Monday, December 14, 2009

An Ode to David Letterman via Oprah

In my latest bid at shameless self-promotion, I decided to try and go straight to the top: Oprah. There was a recent ‘Be on the Show’ topic that asked for you to create a video of your ‘mom moments’. I can do this – I thought – boy, do I have plenty of fodder! And while I’m not really all that keen on the idea of seeing myself on television, I would like an hour with those hair and make-up people she employs.

Among others, one of the questions asked was what was something you wished you knew before having children?

So here is my Top Ten List, an Ode to Dave Letterman and of course, you too Oprah.

10 Things I Wish I Knew Before Having Children, or Things I Now Know For Sure, in no particular order:

10. The hours from 5-7pm are the equivalent of six normal daytime hours; conversely, the hours from their bedtime to yours are the equivalent of 15 minutes, during which time you have to email, read your book, have sex, and watch everything you’ve tivo-ed

9. If you can look in on them at night while they're sleeping and not still want to kill them, you're doing okay

8. Unless you move to a deserted tropical island where fig leaves or total nakedness is acceptable, you will never be caught up on your laundry again. Ever. (Except maybe with a full-time nanny, and then, only maybe.)

7. As soon as you pick up a telephone, your children (who have spent all day ignoring you) will begin fashioning crude weaponry out of things from the utensils drawer, helping themselves to ice cream, chips or other ‘sometimes’ food and /or simultaneously start demanding your undivided attention with that puzzle or craft they haven’t looked at in weeks

6. The contents of your vacuum cleaner bag will be thus: 90% dust, dirt and fluff; 10% cheerios, Barbie shoes and legos

5. You will have to renegotiate every major relationship in your life, no matter how stable: with your husband, your boss, your mother, your friends

4. Going to the bathroom for any reason (from peeing to tamponing to showering) will become a 'teachable moment'

3. Your outdoor voice becomes your indoor voice for large portions of the day

2. Expect your favourite clothes to become napkins, tissues, and on the odd occassion, even toilet paper - a sponge for any and all bodily fluids. (I'm still waiting for a fashionable clothing range from Bounty)

1. If you do it right, it's the hardest job ever; if you don't do it right, it's even harder

And, as every mum knows, everything tastes better with ketchup.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

A Stationary Bike for Oompa Loompas

Ok, I usually don't just 'blog' and write little blurbs about (inane) things I have observed during my day, but today I just can't resist.

I saw for the first time ever today a pint-sized exercise bike. Yep. You heard me. A STATIONARY bike. For children. I thought exercising with a Wii was a bit disheartening, but woefully accepted it as a sign of the times.

But a kid's stationary bike? And it was not just a smaller version of an adult bike, but crafted out of bright, 'fun' primary colours and looked like it could only hold a child less than 8 years old.

I wonder if Junior is supposed to get on it so he can multi-task: say, to read the Wall Street Journal and catch up on his stock porfolio? Perhaps he can scarf down a sleeve of Oreos while pedaling away: try doing that on a ten-speed. Or perhaps it is for those days when he just can't bear to miss Diego. But then, isn't that what tivo is for?

The only obvious conclusion is that Oompa Loompas do, indeed, exist. It also explains their thighs of steel.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Cotton On: One for the ‘What the Hell Were You Thinking?’ Files

Cotton On, for those of you who mightn’t have one in your local mall, is sort of like an Australian version of Gap. Except cheaper. And without all those phoney arseholes wearing headsets pretending they care about you by asking how your day is going before lying to you about how great those khakis/cords/jeans make your bum look.

There was a recent uproar over a line of bubs slogan-tees that they launched. Below, I’m going to list them, in ascending order of bad taste:

5. ‘Drive it Like You Stole It’ (With a Picture of a Pram). Perhaps almost cute. Not quite as distasteful as some, but sounds like something a teenager would’ve penned

4. ‘F.B.I.’ with ‘Farts Burps Insomnia’ in small print underneath. I find this particularly irksome since they don’t even have the FBI in this country. Use your own damn acronyms

3. ‘I’m a Tits Man’ The word tits is in the same category with the word panties: cringe-inducing. Men use it, women hate it. Ok when talking about boobs of the proportion of Pamela Anderson. Appropriate - arguably even funny - in movies like American Pie. Does NOT (under any circumstances) belong on a bubs tee-shirt. Are you listening, global marketeers?

2. ‘The Condom Broke’ / ‘I’m Living Proof My Mum is Easy’ are tied for the coveted number 2 position. Does not even warrant a pithy comment from moi.

1. ‘They Shake Me’ Seriously? Remember Louise Woodward, the supposedly perfect English nanny who was accused of killing her charge by shaking him to death? This is beyond irreverent humour, this is trivialising abuse. What next? ‘Grandpa is a paedophile’?

Maybe it’s just a Gen Y thing. Maybe as much as I hate to admit it, I might just be getting old in not finding any of these even the least bit funny. In fact, after reading these, all I could picture was Nicole Ritchie (or the like) and her tattooed partner yucking it up in the shop before buying a batch to take home and distribute to their uber-hip friends.

Now admittedly, we all use our kids to make statements, consciously or not. We don't always sign on for that, but some one has to do it. Of course they are extensions of our beliefs and values. We give them the haircuts we think are appropriate, buy them the toys we want (someone out there is still buying Bratz dolls) and dress them the way we like. I’m still waiting to see a baby sporting a tiny black and red Che Guevera number or a Palin 2012 tee shirt. But in this case, I don’t know even know what – or who – they were going for, since ribald humour and babies do not go together. Ever. Think milk and orange juice, Red Sox and Yankees, Keats and Donne.

The Cotton On group describes themselves as a ‘winning combination of globally relevant fashion at affordable prices.’ Well gee, now that you mention it, child abuse is globally relevant. But not when it sounds like a slogan coined by Andrew ‘Dice’ Clay on a baby’s tee shirt. This also begs the question of how many round tables did these slogans undergo before even making it to the manufacture-and-distribute phase. And which oh-so-hip-and-clever CEO gave his final stamp of approval? I’m ageistly assuming that the CEO is a thirty-something; a quick google search unsurprisingly didn’t produce a name, and rightfully so - whoever it is is probably still in hiding.

The hullabaloo has died down since this happened, and the usual finger-in-the-dike steps have been taken: the canned corporate ‘apology’ followed by the pulling of the items from the stores.

I should take comfort that these slogans have even caused controversy. And no doubt, so does Cotton On, since bad publicity is always better than no publicity. I just never thought I’d be part of the moral majority. But then, having kids does all sortsa funky things to you…

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Birth Order of Children

This is not my work, but I wish it was. I had to pass this one on. My next update will be appearing soon.

Hearing the News:
1st baby: You begin wearing maternity clothes as soon as your doctor confirms your pregnancy.
2nd baby: You wear your regular clothes for as long as possible.
3rd baby: Your maternity clothes ARE your regular clothes.

