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)

.

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.

When My Baby Became Creepy Dude

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

 U.S. Daughters of farmers near La Forge Project, Missouri, 1938
When my first child Peanut was born, I felt a yearning, desperate urge to know who she would become. ‘Who are you?’  I would whisper to her beautiful, inscrutable little face. ‘What kind of human will you be?’

It felt impossible to believe that this tiny, blinking baby would morph into a full and complex person. And I’m almost certain that in all the different possibilities I conjured, I never imagined that one day this child would like to inhabit the character of a guy she called Creepy Dude.

At nine, my Peanut is in the full and spectacular bloom of childhood. She’s a delight – so utterly herself, in the calm harbour between the worries of her younger, more sensitive years, and the approaching maelstrom of puberty.  She’s in this wonderful place where she’s old enough to bodysurf the waves, and young enough to be swept up in a fierce towel-cuddle by Daddy afterwards.

There’s a lot to love about this age. Peanut and her equally offbeat friends have created a club they call the Nerd University of Unicornia. They call it The UUN (rhymes with tune).  Spelled backwards, just for kicks. The UUN spend a lot of time planning their meetings, at which they march around the backyard saluting like tiny Communists, except that their marching song is about pizza rather than the uprising of the oppressed working classes. The UUN anthem is a sight to behold. It’s performed to an awkward boy-band style dance routine and contains this chorus: ‘We’ll fight for the freedom! We’ll fight for our love! We’ll fight for the power! We’ll fight for our lives!’ In between choruses, each member does an introductory rap, using their UUN name.  Peanut’s UUN name is Beaver. Short for Justin Beaver.  Because she sings all the time. Peanut’s rap goes like this: ‘My n-n-n-n-name is B-B-B-B-Beaver. I am quite like a golden retriever.’ (This is about the point at which I am overcome with cuteness poisoning so severe I have to sit down and put my head between my legs.)

Peanut has another character that we call Creepy Dude. She loves pulling out Creepy Dude because it freaks me out, and messing with her mother brings Peanut great joy.  Creepy Dude likes to pluck and pat my shoulder. ‘Hey, lady,’ Peanut says in a low and weird voice. ‘Hey, sexy mama.’

She also has an impersonation she calls ‘Dumb Person Shaving’. It’s hard to describe in words, but suffice to say it is both strange and wonderful.

This kid, this age, is the absolute best. It might be even sweeter because next on the list comes puberty, those mythical Badlands to which Peanut will certainly bring the theatricality she has displayed since childhood. That flamboyance, mixed with a few thousand microliters of estrogen, may make for an interesting cocktail. Fingers crossed that Peanut will keep the comedy, as well as the drama.

I’m looking forward to it, all of it. I adored that sweet baby version of Peanut. I adore the creative comedian of her childhood. And I think I’ll enjoy the adolescent version too.  It’s the coolest thing, being ringside for the slow unfurling of a person. I’m incredibly grateful that I get to watch it. I could not have anticipated, nine years ago, that the answer to my question ‘Who are you?’ was going to be, among other things, ‘Creepy Dude’. So I can’t really guess what teen-Peanut, or even grown-lady Peanut will be either. I can’t wait to find out though.

 

Cultural Earthquakes

Yeah, so Donald Trump may be the next American President!

I mean.

Come on.

Is anybody else trying to get a handle on this crazy cultural moment?

The Trump campaign is being frequently compared to the rise of Hitler in the 1930′s.  Hitler, like Trump, was excellent at packaging ‘hate as hope.’ And as humans, we seem able to ignore any number of madly chiming warning bells as long as some Big Daddy says that he’ll take care of everything.

As in, Catholicism. As in, George Pell.

Deep breath. Deep breath!

*beautiful tropical island, gentle waves lapping over toes* *SERENITY NOW*

America currently seems to me a bitter and demoralised country, hobbled with economic inequality, divided on issues of race and religion, and grappling with a shifting paradigm that Hanna Rosin calls ‘the end of men’. The ‘black swan’ theory describes ‘unexpected, unprecedented, cataclysmic events that overturn established ways of thinking. ‘ (Great article about that  here).

It’s madness, an entirely new type of politics, and all we can do is watch it unfold.

