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Light Bladder Leakage

Picknicking In America by Leanord McCombe for Life)
Comrades! I live! Yea, though my fingers have not been tapping out inanities at this address, still, I have trundled along, the same old middle-aged hot mess that you know (sort of) and adore (right guys? Right?)
Since last updating this space I have driven approximately one million kilometres, cleaned approximately seven metres of ripe compost from the backseat  of the car and grown at least twenty eight new grey hairs – not yet, I hasten to add, in the Bermuda Lady Triangle (bragging).

 

Also, am giving up on trying to format this blog post. Code is not my friend today. Please just take the weird pauses, stuttering prose and awkward transitions as a little taste of what it’s like to hang with me in real life.

My last post here was at the beginning of last school term – feels so long ago!  I did recover from my meltdown at the letterbox but the year has unfolded with some intensity.  A lot of emotional  life to manage, and then halfway through term we took a sharp left into hospital craziness when Peanut had to have a tendon graft repair to her hand. Serious microsurgery. She touted a ’duckbill’ splint for a few months that she called Bobbi Jo Jefferson, and she stepped up to the challenges and frustrations very well. I’m really proud of her. But it’s an ongoing drama. (Hand therapy tips received with thanks.)

I spent a week in Fiji with some of my ladies for a wedding,  and it was wonderful but, home now, I am re-adjusting to the fact that I can no longer call Housekeeping and Room Service, because I am Housekeeping and Room Service. Also Concierge, Front Desk, Restaurant, Chauffeur, Medical, Psychiatry and Emergency Clean-up (Depts Vomit, Piss, Misc.)

Plans are afoot for our move to France for a year in August. We’ve rented a place in a small medieval town called Sommieres and I am so excited I have light bladder leakage at all times. Much to do though – more on the list than there are hours in the day.

 

Keith and I are good. Trying to carve out moments to watch House of Cards and rant about Trump to each other in the hallways. We have gathered a massive pile of documents for our French visas – there must be 100 pages of paperwork in all – but we cannot by any means make contact with the consulate. Still, I am trying to find it all a comedy. Ha ha! See the lady smile! See smile not reach the lady’s eyes! See the lady cry and smile! See the French man laugh! See him throw his baguette in the air!
My book is coming along, I got a lot done in Fiji and even though it is still a massive unwieldy beast that I feel will never be finished, it’s forming more shape and structure all the time.
The children are well.  They keep making their stuffed animals sing a song they call ‘It All Revolves  Around The Sausage’ which is disturbing but preferable to their other number ‘I Want To Be Annoying’ (sung in falsetto). Peanut remains obsessed with the Hunger Games.  T-Bone is working on a board game called Warlords and Babies and borrowing lots of library books along the lines of ’100 Most Disgusting Things In The Universe’.

Pudding is writing a book called Unicorn and Fairy about two best friends who, over eight chapters so far, have been to the shop and bought a computer. It is a rollercoaster of non stop emotion.

 

 

I made the mistake of stating an unpopular opinion on a Facebook page for women writers last week and got royally serviced up the jacksie for my troubles. It reminded me that I’m not cut out to be a provocateur, and also that the online world is not that civilised a place, which saddens me. I’ll leave the debate to the feisty youngsters and keep my mouth shut in the corner. However, I am reading lots of lovely books in the bath, the electric blanket has appeared, and hot-chocolate -afternoon-tea season has begun, so winter is going alright by me.

In short, all good in the hood. I hope the same is true for you all out there.

X

 

Emotional Casserole

As I write, I am sitting in an empty house. Apart from the cicadas and the occasional drip of sweat down the back of my neck (this Australian summer is a fiery one), there is not a peep to be heard.

It is quiet.

SO quiet.

In this quiet house, I’m reflecting on the wildness of the week behind us. My biggest girl started a new school for Year 5, my boy started year 3 and the baby, my Poo Poo, my  little constant companion, began kindy. And I  started this next phase of my life which, for the first time in a decade, doesn’t involve the very specific and particular joys and stresses of tiny children at my feet all day.

We’ve been preparing for this big shift all summer. I’ve been re-arranging bedrooms, sorting stuff and de-cluttering like a crazy lady.  I’ve been labeling, organising and list-making so that all of us can enter the new routine with order and positivity. I think I’ve been trying to simplify and refine our lifestyle  because I’ve felt, so strongly, the change in the air and the coming of a new era.

