Tomorrow will be my very first mother’s day with a child old enough to understand the concept, and even though it hasn't even arrived yet, it might just be the most perfect one I’ll ever have…
Wonderland #1 proudly brought home a haphazardly potted Pansy from childcare on Wednesday, and with it her little face carried the weight of a thousand precious accomplishments, she was so immensely proud and has asked me at least twenty times since if it’s mother’s day yet so can give it to me properly. She told me she picked the yellow one because it’s my favourite colour. She said that the green bow is a bit crooked and she can fix it with ‘ticky take’ if I get it off the high shelf for her. She said that mother’s day is when you tell mummy that she’s beautiful. She said that daddy would make me a cup of tea, but that when she was bigger and it wasn’t so ‘danger’ she would do it for me instead of dad because I’m her favourite mummy ever. She said that her brother and sister were too little to know about mother’s day, but that she knew, and she wouldn’t do anything naughty all day. It’s impossible to articulate exactly how touching her sentiment is, heavenly little child. And I know, yours is just as wondrous.
This year, mother’s day isn’t about me, it’s about them. There will be no massages or expensive lunches; we will do something simple, gather as a family and do something that lights up their little faces with glee, because seeing them happy gives me that grounded, yep-I-am-doing-something-right-and-I-am-the-luckies-person-on-earth feeling, and I love that feeling, it renews me, fills in the little voids of those day to day insecurities. It genuinely completes me. That and the whole theory that I, me, turned out to be someone’s mother. Phwaor…
I flounder at the thought of reproduction; it is the closest real life thing to magic. It’s a marvel, and the pure phenomenon will never ever be lost on me. The rarest cell in my body, and the smallest cell in my husband’s got together and made a tiny little person. Three tiny little people. It’s the most primitive, and easily the best thing about being a human; that God imparted this divine capability to us is a true gift that I now cherish above all others. To grow, nourish and birth a baby is genuinely my favourite thing to do, I would do it over and over and over again if my body and situation allowed. I would do it for anyone (calling all surrogate seekers – here I am!). And it doesn’t end there (it never ends!), raising a child is the greatest investment we ever make, there is no parallel. We sign up for a deal that includes sleeplessness, heart-ache, tremendous frustration, exceptional personal challenge and torturous extremes, but out of the venture we score a breathtaking life, and we mould it, treasure it, nurture it, shape it and hopefully guide it into being the most wonderful version of itself that it could ever be.
Today I watched my babies going about their day, a quiet splice of time when they didn’t know I was spying. Wonderland #1 was pouring fictional cups of tea, Wonderland #2 was scrutinising the engineering of a toy train and little #3 was entranced by her own fingers. I felt my love for these little beings swell inside me to physical proportions. They are all so different, yet personify perfection in their own little way. I know that they will forever be my greatest personal achievement, and I love each of them with such ferocious intensity that I spontaneously start to weep. Then I erupt into sobbing, hot tears that burn a path down my cheek threatening to undo me completely. It almost hurts to be so in love. I know that I’m not unique to be experiencing this force, but today, during that moment the slow dawn of knowledge lit me up like sunshine… that’s how much my mother loves me (then the sobbing morphed into the impassioned moans of a hormonal, post-natal creature and had there been any witnesses present, an ambulance would have been summoned to medicate the crazy lady who was losing her beans). But the notion stays with me; my mum loves me like that, and I love them like that, and one day, God willing, they will know that love too. It goes around and around. Wow.
The thing is, and it’s a constant theme in all my blogs, my story is no different to yours. I’m not unique because you can relate (well at least you tell me you can), which shocks me completely and simultaneously encourages me. At times I feel like I’m the only one screwing up, getting it all so horribly wrong and missing the bits that matter, but I’m not on this journey alone – here you are, reading and intimately knowing how the intoxicating adoration we have for our babies both propels us and unravels us. And that’s the point of this indulgent prose; as mothers (parents), we are inflated by wonky potted Pansies and it buoys us for the next round of tantrums and troubles, and like the love we feel, and our mother’s felt before us, it is a perpetual motion of ebb and flow of the most exquisite variety. All we need is the occasional Pansy.
To my little ones, thank you. Thank you for choosing me to be your mama, your impact on my life has brought about some of the very best qualities in me and I will be forever in awe of you. One day when I’m a famous writer (I can dream!) you might stumble upon this clumsy and inadequate old blog post and know that on one beautiful autumn day I took some time out just to tell other people about how much I love you and share in the beautiful, universal love of a mother.
I’m off to enjoy my wonky little Pansy which I hope lives forever and ever. Happy mother’s day, Wonderlanders.
I’m a yeller. I never wanted to be, in my pre-parenthood, blissful ignorance I imagined and hoped that I’d be less of a yeller and more of a quiet voices/organic type. But as it turns out, I’m to yelling what Imelda Marcos is to shoes. I’m to yelling what the Queen Mother is to hats (have you ever seen her not wearing one? Didn’t think so). I’m to yelling what Fifi Box is to the perfect post-birth photo. People ask me advice on how to be such a fantastic yeller. I’m the yelling poster child. Do I like it? No. Do my children like it? I think they do, they do a lot of yelling themselves. Um… yeah.
