The Easter Dilemma

Happy Easter everyone! Ah Easter, the most dreaded time of year for any parent, because you’re all asking yourself the same question, “Do I let my child eat any chocolate this year. And if so, how much?” It’s always especially difficult for those of you who have very young children, who are yet to be introduced to chocolate. Take me for example. Stormaggedon is not yet two, and already I’ve had a lot of people try to convince me “Oh, but it’s Easter, a little chocolate won’t hurt.” If you’re like me, you’ve probably wavered quite a bit in your parenting stance on the no chocolate rule. Questioning yourself, “Should I let him eat one small egg? Just give him a taste. Everyone else says it’s fine. Everyone else is pushing me to do it. Am I being worse than Hitler?” The self doubt it endless. 

So here’s the thing. Stormy is currently going through a phase. A phase called the “I don’t want to eat dinner!” phase. This phase includes attempting to get out of his high chair, realising that this is more difficult than it seems so attempts to throw himself out of it backwards, then screams and cries when he can’t move, then tosses all food and utensils in every direction including over himself and the walls until Mummy gives up and just gives him a tin of baked beans whilst everyone sits on the floor and he plays with the pots and pans banging the lids together, all the while Mummy attempts to hide the streaming tears coming down her face. DO YOU THINK I WANT TO INTRODUCE CHOCOLATE TO THAT!? Hell no! I know what will happen the second that sweet sweet gold touches his lips. It’ll be goodbye to eating ANYTHING ever again and hello to only wanting chocolate for the rest of his life. And that’s exactly it, Stormy has the rest of his life to eat chocolate, he doesn’t need to have it right now just because it’s Easter.

So if you’ve also has a few self doubting moments today, here are a few tips to help you through the Chocolate Season*. 

1. Arm yourself with a spray bottle filled with water and some lemon juice. If anyone attempts to give your child an Easter egg just give them a light spray in the face. They’ll soon get the message. You might lose a few friends this way, but then that’ll mean fewer people trying to give you child chocolate. 

2. If you child does manage to get their hands on some chocolate, try lying to them, “Oh no, this one’s broken, we’ll have to take this one back”, “Yuck, someone’s already licked that one, you don’t want to eat that”, “These eggs aren’t for eating, they have baby birds inside them”, “These are mummy and daddy chocolates, here are your chocolates” (hand them a bowel of fruit. Will probably only work on children under 3). 

3. Try taking off the foil wrappers from regular Easter eggs and then covering hard boiled eggs (with the shell already peeled off). That way when they unwrap them they won’t know the difference and eat the perfectly healthy egg. (Maniacal laugh)

4. (And this one is actually serious) Stand your ground. If you’ve made a decision then stick to it. Just keep saying no. People will understand. And remember that you’re the parent, you get to make the decisions for your child. 

So there you have it. Have a happy Easter everyone. And don’t pig out too much on your kids’ chocolate. 

NB: Stormy did in fact have a wonderful time today and even got to have his own Easter egg hunt. It was a lot of fun just getting him to find the eggs. In the end they were placed in a bowl and I put the bowl away. But we did make the decision, he can actually eat one next Easter. 

*Disclaimer: Please remember all these suggestions are meant to be lighthearted and tongue in cheek. Please don’t send me complaints.


An Open Letter (Rant) To My Local Department Store

Dear Large Department Store (you know who you are),

I find it interesting, your claim at being the lowest prices with the largest stocked items. I find it interesting indeed. Because you clearly haven’t heard of the age bracket “Toddler”. You might find this information useful, but did you know that between newborn and 5 year old child, there’s this age and size range specifically for miniature humans? Quite larger than a baby, but still quite smaller than an average child. You might find this shocking, as I have done on the numerous trips to your store in the last two months, but it seems you don’t stock the appropriate sizes for these tiny souls. 