A draft post titled ‘thoughts of a mother during the last week of the school holidays’ never made it online. It was the usual ranting and I never had the time or headspace to write it but my scrawled notes remind me of how I felt – the heat oppressive , the children always hungry, the housework overwhelming.  Even though we had a beautiful summer – lots of visits with friends, lots of time together – the ‘mum-work’ was never-ending, and the day that all three children would be off to school, leaving me in the glorious quiet, was like a shining vision of utopia. I thought I would be absolutely partying with my bad self. I dreamed of quiet space to think, freedom to temper boring mundane housework jobs with interesting radio, time to write, a schedule of my own. Bliss!

But last week the shining day finally came, and instead of partying like a crazy fool, I fell to pieces. It was a bit of a shock.

My big girl is off to start a new school for year 5. It’s a city school, much bigger than her tiny, nurturing primary that we love so much, and she is catching the public bus. She starts her day an hour earlier and ends it an hour later, and in the middle she navigates her way though a sea of new rules and requirements. She is so brave, so small, and so tired.

It is, I am sure, going to be a wonderful year, full of incredible opportunities, new friends and experiences, and she has a great friend at her side, which has made the transition so much smoother. She is stepping into her own future and I am so proud. But, my god, what a week it was.

My beautiful boy, going into year 3, has his own set of worries and challenges, and if he could stay at home with me all day, he would. School is not his favourite place, and helping him manage takes particular thought and attention.

Finally, my little one, my darling last-born buddy is off into kindy. She was so ready to start school and has taken to it with gusto, as I knew she would, but friends, the heart-punch of losing that little companion came like a blindside. Because I  am always, always craving solitude and time with my own thoughts, it just never occurred to me that being without my little sidekick would feel so sad. The first day that we dropped her at school, I was like a leaky sieve all day long. The tears just flowed and flowed. I felt so fragile, unmoored and weird, and I felt like that all week long.

It’s the end of the beginning. My mistakes, my regrets, my worries, the past, the future, they all weighed heavy on me.  There was car crying and then the floppy exhaustion that follows a big emotional release. Throughout it all, there was the mum-work of shepherding the kids into their new routine. Baking and washing uniforms and packing bags. Lots of hugs and long chats.

Rather than feeling like I’m released from some part of my mum-contract as they all go off to school, it’s felt the opposite. My big girl needs me so much at the moment, in ways she hasn’t for a long time. This is fleeting, I know – she’ll get the hang of her new school, the bus, city life, and I can step back again. But for now, looking after her in all the intimate little mum-ways feels really important. I’m trying to do my best at it, to cherish it, as I am with my darling last little chick leaving the nest. It’s bittersweet, and it’s harder than I thought it would be.

But today is Monday, where all the possibilities of the week lie, and I  feel good. I hope that the emotional casserole of last week has been turned down to just a gentle simmer. This next era of family life will start to take shape as the dust settles.

I will have that longed-for quiet time to myself. I will be able to stop worrying about the girls as they settle into their new lives, and hopefully my sweet little boy will have a good school year too. And I will have a little space to turn to my own plans and dreams, and I am really, really damn excited about that.

One more time:

If you sent kids off to little or big school this week, I hope you weren’t hit with the same unexpected emotional tsunami as I was. And if you were, I hope you are OK. x

Bad With Money

Happy new year, comrades!

How is 2017 beginning for you? We are home this week, on holidays together, with nowhere to be and nothing on the books. It’s fabulous. Keith is building a new grey-water pipe, which means he is ringing in the new year covered in sludge and smelling like a tarts arsehole, and I am systematically making my way through every room in the house; sorting, spring-cleaning and decluttering. We are busy in the best way, and spending lots of down time too, reading, watching movies and playing Bananagrams.

I miss writing here, and inspired by Kate, I think I will try and write once a week in this space, to decant some of my thoughts onto the page and sort them out. Like Joan Didion, ‘I don’t know what I think until I write it down’.

Today I thought I’d explore something that makes my toes curl and my heart race. If  I had testicles, this subject  would make them retreat into my body.

Money.

I am bad with money.

This is shameful and humiliating, and I have always been like this.

I sabotage myself constantly. I am frugal – I menu plan, I shop at the op-shop, I don’t buy much ‘stuff’. But the part of me that is thoughtful and careful with money is constantly undermined by the other part of my brain that is weird and anxious about it and so avoids thinking about it as much as possible. Which makes me on the one hand careful, and on the other hand, utterly unaware of where the money is going.

