It’s ok to not love every minute with your child

Last week I accidentally became the arsehole that I hate. By inadvertently making a fellow infertile lady feel bad about her infertility. I didn’t know she was. I don’t even know her. It all started like this. It’s Christmas Eve and like an idiot I needed to get groceries. Unfortunately, Christmas Eve has fallen on my shopping day. So I had to get up super early, so I can get to the shops super early, in order to get a car park and avoid all those men who’ve left their Christmas shopping to the last minute (according to all those Facebook memes that is). Having been up until past midnight the night before I wasn’t looking the best, but managed to pull on some semblance of appropriate looking clothing, raked a comb through my hair and went out to do battle. The shopping itself was uneventful, apart from not being able to find any turkey. My husband had suggested we have turkey for Christmas dinner, but after scouring the store for what seemed like an hour for something other than a full size frozen turkey that cost $17, I gave up and settled on a ready-to-roast chicken dinner instead. And even though I found this only slightly annoying (passively chanting under my breath the mantra “I live in a privileged society, everything is fine. I live in a privileged society, everything is fine”), I didn’t feel particularly defeated by it all. As I triumphantly approached the counter I was greeted by the already incredibly fed up looking cashier with “You look as tired as I feel”. Really? That’s how you start off conversations. Implying someone looks like shit. Well, thanks. I really didn’t need that self-esteem after all. I wanted to shoot back “Clearly they didn’t teach you how to talk politely to customers at Check-Out-Chick School”, but considering it was almost Christmas I bit my tongue, and merely did what anyone else does in this situation; Laughed pathetically and I hoped I gave off a vibe that said “Please don’t ask me any more questions”. No such luck I’m afraid. The next question she asked was inevitable, “Well I don’t know about you, but I’m definitely looking forward to sleeping in tomorrow. I’m sure we both need it”. I’m not sure what set me off. Maybe it was the annoying timbre of her voice, the continual implication that I looked terrible, or the fact that she was doing a shit job packing my grocery bags, but I said it. Before I could stop myself, before I could even think on what I was about to say, or the consequences of those words, I said it. “Haha, well obviously you don’t have a two year at home then!” She paused and looked away, then replied “Well unfortunately I can’t actually have kids. But you know whatever”. I. Am. An. Arsehole. I try to laugh it off and quickly apologise. “That’s life” she states bluntly and shrugs her shoulders. She finishes, I pay, and haul ass out of there. That’s when the inner monologue fight begins.

Voice 1 “How the hell could I have said that?! Aren’t I always advocating to not say things like that, because you never know if someone is struggling”

Voice 2 “Well she shouldn’t have said you looked like shit”

V1 “She didn’t say that”

V2 “She implied it”

V1 “Now she probably thinks I don’t appreciate Stormaggedon. Maybe I should go back and tell her I went through IVF”

V2 “Are you an idiot, don’t do that!”

V1 “Now her day is going to be ruined, because she’ll be thinking about not being able to have kids, and it’s Christmas!”

V2 “Stop ruining your day caring about what someone else thinks. Especially someone who started out being a bitch to you!”

V1 “That shouldn’t be the point! We should be making the world a better place by not coming down to their level!”

V2 “Oh shut up”

V1 “You shut up!”

“I NEED CAKE!” – That was both of them.

Ok, so while those guys are fighting let’s talk about a few rules here:

1.       Always remember who you are talking to. If you don’t know them, keep the conversation to boring subjects, such as the weather.

2.       Only joke about your children if you know someone and are aware of their circumstances. Everyone has a story, it can be traumatic to add to it by casually joking how annoying your child is.

3.       If you do accidentally hurt someone’s feelings who are struggling, apologise, but don’t beat yourself up over it. It’s said, it’s done. Learn from it and move on.

4.       If you’re a check out person STOP IMPLYING PEOPLE LOOK LIKE CRAP.

If I could go back and talk to that woman again I would apologise again. I would say that it’s horrible that she isn’t able to have children. But I would also say to her that even if you’ve struggled for years to have children, when you finally have them you’re allowed to not enjoy every minute with them. You’re allowed to mourn your loss of sleep, your loss of independence, and your alone time. You don’t have to love it when they refuse to eat, or refuse to use the toilet, or wake you up at 4am. It’s ok to hate their tantrums, the screeching noises they make for no reason, and them constantly disobeying you. It’s ok to be tired, to be fed up, and to sometimes secretly wish for another life.

It doesn’t make your love for them any less. It doesn’t mean you don’t appreciate them, or adore their hilarious and beautiful quirks. Your heart would still be wrenched apart if you were to lose them. Your world would never be the same again without them. Let’s face it, your world is currently not the same WITH them. It certainly is better. But it’s also certainly harder.

I’m sure all mothers can relate to this, and I hope that those who aren’t, or who are yet to become mothers can see that too. Moving forward into the new year, I know I’ll try my best to remember where I am, what my circumstances are, and to be a bit more mindful when talking to others. But not here. Remember, here we only ever speak the truth!

 

Down with Elf on the Shelf!

Firstly, I assure you I am not a Christmas Scrooge. But when it comes to the Christmas “Elf on the Shelf” then all I can say is Bah Humbug! For those of you who are lucky enough to ask the question “What’s an Elf on the Shelf?” then all I can say is THANK CHRIST YOU DON’T KNOW WHAT IT IS.

I myself have only just recently come across it, mostly from seeing Buzzfeed articles about it linked on Facebook, and stories being told at Stormaggedon’s playgroup. But it was this little article that certainly piqued my interest. For I had a secret. I hated the idea. But you know, Mothers. They love this kind of garbage tradition setting trends. And if you’re not totally into doing this kind of thing for your own child, you’re some kind of monster then that’s fine and, you just need to find your own traditions.

In a nutshell, Elf on the Shelf is a spy for Santa, who is popped on your child’s shelf at the beginning of December, essentially to watch over them and report back to Santa on their good behaviour and equally their wrong doings. Thus introducing our children to the Orwellian nightmare that is fast becoming our dystopian future. Fair enough, they should be prepared. But as if that wasn’t bad enough, the Elf starts acting like something out of a horror film, moving about just as we take our eye off them for a moment, creating havoc and mischief. Shudder.

elf-of-the-shelf

Even The Simpson’s Christmas special jumped on the send-up bandwagon this year with their version of Elf on the Shelf, with Maggie being given a Gnome in your Home, complete with promises that it’ll nibble her little fingers off if she misbehaves. Obviously her reaction to this was that of a normal child suffering nightmares, refusing to sleep, then destroying her toy in a murderous act of butchery.

