Tag Archives: kids

No Place Like Home

10 Jun

The sweetest homecoming kiss

Life can be a bit crazy when you have kids. Good crazy, of course, but full-on none the less. When you say it quickly, it sounds easy, but we know just how much is involved in doing the school-run, washing, tidying, refereeing, cooking, toilet-training, blah, blah, blah.  At times I wish I could just run away and be me again. To get away from the repetition, never-endingness and the mess of family life. And once a year, I manage to.

When I tell people I’m going away for a girly weekend sans kids, the mothers I know just close their eyes lustfully, wishing they could escape too. The dads I know tend to sympathise with my husband, wishing him all the best and telling him of a really good local fish and chip shop. Some older mums, whose kids are grown up, reproachfully tell me that they never had weekends away from their children when they were younger, and I start to feel that perhaps I shouldn’t leave my brood either. My guilt-ridden second thoughts are banished by encouragement from my hubby and his adage “A happy wife means a happy life”.

So I go. Not simply, because there are three children and a husband to accommodate. Bags must be packed, child-care arranged, meals organised and school uniforms washed in readiness for my 48 hour leave of absence. But in the end, I get on the train, and read a magazine uninterrupted for the two hour trip to Sydney. Let’s face it, the relaxation has already begun.

I’m met by my long time friend from school days, who is carrying only a gorgeous, minuscule handbag, unfettered as she is by the need to transport vast quantities of baby wipes, Matchbox cars and spare hairclips. We jump in a taxi and go to her tiny new apartment.

As if I need reminding that we are in a child-free zone, I notice that the carpet is white, there is medication lying on the coffee table and no colourful plastic anywhere. We take champagne and cheese onto the balcony and sup to our hearts content. We catch up on month’s worth of news, hers of exciting job offers and new houses, and mine of the kids starting back at school and our family holiday.

Our weekend consisted of a work wrap party with free alcohol in Wooloomooloo, coffee and breakfast out, shopping, lunch, coffee, more shopping, Japanese for dinner, more wine, a DVD. Do people really live like this? By now I was starting to feel like an imposter, but going with the flow, we shopped some more, drank more coffee and browsed leisurely in posh shoe shops.

With my senses slightly anesthetized by all the shopping, I noticed that I was in Pumpkin Patch, looking for a rashie for my daughter, and wondering if that hat would fit my youngest son. I had been testing fragrances to find one for my man, and already had a book in my bag for my new big school boy. A little boy ran along the path calling “Mummy?” and I turned around, despite the fact my children were a hundred km’s away.

I noticed all the newly toddling babies walking with their parents, and each child’s gorgeous fresh skin and shining eyes. The reason I was away from my family was to have a break, a rest from the constancy of being a parent. Instead, I find that wherever I go, the parent part of me comes along for the ride. I may not have a tribe of kids trailing behind me, but my mother-heart is the one that keeps me alive and is an integral part of who I am. Yes, there is still that part of me that is a separate individual identity and exists mainly at the back of my mind for the time being, perhaps to be pulled out and aired occasionally, for use at a later stage. I have various identities other than being mother and wife, but this is a role I have chosen and longed for. I am privileged to be known as Mum. I want to be fully present and immersed in it, and I don’t want to miss a thing, because I have wanted this since I was a little girl.

So a day later, I step off the train, and my children run up to me and throw their arms around me, as if I’ve been gone for months. Their welcome is authentic, funny and gushing and loud. They’ve planned a special dinner with Daddy, and have all sorts of news and things to show me. Their effusive warmth is so genuine and heartfelt that it brings me to tears. I clasp them all tight and thank God for the love, affection and genuine tenderness we share as a family. It’s great to have a break and get away now and then. I always come home with a much clearer perspective.  There really is no place like home.


Sticks and stones

29 May

You know the old rhyme- ‘Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me’. Twenty five years after first hearing the old adage, I find I disagree.

This morning, we took the kids to the foreshore to ride their bikes. This particular bike track happens to be at the optimistically named Mount Carrington, (obviously Mound Carrington doesn’t have quite the same ring to it.) The path meanders by the harbour, so when Lolly and Shark needed a rest from riding, we sat on the big boulders that separate the path from the water. Boys will be boys, and our boys immediately scrambled down the rocks to start a competition to see who could throw a stick the furthest into the water.

Seeing possible danger at every stick throw, I warned them, as mothers are wont to do. ‘Be careful when you throw sticks!’

Lolly was by my side, collecting some sticks. Without even looking up, she said ‘Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.’

As I sat there on the rocks, icy wind howling around my ears and strands of hair in my eyes, I was taken back to the playground of my primary school. After being called ‘Snothead’ and some other choice names, I was upset and crying. I set off to tell the teacher of the other children’s meanness. She was probably sick of all the dobbing and was counting the minutes till she could get back to the staff-room for a coffee. Either way, this lady had very little sympathy for taunts. She told me the old rhyme, and reiterated that the warned me of the dangers of projectiles and told me that insults wouldn’t damage me.

But as an adult and a now parent, I think she was wrong. I know the old adage was oft repeated to tell kids to ignore stupid words from taunting children. But there is power in the spoken word, and both names and words can, and do hurt.

If we say something enough times we start to believe it. And so do our kids. We become a self-fulfilling prophecy. ‘Oh, I just couldn’t do it’.  ‘I’m not really very good at that’  ‘It’ll always be like this’ ‘I’m such a terrible mother’ ‘You are so naughty!’ ‘She’s going through the terrible two’s’

As a writer, words are rather important to me. My husband and I have always been intentional about the way we speak to our kids. From the beginning of our children’s lives, we banned the phrase ‘I hate…’ because hate is a word with a lot of weight, one that shouldn’t be bandied about. Our children are not allowed to call someone stupid or dumb, because no-one is either stupid or dumb.

I cringe when I hear parents swearing at their kids in the street or the supermarket. Sideline comments at the sportsground can wound, too. No child deserves to be called fat, lazy, stupid, ugly, or useless. Those words wound a person where no-one else can see the damage, and sometimes those words are never forgotten

We tell our children every day that we love them, and that they are precious to us. Our nicknames for them are Gorgeous, Spunky Monkey, Beauty, Precious, Sweetheart and Handsome. Our aim is to encourage and build them up with the words we speak. They will rise to our expectations for them, so we want them to know we think they can do great things.

The world will try to insinuate that my daughter isn’t thin enough, or pretty enough and that her value lies in only one thing. My sons may feel pressure that they are not handsome enough, not man enough, not clever enough, not strong enough. The media is using words and images to make us all feel inadequate in some way, while at the same time showing us where to buy just the right antidote to ‘fix’ us.

Words have the power to build up, or the ability to tear down. The power of life and death is in the tongue, according to the Good Book. I want the words that impact my children to be positive life-affirming ones that they can carry around lightly for the rest of their lives.