And now for something completely different…

Sorry for the brief interlude between posts. Life, as it were, has seemed to have gotten in the way. I really don’t know how this could have happened, frankly. All I’m trying to do is find time to write my blog, whilst at the same time fit in working four days a week, go to regular Taekwondo training and do enough physical fitness work that I can finally pass my fitness test, and therefore clear my incomplete from my third degree testing, rehearse and act in a play (Annie at Phoenix Theatre in Beenleigh, opens 28 April, you should totally come check it out), whilst at the same time practise and prepare my Les Miserable audition (my bucket list show), learn German, practise mindfulness by fitting in meditation and mindful colouring each day, attempt to write my book about my grandmother, finish the 10 different short film scripts I’ve had ideas for (damn it, I keep thinking up new stories), occasionally do some artwork like painting or sketching, catch up on my “to read” list (there’s only about 13 novels on there at the moment), spend enough time with my friends that they don’t think I’m neglecting them, eat right, maintain a clean and tidy house, all the while being a dutiful and caring mother, and at the same time a loving and attentive wife. IS THAT REALLY TOO MUCH TO ASK FOR?!

And oh yeah, not get sick in the meantime. 

In any case, I do have about 3 half written entries on the back burner, which I will attempt to get up within the next few weeks. Until then, remember you’re awesome and doing it right. 

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Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth

Recently as I mindlessly trawled the internet for new inspirations and blogging ideas (oh who are we kidding, I was procrastinating and looking at videos of cats. Here’s a good one), I came across this interesting article. A little piece on a child’s birthday party, where a gift was flat out refused by the birthday boy’s mother because her son “Wouldn’t like it”. The present was a book, and apparently the little darling, who’s only achievement for deserving a party that day was to make it out of his mother’s vagina at a particular moment in time*, would really rather have something else. “He just doesn’t read books” was her smarmy response as she vaguely pointed to the direction of the shops. I personally can’t be more outraged. News articles, opinion pieces, and ranting on social media go on and on about the youth of today and how they have no manners. Yet we never seem to stop and reflect on the rudeness of adults. Perhaps it’s time we need to make a correlation between the two? In what world do you take a gift, not even unwrap it, then give it back immediately deeming it to be unsatisfactory, and on behalf of someone else!? Not to mention that you haven’t even let your own child make a decision for himself on his tastes, pleasures, and likes or dislikes, but to shove a gift back in the face of someone who took (at least a little) time and effort in buying it is just disgusting. What does that teach our children?

Look admittedly, we’ve all received gifts we either don’t need or don’t like. But a little bit of tact wouldn’t go unnoticed. “Thanks! Look, truthfully I’m not really a fan of books, but I’m looking forward to giving this one a go, because I can tell that you thought I would like it, and that means a lot.” Hmm, does that sound too saccharine? In any case it’s a hundred times better than “Nope, try again” whilst hurling it back in the giver’s face.

I’ll admit however that I too have been guilty of giving presents back, but only because we already had the exact same thing. I gave them back with the intention that the giver could get a refund, or pass it onto another child they knew. But even so, I stopped doing that because I felt bad about it. Now if we get a doubled-up present we accept it with a smile, and then probably stash away to give to charity, or even a replacement for when the original is destroyed (as is likely to happen in a house with a toddler). It’s still easy for the moment, as Stormaggedon is still young enough that he doesn’t really understand what he owns, what he doesn’t own and what he’s receiving. But now that he’s getting older he’ll begin making connections, and very soon will start to realise when he receives something he already has. Or worse, receives something he doesn’t like or want. Then it will be time to step in and help him to learn to be gracious, and how to react in a more dignified and polite manner.

