Monthly Archives: April 2013

A shocking lack of perfection

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My plan for my kids was that, number one, they would be fantastic people. I of course would be an amazing mum, who would humbly refuse to take credit for their fantasticness, but I’d be quietly yet smugly thinking how freakin awesome a mum I am. I’ll admit that it was gratifying to hear people, day care teachers, extended family, random strangers, tell me again and again how lovely polite gentle smart creative well behaved my first and oldest is/was. I’ll admit that I thought he was better than most kids I knew. Yes, better, I said. I’ll admit that I, at times, basked in the warm pool of smug self congratulation.

So imagine my shock when I found out one of my twins is in fact a scamp. He is the sand throwing, toy chucking, face slapping, ear drum popping, troublesome one at day care. He is the one around whom the day’s activities are often planned, so that we can manage him. Well, when I say found out, it’s not like I didn’t know. I just didn’t know he was as bad at day care as he is at home. I want to fall into a sink hole, but I paste my smile on. The young day care teacher is nervous. Nervous! Her usual, more experienced partner is absent for the day and management of my boy will fall to her on this day. I want to rewind to the part where I was a great parent. My stomach simmers with a fear that this is all my fault.

I’m terrified that this is not normal behaviour. Somewhere in my head there is a voice saying hey, he’s not yet 3, he will grow out of it. But what if he doesn’t? What if I have in fact, wrecked him? What if all my great strategies actually don’t work? What then? I want him and love him just as he is (and he is fantastic), but I want others to approve of him also. I was devastated recently when someone referred to him as a nightmare. My boy? My little boy?

My children have stripped me bare. I don’t know how to measure success of anything anymore. I don’t know anything about anything. Least of all parenting. Great parenting can’t be as shallow as simply having a well behaved nice kid. Can it? It can’t be intellect, emotional maturity, happiness. Can it? Surely I can hope for more than just raising a kid who can behave? It’s an ugly mess this job. It reduces me to a fool, a bumbling side act in a bad slapstick routine. It takes away any measure of self efficacy I may have, takes my confidence, drags me kicking and screaming out of that nice warm pool.

Jelly Power

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THANK HEAVEN. The brains are coming along nicely. By age three, kid brains have double the “synaptic density” (connections between brain cells) than they will as adult brains. This means one thing people…THINKING! Hooray for thinking! Lots of things happen around this age in the brain, but the best one is a developing understanding of cause and effect! Allow me to elaborate.

Twin 1 has a regular habit. Upon yelling for his dinner for many torturous minutes, Mr Almost 3 will be presented with said dinner. Upon making the stupefying discovery that dinner is not of the favoured kind, Mr Almost 3 will fling said dinner across the room, or tip said dinner onto the table. The result of this insubordinate action will either be a seething but silent mother, or a ranting like a mad thing mother, depending on the day. Either way, Mummy is mad. Twin 2, in concordant twin cunning, will also raise objection to the lovingly thawed and warmed dinner presented by pushing it away and stroppily shouting NO DINNER. Mummy is getting madder.

I have tried in the past to simply accept that some days they won’t eat. This is a position I find hard to hold without some level of feeling like a crap mum. Sending my kids to bed without dinner was never on my list of things to do when I accidentally had twins. In recent weeks though, I have seen emerging evidence of this brain development upon which I have waited with abated breath. My genius Mr 5 has hit upon a fool proof plan to get them to do what I want. Just pretend like I’m going to eat it Mummy. He said one day. The child is a wizard. Once the twins saw the offending dinner heading to their big brother they’d be all like I WANT MY DINNER!! OK, fine by me, here you go. PSYCH.

The other awesome tool of manipulation that has come under my power is jelly. Wonderful jelly. One month ago, if I tried the old if you don’t eat your dinner then you can’t have your jelly and forthwith made them watch their brother eat jelly while they missed out, it would result in an epic tanty. My theory is that the cause and effect bit of the brain wasn’t quite there yet. There was no ‘then’ and ‘now’, no well this or that happened last time so I better…..No. There was just now. And right now, I see jelly and I can’t have it. Utter. Catastrophe. What has happened in the past couple of weeks though is encouraging to say the least. Not only can I psych them out by using their big brother, I can now also successfully withhold the magic of jelly! In pretend don’t care flippancy, I calmly state after dinner refusal, oh well, no jelly for you. And then guess what? They eat. Mummy 1, Twins 0.