Last week though, I became a reformed yeller. After a verbal explosion Wonderland #1, with the sweet innocence only a three year old can possess, asked; “mummy why do you always yell at us. Doesn’t it hurt your voice? It makes us sad and cry-ish.” Her protective use of the inclusive ‘us’ (and concern for my voice box) made me gush with pride that my three year old little girl, big sister to two, was sticking up for her siblings, speaking on behalf of the children. It was a turning point, an epiphanous moment that left me sobered and empty and really rather cry-ish myself. She’s only three, her need to be the ambassador for the littlies shouldn’t be activated yet. I think I literally hung my head in shame.
So I researched. I’m no behaviour-changing vigilante so I typed ‘I want to stop yelling at my children’ into Google (where else would I type it?). I laughed at the auto-prompter which suggested my search should be ‘I want to stop yellowing pubic hair’ (what?!). But that’s another search for another day and what I found was actually quite a bit of information, apparently I’m not the only mama who wants to turn the volume down. One of the most helpful blogs I found talked about “triggers”. It made sense, making a “scream diary” as she called it, would help me recognise patterns to the yelling (gosh that makes it sound like it’s an addiction). A “scream diary” seemed a bit intense but I did make an effort to recognise moments in which I would have normally, or felt an overwhelming urge to yell.
For instance, when I bent in front of the car to pick up a rogue sock and Wonderland #2 honked the car horn in the carport where the cavernous echoey quality made the honking seem like some kind of torture… that was a “trigger”. But! I didn’t yell. I approached the car window with my palms raised, as though a dangerous beast was encaged within. I said, in my calmest mummy voice; “ok buddy, that was fun, but now you can stop honking the horn. Stop mate. Stop. Stooop. Stoooppp. Honey, mummy needs you to stop honking the horn. Stop honking the horn mate. Stop. Stopppp. Stopppppppp. Sweetie it’s very loud and it’s hurting mummy’s ears, please can you stop?” His delight at my awkward-uncomfortable-non-yelling negotiation resulted in crazy laughing hysterics complete with bounding up and down on the driver’s seat, jabbing pudgy fingers at buttons and knobs. He stopped. And I didn’t yell! It was an accomplishment of epic proportions. I felt like this is how normal parents resolve issues, I felt like less of a bad mother. I felt good, and the ringing in my ears wasn’t even that noticeable.
When the nappy bag got tipped upside down and the children played ‘lets put coins down the heater vents’… that was a “trigger”. When the frozen peas marbled out across the kitchen floor… also a “trigger”. When the big tub of Sudocrem got plastered into blonde curls… “trigger.” When the spilt bottled of cordial merged with the spilt bottle of milk onto the freshly mopped kitchen floor… that was a FREAKING “TRIGGER!” There were these triggers, and those intense, all-consuming moments where the baby would be desperate-crying, toddler is exactly in between my legs tugging for something at full volume, pre-schooler is shouting about the importance of putting a different pair of leggings on, right now! Everyone is melting down around me, and I’m accustomed joining in. On most of these occasions I felt frustration rising and thrashing in me like smoothie ingredients in a blender. I slammed my eyes shut and my head had a visible little seizure as aggravation bubbled to get out. Deep breath. Shake it off. Speak calmly. I have most definitely been on the cusp on many occasions, but I haven’t exceeded the reasonable decibel limit.
Dr Phil says there are six weeks of discipline to successful habit changing. Well Phil, let me teach you something: mothering three very small children amplifies most aspects of life. My life isn’t busy, it’s very busy. That nappy doesn’t smell, it’s the stench extravaganza pod. I’m not tired, I’m exhausted beyond explanation. The forty-five minute period between breakfast and kinder drop off evaporates in five minutes. The hour from nine pm to ten pm might as well be eight minutes because that’s all the relaxing I get. My point is Phil, what might be one week for a regular non-parent type person is probably like at least three or four for a neurotic parent type person. So while I can’t say the habit is broken, I haven’t yelled in a week and I don’t need to wait six weeks to see results. It was a decision to be kinder, gentler, calmer with my children; I just don’t yell anymore, full stop. And they are happier, they yell less, they respond well when I need their attention. Life is just better.
It’s only been a week since my decision to stay calm so I’m no serenity guru, but the “triggers” are becoming less like loaded barrels of angry, screaming monkeys and more like reminders of how awful I used to be. It might sound harsh, but it’s absolutely completely true; yelling is awful, no one likes to be yelled at and it took me longer than it should have to make that connection (I think I’ve already suggested I’m a bit slow on the up-take).
In my perpetual mission for self-growth, I ask this: what have I learnt? Well, I’ve learnt that asking for, and explaining why the freezer door needs to be closed gets the freezer door closed more effectively than screeching about the freezer door being open again! I’ve learnt that I contributed to the crazy, heart pulsing, short-breathed elements of Wonderland more than I ever would have admitted. I’ve learnt that not yelling is as good as giving myself permission to be slower with life in general; yelling carries such an urgency, speaking is present and makes you focus on what is happening now. I’ve learnt that my children are even more wonderful than I realised (is that even possible, cos they were already pretty damn marvellous). And the best bit I’ve learnt is that my babies have a treasure trove of lessons to teach me if I slow down long enough to let them.
Now I just need to work on my smacking habit. Kidding.
Like this post? Be a darling and leave a comment or like the Mama Facebook page.
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!
*If you haven't already, please indulge me and follow my Facebook page: www.facebook.com/mamainwonderland
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.