Embracing The Chaos
7th September 2016
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.
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.