But this article didn’t annoy me just for the antagonist’s attitude of refusing a gift. A throw away comment towards the beginning of the article mentioned the writer’s child going to a different birthday party, and coming back with the token “Party Bag” which contained AN IPAD! That’s right, an iPad. Seriously, is this what we’re doing now. Trying to outdo each other to the point of bankruptcy? “My kid’s party was so much better than your kid’s party, I got all his little friends their own iPhone and Playstation console to take home”. When the hell did a bag of lollies, a balloon and a plastic whistle go out of fashion!? Now admittedly, perhaps this party was held by a well-off and affluent family, who could afford to do such a thing. But I find this kind of blasé attitude frankly irksome. It reeks of privilege and a lack of understanding how the real world works for 99% of people. Parenting is already hard enough nowadays, yet I found myself (and I know others do too) constantly bowing to the pressure of trying to keep up with the Joneses. People who cook everything from scratch, and never give their children anything processed, purchasing the latest technology, taking their kids to music classes, gymnastic classes, and art summer school, family holidays spent further and further afield in exotic locations, hiring home tutors before they start prep just so they have “an edge” over the other kids. I CAN’T TAKE IT ANYMORE!

Ok, so here are some very basic steps to follow:

Rule 1. Simple birthday parties. Go to the Reject Shop and by some streamers and balloons. I guarantee they’ll cost you no more than $5. NO IPADS.

Rule 2. Except any gift that is given with a smile and a thank you. If it’s for your child DON’T REFUSE IT ON THEIR BEHALF BEFORE THEY’VE EVEN SEEN IT! You know, unless it’s something offensive like a harpoon gun, or porn. If this is the case you have my permission to throw it back in their face, kick them out of your house and never speak to them again.

Rule 3. Everyone take a chill pill and stop competing with each other. You know what, your child might legitimately be better than mine. They may already know how to tie their shoes, dress themselves, sing the alphabet, and whistle Handel’s Messiah off by heart. That’s great, but I refuse to compete anymore. And I’d appreciate it if you didn’t look down on me in judgement just because I didn’t buy Stormy the latest and coolest running shoes to match everyone at Kindy.      

Rule 4. Be an example to your children. Show them how to treat others. Tell them to treat others the way they wish to be treated. Turn the next generation into beautiful, empathetic, giving, open hearted and charitable people. Because from what I keep getting told, the current generation is too self-centred to care.

Rule 5. Relax about whether your child is entertained or stimulated enough. You know what’s great? Playdoh, crayons, and a sandpit. Obviously not altogether. You don’t constantly have to look for activities to do. Stormy found my mental ramekins the other day and banged on them with a wooden spoon, declaring “what an interesting sound” they made. FOR AN HOUR! Toddlers are like cats, give them an empty box and they’re entertained for hours. Seriously, for the love of God, do yourself a favour and get off Pinterest!

Rule 6. NO IPADS AS PARTY GIFTS. I just can’t stress that enough.

*Note: OF COURSE I’m not against childrens’ birthday parties. They are a wonderful thing, and give us really beautiful moments. That is, when we’re not having to deal with tantrums, food poisoning, no one turning up, the cake being eaten by the dog before your kid could even blow out the candles, or that one annoying girl who decides she needs to fight the birthday boy for his party hat because SHE likes it more, and their grandmother makes everyone give in to her tantruming and gives her the party hat, thus inflating her self-congratulating narcissism (looks around furtively from side to side hoping no one works out who that was). I mean all I’m saying is, I did all the work, where’s my freaking party? Guess I’ll just enjoy that glass of wine sipped in the dark of an untidy kitchen hours after everyone is finally asleep. 

Don’t ask, and maybe I’ll tell

Whenever people ask me when I’m going to have my next child, my immediate response tends to be to shout “Not until we take real action against climate change, and I know any further offspring will have enough food and water to live!” Apparently that tends to upset people, so usually my response is to just grin and say “Probably not till the end of the year”.

Ok, I admit, that shouting part was a lie. But it’s definitely what I shout in my head. It’s definitely something that I lay awake at night worrying about. And it’s definitely something that I am actually considering when I ask myself about when I want to have another child. The plan that my husband and I always had was to wait until the end of this year to start trying again. And by trying I merely mean “opening the vault”. For those of you playing at home, and haven’t read my previous entries, my son was conceived via IVF and we were lucky enough to have 3 extra embryos which are currently chilling in my fertility doctor’s freezer. I like to refer to them as “my children in the vault”. I usually do this in an Igor like accent and hunch. It really disturbs some people. I find it hilarious. Anyway, the logistics of having another child is actually quite convenient for us, so it will just come down to when we feel ready. Yet that “ready” feeling for me, just keeps travelling further and further into the future. For various reasons. Climate change and the uncertainty of the future is a big factor. Thanks to the latest elected US president, “Will we go to another World War, and this time will it be completely nuclear?” is usually my next worry. But knowing how much I struggled with Stormaggedon, the third worry is “Will I be strong enough to do it all again?”