Now I can certainly hear some of you complaining that I might be trashing a good thing. “Oh come on now, look how cute and adorable it is! We’re bringing the whimsy back into Christmas. Why do you hate me for that!” Firstly, I have no problem with whimsy. I think it’s a wonderful thing. Setting up cute scenes involving the elf for your children to discover the next morning can be quite fun. It’s the whole “We are watching your every move, SO YOU BETTER BE GOOD, or else Santa won’t bring you ANY PRESENTS!” that really gets to me. And it’s the fact that the elf seems to be there for a parent’s entertainment at the expense of their own kids that I’m not all that comfortable with. I’ve heard stories of parents setting up scenes that involve the elf stealing presents from under the tree, unwrapping gifts, eating food and moving toys around. And laughing gleefully about how angry and upset their children got the next morning when they discovered the shenanigans. Now, I perfectly understand how hilarious it can be when a child reacts in such a fashion to something that is clearly not real. But that’s because we are adults. We can see it’s not real. They are children and they BELIEVE it. Because we perpetuate the myth of Santa, they absolutely and faithfully believe that a fat man in a suit breaks into their house once a year and leaves presents. To put it another way, Santa is scary enough to a lot of kids. We don’t need to add to that fear with a Chucky like elf with a life of its own running around the house at night. Seriously, parents complain enough about their kids never sleeping. Why are you making it worse for yourself? 

crying-with-santaThen of course there’s the Dads out there “ruining” the fun and “Not taking the Elf seriously”. Yet another reason why I hate the internet sometimes. Once again forcing the idea that dads are so useless that they can’t get a simply task right, and assuming that MUM’S CAN’T BE THIS COOL!

star-wars-elf

The internet seems quite divided at the moment about “lying” to children over the whole Santa ethos. Should we really be lying to them? Should we tell them the truth, that Santa isn’t real? How will children ever learn to trust their parents if we keep tricking them into believing such nonsense? These questions frankly do my head in. Can’t we just let Santa be? It doesn’t have to be about naughty and nice. It doesn’t have to be about abject surveillance by an elf. Why can’t we just let Santa be the whimsical part? Do we really need to add the elf? Can’t Santa just be a jolly and generous man who bring toys to children once a year. Why do we have to add the “only nice children” and “be good, or Santa will bring you coal instead of presents” part? On an aside note, considering how far back the legend of Santa goes, wouldn’t bringing coal to a relatively poor family have been a blessing in Europe during the winter? Who cares about toys when you’re freezing to death right? Anyway, I digress…

I get the desperation of parents. Your kids have been acting up all year and you’ve had enough, so you use the idea of Santa to try and claw back some obedience and respect. But do we really have to use Christmas this way? Stormy was playing up the other day and the words “Stop being naughty or Santa won’t bring you any presents” were on the tip of my tongue. But I bit them back. I didn’t want that to become what Christmas was about. Being good for the sake of reward. How am I supposed to teach him gratitude, and generosity and the spirit of giving if Christmas has “an angle” to it all? That shouldn’t be the point.

So if you’re looking for tradition this year and the Elf seems to be your thing, then fine, leave it to the shenanigans at night. Whimsy for the sake of whimsy if fine. But leave out the spying bullshit. Though really if you’re after creatures wreaking havoc at night, then I thoroughly suggest getting on the Dinovember bandwagon. That’s just top notch tradition right there.

For my family, we’ll be continuing a tradition that I only just started last Christmas. The Christmas Eve box.


A new pair of PJs to wear that night, a lovely new book to read, and a cute soft toy to play with (or when he’s older some hot chocolate and marsh-mellows to eat and drink under the Christmas Tree as we read). Now that is whimsy.

Our yearly check up. How are you going?

I want to take a moment to talk to the stay at home mums. Hi there. How are you? Seriously, how are YOU? I bet not a lot of people ask you that. They tend to forget that you are also a person with hopes, dreams and desires, and not just a mum completely and utterly focused on your children. People see stay at home mums and think that you’ve made this choice that you are 100% happy with, and will be 100% happy with for the rest of your life. Sort of forgetting that one day your children will become adults. Then what? It’s easy to forget that your children are an extension of you, and not the other way round. And yet, most of the time you’re not given a second thought. So I ask again, how are YOU?

You see, I wanted to make sure you’re ok, because there’s this couple that I know* who are not doing so great at the moment. Let’s call them Karl and Cassandra. The story going round is that Cassandra gave up her career to be a stay at home mum to her and Karl’s 3 kids, while Karl worked hard and focused on making a big career for himself. That’s always been the story, it was really well known to, well, everyone. But lately Cassandra and Karl have been drifting apart, getting into arguments, and it seems that a lot of resentment has crept into their marriage from both sides. Now unless it comes from the mouths of Karl and Cassandra directly, we’re never really going to know exactly what the backstory of this likely divorce is. But I’m sure we can all agree that at one point they were extremely happy. So what went wrong?

It seems the obvious and logical explanation is this: When Karl and Cassandra got together they were working equally. They had jobs they both liked and ambitions of moving upwards in those jobs to fashion a solid and rewarding career. They fell in love because of their similar interests and discussed about having a family. Perhaps they talked about what would happen when they had children and how they would juggle career and family life. Perhaps Karl asked Cassandra to be the primary care giver. Perhaps she offered. The end result was Cassandra gave up her career to be a mum while Karl moved ever upward to a point that neither of them could have ever imagined he would have achieved. Perhaps neither of them expected this. Perhaps Cassandra had hoped that it wouldn’t happen. But along the way Cassandra was left at home while Karl worked away. Now children as we all know can be difficult. We’re always excited about children in their small phase, how cute their little toes are, how adorable their little yawns can be, how beautiful they are when the sleep. WHEN they sleep. Their toddler phase is even cuter, when they’re learning things for the first time, the world has so much wonder for them, they say and do the most ridiculous and hilarious things, and you’re right there beside them holding their hands. It’s for these reasons people tend to have a few of them in quick succession. Then they start to get bigger. They don’t want to hold your hand anymore, they start to talk back to you, argue with you, say that they hate you. And all of a sudden you’ve just become the chauffer, the breaker of fights, and the helper of homework, the type of homework that you thought to yourself 30 years ago that you wouldn’t have to do again. Suddenly the reward doesn’t look so shiny anymore. So maybe Cassandra looked up from the pile of laundry, the dirty dishes and never ending uneaten plates of food, and searched for her absent husband. Perhaps she saw the jet-setting life he’d made for himself, the parties he was attending and the people he was hanging out with, and decided she was just a little jealous that she had missed out on all of that. That could have been her too if things had worked out the other way around. Perhaps time passed and Karl got better and better at what he was doing, and Cassandra got further and further away from reviving her own career. That’s where the rot could have set in. But by then it was too late to go back and repair it.

Now I realise I’ve painted a very bleak picture. First let’s start with our kids. Of course there is always going to be wonderful times with your children after their toddlerhood. They will still want to hold your hand, and snuggle with you at night. You will get to watch them grow into strong independent adults. Watch their sporting achievements, or artistic efforts, plays, recitals, dance auditions. Hear how they got an A on the test they studied so hard for, their excitement about Christmas, the time that crab chased the down the beach during your last family holiday. Hilarious, wonderful, beautiful moments that you will remember and love and cherish. Family life is filled with brilliant memories. Yes, there will be incredibly shitty times and you’ll imagine running away from it all. But then your kids will make you laugh again and the bad thought will evaporate instantly.

But as much as you love your children, let’s not forget what gave you that thought to run away in the first place. The little place inside you that is still a person before you were a parent. So let’s go back to the beginning of your relationship. You probably discussed with your respective partners what you wanted out of life. What your dreams were, where you wanted to be in 5 years’ time, and again in 10. You might have wanted to travel, or achieve a particular role in your career, or just do a certain amount of things before you had kids. Maybe you also discussed how things were going to be when you actually had those kids. To the mums out there, maybe you always wanted to be a stay at home mum with 5 children to take care of. What happens when you change your mind after 3 years? Do you expect yourself to always maintain this lifestyle. Does your husband?