As in; I make careful lists and then buy the sparkly things as they appear before me, like a child.

As in; I think about and plan my shopping and then never check my change or keep track of things in process.

As in: my actions make my plans a waste of time and energy.

Self-sabotage! What fun!

I open up to this failing to you guys in the hope that there are some of you  that feel the same. Are you bad with money? Are you good with money? How does one get from one persona to the other? This is one of my great www.ativan777.com intentions for 2017: to improve on this aspect of life.

Being bad with money is childlike and infantilising. It upsets me because I am good at managing the complex family life of work and kids. I can handle it, I like it, and I actually pretty rarely drop the ball even though I definitely play up the parts where I stuff up (which are frequent) for comedy purposes.

But this inability to keep track of my financial life blocks me; it holds me in the eternal hopeless present, and it undermines my sense of achievement or agency in other aspects of life.

Keith and I had one of our finance conversations yesterday. These fun chats are the ones where my hands get shaky and my voice gets squeaky and I basically hold my breath until we can stop talking.

Poor Keith.

Lucky us, though. If I was married to me we would be in dire straits, living in a yurt somewhere and wondering what happened to our superannuation paperwork.  Keith, however, is a scientist, engineer and a master of all kind of nerd-craft, and has a complex spreadsheet of such matters. It is colourful and  complex and looking at it makes my palms sweat.

As you can imagine, I am not at all frustrating to be married to. Over the years we have refined our systems to avoid conflict in this regard, and we largely do. But yesterday, I was baffled by ‘purchase charges’ on my bank statement and Keith lost his cool. He can’t understand my stupidity about this stuff, and I am ashamed and defensive.

The good thing is that I am not extravagant. Just a fucking idiot. So there is hope.

I’ve been looking for some advice around the place. I really like the podcast Bad With Money, by Gaby Dunn. and I tried listening to a couple of others but they are either all about investing or leap unexpectedly into bible verse, which is disconcerting. I tried watching a couple of budgeting YouTubers but they put me to sleep and have crazy eyes. Lots of people seem to be reading The Barefoot Investor. Yay or nay?

That’s me for 2017. Bad with money. Hoping to get better.

x

Embracing The Chaos

Sadly, Practical Parenting Magazine has been shut down. After more than seven years of writing a column there about motherhood, I feel a little bereft. This column required me to sit and think, every month, about what’s going on with our family, and it’s created a sweet little archive for us to look back on.

There is something poignant about finishing up this column as little Pudding begins her orientation for primary school. My world of tiny children underfoot – nappies and sleeplessness and breastfeeding – is drawing to an end. This week, we are packing and prepping for our first trip overseas with the kids, and my first in ten years. It’s definitely the end of an era. Time for me to put my head down and focus on finishing my book about stay-at-home mum life.

This column is one of my last written for Practical Parenting. There are one or two more that were in the pipeline – I don’t know if I’ll post those.

To my long-time readers, thank you for supporting and enjoying these little postcards.

and onto the Next Big Thing: (Julie Wilson, 1958, from the Life Magazine archives) 

 

I am tackling the Weet-Bix cement crusted onto the breakfastbowls and trying to listen to the radio when my four-year-old Pudding wanders into the kitchen. ‘Let’s pwetend we’re sisters and our Mum and Dad were killed by monsters and we work at the Post Office,’ she shouts excitedly.

‘Not right now, Pudding’, I say. ‘Go and find your sister.’ Her sister appears, doing a handstand against the fridge. ‘Watch this Mum!’ she says, as she tries to balance a pillow on top of her feet. The pillow is dangerously close to a pot plant. ‘I can’t look now, Peanut,’ I say. ‘I’m trying to wash up breakfast before I make dinner.’  ‘What’s for dinner?’ seven-year-old T-Bone asks, taking a break from the Minecraft handbook he has been reading out loud for twenty minutes.

‘I don’t know,’ I say, but the children aren’t listening. They are, in fact, all talking at once.

‘’Can I use your sewing machine?’ asks one child. ‘Can you make me a bubble bath?’ asks the next. ‘Can you feed me like I’m a dog?’ asks the third.

‘No,’ I tell them all. ‘Please – can’t you all just go and play something?’

