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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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.”

 

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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.