But all of this pales in comparison to the worry and anxiety I feel of inevitably being asked the question by every man and his dog on when I’m going to expand the family. I’m sure all parents can understand. You might even be on your 7th child, and you’ll still get that curious well-meaning friend/neighbour/family member/random stranger on the train just casually dropping into conversation “So when’s the next one coming along?”

Just this weekend I was mingling with a new group of people and I inevitably brought up Stormaggedon. Because as a mother, I have nothing else to talk about in my life. Literally, nothing else to talk about. One lovely lady asked me how many children I had, and my response was “Just the one”. Without a beat her next question was “Plans for the second one yet?” WITHOUT. A. BEAT. I don’t even think the last syllable of my pervious answer had completely left my mouth by the time she was forming this next question. Now admittedly, I believe she only asked the question so she could get out her desperate “DON’T!” in response. Apart from her first child, she tells me her next three were all unplanned and life was a little “crazy” at the moment. I believe she thought she was doing a civic service by encouraging me to just quietly wade out of the gene pool, you know before the madness kicked in. We had a laugh about it, and went back to enjoying the array of chocolate that had been put on offer at this little get together.

Yet, I can’t help but feel a little out of sorts when people ask such personal questions. I know it’s a perfectly natural, curious and almost automatic question to ask. I’ve spoken about it before in a previous blog, but I felt it necessary to bring it up again. I think we’re all aware of how contentious the subject of having children can be. We all have that friend who is currently trying, or secretly trying, and really struggling. I was that friend. I have another friend who is now in the same boat as I was 4 years ago. But the idea of asking someone, badgering someone, about when they’re adding to their brood to me feels very invasive. Stormaggedon turns three this year, and I tell you it feels like a blink of an eye since we brought him home from the hospital. I know that “Now’s a good time to start trying again”, but I’ve only just found my feet with this first one. Can’t I enjoy him for a little bit longer? Can I just figure out what I’m doing for a little while longer before complicating the matter? Can’t I enjoy my rediscovered freedom for just a few more minutes? The water looks a little bit cold, can’t I just give it a minute before I jump back in?

So I’ll make you a deal, if you don’t ask me, then I won’t ask you. And maybe when I’m ready, I’ll let you know at the end of the year what I intend to do. Deal?

Remember, it’s all in your head.

What truly goes through the mind of a child? As adults, we tend to question why a child will do something. Why they are so upset about something so insignificant and small. Why something that is in no way funny will amuse them for hours. Why they will make certain decisions that to most others, with a rational brain, will seem like such an insane or strange thing to do. Child thought processes are truly wonderful, because they are quirky and weird and hilarious. They’re the unexpected, out of the box, and sometimes painfully logical. I’m sure as parents, we wish every day that we could understand just for a moment what goes on in their heads. It would certainly make our day to day lives in dealing with their eccentricities easier. How do they think, and why do they think it? How we wish they could put it into words. But for the most part, they just can’t.

For those that know me, they know I have an extraordinary memory. It is a fact that my earliest memory is from when I was 22 months old. I clearly remember walking around the front of my grandparent’s house, walking up the steps of their front patio, and seeing a bunch of flowers that had been delivered to my 18 year old aunt from an admirer. The flowers sat on the old wooden table that was kept out the front, for when my grandparents could sit outside and have a smoke. I clearly remember leaning down and smelling the small roses. I remember the thoughts very clearly. “Look, flowers. I want to smell them”. Such a simple little thought. Now I’m sure you’re all questioning this, “But Truthmummy, how can you KNOW that you were only 22 months old. That’s very specific”. I know, because at that moment my mother took a picture of me, and she placed it in my baby book and wrote the caption underneath with my name, simply stating “22 months old”. So yeah, long memory.

