School-mumming it.

 

schoolmum

We’ve been on the move for 16 months. And after 16 months of stay-at-parent’s-home-mumming it, I was ready for school. I was looking forward to school. Then they go and ruin it all by saying something stupid like uniforms and packed lunches.

I’ll be right here when you’re done singing, thank you.

I’d gladly jump on the emotional roller coaster again, over packing a healthy lunch EVERY DAY (turns out that doesn’t include peanut butter sandwiches. Wtf?), and trying to remember when PT day is. And ironing uniforms. No way, man.

I seriously considered leaving him at home with my mum till he’s old enough to pack his own lunch. I’m sure she loves it. I mean, she’s bloody good at it. And isn’t that how the female psyche works?

But alas, it’s their way or the highway to jail for not educating your child.

So off I went, lost and confused, into the world of adulting: level 4000.

The night before.
I’m armed with my to-do list and there’s nothing I haven’t thought of. I triple check my extensive list with military precision to make sure my almost 3-year-old brings his A-game to his first day at pre-kinder.

The complete list:

  1. Breakfast at home.
  2. PT uniform.
  3. Pack lunch and fruit.
  4. Carry water bottle.

Uniform has been laid out, his jam sandwich has been sandwich-artisted out within an inch of its life.

Day 1.
I’ve taken the day off to celebrate my son’s coming-of-kinder-age. We walk into the school and are instantly part of the single entity that is a giant finger-crossing, wide-grinning and knee-wobbling parent. He loves it. We run out.

5 hours later, I wait for our regular cab to take me to pick him up. Except his car has unexpectedly broken down at the last micro second. I go from Snoop Dog chill to Tasmanian Devil chill.

I arrive 10 mins late, but luckily telling time wasn’t part of his lessons today. He’s happy. We run out.

Day 2.
I’m up at 3am. We have a leaky-nappy-but-we-haven’t-worn-a-nappy-in-months situation. I soothe his bruised ego and we cuddle in my bed. It’s his turn to hate life, not mine. When morning comes, all is forgotten and we’re super excited for school. The uniform looks too large for his tiny frame. A strand of hair is on strike and refuses to calm down. Everything is perfect.

I may have patted my back too hard, because halfway to work I remember that I did not feed my child breakfast. Lunch isn’t till 11:30am. It is 7:30am. Mum of The Goddamn Year.

Day 3.
Breakfast is ready early; he’s smashing his peanut butter sandwich and I’m smashing this school-work balance game. We’re in the car and I notice a blob of peanut butter on his uniform. Spit. Wipe. Keep going.

Day 4.
My mum calls after she’s picked him up from school at noon. I forgot to pack his bunny “Hops”. He is not happy and the cats in the neighbourhood have been spotted fleeing the area with bleeding ears.

Weekend.
Whatthefuck just happened?

Week 2.
Repeat. With more sophisticated crises.

To the parents who “design” their kids’ lunch boxes, polish their shoes, and make it look easy…

clap

 

 

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Yo’ mama needs a break.

He’s a skinny boy, with nary a growth spurt in sight. He’s crawled into our bed sometime between deep sleep and morning dreams, and has now taken over my space and sleep.

I carefully slip his warm weightless arm off mine and pick up my cold weightless phone. It doesn’t take a new-age embrace-your-child-or-ruin-them-forever mama to point out what was wrong there. So I toss my phone aside and pick up his little arm again.

Why stop there? Look at the little guy lying there, curled up beside me. All trusting and cushy. So I nudge closer and scoop him up in my arms. Oh his little frame so close against mine makes it feel like he is in my womb again. All mine, and mine alone.

He promptly kicks me in the groin and rolls away to a less needy pillow.

Little turd. Doesn’t he know I made him? And that I know several other mummy clichés?