Preparing for the Birth:
1st baby: You practice your breathing religiously.
2nd baby: You don't bother because you remember that last time breathing didn't do a thing.
3rd baby : You ask for an epidural in your eighth month.

The Layette:
1st baby: You pre-wash newborn's clothes, colour coordinate them, and fold them neatly in the baby's little bureau.
2nd baby: You check to make sure that the clothes are clean and discard only the ones with the darkest stains.
3rd baby: Boys can wear pink, can't they?

1st baby: At the first sign of distress--a whimper, a frown--you pick up the baby.
2nd baby: You pick the baby up when her wails threaten to wake your firstborn.
3rd baby: You teach your three-year-old how to rewind the mechanical swing.

The Dummy:
1st baby: If the dummy falls on the floor, you put it away until you can go home and wash and boil it.
2nd baby: When the dummy falls on the floor, you squirt it off with some juice from the baby's bottle..
3rd baby: You wipe it off on your shirt and pop it back in.

1st baby: You change your baby's nappy every hour, whether they need it or not.
2nd baby: You change their nappy every two to three hours, if needed.
3rd baby: You try to change their nappy before others start to complain about the smell or you see it sagging to their knees.

1st baby: You take your infant to Baby Gymnastics, Baby Swing, and Baby Story Hour.
2nd baby: You take your infant to Baby Gymnastics.
3rd baby: You take your infant to the supermarket and the dry cleaner.

Going Out:
1st baby: The first time you leave your baby with a sitter, you call home five times.
2nd baby: Just before you walk out the door, you remember to leave a number where you can be reached...
3rd baby: You leave instructions for the sitter to call only if she sees blood.

At Home:
1st baby : You spend a good bit of every day just gazing at the baby.
2nd baby: You spend a bit of everyday watching to be sure your older child isn't squeezing, poking, or hitting the baby.
3rd baby: You spend a little bit of every day hiding from the children.

Swallowing Coins:
1st child: When first child swallows a coin, you rush the child to the hospital and demand x-rays.
2nd child: When second child swallows a coin, you carefully watch for the coin to pass.
3rd child: When third child swallows a coin, you deduct it from his pocket money.

Monday, September 28, 2009

The Great Nail Debate

One of the nice things about returning to where you’re from is that it gives you a renewed appreciation for things you’ve stopped noticing when you were living there. The perspective of the holidaymaker is always refreshingly romantic and this trip was no exception. Ooh! There’s so much choice! The pedicures are so cheap! The ocean is RIGHT there! And would you look at that skyline!

And then there are a few of the less obvious things I began to notice. One: you can get pretty much anything pomegranate flavoured – from sparking water to shoes, America is all about the pomegranate these days (I blame Oprah). Second: the amount of radio play the mediocre 80s rock band Journey receives far outweighs the contributions they made to the world of music. And thirdly, I was reminded that most lifestyle trends begin in America. While this can be a good thing, I’m not sure how I feel about the issue regarding The Manicure – the nail salon seems to have replaced the local butcher as a standard fix in every neighbourhood.

One day while I was out shopping – at a supermarket, no less – I spotted some glue-on nails. Odd, because like Journey, these seemed to have had their heyday in the 80s (having been slowly phased out by your ubiquitous local Pretty Pretty Fancy Beauty Nails salon). What caught my eye was that these glue-on nails had pictures airbrushed on to them.

Of the Disney Princesses.

I cringed. If a girl is young enough to still be into Belle, Ariel and Cinderella, aren’t they just a little too young to start worrying about something as superficial as their fingernails? And, practically speaking as the mother of a born diva, I don’t even want to begin to imagine the rage that would ensue when Jasmine gets chipped after a rugged afternoon in the garden digging for snails – or worse yet, if we lost Snow White altogether, buried alive amongst the worms. Call me old-fashioned, but I would’ve thought a minimum of Hannah-Montana, tweeny-aged appeal for the glue on nails.

Which brings me to the next part of this issue. When to manicure, if at all? It seems nearly inevitable these days. When Eva was nearing the three-year-old mark, she came home one afternoon with a pedicure, courtesy of my dad. ‘You took her WHERE?!?’ I blurted. While he of course had the best of intentions and thought it would be cute, I couldn’t help but think it was far too young to be doing that sort of thing. Yes, it’s completely harmless – it’s not like he took her out behind the bleachers of his old high school and treated her to her first Marlboro Light with a Wild Turkey chaser. My problem isn’t even the JoBenet Ramsey issue with the early sexualization of our children, although that too is bothersome.

For me, it’s that it begins to raise the expectation level. That is something that’s happened right across the board as we struggle to parent in the midst of life’s often-enjoyable-but-also-complicating factors: the elaborately-themed birthday parties, the dvd player in the car, the bouncy castle at every event, the Baby Einstein crap, the video games for three year olds, the minimum of four activities that we need to have everyone scheduled into from 2.9 years onward… It’s all suddenly so complicated.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to be a kill-joy. After television, I would probably vote the bouncy castle as the greatest invention for parents in the 20th century. (Well, that and the cot-tent would be in a close race for second. See previous column.) We as parents have higher expectations for our own lives than our own parents probably did of theirs: we want the bigger houses with home theatres and fancier holidays. We don’t just want our skinny soy lattes and regular facials. We expect them.

As a child I can remember my mother sitting in front of her then state-of-the-art Clairol magnifying makeup mirror. (I’m sure it had a much more jazzed up name, like the Clairol Magnifique 2000 or something.) She’d plug it in to illuminate the rows of light bulbs on either side of the mirror and sit down to do her basic maintenance – which in the 1970s consisted of some heavy duty eyebrow plucking followed by lots and lots of shimmery eye shadow in the area the eyebrow once called home. A spritz of Charlie perfume and she was out the door.

Ah, the good old days. Now it’s off to our facials and Reiki, manicures and Brazilians. To paraphrase one of my favourite columnists Mia Freedman on this issue, as women we now are required to do as part of our basic maintenance things that were once only in the domain of the rich or famous. While many of these things are enjoyable (not the Brazilian, per say) they’re undoubtedly complicating factors in our lives. We have to create windows in our precious time – away from family, friends, work – just to be groomed.

And these grooming rituals are not only seen as essential, but also as a female rite of passage, a way to do some bonding, to kill two birds with one stone: ‘I can find out how my four-year-old’s day at preschool was while we get our nails done together!’ Cash rich, time poor. Of course this isn’t even an issue for men, and not because their grooming rituals are almost non-existent, but because there really isn’t an inappropriate age to attend ball games – and thankfully in most civilised countries, there is a legal drinking age. Like it’s not enough that they get to pee standing up.

