…I’ll be a mother to two teenage girls. My hair will be grey, my skin will be wrinkled. My social life will revolve around being mum taxi and my house will be full of teenage laughter.
I will be a patient shoulder to cry on, someone for them to share their worries with. I will try not to be an impatient, over protective dragon waiting to burn anyone who hurts my girls with their mean words.
I won’t go to sleep until I know they are safely tucked in their own warm beds. I will remember the times when I had to snuggle in with them because of scary nightmares, and hope that all their dreams come true. I will tell myself how easy it was when I knew where they were when they were little.
I will continue to encourage them to grow into strong independent women but not too quickly, they will always be my little girls.
In ten years time, life will not be that different from now. I will still worry. They will still cause me stress. Doors will still be slammed. Feet will still be stomped. I will still cuddle them and smell their hair, but they will have to bend down so I can reach.
Maybe they will bring me tea in bed on lazy Sunday mornings. More likely, I will have to shake them from their teenage slumber around 11 so they at least make it to lunch after having missed breakfast.
I will still be mummy but definitely only ‘mum’ in front of their friends. I’ll be the embarrassing mum who dances and sings around the house, even when their mates are over, and they will only dance with me when we are alone.
Ten years seems a life time away, but knowing how quick the last six have flown by I’ll be there in a blink of an eye. Slow down time…you’re going too fast.
I took my youngest to the local pool this morning. It’s just opened and is all shiny and new. Completely aimed at families with large changing areas, a slide, water sprays etc…it’s all the business. And at a cost of $1 for both of us, this is the second time we’ve been, in fact, we are going to try to go every week. But while I was there I was reminded of something that was said to me over the summer at a friend’s house; something that really annoyed me and has clearly stuck with me.
This isn’t the first time I’ve heard something like this, which kind of makes it worse. My friend has a swimming pool and with my kids being only 4 and 5, at the time, I of course was going to get in the pool with them. Not just to keep them safe, but to have fun with them. There were a handful of families there, people that I had only recently met. As I got the kids changed and then pulled out my swimming costume to go and get changed, one of the mums said to me, “Oh, you’re brave.” At first I wandered if she meant because the water would be cold. It was a warm day, and I seriously asked the host “why, isn’t it heated?” But the mum in question, said “No, I mean getting in with them and putting your swimsuit on.” I was flabbergasted.
I am no supermodel but putting on a swimsuit so my kids and I can have fun is not brave in my book. Maybe it’s because I was meeting these people for the first time, but yes, I judged them as the conversation continued as they got their husbands to sit on the side of the pool and watch their kids. I seriously don’t get it.
What message are we sending to our kids if we refuse to put on a swimsuit to get into a pool to play with them? What are we saying about body image?
So this morning as I looked around the pool and saw mums, dads and grandparents of all ages, shapes and sizes in the water having fun with their kids I didn’t for a second think any one of them was brave. I didn’t think how courageous they must be for wearing the necessary clothing for the situation, a swimsuit in a swimming pool (shock, horror) and having loads of fun with their kids as they splashed and played.
Seriously people, get over yourselves. It’s a body. Be grateful for all it can do. Show your kids how amazing it is to be alive. Don’t worry about what other people may think and have some goddamn fun with your kids.
When I first became a stay at home mum I was the first of all my friends, everyone else was still at work. It can be a lonely time and the internet became a vital connection to other mothers, both locally and in other countries.
Although that connection is a god send at times it was easy to become swamped by opinions and information about how to be a mother. There are umpteen blog posts about this problem already I am sure. But what I’m going to write about today is how I eventually found my tribe and they made me feel normal.
I went through stages of following mummy bloggers who were very ecologically friendly, very hands on, expert cooks. I found perfectionists who have the ability to organise creative activities everyday for their kids. Instagram led me to the lunchbox mafia who can make sculptures out of carrots and cucumbers you can’t possibly imagine. It all seemed like a competition and an impossibility.
Hats off to these folk. If you can do it, great. But what I soon learnt it that it is not realistic. It can’t be. And with the arrival of my second child I pretty much decided that it was near on impossible to keep up those levels of creativity and involvement, and more importantly I realised what was the point?
Kids teach you amazing things and the most important thing is at the end of the day they just want to be loved. They need to be fed and cared for. They need to be played with, given opportunities to experience the world around them, but they don’t need the most expensive designer clothes, organic artichokes or every second of their day scheduled.
This is how I found my tribe: The warriors who, like me, found humour in these unrealistic, unattainable ideals. The strong men and women facing the tantrums of two year olds, counting down the hours and minutes until bedtime. The parents declaring it wine o’clock on social media once the tearaways were finally asleep. The families who are imperfectly perfect and filled with love in messy houses around the world.
Thank you all for keeping it real and holding my hand.
I was going to write a warning here to stop reading if you don’t have children yet, or if your kids are babies, or if they are already grown into big strapping teenagers, or even adults, but what would the point of that be? I guess I’d get this thought off my chest but more importantly it would defeat my purpose today. Yes, I have a purpose in this post and that is to discuss the phrase “it’s only a phase.”
‘Refute’ is too strong a word but what I am trying to say is it IS just a phase but it will be followed by another phase, and another and another…it’s all just one BIG phase.
I remember when my babies wouldn’t settle themselves. Just a phase.
I remember the biting. Just a phase.
I remember when getting the youngest into a car seat was like wrestling a drunken octopus every time. Just a phase.
I remember when they would be picky eaters. Just a phase (that continually returns every few days or so depending on mood, phase of the moon, direction of the wind or colour of their socks).
They grow up a little and the phases change, but they are still there.
Currently there is the phase of stamping of feet, doors or anything with a hinge.
There is the pouting and shouting and telling your parents that you “hate them” (I’m expecting a resurgence of this phase in ten years or so).