They look at me skeptically. It’s time to go out, anyway.

In the car, I would love to listen to the radio but Pudding and Peanut are singing a song about Harry Potter that goes on longer than a Kanye West vanity mix. And like a gentle background hum, T-Bone is still reading Minecraft tips aloud. The children fill the air with their noise – and these, mind you, are the happy sounds. The decibel level reached when the bickering starts is extreme. And when I’m forced to intervene, my own hopeless shouting adds to the chaos.

I love the creativity of my kids, and the wonderful, random things that pop from their brains, but sometimes it is just So Bloody Noisy. At the end of the day, every part of me becomes desperate for quiet. That walk down the hallway after putting all three to bed is so thrilling. In my mind, I strut that hallway like Beyonce. Yaaasss Queen! Ahead of me lies a peaceful evening, ready to be filled with laundry-folding and Downton Abbey – just like Beyonce, I’m pretty sure.

Sometimes the sturm and drang of raising small children feels a little overwhelming. The fighting, the crying and the questions can feel relentless.  In those times, I try to remind myself of these thoughts from American physician Dr. Harley Rotbart:

In the course of each bedtimes bedlam, try to see into the future. The next time the clamour crecendoes, but before the din dims, imagine your biological parenthood clock wound forward to the time they have grown and left home. Picture their formerly tousled bedrooms as neat, clean and empty. See the tidy backseat of the car, vaccumed and without crumbs or Cheerios. Playroom shelves neatly stacked with dusty toys. Laundry under control. Then wind the imaginary clock back from the future to now, and see those moments of mayhem for what they are, finite and fleeting moments. Never to be reproduced. Precious.

It is a happy chaos that I inhabit right now, full of the noise and debris of so many full and energetic lives. What a gift that is – even when it’s exhausting.

Postcards From A Temporary Single Mother

I wrote the  column below for Practical Parenting Magazine nearly six months ago, just after Grandpa was diagnosed with lung cancer. The disease felled him swiftly after that, each week grimmer than the one before, although Grandpa, famously, uttered no expletives stronger than ‘oh, boy.’

It’s been a season of illness, stress, worry and sadness, and we are now preparing for Alan’s funeral this week. I will write more about him when the dust settles around us a little. For now, this esteemed mathematician and loving grandfather is now only present in our memories and anecdotes, and a particular cheeky sparkle in the eyes of his grandchildren.

We will miss him very much.

For Practical Parenting, July 2016

Lately, all three of my children have been sleeping in my bed, which is both lovely and terrible. It’s lovely, because their arms and legs are strong and small and cling so tight; and I know that the pure, fierce affection of childhood will shift and change into something else someday, and I will miss it. But it’s terrible, because the children squeeze up so tight to me that I can’t breathe, and feel that I am in some sort of medieval dungeon-prison with no room for all the occupants, where we must turn over in unison on a given signal. Also: wee.

There’s a little more room in the big bed at the minute because Keith is in Europe for two weeks. Sometimes we tick along fine when the big Daddy is away. This is not one of those times.  The system starts crumbling on Day 2, when the fridge coughs and dies. Then, school problems begin with one of the kids, which, over the next fortnight will grow increasingly difficult to manage, and finally, most distressingly, there is a diagnosis of cancer in our extended family.

I find myself swapping between worries, mulling over each in my mind, one at a time. Who’s up next? Move it along Cancer, you’ve had your time. Bullying, where are you? That’s enough out of you. Next worry please!  Form an orderly queue!

The carnage in the kitchen is epic as I try to salvage food from the deceased freezer in an Esky while I wait for the new fridge. Young Pudding, obsessed with craft in the manner of all four-year-olds, takes to glittering and redistributing the contents of the recycling box everywhere.

I’m trying to stay cool but I realise I’m struggling when I accidentally bum-dial myself and record a shameful voicemail where I rant at the kids in the voice we call The Fishwife.

I really miss my partner in crime. There’s nobody here to help turn the small dramas of the day into comedy after bedtime, and most critically, take on some of the kid-energy, so that I have some restorative, necessary privacy with my own thoughts. Without it, bit by bit, I start to go slightly nuts.

Last night I did the full-service final shift of the day, fighting the strong urge to collapse on the couch and watch Wife Swap. Public speaking talks were prepped, homework completed, lunches made and sports equipment set out for the morning.  The kitchen was cleaned, the laundry hung. Children were scrubbed, read to, tucked up, and happily asleep. That final shift of the day required a Coke and two mini Wagon Wheels. But I got there.

