhaps even, as general citizen of the capitalist consumption world, that this would have been known to me sooner, but I only recently stumbled upon this kooky collection because I feel pressured to buy new gifts for my breeding friends, as opposed to sourcing everything from the op shop, as I have done for The Boy to date:

Our $1 friend

Being unfamiliar with this section of the store, you can imagine my surprise when I found aisle upon aisle dedicated to selling toys that are based entirely upon the premise of imitating an adult world of domesticity and warfare, at the average price of 100 bucks a pop.

It would have been sad, if it weren’t kind of weirdly funny.

The first thing to catch my attention was a toy car that was kind of hard to ignore because it was like a Hummer on a crack-selling-street corner, except that it was pink and had Dora The Explorer ‘tagged’ all over it. I nearly fell over when I realised it was on the market for a price near to that of my first, real, car, at $340.

Upon making this realisation, I promptly stopped looking for gifts and started noting a general inventory.

First up was the Deluxe Supermarket Checkout, because as if getting dragged along with your oldies to do the grocery isn’t fun enough, you can now go home and ‘play pretend’. Who needs witches in the wardrobe and a sand pit full of lava, when you could be playing the Check Out Chick scanning food items? This little, or huge rather, gem, retails for about 70 bucks. There is also a separate Ding Ding Cash Register available to avoid any nasty sibling squabbles over who is going to tally things up; like how much suckers are shelling out to buy this crap. They really have thought of everything.

The Deluxe Supermarket Checkout

and the Ding Ding Cash Register

Also popular seems to be the farmyard theme. You can purchase a large barn complete with farm yard animals for no small price and simulate wholesome outdoor fun, without having to ever go outside!

The great thing about the plastic farmyard is that it represents the kind of great outdoors that humans don’t have to feel very alien in, because instead of bush there is paddocks, and instead of wildlife there is domesticated animals, which is the perfect way to introduce children to our rightful place in the natural world as being at the top of things.

Bringing the fun back to home, there was a Kitchen Package that would do any contemporary reno job proud. It is a lovely corner bench top complete with oven, microwave, espresso machine and “19 other accessories!” But not like the pots, Tupperware, and dust pans that you might find in your actual kitchen, fake ones! Yay!

I then discovered a piece of cross marketing genius when I saw a whole shelf dedicated to a range of Masterchef toys in the kitchen aisle. I can’t believe other TV shows have neglected to capitalise on the kind of exposure this branding must bring. Just think, all those kids, playing with your toys in front of other kids, I mean Masterchef could probably do away with the letter box drop with the kind of new audience it’s Masterchef Cupcake, Pizza, and Rice Kits must be bringing in.

The Masterchef Range: for Kids Who Cook!


Further along there was a Stroll Along Pram, which is not a life sized pram of course, it’s a miniature one, designed for toddlers that want to practice becoming teenage mothers. This was in the same aisle as a miniature Vacuum Cleaner (you really shouldn’t buy one without the other, because multi tasking is an important part of the domestic life that the child is in training for).

For Young Mothers In Training


In an unclassifiable aisle I found Smile Motion, but even when I looked closer at the box I still couldn’t figure out what it was, although it must have been pretty useful because it cost $128 bucks. This was found alongside Smart Sports, which, from what I could tell, meant that you ‘out smarted’ sport, by not really doing any and standing in front of your TV instead.

Smile!


In the ‘outdoor’ section, for boys, obviously, there were plastic lawn mowers for the bargain price of $30, and semi automatic weapons that came in boxes plastered with pictures of young boys engaged in water “warfare”.



There was also a swing that came in a huge box with the words “traditional outdoor fun” stamped all over it as though ‘outdoor’ and ‘fun’ had become outdated and there was nostalgia value to be had in employing these ‘ye olde’ tools of play.

Traditional Outdoor Fun!


I was on a bit of a roll with my little inventory keeping, so when I found that the toy section had given way to the book section, I decided to peruse the Parenting titles. And what I found is that these two sections are surprisingly well matched; for what the crazy world of toys could take away from children, the books could give back.