  1. I wake up with bumps along my brow and cheekbones, because for a puny 2 year old, he head-butts like a pro-wrestler.
  1. Every muscle in my body aches from changing his clothes. It’s like trying to slip 4 pairs of wet tights on a wriggling octopus – blindfolded – with one hand tied behind my back.
  1. These days, when I gather him up after a fall to “take the pain away” with the age-old remedy of mama’s kisses, suddenly it’s: “Yucky. Too much kisses, mama. Don’t dooo that.” (While I thank M for passing on his ability to crack everyone up, I very proudly take credit for his witty comebacks. And oh how it has come back.)
  1. My body is a bean bag (put that in your song, John Mayer), and not just in reference to the shapelessness. When it comes to my lap, my son has called shotgun for eternity. Once seated on me, he proceeds to squish and squirm and jump and curl and stretch and wildly trash about as if possessed by the devil. His elbows, head and knees have a way of giving me a deep tissue massage from hell.
  1. When I try to reflect on my life and where I’m headed, the thoughts come unbidden to me. What’s for dinner, what’s in the pantry, what’s in the laundry, what should we do tomorrow to keep his mind active, all the ways I could be stifling him, all the ways I’m not nurturing him, everything I’ve not done for my husband that I used to and vice versa, all the free time I have that I don’t use…was that the baby crying?? I should go. I shouldn’t. Maybe just this once. One time can set a habit. Aaarrrgghhhhhhh.

Hence, this post.

Hence. This. Post.

There comes a time in every parent’s week. When you’ve been smacked, kicked and yelled at. When the naughty corner gives them enough time to come back with an apology, but doesn’t give you enough time to calm down. When all the cuteness in the world becomes a blur. And then, you lose it when they accidentally drop a pen.

You know you can’t be angry with anyone in particular, but you want to be. You know you’re not a victim, but every bit of you hurts. You’ve got a mostly calm and independent child, so saying you haven’t had any me-time just doesn’t feel right. Even when the most well-intentioned partner, parent or friend offers to help out, your brain cannot detach.

Which is why, even when the baby has been an angel, you still need an out. Except, you’re guilty to even say the words.

Come on mamas say it with me: I need time away from my child and that’s okay.

Even when my child has done nothing but sleep all day, I still need time away and that’s okay.

I’ve had a relaxing weekend and an easy week at work/ home, I still need time away and that’s okay.

I’ve spent all day at work, and come back to a whiney little sook. I momentarily wish I was still at work, and I hate myself for thinking that. That’s okay, too. On both counts.

They’re cute as hell and bottomless pits of love and adoration. The joy they give us is pure and overwhelming. And we still need time away and that’s okay.

In 2 days when it’s Mother’s Day and they make cutesy hand-drawn cards, but we secretly wish they gave us some solid baby-free, chore-free time – that’s okay, too.

Because if I’m not okay, they’re not okay.

mama

Happy Mother’s Day, ya’ll.

(Mostly to my mum, who’s had to endure us, and now our kids, without a minute’s break.)

Daymares (When day dreams go bad.)

I stumble out of the car, intertwined with my best people. We’re laughing uncontrollably about something that won’t be remotely funny to anyone who isn’t here.

It’s dusk and our shadows double over in laughter with us. I turn around, in a desperate bid to catch my breath, and my friends aren’t here anymore. Just a stranger with a dirty machete and a dirtier smile.

I wake up from the dream-turned-nightmare with a sinking feeling at the bottom of my soul, and spend the next hour trying to invoke good dreams. Trying to rewind my dream and end it at the happy part.

This would’ve been a good time for Leo to help me Inception my dream to wake up before it got scary.

And wouldn’t it be cool if we could do that with our life dreams before they turn weird?

WakeMeUp

Wake me up before I go-go crazy.

Like that course you took to fulfil your childhood dream. Except you grew up and the dream hadn’t. Shoulda got out before it started suffocating you.

Or like that true love you dreamed into life. Shoulda woken up right after the song and dance sequence, before the drama began.

Or the this-is-my-passion kind of dream that you’re just not sure about any more.

During my early years in advertising, I toiled for months on end to create what I thought was a portfolio of my most creative work. That little book is currently doing the rounds, as I crawl out of my maternity leave.

The other day, I was asked what I was most proud of in my folio. I mentally scanned through all the words and ideas I had strung together in my career.

The ones I was most proud of though, were the words and ideas I had taught my son to string together these past 2 years.

What folio does that go under?