This morning though, after a night crammed into the medieval prison bed in which one child wet their pants and another had a nightmare (there is lava on my nose!), I just could not get up.  ‘Five more minutes’ begged Peanut as she wrapped her little legs around mine. ‘Five more minutes,’ begged T-Bone as he clung to the other side. ‘Jus’ five more minutes, Mama’ chimed in Pudding, lying with her dead weight fully on top of me.

I gave in. Five more minutes. Ten, even. We were a bit late to school. In the single-mum zone, with so many tasks to stay on top of, it can feel like there’s not a lot of room for those quiet moments. But in fact, those sweet ten minutes in bed, cuddling all three kids – that was probably the most important job of the day. Certainly it was the best one. And, to be honest, I could not do any more.

 

On Running Low, Saying No and Letting Go

I haven’t been here for a while – my tank is low on juice.

It’s been a fairly depleting few months with Keith travelling a lot and the children having one of those loops of winter sickness.

Running as a constant low sad note through our lives right now is the illness of my father-in-law. He’s a wonderful friend, an important person in my life, a brilliant and kind mathematician with a capricious twinkle in his eye. The  more I understand Alan, the more I understand many parts of my beloved partner Keith, and watching Alan cope with lung cancer has taught me many lessons about dignity and stoicism. I wish I was not learning these lessons, but there we have it.

Being social feels too exhausting right now. I am at peak capacity with these children, this house, this husband, these feelings. It feels good to be honest about saying ‘no’. It feels important to be home, playing chess,sorting the endless washing pile, cooking spicy beans and drawing the blinds down on the outside world. I am trying to find moments to write and trying to conserve my energy.

Sometimes it’s impossible to manage more.

In the meantime, Raised by Wolves, written by my spirit animal Caitlin Moran and her sister,  is bringing me many,  many laughs. (Free on SBS right now – is anybody watching it? It is hilarious), and it was my birthday this week (forty-five!)  Keith and I  went for a lovely quiet date last night. We saw Tarzan – my advice is to suspend the critical eye and enjoy the scenery – i.e Alexander Skarsgard (happy phwooarsdday night!)

Afterwards we ate bresaola, drank Prosecco and talked travel. Home by ten. It was lovely. Quiet. Perfect.

All the best out there, my friends.

 

 

 

 

Honest School Notes #10

Dear Office,

I’m sorry the children were late this morning and wearing the wrong clothes.

I lost my Sunday, you see.

There is so much organisation involved in getting three kids clothed and prepared for a school week that I tend to use Sunday to get on top of that stuff. I bake muffins and bread. I freeze sandwiches and squeezy yogurts and make sure there are lots of apples and carrots in the fridge. I do my best to tackle and conquer the washing pile so that there are pants, undies, socks and hoodies ready for the week ahead. This make me happy. I feel I am ready to take on the world.

If the weekly sort out and the night-before planning don’t happen, mornings are a stressful mess of shouting. There is not a lunchbox, drink bottle, hair-elastic or hat to be found anywhere.

We had a thing at our place on Saturday night. Now, I don’t get out much, so  when I do, my latent party animal just goes mental. I’ll leave out the details of what was said and done on the night (I can’t remember them) but let’s just say that there were a lot of pisco sours, one girlfriend left with ‘strippers remorse’ and one did the washing up with such enthusiasm that she smashed two wineglasses. Sunday morning I was not at my peak. There may/may not have been noises at my house that sounded like a giant cat was trying to expel a furball.

By Sunday night I felt human again, but I was not chia-seed how to purchase alprazolam online raspberry pudding-Martha Stewart- mother. I was Nurofen Plus -stop-breathing-so-loudly-Mummy’s-got-a-headache mother. Plus, I had dressed as a Mexican man for the party and I was having trouble scrubbing off the moustache. I am sure that if this ever happened to Martha, she would know precisely the blend of organic oils and unguents to deal with the problem.

Monday morning was a shambles. There was no little note in the lunchbox; in fact there was was barely recognisable food in there. After a fruitless search, I was forced to tell the nine-year-old ‘Just grab a jumper out of the lost property and I’ll wash it and replace it!’ She did. But the jumper she grabbed was size 4, and she is nine, so that didn’t work out so well for my already shabby reputation.