All of those dreams are fine. But let’s also remember one thing. We change as we get older. Our hopes, dreams, aspirations, opinions and desires all evolve and change over time. So it’s very important that if you make plans or have agreements at the start of a relationship that you make the effort to always discuss any desire to change those plans. The decisions that you make in your 20’s are not necessarily going to be the same decisions that you’re happy with 30 years down the track, or even 10 years. It’s absolutely ridiculous to think that you can stay the exact same person your entire life. I myself have had thoughts and opinions that I’ve done a complete 180 on a couple of years down the track. When we grow and mature physically, so do our desires and ideas. How can they not, when our brain is constantly changing. So as you grow and change, it’s important to keep an open dialogue with your partner. Tell them you’ve decided you want to go back to Uni, or get a new job, or revamp a career, or would like them to start taking a more active role in caring for your children. Tell them you really want a change, or a compromise, or more equal parenting. Talk to them about how you can both make each other’s lives more fulfilled and wonderful. Have this talk every year. Mark it down on the calendar. You’re “How am I Going?” date. Without this kind of discussion and communication, you could end up bitter and alone. You could end up like Karl and Cassandra. So to the stay at home mums, and even the stay at home dads, I ask you again, how are YOU?

 

*Note: I don’t actually know them.

Resilience

Let me start by saying this: Criticism does not necessarily equal bullying. People are allowed to have a contradictory opinion to your own, to disagree with your opinion, and sometimes critique that opinion with facts and experiences of their own. If they do so in a constructive, non-personal and non-threatening manner, they are not bullying you. And yet more and more I see people succumbing to crippling anxiety issues because someone said something mean to them. A mummy war seems to be erupting online as we speak. It has basically turned into a she-said she-said debate with supporters on either side completely destroying each other. Kind of ironic when the whole Queen movement is all about supporting each other. I have to say the whole thing has made me more than a little nervous, considering some of my own previous views. But frankly no one “owns” the mummy blogging world. You haven’t cornered a market that only you and no one else is allowed to have an opinion on. That’s not fair. If it was, how are we supposed to have a diverse conversation? As Notorious Mum put it, not everyone fits into the category of “Queen” nor should they feel they have to. In which case, stand aside and let someone else have a voice, so those mums have someone they CAN relate to.

The point is when you post online, when you become a popular presence in society, you have to expect some opposition. Sometimes even backlash if you have an unpopular opinion.  Notorious Mum disagreed with the Queen movement, and she gave various views on why. I agreed mainly with the point she was making, though I really didn’t like the way she went about it. Some points seemed very reasonable, others seemed deliberately hurtful. The part about actually parenting children because you don’t want them turning into psychopaths when they’re older may have seemed like a generalised comment and was probably meant to be taken in that way. But to me it sounded like she was inferring that this is what was going to happen to Constance’s children. And if I read it in this manner, then I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have been the only one. What happened next was uncontrolled threats and bullying from mothers on each side of the debate. A lot of hurtful slinging has gone back and forth, and it’s frankly ridiculous. Disagreement is fine. Trolling is not. What Notorious Mum said was sometimes hurtful, I get that. The comments by her followers after (which she admittedly participated in) were however unacceptable. But Constance’s followers threatening terrible things back was equally unacceptable.

What I find worrying was Constance’s initial reaction, admitting to having a complete breakdown and hiding herself away in a room for hours until she calmed down. In a way, this reaction is completely understandable. She has been thrust into notoriety with little training or experience. Her short stint in the Big Brother house and the 15 minutes of fame that came after may have prepared her to some degree, but really she was just a regular person who went to bed one night and woke up the next day with a million followers. That’s an immense pressure for anyone. Obviously, she has support to varying degrees from many people within the industry, and that’s wonderful. But this isn’t the first time she has had a severe reaction to a negative situation. That’s where I believe she would benefit from some professional counselling and training. Maybe she is getting that help, I don’t know. I certainly hope she is, because frankly my heart went out to her, and Notorious Mum, when I read about how upset the whole affair made each of them. Which is a timely reminder that if you’re going to post comments directed to someone on the internet, you need to remember there’s an actual real person on the others side of the words that you’re writing. Cut out with the trolling. If you don’t support an idea, then move on from it, don’t eviscerate the person who wrote it.

However, trolls are not going to go away overnight, so we must find a way to deal with them in the meantime. That’s where resilience comes in. The worrying part is, the more I look for it, the less I’m seeing it in today’s society. Firstly, don’t get me wrong, I completely understand that people can suffer from severe anxiety due to traumas they’ve faced in life. I would never ever deliberately diminish this fact. I believe Constance is one of them, which makes her reactions even more justified. But for others who haven’t suffered from adversity or trauma, we need to remember that there is a difference between diagnosed anxiety and just feeling worried. I’m seeing more and more young people today not being able to cope with the everyday stresses of life. Yes, on the one hand life is stressful, and sometimes more stressful than ever before. We face an extreme rising cost of living, irreversible global warming and a slide back towards conservative values. But on the other hand, we’ve never had it so good, with human rights, workplace diversity, modern medicine, and access to technology that makes life simpler and easier. So why the increase in young people’s inability to cope? Babyboomers would likely tell us that “kids today are too soft”, thanks to overindulgence in luxuries. You know, like food whenever we want it, disposable income, countless forms of entertainment (from cinemas, to television to numerous gaming consoles, etc), vaccines, non-compulsory conscription, houses with the same number of bedrooms as people living in it, and instantaneous messaging. When my mother was young her family didn’t own a car, or a TV and never once had a family holiday. Her mother before her left school at the age of 14 to work on a farm to help support her own family. And what was my biggest gripe growing up? If I didn’t have orange juice with my breakfast you could hear my complaints down the street.

Now I’m not saying that we need to let our kids suffer from extreme adversity. I’m not saying take all their worldly possessions away, place them on daily rations and make them share a bedroom with six other people. I’m not encouraging starting a world war or exposing them to third world country conditions just so they can see what “real” suffering looks like. But we do need to start letting our children experience negative situations. We need to let them fall, and experience the pain from that fall, so they can learn to pick themselves up and keep going. We need to let them experience all kinds of emotions without labelling them “good” or “bad”. Sad and angry are just are important to feel as happy and joyful. We need to help them face their fears, defeat the monsters and maybe in the end make friends with them. We need to teach our girls and boys that it’s perfectly normal to cry, it’s important to cry, but it’s pointless to do it over spilt milk. We need to show them that perseverance is important, that things are worth doing even if they are hard, to not give up in the face of adversity, and to always keep trying.

We can do this. We can have children not afraid of pain but equally not afraid of their emotions. And my hope is that when my son is eventually exposed to unflattering comments or mean sentiments, he will merely shrug them off, perhaps change some of his behaviours for the better, and continue on with his head held high and his self-esteem intact.

As for the “mummy war”, I hope a truce can soon be reached, and the fighting ends. I hope you too can find your resilience in the face of negativity, and know that I will respect and support the both of you.

Oh The Things That You’ll Learn

There are many things that I have learnt over the last two years, a lot of which I don’t feel I could confidently devote an entire blog to. So instead I’ve decided to compile these moments together and post them in one handy hit. Here are the things that I have learnt (so far).

