Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Everybody Feels Blue Sometimes

Feeling Blue

There are some days when I look out of the window and wonder how the day can be so sunny, so beautiful, and I can feel so utterly miserable.

I have precisely nothing to complain about in my life and yet some days, like every other human being, are days when I want to climb into a hole and hide from the world with nothing but a bar of chocolate for company.

One of the unspoken rules as a woman and as a mama is that you don’t give in to days like these; you carry on regardless, soldier on, put on your game face and get shit done.

In all the years I've been doing that, I think I've been doing a huge disservice to my children.

I'm not saying that I should be selling ringside seats to those times when I sit on the sofa and cry for no bloody reason at all. No, because that would be highly self indulgent for a start.

I mean that timing and circumstance means that my children have almost never seen me upset and I worry about how that must seem to them.

Do they think that people stop crying when they grow up? Do they think we stop being sad? Or that we still get sad but just that we don’t show it?

One of my friends has Post Natal Depression a few years back and the thing that she comes back to when she talks about the experience is that her young son had seen her at her lowest. In hindsight, I think her unintended honesty probably did him a big favour by showing him that adults are as vulnerable and emotional as any child.

It’s an intensely uncomfortable experience to let your child see you cry, not least because it provokes questions you would rather not answer when you are busy blowing snot bubbles.

I try to find strength in answering those questions, and take comfort in knowing that my honesty is giving the children more words in their emotional vocabulary.

Wow, did I just write the words emotional vocabulary in a blog post?

What I mean is that it gives me a chance to answer all the questions they haven’t yet asked me: Yes mama does get sad, yes she does cry, yes she is fallible.

It gives me a better connection with my children, not as a traditional “protector” perhaps but as a fellow human being who is subject to the exact same quirks of mood. It gives me a chance to show them that emotions are transient and that there is endless healing power in a hug.

I don’t want to be the “perfect” mama to my children, I enjoy showing them that we are travelling this road together and that I am learning from them every day. I truly believe that while “happiness is a skill. It’s something we can get more of by intentionally changing our brain chemistry“ we have to leave some room in our lives for its counterpoint. 

I have to be honest with my children that while we work hard to be happy, and to live in a positive way, sometimes there are days where the world loses its shine. I need to show them these emotions exist for everyone and that feeling that way isn't the end of the world, it’s just another facet of being human.

Thursday, 11 September 2014

This Is Why You Should NEVER Fly With Children

There are some things in life that are universally regarded as a stupid idea; hula dancing in front of a lion, playing Russian roulette with a semi automatic weapon, and taking three children under 5 on a two week trip to the other side of the world. 

Having just returned from the last of these adventures I can promise you I know what I’m talking about. Next time, I’ll be grabbing my grass skirt and heading to the savannah; I can only imagine it will be a less painful experience than our flight home.

Are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin.

On the flight out I had forgotten to pack a change of clothes for the children. 

Thankfully the God of Travel was smiling on us and we arrived grubby, but largely unscathed. I wasn't going to chance my arm on the return journey so I dutifully packed not only a change of clothes for the children, but a bib for Miss Olive so that she could eat without me having to find her a steady supply of non staining food.

Am I the only one who does that?

Anyway the point is I felt confident that I had this shit nailed. We had even planned an evening flight for maximum sleep potential which meant I could nurse Miss Olive asleep on take-off and post her into the sky cot I had fought to book.

“Awesome”, I thought, “I am a travelling QUEEN, pass me the vino dear, I've got some films to enjoy”.

And enjoy them I did, for exactly 2 hours until I was jolted from my screen by an extremely cross looking Miss Olive glaring down at me from her sky cot.

It was clear within seconds that I was going to have to get out of my seat, collect Miss Wobble-lip and do some good old fashioned bobbing at the back of the plane. The hideous alternative was that she was going to disturb every last one of the now sleeping passengers for the next 5 hours and we were going to be offloaded at Dubai and have to hitch-hike the rest of the way home.

So I grabbed our Monkey Mei Tai, the now bawling toddler, and ran for the area by the rear stairs.

Once I had her securely fastened to my front I bobbed, and I swayed, I shushed and I patted, but Miss Olive would not be comforted.

And then she did something she has never before done.

She vomited.

And not the little burpy puke of a baby, I'm talking a full on Exorcist-esque projectile vomit.

While strapped to my front in a sling.

I looked at the stewardess who was standing a few feet away with helpless terror. She looked back at me with a frozen wide eyed smile that let me know passengers like me were her own personal vision of hell. 

