The Weight Of Motherhood

From the moment you came into being as a tiny seed in my womb, I started carrying the weight.  Not just the physical weight (although you didn’t do me any favours there, fellas), the mental and emotional weight of guilt, and overwhelm.

On the surface, the task of mothering appears to be quite straightforward.  Mothering a new baby centres around three seemingly innocuous tasks: Feed. Play. Sleep.  On their own, these things are not necessarily difficult. It is the cumulative effect of mastering all three, all day, every day for years, that wears me down.

FEED. 

The bleary haze of trying to keep track of which side you last fed on and for how long was quickly replaced by when to introduce solids and suddenly I blinked and realised I have spent endless hours in the kitchen crafting nutritious healthy meals from scratch only to have you screw up your nose because you have spied – with your stealth ninja 20/20 vision – a tiny piece of onion in your meatball, and of course that is grounds for rejecting the entire meal. 

Most meals, happily eaten or not, usually end with an encore 30 minutes later of a desire for toast or 2 minute noodles anyway.  On those occasions when I choose to skip the rigamarole of mashing or blending vegetables into something unrecognisable so they can be more easily hidden in the rest of the food, only to have you detect them and recoil in horror as if I have presented a plate of arsenic for your consumption, and declare: “tonight we are having bacon and eggs on toast for tea”, you don’t miss a beat before gleefully pointing out that dinner is not the time for breakfast food.

PLAY.

I am sure there were many magical times of play and wonder when you were babies.  It is no doubt what lulled me into a false sense of delusion that having a sibling was the best idea ever because you would always have someone to play with.  Except anyone witnessing the two of you “at play” currently would perhaps think they have mistakenly stumbled upon an audition for the latest episode of WWE Smackdown, complete with hurled insults and extreme overreactions to bodily injury.  It is for this simple reason that I spend many nights each week driving you both to sports training, just so someone else can take on the role of referee, if only for a few short hours.  I also – despite constantly being proved wrong – stubbornly believe that keeping you active will help you to come home and……

SLEEP.

Sleep is not the enemy, you guys.  I feel as though I have spent your whole lives trying to show you how wonderfully restorative sleep can be.  For me as well as for you!  You could see a whole new side to my personality if only you would let me have a solid forty winks instead of basically four interrupted winks.  Over the last 12 years I have tried endless rocking and singing and shushing and patting and reading and now my go to is basically yelling and threats.

But for the past two weeks even the yelling and threats haven’t worked as school holidays sends everything out the window, doesn’t it?  You still:

Eat – everything in the house that is not nailed down.  Then complain there is nothing to eat, but there is no way I am enduring a trip to the supermarket with you two in tow. Besides, there are plenty of vegetables still on offer.

Play – mainly Playstation, as your ball keeps conveniently going over the fence 5 minutes after I push you outside and shut the door.  Guess what else is going over the fence if I have to break up one more fight over Fortnite?

Sleep – Yeah, nah.  There is very little meaningful sleep happening, which makes your newly discovered attitude so much easier to bear during the waking hours.

BUT.

Then you smile at me. 

Or smile at each other.

You hug me. 

Or hug each other.

It is then that I know.

I would die for you.

Even when you are argumentative, whinging turds.

So while my bucket may be empty, my heart is full.

And my head is cheering: because in just a few short days, you’re both back at school.

I Saw A Unicorn

On Saturday I saw a unicorn.  A real life, sparkly horned mythical creature.  It was glorious. 

Ok, ok I know unicorns don’t exist. Not literally.  But I’m using a metaphor, guys.  Because what I saw was just as rare as a unicorn with a sparkly horn and rainbow wings.  I saw a group of people, mainly women, work together without ego, without bitchiness, to achieve a common goal.  And we pulled it off. 

Spectacularly.

What am I talking about?

A School Fair, you guys.  We created a School Fair.  An enormous, living, breathing School Fair.  There were rides, food, entertainment, market stalls, an art exhibition and so much more.  And it is the “so much more” that everyone is talking about.  Some people have commented on the atmosphere of the day, the fantastic sense of community that made it so good.  Others have channelled Daryl Kerrigan and said it was simply the “vibe” that was special.

The thing is, for those of us involved in the organising and running of the fair, we knew our community was special.  It is one of the things we love about our school.  But even so, I think there was still an element of surprise, even among our Fair Crew, at how well that was showcased.  Underpinning that was more surprise at how seamlessly it came together, how satisfying and how much FUN it all was, to work together with a group of women of varying ages and backgrounds, most of whom did not know each other very well at the beginning.  But all of whom are now firm friends.