  1. There is always a bigger tantrum. Thought that you child was already going through the “Terrible Twos” even before they turned two? Nope. No they weren’t.
  2. You will always have an overwhelming sense of frustration and guilt. This is your life now. Deal with it.
  3. You child will do amazing and wondrous things. But only in front of you. They will never repeat in company, therefore making you look like an idiot. They are not a performing monkey, and they know it.
  4. They’re confusing. They want to go outside, but when they’re out the want to immediately go back in. They refuse to have a bath, but by the time you finally get them in there like a twitching cat, they scream the house down when it’s finally time to pull the plug.
  5. Someone else’s food will always be more appealing. Even if they have the exact same meal cooked in the exact same dish in front of them. They will always want yours.
  6. There’s nothing wrong with using the TV as a babysitter for a couple of hours. As long as the shows are somewhat educational and interactive, and aren’t just rubbish. And of course I mean while you’re at home. Don’t use it to literally babysit your child while you go out to dinner. That tends to be frowned upon.
  7. Even if your child hasn’t been anywhere near sand during the day, you will always inevitably find it somewhere in your house by the end of the day.
  8. Speaking of sand, if you ever get the smallest amount in your bathtub, you child will claim it’s “in their bottom” for weeks after you’re sure you scrubbed the last grain out.
  9. Selective hearing is a thing. To the point where you will be convinced that they are having silent seizures. But will automatically have their hearing back the second you open a new biscuit packet. They could have been in the next state and will still come running full steam if they think there’s a biscuit at the end of it.
  10. Check yourself before you wreck yourself. You might be feeling on top of the world, the most confident of your life, thinking how fantastic you look, and you’ll still make it all the way to the shops before you realise you have dried egg yolk in your hair.
  11. There will always be a bigger poo.
  12. You children are both a sponge and a parrot at the same time. Absorbing everything in, and spewing it all back out again. Usually in the most inappropriate circumstances. Teaching them the proper names for their genitalia for example will always end in them screaming SCROTUM in the most delicate of circumstances, such as at the hair dressers or a quiet moment in church.
  13. If they’ve worked out what the rubbish bin is for and how to use it, ALWAYS check it before emptying it. From toys to priceless family heirlooms, things will mysteriously disappear until you’ve worked out it was your toddler being “helpful”.
  14. Communication with your partner and any other adults that come into contact with your child is super important. Especially if you want to avoid the endless tantrum and confusion if you can’t work out what “the dinosaur one” means when looking up videos on Youtube.
  15. You can bring as many of their favourite toys or books to any place you need to take them too (a café, the doctor’s surgery, etc), and they will still want to completely disrupt everyone and everything around them. They won’t want to sit, or eat, or play with the toys already provided. They will probably run down halls they’re not supposed to, or eat off strangers’ meals. That’s just what they do. Accept there is no stopping them.
  16. Be prepared to give into everything. Especially when it comes to that face. Look at the that little face!

boo

*Ok, not actually a picture of my son, but pretty similar in cuteness. You get what I mean.

We need to talk about abortion.

So I’m not mincing my words here. No funny or misleading title. You need to know exactly what you’re getting yourself into before you read on. I only ask that you stick with me for the next couple of pages and keep an open mind.

When we talk about abortions, what immediately comes to mind? We tend to think of illegal backdoor slums, where procedures are performed by untrained or unqualified doctors, using old and rusty instruments that probably belong in a torture chamber more than a doctor’s surgery. We think of pain and horror and blood. We think of selfish, uncaring women who appear to be happier partying and getting blind drunk than having to think about caring about anyone other than themselves. We are bombarded with these images from the political right, religious organisations and the media itself. And it doesn’t seem to stop there.

Presidential candidate (sorry, I just threw up in my mouth a little) Donald Trump has done it again. Spewing incoherent and dangerously incorrect rhetoric about a subject he probably has little knowledge of. At the last Presidential debate he seemed to get late term abortions completely confused with caesarean sections. Yes, you heard right. Here’s the quote: “I think it’s terrible if you go with what Hillary is saying in the ninth month you can take the baby and rip the baby out of the womb of the mother just prior to the birth of the baby. Now you can say that that’s okay and Hillary can say that that’s okay, but it’s not okay with me. Because based on what she’s saying and based on where she’s going and where she’s been, you can take the baby and rip the baby out of the womb on the ninth month on the final day. And that’s not acceptable.”

No, that’s stupid! Seriously, everything he just said in that paragraph is stupid. You don’t abort a baby at nine months, or the last day. If a baby is taken from the womb, then that’s a caesarean. That’s birth. I mean, is he talking literally? Yeah, sometimes the surgery is quite urgent, so babies are delivered quite quickly, and sometimes that can appear violent. But they are not being ripped out. Similarly, abortions are performed with injections and surgery. Nothing is being ripped out!

Getting these two completely different procedures mixed up, to me sets a very dangerous precedent. Firstly, let’s talk about the imagery that he uses. I firmly believe that Trump can be quite clever when it comes to the language that he uses, to some extent. Trump is an anti-abortionist, that much is true. I believe he very carefully chose those words he used to describe abortions, because it evokes in our minds a truly grim and horrific scenario. MacDuff describing to Macbeth in Shakespeare’s play about being “untimely ripped” from his mother’s womb sets the scene for a bloody climax. It is the nightmare that conservatives roll out every time there’s an argument around a women’s entitlement to control over her body. It is this repeated imagery and biased closed minded opinions that sets back the importance of open dialogue on a hugely important issue.

Additionally, what exactly does this do for caesareans? In the manner that Trump spoke, does he not agree with them? Caesareans are a much needed and necessary procedure when it comes to child birth. To denounce them at such an elevated stage as the presidential debate is shocking and irresponsible. I’ll agree that perhaps the rate of caesareans being performed is unnecessarily high. It seems they are being used for the convenience of the doctor rather than what’s best for the mother or her wishes. The fact that rates in America sit around 50% of all births is a worrying trend. Medical scientists state if it reaches above 70% of the population you start breeding out the ability to give birth naturally at all. Anyone know about bulldogs? You know that if humans became extinct now, then so would bulldogs, as they can’t give birth without human intervention. Their heads are too big to fit through their mothers’ birth canals. (On a side note, this is why Man of Steel annoys me. You can’t tell me that the first natural birth on Krypton after 1000 years wouldn’t have killed Superman’s mother. Nerds, feel free to discuss and argue at length. “Oh what about medical technology”, “Well why was she in pain at all then”…) No matter where you sit on the opinion on the rate or necessity of caesareans, no one is going to argue with how important they are. They are vital to saving the lives of both mother and baby.

I’m still not entirely sure what Trump’s angle is here. Does he not agree with caesareans? Does he not understand what they are? Does he actually believe what he’s saying, that there isn’t a difference between the two? Does he really truly believe that you can abort a baby days before birth? Does he not understand the definition of late term abortion? This article pretty much articulately sums up my feelings on the issue.

Frankly, if you are going to confuse the two, then there is at least one thing they do have in common; The incredible importance they both have for the health, safety and mental wellbeing for a woman. But to casually speak of them in the manner that Trump did last week, inferring that they are both someone inherently evil, is not only irresponsible but incredibly dangerous.

