Monthly Archives: July 2013

A post about nothing

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This photo was taken on my couch when my first little man was about two months old. We were living in Suzhou, China. It was early January 2008 and it was snowing and hovering around or below zero. It was an amazing time. I don’t think snow ever gets old for Australians. I feel like a kid, every time. Just walking in it and listening to it crunch and squeak under your feet. I remember visiting my neighbour that winter, she lived in the same building as me, but in the adjacent tower, so there was a 10 meter walk outside between our front doors. I took the pram and the snow was so heavy I got bogged in that short little walk. I still thought it was awesome. Bogged in the snow with my pram. How cool.

My baby boy was at that wonderful baby age where you can take them anywhere and they will just eat and sleep. I remember a magic afternoon when my husband and me went into town to a bookstore/cafe/bar with more character in the door knob than all of old Shanghai put together. Well, maybe a slight touch of hyperbole there, but look, I thought it was a special place and I was high on new baby happy so I can’t be held responsible for my adjectives. I keenly recall looking out the snowy window, warm and happy, baby beside me, husband there, warm drink and I think even a game of scrabble or something. It was a perfect moment in my life. In that moment, I knew I’d never forget it.

Shortly after the bookshop day, we, like most other expats, escaped the winter for warmer shores. It was the Chinese New Year holiday and school was out so we hopped on a plane to Boracay, a small island in the Philippines with a heavenly long white beach. It was the perfect age to travel with a baby. He slept most of the way, fed, slept, fed, slept. It was a 24 hour journey door to door and some of it was a little hair raising, but my just three month old was the perfect travelling companion. We had a small pop up baby tent for the trip and this little gem proved to be the greatest holiday accessory for a couple with such a young baby. Restaurants lined the beach and tables and chairs sat along the sand. At night we were able to pick our spot and put out little guy to sleep in the tent, set on the soft sand. We were free to sit there all night if we wanted to. This kind of freedom, for a couple on holiday with a young baby, was priceless. There was no being confined to our hotel room because of the baby. No stress over should we or shouldn’t we leave him with hotel baby-sitters. No better get home, the baby will be waking soon. Another perfect moment in time that I will be thankful for, always. A footnote, he chose the first night of this holiday to sleep through the night for the first time without waking for a feed. At 6am I sat bolt upright in panic, knowing I hadn’t had to get up in the night, thinking something must be wrong. Wonderful, thoughtful child.

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Our boy in his Made in China shirt.

I haven’t sat and absorbed moments in recent years in the way I did back then. There have been a few moments about which I hope to one day develop selective amnesia. But just recently I’ve taken some moments, some lovely long moments, to stroke a soft cheek, memorise the sweet curve of a little mouth, and love the perfect innocence of a wonderful face. I will never wish it back, those long, difficult days of yuk. And no, it hasn’t flown by. But I can feel just enough space now, to begin to burn some perfect moments into my collection. Alongside the bookshop and the beach.

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Star Wars on the Parenting Panel!

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I had the very special treat this week of listening to the Queensland Symphony Orchestra play the Star Wars theme, right at the exact moment we were upstairs in the radio studio talking about, you guessed it, Darth Vader! Felicity Moore was my co-panellist today – check out her stuff here.

Listen here.

And just because…

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Difficult conversations

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Here are some things that are damn near impossible to explain to a 5 year old without getting lost in your own cornfield.

Smoking

We drove past a notorious footpath smoking spot (at a bus stop near a major hospital) where patients, doctors and nurses gather to get their nicotine fix. What’s that thing they are putting in their mouths he asks. Why are they blowing smoke out of their mouths he asks. I had the advantage of being able to point out that they were near the hospital and so therefore they were sick, because of this silly, stinky thing they do called smoking. Yeah OK, it’s a tabloid TV tactic but I was forced to go in hard when he said that looks cool. My bluff was blown a week or so later when he saw someone smoking NOT near the hospital and pointed this out to me. I had nothing. It occurred to me that he has an advantage I didn’t have in that he is almost 6 and has never seen cigarette advertising, never seen someone smoking (until now) and doesn’t see cigarettes all over the shops when he goes in. It was normal to me, common and everywhere. Not so for him.

Death

We drive past a cemetery almost every day. Mr 5 tells us every single time that this is where the dead people are. I wonder what he thinks this means, who he thinks they are or were. So far he has not asked too many questions, and I dread having to explain burial and dead bodies. He found a stick still, stiff and dried out lizard one day. Insisted on putting it in a jar and did not understand that it was dead. Well he sort of did, but I think he thought that this did not necessarily mean that this is the end of the line. In soldier games, as in lizard death, you can come back from the dead, and you do so often, so I think the same logic applies.