The problem with teachers

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The problem with teachers is that we are human. The problem with teachers is that we were young when we started. The problem with teachers is that, like parents (and other types of humans), we are good at some things, OK at some things and hopeless at some things. I have many regrets from my early years as a starting teacher. I screwed it up so many times in so many ways, I wish I could go back and fix the mistakes that I made. At least I can say I learned some lessons. Big ugly ones. And yet some days as a parent I wonder if I learned a single thing.

A big regret that I have carried for a long time is from the year that ended up being my last year teaching in Australia. I was directing the school musical. Teaching a full high school load. Organising my wedding. And having a burn out. I was holding myself together by a thread that year and was quietly seeing the department provided counsellor on the side. I would hold my breath all day and then cry in the car on the way home. Looking back, it was a red flag to my future bouts of PND. I walked away from teaching that year and at the time I thought I’d never be back.

I remember our musical rehearsals, which should have been the time of their lives, but which were probably miserable. I was a bitch. I yelled at students. My big, pet hate today, seeing teachers yell, is what I did many times myself during that year. I had colleagues telling me to praise the kids more, that they needed to hear it from me what a great job they were doing. I had to pry the words out of my mouth. That musical scarred me. It was well over a year before I could bring myself to watch the DVD we made of it. I was stunned at how good it was. I won’t take an ounce of credit for it though. The creative brilliance came from many others, not from me. I was a mere drill sergeant.

I think today it is probably worse. The pressure on teachers. It can be crippling and your students don’t get it. They just hate you for taking it out on them. And so they should. We have to contend with teacher bashing in the media; we are all under performing, overpaid whingers with 10 weeks holiday a year after all. But most of us have a love for it, and the call of the schoolyard has now pulled me back, although in a different role.

A former student once told me she was partly inspired to become a teacher because of me. I thought, dear God, don’t let her turn out like me. I know that I was not, and am not, good at thinking amid chaos. This is why I struggle so much with toddlers. This is why a noisy rehearsal room flipped me out. But there were some things I was, and am, good at. Occasional bitch I am, but good teacher I also am. I loved teaching. I loved my subjects. I loved my students, gold inside every one of them. Some of them buried it a little deeper than others though, but it was there.

I wasn’t good all the time at managing my emotional reaction to stress. I regret every single time I shouted. Every time. I could tell you so many more stories about my teaching failures. But I’ll finish instead with a story of a young heart that reached out and showed empathy beyond his years. I was sitting in the library with my class one day. I was exhausted, empty, sad. A boy I had taught handed me a note, somewhat sheepishly, as if he wasn’t sure if writing a note to a teacher was allowed. It read:

…today…you looked very sad…I hope you’re OK…when I saw your eyes they just seemed to be kinda hollow. I would like to thank you for paying attention to me as a person…you know me better than I gave you credit for…for that you have my loyalty and respect…I hope if you don’t feel good now that you will start to feel better VERY soon…

I still have that note. I carry it in my wallet. It reminds me of a lot of things, but the most important thing it reminds me of is to never underestimate the power of young people. That young person shifted me when I thought I was fully stuck. And I feel much, much better. You see, the problem with teachers, is that we are human.

Parenting Panel: Shopping Centre Joy

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Here is our panel chat from this week. Have a listen. 

And just because…

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It finally arrived! And can I just say, parenting failure I may sometimes be, but trampoline erecting is clearly an area of strength. Instructions say three able bodied persons required. PFFT! I cannot quite believe I assembled this sucker all on my own. With the odd bit of pole holding from Mr 5.

All day, all the way

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I documented my day last Wednesday in a blow by messy blow account including photos. It was eye opening.

6am

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Awake before the kids. 11 hours in bed last night due to complete exhaustion. Feel better for it. Girding my loins for 13 hours with the kids by myself.

6:05am

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First kid wakes. It’s Dad’s birthday! Mr 5 always gives us some of his toys for our birthdays. So cute. This year Dad goes to the dark side.

6:30am

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Dressed for the day. Need my superpowers today.

6:55am

I have entered the irrational zone already. Threatening to throw out toys I find lying around. May scar children for life. Mr 5 reminds me that I should be happy on Daddy’s birthday.

7:10am

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TV is on. No other way to contain kids long enough so that I can eat breakfast. Heart beginning to sink. Already the house is a cacophony in my ears. Failing twin 2 at toilet training because I don’t want to chase him around in case of accidents while also chasing the other two around. Nappy goes on. Fail.

7:15am

A moment of quiet. Breakfast and a very quick coffee.

7:20am

Husband leaves for the day. Sinking feeling in my guts. We take a moment for a cuddle and apologies for the morning’s harsh words. The intensity makes us both irrational. Sadness when he closes the door behind him. Eating, quick.