I taught the kid to crack his first lame joke, to do a goofy victory dance every time the ball leaves his little hands, to say please, even at 2:30am.

And I’m not even particularly maternal! Yet, it feels like I’m fulfilling something. A purpose? A calling? A he’s-so-cute-I-must-be-dreaming kinda dream?

I admire the women who give up their careers to be stay-at-home mums and vice versa, or people who start new careers after 20 years in another. They’re brave humans who accept that one dream must end so another can begun.

See, I love what I do. It’s fun, it’s with fun people and it’s mostly for fun. But I’m not sure it’s my dream any more.

There are so many things I want to do with my life; I have a feeling that in a few years, my career path will look like the steps of a hopeless drunk trying to make it from the front door to the bathroom. I’m ok with that, as long as it doesn’t end up curled on the floor clutching the toilet bowl.

“Dream big,” they say. “Never give up on your dreams,” they goad.

Would it still be called giving up if you didn’t care anymore?

Most of us get stuck in our dreams – both personal and professional – because we remember how much me wanted it. We don’t owe it to faceless motivational posters to follow through on our fading dreams. But we owe it to ourselves to follow our heart – even when it changes.

I’m starting to realise that if I want to end my dream on the happy note it deserves, I should wake up sometime soon.

Because if you have a dream, by all means, you should chase it. But if your dream starts chasing you, WAKE UP BEFORE THE GODDAMN MACHETE APPEARS.

Confessions of a smug new mama

Just over two years ago, I was a new mama. Not much later, I was a smug new mama. And here’s why I’m now eating humble pie behind closed bathroom doors.

For a few weeks after my son was born, I was tethered to the bedpost like a cow to a milking post. I envied the cow for all the time she got to graze around freely for the rest of the day.

I was sore, sleep-deprived and so in love. And no matter what the woman kissing her child in the meadow says, the love didn’t make the rest of it ok – at least not until it was in hindsight.

So I pulled the plungers off me, brushed my teeth for the first time in weeks and decided to sleep train the little guy.

5 days of letting him cry it out (Put the phone down. Child services are sick of this call. Besides, 2 minutes of crying isn’t going to hurt them. Neither is 5 minutes, apparently), 5 days of learning how to duck if he squirms when I’m in the 3k radius, 5 days of absolute sleeplessness and heart-steeling.

5 days later, I had the whole thing down pat. Feed-Play-Sleep. No “snacking”. Proper nap times, only in his cot. Let him fall asleep on his own, do not give in to big eyes.

And I was free. 5 days of hard work for pain-free parenting. Or so I had planned.

See, my whole theory was: I’m not very maternal. I know this. But I’m feeling a bit maternal now, and I know that feeling’s not going to get any stronger. I know I’ll want to go back to work at some point, and I want to do all the right things before I introduce him to popcorn for dinner in front of the TV. So while I’m home on my maternity break, I’m going to be the maternal-est mother there ever was.

I followed his routine to perfection. In one and a half years, I hardly ever switched on the TV. I never showed him the phone or iPad. I only fed him homemade, sugar-free, salt-free food. I even baked.

Early motherhood is a time when everyone lovingly tells you to look forward to sleepless nights and cold meals, if you ever have the chance to eat.

Oh I slept and I ate. I also caught up on all the Netflix that Netflix had to offer. In my son’s first year, I was up-to-date with Mad Men, Sons of Anarchy, Game of Thrones, Parks and Recreation and New Girl. I re-watched parts of Breaking Bad and 30 Rock.

Hey, don’t hate me. I was working against the clock (and I got one o’ dem sleeping babies). Once the feeling wore off, there was no saying how far I would run.

I was smug as a bug in a smug-land.

The plan was that by the time the maternal cloud moved on and I was back at work, he’ll know his bedtime routine, he’ll have a healthy eating habit and will be quite independent. The awesome people at the Early Learning Centre can take it from there.

Except, we changed the plan. We decided to move countries and jobs and lives and routines.

We decided to take a well-settled 18-month old and turn his life upside down.

