Tag Archives: mothering

Golden moments

17 Oct

As a parent, there are plenty of tear-your-hair-out moments in daily life, but there are also the occasional golden moments.

Like when you take your whole family to someone’s place for dinner and your child goes up to the hostess and asks if there is anything they can do to help. (If only it happened in your own kitchen on the odd occasion.)

Like when they are all tucked up in bed at night, smelling clean and warm, deeply breathing without a care in the world, looking like sleeping angels.

The time all three of them play with Lego on the floor together for an hour or more and build a new city or create a new breed of animal without arguing.

When your eldest creates a dog house out of a cardboard box and the youngest is content to curl up inside and sleep with a blanket thrown over them, panting occasionally and answering every question with a ‘woof’.

When seven year old boys discover their nurturing side with a soft toy, and it’s immediately given a name and it’s own blanket and patted and rocked to sleep in a way that carefully mimics the way you used to do it when he was tiny.

When you look after someone’s baby for an afternoon and your youngest child gets to play the role of big brother. Carrying the bottle and putting the dummy in the baby’s mouth are something he’s never done, but are all of a suddenly imbued with a sense of tenderness and maturity that he’s never displayed and you’ve never seen in him before.

It’s the hot afternoon in the school holiday break when all three of them swim and dive and race each other in the pool, only to climb out and place full buckets of water on the trampoline and jump and bounce and splash them off, laughing like it’s the funniest thing in the world.

And the quietness afterwards, when they spread their towels out on the hot concrete and bake themselves dry, stretched out side-by-side in a row of treasure that makes you melt.

These are the golden moments I tuck away in my heart and for when my children are  no longer children, but I am their mother still.

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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.

Fitting into the Mother’s Day box

4 May

May is a great month, if you happen to be me. Not only does Australia recognise the fact that I’ve given birth and thus far successfully raised three human babies, but the day of my birth is also remembered.Bring on the presents, cakes, friends, family, food and bubbles that comes with all that celebrating, cause I love it!

It’s a terrific time of year to have a birthday if you are female, because every chain with a half decent advertising executive targets a stack of ‘sales’ toward the ‘mother’s day market’. Clothes, perfume, kitchen appliances and any kind of lotion you have ever even thought of buying is slashed in price, making it oh-so-easy to spend that birthday money from Nanna.(Thanks, Nan.)

But if you’ve taken a peek at any of the junk mail that has somehow managed to infiltrate your household, you may be surprised to discover just exactly what society deems suitable gifts for mothers.

If Mums were cars, we’d obviously be the models that are built for comfort. Amongst all the belted cardigans and slippers, most of what you find on the first few pages are photos of young, relaxed-looking mums in their pyjamas.Why? Is it because as kids, the first and longest-lasting image we have of our family matriarch is of her in her jim-jams and dressing gown waking us up so we won’t be late for school? (That could be just me.) If so, the mums in the catalogues are of a different breed to the hard-working and rather tired-looking Mum I grew up with. In their colour-coordinated pyjamas with matching robe and cute slippers, and without any evidence of the usual smearings, these pyjamas are almost all, disturbingly, covered with pitures of cartoon characters.There’s Elmo, Little Miss Chatterbox, Cookie Monster, Snoopy, Tinkerbell and strangely enough, Sponge Bob Square Pants. Are mothers supposed to know who Sponge Bob actually is? And care enough to wear him on their night clothes?

There’s some sort of strange inversion happening here that I don’t understand. When I was little, all I wanted was to be grown up, wearing my Mum’s high heels, her long dresses, bags and make-up. I was into the perfume and the shoes (of course) and the driving and the weddings. All the trappings of adulthood held a certain fascination that I loved to indulge. Never did my mum express a desire to wear my little pinafores, Strawberry Shortcake or Rainbow Bright t-shirts. In the 80’s, adults dressed like adults, and kids were dressed like kids.

Back then, when I was little enough to be reading my mum’s Women’s Weekly magazines, I vividly remember one article having a dig at Lady Di for her new hairdo. She’s had the audacity to allow it to grow a bit longer, and to pull the sides back with combs. I thought she looked beautiful- who in the 80’s didn’t?- yet the writer of the piece described her look as ‘mumsy’. So what? Was that suppossed to be a taunt? I was desperate to look like a mum, act like a mum and one day be a mum. Here was Princess Diana, looking gorgeous and dealing with new babies, a royal title and all sorts of other royal inconveniences. Which mum in their right mind wouldn’t have wanted to look like her?

But perhaps, us merely common mothers are destined for more ‘mumsiness’, and should never aspire to the heights of fashion, or even managing to get out of our tracky daks. Just take a look at the catalogues.

Apparently we should fill our wardrobe with a ‘cosy sweat’, ‘casual pant’ or any one of a zillion nasty-looking, furry acrylic pair of slippers. When a jumper became a ‘sweat’ and a pair of pants became ‘pant’ I do not know. Maybe it was a symptom of the GFC that I missed. Having to cut back on our consonants for the sake of economy, perhaps.

So if your mother’s day list isn’t full of pyjamas, tracksuit, slippers or kitchen appliances, you may well not be fulfilling society’s obligations for motherhood. You have the option to read a cook-book while you lay on your electrically-heated blanket, indulge in chocolate or re-stock the linen press with new towels. Other than that, I have noted a strange inclusion this year that hasn’t previously been seen in Mother’s Day advertising material. A Nintendo DS. Who are they trying to kid? Perhaps it’s one of those ‘suggestions’ they slip in their for the cashed-up kids and Dads to ‘give’ to mum when instead, they’re really buying it for themselves. It’s quite sneaky, really, and should not be tolerated, especially when it’s Mother’s Day next weekend.