8:05am

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Laundry in, more laundry on, kitchen cleaned up, teeth done, playroom sorted…sort of. TV off and play attempt begins.

8:20am

Another reminder from Mr 5. Have you got your smile on Mummy? Obviously not.

8:20am

Is it really only 8:20am? I am PRAYING that the trampoline gets delivered today.

8:25am

Twins locked me out of the house. Maybe I’ll just stay out here.

8:26am

Twins let me back in. Huh, who woulda thought. They learnt something.

8:32am

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Fights over how to build a zoo with blocks and plastic animals. Massive pile of laundry.

9am

A text from a friend ‘you can do it’. Goodness, that’s timely. She’s been there and feels my pain.

9:20am

Wow, almost a whole hour of blocks, books and whinging. It’s like any one of them (us) is on the edge of emotional turmoil and could go feral at any given moment. No trampoline yet.

9:25am

Twenty minutes until reinforcements arrive. Time to get morning tea ready. This is one area I’ll claim as successful. My kids eat loads of fruit.

9:36am

Is it time yet? About 15 minutes to go and I’ll escape for an hour to do a weekly radio segment on parenting. This week’s topic – surviving holidays. Ha.

9:43am

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Morning tea. Food and TV. The only times they are quiet. I am about to go out looking feral. Red eyes from recovering conjunctivitis, dreadful hair and splotchy skin. Lucky it’s radio, I sure do have the face for it!

10:02am

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Escape!

10:24am

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Waiting in the Green Room for ABC612 segment. Feel like a human.

11:12am

Home again. Here we go for the long stretch.

11:56am

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We have made it to lunchtime. But not without several trips to time out for throwing colouring in pencils all over the yard, throwing one’s drink cup over the fence, tipping one’s drink into the pencil case and throwing one’s replacement drink cup over the fence. We have 2 out of 3 who have eaten lunch. Some kids live on air.

12:01pm

Only 6 hours and 29 minutes until bedtime.

12:04

Sandwich abandoned. Sandwich thrown on grass. Sandwich rescued. Sandwich now being eaten.

12:06pm

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Sandwich abandoned again.

12:10pm

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I have given up on sandwich enforcement. He is obsessed with watching the cleaner use the vacuum cleaner.

12:15pm

TV back on. Wind down for rest time in 30 minutes. I can make it! Temper is holding well.

12:50pm

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Rest time. The best time. Rest wins over laundry, online groceries and eating.

2:40pm

Twins still asleep. Why poke the bear? A few more quiet minutes for me and Mr 5.

2:43pm

Twins awake. Mental note: DO NOT flush toilet during rest time.

2:58pm

Home stretch. Off to a fenced park to blow off energy.

3:15pm

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Milton Train park. Fenced goodness. All that is missing is a dirty big flat white.

4:15pm

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Approaching storm ends park trip early. Damn, I was hoping to hang out here until 5 and then get stuck in traffic.

4:45pm

After a getting out of the car tantrum and ensuing shout fest from me, Mr 5 again reminds me to put my smile on. I do, along with the TV. That’s 1.5 hours of TV today. I thought it would be worse.

4:49pm

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Dinner prep time. Martha Stewart I am not. Time to warm some crap up. I am starving as I eat very little on days like this due to lack of time. I’ve thrown on a few chicken pops for myself too.

5:28pm

One hour until bed. I ache all over. Inside too. Need quiet. Need bed. Need to fold the laundry and finish online groceries.

5:30m

TV off. Time for the dinner fight. Dinner actually goes pretty well. Wonders never cease.

5:45pm

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Forgot about filing the bath and bubbles went WAY overboard. Kids loved it. I know I will be too tired to write this post up tonight. I feel grotty. smelly, greasy. Yuk.

6:03pm

Things turn on a dime around here. Or I do anyway. Putting on PJs tantrum led to more shouting from me. Now feeling extra-ultra crappy. I have zero tolerance left and my kids pay the price. Mr 5 tries the put on your smile thing and the I love you thing but both fail. My head, heart, body and mind all ache. I want a dark hole.

TV is back on for the Night Garden. Don’t ask me why they love it but they do. I have added up that they’ve seen 2 hours and 50 minutes of TV today and I am shocked and disgusted. Another thing to feel guilty about. Still, I suppose I could say that in a 12.5 hour day that’s 9 hours and 40 minutes that they didn’t watch TV.

6:30pm

Book time. Or rather, fight about books time. Mr 5 does his valiant best to ‘read’ to his brothers. He loves it. If only they were on board.

7pm

Kids in bed. Husband home. I am shattered.