Now, 3 time zones and 4 different homes later, he’s slept in a portacot, toddler bed and our bed. He’s eaten at the dinner table, on a couch and in a car. He’s played with his elder cousins’ toys, grandfather’s toolkit and in dirty puddles.

That’s our new feed-play-sleep.

See, what I missed was that all the training and routine works only for responsible adults. Not for us, gypsy folk.

Not that it failed. Oh no, I wish it had! But it worked and that’s what’s screwing me over.

Sleep train, and they’ll go to bed and wake up like clockwork. So when I sit up till 2am to eat chocolate, blog or reply to emails, he still wakes up at 6am saying, “Minish seepin!”(that’s “finish sleeping”, for the unacquainted). I’ve only slept for 4 hours.

Teach your child to eat independently, they said. He’ll never depend on you to feed him, they said. But THEY DIDN’T HAVE THE DECENCY TO TELL ME THAT HE WILL ALSO CHOOSE TO NOT EAT A DAMN THING FOR 3 DAYS STRAIGHT AND REFUSE TO BE FED, BECAUSE I-N-D-E-P-E-N-D-E-N-C-E.

“Use your words” was probably the first thing my poor, military-raised child heard from us. And uses his words, he does. For a little guy who isn’t sure what life without a suitcase is, he’s figured out that M & I are his only constants. He adores his gramps, uncles, aunts and cousins, but he needs to know one of us is around. I’ll let him have that. He’s only 2.

Here we are now, 9 months later. Semi-back to semi-reality. And he’s semi-not-having-any-of-it.

M started work last week and the tears were out of control. But the promise of me being there softened that blow, and our independent son clung on to me.

Until I got a freelance gig (oh yeah, I got a job! Yay!).

After 2 years of trying (and miserably failing, at times) to be the hands on, stay-at-home, maternal-est maternal mum, I’ve realised that a toddler who misses bedtime is a crazy party animal, co-sleeping is addictive for adults, eating chocolates and junk every now and then is still the best, and the smart device can save your sanity.

Another important lesson: mollycoddle them, helicopter-parent them (whatever that is) or military train them, babies will be babies.

On my first day at work, I got a call from my breathlessly teary little boy. He used his words.

“Only daddy work. Mama no work.”

 

o

Let’s talk about talk, baby.

A few days ago, O told me he wanted a “peena budda sanmit”. I almost died of cardiomegaly. That’s an enlarged heart, FYI. That’s also more Grey’s Anatomy than general knowledge, sadly.

The “peena budda sanmit” in question was reduced to crumbs before I could establish a proper timeline detailing the name’s lifespan in my head. From cave-baby-esque banging on the pantry door to calling out for “peela balla”, it’s been a long, tongue-twisty journey to “peena budda”.

I constantly talk to him, about our day, our dreams and pretty much everything in between. Apart from developing his communication skills, I’m giving him a heads up that if he doesn’t start reciprocating right away, he may not be able to get in edgeways with me. That’s motivation, right there!

This may come as a surprise to you, but I talk a lot. Yes, it’s true. I know, I know. Take a minute to digest that, if you must. Take two.

Done? Ok, where was I? Yes, so I talk a lot. But thanks to years of writing for a living, I’ve learned to edit myself before spitting out every word that comes into my head. Except during a fight, of course. Or when that awesome human comes to talk to you. Then I may as well be banging on the pantry door, yelling “peela balla” repeatedly.

Talk.png
I’m just as bad when I’ve been hurt. I analyse, overanalyse and then abuse my analytical prowess. I prepare speeches in my head and perfect them down to the parting words, to go with my dramatic exit. A few hundred different perspectives, inner reflections and devil’s advocating later, I’m ready for the confrontation. Except, all that tossing and turning took roughly 27 years and no one else gives a damn anymore.

At the other end of the spectrum, get me in front of, or on the phone with, an old friend or one of my closest people, and I can talk till the cows come home with their grandcalves. I will share and sometimes over share. It’s like I’m drunk on words, and I cannot hold my drink. Hashtag no regrets.

I have a sneaking suspicion that I’m not alone in this.

Clearly, the vocal chords fail us when we’re angry, intimidated or hurt. Clearly, there’s nothing ground-breaking in that statement.