As any parent will tell you, those years with little kids go so quick, especially with girls – it all just slips through our fingers too easily. But for now, I’m only planning on keeping my own fingers manicured.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

The Epic Journey Part II: The Journey Commences

The night before any potentially nerve-wracking or exciting event (plane flight, job interview, date with George Clooney) is always fraught with sleeplessness peppered with those bouts of jarring, panicked wakefulness of ‘UH! What time is it?!’ before the realisation that you have seven, five, three, two hours left to sleep. So it was for me the night before leaving, and by the time I got on my first flight from Sydney to Brisbane, I was almost thankful to have the formalities over with and everyone contained.

Until I hear the phrase ‘Breakfast is served!’ That’s when the plastic trays come teetering at me from all directions, making me the lucky recipient of four (count ‘em FOUR) trays of food. Then there are the steaming hot beverages, which I accept only for myself (and only after the stewardess has me sign a waiver).

Shortly after the trays are placed down and one bite of the token bread roll is taken, Eva and Ted get busy playing chemistry set. Across the aisle, while I’m busy attending to Liam’s tray, Eva and Ted are combining their milk, orange juice and butter packets, the result of which is a beautifully coloured, curdled, vomity-looking mess. In the split second that I look away to stop the older two from doing ‘cheers’ with their vomit-esque concoctions, Liam uses his David Copperfield magic skills to turn four ounces of orange juice into three gallons, all of which spills – splattering me and his business suit-clad neighbour. Liam just smiles that big toddler smile, as happy and wet as if he’s just survived Niagara Falls in a barrel. I spend the remainder of the flight trying to absorb the orange juice that had pooled in Liam’s non-absorbant, floatation-device seat cushion with a stack of matchbook-size cocktail napkins. The flight attendants all give us a big ‘BUH-bye!’ when we leave.

Only 28 more hours to go!

Hour 3: Brisbane Airport.
I have to switch terminals, which will involve a short train ride. I am armed with a collapsible stroller, two harnesses and two leashes. And no, not those soft and fluffy teddy bear ‘backpacks’ that cleverly attempt to disguise that it’s actually a tether, but harnesses with actual bought-at-a-pet-shop leashes attached. (I wasn’t prepared to take any chances: I specifically asked for ones that could withstand the weight and pull of a Doberman just stung by a mob of bees; but really the only thing that would’ve given me total peace of mind would’ve been the Hannibal Lector, muzzled-straight-jacketed-strapped-to-a-dolly-for-transportation-purposes method.)

Once everyone is secure, I begin my walk through the terminal to find where to get the train. Strolling along, I get a lot of looks: commiseration, pity, some smiles, flashes of anger, bewilderment. I could not have been more conspicuous if I were banging a base drum and wearing a Marge Simpson wig (see above). When I slow down for a second to read a few signs, I see a man coming towards me. My hackles start to go up. Oh no. Please spare me a lecture about the leashes. Maybe he going to ask me if I’ve found Jesus? Is he going to just walk up and take my handbag from my shoulder while my hands are, literally, tied? Closer, closer, and there’s no one else but me…

‘Excuse me, do you know where I go to get the train to the International Terminal?’

My jaw drops as I look at him dumbfounded. My face must’ve read something along the lines of ‘You could find no other person in this terminal of 3000-plus people to ask for directions, you f#@&ing idiot?’

‘Oh, sorry, you’re a bit busy…I didn’t…Nevermind,’ and he runs away.

Part of me is relieved that that was all he wanted and then there is that (small) part of me that wants to take Ted’s leash and strangle him. Or at the very least trip him.

After our very hurried time at Brisbane switching terminals and brief encounter with the world’s dumbest man, we finally get on the Big Plane. Seated next to us is a lovely young twenty-something fresh from her year abroad in Australia. I ask if I can tempt her into a fourteen-hour nannying position just before Ted pipes in (with all his charm), ‘You spell ‘tinky!’ She laughs but declines my offer. (And she didn’t smell of anything but perfume, which to a certain three-year-old nose does constitute ‘tinky’.)

The kids are delighted with the novelties: little book colouring sets, the eye masks and tiny tubes of toothpaste, the mini-TV screens – and we all settle in for the longest of our flights. The flight attendants even give Liam a bassinet (after I lie about his actual weight) which frees up my lap. The kids fall into sedative-induced sleep and although I can’t sleep, I do manage to watch two light-hearted movies (neither of which I can even remember now). All in all, it's pleasant and thankfully uneventful.

By the time I get off the plane in L.A., the kids have all recharged their batteries, but I look like the cartoon characters do after the buzzing fly in the room has kept them awake all night – enlarged bloodshot eyes, hair askew, clothes wrinkled, tongue hanging out. But Papa was there to meet us and my watch was over for another six weeks, till we do it all again.

But much like many of the things in life we sometimes dread, the anticipation is often worse than the reality. (Or, arguably like some things in life – your child’s infancy period, say – you block it out entirely.) But, in the wise words of my husband, ‘It’s only a day out of your life.’ Well said.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

The Epic Journey Part I: Take the Quiz!

Which would you choose:

  • A. The Silk Road, circa 1347, with accompanying risk of Black Death, bandits, dodgy highwaymen, etc.
  • B. Journey through Middle Earth to Mordor, being pursued by Gollum and those scary men on black horses wearing welders masks and brandishing ball-and-chain weaponry
  • C. Off to see the Wizard, with sporadic acts of torment perpetrated by flying monkeys and a witch with unparalleled flame throwing ability
  • D. The 12 Labours of Hercules, involving your average hero-esque tasks such as lion slaying, boar capturing and the like
  • E. Volunteering to accompany Indiana Jones on his next mission. (Might sound like the lesser of the evils, but I have two words of warning: the snakes)
  • F. A 10,318.15-mile, 24-hour-plus plane journey from Australia to Boston with only a fear of flying and three children – aged four, three and almost two – for companionship*

I chose the unglamorous option F.

Most people don’t enjoy flying, myself included. But I don’t dislike it in the ‘I have no leg room and it’s boring’ sense, but in the ‘I experienced a bomb scare in my formative years’ sort of way. (True story: it was during the 80s, when I think it was Libya that hated us at the time; but really, who can keep track of one’s enemies when you’re American?) One boon to my current way of travelling: I’m too busy running, tethering, cleaning, adjusting, feeding and seatbelting to worry about the motives of the praying bearded guy requesting the Halal meal seated in 17B.


In the lead up to Option F, my morale was bolstered with comments on my bravery (when clearly ‘stupidity’ would’ve been a more accurate term). I made sure not to watch the movie ‘Flight Plan.’ I made lists, borrowed harnesses, and got a new backpack for hands-free carry-on. And I consoled myself with thoughts of help from the flight attendants, who for the comfort and safety of the 300-plus passengers on board, would surely be of some assistance - of course when they weren’t busy serving Bloody Marys, reapplying their lipstick, or assisting in the aptly-named cockpit.

