12 August 2011

To go? Or not to go!

Taylor Swift is coming to New Zealand! This has led to a whole new round of discussion in our house. Because our 5-year-old is Taylor Swift mad, and has been since before she was 2. And going to a Taylor Swift concert would just blow her mind. Owen would love to take her; I’d love to see her face when she realizes Taylor Swift is a real person!

However, the point of our discussions is not which of us is going to take her, it’s whether 5 is too young for a concert. I maintain that it is. Owen thinks there’s nothing wrong with it.

The funny thing is that it’s a moot point. Our household scrapes by on a weekly basis, as we have chosen that our priority is to have one parent home with the kids. And my salary is definitely not at the higher end of the scale. So taking a 5-year-old to a concert is not something that’s going to happen this side of the single-salary experience! And yet, the debate continues.

I took Ruby to The Wiggles about 2 years ago and that was amazing – and she loved it. But I’d be hard put to argue that she wouldn’t have felt the same way if I’d just taken her to a movie (which, these days costs almost as much as a flipping concert, and, yes, I do know I’m showing my age when I start ranting on about the cost of movies! Seven dollars. Seven. That’s what they used to cost in my day! On the expensive nights. But I digress).

Admittedly, I was a little socially … erm … deprived … as I too grew up in a household with very little money, with 4 kids plus hangers on, and anyway, it was 30+ years ago and NZ didn’t have concerts back then. Or maybe that was just what my parents told me! So I was about 18 when I went to my first concert. I know … that’s just embarrassing, but it was amazing! The lights! The sound! The atmosphere! The excitement! And that’s what I think concerts should be like. A fantastic new experience that you remember for a long, long time, if not the rest of your life! They shouldn’t be something that you start going to when you’re 5 and by the time you’re 16 they’re old hat and you’re looking for something new and far more exciting.

If they’ve ‘been there and done all that’ when they’re in their early teens, what’s next? Is that where the drugs and the drink and the sex come in? The next big excitement?

Ok, so I’m not advocating that concerts should be R20 … my particular experience was perhaps a little extreme and ridiculous! And I’m certainly not maintaining that 5-year-olds who go to concerts end up doing drugs when they’re 14. But I would expect that a 14- or 15-year-old would be heading off, flushed with huge excitement, to their first concert. Or am I just terribly, horribly old fashioned and my teen-to-be is going to teach me some hard lessons in the next decade or so?

But my kid (whether I like it or not, let alone whether she likes it or not) is going to attend her first concert when she has enough cash to buy the ticket for herself (ok, we might chip in for half of it if she looks at us with enough tears in her eyes and the performer is so old he or she probably won’t be around by the time my eldest can save up enough for the outrageous price of tickets [there I go again!]). So for now I’m going to stick to ‘you’re not old enough and we can’t afford it’! Actually, for the moment, I’m going to stick to ‘yes, that’s a poster of Taylor Swift’ and not mention the word ‘concert’ at all. That should work until she learns to read. Next week.

09 August 2011

Living it real

As I watch my kids laugh, fight, play and learn, I’m often struck by how honestly and in-the-moment their lives are lived. I have a laminated poster at my desk that says ‘live in the moment, the future will take care of itself’. Nice sentiment, but it’s been there so long it’s like wallpaper to me and I no longer notice it at all. Ruby and Leah, however, and all kids of their age, live that to the full. It set me to wondering what it would be like to live like they do …

I got given a very nice bottle of wine the other day for doing a good job. I was pleased but kinda embarrassed and so I tucked it away out of sight and carried on quietly doing a good job.
But if I morphed into a toddler/kid … not only would I not have been impressed with a bottle of wine (too fizzy on my tongue), I would have been far happier with a sticker … or, total excitement … one on EACH hand!! Then I would have run round the office whooping it up, jumping up and down in front of everyone, shoving my hands in front of their face, forcing them to admire my prize, nodding proudly, grinning like a lunatic, shouting “look what I got, YES, I done good job!!” and then gone back to my desk, feverish to do more ‘good job’ and looking up every now and then to make sure my boss was watching – possibly yelling at her to “watch me!!” if she happened to look away …