When I started writing this post, it was along the lines of teaching my little guy the importance of tone and the power of kind words. But now I’m wondering what happens to the words that we hold back?

Is that what we talk to ourselves about? Unresolved anger, hurt and embarrassment?

What?

Hold that walking the walk bit, we need to start talking the talk.
For a second, let’s forget the tones and intentions, length and brevity, sharpness and bluntness in our speech. For a second, let’s go back to our first words. Our “peena budda” moment, per se. When we had a basic need to communicate our basic needs.

Now let’s flip the conversation inwards.

Let’s train our tongues to frame compliments for ourselves. Hard as it may be, try telling yourself you’re awesome. It is, after all, the basic kindness we show other people. Let’s talk positive to ourselves and vent out the negatives. Not by whinging, but by flushing it out. If it can’t be fixed, flush. If it’s about people who don’t matter, flush. If it’s about the past, flush. If it can’t be flushed then take a minute to think about what you can learn from it and move on.

Wake up tomorrow – nope, why wait? – start now. Talk yourself up. Whisper sweet nothings to yourself. Be kind, adoring and inspiring.

I’m also starting to think that it’s ok to cheat sometimes. I mean, you praise people when you don’t mean it, so as to not offend them. How about not offending yourself for a change? I say, bring on the butter and lay it on thick.

Truth is, you’re pretty cool. Someone, somewhere wants to be like you. Someone, somewhere wants your home or your job or your friends.

You’re trying just as hard as everyone else at this life thing; some days are just harder than the others. You string together words to express your feelings, and you string together feelings to make sense of it all. It’s not easy, and yet, you’re here.

You’ve come a long way from your first words; now it’s time to talk nice to yourself. You’ll be surprised at what flattering things you’ll hear in return.

Mama Bare

Working mum. Daddy daycare. Hot mama. Dad bod. Mummy blogger. Dad jokes. Soccer mom.

The reason so many parents internally fight our status quo is that apart from convincing ourselves that we don’t have to lose who we used to be, we need to duck from all these labels being flung at us. Sometimes we wear them with pride, but other times we have an insatiable itch to drop the parental word. In the process, we make our kids look like monsters and ourselves like sleep-deprived maniacs. One moment we’re sucking in air through our clenched teeth and shaking our heads like we’re completely over it. The very next moment, we’re (over) sharing every poop story and our suspicion that we’re raising a genius.

To my non-parent friends (fur babies don’t count), if we’re confusing you it’s only because we’re constantly confused.

I’m writing this today because I’m one more incident* away from putting my child up on eBay.

Yesterday, however, I would’ve exhaled fire on anyone who tried to take my beautiful baby away from my adoring (borderline psycho) gaze.

This split personality is born as we try to strike the right balance. Saying ‘No shouting’ in a dangerously low shouting voice. Wildly jumping and laughing around the house with them and hoping they don’t misbehave elsewhere. Fetching a bottle of milk at 3am while pining for a bottle of red. Pulling faces to make them laugh and telling them that if they pull faces it’ll stay like that. Trying not to give in to their ginormous, heart-achingly beautiful eyes while maintaining eye contact.

Most parents have their shit together, but every word of advice and every book convinces us that it cannot be. That we HAVE to be breast-feeding, formula-feeding, water-feeding, juice-feeding, co-sleeping, cot-sleeping, chest-sleeping, car-sleeping, where-ever-the-fuck-the-screaming-banshee-slept-sleeping, sleep-training, molly-coddling, military-training, purée-feeding, baby-led-weaning-feeding, organic-feeding, burger-feeding, childcare-sending, grandma-daycare-sending, staying-at-home, working-from-home, try-anything, full-time, part-time, life-term parents and nothing less.

Fuck that shit! (Notice how every parenting blog/article is the most profanity-ridden?)

My logic is that much like marriage, parenting cannot be defined. I made the baby, now I get to make the rules! Except, I know nothing about it. I call it Jon Snow Parenting (I had to go there or his Ghost (strike two) would’ve hunted me down).