I guess the sad thing is, you don’t expect it.  Films like “Mean Girls” and “Bad Moms” are funny because people can relate to them.  We know women like that.  Because of this, it is seen as a daring act to put your hand up to volunteer, to be involved, because who wants to work their arse off for a bunch of bitchy, nasty women who don’t appreciate it?  So many people step back instead of forward for that very reason.  I totally understand that.  But on the occasions you think “fuck it” and be brave and step forward? That’s when the magic can happen.

Was it incredibly hard work? Yes.

Are we are all exhausted and sunburned and having trouble walking today? Yes. 

Are we all going to dodge our fearless P&F leader’s phone calls for a few days while we recover?  Quite possibly, yes.

But was it worth it?  Hell, yes.

A huge thank you to all of the Fair Crew and indeed all of the volunteers I worked with on the weekend.  There is nothing better than women working together.  Building and strengthening friendships.  Lifting each other up instead of tearing each other down.  If we keep this up, we could take over the world!

 Hhhmmmm, I wonder if we have enough in the Parents and Friends budget to cover that…..

I Watched You Today…

I watched you today.  Living, breathing, talking.  The grief bouncing off you like shock waves.   All the while I was wondering: “how is she still standing?”.

My heart heavy, the tears stung my eyes as I hugged you and felt the weight of your pain.  It felt like a throat punch: taking away my ability to breathe.  It stunned me for a second, but then I realised it just felt familiar.

You see, we’ve been here before, you and I. 

We were so much younger then, more easily shocked by the cruelty and unfairness of it all.  More easily wounded when grief picked up its bat and just kept hitting, over and over.

For thirteen years I have stood beside you, helping you scoop up the broken pieces and glue them back together. I have watched on helplessly as grief tried to crush you, then cheered as you emerged stronger, like a diamond.

You wear your pain like armour.  People who only see that outer shell misunderstand you.  They don’t matter.  They don’t see the strength in you.    They don’t see the fire you have had to walk through, that has formed your hard exterior.

I see you, in your pain.

I love you, like a part of me.

I am proud of you, like a mother.

I am in awe of you, like a warrior.

I will be here for you, like a sister.

Always.

3am Wake Up Call

The other night I was woken at 3am by a shadowy figure standing next to my bed.  Because I have watched WAY too many episodes of Criminal Minds, as soon as I opened my eyes I was overcome by a wave of terror.

(Side note: I have only ever watched Criminal Minds for the sexual chocolate that is Shemar Moore.  Due to the content of the show, rather than dreaming about him calling me “baby girl”, I instead have nightmares about the serial killers coming after me. Even though I no longer watch it – because sexual chocolate is not on the show anymore – I have obviously watched enough episodes to give myself PTSD from it).

Then, the shadowy figure spoke:

“Mum, I feel like I’m going to vomit”.

Instantly the wave of terror was gone.  It was replaced by a tsunami of terror. The one thing I fear more than serial killers, is gastro.  Vomiting, diarrhoea, any kind of unwanted expulsion of bodily fluids just Freaks. Me. Out.  It is a massive phobia of mine.

Frantically I started fumbling through my bedside drawer for a vomit bag: not there.  I asked the shadowy, 12 year old figure about to vomit why he hadn’t grabbed the vomit bag from his bedside table (couldn’t find it).

(Yes, we do keep vomit bags on our bedside tables in our family.  As I mentioned earlier: massive phobia.  And no, my 3am foggy brain did not think to ask him why he hadn’t gone directly to the toilet, or the bathroom sink, or to his dad: all of which he had to walk straight past to get to me!)

So I leapt out of bed in search of a vomit bag.  (Past experience has taught me not to use a large stainless steel bowl as the curved sides act as a ramp to propel the vomit up and out of the bowl in several directions simultaneously).   I thought perhaps there was one in the kitchen pantry, but I knew with 100% certainty there was one in the glovebox of my car.  No time to waste looking in the pantry, I rushed to grab my car keys, flung open the front door and raced outside to be confronted by……………………….two kangaroos.

Now, one of the perks of living in the foothills is our close proximity to the wildlife, particularly koalas and kangaroos.  But at 3am, standing half dressed on my front porch, it felt less like a perk and more like a potentially perilous situation.

Now I was in a predicament.  Possible projectile vomit vs possible mauling by a kangaroo.

It was a no brainer. 

Still in my undies, I pushed past the kangaroos, opened the car, and emerged victorious from the glove box, holding the “Chuckies” vomit bag aloft like a gold medallist, and raced back past the kangaroos, inside the house to my 12 year old who was………………………………. asleep.  In my bed.

Turns out he was just hot.

Driving Under The Influence Of Children

People say using mobile phones while driving is dangerous.  I agree 100%.  The statistics regarding accidents due to mobile phone distraction speak for themselves.