For example there was “Earthlight: Simple Visualisations to help your child Release Creativity, Enjoy Adventures, and Develop Inner Peace and Strength” (because you are never too young to develop a Self Help habit, and God knows, after playing with those toys your going to need all the help with ‘adventures’ that you can get).

This was alongside:

“How to Raise an Amazing Child”

“The Best School for your Child”

“101 ways to Happy Children: A guide for busy parents”, and

“Boundaries with Kids: Help your Children Gain Control of Their Lives”

I think now that all we need is someone to sanitise an Abattoir in the form of a plastic toy, and we have the missing link. The kids can visit the animals on the farm, cart them off to the Abattoir when they are done, package up the meat for their Supermarket shelves, sell them to customers on their Ding Ding Cash register, go home to their kitchen, pour themselves an espresso, knock over a bit of vacuuming before doing the lawns, then put their feet up with a good copy of “How to Raise an Amazing Child”, all in good preparation for when its their turn to do it For Real.

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It’s a strange thing to wake in the morning, drive silently across the city in heavy traffic, then find yourself at an appointment where one of the first things that happens to you for the day is a woman inserting her finger up your vag and instructing you to contract your muscles around it like you are “sucking a tampon up inside you”.

Not the usual way to start the day.

And despite the obvious links, the whole thing had nothing to do with sexual adventures with random strangers, and everything to do with what is apparently one of the best kept secrets of  ‘women’s business’; that of women pissing themselves after birth.

The physiotherapist assured me it is a common problem, one in three women experience it in fact, but if other women are as loud and shameless about it as I am, then I cant see it being a well kept secret for long – I announced my problem at the pub the other day to a table full of people I had largely met for the first time that day, who mostly responded by saying “Oh. Is that right?” before casting their eyes downward and drinking their beers in a way as to suggest they didn’t really want to know if it was right or not.

“Pelvic floor dysfunction” is what it is called when its not called pissing your pants. But to clarify, this doesn’t mean I walk around pissing myself willy nilly. I just tend to run into, problems, when doing certain types of exercise (I say, as if that’s not embarrassing enough. But really, imagine sharing a raucous joke with the girls down at the pub only to find yourself getting a little, well, carried away… Some girls don’t have to imagine…)

How on earth did this happen, I hear all you non-mothers and males ask?

Well, it’s rather simple really. The Boy, upon making his grand entrance into the world, was a little bit, impolite, a little bit, impatient, on his arrival, and just went ahead and kind of tore himself an exit point the shape and size he saw fit (the God given hole wasn’t big enough, and its got me fucked why evolution hasn’t fixed that yet… Maybe its got something to do with me putting God and evolution on the same team?!!)

Anyway, apparently doing things like stopping my piss mid stream and doing hundreds of kegals a day (like sit ups, but for your vag) I might have stopped this problem from happening in the first place. But being the neglectful vag athlete I am, my muscles down there weren’t really prepared and they went ahead and got a great big tear through them and had to get all stitched back together again.

Come to think of it, having fingers stuck up the nether regions by strangers that have not been solicited for seedy sexual favours, can be traced back to this day too – because as I lay back on the bed post birth, my legs hitched high and with the midwife down there sewing me up, I heard her cheerfully announce; “Now I’m just going to stick my finger up your bum to check I haven’t sewn the wrong bits together”.

The look on The Yang’s face as he sat across the room nursing the new born Boy summed it up – she’s just been through all that, and now she has to lay there while someone sticks their finger up her ass?! – Like me, he couldn’t seem to work out if he was horrified, or if the whole thing was kind of hilarious.

And so now, here I am. Going to weekly appointments where some woman sticks her finger in my vag (reoccurring theme here?!) and spending the days in between drinking gallons of water and doing vag sit ups with the kind of dogged determination of an Olympian triathlete in training.

At least I might come out of all this with a kind of super vag that has the strength to snap a man’s penis right off – which is just the kind of skill that could come in real handy, how exactly…?!

