Friday, April 29, 2011

The Realisation of a Life Long Dream

When I was a little girl I had a best friend, Kim. Kim's mother and my own had a very different view on children's diets. My lunchbox usually had some healthy home made biscuits or cake or some fruit. Kim's had Wagon Wheels. I love Wagon Wheels. This was reflected at Easter time too when my mother, knowing it was likely to be gone by lunch time, would usually gift me with one large or several small Easter eggs (a wise move, although we will never again speak of that year we got Carob Easter eggs instead of real chocolate). Kim would get significantly more than this most years and chocolate not being a novelty and she having some self control, many of her eggs would sit on top of a cupboard in plain view for days. WEEKS even. I still don't have that kind of self control. Every time I would go and visit my eyes would stray up to the eggs. In particular, The Humpty Dumpty Egg. It was full of SMARTIES. Willy Wonka himself could not have come up with a more fantastical idea. It was a chocolate egg and inside there was more chocolate covered with a crisp, colourful shell. It was, in effect, CHOCOLATE COVERED CHOCOLATE. Be still my beating heart. For years my eyes would stray to that Humpty Dumpty Egg. I am sure it exasperated her that I would sit for long periods of time gazing at The Egg instead of playing. I have vague memories of her asking her Mum to cover it up at one point so I would come and play. We moved away and Kim and I lost touch. I still remembered The Egg. Each year as Easter came around I would sternly tell myself not to be so silly and each year I would look on the supermarket shelves and see it looking back at me. The Humpty Dumpty Egg. But I refused to allow myself to be so, well, CHILDISH - and secretly was afraid Humpty couldn't live up to the hype of my childhood adoration. After I got married I mentioned it to Beloved and pointed it out on the shelf. He snorted and told me Easter Eggs are a little bit Pagan and not really his thing. Hopes of my getting Humpty Dumpty as a romantic gesture were kind of dashed. Fast Forward to this year. I was walking through our local supermarket and there on the shelf was Humpty, still full of smarties, still looking back at me. No longer white with a clown like grin and a box with a brick wall painted on the front. Humpty has had a face lift, he is purple and rides a skate board. But he couldn't fool me, I recognised him. The poetry of chocolate covered chocolate. There was a tag below him this week - PRICE REDUCED.

So this afternoon I snuck out of the house and ran accross. I BOUGHT my Humpty, all the time telling myself that it was silly and childish and after 26 years of wanting it, there was no way it could live up to the expectations built up around it.

I hid in my bedroom and at him, sharing small crumbs with Andrew to keep him quiet so the other children wouldn't find me out (who told him what chocolate is?).

I ate every bit. And. It. Was. GOOD.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Further Parenting Hints from the Slightly Insane

She was like a dark cloud coming to the breakfast table.

I had committed the unpardonable sin on switching off the playschool repeat before it had finished and refusing to tape the end of it. Apparently, the justification that she had already seen that episode several times and we needed to sit down for breakfast was JUST NOT GOOD ENOUGH.

As we sung our hymn she scowled at her weetbix as if they had been the cause of the offense. The other children watched her with interest to see how this would play out. We finished the hymn (or I did while the others gaped at Erin and Erin scowled at her breakfast), prayed and I calmly took up spoons and started feeding myself and Andrew. She scowled, waited and surreptitiously peeked at me from under her eyebrows to see how I'd react. I continued to eat. She continued to scowl.

Choice time.

Do I engage in a tussle of using reason and logic, giving her opportunity to argue back - at least silently in her head? Do I tell her to suck it up sweetheart and eat her breakfast WITH A SMILE, playing the ogre for her internal persecuted princess?

Or do I come at it sideways?