Drink driving?  Dangerous.

Drug driving?  Dangerous.

But I think there is something just as dangerous as all of these things:  having more than one child in your car, especially if they are siblings.

The bickering and arguing that goes on in my car drives me to distraction, literally.

Have you seen the National Lampoons Vacation movie (the newer one, not the old Chevy Chase classic) where the mum confiscates all electronic devices in the car, so the younger brother amuses himself by trying to suffocate the older one with a plastic bag?

I laughed way too hard at that.  Welcome to my life.

Recently, amid a somewhat heated argument between my two children, my youngest son launched himself without warning from the back seat to grab his older brother in a headlock in an effort to force him to apologise.  I nearly ran the car off the road.

See I told you: dangerous.

Ok, so that behaviour was extreme, but this has been going on for years.

Several years ago I got so fed up with the arguing in the car that I pulled into the carpark of the nearest police station, and threatened to take the boys in and leave them there.  This was particularly effective: not a peep from the backseat the whole way home. 

Unfortunately I made a rookie error: you can only play the police card once, and I fear I played it too early.  Now the boys simply look back and laugh about the time I pulled in to the cop shop and threatened to leave them there.

I have been feeling very defeated about the constant bickering until the other day when a good friend of mine told me a story that still makes me smile.

The story goes like this: my friend finished work, picked up her two children from school and had to stop at Rebel Sport on the way home to buy a gift for a child’s birthday party the next day.  Her kids nagged her relentlessly to buy them something (as kids do in Rebel Sport: I always end up losing my shit in that store.  Surely it’s not just me?).  So the birthday gift was purchased and each child walked out of the store with smiles on their faces and new jumpers in their arms.

Then came the ride home.

Almost immediately they started arguing and squabbling.  Unable to get them to stop with verbal pleas, then verbal threats, then physical efforts (in her frustration this mum grabbed an umbrella but couldn’t lift it high enough to whack them properly because the roof of the car was too low).  Nothing worked.

So she pulled out the big guns.  She chucked a u-ey, drove back to Rebel and returned the new jumpers.  The best part is that she explained to the shop assistant exactly why she had to return them and they refunded her money: no problem.

That my friends, is parenting goals.

I love this story so much because it reassures me I am not alone.

I often see mums en route to drop off or driving home from school gesticulating wildly at their kids in the car.  Now I realise they are probably losing their shit, like me.  I feel like we need a wave of acknowledgement, one that says: “Yep, I see you.  Same shit, different car over here”. 

We could call it the solidarity salute.

What do you think?  Please tell me I’m not alone.  We all have these stories, right?

Father F*#%ing Christmas

With Christmas fast approaching, I decided to take the boys to the Magic Cave to see Santa.  We chose last Friday, as not all schools had finished for the year so we thought it would not be as busy.  Earlier in the week I had even tried to book a time online, but the online form kept telling me there were no times left.  Confused, I rang David Jones and was told that every time slot had indeed been fully booked until Christmas, and had been for some time.  However, we could still walk in, give our phone number to the elf and she would text when Santa was available.  I was assured that the wait was not normally too long, and we could explore the Magic Cave while we waited.

So Friday morning off we went to the Magic Cave, gave our phone number to the elf who informed us the wait time was currently 3 hours.  3 hours?!  Nope, not happening.  Oh well, at least we could explore the Magic Cave.  If by explore you mean walk from one end to the other in 10 steps, gazing at a few puppets in windows leading to the obligatory Nipper and Nimble, and a couple of crazy mirrors.

In the interests of full disclosure: 20 or so years ago I was an elf in the Magic Cave.  The John Martins Magic Cave. That place was truly magical.  It was huge, full of mystical joy and wonder, not hidden away in a tiny corner of the store like an afterthought.

There, the children would eagerly wait in line to see one of our Santas.  Would it be Santa Lyle with the smooth baritone voice, perfectly suited to his other day job as a wedding celebrant?  Or Santa Roger, who always had a tale to tell about the Reindeer?  It could be Santa John, who insisted on emphasising the reason for the season, and ensuring the children kept Christ in Christmas.  Or possibly the other Santa John, who only had 3 ½ fingers on one hand.  His digits were carefully hidden by his white gloves, but gleefully displayed if children were misbehaving in the cave.  It shocked almost all of them into submission.

Regardless of which Santa the children would see, we moved them through like a well oiled machine.  We even had an express lane for those who did not want photos.  Nobody complained about the wait because there was so much to look at while in the line, and the queues were always moving steadily.

Boy, how things have changed.