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Its school holidays, in the middle of a stinking hot day, and we are going to the circus. One that just so happens to have erected it’s big, white tent right next door to McDonalds so that when we get there instead of being excited at the prospect of amazing feats and dazzling array of daredevil skills, the kids instead shout:

“McDonalds! Can we have McDonalds? Can we stay here all day? At the playground. In McDonalds?”

If I didn’t have such high regard for Circus Oz and their commitment to civic duty, what with that political history and performing to all those little black fellas out bush all time, I would question if there wasn’t something strategic about this placement (a guaranteed side gig for the Circus Oz dwarf in the Maccas playground during low season perhaps?).

Our journey to this circus-next-door-to-McDonalds started out in the morning, after three kids, aged between three and ten, collectively ate a slice of toast for breakfast.

“I’m hungry”, was the first shock announcement made as soon as we jumped on the bus.

But it was quickly forgotten once we hit the CBD and Child Number 2’s attention instead turned towards wondering what all those people could be possibly doing in all those tall buildings in the middle of the day (the kids live on the outskirts of a regional town, which my mother likes to fondly refers to as ‘the country’, a place clearly lacking in very tall buildings and purposeful men in suits).

We get off the bus in the centre of town.

“Where is the circus?” they demand.

“We have to walk there,” I say, quietly thinking ‘where the hell did you think it would be, in the centre of the God-damn business district, two-feet from where we get off the bus?’ all the while smiling sweetly and attempting to maintain an upbeat demeanour.

“Walk? But I’m tired. And hungry” they argue, doing the best to rattle my aforementioned smooth moves.

But this too is soon forgotten as we round a corner and the Aquarium comes into sight.

“The Aquarium! Can we go to the Aquarium? Please. But please. But really please. I love the Aquarium”.

“But we are going to the circus. The one next door to McDonalds” I reason.

“McDonalds!” they shout, and… uh, forget it. You know how it goes.

When we do finally take our seats at the circus, it becomes rather clear that this is going to be performance viewing of a whole new kind for me.

For starters, I haven’t had six beers. And it’s the matinee show. To my left, to my right, in front and in back of me, no one is higher than four feet tall. And nowhere, it seems, is there anyone patiently for show to start with their hands folded neatly in their lap. There is however, children rolling in the aisles, kids pegging food at each other, and parent’s making last minute lurches across three rows of seats to rescue flailing toddlers skittering down stairs.

Also interesting is how once the show starts the audience don’t go respectfully quiet as such, but rather raises their volume in order to drown out the show’s intended soundtrack with a cacophony of screaming, squealing, crying and moaning – (ok, that was mostly me, and some other regretful parents).

Once the show starts Child Number 3 artfully spends the first thirty minutes without ever once raising her eyes stageward, instead keeping her sights firmly set on the steady decline of her bucket of popcorn. (She also falls asleep TWO minutes before the end of the show. Meaning she is not only running on two chicken McNuggets, but she also has two golden minutes of sleep up her sleeve for the walk and the bus ride back home).

But here is the thing: while I sat thinking that a ‘family day out’ with challenging children that I did not birth was going to the biggest test of the day, I was duly proved wrong by the man seated in the row behind us with his two young boys, because he was determined to share with us, via his booming okcer voice, his detailed running commentary of the show:

He we go boys

It’s starting

The lights have dimmed

Watching, watching,

Keep your eyes open boys

You’ve got to watch everywhere

There! there is something happening over there

There’s a man up there

There’s the band coming out

What’s she doing?

Who’s that over there?

Oh, gee, you have to keep yr eyes on everything

Here we go

It’s started

That’s the band playing their instruments

WOAH see that jump?

Gee that looks hard

Oh. They all getting on. They are all getting on that bike

Looks squashy

Wouldn’t want to be that guy in the middle

Oh that’s a hard one

How do they do that?!

And on it goes. For the entire show.

But even without this brutal final test, the day proved to be an effective form of boot camp should I ever go out and get pregnant a few more times in quick succession, and then decide to go on and raise all three children on a strict ‘breatharian’ diet.