Too often our society views women who choose to have an abortion as selfish. Someone who wasn’t done living their life, that a baby is merely an inconvenience to them and that lifestyle that they must simply be rid of. We punish them for desiring sex, for having it, and then for dealing with the consequences that come with that desire. But the reasons for an abortion are never so black and white. There are women who are far too young, too inexperienced, too immature or simply put just not ready to be a parent. Young teenagers, or as I like to all them, children, should not have to go through the humiliation of a public Court hearing to access medical care. There are women who have absolutely no support around them, no family, no friends, or the father is not in the picture for whatever reason. The prospects of being a single mum all alone is frankly a frightening idea. There are the women who have been raped. No, your body does not have a magic switch to prevent itself from falling pregnant if you get “legitimately” raped. That is a fallacy. Stop thinking it, stop believing it, stop spreading it! There are the women who will die if they carry a pregnancy either to term, or for any period of time at all. And then there are the truly awful moments when you hear the diagnosis of “Not compatible with life”. Can you imagine any parent being told the utmost worst news in their entire life? That their baby, when born will not survive. Absolute zero chance. How horrendous. I can’t imagine a worse fate. So for some, there is relief given by offering the procedure we place such taboo on. Because to force a woman to carry to term a child they know they will never hold, will never see grow, will never hear speak, I frankly can’t imagine a worse nightmare. If you believe that these stories simply don’t exist, then I implore you to read this article. I warn you, it is heart-breaking and you will probably need a stiff drink afterwards, but it is an important step to understanding late term abortions and how vital a service they are.

The argument that a women may regret her decision later is frequently marched out at any debate. I would agree that yes, on the surface, it makes a good point. But then again, isn’t there the possibility we regret ANY decisions that we ever make in life? What about the decision to NOT go through with one? And just as equally, there are plenty of women out there who DON’T regret the decision they make at all. Perhaps a woman changed her mind at the last minute and ended up keeping her child, and loving them more than she could have ever imagined. Alternatively, another woman may have walked out of that same clinic after a procedure and never looked back in regret, knowing she made the right choice.

“But what about the women who are forced into one by family, or violent partners?” I hear you ask. Again we should have laws and procedures set in place to protect those women just as much as the women making the choice out of their own free will. The problem is we never get as far as imposing well informed and researched laws, because the dialogue is always stopped in its tracks by people who have tunnel vision on the issue. Because irresponsible people have somehow ended up with all the power, and are too stubborn, old fashioned, and conservative to believe there is any other way of thinking. Because they keep pushing the agenda that “Abortion = Bad”, backed up with verbal images of “Babies being ripped from their mother’s wombs”. Even our own former Prime Minister when he was minister for health decided to weigh into the debate, and decided women were taking the “easy way out”. There is nothing easy about this decision, and to water it down to the likes of decisions like “Maybe I won’t have that third coffee today” is frankly demeaning and insulting. How such a man then became Minister for Women I’ll never understand. Then again after dumping all over our civil liberties, Trump went on to say how much he “loves and respects women”. Double vomit.

Then there’s the loudest argument of all: But what about the babies? The children who would have been born, who had no choice over their lives being ended. Who will speak for them? There is a meme doing the rounds at the moment of a quote by Sister Joan Chittister, “I do not believe that just because you’re opposed to abortion, that that makes you pro-life. In fact, I think in many cases, your morality is deeply lacking if all you want is a child born but not a child fed, not a child educated, not a child housed. And why would I think that you don’t? Because you don’t want any tax money to go there. That’s not pro-life. That’s pro-birth. We need a much broader conversation on what the morality of pro-life is.”

I can’t agree more with her. You can’t be opposed to abortion and then not be horrified with the fact that children are dying at sea or rotting in our detention centres. You can’t condemn women for making the choice to end a pregnancy, and then continue to condemn single mothers with multiple children that she can’t afford to care for, and decide we need to crake down on those “cheating the welfare system”. You can’t actively protest against abortion and not care that the adoption process and rate in this country is one of the worst and lowest in the world.

You’re right, the idea of aborting a baby is not a nice one. Faced with the choice I don’t know if I could go through with one. If I was faced with a pregnancy that I realised would result in a child that I couldn’t afford to care for, or a terrible medical diagnosis regarding either the health of the child or my own, I don’t know if I could go through with such a thing. I personally wouldn’t have it in me. And that’s specifically coming from the fact that I struggled for years to conceive. The idea of abortion is terrible to me, and I completely understand why it is abhorrent to others. But I also understand the reasons why they happen, why they are needed and why we need to talk about them. I will never stand in the way of someone who needs one. Or someone who wants one. We need to talk about abortions. We need an open dialogue that is safe and free of judgement. To do that, we need to stop listening to the fearmongering likes of Trump.
 

Potty Training. Or as I like to call it “This is my life now.”

Everybody in the house who’s trying to toilet train their child, let me hear you say “OH FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, PLEASE SOMEONE HELP, OR AT LEAST MAKE THIS MISERY STOP!” …Wayoh.

So, anyone else attempted this yet? We’ve been trying to potty train on and off since the beginning of the year. So far it’s been nothing but pain, frustration and a lot of crying. And that’s just from the adults. At first it seemed liked this was going to be a piece of cake. Stormaggedon took to it quite easily, doing a wee on the potty up to 5 times a day at one point. His was barely wetting, and I can still remember one particular day when he wore one disposable nappy the entire day until bed time. But that brief yet glorious time all came crashing down. With absolutely no reason or explanation. Perhaps he realised that he was gaining too much independence too quickly, that he would no longer need to rely on myself and the hubby as much as previously. Perhaps he didn’t like the idea of shedding his baby status. We will never know, but all of a sudden he simply refused to go. Attempting to wrangle a cat into a tub for their biannual bath would have been a walk in the park compared to struggling with my son on the potty. He suddenly worked out that if he planked it was impossible to sit him down. Many times during these struggles we would simply give up forcing to him to sit, thinking perhaps that he just didn’t need to go, for him to then simply walk to the corner of the room and pee on the floor. Sometimes it felt like it was almost deliberate. I hope that it wasn’t. And it’s not like we ever made a big deal about it, or were disappointed, and we certainly never yelled. We’ve always been very careful not to be emotional for fear of him developing a complex, because as we all know that will just make it worse. So when he’s refused, we’ve simply said “Ok, maybe next time”, and back on with the nappy, only for a ‘pooplosion’ to occur not 3 minutes later. Or we’d simply give up for a few weeks and try again hoping that maybe THIS month he’ll be ready.

It’s amazing how potty training can erode a parent’s ability to hold any type of thoughtful conversation that doesn’t involve lavatory habits. At the moment, whenever I’m in the presence of another adult I mean to enquire after their lives and achievements at the moment, or discuss current social and world affairs, or suggest taking in an art exhibition or new experimental film, but instead immediately degrade into “Stormy managed to do two wees on the potty this morning, and last week he even managed a poo!” The ridiculous look of pride and awe on my face awaits a mirrored response on how clever my child is, but is merely met with confused silence and quick change of topic. Nobody understands my life anyone. I don’t understand my life anymore.

Conversations with my child are now never ending questions consisting of variations of “Do you need to wee?”, “Are you doing a wee?”, “Do you need to use the potty?” etc. I feel like I have nothing else to say to my son. It’s just endless potty talk.