Then, shortly before the epic journey was due to commence, I get a phone call from Qantas: ‘Sorry, we’ve overbooked the flight and we’re going to have to bump you up to business class. Is that suitable? You will be able to enjoy champagne and some much-needed rest while your children are looked after my our in-flight nannies. This is a new service we offer to all business and first class passengers…’

‘Hello? Are you there? This is Judy, I’m ringing from Qantas?! You’re flight’s been cancelled. We’ll need to rebook you. Is via New Zealand okay? It’ll only add approximately nine hours to your overall flying time, but it leaves at the same time. Is that suitable?’

Apparently due to what Qantas was calling ‘budget constraints’ and other mysteries of airline scheduling, my original long haul non-stop flight from Sydney to L.A. was cancelled. ARRGHH! But finally after much to-ing and fro-ing and even a few real tears, the compromise was to send me via Brisbane: adding another leg to an already lengthy journey. With a very tight connection time between flights. Where I would have to catch a train and switch terminals. Any questions?

Yes. Is it too late to choose ‘C’ from the epic journey choices listed above?

Stay tuned for the sequel...

*DISCLAIMER: Do not attempt this feat. This feat was accomplished by a trained professional, who in hindsight, would not have undertaken the journey armed with the knowledge she now possesses. To do so may result in loss of sanity, excessive in-flight drinking and, along with Osama Bin Laden, landing your name on a permanent 'Loss of Right to Fly' list.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

No June Update

Apologies for lack of a June update...I was on holidays for six weeks, but next update to follow very soon!

Monday, May 18, 2009

Happy Mother's Day! Now Can You Please Leave Me Alone...

Well, once again, that special day of the year has come and gone. Long, long ago (historians argue over the exact date, but it’s believed to be about three years after the Pilgrims arrived in the New World) Hallmark decided there should be a day to acknowledge mothers: the most important and often most neglected members of our society – after garbage collectors, of course. This would be a day to call the nation’s attention to all those thankless jobs we do that make our households tick along. It’s the one day our role is publicly acknowledged, we’re appreciated, and if we’re lucky, perhaps even pampered.

If your house is anything like mine, your Mother’s Day probably starts with a leisurely breakfast in bed, followed by complete quiet so you can read the Sunday paper while the date on it still coincides with the actual day. While reading the paper you sip your Viennese coffee, miraculously finishing it while it’s still warm – long before that usual ugly skin of separated cream in the shape of various continents has formed on the top. Next comes the calorie-free box of chocolates and the dozen roses, and the homemade presents from the kids that make Martha Stewart’s creations look like the work of some thumbless being. Later in the afternoon, after your pedicure and champagne lunch, you artfully arrange these homemade crafts of love in your Pottery barn faux-provincial sideboard. The day is like a mini-retreat, free of laundry and cooking. No nappies to change, no fights to break up. Luckily, it only comes once a year, because with any more frequency you might feel as if you’re losing your sense of purpose.

Not with me on this one? See if this sounds more familiar:

It’s 5:23 a.m. Toddler with ever-curious index finger kicks open the door to your bedroom, a la Dirty Harry with a score to settle. Toddler sits on your chest with the subtlety of an elephant and proceeds to give you a good working over, probing every orifice on your head and proudly reciting the name of each part. Repeat 33 times. Hours later (it’s now 5:31 a.m.) Toddler treats you to a special Mother’s Day epic version of ‘Baa-baa Black Sheep’: think traditional nursery rhyme meets ‘Ninety-Nine Bottles of Beer on the Wall.’ Curling up in the bathtub to escape from Toddler suddenly seems more appealing.

Lolling about in bed on a Sunday morning perusing the lifestyle column and sipping coffee used to be a referred to as a lazy Sunday morning. See if you can recall the last time you used phrases like this: ‘On Saturday night we tried that new Japanese/Brazilian/Thai restaurant that just opened. So good, but it was a late night, so we just had a lazy Sunday.’ I know I can’t remember.

Even if you felt a bit of guilt by about 11 a.m. when that nagging feeling that you’d wasted a whole morning began to set in, it was still enjoyable. Now when I ‘waste a whole morning’ it’s usually spent engaged in some unfulfilling, mundane but necessary chore, like picking dried Cheerios out of the crack between the carpet and the baseboard where no vacuum attachment can reach, ever. How did I ever become convinced that a Sunday morning spent catching up on world affairs was a waste of time (even if those ‘world affairs’ constituted column analysing Sarah Jessica Parker’s latest shoe and dress combination)? And remember when you could take the occasional sick day from work under the guilt-free moniker of ‘Mental Health Day’ and read an entire magazine cover-to-cover? The trade offs we make never end.

In theory, Mother’s Day should mean a day free of obligations and expectations – a day to do what ever you want to do. For some mums – I’m assuming those mostly in the mature lady age bracket – this means spending the day surrounded by their families, enjoying quality time together, bonding over a nice meal. I probably wouldn’t mind that option either if everyone in my family could safely navigate a spoon from their plate to their mouth without spilling. But not now. And I love my kids. Honestly, I do. But frankly I see quite enough of them every damn day.

Therefore, I move to rename Mother’s Day as ‘Mental Health Day for Mum’s’. The day designated to celebrate your role in the family now gives you license to run as far away from them as possible if you want to – without feeling guilty. Ironic, no? But what this means is that if you want to go out for coffee and a chic flick with your girlfriends, go. If you want to lounge in bed in a quiet house (maybe not your own) and read a Jackie Collins novel, do it. If you want to take your kids to the park and have a picnic because you work and your time together is precious, do that too. But do what you need to do to make yourself thrive in your role as a mum. Sometimes that might mean recharging those batteries; sometimes that just means being appreciated.

Monday, April 27, 2009

You Say It's Your Birthday? Well, Who Cares?*

Recently I celebrated a significant birthday. Not one that ends in zero, where at least you get to have a big party or treat yourself to something fabulous, like, say, a lengthy trip to Greece. This year my birthday ended in a six.

Seems innocuous enough of a number. But for some reason, it bothered me. Why was 36 any different than 35, really? Either way, there’s still loads of clothing that isn’t age appropriate for me (luckily I’ve worn it all before in the 80s, the first time it was in style). It wasn’t that I was now closer to 40 than 30, because I hit that mark last year. And to my kids, I’m still just old, no matter what the number is, which is comforting in an odd way.

Then my sister-in-law jokingly said to me two days before my birthday, ‘Thirty-six means you’re finally too old for a Contiki tour!’ For those of you who don’t know, a Contiki is the Australian contribution to the package tour. But instead of the participants being 60-plus and clad in beige Velcro walking shoes, the Contiki is designed for 20-somethings who want to drink excessively and shag each other in exotic locations outside Australia.

Imagine the depth of my disappointment at the idea that I was now considered too old for beer goggles (and all related activities) on Mykonos! I was deeply offended. It was then that it occurred to me what about turning 36 that bothered me: I’m now in a new demographic. As far as the market researchers and magazine editors are concerned, I’m part of a different audience. I’m in the 36-50 bracket and not the 18-35 one. I don’t read articles about the return of the kitten heel or how to achieve orgasm in the workplace loos; now I read articles about the comeback of tech stock or anti-aging family-friendly superfoods. In my twenties, I used to wonder things like, ‘Could the genocide in Rwanda have been prevented? Could those atrocities occur again?’ In more recent days, I wonder things like, ‘Is Wendy on Bob the Builder supposed to be a lesbian role model? Or is she Bob’s Miss Moneypenny, spending years waiting patiently for him to finally notice her?’ So the old adage that you think differently about things once you have kids is true.