There are lies creeping in…quickly followed by the admittance of them. Hopefully just a phase. Who am I kidding? Just a phase. It will pass…at least I hope so.
And so it all shall pass, but it is hard especially when you have two or more children going through their various stages at the same time. It is exhausting but all I can try to be is consistent and as understanding as I can be, which, believe me is not as easy as it may sound. It is frustrating and upsetting, and I know these current phases will pass only to be replaced by some other ‘phase’ or challenge.
Is it helpful to hear that “it’s just a phase”, a sentence that is bandied around in coffee groups, playgroups, playgrounds, family dinners? My gut reaction is no but with a little more thought I think maybe yes. If it is said kindly with a cup of tea being poured without asking, it is helpful. If it is said while someone puts an arm around your shoulder then yes, helpful again. Most helpful is when it is the last words you hear as they wander off to the playground with the child going through “the phase” to allow you to sit for five or ten minutes in relative peace and quiet. It is helpful when the person saying it is just reminding you on those difficult days that it shall pass and they are helping you.
Now, I’ve only mentioned a few difficult phases. Let’s remember those more positive times.
When your baby would only fall asleep on your shoulder in the middle of the day, all warm and snug and breathing like a little hedgehog. Just a phase.
When they would try to suck any nose that came near them when they were hungry in case it was a nipple. Just a phase (a very funny one).
When they would learn a new word and say it over and over again. Just a phase (borderline annoying but mainly cute).
There are many more. So what’s to come in this parenting journey is many more phases; some challenging, most fun. Each phase means your little people are developing, changing and dealing with those changes the best they can.
I could end this with a flourish of clichés; these things are sent to try us, what won’t kill us will make us stronger etc etc…but I won’t. I’ll end by saying the truth about parenting:
It doesn’t get easier. Don’t believe them. The challenges just change.
Instead of a blog post of prose today I am going to write you a list of questions I have been asked today by my three year old. You will either have empathy or sympathy for me, or laugh. This isn’t a comprehensive list, just a snapshot…and may I remind you this is just one day, twelve hours of her awake time. Here goes nothing:
How do you build houses?
How do you get the roof to stay on?
Can I have a Weetbix on top of my porridge?
Do I have to wear clothes?
Can I change my clothes?
Can I take my clothes off?
Why is Auroa called Auroa?
But why did her mum and dad call her that?
Do mermaids get water in their eyes?
Why does no one tell Ariel that she’s a good swimmer?
Can I have morning tea for lunch?
Is this a late morning tea or an early lunch?
Can I have honey and ham on my sandwich?
Can I take my clothes off?
How do volcanoes work?
Why are they so hot?
Where do taniwhas live?
Why don’t they burn themselves?
Do lions, tigers and bears live in the woods?
Why is it dark at night?
Is the earth moving?
Why do we have to brush our teeth?
Why doesn’t my sister want to play with me?
Why does the cat not wear shoes?
Is it a kindy day tomorrow?
And in answer to that last question I say “Yes! Yes it is indeed a Kindy day tomorrow. Phew.”
So one week in to my eldest daughter starting school and I feel like the new girl at school. Every day just before 3pm I walk up to the school and sit outside the classroom like all the other parents.
There are a few familiar faces of parents from kindy and playgroup who smile and say hello but at the moment I don’t know any of the parents of children in the same class, but they all seem to know each other!
After a week I have realised that one of the advantages of living where we do is that there is a real sense of community. And one of the reasons I know this is the case is that the vast majority of people here grew up here, went to that school and stayed here. For the first time in a long time I feel like the outsider, but I’m determined not to be.
They went to school together, they had children around the same time, some of these people have known each other all their lives. Even my daughter’s teacher went to that school. I try hard to imagine what it would be like if I still lived where I grew up. I can’t.
But I will be brave. I will chat, I will smile. I will suggest play dates, I will go to birthday parties. I hope I will make a connection with someone and discover we have more in common that just having kids the same age. It’s not too much to hope for, is it?
So, it’s nearly that time of day again; into the wild I go. It’s not just the children who need to make new friends, it’s the parents too.
We always wanted you. We always hoped you would be here. You kept us waiting; waiting so long we had almost given up, but you came when you were ready. That is something that I have learnt is part of your personality. You only do things when you are ready, when you know you are going to get it perfect first time. You observe, you listen, you learn, and then only when you understand, you do and get it right first time. You kept us waiting then and when you finally arrived five years ago you were perfect; you were you.
And so tomorrow you will turn five. Where those five years have gone I do not know. Your first smile, your first words, your first steps…all those firsts and they are still happening now. I hope that your life is full of “firsts”. That way I know you will constantly be learning, changing, developing; being the “you” you want to be.
When you start school next week I will miss you but I know that you are ready. You are excited and I love that. You are keen to learn and I hope that love of learning never leaves you. I hope that is one thing I have instilled in you already in your five short years.
Be curious, explore.
Make friends, be kind.
Take challenges, be brave.
Work hard, play hard.
Be who you want to be.
Life will not always be easy, there will be challenges. You will not always get what you want. You will have to work hard for some things, you will need to stand up for what you believe at times. We will not always get on, but know that I will always love you and always be here for you, through the good and the bad.
But the one thing I really want you to do is enjoy your life. Now it is your chance to make more decisions, to have more independence. I hope we can help you learn how to make good decisions. You are only five, you don’t need the weight of the world on your shoulders; have fun.
I am so proud of who you have become in the last five years and I can’t wait to see who you become in the rest of your life. Every day I ask myself how we made something so perfect. I find myself still checking you have ten fingers and ten toes every now and then, for you will always be my baby.
Happy Birthday sweetheart. I am proud to be your mummy. Now and forever.