Eating out
Most people will have, at some point, forced their way through a meal out of sheer manners. Gulped it down and politely finished what really wasn’t finishable. Or worse, eaten and paid for a very sub-standard meal and been too timid to complain. But we’ve all seen the ‘bugger everyone’s feelings’ attitude towards food displayed by our littlies. So next time I go out for dinner and don’t like the food, maybe I’ll take a leaf out of their books … make gagging noises, open my mouth and push the food out with my tongue, letting it land where it may. Wipe my tongue on my sleeve and announce “ooh yukky. Don’t like that. Not eat it.” Then I’ll look at my neighbour’s plate, sidle over to sit on their lap and intercept their forkload of much better looking food. Or, while they’re looking away to have polite conversation, I’ll finger through their dinner and pick out the bits I like, spitting the bits I don’t like back onto their plate … and when they look back in horrified surprise, I’ll grin cheerfully at them. With their dinner smeared across my cheeks and all over my hands.

My daughters, like most kids at some point, have been the source of great embarrassment when they won’t display the good manners I’m trying to teach them. Etiquette around the issue of visiting and being visited, in particular, is a tricky one. Wonder what will happen if next time a friend comes to visit me and I walk out of the room to go do something else. Just cos I don’t feel like their company. Perhaps I should just say ‘don’t want to talk to you any more. Go home.’ Conversely, when a lovely friend comes to visit, we have a great time but then she has to go … I’ll use kid tactics! I’ll stand in front of the door and not let her out. I’ll refuse to say ‘goodbye’ and instead yell ‘No! You stay! Play wiv me!’ I’ll hide her shoes and tell her she has to find them before she can go. Yup – should work a treat!

Imagine making small talk at a party when you realize you’ve quite simply had enough of this person. In our world, we carry on making small talk until we can find a polite excuse to move on. But in kid world you simply say ‘don’t want talk to you’ and turn your head away. Or you cover your eyes so they can’t see you. Very effective.

Yes indeedy … a bit more living in the moment, a bit less PC … at least we’ll all know where we stand!!

04 August 2011

Things you should know

I’ve been pondering recently on ‘things new parents should know’, and of course, once I start pondering on things, they tend to escalate until eventually my head will explode if I don’t tell at least someone!

Absolutely everyone with the slightest smidgeon of experience with children (and quite a few with no experience!) has advice they want to impart. You will quickly find that most of it is conflicting, sometimes ridiculous, often offensive and still more often it is just plain laughable. Regardless, I now feel compelled to add my two cents’ worth to the confusing mix!

1. Do what you want
This is by far and away the most important of my little gems of wisdom. From the minute (and even before!) you get pregnant you will be the recipient of the above-mentioned unsolicited advice. From the most well meaning of people. Be as polite as you feel the need to be and then ignore it. Or try it, if you feel it might work for your family. But don’t, for goodness sake, feel that it’s gospel just because it comes from another mother, your parent, Plunket or even your Doctor. Opinions are just that. The clinical trials and the textbooks have never studied your child or your family or your relationship. Educate yourself. Find out the facts. Listen to others’ experiences. And then do whatever the heck you want if it works for you and your family! One of my very good friends told me “read the books … and then throw them away and get to know your baby.” Things finally started going right for me and mine when I followed her very wise words.

2. They don’t break
When my first baby was only hours old, the nurse strode into my room and proceeded to manhandle my child in ways I never thought possible (or legal). She seemed to throw her around the room and tie her in knots, flipping her over and under and around and upside down. She eventually handed her to me looking like Ghandi after he’d been through a tumble dryer in his white robes. That kid was done up tighter than a straight jacket and with not a buckle in sight (it’s called swaddling, by the way). I couldn’t figure out whether to have instant heart failure or to lay a complaint over the careless way in which my child had just been flung about. I would have checked her for bruises if only I’d known how to undo the darn wrap! But actually – it turned out my bubba liked being wrapped up tighter than an Easter egg! She stopped crying (well – once she’d pulled and grunted and tugged and snarled and got one arm free). So I had my first lesson in swaddling and simultaneously learned that they don’t break. Granted – it’s not good to drop them on the floor, but really, they’re pretty bendy, forgiving little things!

3. It’s not a doll
Okay – having said all that about them not breaking … nor are they dolls. You know how you used to balance your doll on its head so you could pull her trousers over her legs? Nope. Won’t work. Re-read the thing above about them being bendy. Just watch how the nurses do it. If all else fails, wrap them in a towel. So long as they’re warm and dry, they don’t give a flying fig about the art of clothing.

