My husband and I can communicate telepathically. It comes in handy for those times when you’d like to whisper sweet nothings without the children parroting our intimate intentions at play group. Pfft, bah! Like that ever happens… yeah right. This skill is especially reserved to debate teeny tiny little instances when there are other adults present and you’re attempting to maintain the fraudulent façade that everything is per-fricking-erfect. You know those moments when if you were at home you’d just blurt out some intelligent and hilarious comeback and bask in the glory of being right? Or are we the only 15 year old married couple who uses comebacks and pays each other out? Um… cough.
Our telepathy proved helpful at a recent birthday party of a three year old dude. I was feeding the baby, enjoying the girl side of the gathering (what is with that?), chatting with other mamas and watching happy little beings go about their day, running here, skipping there, holding hands and high-fiving. Joy. It was quite lovely and somewhat miraculous that there had been no incidences yet. My hubby was on the fringe of the boy side, talking to a little five year old gal pal about the merits of gumboots (she made a compelling case, particularly the ease of on/off functionality). It was nearing the end of a really nice birthday celebration, and the customary lolly bags made an appearance (possibly ten minutes too early, but who I am to judge considering the baby got her own bag that I mostly ate).
Then… one piece of impressive helicopter cake and two thirds of a lolly bag later our children had hiked all the way to the summit of Mount Sugar-rush and decided to set up camp in the Irrational National Park. Our offspring morphed from delightfully happy party hat wearing children to crazy campers, just like that (meanwhile my own sugar in take was having the opposite effect and a foreboding sugar coma was settling upon me. Yawn. Shake it off. Wake up!).
Here’s how it played out:
Our three and half year old assumed the role of Park Ranger and marched around with a spatula in one hand and a tiny toy dinosaur in the other, pointing at people and shouting ‘let’s bite everyone said the dinosaur!’ My husband asks, ‘where did she get that stirring thing?’ Cos, yeah, that was the first thing that came to my mind too, the potential theft of someone’s stirring thing. She continued her military performance and came perilously close to swiping the dog with the stolen spatula. Fabulous.
Just in time, our two year old sits on someone else’s baby. It’s important to discern that it was someone else’s baby, and not our own baby, because he sits on his own baby sister with regular frequency. Whilst nude. With his little boy bits resting on her forehead. Although in this instance he was fully clothed and trying to ride little Jasper like a pony. Great.
Our baby is safe in my arms being breastfed, but at the alarm of a rogue party blower she reefs her head in the direction of Allah, exposing my shining, slobbered, so-not-sexy nipple to the dad dominated barbecue area. Awesome.
In summation… Wonderland #1 is threatening to bite, and possibly whack people with a spatula (the theft of which to be investigated later). Wonderland #2 is bouncing atop a seven month old squealing ‘giddy-bop’ with nudity becoming more likely by the second. Wonderland #3 is trying to get me a new husband.
All of this is happening simultaneously, in slow motion nano-seconds. Which situation demands my attention most? Hmm, well the swiftly turned-away heads of chargrill central suggest that the nipple emergency is over, although I’m quietly astonished that I remembered to tuck the offending breast away (child regulation often happens with a rascal breast on the loose in our house). And then it happens, the telepathy.
Hubby and I both have dibs on the two year old who needs to be unsaddled from the infant, but whom will be placated with simple distraction (followed by genuine apology to the lovely parents who lucky for us, missed the whole romp). The biting hazard however will require some artful negotiation (which in all honesty hubby is better at than me), possibly some chasing and facilitation to a new activity, ie, she’s not the easy one.
We lock eyes, across the grassed area. I raise an eyebrow, so slight that it’s virtually imperceptible to the naked eye. But to my husband, this single eyebrow gesture says this; “You deal with her. I’ve got him.” His return mouth twitch suggests “pretty sure it’s your turn.” I counter with a quick little brow furrow; “IT. IS. YOUR. TURN.” He goes off in search of the spatula bandit. I win. See, telepathic.
With peace restored I know that it’s time to leave before a real skirmish materialises; our brood needs to go home to rest (and be crazy in their own environment where biting and sitting on each other is marginally more acceptable). But I’m not ready to go yet. Do we have to go? I’m in the enchanting company of grown ups. Having a conversation. A con-ver-sation I tells ya! I don’t want to leave, regardless of the need to pack up Camp Irrational. But we do, we bid our gratuitous farewell and begin the forty seven minute process of assembling three kids and a pram into the car.
In our collective defence, I’ve embellished and we’re not that bad (are we? No, surely not. Are we?). Our little ones are, for the most part, just kids who from time to time do entirely kid-typical things. And we are parents who, for the most part speak like adults but from time to time prefer to argue with subtle facial expressions. Birthday parties are a tremendous little microcosm of the extremes; men and women revisiting play-ground rules with the boys and girls quadrangles, sugar highs and lows, tantrum escalation and diffusion, gift giving and gracious appreciation, and of course, marriage relations which brings me to my longwinded point; telepathy and other imaginary skills are absolutely necessary in the success of a relationship.