There’s an overwhelming sense to just have this done and dusted, and yet there’s also a part of me that dreads the inevitability. Nappies are so convenient and easy (well, when you’re not cleaning poo out from underneath your fingernails, because it didn’t quite hold it all in). You don’t have to worry about running around finding a toilet, or the dreaded car ride filled with “I NEED TO GO TO THE BATHROOM!” And frankly I don’t know which one has been worse: Stormy refusing to sit and doing everything to prevent us from putting him on the potty, or constantly taking his own pants and nappy off to sit on the potty 5 times within an hour and not do anything (and again, only to have him completely fill his nappy with wee when I finally dragged him off not two minutes later).

Advice from others seems to go nowhere. I’ve asked countless mothers at playgroup what techniques they used. All of them seem to answer with “Oh I didn’t do anything, they just trained themselves when they were ready.”, “My son was so easy it only took a couple of days”, “Nothing special, they just trained when they were ready”. Wow, thanks, that’s SO HELPFUL! And frankly the next person who suggests incentives to me will probably get their head bitten off. I’m sorry, but I simply don’t believe that a child should be rewarded for achieving a normal and required bodily function. Yes, I will clap and praise and dance around when he’s actually successful with a trip to the potty. But the idea of giving him a treat, or a sweet, or food, or a toy as some sort of positive re-enforcement just seems dangerous to me. Think about how many times you go to the toilet during the day. You’re actually telling me that I should give my son a chocolate or lollie every time he does that to reward him. I’m already super careful about the food that he eats during the day. And we all know how judgemental people can be when it comes to the sugar consumption of children. Not to mention the fact that Australia is leading the way in the childhood obesity epidemic compared to the rest of the world. But sure, why not give my two year old chocolate every time he does a wee. Are you kidding me!? Every time this has been suggested to me I’ve said flatly that it won’t be a good idea because I know exactly what will happen. He won’t understand the link between the toilet and the chocolate. He’ll ask for chocolate all the time regardless. Or, he’ll go to sit on the potty even though he doesn’t need to go with the expectation that he’ll get a chocolate. Don’t believe me? Think I’m over reacting? I’ll give you an example. We had actually been using an incentive. Mickey Mouse cartoons. He’s suddenly developed an obsession with them. We used them initially to encourage him to at least sit on the potty. Which worked for a while. Until he cottoned on to what we were doing. Then all of a sudden the first thing he would do in the morning would be to toddle off to the potty, sit down, and announce “Mickey Mouse on phone!” When I said no World War III erupted. So no, we won’t be using incentives. Stop suggesting them to me.

Look, I know people are well meaning, but I just need help and advice. I don’t have the answers. I just have months and months of frustration and repressed anger. I have one tiny step forward and fifteen gigantic leaps backwards. I’m scared to think that perhaps he’s never going to train, that he’ll be one of those three year olds who refuse to go to the toilet and will only poo in a nappy, that he’ll be in grade two and still wearing nappies to school, that he’ll be seven years old and pooing in his pants because he still doesn’t understand how to go to the toilet, or that he’ll be an adult pissing in the yard constantly because he has a fear of the toilet (yes all of these are true stories).

The most frustrating part about it is he gets it! He totally gets it. You ask him where do wees and poos go and he replies “In the potty”. But if you ask him if he needs to use the potty and you’re met with a resounding “NO!” How I wish I could describe the way he says this. How insistent and matter of fact, and outright lying it is. But what can I do? I don’t know where to start, or who to turn to for advice, or how to convince myself to not just give up on it all. I suppose I should just take it one day at a time, keep calm and carry on. And try not to end up with a potty mouth.

How I love my husband. Let me count the ways…

Recently I’ve been taking Stormaggedon to playgroup. With playgroup comes your usual group of gossiping mummies. This can sometimes be an entertaining experience, listening to them bitch about their children, their jobs, but especially their husbands. Mostly their husbands. To the point where I start questioning is there anyone out there that is truly in a loving, happy and equal relationship? Because from the stuff I’ve been hearing, you’re all in loveless marriages teetering on the brink of divorce. One such story however left me with a bad taste in my mouth. One of the mothers was recounting a story of her quite close friend, of trying to convince her husband to have a fourth child. Now understandably, having a fourth child is a huge decision, one that should not be taken lightly. The physical and financial stress could be incredibly hard to cope with, and depending on how old you were and how old your other three children were, are important factors to take into account. So I can totally understand and appreciate this husband’s severe apprehension. But his caving into his reluctance was what appalled me in the end. The wife in this situation apparently gave him the ultimate “get out of jail free card” and convinced him to have a fourth by promising that he would “never have to change a dirty nappy, nor ever have to give it a feeding”. Essentially none of the “dirty” work. It was to this condition that he agreed. And now they’re happily trying……Seriously!? I sat there stunned. Did I just hear this correct? What kind of a person agrees to something like that? What kind of a person offers something like that? Ok, so I know I shouldn’t judge because I don’t know these people, nor their situation. Perhaps the husband has a very high powered and busy job and doesn’t spend much time with his current children. Perhaps the wife is a stay at home mum, who’s always seen herself as a “Mother” and has no desire to do anything else. Ok, fine, two perfectly valid lifestyle choices. But SERIOUSLY!? What if it’s not like that? What if he’s very active with the other children? What if she wants to go back to work? Saying that she will change every single dirty nappy and handle every single feeding and meal time seems impossible. You are literally tying yourself to that child for 4 or 5 years before you can even think of having a moment to yourself again. You would seriously give up ever having a coffee out with your friends, or a day at the movies, or just one afternoon to pamper yourself? And not just that, what happens if, God forbid, that child has special needs? Or you die in childbirth? That still happens even today remember. Can your husband really wash his hands of his child so easily? Nappy changes are gross and messy and feeding times can be extremely painful, but they’re still bonding experiences. I’ve watched my husband laugh with Stormy on the change table, tickling his toes and blowing raspberries on his stomach. I’ve seen him play games whilst feeding him and singing songs to distract him so he’ll actually put the food in his mouth. It might be dirty, but it’s still fun and it’s still beautiful.

In any case, like I said that couple’s choice is none of my business, and I should probably not be so judgemental of their decision. And you never know, maybe once the baby comes things will be different, and that arrangement will last all of one week before the husband starts pitching in. Maybe he’ll love it. I can only hope.

I told my husband the story and he was just as incredulous as I was. We talked about how I’d hear stories from work about other husbands who just aren’t as caring. Who’d go out or make plans and not even tell their wives, just expecting them to stay home and take care of the kids. Stories about husbands either being incredibly reluctant to help out around the house, or refusing to help altogether. Husbands who have no interest in their children and would rather watch the footy instead of read to their kids. All of these stories left him dumbfounded. He has said to me time and time again that he simply can’t understand how husbands aren’t more loving of their wives and children.

So in honour of my wonderful husbands, here are the top six things that I love about him.