And as anyone with kids knows, there is no immunity necklace on your birthday. You are still compelled to complete all the usual tasks with make the day tick along, sometimes even cooking your own dinner. My birthday started like this, when the kids came running into our bedroom:

Dad: It’s mum’s birthday today!
Eva: (Annoyed) I KNOW! Does that mean I get to wear a dress?
Dad: Eva, it’s mum’s birthday…
Eva: Yes, but can I WEAR A DRESS?!
Dad: Eva! It’s mum’s birthday – what do you say?
Eva: Look, do I get to wear a dress today OR NOT?! (Flustered, crossing arms). Okay, FINE. Happy birthday...

Once everyone was clad (about midday) we decided to go out for lunch to celebrate. (Remember when ‘going out to celebrate’ involved champagne and heels? Now it’s diluted apple juice and dance moves from Yo Gabba Gabba.) Apparently, I was suffering from some form of birthday-induced amnesia, as I had clearly blocked out how difficult it can be dining in public with children. I did not attempt this feat alone; I did have my husband and mother-in-law for support. We managed to secure a booth, which was handy for keeping everyone contained, but the behaviour still more closely resembled feeding time at the zoo than family fun day out. Our antics resulted in a nearby table of retirees – who clearly desired nothing more than to wash down their lunch with a few icy Manhattans while reminiscing about the days when children were seen and not heard – relocating to another part of the restaurant to eat their bread pudding undisturbed.

Since it was my birthday afterall, I was tempted to ask if I could join them. That way, at least I could’ve finished reading about my stock portfolio in peace.

*Unless you're a magazine editor or market researcher

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

The Great Ignorer: Ted's Tribute to The Platters

Sung to the tune of 'The Great Pretender':

Oh yes, I'm the Great Ignorer, pretending I don’t hear what you say.
My need is such, I ignore too much, since I’m three, I think no one can tell...

When Eva was over the two and a half year mark, I was nearly counting the days until she turned three. Since nearly every game and activity is marked ‘Ages 3 and Above’, I envisioned hours spent engaged in Chutes and Ladders and flashcards; the easel (that I don’t own, mind you) full of paintings of happy mums and dads – smiling heads with arms and legs. Those trace the letter activity books would fill in those doldrums hours where the nap used to be…Ah, three! How I loved you from afar! (I was allowed to dream, this was my first child I’m talking about.)

Around this time, I remember being at a barbeque of a close family friend and telling him this. I always talk to him about Eva since he has a daughter of a very similar nature (bossy, determined, highly verbal, etc.) who is a year older: she is usually my coming attraction for the year ahead. Just after wrestling Eva to the ground when she had her brother around the neck, our conversation went something like this:

‘The terrible twos are still here, but at least she’s nearly three. That’ll be better.’
‘Huh! Don’t count on it.’
Then he said the line that left me reeling:
‘Jill and I think three is worse.’

I think I started to black out at this point and all I could hear was that ‘Eh-Eh-Eh’ music from Hitchcock’s Psycho playing in my head.

Three came and went for Eva and I am happy to report that it wasn’t worse. My fantasies were way, way off – Chutes and Ladders ended in fights and thrown pieces, any kind of craft was still far too messy and those activity books and flashcards? They killed about five to ten minutes, and only when I served them with a side of Nutella. But we’ve both survived.

Now it’s Ted’s turn. He’s just over one month into threedom and he has become a tyrant. Honestly, I didn’t know that he even had it in him - he was supposed to be my easy one. His sentences to me could all end in 'b*tch', as in 'Pick that up for me, b*tch!' and 'Get me my clothes, b*tch!' and 'Get me my juice box, b*tch!' (I Thank God he's not yet familiar with that colloquialism.) I’m now beginning to understand how someone like Hitler could turn seemingly normal men into Nazis - they obviously had in them a latent three year old (long subdued) and it only took the magic of one special dictator to bring it out in them again. Unlike Eva, who’s behaviour (both good and bad) has been consistent over time, not so with Ted. Aside from the new-found bossiness, there are two other traits he’s currently working on perfecting: whinging and ignoring.

Let’s start with the whinging. Once it starts, there is simply no telling when it might subside, even after the cause has been long forgotten. After the actual tantrum has ended and even the crying has subsided, there persists a low drone of whining not unlike a sound that a monk might emit unconsciously, whilst in the deepest throws of meditation. Often it’s accompanied by an occasional sob, I assume for dramatic effect. It’s like being pestered by a tenacious fly. You simply cannot ignore it, nor can you make it ignore you. You have to just wait it out. He makes Caillou look like William Wallace from Braveheart when he behaves like this. (I’m really hoping it stops before he catches up with Caillou, because if you asked me, that Caillou is on the road to copping some serious schoolyard b*tch slaps when he gets to kindergarten.)

But worse than the whinging is the ignoring. Initially, I thought that he was just ‘engaged in a task’ (to use the euphemising developmental edu-speak that all parents have been brainwashed with these days, myself included) and he honestly didn’t hear me. He was so convincing and the ignoring was so thorough. It was like I was asking, ‘Can you please put your shoes on?’ and he was suddenly hearing ‘Pouvez-vous s’il vous plait mettre vos chaussures?’

I started to monitor what I was asking, what distractions were around. Nothing new or unusual there. Next, I started getting down to his level – and he’d still blank me. He would try to not even make eye contact at six inches away. That’s when I knew I was being tested.

So for some it’s the terrible twos, for some it’s the terrible threes. I don’t know who coined the phrase the terrible twos, but there needs to be a phrase that captures all the advanced horrors of a three year old just as succinctly. If you have any suggestions, please email me. I promise I won’t ignore you.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Anyone Know a Good Mannequin Dealer?

(I need one preferably with a red wig and that fits into my clothes, but I’ll get to that later….)

Part of the reason I had three kids in three years was that they were good babies. They all ate, and more importantly, slept. (My mother-in-law says a sleep is better than a feed and I believe that.) I’ve always been a bit reticent in revealing how well my children have slept since other parents tend to think I’m either lying or smug. Or both. I probably would. But please, don’t think for a second that I don’t know how lucky I am (hence the not telling people). Although I have had my battles, bedtime has never been one of them.

Until now.

Big Liam, my third and (did I ever mention before?) FINAL child has decided this week to give me a challenge. He’s just turned nineteen months old: normally the age when one thinks the worst is over. But then the unthinkable happened: he’s started climbing out of his cot.

He may as well have started smoking cigarettes behind his changing table, I’m so not prepared for this.