Strangely, this fine tuning and preparation instead left me wondering how I could best contact China and ask if I could borrow their One Child policy, seeing as though their not using it anymore…

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At a mere fourteen months I cant help but think it’s started early. Aren’t they the ‘terrible twos’ because the kid is, you know, two?! It’s a cruel blow to our carefully crafted parenting timetable that The Boy seems to have gone and got all ‘toddler’ on us already.

No comprehension or ability to reason, inexplicable outbursts, untamed emotional reactions to the world, deliberate defiance and a dogged determination to walk in the opposite direction, bee-lining for roads, escalators and stairwells, are just some of the subtle clues I’m basing this on.

If it has started this early, I cant help worrying that I will be a haggard, wretched shadow of myself by the time he starts to shake it off at around three years, at which point the questions will probably start rolling in (astutely noted by the NDM), giving me only the softest nudge needed to tip right over the edge.

But it was actually not The Boy’s trying ways that lead me down this line of thinking, so much as the exasperated father I saw in the playground the other day. The poor man looked like his hair had turned grey in a day. He was sweating profusely over a furrowed brow, tripping over his own feet as he muttered to no one in particular, “Oh. There she goes again”, as his daughter raced into the distance leaving him to eat her dust.

It was something about the delivery of what he said; the flat, deflated tone of a matter-of-fact observation without so much as a hint of surprise or wonder. At first I smirked at what I imagined to be dry humour, but later it got me thinking about how we weather the storms of parenthood.

While I feel certain that I will continue to have days of defeat, deflation, frustration and feelings of failure, I am also beginning to suspect that I just may escape being condemned to a bone deep weariness.

The reason for this, and I’m almost too hesitant to say, not wanting to weight into the heavy weight world of over-opinionated, judgemental and righteous parent commentary, is this: I co-parent.

Not in the sense that my partner had 3 months off when the baby was born, not in the sense that he takes one day off a week to stay at home with the kid, and not in the sense where I work 9-5 and he stays at home but we call that co-parenting because its easier than asking people to accept that a mere male is the primary carer.

No. I co-parent in the sense that I work the occasional freelance job from home, and he works a few short night shifts a week as a musician. The rest of the time we spend parenting, baking cookies and knitting scarves, spurred on by our altogether noble ideal of sacrificing money for time.

Ha Ha Ha. Well, that’s what life would look like if we weren’t too busy running around after our wind up toy toddler and lamenting the loss of time we used to spend writing, making music and getting shit-faced drunk. Oh, and if it was Pleasantville in a parallel 1950s universe where men stayed home with children and I magically developed craft and baking skills.

But because I am prone to dwell on the negative and incessant worrying over what other people think, I sometimes find this an isolating experience, finding it very difficult to find other people to relate to, and inexplicably, end up thinking that because my partner is so extensively involved in this ‘woman’s’ work of child rearing, that I am somehow inadequate in my own role.

And because co-parenting is not without its own issues, I have sometimes failed to appreciate the beauty of this arrangement.

The experience of a true lack of gendered boundaries in our relationship with our child is awesome.

We are sometimes challenged on this, with friends insisting that, at the end of the day, The Boy surely must seek the comfort of Mother than Father, boob rather than hairy chest, but he doesn’t. He seeks us both in different measures at different times, and has done from the day he was born.

And while it does mean that I find it difficult to relate to many parenting books and blogs, of hair raising and hair pulling experiences of the stay at home mum, it does mean I can appreciate the beauty of passing The Boy back and forth between four “primary” carers (I’m throwing the grandparents in, because they are raising him too).

I indulge in the belief that this will help him be a well-rounded dude, as he so far happens to be. And when he is not, there is The Yang, my opposite and my balance, tag teaming with me to enter the ring with all of his patience and laid back attention for a whip whirling wind of a toddler that wants to touch the surface of every object, walk in the manner of a butterfly guided by pheromones (and inexplicable impulses), pick up all foreign objects in his path, and go and go and go from sun up to sun down.

And when I saw the frazzled father in the playground and suspected that he was utterly reeling from his a taste of what many women experience day in and day out, I couldn’t help but come to think: Thank fuck I don’t do this ‘on my own’.