Not to be deterred on our mission to see the man in red, we left the Magic Cave in search of redemption at Myer’s “Santaland”.  On our way out of David Jones the boys were intrigued by the large bronze sculpture of a rabbit and a dog sitting having a cup of tea.  Imagine their glee when they discovered the sculptures were not only human like, but even anatomically correct!  The rabbit was obviously female and the dog very, very obviously male.  This bizarre piece of art and accompanying appendage kept them amused all the way to Santaland.

At Santaland, we were told the wait was approximately 45 minutes.  Prepared to wait that long, we lined up next to the large pretend train.  Now I assume it is meant to be the Polar Express, headed to the North Pole, but realistically it was more like the Ghan at a station somewhere on the Birdsville Track given how hot it was in that line.

Nevertheless, we waited.

After 20 minutes the sweat had started dripping and forming pools at our feet but the line had not moved an inch.

Still, we waited.

Our descent into dehydration was broken up by the spectacle of watching a couple stroll casually to the rope at the front of the queue, smug in the knowledge they had pre-booked.  (To be honest, if I had managed to get my shit together back in March and pre-booked to see Santa at precisely 12.15pm on December 15, I would stroll around like a smug bastard too).  Perhaps they should have spent the 6 months since booking their appointment preparing their daughter for the meet and greet because she wasn’t having a bar of it.  She planted her Mary Janes firmly on the ground at the front of the line and started screaming.  She would not budge.  Sadly, neither did the queue.

After 40 minutes, having not moved any closer to the front of the line, and bordering on heat exhaustion, my boys finally broke and agreed not to wait any longer.

Determined not to have their hearts completely broken as well as their spirits, I whisked them off to Harris Scarfe in search of any old Santa.

Strike three.  Harris Scarfe don’t even have a Santa anymore.

No fucking Santa.

At this point there were tears (mine).  Silently sobbing my way down the escalator, I cried for the memories I cannot share with my boys.  For the time when the Magic Cave was truly magical, not a bit of polystyrene tacked onto the end of the toy department.  For the time when the Myer Centre not only had Santaland, but also had Dazzleland, with a real rollercoaster.  For the time when Harris Scarfe was a proper department store, not some strange mish mash of material goods in random order, and when they cared enough to find an old fat guy with a white beard, put him in a red suit and wish some kids a Merry Christmas.

I also felt like crying when I had to validate my carpark ticket, feeding enough money into the ticket machine that could probably have fed a small third world country.

By the end of the day we had made memories, just not the ones I intended.  We did not see Santa, but we did see a bizarre human looking dog with a large bronze shlong. You can bet the boys will remind me of that every year at Christmas time.

Next year, I think we might just write Santa a letter. 

My Mother In Law

This is a photo of my mother in law.  Her name is Esterina.  I know all of the jokes: that if you rearrange the letters in mother in law you spell “Woman Hitler”, and “behind every successful man stands a surprised mother in law”, and the ever popular: “I really miss my mother in law, I just wish I could remember where I buried her”. 

I did bury my mother in law.  Twelve and a half years ago, I stood next to my husband and watched his heart shatter as he lowered his mum’s coffin into the ground.  I have missed her every day since.

In the newspaper we wrote: “she simply lived for those she loved, and those she loved, remember”.  This was Esterina in a nutshell.  She was a woman who loved her children fiercely and without apology.  We may not have always agreed on things, but I was never in any doubt of her love for me. 

How I wish her days in this world were not limited to a mere 54 years of life.

There are so many things I wish.

I wish she had been able to hold her grandchildren.  I was pregnant with my eldest son when she died.  Her goal was to live long enough to see his arrival into this world.   The bastard thief that is Ovarian Cancer stole that dream from her.  I always tell my boys how if their Nonna had been able to hug them they would have felt her unconditional love in every cell of their being.  I have told them she is hugging them from Heaven.

I wish I had listened more.  She had so much to say and I was so young when she died.   Having migrated here from Italy in her early twenties, her English was not always perfect.  Often she made words up, and we would laugh together.  So many people didn’t listen to her.  Her last words were “love each other, stick together”.  We listened to this.  Mum:  your son, your daughter, your son in law and daughter in law: we love each other.  We have stuck together. We will not forget your wishes.

I wish she were here to shield us from the storm.  Now that her husband has died and left a devastating mess for his children to deal with, we feel her loss even more keenly.  If she were here, the mess wouldn’t have been made in the first place.  If she were here, she would not allow other members of the family to treat her children in such a cruel, spiteful way.  If she were here, her grandchildren would only know the pure joy their very presence can evoke in a grandparent, not the confusion of being ignored, disregarded, and made to feel they don’t matter.

So, this is my mother in law.  Her name is Esterina.

 She existed. 

She mattered. 

She matters. 

She will always matter. 

Oh mum, how we miss you.