What do I do? Surely I am capable of outsmarting a one year old. I try yelling first. (My natural instinct. What can I say? I’m an unapologetic yeller.) I try brandishing a wooden spoon coupled with the Evil Eye. Menacing, brought a few tears, but ineffective. Next I tried the no-reaction, no-eye-contact method. This I determined to be the best of the worst. From Liam’s perspective, since this was all a great game with him being able to get mummy into a fantastic flap, the no-reaction method had some minimal but non-lasting effect. The first night, he eventually fell asleep from boredom. A bit of a roadrunner-coyote ending.

The next night after re-cotting him some dozen or so times, there is finally silence. Later when I go in to check on him I panic: he isn’t in his cot. To my horror, I find him passed out like an old homeless guy after one too many bourbons, sprawled out on a pile of clothes he had removed from his bureau.

Next I try the mum circuit and ask around. I get a lot of pure shock coupled with ‘time for a bed’ type responses. One friend in the same situation did a little extra childproofing and put some doorknob locks on. Since Liam’s room has his brother (whose hair he loves to pull) and a sliding door, neither is an option.

As a last resort, I consult a parenting book. (Note: the only reason I keep these in the house is purely for medicinal information: basic first aid, symptoms of horrible childhood diseases, etc.) I browse the index: ‘Cot climbing, see pg xx.’ I’m momentarily uplifted that this is even a topic covered! The book advises, ‘Remove all offensive items from the room and put mattress on the floor. Lock door.’ Now that’s practical. Isn’t this the same advice given to people detoxing from heroin addiction?

I read on anyway. Then, on the next page of the book, I saw it: a picture of a nylon piece of material that attaches to the top of a cot to create a tent-like effect, hermetically sealing fugitive babe into the cot for 12 hours. Perfect!

I’d never seen or even heard of such a thing before. (Still doesn’t beat the design of those 50s cage-cots with the swinging door and detachable feeding tray.) I don’t even know what this thing is called: I just know that I need one. Now. How is this item not on every baby registry in existence? Better yet, why don’t they just come as a standard feature with the purchase of every cot? This makes me start to wonder if this is not but a bit of a unicorn in the baby product industry: an urban legend. But I start googling anyway.

Turns out I’m right. This item has long gone the way of the lawn dart: recalled, and no longer in existence. No doubt because of inappropriate use by a few dim-witted meatheads. But throw in a couple of multi-million dollar lawsuits by aforementioned meatheads, and, well, you’re out of business. Figures. Whatever it’s proper name is (or was) the offending item is now only available on the Ukrainian black market from a guy named Vlad who accepts payment only in Asian porn or U.S. dollars.

It occurs to me that I have another option, one that has been proven to work: The ghost chair. That requires one to park a chair outside the offender’s bedroom door and wait for him to fall asleep each night, before slipping away silently and leaving the chair outside the door. Family legend has it that my brother-in-law had to do something like this. Now I’ve never clarified the particulars of this, but I believe he had to leave his pants (?) outside his daughter’s bedroom door so she would be fooled into thinking he was still there. Same concept and it worked.

Hence, my need for a mannequin. Preferably with a red wig. Replacing my actual presence with a mannequin in the chair would free up a lot of time at a crucial time of the day. Now if only I could track one down.

One friend did suggest that I contact the Red Cross for a CPR dummy, but they’re always clad in those unattractive tracksuits – he’d know it wasn’t me.

There is only one remaining option: a blow up doll. Only problem with the blow up doll is they don’t ever want to sit down (except maybe on your face), not to mention that creepy look of “constant surprise” they’ve perfected.

A small price to pay for a good night’s sleep, I suppose. I wonder do they make a Lucille Ball version?

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Parenting for Hippies (and Stone Age Indians)

This past week, in the name of research, I had the pleasure of watching the first part of a documentary about three radically different approaches to parenting. Like all good documentaries, this one is British-made (since the Brits invented the form shortly after the sandwich, circa 1762) and it follows three paediatric nurses and the families they are guiding through the early days of parenting, starting from birth. Each nurse is a proponent of a particular approach and considered an “expert” in the model.

They’re models we’re all familiar with: The first is the now (mostly) considered archaic routine-driven approach, with a strict six-ten-two feeding schedule and sleeps in between and also includes plenty of outdoor time. (This was tremendously popular in the good old days when nuns often ran the maternity wards. Coincidence? I should think not.) The second is the mother-as-expert Dr. Spock approach, which became every mum’s bible from the 60s and onward and is probably the most reasonable and realistic to implement. The third is based upon a book called The Continuum Concept. This book formed the model for what is now referred to as “attachment parenting” and is completely baby-centred, seemingly at the total expense of the mother.

“Attachment parenting” is simply a euphemism for “you’ll never even be able to take so much as a pee by yourself for at least the next five years.” This approach advocates such behaviour as breast feeding on demand, constant (and they mean constant, damn it) physical contact, even co-sleeping. This last concept means you’ll never actually get any restorative sleep since you’ll be too worried about rolling over on top of your baby in this most natural, wonderfully nurturing environment that you’ve created in your bed. But in fact, if you’re really going to adhere to this approach, plan on ditching your $2000 king firma-rest and simply replace it with some sticks and leaves. In fact, why not just sleep outside on a pelt from an animal you’ve recently slaughtered and leave your husband the bed? Soooo natural! So is getting cholera in certain parts of the world. No thanks.

The Continuum Concept was written by Jean Liedloff, an unmarried, child-free woman from California (big surprise). Who lives on a houseboat. With her cat. Her website explains that the inspiration for this model of parenting came as a result of Liedloff spending two and a half years living “deep in the South American jungle with Stone Age Indians.” It goes on to say that her “experience demolished her Western preconceptions of how we should live and led her to a radically different view of what human nature really is. She offers a new understanding of how we have lost much of our natural well-being and shows us practical ways to regain it for our children and for ourselves.”

Stone. Age. Indians.

First, I’m surprised that “Stone Age Indians” is still considered a politically correct assessment of the lifestyle of these peoples, but if anyone would know that information, it would be an unmarried Californian lady who lives on a houseboat. Did I mention with only her cat for company?

Second, “attachment parenting” is the very philosophy that begins to plant the seed in the child’s head that they are the very centre of the universe. It builds on their assumption that you had no life before they came in and took it over, and that you should continue to have no life until they’re well into their 20s (at which point you’ll look up and realise that your marriage has disintegrated and you have no friends or hobbies). This view is perfectly natural and just fine for the first three or-so months, but by age three years? And anything beyond that and it just becomes, well…obnoxious.

But my real issue with this approach is not so much what it eventually does to the children (although we’re just starting to see the long term effects of this now) but what it does to mums. And that is that to create an enormous amount of pressure from expectations that are completely unrealistic for a Western mother. And that is completely unnatural.