  1. He actually helps with the housework. Yes, sometimes he grumbles about it, but then again so do I. And it’s usually because I’ve asked him to do something at the very last minute because I’ve forgotten. But then again he’ll also feel bad because he forgot himself.
  2. He cooks when I need him to. And he makes really good lamb chops.
  3. He’s always there for me. As a shoulder to cry on, as a sounding board for ideas, as a father when I need to go out. He’ll let me have the car, he always offers me the extra piece of meat first (seriously why do Coles always stock lamb chops in packs of five and chicken wings in packs of three!?). He’ll go out of his way to be home early if I need him there, or work from home if I need him there. He gives the best hugs and is always trying to convince me that I’m not a horrible person. He’ll tell me I’m a good mother, that I’m beautiful, and calm me down when I’m having an existential crisis, or thinking that the world is about to end.
  4. He’s always finding ways to make me happy when I’m sad. From showing me incredibly cute cat pictures to finding funny and inspirational things on the internet. Case in point, the other day I was feeling sad about not having “done” anything with my life. He immediately found this wonderful inspiring video to make me feel better. https://www.facebook.com/1745201349049293/videos/1828243630745064/
  5. He loves our son so much. He teaches him things and helps him to pronounce words properly. He takes him for walks and reads stories to him. He teaches him to climb (panicky look on my face), and to play with a ball. He puts him to bed when I’m not home. He sings to him. He’ll put on funny voices to make Stormy laugh. And he helps me hold Stormy down when we’re trying to wash his hair (or as Stormy like to think of it, killing him in the most horrible manner possible).
  6. He loves me.

So here’s to my husband. He may not be the best husband in the world. But he’s the best husband to me. And I love him.

Burying the hatchet

I need to apologise to someone. To someone who probably doesn’t even know that I needed to apologise to them. This person doesn’t know who I am, nor that I was their, well…”enemy” is too strong a word. Adversary is probably the better term. I suppose it stems from my adversarial views in comparison to their own. Jealously is most likely the cause, but more on that later. I’m talking about Constance Hall. That’s right, the mummy warrior that has endeared herself into the hearts and minds of so many people, including every mother I’ve ever known. They all love her. And you know what, good for them. But me. Well, let’s just say that Constance is not my favourite person. In fact, whenever I’ve seen her posts in the past, they tend to annoy the shit out of me. From airing her dirty laundry on line, to the constant derogatory comments about her husband, to her over use of the F and C word (especially the C word. For me it’s not empowering, it’s offensive). The incredibly judgemental bitch inside me will read her posts about her unruly kids and thinks she brings it on herself. And the writer in me will read her posts and scream out loud “Have you heard of spell check! Can you please read over your posts before you share them! How are you writing a book?!” I’ve wanted to share these thoughts so many times, but have held back purely because I don’t like to share hateful thoughts (most of the time). I grew up believing in “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything all”. So I’ve avoided making rude and derogatory comments even if they are on my own Facebook wall. And I would certainly never post them directly to someone, because that’s just terrible. I know how words can eat someone up inside. I know how it’s felt myself. And frankly posting horrible comments online is just cowardly. And lastly I didn’t post anything because I know if Constance ever got wind of my thoughts she’d probably just brush it off with a response like “Don’t you worry you Queen, you can hate me all you want, I don’t give a f**k, and it’s your right to hate whoever you want. You’re still a Queen, keep being a Queen”. Or something like that. And she’d win! She’d still come out on top looking great, while I’m the idiot embarrassing myself over here in the corner stamping my feet for no reason.

Now before anyone starts to jump down my throat, please hold off on your abusive mail, because let’s not forget the very start of this post. Remember, regarding that apology? Here’s the thing about being an open minded person. You have to allow yourself to look at the other side first before you can form an opinion. If you want your opinion to hold any kind of weight that is. You have to agree to be calm and research everything before you make an informed choice. And sometimes, just sometimes, you can be persuaded to change your opinion, to do a 180, to agree that maybe you were wrong. You have the right to change your mind. So Constance, if you ever come across this, I apologise. Please accept my humblest of apologies for being a judgemental bitch face. A lot of my angst was in fact born out of jealousy. I kept thinking to myself “Why does Constance get to go viral with her posts, and I’m lucky if three people read mine?” I realised after I did a bit of research, that firstly you have a proper website and not some shitty free thing being piggy-backed off WordPress. Secondly you have a Facebook page, so you get far more traction that I ever would at the moment. And thirdly, you’ve been doing this WAY longer that I have. 10 years compared to my barely 1. And not withstanding all this, but you started off with a somewhat known personality, thanks to appearing in Big Brother (and bug bear I have, considering how much I loath that show, but again my opinion seems to be in the minority). And as much as I would like for my work to get a bit more recognition, I’ve avoided taking that extra step of opening a page on Facebook because, let’s face it, I’m a woman, I have an opinion, and I’m on the internet. And we all know what that equals.

And that leads me to what caused my turn around on Constance in the first place. I came across this post by Constance in my feed a few days ago. https://www.facebook.com/plugins/post.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2Fpermalink.php%3Fstory_fbid%3D1224023820975774%26id%3D1019711431407015%26substory_index%3D0&width=500

At first my reaction was a sarcastic and unsympathetic “What’s happened THIS time?”. Dully clicking on the link I read through. The post mostly confused me, because I hadn’t heard the back story regarding the book-week child and Nic Naitanui ( here for reference, http://www.theage.com.au/victoria/blackface-outrage-mother-paints-sons-skin-for-book-week-parade-20160825-gr1fo8.html.) Firstly I’ll say this: black face is never ok. I don’t care if the man was your kids’ hero. No. Don’t do it. End of story. Secondly, Constance’s response to the post on her page was brilliant. It was non-judgemental. It was kind and gentle and graceful. Nothing about her response suggested anger, or condescension, or vilification. And what did she receive in return? Death threats. Seriously people? Can you not have been a bit more dignified about this? Constance was trying to help and all she received was unnecessary shit slung at her. No one deserves that. Not the mother at the centre of the controversy. Not Constance. Not anyone. And yet, when I first saw her crying face in my feed, a dark little voice at the back of my brain whispered “Oh how the mighty have fallen”. But when I read her post, read her anguish, felt her anguish then read the back story behind it, I just simply couldn’t do this anymore. I can’t keep holding onto such dark and hateful thoughts. Over nothing. Over a difference of opinion. So setting aside my feelings I delved a little more into the world of Constance and read some posts. And you know what? They’re good. They’re really good. Yes, sometimes the spelling errors shit me, and the obscene amount of swearing offends me (and you know what, that’s so hypercritical because sometimes I swear like a sailor. I just don’t like to post like a sailor). And then I realised we have so much more in common than I thought we did. And then I saw this: https://www.facebook.com/plugins/post.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2FRafikiMwemaNakuru%2Fposts%2F683859338434121&width=500 For the longest time I’ve agonised about wanting to do more for the world. I’ve felt so useless lately, just another cog in the government wheel, unable to help people in any real manner. The only thing I feel like I can do is share certain posts, “like” when someone participates in a protest, and fling money at certain charities. But Constance! Constance has actually done something in terms of making a difference, being a wonderful supporter of such a worthwhile organisation. Suddenly my inability to get myself out of bed and make myself lunch before I have to go to work becomes a little pathetic looking compared to this Super Mum especially when I realised we’re the exact same age. Suddenly I realised, “Holy crap, she really IS a Queen!”

So Constance, we may not see eye to eye, we may have WAY differing ideas on parenting, I may not follow you on Facebook, or buy your book, and you may never read any of my stuff, or if you do maybe even think it’s the crappiest thing written since the God of Small Things (seriously, that is a soul destroying book. Never ever ever read it!). But one thing is certain, even if I don’t agree with your opinions, I will damn well respect them from now on. I will say “That is Constance, we may never be friends, and I may not agree with some of the things she’s says, but she is a strong woman, who knows how to write, and knows what she’s talking about, and knows how to tell it to you like it is”. Perhaps I will take some inspiration from you. Perhaps I will go my own path. But perhaps, maybe I’ll be able to let go of a little negativity, because that always leaves the world looking a little brighter.