For The Yang, who I am so proud of for pursuing an approach to fatherhood not dictated to him by convention. And for me too, a bit of kudos for my own role in cultivating this life together.

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At 9.22am it’s going to be a single year since you tore through my flesh.

The midwife gave a perfunctory glance at the clock before handing you to me, slippery and wet. And I don’t care what anyone says, there was no melt away moments to savior. I was delirious and wrecked and exhausted and overcome. We didn’t lock eyes and we didn’t stare lovingly into each other’s souls.

We just climbed clumsily out of that bath together, your tiny body almost cowering in my arms, maybe it was as excruciating for you coming down that birth canal as it was for me. Your eyes were jammed shut and your pointy chin, covered in taunt, white skin, nuzzled around my boob immediately, instinctively, seeking nourishment  – (now that’s amazing. Nine months in a womb and no need to be shown where the boob is or what to do with it).

And I knew, as I lay on that bed, with blood oozing out of my fanny, you in my arms and a placenta still running between us, that despite all the waves of erratic emotion and joy, that it was a load of bullshit that you forget the pain and agony of birth once you have your baby in your arms.

I lay motionless. I couldn’t wiggle or adjust myself because I feared that the inside of my body was broken into tiny pieces, and I just looked sternly at your father and said “I will never, ever fucking forget, and if by some miracle I do, you must never, ever let me do this again”. He just laughed, and even though it wasn’t that funny, I joined in.

We were laughing because we had that feeling of coming out the end of a horrible, blood splattering battle, and we were savoring that first sweet taste of relief that it was over. It was all smiles and tittering giggles. You don’t know that feeling yet. But you will one day. It’s a very distinctive kind of happiness, filled with gratitude.

And I will always remember the howls of the woman through the wall from the other room. I knew in my heart that as loud and ferocious was her noise, that mine was louder and wilder. In the tiny seconds between those final contractions, I slumped forward (I was kneeling in the water when you came. That’s right, on my knees. From day one.) and squeezed in some self deprecating self consciousness by letting out a wretched sob and  telling the midwife that I felt like an animal. You are, she casually corrected.

And then, moments later, you plopped out. One year ago today. It was a Wednesday then, but it’s a Thursday now. A year in time takes us a day ahead in the week. There is something fitting about that time warp. How so much has happened and so much has changed, and all of it like slow underwater movements that have passed with the blink of an eye.

One minute we were in a god awful hospital ward with the sound of screaming babies coming in from every angle, and our door swinging open and closed like a tent flap in the wind – its time for you hearing tests, how are things in here, are you getting any rest, you have some visitors, would you like to sign up for a physio class, I’ve come back for your hearing test, Photos! Photos! Would you like some photos, how is everything going, getting any rest….

And all the while you lay quiet in your bassinet, and I lay on the bed with a frozen condom that had been filled with water tucked between my legs to help with the swelling. (there was a whole freezer full of them in the common room. You just had to shuffle past people’s friends and family sitting in there watching TV, reach into the deep freeze and grab yourself a condom).

I couldn’t sleep, I was charged with emotion and exhaustion, and like a post traumatic stress victim, every time I closed my eyes scenes of the awful labour, and sensations of the wracking pain would play over, and over, and over in my mind.

Then the next minute we were home and the screaming started and the nipples cracked and our world fell to shit for a few hazy weeks there.

You would only sleep when being held in one of our arms, so we would have to do shifts where one of us tried to sleep while the other one nursed you. We would cradle you in our arms, propped up on pillows with our legs stretched out in front and try and steal some precious moments of sleep ourselves.

There was beauty in the fact that in your virgin moments in this crazy world you held on tight. But fuck it was awful. Your father would lay with you for hours like that, trying to give me some rest. I was mostly too neurotic to take much advantage of it, quickly discovering that it’s hard to sleep with your jaw clenched shut like a metal trap.

In those first days you slept so little that we saw no point in going upstairs to our bedroom, besides, we scared shitless of this crazy new life we had on our hands and we tried to bring the world in tight around us, reducing it to a few simple square metres.