The truth is, Office, that I can have a wild Saturday night, or I can have the children fully prepared for school on Monday. I tip my hat to those parents who can do both, but I am not one of them.

This weekend, back to reality. Saturday night will see me sorting socks in front of the television with a nice cup of tea and a Terry’s Chocolate Orange, Sunday will see me getting our shit together, and Monday will see the children at school fully equipped for the day ahead.

My apologies, again.

Ms. McIntosh

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Preschooler Fashion: Too Much Is Never Enough

This post was first published in Practical Parenting Magazine, June 2016

Dedicated to Nanna!

Nothing new under the sun, German postcard, 1910

I’m thinking I might start a fashion line called ‘Four Year Old’. Every garment in my first collection (I shall call it More Is More) will be sparkly, glittering or bejewelled. It will be spectacular, and also, utterly mad.

Four is the age of independence, a time when a fierce sense of personhood expresses itself in lots of ways, most fabulously through the wardrobe. I will choose my clothes, Mummy! No! I will dress myself!

Little Pudding is my third child down the runway of life, and I’ve realised a few things along the way. First, resistance is futile. The more you want your child to dress in Fair-Trade neutral organic cotton woven by a feminist collective in Uzbekistan, the more they will assert their right to wear synthetic Frozen-themed sportswear.

I’m thinking, specifically, here, of the pain I felt when my firstborn Peanut became obsessed, age three, with a pair of satin Wiggles boxer shorts that Nanna picked up at the op shop. (Nanna!!) I hated those shorts, and the emotional power this gave Peanut (See Mummy sweat! See Mummy plead!) spurred her on to greater and greater heights of rebellion, until eventually she insisted on wearing, every day, the Wiggles boxer shorts, a t-shirt that read ‘Bring Back Warnie’ and a pair of plastic Wiggles sunglasses. When I insisted on putting her uniform through the wash, she would wait patiently by the window. ‘Is Warnie dwy, Mama? Will Warnie be dwy soon?’

Hopelessly optimistic, I would proffer classic brown sandals, woollen capes and sweet bird brooches, as she pushed past me to get to the pink heels that Nanna picked up for her at the op shop. (Nanna!!)I was so adamant that my first-born daughter wouldn’t fall victim to the Princess buy alprazolam online overnight delivery syndrome that of course (can you feel what is coming? Nanna found it hilarious) by age four Peanut would not only wear nothing but pink, but also insisted she be referred to as Pinky Winky.

When my son T-Bone was four, he insisted that his outfits be ‘like a fruit salad’ which involved combining colour, pattern and print in such violently clashing ways that passers-by would have to shield their eyes from the glare. Also, he loved to wear his clothes backwards, which made for a lot of bum-flashing.

Of course, now that Peanut and T-Bone are nine and seven, their fashion choices take different forms. Peanut wears two different shoes to school every day, and chooses her outfits on how well they facilitate handstands. T-Bone barely notices whether he has shoes on or not.

It’s my third child, Pudding, who is deep in the pre-school fashion zone now. Bedazzled and glorious, she embodies the opposite of Coco Chanels famous advice: ‘get dressed, and then take one thing off’. For Pudding and her peers, enough is never enough. In fact, the pre-school playground should sport a warning sign: ‘Beware: Intensive Glitter Zone.  7% Chance Of Mild Epileptic Fit.  85% Chance Of Headache. Do Not Look Directly At Children As Costumes May Blind’.

 

This third time round, I surrender. I empty my drawers of all the neutrals, the camel, tan and cream, the darling brown Mary-Janes and the vintage coats. Off they go to the op-shop, for other hopeful mothers of size 3-4 youngsters.  I retain the synthetic fibres, the unnatural colours and anything Frozen. Also, I’ll take notes for the fashion line. And I’ll dedicate the first collection to Nanna, because she knew all along, of course, that this sweet and hilarious time won’t last and the best idea of all is to just enjoy it, in all its sparkly madness.

Mother And Son

(sweet pudding-bowl boy photo source)

This column was first published in Practical Parenting Magazine, April 2016

Recently I took my seven year old son T-Bone on a solo date. The day was equal parts charming and exasperating, because, like me, T-Bone lives a significant portion of his time immersed in his own daydreams and regards the actual, practical world as a bit of an intrusion.