Okay, Jean, perhaps we have lost a lot of the “natural” experience of being a parent. We bottle-feed. We commute to work. We day-care. We over-schedule. But trying to rear children like we’re stone age Indians is like trying to party like it’s 1999: for good or bad, that era is over. For people in undeveloped parts of the world, parenting is about survival, plain and simple. They carry, sleep with and feed their babies that way because they need to. We don’t – and more importantly, in order for our survival, we can’t. Parenthood in the modern world is trying enough without these added layers of expectations about what’s “best” for baby. This is where the myth of supermum begins to germinate. Incidentally, one of the mothers-to-be in the documentary adhering to this approach almost lost her baby in an effort to have a “natural” home birth.

While the approach is obviously effective for the Indians, I think that’s where this philosophy needs to stay: deep in the jungle. It will be interesting to see how the rest of this documentary plays out. But I say let’s try and bring back the old-school routine. And speaking of: it’s 5pm, which means I have to freshen up the cigarette case, get to my drinks cart and make the evening batch of martinis.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

An Open Letter to Brad Pitt

Dear Brad,

Welcome to the Three Under 3 club! You're membership application has been accepted. I hope your family is adjusting well to the new arrivals.

I know that your twins are now 6 months old, but if you’re anything like I was in those early days of three in nappies, it’s only now that you’re just coming up for air. In fact, I have no memories that I can recall from that period of my life, even with the help of photographs! I’m betting that for the first time, you’re probably thankful for being paparazzied, or your memories of the era would be gone too. Isn’t parenthood so wacky and fun like that?!

Besides all that we’d have to talk about, (and by the way, please let Ange know that I don’t find you at all attractive; well, except for maybe your abs) I wanted to pick up on a something you said in a recent interview. Incidentally, I know it must be hard having people scrutinize every utterance that comes out of your mouth, but you’ve been around the biz a long time now and you know: this is the price of fame.

Recently you were quoted as saying, ‘One thing sucks – your face kind of goes.’ I didn’t have time to read the whole interview (since I have to catch up on all my goss in the checkout line) so I don’t know exactly what you were asked - whether it had to do with getting older or having children specifically. But I’m going to assume that this comment was made in connection with the experience of becoming a parent. You’ve seen those photographs of former presidents at the beginning of their term side-by-side the ones of them at the end of their term? My, how they age! Decades in just 8 short years!

Well, parenthood has that very same effect. This is one of The Secrets all parents know but don’t tell non-parents, either out of cruelty (my theory) or because they don’t want to completely put you off the experience of having children. (Especially in your trade – is it any wonder Jenn wouldn’t take the plunge with you? While your looks become ‘distinguished’ her acting roles would’ve just dried up. Then she’d be forced to pretend that she was just ‘taking a break from acting’ and 'being really choosy about her roles' because she looooooved motherhood so much. Like Julia and Gwennie have had to do. Next victim: Nicole.)

And since you haven’t inhabited our world since circa 1991, when at the tender age of 27 you catapulted to fame via Thelma and Louise, I thought it might be handy to remind you that most of us don’t have a team of image consultants,nutritionists, massage therapists and aestheticians to stave off the onslaught of aging. Nor do we (generally) employ a round-the-clock team of nannies; nor do we have at our disposal a quiet French villa to retreat to.

And let me tell you Brad, since you’re not married to a mere mortal, that it’s not just your face that goes. Oh no. Although I was somehow miraculously spared stretch marks, the content of my bra now resembles two deflated tires from one old Huffy. I have a goatee I struggle to control (apparently leftover from pregnancy testosterone), thus ironically lengthening my daily grooming ritual when I have less time to spare than ever before. And I won’t even talk about ‘down there,’ nor will I share the embarrassing incident I had in a post-partum yoga class involving said area.

That aside, I do find it refreshing to hear you admit that you’re not immune to the aging process. (Yes, I admit, you will look a hell of a lot better than the rest of us while doing it.) Although you’ve been touched by the gods in so many ways, even you can’t outrun Father Time. See? I guess parenthood really does level the playing field.

Kelly Shaw

P.S. I don’t think you and George can bring back the moustache. Since most everyone still finds them creepy, this is an awesome feat and I think you’ll have to get the careers of both Tom Selleck and Burt Reynolds resurrected first. Now there’s a challenge for you.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

A Jeweller's Repair Kit! Oh Thanks Santa, It's Just What I've Always Wanted!

Now that we’re one month over Christmas, the first round of batteries are starting to die in some of the toys that Santa brought. Generally, I get in touch with Santa some time before the holidays and ask him to steer away from the battery-operated toys (BOTs) for our house. There are two reasons for this.

First, environmentally, they create waste. What ever happened to the old puzzle or the wooden blocks? Now it’s all flashy plastic with lights, not to mention the annoying sounds, voices, music, etc. that emanate from such devices. And since I haven’t found a place that recycles batteries yet (and I simply cannot bring myself to just toss them into the bin) they are in a big bag in That Drawer*, where they will probably be decomposing by the time I find the battery recycling place.

The second reason (and who am I kidding? This is the real reason) I don’t like BOTs is because I dread trying to open the little compartments that hold the batteries. Gone are the days when the batteries died, you popped open the little plastic tab, chucked the batteries into the trash can, put in some new ones and Simon Says was back in action.

Not now. Now, you need to find the toolbox and loosen some 15 tiny screws. It’s impossible to tell when they’re completely loosened because they’re attached to the tab. Then you start the whole process over again since you can’t figure out which one is still not loosened. I’ve whiled away whole afternoons engaged in this process, looking up three hours later only to realise I haven’t prepped dinner or folded any laundry and the kids are happily playing in the knife drawer.

When did batteries become such a danger that they had to be locked away? They don’t have any sharp edges, all the bad chemicals are deep inside and they don’t look that inviting to put in one’s mouth. I have toys that I would deem far more dangerous than a battery, like a plastic pirate sword, a kite or a mini-bake oven just to name a few. They can’t be that dangerous: you can still take them on an airplane. While apparently some of the chemistry class elite can fashion a bomb out of blusher and hair gel, no one has yet managed the same feat with the lowly battery. There’s the proof.

Perhaps then, it is the tiny screws that secure the batteries in their cargo hold. I can just imagine the robbery scene in the next heist movie: ‘Look OUT! Everybody down! He’s got a SPRING!’

This week, we lost battery power in the magic pen that accompanies the point and read books. It went something like this:
Eva: Mum, this won’t work.
Me: It must be the batteries. (Silent expletives) Let’s go to That Drawer and see if I can find a screwdriver. (One for use in the Smurf World would be helpful since the screws that hold the tab on are so tiny I had trouble even finding them.)
Eva: Here’s the screwdriver!
Me: I know, but that one’s too big. I need a smaller one. Let’s try the point of a knife. (What a lesson in safety this is turning out to be)

I pull out several knives, but they all slip. More silent expletives. This is when I need McGuyver. That man could pick a lock with a cotton ball. Eva’s tears are starting. I go back to That Drawer again and have a rummage and find little plastic box labelled ‘Jeweller’s Repair Kit’. I had forgotten about this – it had been purchased to repair a pair of broken sunglasses. And thankfully, it saved the day.