Now, keeping this framing in mind, let me tell you a story about my ridiculous thought processes as a three year old. I remember somehow getting my hands on a pair of scissors. I don’t know where the thought came from, or why I decided to do it, but the next thing I remember is holding a large chunk of my own hair in my hand. Perhaps I just wanted to play hairdresser. I don’t know. But the next thought I remember is still incredibly clear, “Oh no, I’m going to get in trouble. How can I hide this?” Looking around the room, my next thought is the one that still makes me laugh to this day, “I can’t put it in the bin, because Mummy will find it there. I know, I’ll put it down the side of the bed. She’ll never look there!” Of course, because the cleaning fairies are the ones who cleaned my room and made my bed every morning! *Adult facepalm* It’s at this point there is clearly a gap in my memory, because from my point of view, I swear it was only moments later that my mother confronts me with the discovered chunk of hair. The way my mum tells it however, it was most likely an hour later. I was in the front room playing with some toys, she went to make the bed, found the chunk of hair between the bed and the wall, and then came out and realised my hair looked incredibly lopsided. Confronting me she asked why I would do something like that. I’m pretty sure I didn’t answer her. Just looked at her dumbly and guiltily. And honestly, I probably couldn’t have told her why. It was a whim. I felt like it. I don’t know. All these answers wouldn’t have been good enough. Luckily for her, from my perspective, I realised from then on you just can’t hide anything from your mother. Unfortunately for me, after I was taken to the hair dresser to “fix” my hair, my mother decided I looked “lovely” with the world’s most dorky and ugly bob hair-style. Even 30 years later, she still tries to convince me to get my hair done the same way again because “I looked so nice”. Not happening Mum!

These incidents aren’t just confined to my own ridiculousness. One of my best friends recounts a story about why she destroyed a “precious” art work of her mother’s as a child. A black and white oil painting of Elvis, that to her mother was the most amazing piece of artwork, but to my friend simply a creepy nightmare. For reasons she couldn’t understand, it just simply scared her. There was just something not right about it. About the eyes. The eyes that seemed to follow her everywhere she went. The eyes would have to go. Before she knew what she was doing, she took a jar of nail polish remover and dabbed the eyes with some cotton wool. Something made her think that if she used the nail polish remover it would make the eyes stop following her. To her horror, it took the eyes right off the painting. She knew immediately what would happen once her mother found out. So she did the only thing a sensible six year old would do in the circumstance. She ran and hid. She hid for fifteen minutes, though to her it felt like hours. When her mother had found out what she had did, she demanded answers. Why, why would you do such a thing? Explain it to me! My friend stood silent, unable to speak, too upset and too guilty to muster up an explanation or even an apology. She tells me she simply didn’t know how to explain herself, and still isn’t quite sure what possessed her to go through with such an act. Her mother tried to fix the painting by colouring in the eyes with a marker pen. But it just didn’t look right and the painting was eventually thrown out. See kids, this is why adults can’t have nice things. Or nightmarish things that scare the hell out of you, as the case may be.

So here’s the thing, unless you have a really good memory for the things you did as a child, you’ll probably never know what goes on in the minds of your children. Sometimes there will be reasons, and they will be ridiculous. Other times there will never be reasons. Actions will manifest purely because thoughts have just landed in their heads. There will be no logic or reason to them. They just appeared. And they acted upon them, because they haven’t grown or lived long enough to understand action, reaction or consequence. It can be very frustrating when you ask your child for a reason for something, and all you are met with are blank stares. It may also be that they don’t want to provide an answer because they’re too scared to. Maybe the last time they gave you an answer that you didn’t like you yelled at them. Or maybe they’ve come to the conclusion themselves that their answer is silly. Perhaps they’re embarrassed, or feel foolish. Or worst of all, perhaps they don’t think you will believe them. It’s a timely reminder that when we are frustrated with our children that we need to take a step back and think about things from their point of view for a moment. Take them by the hand and guide them. Ask them why. If they don’t have an answer, tell them that’s ok. Tell them it’s ok to feel scared, or sad or embarrassed. Tell them that you won’t laugh, and that you’ll just listen and accept what they say. And above all, tell them that you will BELIEVE them, whatever they may tell you. Now yes, I know for the older children that may be a problem, especially if you’re going through the Always Lying phase. Well, admittedly as Stormaggedon is only 2 and a half, we’re not at that phase yet, so I’m yet to develop the right kind of advice. I think really the only thing you can do is explain what lying is, why it’s not really the best thing to do, and the consequences of what can happen. But apart from that, always believe what they tell you. Because if you refuse to believe the small, insignificant stories, or don’t take the weird wacky and ridiculous seriously, they’ll be less inclined to tell you the whole story when something big and important happens to them.

