Constant Questioning

I had crawled and climbed up to the top of the soft play structure and slid down the slide with my son by my side multiple times, we were laughing, playing, chatting and enjoying the freedom of play without time restrictions. Another boy started following us through the maze of activities and I watched and waited for a growl, scowl or annoyance to appear on Raff’s face. It didn’t, they started talking, they started going down the slide together, and then they raced past me. I sat and watched as they whizzed around.

As he made his way back to the top of the slide were I sat observing their interaction Raff scampered towards me and whispered, ‘Mum, we’re making friends!’

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My heart exploded in my chest; I felt proud, and happy and in awe of my 4-year-old boy who delights in time alone, or with just his Mum and Dad. I thought over and over … We must be doing something right.

Why?

Because as a parent I question everything, and I don’t always know why. I have that simple aim of wanting to raise a decent human who is connected to his family, empathetic, understanding of his own emotions, and able to make strong connections with other people and eventually, his community. Witnessing him make a friend right in front of my eyes gave me confirmation that, yes, we are doing something right.

Why do I need it? The confirmation? I guess because we are cultured to question everything we do. And there is something about this generation of parents, that evil presence of comparison that exists all around us, that makes us do this on a daily, hourly, even minute by minute basis. We compare what our kids are eating, how they dress, what time they go to bed, how they play with others, how they play alone, how they deal with conflict, how they cope with separation… and the list goes on.

So we compare… then we question ourselves… then we doubt our decision making…  and wonder if we have ruined our child because we worked too much, stayed home with them too often, sent them to childcare, stayed home with them until they started school, or because we decided to only have one child.

I watch Raff play on his own, see his imagination unfold in front of my eyes as he uses his own resourcefulness and change his voice to suit different characters in his imagined world, and I think,  how wonderful is it that he has had the time and space to develop these skills! Then I see him not willing to share something with another child, especially younger ones, and wonder if this is purely a result of not having siblings. Then I see him crouch down on the floor and talk to one of his friends in such a refined verbal manner and know this is due to the time my husband and I have spent with him, talking to him, reading to him and encouraging him to develop his language skills.

And then, some days, when he just won’t stop asking for me to do something for him, that, yes, he could do himself… Muuuuummmm, can I have something to eat, can you find my shoes, can you pick up this piece of Lego, can you play with me, can you do me a favour (this is his new one!) … I wonder … how will I nurture and encourage him to become more independent?

Then I remember… he is 4. He is supposed to act like this. His patience skills still need many years of refining, and he is an only child who has only spent 8 months at childcare, so he hasn’t spent a lot of time away from us (his parents), thus had the opportunity to develop these skills.

Constant questioning.

Parenting is an endurance game, so to avoid burnout we need to stop feeling the pressure to compare and question everything, and live in the moment, revel in the glorious moments (making new friends and playing so beautifully together!) and remember, they are human too… we aren’t perfect adults, perfect friends, perfect parents, so we can’t expect our small children, who are still growing and developing at an immense rate, to be perfect either.

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What a perfect picture of park happiness captured here though…

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For my little sister

My dear little sis. Your belly is swollen and your walk slower. Your bra size has wildly overcome mine, and you old clothes don’t fit anymore. You have life growing in you; you’ve heard her heartbeat and can see her kicks in your tummy daily. You know she will be here soon. But do you know how much your life is going to change? Do you know what is waiting for you at the end of the labour process?

LOVE.

Unthinkable, unimaginable, all consuming love. A type you’ve not known before. A type that will crash into you like a wave on a windy day, with full force and a pressure you weren’t expecting. You will cry with joy, with pain, and with tiredness, over this little bundle who will be placed in your arms in only a few more weeks. And she will be yours. And she will make you a Mum. She will turn you and Michael into parents.

I could continue to try and explain this feeling of having your heart on the outside of your body… or being linked to another person’s needs in a way you didn’t know existed, but I can’t. You will experience it soon enough. And your experience of it will be different to mine. And different to your friends… and will be this little secret that only you two share. That is why Motherhood is so bloody special.