Helping your child deal with death. A scary concept.

Morbid I know. But seriously, how do we help our children deal with death? Anyone? Anyone at all know the answer? I certainly don’t. Death is such a terrifying concept when you’re a child. I can still remember my first brush with death, completely not understanding the concept at all. I can’t remember how old I was exactly. I couldn’t have been older than 5. I remember finding a dead magpie in the back yard. I remember racing to my dad to tell him what I’d found. I remember feeling incredibly sad. I remember asking my dad “Why can’t we just give it some medicine to make it better?” I didn’t understand that it wouldn’t wake up. That it wouldn’t get better. After that moment I don’t recall if my mother or father sat me down and explained what death was. Maybe they did. Or perhaps they just avoided the subject, not wanting to put their child through the existential horror of one day simply not existing. They must have explained the concept to me at some point soon after, because my next fearful memory associated with death was the concept of my own impending mortality. I recall my mother conducting one of her extreme cleaning sessions. She was using methylated spirits as a surface disinfectant. I was at the time was playing with her very old typewriter (I guess I did start early after all). She came through my room and wiped over the keys with the lightly soaked cloth, then wiped the residue off with another cloth. I remember asking her what she was using. She told me what it was, then proceeded to install in me the very important value of never touching the methylated spirits, because if I accidentally ingested any of it, it would eat my stomach and I would DIE! Now I’m sure I’m probably exaggerating this memory. My mother probably only warned me not to touch something dangerous. But my child brain interpreted it as imminent doom. The sudden fear arose because I was typing along, then licked my finger to turn a page. Immediately I realised what I had done. The keyboard had been wiped with the metho, I had licked my fingers, therefore my stomach was about the be destroyed and I was going to die. I felt it starting already. It was a cold tingling sensation in the pit of my stomach. It was the first time I was really scared. I was utterly convinced I was about to die. My mother probably didn’t understand why I suddenly started becoming so clingy, why I stopped sleeping well at night. I think I was too embarrassed to tell her why I was feeling the way I was. At the time we were still quite religious and went to church every Sunday. Mum realised I was suffering some sort of existential crisis and tried to comfort me through the Word of God. Unfortunately that only made things worse. The idea of eternity or “Forever and ever” as was so frequently put in church, did nothing to comfort me, but magnified my fears. So my experiences left me both not wanting to die, but also not wanting to live forever. It’s something that still affects me even to this day. Sometimes when I think about it hard enough, I get that same cold hollow feeling in the pit of my stomach….Now I’m not saying that my parents didn’t handle teaching me about death very well, or didn’t do a good job. I don’t think any person really knows how to deal with death properly, let alone how a parent teaches a child how to cope.

After my last blog you’re aware that I’ve lost someone quite close to me. At the same time of dealing with my own emotions, I’ve also started thinking about how to deal with Stormaggedon when he eventually has to face the same sadness. Leading up to this particular death I felt the same obligation again regarding Stormy as I had in the past when deciding if I should bring him along when I visit people. My friend’s mother had literally only seen Stormy twice in his life. It wasn’t because I was avoiding bringing him, sometimes it just wasn’t convenient to bring him for a visit, and I always assumed there would be more time. In the weeks leading up to her death I knew that time was becoming very short, and was desperate to bring Stormy for a visit. I thought it would be a wonderful pick-me-up, and I was very eager to cheer her up. However his reactions to stressful situations and people who are not at all well had not gone well in the recent past. Currently my own Nanny has not been well, having had a stroke and now living in a nursing home. On the two occasions that I brought Stormy for a visit, it was not the happy little outing I thought it would be. Entering the room we found my Nanny lying in bed both times, frail, small and very tired looking. Stormy took one look and turned tail. Trying to force him to stay only caused the most extreme frightened tantrum I have seen him throw. He buried himself into my shoulder screaming “No no no no!” over and over again. He sobs turned into ridiculous heaving and I’m pretty sure by the end of our visit, most of it was quite put on. The part that frustrated me the most was the fact that he had absolutely no problem wandering into other peoples’ rooms and even walking up to other bed bound patients to curiously say hello. But every time we tried to bring him back to Nanny he’d freak out all over again. Such visits were cut invariably short, and I have not since braved going back at this stage. My idea was to cheer my Nanny up with a visit from her first and only (so far) great grandchild. What she was met with was a screaming, frightened toddler, probably making her feel bad for the fact that she was the apparent cause of his anguish. This is something that I would hate to repeat. So the idea of bring Stormy to see my Second Mummy, knowing full well what state her condition was, I only imagined that this would be exactly how he would react, in fear and sadness. That was the last thing I wanted to inflict on her, knowing her time left with us was so short. I knew that she already felt like a burden to those around her, feeling guilty for “making” others have to take such care of her (if only she knew that was never how anyone ever felt. They only wanted make her time left as comfortable, and as loved as possible). The thought of inflicting my screaming, tantruming toddler into her already incredibly stressful world was too unbearable for me. But not only that, selfishly as a mother I wanted to protect Stormy from experiencing that situation. I didn’t want to expose him to such a painful scenario. He’s still so very young, but oh so very smart. I know even though he wouldn’t have understood exactly what was going on, he would have known that it wasn’t at all good.

So what do you do as a parent? Do you force your children, with the possibility of traumatising them, to visit and interact with the sick and the dying because it might please those to see the young? Or do we protect our young from pain and trauma, for as long as possible? I feel like there are so many answers to these questions. Some people will say that death is a necessary part of life and children need to find out about it, the sooner the better so that they learn to cope with it earlier. Others will say we should protect our young from trauma in order to prevent trauma in them. The Right will say “Children need to suck it up, because life is full of pain. How will they cope in life if they don’t know how to handle pain?”. The Left will counter with “Children should be allowed to be children. There’s always time to learn about the sad things in life. We shouldn’t force them to do things for others just because it’ll make others happy. They won’t know how to how to empower themselves to say no if they get forced into things when they are older.” Argh, this argument does my head in! This kind of back and forth bickering runs through my head on a daily basis, about EVERYTHING!

So how DO we handle death? How can we teach our children that all things will eventually die? How do we allow them to go through such an enlightened quandary at such a young age, when their emotional abilities are not yet at such a level to process this kind of information? That it may leave them with that same cold tingling sensation in the pit of their stomachs that kept me up at night as a little girl, and frankly still keeps me up at night even now. Personally I think we should always be honest with our children. If they ask, tell them the truth. Don’t use fancy big words, but don’t talk down to them. Children can tell when you are being condescending. Protect them from the worst of a sad time, but don’t hide things from them. Don’t lie and say things like “Grandma just went on a long trip” or that the dog “went to the farm”. Worst of all, don’t ever compare death to sleeping, not if you ever want to get a good night’s sleep again.

Frankly I don’t have the answers. I wish I did. And one day when Stormy asks me about why people have to die, I only hope I have the strength to answer him. And hopefully not freak him out. The last thing I want is for him to develop that never ending cold tingling sensation in the pit of his stomach…