Just remember, we were all children once. We all cut our hair because we could, or destroyed something because we thought it was evil. And sometimes, there’s simply no explanation.

Moments of Disparity

I did not have a good weekend.

Here is the is spot on the floor where Stormaggedon decided he wanted to wee all over instead of telling me he needed the potty.

Here is the “train” that Stormaggedon created using his wonderful imagination and a combination of toys to put together. (I kicked it with my foot in my rush to the kitchen to get towels and cleaning liquids.) And here is where it landed when I threw it out of the way in my anger and frustration.

*Note. Yes, I have staged this photo slightly. It’s not like I decided to take this photo immediately after kicking it. This was approximately where it landed and how it looked when it landed.*

Here is my uneaten lunch because I spent the next 20 minutes cleaning up Stormy, then trying to keep him out of the way as I cleaned and sanitised the floor. 

And here is the corner where I sat down and cried because everything was once again getting to me.

When I said I didn’t have a good weekend, I meant that I wasn’t coping emotionally.

I think it hit me really hard because it’s been a very long time since I had a moment like this. Life has become surprising easy as of late. I’ve been happier, enjoying life and enjoying almost every moment with my son. Frustrations have really only been in the form of toilet training. So I think because he had been finally “getting” it and then this happened, the happy façade suddenly came crashing down. Now before anyone goes judging me about losing my cool in front of my child, let it be known that I had in fact taken him upstairs to be changed and told him to play up there whilst I cleaned downstairs. I think the fact that he wasn’t in my presence was why I allowed myself to release the angry emotions while I could. And I’ll admit, it felt good.

I tell this story for those who may look at me or others that they know who appear to be “coping”. Who they think have their lives all figured out. Perfect children and perfect lives. You may look at friends on Facebook who have children and all you ever see are beautiful smiling photos and glowing posts about how wonderful and brilliant and cute and adorable and funny their children are. And you look at yourself and think “Why can’t I have that life?” Well I’m here to say, YOU ALREADY HAVE THAT LIFE! Nobody posts photos of children chucking tantrums (unless they’re for hilarious reasons. Check out reasons my kid is crying), or how they cried until they threw up (and yes, I’m talking about the adults here), or chucked their children at their partner as soon as they walked in the door after work so they could go upstairs and sit and stare at the wall, grateful to not have someone hanging off their leg or pulling their hair for five minutes. And then maybe go and pee in peace for once.

Life is full of wonderful moments, but even the most calm and level headed person with the “perfect” children will still have moments of frustration where everything collapses around them. Remember it’s ok to have these moments. Don’t even have them with grace and dignity. Seriously, just let it rage with arms and legs flailing, with hair like a maniac and tears streaming down your face. You might even be wearing make-up at the time. Embrace those panda eyes. And when the moment has ended, pick yourself back up, take a deep breath and tell yourself that “this too shall pass.”

Then head back into the fray, spend the next 30 minutes trying to get the perfect smiling picture of your perfect cherub, and post it on Facebook. Just to let the world know you’re ok. Because let face it, we ALL know that’s what we’re ALL doing! 


*On an aside note, admittedly this was actually a few weeks ago. Since that time Stormy has finally started toilet training properly. Amazing how I write about how he’ll NEVER do something and then suddenly he does. We’ve had one or two more accidents in that time, but mostly he now understands to hold, to ask to go, and to tell us that he needs to. We’re not there yet, not by a long shot, but at least this is finally another box to tick on the long list of “Things our children must learn for themselves”.

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.