What I can say is how excited I am that we will finally be on the same road again. For so many years of our lives we have been doing the same things at the same time. Only 17 months apart we reached many milestones simultaneously, or shortly after one another. We were only a year apart at school, were at University at the same time and even ended up working at the same school. So we understood each other’s existence.

 

 

And although you have been a wonderfully supportive sister, and an amazing Aunty to Raff, it’s not the same. I just can’t wait for you to experience it. And for us to share a look or a word that only other mums understand. Other mum’s who are also sisters. Sisters who are also friends. Friends who enjoy so many of the best things about life…  chocolate, coffee, literature and teaching.

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Your wedding, Dec 2015

This will be the best thing we share.

And do you know what? I can’t wait to become an Aunty! You are going to make me one for the very first time. How special. The way Raff talks about you is unique, he knows you are different from some of my friends… I can’t wait to be that for your baby girl.

You cried when you held him for the first time. I wonder how it will feel for me. Holding your child. A new member of our family. Raff’s first cousin.

MEMORIES: Raff 1st week, keeping me company while Daniel was away, and at Raff’s 1st birthday

I have to be honest here too little sis… it will be the hardest time of your life. If only for the reason that you will never feel like you have had enough sleep, among other things, you will feel like a novice. A newbie. An employee on her first day of work trying to navigate a situation you’ve never found yourself in before. If you’re anything like me, and I know you are, you like feeling in control, and enjoy a feeling of competence in what you do. Your baby girl, who will fill you with crazy amounts of joy, will also challenge you and make you feel incapable… if even for only a passing moment.  A collection of seconds will add up and you will feel unsure of your role, of who you are and what you are meant to be doing. But, don’t worry… you are not alone. Even the most chilled Earth Mother’s in this world feel this way every now and then (I think!), just remember… this too shall pass… this feeling of inadequacy, of failure, or tiredness, or frustration. It will pass. And something will happen that makes you feel like you are the most important person in the world. That makes you feel like this is exactly who you are meant to be. A smile, eye contact that shows recognition, hands reaching for your face … first words. They will remind you that you are a Mum. Her Mum, and that you are growing just as she is, and that you are not meant to know how to do everything on day 1. It’s a journey of growth for you, for her, for Michael.

Enjoy it, because it goes so quick. Not on those nights early on when she is cluster feeding, or cutting her first tooth… but in the bigger sense. I’m about 95% sure we won’t have another child… so when I see old baby photos of Raff, videos of him gooing and gaahing… my uterus contracts. It was such a special time. Enjoy it. And, I might just live it vicariously through you again.

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Just the two of us; so special

So, for you, my little sister, I wish you luck for what is to come next. I promise to ask how you are and not just your baby. I promise to bring coffee every time I visit. I promise to put food in your freezer and hold my niece so you can shower. I promise I wont judge, and I promise to support your journey into the world of Motherhood as best I can. We will be adding another amazing human to these photos soon.

 

 

My dirty little (reality) secret

Justine

I have a confession to make. A dirty little secret to share. I’m slightly ashamed, slightly embarrassed to admit it… I’ve undertaken an activity I often mock. An activity I often think I’m slightly above. But it has happened. I have fallen down the rabbit hole and am completely obsessed with watching MARRIED AT FIRST SIGHT.

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Oh My God… reality TV at its bloody finest. People living together, bitching together, getting to know one another, trying for a chance at love… or just reality stardom…?… tense meetings with family members, awkward moments on dates where you physically cringe at their utter social incompetence… Married at First Sight has it all!

Apparently this show is in its fourth season… I barely noticed the other 3, although I remember having discussions with friends along the lines of…  how in the world is it legal to marry someone you don’t know… but illegal for same sex couples to marry in Australia? Seriously, WTF, but… that’s a discussion for another time!

I’m morally against this ‘social experiment’ yet I want to watch it… what is wrong with me?