I remember going upstairs to get fresh clothes and how surreal that felt, like visiting the newly deserted ghost world of our former lives.

And even though you tended to favour screaming yourself to sleep and then waking up a very short time later, I respected what I imagined to be your discomfort with this crazy world, and your fierce and passionate reaction to it.

Yep, those were tough times. I would see pregnant people on the street and feel sorry for them. I would want to run up like a crazy person, grab hold of their shoulders and cry “its too late now! You don’t know what’s coming! What have you done?!”

But all that changed as watched you go from laying like a skinned rabbit in the centre of the floor, unable to make any deliberate movements, your scrawny arms flailing indiscriminately, to somehow reaching a point where you sit up in your highchair and use both hands to shovel food into your mouth.

Sometimes all four of us stand on, gapping at your ravishing hunger that never seems to slow. You even seem to think ahead, gathering food in both hands, drawing them close to your mouth before swiftly chomping on one, and then the other, in quick succession.

I say four of us because we live with your grandparents now. You days began in a trendy inner city neighbourhood, but now you live in the suburbs in a big house that is really two little houses joined together. We live in the front and your Nan and Pop live out the back.

We ferry you in and out, back and forth, passing you around a set of people that have craved out an abundance of time to lavish on you – your father does a few gigs a week at night time when you are sleeping, I quit my job and your Pop is retired. Your Nan works like a dog, 63 and still getting up at 4.30am, but she is home by 3 and spends all afternoon with you.

You are a wildcat now with a devilish grin. You gather yourself upright and take uncertain steps around the house, your bow legged cowboy strut fused with the outstretched arms of a zombie lurch. You race headlong into the floor length mirrors and share what must be very funny jokes with yourself.

Every time you walk you have to strive for balance, falling forward, pulling back, wobbling, finding your centre. You are like a little man on a tightrope in a one-man circus, commanding our attention, and entertaining us endlessly.

All of our days are filled with watching you. We somehow have to divide you up between four hungry adults that want to devour every aspect of your life. We pull up chairs around the sand pit, or we sit near by on the grass, eight eager eyes watching from a respectful distance.

And at 9.22am it will have been a whole year now.

 

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Becoming (your) Parents

The Boy is at a point in his life where he is learning you can’t always grab hold of all the things you want in the world. Not that it’s stopped the kid from trying. Lately he tries in vain to pick up the tattoo off my arm and to grab hold of the rays of sun that fall on the floor.

He is also coming into his own as a freaky, unshakable, life changing force. Like how we took him on holidays recently and realized he had turned us into a disturbing version of our own parents. Stopping at Maccas despite swearing off the corporate scumdog evil empire for the last 10 years because you are hanging for something to eat and you don’t want to stop the car and wake the baby. Suddenly drive through is no longer a symbol for the lethargy and decay of modern society, but the well laid plan of a genius.

Next, you find yourself in country RSL club for dinner on a Monday night. Joined by five other patrons in a vast, cavernous club covering more square metres than a footy field, the barman, or should I say, MC, takes it upon himself to tee up a microphone and thunderous speaker for a bit of a joke telling session. Fried up frozen fish to the tune of amplified, echoing jokes, the ting of the pokies bringing in the harmonies. Ah, the serenity.

And after dinner, retiring to self contained accommodation because nowadays holidays means some kind of dignified shelter not passing out on a beach in a sleeping bag. But its still got to fit the budget, so instead of homestead luxury, it’s a second rate motel catering to a particular geriatric niche market with handrails and plastic chairs in the shower cubicle, and a ‘kitchen’ consisting of a sink and single, portable electric burner that had never been used.

But it wasn’t all oh-my-god-what-have-we-become moments, there was still enough ‘fun and games’ that we had to spend an entire morning on a frenzied hunt for some ‘emergency contraception’ (the pharmacist’s tactful, whispered name for contraception as an after thought). And based on how the holiday had been going with one 10-month-old Life Changer, it was a determined hunt let me tell you…

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