Other things are unfolding right now – the endless summer we’re having here in Australia, for instance. The endless summer of a warming planet. The new wave of feminism that is shining a light on the everyday sexism that infuses Australian culture. That sexism that begins with lighthearted humour and ends with domestic violence (11 women quotecorner.com/celexa.html dead so far in 2016, and a breakdown of the current state of play by my brilliant friend Jane Alver) The next revolution is coming. That is, unless Trump wins the Presidency and we are all catapulted into some kind of Hunger Games post-apocalyptic universe.

Here at home, in my own little nest on the warm planet, the earth has been shifting too. There is heartbreaking sickness in the family, and there have been worrying and complicated school dramas for one of my kids.  It’s taken a lot of thought and careful navigating, and a lot of poking around in the dark.

In the meantime, I’m crafting with the 4 year old, playing Monopoly with the 7 year old and laughing with the nine year old. Chop wood, carry water, cuddle children, eat chocolate.

In big things as in small, it’s like Kierkegaard says: Life must be lived forwards, but can only be understood backwards. Also:  Better out than in. And finally: When your mans outa town, the shit will go down.

Come home quick and safe K Dog. We miss you.

That’s my rant over for the morning. Deep breath out.  Thanks for listening, and if all those earthquakes get a little too much for you, come with me now:  *tropical island* *mojito* *young Jack Kerouc* *SERENITY NOW*

 

 

Honest School Notes #9

God there’s heaps on my to-do list this week. Photo source

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

 

Dear Office,

I’m sorry the children were late for school this morning. I am as surprised as you are, to tell you the truth, because I made a chart for the children to help with the school-run, and I thought that would fix the problem. Shockingly, this Morning Chart did not work.

We’ve been away for five weeks, as you know, Office.  I’m transitioning from Road Life, where everything is managed on the fly and clean undies are just some kind of fancy dream, to Real Life, where every day I have to bang out lunchboxes and spare clothes and signed paperwork for three small children.

I know I’m no rocket scientist, Office. But I’m ashamed to admit that the school run feels just a hair beyond my skill set. Yesterday morning, our first day back at term, was a shambles.  I couldn’t find the hats, which is fairly standard, but I also struggled to find shirts, trousers, shoes, socks, underpants, bags, water bottles and my will to live.

I finally packed all the school stuff, but then four-year-old Pudding started to cry. She had lost Elsa, the dead caterpillar she had been keeping in a Tupperware container, and she had set her heart upon showing Elsa for news at day-care.  We ransacked the bedrooms looking for the poor creature and finally found her in the laundry basket, under the school hats. (Double win!)  I strapped the girls in the car, and then realised that seven year old T-Bone had taken his shoes off and gone back to bed to read Zombie Bums From Uranus.

I took action, Office. After the drop-off, I picked up a powerful laparkan.com/buy-tadalafil/ wand of organisational magic (new texta) from the corner shop and created a Chart when I got home. I ignored the towering piles of road-trip unpacking and washing. The school run had so unsettled my holiday equilibrium that Chart took priority over all else. ‘The Happy, Chilled-Out, No-Stress Morning Checklist’ I titled it. My husband Keith raised one eyebrow at this. ‘The kids are already totally chilled out,’ he said. ‘You’re the only one that’s stressed.’

This is true. The kids are oblivious as the clock creeps ever forward to nine am, and so is Keith. He’s just as likely to try and squeeze in a quick piano lesson as check teeth-cleaning status.  I’m the one with mayonnaise in my hair and an eye-twitch.

I attacked Chart with zeal. Clean teeth! I wrote. Make Bed! Find Hat! Put Lunch in Bag! I added cheery exclamation points to all these tasks in order to add a sense of zany fun to the whole sordid exercise. And then I pinned all my hopes and dreams to the bloody thing. This morning: chaos as ever, with the added addition of my screeching ‘Check your chart! Check your chart!’ as the children wandered about, free as sparrows, happy and unencumbered by responsibility of any kind.

I have a creeping suspicion that a Chart has never, ever been shown to actually work in the history of modern parenting, Office. Surely it cannot be so? Hopeless optimism maintained through all contrary reality is my primary parenting tool, Office. If I lose that, who am I?