Case in point, number 1: Shoes. Why is it that shoes for newborns are so easily found? I find it confusing considering newborns don’t actually need shoes. On account of their inability to walk. They’re not deer you know. They don’t just come out of the womb with this inbuilt ability to suddenly go frolicking off into the forest. And yet you can find these adorable little things everywhere. Or should I say “Adorwable whittle fings!” Because clearly that’s how you sell your products. By brainwashing stupid individuals with the heart-melting cuteness that is incredibly tiny clothes. It’s only when you become a parent that you suddenly understand how incredibly impractical shoes with laces become. So I find it troubling that when I actually need shoes that fit because said child has suddenly found the ability to walk my options become extremely limited. There are thongs, with soles that are a mile thick and as hard as rock means my unsteady child spends more time face planting than an unco dad at an ice skating rink. Or take sneakers. Actual sneakers that are so big and bulky, and have LACES and no way to squeeze your wriggling child’s feet into. Also did you know that even though your babies come with hinges in their legs (knees and ankles), they don’t actually know how to use them yet. Meaning sneakers are just another excuse for a face splat session. All I wanted is a pair of sandals. Because it was summer. Who wants to wear sneakers in the summer!? But no, apparently boys don’t get to wear sandals. They are only for girls according to the range in your store. In fact, the boys range of shoes in general is decidedly lacking. Apparently it’s perfectly fine to devote an entire wall to little girls shoes. “Here little girls, see all the beautiful shoes you can wear! Every colour and style imaginable. Glitter and sparkles and lady birds and unicorns!” Turn to the boys section and suddenly your only option is one pair of khaki coloured loafers with the elastic too tight making it impossible to shove your son’s foot into (because they LOVE to spread their toes in an effort to prevent you from getting the whole shoe on). “What do you mean there’s no options. Be grateful, when I was a lad all I had was a paper bag and some string!” And don’t get me started on the gendering of shoes (and clothing in general). Yes, I could just buy some girl shoes, but I don’t need to have to explain 50 times a day “Actually, there’s no such things as girl and boys clothes, there’s just clothes. No, wearing pink shoes isn’t going to turn my son gay. Yes I understand that you feel that sparkles and rainbows are girls thing, but my son seems to like them. Stop pushing stereotypes on my son, he can wear what he likes!” Yep, really don’t need to have that conversation. Ever.* 

Case in point, number 2: Seasonal clothing. Let’s talk about Australia. I know that we think that there are four seasons here; Autumn, Winter, Spring, and Summer. But in actual fact it’s more like Slightly Less Warm Summer, I Need To Put My Coat On For A Week, Rather Hot Summer, and OH MY GOD MY FLESH IS MELTING IN THE HELL FIRES OF MOUNT DOOM!  Or if you want to simplify things, there are actually only two seasons: Hot and June. So recently even though summer was coming to an end, I noticed how it felt like we were all still living in a furnace, and that my son has basically grown out of all his singlet tops. Still being quite hot and uncomfortable, I thought it would be a good idea to find some more singlet tops, so off to the shops I popped. I love shopping. It’s probably my second favourite past time, after sleeping. Nothing crushes a shopaholic’s soul more than the frustration of not finding the thing you are looking for, especially when one thinks it’s an incredibly simple thing to find. So when I arrived at the shops I was rather disgusted when greeted with an entire winter range of clothing. Interesting that the air conditioning had been cranked up to a point to get you thinking that leggings, longs sleeved shirts and hoodies are a really good purchase today. There was at least some summer range left, and luckily on sale. But once again the toddler sizes were lacking. The only singlet tops that I found wouldn’t fit anyone under 8. Except when I went to the girls range of clothing. Of course. Because it was 5 times the size and twice as interesting. While we’re on the topic of girl clothing and practicality, who in their right mind thinks that clothing embossed with glitter, tassily things, and sewn on diamonties and jewels is a good idea for babies and toddlers? You do get that they a) drool and spit up all over their clothing and b) attempt to eat their clothing on a regular basis? In the end I left in a tired humph, and came home only to beg friends on the Internet for hand me downs. Thanks internet friends! You’re the best!

Case in point, number 3: Price. I think this one pretty much speaks for itself. You claim you’ve got the best prices, and yet you seem to think that $30 for a pair of shoes and $25 for a single shirt is worth the 3 weeks my child will spend in them before I have to come back to the shops for some more, because they’re already grown out of them. Ok that’s fair, you do have to pay the wages of the children who made them in third world countries after all. Does anyone else find it odd that we pay the exact same price for children clothing and shoes when adult clothing tends to be five times as big? Is there a way we can revolt against pricing? Perhaps we should all pretend we’re in Bali and just barter with the shop-keep. Though I can’t see that going down very well, “I GIVE YOU 5 DOLLAR! YOU TAKE PRICE? YOU TAKE PRICE?”, “Ma’am you’re making a scene, please kindly leave the store.”

Honestly, I’m at a loss with what to do. I guess until my son grows into the sizes you seem to think exist for him, I’ll probably just have to dress him in that paper bag and string. Because really, nothing is more fun than a length of string to a toddler!
* Message to be taken away from this is don’t be jerks to kids.    

Becoming Me Again.

