Archive for October, 2012

Metaphorically speaking

October 26, 2012

I love a good metaphor. Or maybe they’re similes. 

Whatever.

I love imagery which represents what it’s like to be a parent: a big hairy spider being mercilessly attacked by tiny, nipping ants (think bedtimes); a marriage with children a house broken into by wanton thieves.    

Or a tsunami, representing the intense on-swell of pressure you can experience as a parent. Initially, before the baby is born, the tide is out, the beach an eery calm. My advice to parents-to-be? Run. Run now to higher ground. The tide of advice, of endless comparison, of social pressure, of paranoia, of guilt will overwhelm those left vulnerable on the sand.

Water up to your ankles? There’s still time. Climb higher still and gain some perspective. Yes, it’s scary down there. Yes, you can drown. Ignore the lapping waters. Keep climbing ever higher, away from the tumult and swell, and you might just make it.

That’s if you know where the hill is.

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An ode to calm

October 21, 2012

When you have children, you tend to forget what calm sounds like.

Sometimes days will go by before you realise that in lieu of calm there has been instead a growing crescendo of utter chaos. A constant noise. An uninterrupted cacophony of unregulated pitch and tempo: a tone deaf orchestra.

You are the audience of this concert and it is your concerto playing. Hear the movements. When it all gets too allegro it’s time for some adagio. Take a candle lit bath when the house is asleep; lie on the trampoline while the kids are inside; exercise alone; whatever it is that restores the calm pace. The walking pace. The breathing pace.

The music sounds better that way.

Try it and see

October 19, 2012

I have always had a weird social phobia concerning groups of people, and I wonder if I’m not alone.

It’s not your usual nervous-anxious-shy thing that people get around other people that makes it hard for them to socialise and converse. Mine is more like a stubborn refusal to approach people, even if I know them, unless I am actively invited. If I see a group standing around chatting merrily, I develop a defensive paranoia, the narrative of which goes something like “Look at them over there in an ORGANISED GROUP having FUN and CLEARLY I wasn’t invited. I am just going to stand over here and do my own thing because I don’t need them anyway”. Much like a child’s tantrum, all folded arms and harrumph and pout.

Pathetic really.

It’s something I have done throughout my life – at school, at pubs, at parties, and now back at school as a parent. In a similar way that shyness can be socially crippling for people, unchecked defensive-paranoid-stubbornness has the potential to isolate and spiral. The logical fact is that nice people don’t usually actively preclude other people, even if they don’t like them very much. There really is no “group” – it is an illusion. But defensive-paranoid-stubbornness would have you think otherwise. It will tell you that they didn’t invite you in and hence don’t like you, but that – hey – you don’t need their friendship anyway.

Insane much?

Well today, having felt the twinges of the old stubborn refrain, I changed tack and strode gallantly over to some people who were in an “organised group”.

Kind of using a son as an entry pass, I made it in to “the group” that my defensive-paranoid-stubbornness had walled me from.

As shy people must marvel at their own attempts at simple conversation, for me breaking through the wall, saying “stuff it I belong here too”, was empowering. People were friendly and it was worth the effort. I’m going to keep trying it to see if it gets easier. If not, I’ll just make myself a sign to hold up which says “I’m not rude. I’m not ignoring you. I’m not even shy. I just want one of you to say “Come Over Here” and I’ll be there like an eager puppy”.

The week that was

October 14, 2012

I think the nadir was reached by about Wednesday.

By 7:30pm I had been sworn at and abused. Words I didn’t even know my kids knew. Tantrums, lashing out, screams and crying. Some of it mine, some of it courtesy Boy 2 in an explosive outpouring of “I’m back at school and I’m overtired and I’m getting sick and I hate you for leaving me for all that time and how dare you turn off the tv and do you know how hard it is having this older brother” rage. I guess it had to happen. But I wasn’t expecting to be back, crying at the kitchen sink, so soon after my catharsis. 

In true spoilt, self-absorbed, take-it-all-for-granted mother style, I did what we all do when we feel a little down about our children: I whinged and moaned. “I didn’t sign up for this” I complained.

Well, neither did the school mum who recently discovered her youngest has leukemia.

Or the countless parents of children with disabilities, illness, or special needs.

Or the innumerable women struggling to have the babies they so desperately long for.

Sometimes I want to apologise to the whole world for my ingratitude. Thank it profusely for what life has bestowed on me. The world doesn’t care – it would just appease my own guilt. Religious people thank their gods. I imagine that would feel good. I’m just going to try and be a nicer person and not complain anymore.

Wake me when it’s over

October 6, 2012

We are toilet training Boy #3. 

People often say you erase memories of the pain, fear and trauma of childbirth. Apparently this helps to keep spirits buoyed for future repeat attempts.