4. They will make you cry. They will make you laugh.
The experiences you have as a parent will drag you to the depths of depression and they will take you on highs that you have never experienced. You will belly laugh at the dumbest things in a way you haven’t done since you were a baby yourself. You will sit on the floor and sob until your eyes and throat hurt. You will doubt yourself 100 times over. And the minute they need you, you will go back and willingly offer them your soul all over again in a heartbeat.

5. Babies smell good.
Look out for this one. I’m not talking baby soap, or baby powder – it’s the actual baby. Some people I’ve spoken to haven’t experienced it, but both my babies smelled soooo good. Better than chocolate. I wanted to eat them (maybe I’m part praying mantis). Seriously. I used to pick up my new babies for a ‘kiss’. It looked like a cuddle, but if you had watched closely, you would have seen that I was actually having a good long drawing-in of baby-scented air. Even their breath smells good (note that I’m talking brand-new baby here, not toddler. Toddlers stink). But try it. Just a furtive sniff when you first get a chance. I hope it’s there for you.

6. Babies look funny.
You watch – the drunk look when they’ve just had a good feed. Hilarious. Get a photo; they’ll love it at their 21st. Same when they’re doing a poo – the studied concentration, then the surprise, then the relief. Get one of those cameras that can take photos in quick succession.

Ok, that’s it for the advice and tips for today. I’m dry. Downloaded. Please add your own tips and I’ll see what percolates in my head overnight!!  ;-)

01 August 2011

Well, I didn’t expect that!

My baby started school today. In her too-big uniform, with her hair looking tidier than it has for months. With her huge school bag and her carefully packed lunch (that she’d helped to make – I firmly believe in starting ‘em young!).

I knew I would feel a pang as we left her, but my husband cares for our girls all day, so I expected that the biggest impact would be for him and his routine and that he would be saddest. But as she went to sit on the mat, it was my confident girl’s unexpected timidity in the face of a classroom of new kids that made me have to quickly turn so she didn’t see me cry. Oops, didn’t expect that.

As we left, three other mothers from other classrooms noticed the sniffle and the watery eyes and spoke up to reassure me and laugh with me and share their own experiences of their first leavings. So kind, so open, so generous! Didn’t expect that! And after trying to do that for other mums in so many ways since I first experienced the reality of mothering, it was so lovely to have it returned, and so spontaneously. These are women I hope to see again in our school journey, but if I don’t, I am grateful for their understanding today.

I received a phone call at midday – my husband – and I could hear our newly abandoned and lonely 2-year-old ‘baby’ hiccupping in the background. She’d been sobbing and asking to ‘go pick-up Wooby, want pick-up Wooby’. Oops – we hadn’t expected that and had to quickly formulate a plan to help transition our little one through this change. And I was stuck at work on the end of a phone. Tears in the eyes again – oops, hadn’t expected that!

At 4pm, I got another call – husband again – did I want to talk to Ruby on the phone? Huh? Ruby is vehemently opposed to talking on the phone. She adamantly refuses to talk to anyone via any sort of telecommunications device (yes, the irony of this is not lost on us, and we know that we will look back on these days and laugh ourselves sick while we install a second phone line so we can make the occasional call of our own). But she wanted to tell me about school. Apparently it was ‘fine’. And she made a friend at lunchtime! Yay – the shy genes of the mother have not been visited on the daughter.

A few weeks ago I had been terribly upset at the realization that I wouldn’t be home at the time that Ruby returned from school, wouldn’t be there to hear books being read, help with homework, see the paintings from today. This hurt badly on two levels: (a) I wanted to be the Mum who did all that; and (b) in a previous life, I completed 2 years of primary teacher training … this is the age group and education that I know … I’m ready and waiting to get in there … but will be stuck at work. Then a lovely friend let me in on a secret: that when they come home from school, they’re tired and just want to chill and play. That when I get home at 5.30, they’ll be ready to talk about school and do homework. Oh! Didn’t expect that! Yippee! And sure enough, when I got home, she couldn’t wait to ‘read’ to me, and we stayed up a bit later tonight, doing ‘homework’ together. What fun! Counting to 20! Sorting the alphabet (Mum, what’s elamenna? “ahem, well, that would be l, m, n, o…”). Reading little words! Putting ticks in the ‘I’ve read this book to Mum’ column. Bliss, joy, excitement, laughs. Boy – I was hoping for all that but still didn’t totally expect it!

My baby started school today, but it was a journey we all began together.