From the moment I announced I was pregnant, people both parents and childless friends alike revelled in telling me how much my life was going to change, and I was no longer going to be able to do things that I want to do. “You’ll never see a movie at the cinemas again”, “say goodbye to spontaneously leaving the house”, “Just popping down the shops for a few things will become a 3 hour ordeal with your screaming child in tow”. Sometimes they were said in jest. Other times they were said in all seriousness, like a warning foreshadowing the inevitable doom I was about to face. Occasionally they were said by smug arseholes after you’ve just voiced your very worried concerns to them about how your life is going to change completely and you don’t know if you’re going to be able to handle it. Yep thanks, that smugness is SO TOTALLY helping my state of mind at the moment. Guess I’ll just go home and cry again in the foetal position again for the 10th time this week, for all the support I’m getting from you! And admittedly, I myself have also been that douchebag to my own yet-to-be-parents friends. Usually after they’ve complained about not having time to do this or that. “Oh you want to talk about not having time to go out! Let me talk to you about not having time…”

So for those of you who are currently expecting, or have just had your little bundle of joy and are suddenly faced with the prospect of never leaving your house again, I can totally sympathise. So here’s the thing, and I will be completely honest with you. It’s going to be really tough for the next few months at least. I mean, definitely for those first four weeks, when you’re so tired you literally can’t tell if you’re awake in the real world. The house won’t have been cleaned for a week, you probably won’t have eaten for about 8 hours straight because you simply forgot, and you’ll find yourself on the toilet not quite remembering how you got there, thinking to yourself “Is this real life?” And I have to say, if you’re driven somewhere and you find yourself at your destination thinking “I literally have no memory of how I got here”, I fully suggest re-evaluating whether it’s safe for you to be behind the wheel of the car at the moment. But I can ASSURE you it does get better. It may not look like it at the moment, if may seem FOREVER away, and in some moments it really is, but there will come a time when you become YOU again. 

So for those of you needing some advice on how to wade through the nappies, and the purees, and screaming, and the teething, and the sleepless night, and the endless worries about everything and anything, read on for my handy hints and tips. 

1. Please come to the acceptance that it is OK to let your baby cry. Just for 5 or 10 minutes while you re-group. Put them in a safe place, on their back in their crib and seriously just go sit in the car for 10 minutes. Block out the world. Cry a little yourself. Even scream if you need to. God knows that I screamed a lot in those first few months, and sometimes I’m sorry to say at my son. The frustration is normal. But after you’ve tried to investigate why your child is crying (hungry, nappy, tired, burping, hot, cold, just needs a cuddle, etc), and they’re still unable to be soothed, then go take a moment for yourself. It is not selfish. Let me say that again for the people in the back. IT IS NOT SELFISH! It is NECESSARY. You need to be calm and in control, and that will not happen if you’re completely wired with stress and anxiety because you feel like you can’t leave them when they cry. So now we’ve got that out of the way, let’s talk about the difference between a newborn crying and a toddler crying. Toddlers will usually cry because they’re frustrated, or want something, or in the case of my son, because something has not gone their way. Sometimes it’s actually quite funny, like the time last week when my son starting crying because the balloon he was playing with wouldn’t stay in the air. Other times it’s frustrating, like when I’m trying to get dinner ready and my son just wants attention. Moments like that I just explain to him calmly and clearly what I’m doing, why I’m doing it, and I’ll come play later. Or I explain that sometimes we can’t always have our way or get what we want when we want it. It doesn’t always work. After all, he’s only a year and a half old, he’s not really going to understand what I’m saying. But the framework is there so that when he is old enough to understand, it’ll be easier to get the message across (at least that’s what I’m HOPING will happen). So now that we’ve established the crying is ok part, let’s move on. 

2. Start off with little things. Think back to what you really liked to do before you became a parent. Maybe even think about things that you took for granted. Was it going out for a quiet cup of tea? Doing the grocery shopping? Just going for a short drive in a scenic area? Or a walk? Having a swim at the beach? Gardening? Painting? Once you’ve made a list of things then think about ways on how you can incorporate them back into your life. Pop the baby in the pram and talk a walk to your local cafe and sit and have a piece of cake for half an hour. Or if you don’t like the idea of leaving the house (and sometimes it’s like that because sometimes the effort can be more than it’s worth), wait until Bub is asleep, make yourself a cup of tea and go sit out the back looking up at the sky or the trees and think of nothing. Don’t think about the baby, the nappies, the mortgage, the next meal. Don’t lament your old life, or worry about the future. Just focus on tea and the sky and your breathing and nothing more than that. Get yourself one of those adult colouring in books, and just go for it when they’re asleep. One of the things I did when finding “Myself” again was to leave Stormaggedon with they hubby, and do the grocery shopping by myself. And maybe sneak five minutes to do a bit of window shopping beforehand.   