But who keeps one of these just laying around the house, unless you happened to be married, to say, a jeweller or perhaps an optometrist? Since you probably don’t have one, it might be best to ask Santa for one. Just in case. And if you don’t need it to spring open the odd battery compartment here or there, maybe you’ll use it for what it’s meant for: eyeglasses.

*That Drawer – You know the one I mean. You have one. It’s full of miscellaneous junk: tacks, the odd Barbie shoe, fuses, pieces to games, those plastic parts you know belong to something you just don’t know what and you’re afraid to throw away, a dog collar (although you haven’t had a dog since the Clinton Administration), hooks for tree ornaments you found after you packed away the Christmas boxes and anything else that is otherwise homeless in your home.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Your Clothes as Toilet Paper

I think some form of this has happened to every parent. But if you don’t like stories that deal with ‘Number 2’, this is the time to leave.

It was a hot, sunny day, perfect for spending a morning in the shady park not far from where we live. I had arranged to catch up with another mum and another friend who has not taken the plunge (and probably won’t, after our morning together) and remains child-free and sane. In preparation for the event, I had made sure everyone who was able to do so went to the toilet before we left the house. But some things you can’t predict.

All was fine until Ted came over with a little telling wet spot on the front of his shorts. Although not even three, he took it upon himself to begin his toilet training at about 2 and a half and has been fully trained for a good few months now. (I told you he was an easy kid.) ‘Mummy…I have to go to the toilet…’ I took him to a tree in a secluded area of the park and let him finish. The conveniences of manhood start early.

I hadn’t thought about Number 2.

I rejoined the adults and my coffee. Moments later Eva comes running at us in full drama mode. ‘MUM! Ted just pooed!’

And there it was. A log on the ground. In the middle of the park, just lying there like something a dog had left behind. Ted was naked from the waist down and ashamed, his little eyebrows crinkled in sadness.

I ran over with the same urgency as if he’d been in flames and put his undies back on. Then I attended to the more steaming matter at hand. That done, I made the walk to the official toilets (as opposed to aforementioned tree) sat him on the pot and let him finish his business while I washed my hands.

He toddled out moments later with an ‘All done, Mum,’ undies around his ankles.

‘Okay, let’s wash your hands now…’ I said placing him on to my thigh to boost him up to sink height. Only I’d forgotten one small, very important detail.

And my shorts became streaked with the remainder of The Log.

Just another day at the office, turning child-free people off the idea pro-creating, one person at a time…

A Diva and Two Boys

These are the three reasons why I just took my Christmas tree down…

(Taking the Christmas tree down could be another column and would include phrases like, ‘Untangle your brother from those lights!’ and ‘Don’t drop that bulb, it’s…Oh no. Can you go get the broom?’ and ‘Look mum, we’re playing Braveheart!’ while brandishing metal tree branches as swords. You get the idea.)

But here are the players in the family. Their names have been changed but all else is true.

Eva the Diva is my first born. She is four years old, and, like most other four year olds, knows everything there is to know about everything. Even when she doesn’t know, she does.
Eva: Mum, why did the olden days go away?
Me: Well, because, things change and people find newer and better ways of doing things and then they don’t need, say a horse to get around because…
Eva: (interrupting, annoyed) I KNOW! (Sighs)

And, at four, she continues to be the most work for reasons I myself don’t quite understand. (I thought it was supposed to get easier as they got older.) In keeping with her diva personality, she also has a volatile temper (often brought on her frustrations at not being able to do things far beyond her abilities, like play chess). These efforts often end with her saying, ‘FORGET IT! I’m NEVER going to play chess/tie my own shoes/ride a bike, etc. AGAIN!!!!!’ There could be tears and/or flying objects at this point.

Ted is my next born, soon to be three. The fact that he is nice has nothing to do with my parenting. Just as Eva was born older, he was born nice. He lets his sister boss him around most of the time (although there are daily rebellions) and will come well-trained for whichever woman becomes his future wife.

In keeping with the middle child peacemaking capacities, he has been known to surrender a toy willingly if it will appease the anger of the Diva. He is good at entertaining himself and is generally a low maintenance model. My kind of man.

My third born is Liam. At 18 months old, his personality is still emerging. He is a bit of a ham: he has to do something for attention. And he is very territorial about his food. In fact, he’s a hoarder and will often grab as many biscuits as his little cubby hands will hold. As his brother’s first words were ‘car’, ‘truck’ and ‘go’, his are ‘cheese’, ‘toast’ and ‘more’.

He is nearly the size of his brother and I think when he really fine tunes those gross motor skills, he is going to be a force to be reckoned with…

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Welcome to Three Under 3

Sure, there’s plenty of support groups out there for parents. First time parents. Parents of children with special needs. Parents of twins. Parents who home school. (Good God, why? I’m already in countdown mode for school year ’10.) But what about the parents of those who had three children in 36 months or less?

Aside from achieving that feat, let's take a quick look and see if any of this sounds familiar to you:

When at the supermarket (or any shop) do you immediately become the entertainment and/or huge annoyance for other patrons?

Is going to church no longer within the realm of possibility because someone either poos, pukes, screams or cries inconsolably during the homily (after you’ve already made a ruckus when you arrived late)?

Is going out to eat at a restaurant a stressful chore that ends in you asking for a takeaway bag and the check moments after you’ve placed your order and only after you’ve sprayed the entire establishment with Cheerios and ingratiated yourself to all waitstaff?

Does trying to get out of the house in the morning always take 45 minutes longer than you thought it would, since you’re still operating under the delusion that your ‘getting ready time’ is the same as when you were single?

Is planning a family holiday a logistical nightmare that makes, say, mobilising infantry seem not-that-daunting-a task?

And then there's the telling other people. When you drop the shell there are varied reactions*. Eyes usually widen, often followed by a look of suspicion, as if your very sanity is now being reconsidered. Some just shake their head. Some are too flabbergasted for words. I even had one lady swoon, but that could’ve just been from a bad clam. We were on Cape Cod.

Then follows the usual question: ‘On purpose?!’

Yes, on purpose. There were many (most of which I think I've forgotten, but I won't get into the 'Things I've forgotten list') reasons, that, at the time, made it sound like a good idea. But it was a combination of bravery and foolishness landed me here, probably you too. (Perhaps for you it was failed contraception. Or extra eggs one month.) But be proud: you are a part of a fringe group within the parenting community. And there are others of us.

Stay tuned for a weekly update...

*For anyone over sixty, it wasn’t quite so rare (reasons being obvious). And not nearly as daunting, since you could buy everything you needed at the corner shop and you had a man who brought milk and bread. To your front door. And you weren’t made to feel guilty if your kids weren’t in at least six activities a piece by age 2.9 years.