I have found that it is not my recollection of these major events which my brain has elected to omit from its banks, but all memories of toilet training. Third time around on this messy go-round and I am none the wiser as to how to tackle it.
Two weeks ago I spontaneously decided that it was time Boy #3 (having just turned three) be inducted into the Big Kid demographic. Gone were the daytime nappies. Prominent became the lurid green plastic potty. Out came the stretched and faded hand-me-down Spiderman underpants. And along came the ubiquitous motherly nag “Do you need to do a wee?” I have said this so much I fear Boy #3 is developing a urinary complex.

Only a few times in my life have I literally jumped for joy. One of those times occurred last night when I timed my snatch-and-grab “Do you need to do a poo?” nag impeccably and landed Boy #3 on the toilet in perfect harmony with his intestinal urge. I leaped, I whooped, I high-fived. Over a poo. Boy #3 may grow up to be a man who encourages others to witness his bowel movements as some kind of spiritual epiphany. That is when he’s not busy focusing his energy on his urinary retention techniques. 

I’m not sure I’m doing this right.

One thing which is familiar is the fact that toilet training is invariably a debacle involving copious mopping, awkward public moments with poo-filled jocks, and a house which for all intents and purposes becomes an open latrine. It is always two steps forward, one step back. A smelly, messy, and kind of bizarre rite of passage for both toddler and parent alike, and one which I’ll be extremely glad to be over.

Boobs shmoobs

October 1, 2012

What constitutes a woman’s femininity? Does being feminine require the fulfillment of a checklist of requirements set down by some universally decreed law? Is it the clothes a woman wears? Whether she likes handbags and the colour pink? Whether she paints her nails and wears heels, dresses and makeup? Does being feminine equate to knowing how to accessorize? Or is it a woman’s body? If it is her body, does it have to look a certain way to be “truly” feminine?

I ask these questions because femininity, my femininity, is something I have grappled with my entire life. 

I have never considered myself particularly feminine. At times in my life I have felt this “lack” has put me at odds with my more feminine sisters. I seem to fail the femininity checklist in several critical areas.

Weddings, for instance, seem to embody everything typically and ideally “feminine”. Apparently, women dream of their wedding day, spend thousands on “the ultimate dress” and feel like a princess wearing it. There are wedding protocols seemingly embedded in our feminine DNA which I clearly missed. I didn’t have a bridal party or a cake. I felt ridiculous in my $100 dress, uncomfortable in my one inch heels, and frankly embarrassed by all the attention. 

I recently attended the wedding of an acquaintance and, as usual, felt the societal compulsion to attempt a dress and heels. But I felt clunky in the shoes and lumpy in the dress. During the break between ceremony and reception, I went home and changed into pants and flats, citing to other guests that I “just can’t cut it” in a dress. I would have been the only woman in the room wearing pants but at least I was warm and could dance without spraining my ankle.

So I don’t wear dresses and heels, and didn’t enjoy my own wedding. Big checklist fail.

Apparently boobs are another vital requirement for femininity. And not just any boobs. Big ones, preferably. C cup at least. Big, bouncy, juicy, healthy boobs. Boobs are the epitome of womanhood, of femininity. We are told this through our media gods. Through women getting enhancements. Through women mourning the loss of their “femininity” post mastectomy. Through women being famous for not much else. Through constant media saturation of women in bras or less promoting, selling, advocating. Big boobs are everywhere, so they must be important, right? Well, for someone who barely developed beyond a double-A (apart from a brief foray into the world of the C-cup during my breast-feeding years, but breast-feeding boobs don’t count, apparently), I have clearly bombed out on that one. My boobs have always been too small, and after breast-feeding three children over the years they are now little more than deflated miniature balloons. Small boobs, ergo, not feminine.

I also rarely wear makeup, have large hands with short nails, can’t accessorize to save myself, wouldn’t know a French braid from a basic plait, am not interested in fashion and hate shopping. I do, however, love perfume, rings, floral shirts, manchester and lip balm.

So, am I feminine, or not? It is a very interesting and perplexing question to ask. Any woman who has ever felt like a transvestite in a dress, agonised over the inadequacy of her cup size, been more nervous about attending a hairdresser appointment than the dentist, and who really has no clue whatsoever what colour shoe to wear with brown will, at some point, have asked this of themselves. And if a woman feels unfeminine, by what measure is she basing her definition? Does unfeminine equate to masculine? Or is there a scale of femininity along which we somehow perch, reliant on our checklist performance?

Personally I suspect our femininity is yet another artificial measure, to collude with measures of fertility, of beauty, of mothering capacity, and of professional success, in keeping us in competition with one another so that being truly happy with who and what we are remains elusive. We must not subscribe to these measures.