The length of the school year, and his schooling career in general

Every time school holidays come around he thinks that’s it. Is school finished now forever he hopefully asks. Ah, no. He was mortified to realise he had to continue until almost Christmas. But he was excited to learn that he would be in grade 1 next year. But then freaked out to know that he would be at this daily slog until he was big like his cousin. Time is such a complex issue and even to explain the concept of an hour is difficult. A year is incomprehensible.

Intestinal worms (don’t read on if you have a delicate stomach)

MUMMMEEEEEEE!!!!!! Came the scream from the toilet. There’s WORMS in my poo! I must admit I was a bit freaked out too, having never actually seen this phenomenon before. I mean, I majored in parasitology in university but this was in my own toilet not frozen on a microscope slide. GROSS! Now to explain to Mr 5 what they are, how they got in there, how we are going to get rid of them and that they are not going to eat him from the inside. Quite a conundrum for the developing little brain.

The Burqa

LOOK! He shouted. It’s Darth Vader! As we passed a woman in full Burqa. Thank goodness we were in the car and there was no chance she’d hear us. This is not just a difficult thing to explain to a child, but inside an explanation come words like Muslim, religion, Qur’an and Islam. I kept it simple and left out most of those words. I wanted to give him an explanation that was simple. I needed to give him an explanation that was casual enough that he would be able to look at a woman in burqa as another person exercising a different choice for her own reasons. It’s hard to teach kids not to stare or shout inappropriate things when they see something they don’t understand. My explanation was about as fluid as a grade 8 English presentation about MacBeth.

Le Tour

I think this one goes without saying because as an educated adult I find this event incomprehensible. Try telling a five year old that the guy who just raced past the finish line first isn’t actually the winner. Yet. Or he might be. Or not. I think the fact that you have to sit up until 2 in the morning to watch it may have something to do with the confusion. My theory is that people who stay up to watch it are so sleep deprived by the end of the damn thing that they actually think they understand it.

The nightly news “…mother killed her own daughter…”.

This was a recent story in our national news and it was horrid. I never watch the news with the kids around, mainly because it’s on during toxic hour. This night I thought I’d grab a quick few minutes and before I knew it, that story came on. I was just a second or two too slow in reaching for the mute button. He heard those words and for a few moments I pretended nothing was anything and tried to change to subject. But he heard it, took it in and he was disturbed. That is all it took, just a few seconds of news. How in the world do you explain that to a child? I am sorry to say that I bullshitted my way through it. I told him it wasn’t real, just a stupid movie (we have had lots of talks about movies and real and not real so I knew he would understand this tactic). Then I changed the subject again. I don’t think I handled it well. I was just not prepared for that conversation at that moment. I usually give a lot of thought into how I will handle things we they arise, but this one caught me off guard and I was simply not willing to allow his beautiful mind to have to deal with the fact that Mummies sometimes kill their children. I thought I’d have a good 3 or 4 more years before I’d have to explain the darkest places of human brokenness to his bright, light, innocent world.

Parenting – Am I doing this right?

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Every now and again I get a cold fear in my heart and I think shit what if I am really making a mess of this? What if my children grow up to be horrible? After all, I, sometimes, am horrible. They take after us don’t they? All I want is to grow compassionate, responsible, kind, intelligent, spiritual, fun and socially competent human beings. It’s not such a tall order is it? But when I look at that list of what I want them to be I can’t help but think surely I will fail in at least one of those categories. They can’t grow up perfect. And if they did you could probably add irritating to that list. Most perfect people I know are highly irritating.

I know what I am really trying to say is that I want them to be better than me. That’s it. Heavens, it’s a hard luck lucky draw isn’t it? Who you get as parents I mean. I am often chuffed that I was the lucky one chosen to raise these three boys. But cripes, they could have done better.

I watched a family on Facebook. I’ve watched them for a few years now. She is utterly gorgeous, he defines ridiculously good looking. Along came an equally beautiful child. Their Facebook photos showed me their sunny, happy glamorous life. Love, gorgeousness, happiness, sunny days. I say this all without one shred of snide contempt. They really are that beautiful and I love her heaps (don’t know him that well). Totally happy for their happy. Then I found out, guess what? Not so happy. There was a black dog sneaking around the shadows of their sunny days and you would never have known.

How many times will I have to learn that no matter what things look like from the outside (least of all from the Facebook outside), that you can’t judge a book and all that. How many times will I compare myself to an illusion to find myself wanting, only to realise that I’m doing just fine under the circumstances. I am not happy for Facebook Family’s unhappy, but I understand. It can’t be perfect, none of it can, otherwise the sunny days wouldn’t be as nice. If it’s all too easy, it might not be really worth it.