Apologies again, Office. I’ll keep trying.

Yours sincerely,

Rachael Mogan McIntosh.

Honest School Notes #1

Honest School Notes #2

Honest School Notes #3

 Honest School Notes #4

Honest School Notes #5

Honest School Notes #6

Honest School Notes #7

Honest School Notes #8

Let The Sexy Dancing Begin!

Model is reading Mary Wollstonecraft’s iconic feminist tome A Vindication Of The Rights Of Women.

 

The big girl is doing tumbling this year, which she loves, and her class follows directly on from a dance class. Lots of the kids do both classes in a row, and Peanut has been asking to do dancing as well.

I had said no, but I’m wavering after catching the end of the routine they are learning this week. It was just so delightfully erotic and fun! Now I don’t know about you but I think there’s just not enough sexiness in the pre-teen dance scene. If my nine year old is going to do dancing, I want her learning sassy, flirty numbers. Forget backflips and contemporary routines. That’s old hat. I want her strutting across the stage, twerking and pointing her fingers accusingly at the audience with a sulky and arrogant expression.

It helps that the music is so cool! It was so fun watching the whole room of pre-pubescent girls dance to the lyrics ‘I don’t want to go to school, I just want to break the rules.  Going to the discoteque, getting high and getting wrecked’.

Funky!

Fingers crossed the girls will be dressed in some slutty-schoolgirl attire, like Britney did. That sexy schoolgirl stuff was awesome for Britney before it caused her to shave her head and suffer a massive emotional breakdown. Maybe I’ll offer to help with the costuming.

I think it would be very dramatic and show-bizzy if the girls started in clean and tidy sexy-uniforms before the part where they dance about getting wasted in nightclubs. Then they can rip off the skirts, and show the vomit and incontinence stains on their dance tights. The lighting should really evoke a party-drug feel, and maybe there’s room for dance that expresses  bad sexual decisions made while intoxicated. Perhaps a morning-after- remorse moment?

I’ll be signing Peanut up straight away. She’s nine after all, and it’s really about time she started absorbing all these important  lessons about her feminine worth and value!

ps – here’s what I’d like Peanut to be learning: some hard-core moves of glory. Check out Tom Jones and Janis from 1969, and clock the dancing in the background. Potential spinal injury, sure. But Funkymeter set to 11. Rest in peace Janis, you legend.

Throw A Flaming Bra At His Face (and Other Valentines Day Tips)

Why not stage a retro cat-fight this Valentines Day? Fun!

I have done something most unsexy to my back and am out for the count, temporarily. But I have booked a romantic night out at the theatre with Keith for next weekend, so I have a deadline to whip my body back into shape.

If you are trying to keep things unusual in the boudoir this Valentines Day, some advice: you might like to ‘sexually surprise’ your partner by, f’instance,  putting a g-string on the roast duck or hiding chocolates in your vagina. Just like Jane Austen would do!  These and other excellent tips here.

This article cracked me up, and it  reminded me how much fun I used to have writing my Sex Tips From The Past series. Might have to bring that one back!

Sex Tips From 1924: The Sex Impulse Is Like A Fiery Horse

Sex Tips From History: Hair-Sniffing and Cat-Nipping in 1936

Sex Tips From History: Masters and Johnson

Sex Tips for Medievalists or Modern Multi-Taskers

The Hairy Joy of Hairy Sex

Sex Tips From 1962: Register your reluctance to do ‘unusual practices’ by outraged, silent acquiescence

Sex Tips to Avoid (doughnuts, forks.)

Happy Lover Day, Comrades, and, as always, all the best with your climax.

 

Divorce Fart

Some of you know that I am writing a book, which is like trying to eat an elephant. One bite at a time.

I’m using Freedom to block those terribly seductive rabbit-holes,  I am switching off my internet for longer and longer spaces of time and  writing in the quiet early mornings. I really enjoyed Zadie Smith discussing productivity on Lena Dunhams excellent 5-part podcast series “Women Of The Hour‘ and incidentally,  on the ‘Big Picture’ episode, Lena and her mother, acclaimed artist Laurie Simmons, talk about their relationship to art and to each other. It’s a beautiful conversation.