The toddler was wailing, I had somehow forgotten how to untie a sling and I had pools of curdled milky vomit over every surface in a 2ft radius; myself included. 

A sleeping Keith was a clear 20 rows away from me down a sleeping cabin, AND wearing earphones so my shout-whispers went unanswered.

I can only assume the lovely hostess went to fetch him because just after I had managed to remove the dripping toddler from the sling and stand her on the change table in the toilet he appeared at my side.

He did well to stifle his laughter.

Faced with a puke drenched wife and a pouting toddler ice skating in her own gastric juices, I'm not sure I would have been able to say the same.

He was even generous enough to lend me his hoody, which was a relief because remember, I had packed spare clothes ... FOR THE CHILDREN.

That felt like a foolish oversight as I stood helplessly while cold sick slowly ran down my stomach from the pool that had been deposited in my bra.

The only tiny ray of sunshine was that this gave me a bona fide excuse to go shopping once we landed. Our next stop being Dubai, a country known for modesty and understatement, what could possibly go wrong?

There were many shops at Dubai airport. All but one of them proudly displayed price tags that gave me stabbing pains in my left arm, but there was one contender, and it was optimistically named “Gifts from Dubai”.

Believe me when I say I have never spent longer choosing an item of clothing. 

I even changed my mind twice about which t shirt to buy because in what I can only assume was a poorly judged attempt at cross cultural outreach, it appeared as if the cast of TOWIE had been put in charge of the entire “Visit Dubai” clothing range. 

Miss Olive gave her verdict on my wardrobe addition just as we begun our decent into Sydney by vomiting over me again.

This time I didn't have the heart to care for longer than it took me to break out the wipes. Nor did I have the energy left to care about inflicting my stinky vomity baby on a plane full of people for the final three hour flight.

Misery loves company people! Who’s up for a repeat performance in 2015?

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Herd Mentality

Recently I've noticed a change in the children; they're starting to act like a group. 

As they get older, there's been a subtle shift from playing through each other, to playing with each other. But more than that, there has been a subtle shift from a collection of individuals into a herd. They gravitate towards each other, often happy just to be together; the best of friends and the worst of enemies.

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

The 8 Mile Bike Ride

Learning How To Ride A Bike

I walked into the house last week to see Keith wearing his best a sheepish grin. I worry when I see that grin, it usually means he’s up to something, or he’s booked in for another tattoo.
“I've got a plan for this weekend, it’s a surprise”
I hate surprises. 

Truly, I loathe them, almost as much as I hate birthday parties. 

I was figuring out how to gently remind my husband of this fact when Alfie exploded into the room and stated speaking in tongues.

Keith face was a picture of dejection; 
“It’s true” he confirmed,
“What’s true? What’s going on?”
“Didn't you hear him?”
“Those were words?!”
“Yes, he just told you the surprise!”
“I have no idea what just happened. We can move on to talking about what’s for dinner and I will know the same amount as I did before he started speaking”
“No, it’s OK. I told Alfie today that if the weather is nice on Saturday, you and he would ride round to Oriental Bay on your bikes for lunch”
I had no reply to that.

That’s a lie; I had several replies about being volunteered to ride a bike and whether Keith had finally lost his damn mind, but I kept my own counsel. 

It wasn't the bike ride that I was dreading; it was the thought of Alfie riding 4 miles along a narrow pavement. I had visions of runners being hamstrung, cars with Alfie shaped dents, and a continuous soundtrack of “I'm tiiiiiired, my kneeeees hurt”.

But I'm a “do something that scares you every day” kinda gal and one thing I have learned about Alfie is to always expect the unexpected. If his enthusiasm for this bike ride counted for anything, we were going to be just fine.

No word of a lie, we got about 100 yards into our ride before I realised this had all the makings of being the most painful road trip ever undertaken.

It wasn't Alfie, it was the bike.

He couldn't reach the brakes, he couldn't reach the floor, and it weighs more than he does so every gust of wind stopped him dead in his tracks.

By the first mile, I had repeated the words “look ahead and don’t stop peddling” so often, I had turned them into a song.

The second mile involved hills, so my song was expanded to include such memorable lines as “PEDAL, PEDAL, PEDAL!!” and “YEAH BABY, DOWNHILL, TURN ALFIE, TURN!!!”

When my phone started ringing somewhere into the third mile I was forced to deal with the small matter of stopping. Eventually we came up with a plan that involved me picking something soft for Alfie to crash into and him not actively peddling into it.

Somehow we made it the rest of the way to our lunch date without anyone losing a limb.

Somehow we even made it home again.

As far as surprises go, it was frickin awesome.

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