Hang on a sec. They could be on to something here. It’s only four months till Father’s Day.I’m sure my husband will need a new Dyson vacuum cleaner by then. Or perhaps tickets to see a classic musical. Didn’t he mention a hankering for a bit of retail therapy in Melbourne? The possibilities are endless.

Have a happy Mother’s Day, whatever you do and whatever you get. May you appreciate the luke-warm cups of tea and the burnt offerings from your children. May we all recognise the privilege that it is to be a mother, and the gift it is to have a mother.

Big waves and a mother-heart

16 Apr

We’ve just returned from a glorious 5 day break up the coast, hence my absence here. Each Easter, like so many Aussies, we head away with our car packed to the hilt- I literally had my legs crossed on my seat the entire trip so we could fit the coffee machine in- to enjoy the autumn sunshine and camp with friends.

It was a chunk of time dropped from heaven. The weather was perfect- warm during the day and hot enough to swim, but cool enough to enjoy an early shower, rugging up in trackie daks and smoking ourselves silly around the fire. The company was a blend of old riends, treasured and known and loved, and new friends with great kids and similar values.

Us parents jointly banned any electronic devices, so no DS, iPods, Wiis or anything else we didn’t have when we were kids. And no TV, unlike some of the other campers who surrounded our tents. Yes, we took a coffee machine  and a fridge, but when you’re feeding 12 adults and up to 20 kids, those little appliances make a world of difference.

Instead of having ‘screen time’, the kids played together. All day. Every day. And I can even say truthfully that there were hardly any squabbles to sort out. The kids have all been friends since they were babies and they don’t go to the same school, so they love spending time together, especially when they don’t have to say goodbye after a couple of hours. They rode bikes, dug in the sand, played cricket and soccer, found secret hideouts, played chess (I know-incredible), Uno, Yahtzee, got their faces painted, did drawings, toasted marsmallows and scribbled their names with sparklers. And they surfed.

We all enjoyed the beautiful beaches and clean surf. Mostly the waves were great for body-surfing, and the adventurous ones amongst us got out the body boards and surfboards. The water temperature lured us in with balmy promises, and the squeaky clean sand was hard to resist. The waves were generally kind, but occasionally vicious. After being slammed a few times, I got out exhausted and with sand in way too many places. But my 8 yr old daughter stayed out in the waves. She squealed with delight, and my heart squealed every time a big wave lifted her up and she was perilously close to being dumped.

Funnily enough, the Dads loved it. Frollicking about in the waves, they were like big puppy dogs, throwing their bodies around with reckless abandon, forgetting that they had to drag those same bodies to the office in just a few days time. Spun around in the barrel waves, they were swept up onto the sandy shore only to get up and head out again into the surf, grinning like little boys.

As the waves got more ferocious, numbers dwindled. One after the other, the kids came back to the safety of the shore, bleary-eyed and spent after one too many wave thrashings. My dear friend Jen and I kept count of the heads that we were observing. Three dads, six kids. No- wait, three dads, five kids. Is he one of ours? No, wrong coloured rashie.

‘Oh, no.’

‘Ahh. Ouch!’

‘Why do they do that?’

‘Oh, I can hardly watch any more.’

‘Be careful!’

As each wave rose, our hearts leapt into our mouths. With maternal foresight we could imagine danger lurking at the base of each wave, just waiting to see someone we loved, hurt and grazed at the bottom of the ocean floor. I know what that woman meant when she said that to be a mother is to forever have your heart walking around outside your body. We watched, chewing our lips, knowing we would feel better once everyone was safe and dry back on land again.

Something changed in the world of Neptune, and beach cricket suddenly got a whole lot more popular. There were now just two brave little girls out in the surf with one dad to watch over them. And then the massive set started. Lize caught it all the way in, a bit the worse for wear, but still standing on ever-so-slightly wobbly legs. Now there was just my firstborn out in the massive waves of the Pacific Ocean, just a few metres away from me, but achingly, just out of my reach.

It sounds melodramatic to say that the waves were menacing, but to me, watching helplessly as my daughter faced them, they were. I felt sick to my stomach as one after the other they rose up, shadowing her in their path. We leapt to our feet as if that would make an difference to the wave that was about to swallow her.

“Under! UNDER!” I screamed. She duck-dived neatly under the wave and I breathed out again. Adults around me were all standing, focussing on her and getting her out of the water safely. My husband bellowed “Under again!” as another big one threatened to dump her. She didn’t panic, but I felt sick.

One of the dads picked up a board to go out and bring her back in. It felt like forever, although I think it was only about five or six big waves, just pounding, one after the other. Finally, the set ended, and relative calm returned. She swam just a few strokes back to the shore and walked dripping and pale to me, sobs in her eyes. I felt like crying too, the near panic relieved by holding her salty, gritty body close to my heart and hugging her tight. She understood the gravity of the situation, and was aware that it had been a few scary moments for us all. She was teary, but happy to finally be back on dry land.

After a good cuddle and being wrapped in a snuggly towel, her equilibrium quickly returned. In half an hour, she was back to teasing her brothers and hassling me about what was for tea. It took slighlty longer for me to feel relaxed again, playing it over in my head and reliving the overwheming fear of ‘what if?’

That night as she lay in her sleeping bag, looking exhausted and still incredibly child-like, my heart swelled again as I watched her sleep. To be given responsibility of something so valuable and so irreplaceable is such a privilege. There are times, I admit, that it’s a privilege that I don’t really value.  And there are also times, little reminders like that day at the beach, when being a mother is something so sacrosanct, so special and so precious that I hardly feel worthy to hold the title of Mum.