Anyway, this year I am trying hard not to allow myself to be distracted from my real goal, which is to finish eating this elephant. If you have any tips about writing or productivity, send them my way. I need all the help I can get!

Here is a little story about baby Peanut, a tale excised from the manuscript now that I have changed the scope of what I’m writing. It’s not in the book, but Peanut loves this story, so I’ll post it here for her to read one day.

At the end of the work day, Keith and I would take it in turns to hold the baby while the other ate dinner. She would not sit happily in her little bassinet, no matter how busily our feet rocked it, no matter how much we smiled and coo’d and attended to her. She was happy in arms – full stop. We watched the West Wing, we ate our roast chicken, and we admired our little girl. Every smile and burp and squeak was miraculous to us. We called her Squeaky, Ivy-Cakes, Little Cakes, Bobo , Ivy-Bones. We were drunk in love with her. Despite the deep ache of tiredness, the screaming, the fractiousness, we did not see Peanut as a difficult baby. We saw our struggle to adjust as our own failing. With time and experience, we would come to realise just how hard those first few months had been, and what a nut she was, but in the thick of it, with the artillery fire overhead and the smoke and the fear clouding our vision, all we could do was scramble in a forward direction and figure it out as we went along. 

One night, I walked the halls with Peanut for an hour, begging her to go to sleep. Keith was always an equal partner in the baby-wrangling, but this night I was on shift and he was reading in bed. Peanut squirmed and wriggled. She stared up at me as I held her firm. The dummy in her mouth smacked and rattled as she sucked it wildly. ‘What is wrong with you?” I sang softly. ‘I would like to be wrapped and cuddled. I would like to be put to bed. Bed is the best place in the whole world. Peanut, you are gone in the head. ‘

The baby’s eyes drifted to half-mast. The dummy-smacking slowed and stopped, and her mouth drooped open slightly. Walking and patting, I silently made deals with the Universe that this was the big one. Peanut had finally gone down. No dice, replied the Universe, which had created this child as a finely calibrated insomnia machine. As soon as her system sensed that it was tilting towards her bassinette, it sent an alarm to the motherboard. ‘Mayday! Mayday! Bedtime Attempt in progress!’ Peanut’s eyes popped alert, her mouth opened, her dummy flew out and the wailing began, all the louder for having been refreshed with a lovely micro-sleep.

I swallowed the intensive screaming going on inside my brain and scored the newly-appeared wrinkle between my eyebrows just a shade deeper. Deep breath. No tears. I walked and walked. Twenty minutes later, the signs appeared. Half-mast, sloe breathing, dummy drooping. I forced myself to walk through another verse of ‘The Wild Colonial Boy’ and then spent forty-five athletic seconds lowering Peanut, by the tiniest of increments, into her bassinette. I did not allow her equilibrium to get altered even momentarily. The muscles in my arms shook with strain as I finally made it the last inch, and carefully, slowly, removed my hands. I hovered tem above her for a moment so that the change in air warmth and pressure form my hastily removed body would not prod her awake, and then, heart in mouth, hardly daring to believe it, I crept backwards to the bed and lay down flat beside my warm husband. I rejoiced in the comforting, delicious softness of the mattress and the silence of the air.

And then Keith let out an enormous fart.

It echoed in the bedroom with honking, squeaking resonance. It was loud in decibel and rounded in tone. There was a momentary silence after its final sqeaak faded away, in which I stared ahead, horrified, and then Ivy began to scream.

I had never thought about divorce before, but in that moment, I considered my options. 

Letter To My Car

Jump in, kids! Time to go to BiLo again! #blessed!

 

This column was originally published in Practical Parenting Magazine, January 2016

Dear Car,

I feel like it’s time that I wrote to you to acknowledge that things have changed between us. Our relationship is not what it used to be, but that’s OK, right? Life is about the journey, right Car? Not the destination! (You should totally get that on a postcard, Car.)

When we first got together we had some wild times. Remember, when I was a teenager, all that aimless driving around? I used to put $3 worth of petrol at at time into your broken petrol gauge, and you were always full of my girlfriends smoking ciggies out the window. Sometimes we listened to Kylie Minogue, sometimes The Smiths, and sometimes Public Enemy. We were figuring out who we were, Car.