We are both, in some ways, like heads on a stick, and I have to tell you, my friends, I have huge sympathy for my own mother now that I am engaged in the everyday work of raising that kind of airheaded child.

T-Bone combines his father’s scientific precision and logic with his my own enthusiastic absent-mindedness. He is, possibly, your classic nutty professor. This is wonderful, of course, and in my greatest dreams I stand, a proud mother, at the side of the Nobel Prize stage as I do up my middle-aged son’s shoelaces and ask him if he needs the toilet.  In everyday life, however, raising T-Bone can be very tiring. Like so much of parenthood, it is bittersweet. That invisible string between mother and child is so profound, so gratifying and, sometimes, such a painful tether. It forces me into my better self, as I swallow my rage and frustration, look for the comedy in it all, and learn the art of patience.

T-Bone is both diabolical and brilliant. In the car on our date, he suggests a game. ‘Mum! Truth or dare?’ ‘Truth’, I say. ‘In the future you will die,’ he says. ‘I don’t think you understand this game,’ I reply. Next, he sings to me. ‘If you’re happy and you know it, pull down your pants! If you’re happy and you know it, blow up the universe and everything in it!’  He asks me about babies. ‘Mum, you know how little babies cry in the night and you have to feed them?’ I remember, I tell him.  ‘Well, can’t you just put them on an IV drip?’ he says.

When we get to the shopping centre we are halfway through the carpark when I notice T-Bone is wearing only one shoe. ‘What are you missing there, T?’ I ask.

‘What?’ he says.

‘You all put together there for shopping, buddy? Missing anything?’

T-Bone looks down at his outfit. ‘My book?’ he says.

This is a standard conversation with Ted, who is a clothing-optional sort of person.  He will appear before me totally naked. ‘Mum, I’m cold.’ ‘Well, put some clothes on!’ ‘Where are my clothes?’ ‘In your drawer.’ ‘Where is my drawer?’

At the end of our shopping-date, which is packed with comedic highs and frustrating lows (T-Bone! Don’t touch that! T-Bone! Get off the road! T-Bone! Put your book down!’) I try to validate our parking ticket. To my consternation, the machine jams when I insert my card.  I spend some minutes doing that unsatisfying young-child-present swearing: ‘you…bugger! What the…. far OUT!’ etc,   until I realise I have been forcing my credit card in the wrong slot, and seem to have broken the machine. I apologise to the long queue that has formed behind me, but T-Bone doesn’t notice. He’s too busy trying to read ‘Zombie Bums From Uranus’ while he walks up the down escalator.

I am he, and he is me, at least in terms of this particular aspect of his genetic inheritance. I hope, at the very least, that I’ve also gifted him with interpretive dancing and lasagne-making skills, as well as woolly-headedness.  And the patience I am learning through mothering this unique person is his great gift to me, in return.

My Dad Frank Is Offended By My Bad Hair

Hair: Before

There’s been a lot happening, and my hair has been neglected. It’s reaching Peak Witchy.  I know this, and it’s been my list to fix, but I had not realised it had become so offensive to others until my father called me to order.

Now, let the record show that Frank is not a fashionista. He buys his clothes from Ebay and Vinnies and the greatest accolade he can give an item is that it cost less than $2. His collection of hats would make the Queer Eye crew weep. And yet, he was outraged by the state of my hair. That’s how bad it must be.

On his front deck last week, Dad was idly filling me in on Henry 8th, his project out the back and the latest family gossip when he suddenly said ‘But what is wrong with your hair?’

‘What?’ I said. ‘I need a haircut.’

‘No, Rach’, he said. ‘It looks really bad.’

‘I know, Dad!’ I said. ‘I’ve been really busy. I’ll sort it out.’

He looked closer. ‘Rach, it’s like three different colours!’ he said. ‘It’s all fuzzy! It  looks terrible! ‘

‘Easy, tiger,’ I said.

‘No, it’s really rough’, he finished. ‘Do you understand? It looks very, very bad.’

I thanked him for helping me sort out that pesky high self-esteem problem I’d been grappling with. Dads eh? At least he forced me to sort out my hair. Now I just have to make sure he doesn’t find out how long it’s been since I waxed my legs.

Pants around Frank, self. Always wear pants around Frank.

Hair, After (with added confused quizzical expression of the four-eyed git and uncomfortable selfie-taker)

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And so, on with life! I may  be all over the place like a mad womans shit, but at least my hair doesn’t give me away.