I fixed her with a severe look, pointed at her, wiggled my finger like a worm and said "Hey Erin, this ISN'T FUNNY". The other children burst into laughter. She struggled not to. I wiggled it more. "Hey Erin, see my finger? See my finger here? It really isn't funny. Nope. Not even a little bit. I mean look at it, it is a wriggling finger. What in the tarnation could be funny about that?" She struggles, shakes her head vigorously and rolls her eyes while her siblings are helpless with laughter. I then calmly pick up my spoon and continue eating. She scowls again at her food but her acting is in severe need of some cheese to go with that ham. The bitterness just isn't there anymore. And I continue eating. Billy watches her with interest as he eats. "Hey Mum, Erin's not eating." "Well, she will be hungry come lunch time because her food will disappear once we are all finished." Half-heartedly she sets her jaw and pronounces "I won't eat until you make me" I look at her and smile "Wow, we are sure going to save on food bills then." and I continue eating.

She rolls her eyes in surrender, smiles and starts eating.

Engaging would have bought into the drama of it, coming at it sideways and getting a little creative moved us on without making the morning the casualty of a bad attitude. Like a crazy improv theatre workshop, parenting makes you think on your feet, make decisions and move fast. The core attitude was addressed. She knew the logic, she knew the behaviour, she knew the expectations. She made her choices about how to behave and then so did I. Next time I may invite her to go back to bed and restart the day. Next time I will probably manage our mornings so I don't resort to TV to keep everyone out of my hair for a few moments before breakfast. Next time I may even wait until the end of the program. Next time I may cheerfully instruct her to suck it up sweetheart. But coming at it sideways, sometimes works too.

Friday, April 08, 2011

Parenting hints from the slightly insane

He was driving me crazy.

In a seemingly DELIBERATE effort to push my buttons, he was doing everything he could do to drive me nuts. He was making the most amazingly, brain numbingly, irritating noises and I am sure he was doing it just to DRIVE ME NUTS. Whenever I tried to soothe, redirect, distract or engage he would resist and I am sure he was doing it JUST TO DRIVE ME NUTS!

He is very advanced for nine months.

The answer - I went nuts. I started to sing "Why Do Birds Suddenly Appear" by The Carpenters very loudly in a kind of Irish pub band/Thrash Metal style. Why? Because engaging with a nine month old, taking his behaviour personally and following down the path where we were going was going to take us to places that were not fun. So I chose to DO SOMETHING ELSE. Do something that amused ME and made ME feel better. Something that made the excess adrenaline that was building up in my body and making me clench every cell in anger go away. Something that regulated my anger and frustration so that I could deal with HIS needs effectively.

Because somewhere along the line his annoying squeal and insistence that he wanted to throw himself over the side of the nappy change station and/or spread POO from one end of the space to the other became about me. About my anger and frustration. About my feelings of inadequacy as a parent. About the stressors that I have been facing recently and frustrations with things that have nothing to do with this little red-faced, strong-willed, overtired little boy who was simply pushing his own agenda in the only way a nine month old can.

I needed to put my big girl panties on, suck it up and be the parent rather than place my own garbage on his little shoulders.

So I sang.

"Why do BIRDS, suddenly APPEEEEAAAAR, EVERY TIME, YOU ARE NEEEEEAAAR? Cause like me, they long to be CLOSE TO YOU!"

It was enough to break it, the cycle of mental frustration I had got myself on.

Inwardly I laughed at the absurdity of it. I am the grown up and I was letting this little person, my FIFTH baby (you think I'd know better by now), to push my buttons.

I looked down at him and he looked momentarily confused, then he squealed again but this time with laughter. I finished what we needed to do singing the whole time and he loved it, which was nice, but it really was to calm me down more than him.

Because like they say on the airplane, you need to put your own oxygen mask on first before you assist children.

As I put him to bed I found that the song was actually true. I did want to be close to him again.

It would be nice to tell you that singing hymns or praying is my first reaction to that frustration but it isn't always. But I truly believe an angel said to me this morning "Jess, do something stupid before you hurt yourself or someone else".

And I am glad I took his advice. I am glad I was grown up enough to be a little silly.