I shovel my way out of the endless shitstorm that is parenting advice, and come away with few nuggets of wisdom. But just as nuggets do no good for me except for instant gratification, these well-meaning, unsolicited nuggets may pull me through for the moment but mean sweet fuckall. Let me elaborate.

Pick your battles.
Am I raising a child or strategically taking over a small country? If at the end of this I was going to be crowned Queen of my own country, maybe I’d see some sense in all the fighting (I wouldn’t, I’m a pacifist); Instead, at the end of each battle I find myself on the floor, cleaning food from under the table or begging a confused 2-year old to forgive me. Not very regal, no.

This too shall pass.
Should I just close my eyes and count to ten thousand? Or cover my ears and shout LA LA LA LA LA till it ends?

Women have always done this.
How small-minded of me to think that I, a unique human being, created another unique human being in our unique lives.

But you chose to have the baby.
Not advice.

Pass the baby to someone else.
If I could’ve got the little critter off me for one second, I would’ve been sitting by a pool bar with a cocktail jug in hand. With mum’s best friend, guilt.

I’m sure no one’s coming to me for Jon Snow parenting advice, but hear this: Happy parents means happy babies. So pick your joys, because this too, shall pass.

Mum

Now that I’ve finished writing this, I’ve decided not to sell the kid on eBay just yet. I need the inspiration.

(If you’re still wondering who Jon Snow is and why he knows nothing, we haven’t talked in a while. Let’s chat soon, or you know, google it.)

*Incidents include and are not limited to: Refusing breakfast, lunch and/or dinner, eating only cereal for breakfast, lunch and/or dinner, regressing on potty training, incessant screaming, breaking out into hysterical tantrums just ‘cause, smacking, kicking, not being able to think logically, not seeing the bigger picture, not understanding that I need a break, refusal to play cutesy games with me, rejecting me, chocolate, back-arching crying, teething, not falling asleep when I snap my fingers.

Big name for a not-so-little girl: Higgs – Part III

When I finally landed upon Pigs, Figs and Higgs for my blog name, I knew I’d be explaining the meaning behind it forever. The name went against all the rules according to Google. It isn’t easy to remember, doesn’t really give away anything about the content and I’d have to spell it out to doubtful ears.

To me, however, it makes perfect sense. Pigs covers my (questionable) creative side, Figs is about my food/ life journey and Higgs is about today, and that’s what Part III is about.

The story of Higgs is very personal, before it was a global sensation, that is. The Higgs Particle has always intrigued me, being a Physics nerd and all. So imagine my delight when they confirmed its existence in early 2013. It meant the start of a new era in Physics and a fresh perspective on our universe.

Also confirmed in early 2013, was that we had a baby growing in my belly!

Disclaimer: I can be an over-sharer at the worst of times, but when it comes to my personal life, I’m painfully private. I post almost no photos online and other than for professing my mad, undying love for certain people, I share no details of what’s happening in my life. Yes, that makes blogging a very strange choice, but, come on, you know, just, whatever okay.

Our foetus was called Higgs because it meant the start of a new era in our lives and a fresh perspective on our universe. And it made for a very cool story while I swatted people away for rubbing my belly. Pregnancy and I went together like hand in a glove filled with a million fire ants. It was a sight to behold. I tried so hard to not be the stereotypical preggo monster swinging from mood to mood, that I ended up becoming the stereotypical teary preggo waddling from bed to couch. But that’s a story for another time. (I’m totally nailing this blogging thing!)

We began to love the idea of Higgs so much that we chose a parallel path for his name. While Higgs Boson marks the start of the universe (indirectly) according to science, the name we chose for him means the start of the universe in a spiritual sense. I’ll leave it to him to announce his name to the cyber world when he wants to, until then I’ll refer to him as Higgs. Or O, the kid or the little guy.

And today is the day that my littlest particle, Higgs, turns 2.

Now that the story behind the blog name is sorted out, I guess I’ll have to start writing for real. Hmm. Or maybe I’ll just create variations of what I’ve got? Like the Piggies talking about figs or performing-figs doing an interpretive dance on the Higgs particle theory or a Higgs in figs in pigs? Who knows? I don’t. Stay tuned. Yayy!

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