So, there you go… my dirty little secret is out… I’m somewhat (ashamedly) obsessed with this show. I don’t know why I started watching it in the first place. Maybe I saw a commercial with the groom on horseback, the twins wearing exactly the same dress or the hashtag #runawaybride…. And just had to know more. These TV editors know a thing or two about hooking their audience.

I rarely watch TV at its actually screening time… thanks to those lovely apps like 9Now… I can watch it whenever I like. And for someone unknown reason, one night, in bed, feeling a bit unfulfilled by my current book, I scrolled through the popular shows on my iPad, tapped, and was hooked.

I’ve watched 18 episodes… so that’s over 20 hours or my time wasted watching the lives of strangers unfold on television. Why am I doing it? I just have to know if Simon’s haircut has won Alene’s heart, and if Susan and Sean can overcome their lifestyle difference to end up together because they are just so in love. And, to mock the absolute ridiculousness that is Andrew ‘Jonesy’ Jones. What a loser. Biggest tossbag I’ve seen on TV in years. They made him out to be the poor victim who didn’t get a chance at love due to his bolting bride in episode 1… but now… I want to send him to finishing school, or home to his Mum to learn how to treat Women with respect… and not blame verbally abusing his ‘wife’ on Boys night!

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Clearly I’ve got a problem. I’m too involved… I can’t just stop watching, I have to wait it out to the end of the season. Then… I’m banned. No more reality TV. If I start, I can’t stop!

This seems to happen to me once every 12 months… last year I couldn’t get enough of The Biggest Loser Families… There was something about seeing these families with member just as overweigh as each other, tear each other down and find excuse after excuse to not change their lives! Wait… that was just the blue family… it was pretty rewarding to see the others, especially the young guys, and the ones with kids, to turn their lives around and become good role models for the other obese people in our society… see… here I go again. I know too much. You can see… I was obsessed.

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Those faces… of sisterly love?

And the thing is… I don’t condone realty TV! I think it’s a waste of time… I could be reading so many more books, or WRITING… but instead I go brain dead and watch other peoples lives play out in front of me on the big screen. I guess that’s the point of it… to switch off, not think and find a way to laugh, relax, and realise your life ‘aint so bad compared to others? Haha. I don’t know… I love to think… I love teaching about thinking… but sometimes a gal needs a good dose of trashy TV, and when it is paired with a bag of Cobs Salty and Sweet popcorn, then my day is done!

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The bomb

Big picture parenting

Whilst lying on a table with my un-mentionables exposed to my beautician, we casually spoke of some similar bed time behaviour we exhibited with our children… the art of lying down with them while they fell asleep. As she oh-so-carefully waxed my bikini line, we spoke of the comfort it brings our children, and how nice it was to meet someone with similar parenting ideals. And it really made me think about BIG PICTURE PARENTING, and more specifically, why people get so hung up on the smaller details of someone else’s life.

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A (date) ball of emotion

Do you ever feel like your emotions are on high alert and frequency? Like you can really, truly feel and see everything for exactly what it is, and what it was intended to be? Well, that’s how I feel right now. And it’s not a bad highly emotional state where everything makes me sad and whiny, it’s a beautiful collection of things happening in my life, and I feel like I am incredibly present in them.

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The start of something new

So here it is. Today is officially the last day of my time as a stay at home mum. The last day of my family leave before I return to the paid work force tomorrow. I am so lucky. I’ve been able to stay at home for as long as I wanted to, and I get to return to a job that I love, a job that I am passionate about, and a work place full of people that I admire… and who include some of my closest friends.

But, this sense of change is strange. I am excited. I am nervous. I am eager. I am cautious. I am acutely aware of how different it will be to go back to a job I once did in a full time capacity as a part time employee. And… I will miss my boy more than I have probably let myself realise.

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If there is ever an opportunity for a High School Musical reference… I’ll take it!

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Life by numbers

How do I love thee? Let me count thy ways…

I never knew there were so many things to count. I thought my days of excessive counting were well and truly done after I completed Mathematical Methods in year 12. After school I use to count how many boys I’d kissed as a teenager. How many pairs of shoes I owned, or how many music concerts I had ever been to. Now the counting has a slightly different focus…

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