These are the hard years. Early marriage. Inflated mortgage. Babies/toddler/pre-schoolers. Decisions about career opportunities, child care, work/family/personal balance. Me time (what time?). Statistics demonstrate that many relationships don’t make it through these years and previous to being a mama I was guilty of daring to have an opinion about this. But the reality is that raising children is damn tough. Relationships are damn tough! In the tough moments we empathise with those couples that didn’t make it over endless obstacles and have had fleeting, flash-light moments of wondering if we’ll join the statistics (you HAVE TO tell me if you relate to this!). In the less tough moments we can admit that we’re lucky to have each other and know the wonder that is parenting. But the most prized blessing is my epiphany about the relationship of parents during the early years of raising a family; our life together is young and we’re really just babies ourselves.
Working out the finer points of child-rearing with telepathy is sometimes necessary, in fact, it’s kinda fun (plus it’s the only secret eye contact I get these days so I’ll take what I can get). Amid the nappy changes, linen changes and light bulb changes a few things remain constant at this point in our lives… tantrums, triumphs, genuine (warm, fuzzy, tingly, giggly) love and the occasional spatula smacking, turkey slapping, breast exposing episode – and they’re just the regular bits!
Yay, we’re still married… isn’t it a Wonderland!
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I’m not perfect (and neither are you but I’ll get to you later). It’s taken me a while to learn this lesson, especially the ‘you’ part, because ‘you’ look so perfect over there and if nothing else, I’m an expert at judging myself against others. I can be a bit slow on the uptake (pretty sure I’m still sporting 2009’s hair-do), I’m hindered by the all too debilitating curse of self-criticism, and my journey into motherhood and raising three precious souls has probably been too swift for me to catch my breath and see things for what they are; impeccably imperfect.
I’m genuinely not good at some aspects of being a mum – don’t be alarmed, I’m ok with admitting this. I rock Creative Tuesdays like nobody’s business, I sing and dance like the fifth Wiggle, and my impersonations during story book reading will possibly go down as some of my children’s favourite memories. Not to be shunned is my prowess at getting three under three strapped into the car in three minutes (it is totally possible, but ill-advised more than once a week due to potential for aneurism). Ooh, and I can be wearing a baby and assemble the two seater pram from the boot of the car in the time it takes you to say Bugaboo (no, I don’t have a Bugaboo, they’re way too cool for me and don’t go with my 2009 bob type side swept thing). The creative stuff flows easily for me. The organic, home-baked, calm talking, fruit cutting, television limiting, tantrum diffusing, child inclusive, enriching experiences stuff does not, and I have struggled to come to terms with this.
I watch some of my friends interact with their juniors and simultaneously feel guilty as all hell for not being more like them with my own brood, and genuinely inspired by their gentle, unhurried tone that says ‘yes little gorgeous person, I’m here, I’m listening, you are important.’ I get caught up, lost, tangled in my own needs to quickly finish this email without being harassed for bickies, or hang out that last load of washing without tiny, excited helping hands passing me clothes, or drive to the post office without answering the endless questions about who’s blue car that is, and where they’re going, and why they’re going there, and what will they do when they’re finished… it is truly exhausting, and I know that this is a universal sentiment (according to the rest of the kinder mums anyway). I remind myself that these years are fleeting and there will come a time when I’ll wish for the days when their need for me and desire for my attention was so great that it was in fact their only mission in life. But too often I’m guilty of forgetting this. Some moments with my three darlings are so terrifically intense that I almost implode and turn into a banshee, screeching ‘I have nothing left to give you!’ (Maybe the real lesson here is to spend less time giving, and more time being…)
Don’t get me wrong, this week we made a fabulously glittered egg carton caterpillar and tonight we choreographed a dance to an Aladdin song, but I wish I could be good at more things for their benefit. I wish I could be perfect, for them, and I suspect that as a parent, you do too. But I’m not perfect, and I’m trying to learn that this is alright. A person far wiser than me once suggested we not confuse our ambitions with our abilities, and whilst I’m a great ambassador for learning about oneself, it does appear that the more time I worry about what I’m not, is time that I’m not being me. Maybe, just maybe, if I can get this theory through my noggin I might be able to empower my babes with the understanding and importance of being you, and that you are perfect, in your perfect little way.
As parents (and people) we each have our strengths, and while some mamas might be the proud owners of the patience gene, or the double whammy of tantrum expert + home-baker, we’re not blessed with every kind of wonderful, and at the end of the day, most of us have spent a good portion of it just keeping our heads above water (probably even you over there who I think is so amazeballs).
None of us can be good at everything. Ever. At anything in life. (Although this shiny golden knowledge doesn't seem to be curbing my desire to have it all, know it all, be it all, WANT it all!) And, more importantly, we’re going to get it wrong, in fact, that’s kind of the point… So when my darlings reach their teens and I fondly remember the chubby hands reaching for the one odd sock, or my little girl’s insatiable thirst for information (probably now craving her to ask my opinion on anything), or missing the tender pleads for ‘mummy can I have a bickie, puhleeeeze?’, I will hopefully have the insight, and the hindsight to see that Aladdin’s jig (which we now recite every Christmas because it’s so hilarious and excellent) and that glittery caterpillar is my gift to them, and the other stuff I continued to learn to about whilst not screwing them up. Hopefully, when I’m old and wise, I will be comfortable in the knowledge that just because you’re good at something doesn't mean I should be, and that being the imperfect, all-loving/dancing/singing/creating/dorky hair-do'd mama is just fine.