We drove around the suburbs, to nightclubs, to the city, and to so, so many coffee shops. I didn’t really spill coffee in you then, Car, because I had time to spend hours actually drinking it inside cafes, talking about 90210 and feminism and crap like that with my girlfriends. Just hours talking, uninterrupted.

No time for those shenanigans any more, Car! You feeling me? I know you are! My constant companions these days are three feet tall and drink babycinos. Sure, they’ll talk about 90210 (they’ll give any topic a red-hot go)but their grasp of popular culture is not nuanced. They are more ‘Zombie Bums From Uranus’ fans.

Also, I still drink a lot of coffee, but now I drink it in you, Car, as I ferry kids around to Girl Guides and footy training and shout ‘Don’t bite your brother!’ into the back seat.

You know how recently one of the kids was caught short on the highway and I had to help him wee into an empty coffee cup and then a bit of it spilled? I know we laughed, Car, but it probs wasn’t as funny to you. Sorry.

That reminds me that I want to apologise for what I’ve put you through in the last few years, Car. There’s been a ridiculous amount of vomiting in you since the kids arrived. (Even more than through the nightclub years.) The children peel fruit and blow their noses and throw bits of rubbish in all directions, like tiny little Tudor Kings. At best, I can describe your interior as ‘gently composting’, Car. At worst, the public health implications of you are quite scary.

Remember that time we could not find the source of the stink for weeks, and then one day in the glove-box we found a liquefied banana? How we laughed, Car! It was almost like we were crying! Remember that time the baby threw up and then started eating bits out of it, Car? Champagne comedy, that was.

You know, Car, some of my favourite times are in you. After the mad rush of the morning, when we jump in you to drive to school, Car, the kids and I have great conversations. And as a family, road trips have made some of our best memories. And biggest messes.

But when you are I are alone together Car, that is gold. Just you, me, Google Maps, news radio and takeaway coffee. These moments alone are rare, in this season of life with small children, and I relish them. It smells disgusting in you, Car, but it feels fantastic.

I love you, Car. You’ve got indefinable little bits of gross stuff all over you, but that’s OK. So do I,these days.

 

X Rach

I Am Pregnant With A Cake Baby

Back on the school run. Safety first!

Friends and comrades, it’s been a long time since I have graced this space with my pointless ramblings, ill-constructed arguments, knee-jerk opinions and bum jokes.

How are you?

It’e been a busy summer, and I’m ready to return to the hermit life.

4 year old Pudding has started pre-school this year. A note came home yesterday asking parents to remember to put sunscreen on the children, label the lunchboxes and make sure they were wearing covered shoes. Three strikes for me! The only way is up, yes?

Peanut in year 4 is all about her club The Nerd University of Unicornia and her band The Random Dumbos. T-Bone, in Year 2, remains my favourite weirdo. Here’s a sample conversation:

He: Mum! Truth or dare?

Me: Truth

He: One day you will die

Me: I don’t think you understand this game

I’m trying to do this 30 days of Yoga (I like this lady, she’s good value). I have the crazy-eyed evangelical decluttering disorder and I’m intent on Kon-Mari’ng the stuffing out of my whole house. The children better not look at me sideways or they’ll be in a Salvation Army bin quicker than they can say ‘I don’t like this dinner.’

To be honest, I am still trying to get past the first level ‘laundry/washing-up/what is there to eat Mum/I think I’ve got nits’ part of housekeeping before I can even get to the clutter. But I am having some delightful daydreams about it. Anyway, don’t ask me what the Kon-Mari method is. I will tell you and you will regret having entered into the whole conversation.

In short:

1. A slightly nutty and earnest mum at the school gates asked me today ‘Are you having a baby?’ Look, no, I’m not, but I did question whether it was a good idea to tuck my t-shirt into my skirt this morning so thanks for sorting that out for me.

2. I am planning Undercover Mother, where I gather a group of school mums to do dawn raids on the town and nail giant granny-bloomers on all the telegraph poles.  Watch this space.

3. Nude suits to the first P and C meeting of the year. Yes or no?

Welcome to 2016! I may have forgotten how to write a blog post.