3. Make sure you keep contact with your friends and relatives. This can be such a hard thing to do sometimes. Either you’re bombarded by people who won’t leave you alone, or you’re incredibly lonely because everyone thinks they need to give you space. I know sometimes reaching out to people can be extremely difficult, especially if you have social anxiety. But just a little thing every now again to remind people you’re alive, and that your whole world doesn’t necessary revolve around your child. A text, a Facebook PM, an email, a letter in the mail (how exciting are those now a days!), or a phone call can do wonders for your self (re)-awakening. And for those people out there reading this who don’t have kids (and I know there’s a few of you) who have friends who are parents, please remember us once in a while. Send us that little hello, or ask if we’d like company, or if we need anything. I know sometimes we might not respond right away, or would need to plan a catch up three weeks in advance, but we love it when you reach out. Please don’t stop. We love you and miss you. A lot!

4. If you are in a relationship, remember that you are a PARTNERSHIP. It’s no ones’ job to clean or cook or look after the baby. It’s BOTH of your responsibility. Talk to each other. Ask for help or assistance. “Hey, if I vacuum today, can you look after Stormaggedon for an hour while I have a lie down this afternoon?”, “Hey I cooked dinner last night, can you cook it tonight?”, “I’d really like to go out with my friends this weekend, would you like next weekend to yourself?”, “Am I helping enough, sometimes I feel like I’m not helping enough and I don’t want you to feel under appreciated” Nothing annoys me more when I go to work and I hear conversations about how one partner has gone out every night that week without even asking or telling the other partner, and they were just expected to look after the baby the whole time, or when they complain because their partner asked them to clean and do chores while they did something else, or their child asked them for the 50th time that day to help brush their doll’s hair. There seems to be a lot of bitter people in unequal partnerships at my work, and it frankly just makes me really sad, yet incredibly lucky and grateful to have my husband in my life. 

5. Aim for big. Plan to go to the movies. Maybe plan it three weeks in advance, but plan it still the same. Decide that you’re going to go out one afternoon with your friends and do it. Plan a short get a way with your partner. Get yourself a support network of family or friends, get them to mind the baby. Sometimes people don’t like the idea of “subjecting” their child to someone else because of their behaviour. They don’t sleep well, or are a fussy eater, or have been throwing tantrums lately. You know what I jokingly said the other day when someone asked me about my child’s behaviour for his baby sitters? “For the next three hours, it’s not my problem”. We had a laugh, and although some people felt I was being incredibly cold, here’s the thing: I got home and my son wasn’t any worse for wear. They’re still a happy child coping with life. And even if the person who was looking after him was frazzled in the end (FYI, they weren’t) the lucky thing they get to do is to leave after the three hours. They haven’t just spent the last 20 months with my son 24/7. Give yourself peace of mind by getting a person you completely trust to look after your child, and start getting back out into the world. Go to dinner, take a day trip to your favourite beach, take time out in the art gallery or museum, or go on that shopping spree with your best friend. 

6. Start to include your child in the things you love. It’s so great introducing your child to the things that make you happy. Don’t forget you can take your child out with you to the movies, or that restaurant, or your favourite museum. Forget the judgemental stares of others. Yeah, they’re e,titled to their opinions of children should be seen and not heard or how dare you bring your child into their presence when they’re trying to eat their lunch in peace. Yep, totally entitled, and you frankly shouldn’t care one bit abou them. Bring your child into the world with you. You deserve to. They deserve it. Let them experience your culture and passions and favourite things. And maybe, just maybe they’ll grow into a person who WON’T tell you that you’re a lame dork for loving Doctor Who. Because isn’t that what everyone’s dream is in the end?

And if anyone has been following this journey with me, you would have seen from the beginning that I had a lot of trouble thinking that I would ever be NORMAL again. Well I can say that I’m back at work. I’m back at tae-kwon do training. And for the first time in three years I’m back acting in a stage play again, currently rehearsing for Jesus Christ Superstar with Queensland Musical Theatre (playing at the Schonell Theatre UQ St Lucia, Brisbane from 8 to 12 June 2016 *cough*gratuitous plug*cough*). And on top of that I see my friends, I spend time with my husband, and I still am totally in love with my son, and am still being there for him when he needs me. Yes sometimes things don’t always go to plan, like illness, forgetfulness, and generally things out of your control. That happens. And no, I’m not trying to boast about my great life. Yes, I do have a great life, but a lot of it is hard work and requires a lot of planning and communication, and I am extremely lucky to have the network of supportive family and friends to help me along the way. But I assure you that you can be YOU again. It won’t be exactly like it was Before Baby. It will in fact be even better. You are a superhero. You are you. And you are great!