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The Super Average Mom

Figuring out mom-life one day at a time

Parent-Pride and Raising Humans

I had my son’s first parent teacher meeting. He had a glowing report. He is outgoing, makes friends easily, self assured, confident and creative. He expresses his feelings well and is a good communicator. I reported back to granny and she said ‘well done, you can start taking credit for your child’s achievements’. My immediate response was “I don’t think so, that’s a slippery slope” but I needed to think about why my heart was telling me that.

For as long as there have been parents I’m sure parents have been taking credit for their children’s accomplishments. Nowadays if your child is a doctor or lawyer you have won the parenting jackpot and done a good job. But I don’t know if this whole paradigm is a good idea. You see, accomplishments are based on the ideal standard and that in itself is flawed. Right now the ideal standard for my son’s 4 year old class is to be confident and play with other kids, therefore he is excelling. But that is just the type of person that he is. I cannot put that down to parenting. I have just let that grow. I, on the other hand, was more introverted and still am. At thirty I get an opportunity to celebrate my birthday and I chose to do it alone at a yoga mindfulness morning. That’s what makes me happy.

I can’t help but wonder what things would be like if he wasn’t so outgoing. Does that make him less successful? Would that make me a less successful parent? And what happens when the ideal changes? When they introduce maths and science, if it turns out he is more creatively inclined, does that mean my parenting has somehow declined and I am no longer doing a good job?

Don’t get me wrong, I am so proud of him. But then again I will be proud of him whatever he does. And I won’t base my opinion of him or how well he is doing on a standard. And I defiantly won’t base how I feel about my parenting on someone else’s assessment of him meeting that standard.

Maybe we will never hit this wall. Maybe he will always be that outstanding kid with a glowing report. Maybe he will grow up to be a lawyer or heart surgeon. Or maybe he will be a reclusive artist that moves people’s hearts in another way.

What if we shift our purpose…What if producing humans that fit the norm were not the goal? What if the goal were to produce happy humans connected to their true purpose? I can’t help but think that maybe the world would be a better place.

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Ain’t No Sunshine When She’s Gone

I had a bad mum day. You know the kind of day where you have a very long to-do list but everything you do gets immediately undone by tiny hands. It was my eldest’s birthday and I had big aspirations to make his day extra special with an adventure. He had other plans…watch his new ninja turtles DVD. I decided to get some cleaning done whilst he was snuggled up on the couch but my youngest was being particularly clingy. The more i tried to distract him so that I could get things done the more he clung and moaned. I started to get frustrated and feel bad about myself as a parent. That’s a downward spiral. And then I walked into the TV room and my birthday boy looked up and said “mum why do you have that sad look on your face?” That undid me.

My husband often says to me ‘it only rains when you’re sad’. I know the weather is not determined by my moods but what if my children’s moods are. What if their reactions are a reflection of my state of mind. Children are perceptive. At 4 years old my son could already see that I wasn’t myself. But the thing I’m realising is that before children can even recognise facial expressions, they sense our mood. And my youngest sure was picking up on my ‘give me a break’ vibe and countering with a ‘I shall climb you’ mentality.

Have you ever noticed how on the day you just want personal space your child will cling to you more? Or the day you wake up in a bad mood and irritable your children are extra demanding and irritable? At one stage I started to double guess myself, I would make an effort to hide my frustration and act more ‘Mary Poppins-ish’ than usual. But the kids don’t buy that charade and hubby would still immediately comment on arriving home “what’s up with the kids?”. More like what’s up with me.

The next day after a long talk with hubby about realistic expectations of the kids and myself I was feeling a lot better. I was some how happily doing groceries with two kids in tow when I heard another mother shout at her children “either you kids are brats or I’m a terrible mother!” Maybe neither. Maybe there’s no sunshine in you right now and you need to reset. But it’s not a quick fix.

Sit down and write yourself a list of things that restore your soul. But first let’s be practical here…a spa day is not always on the cards at 4am on a Wednesday. Think about your best memories with your kids, the days you really enjoyed them and their company. Where were you? What were you doing. For me it’s a walk on the beach on a sunny day, sitting back while they play in the sand and try to bury me. Or a milkshake date. Sometimes a shared bubble bath with all the toys and too many bubbles will help us reset. Or putting on some music and dancing in the lounge. Sometimes I need a coffee with a good friend with perspective while the kids play. And sometimes I just need to sit down and write the kids a letter for when they are older, once I start writing I remember what wonderful children they really are and my mind set shifts. What ever restores your soul write it down for the days you can’t remember why you’re doing it all, and then let the dishes be dirty, leave your to-do list undone and work on a more important list.

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The Day We Won Big on the Lotto

It was a normal Tuesday in the middle of a nowhere month. Nothing major to plan for, celebrate or look forward to. Both kids woke up sick and hubby decided to stay home to help. I can’t remember him ever doing that before.

We took the kids to the doctor and on the way out passed a newsagent. It was lotto day. We don’t buy lotto tickets. I went in and got the cheapest random pick and a $1 scratcher for my eldest because it had a pig on it. So sue me for encouraging gambling or whatever, he won $3 for his money box and he was pleased.

When we got home we started playing that game…you know the one where you spend the imaginary money you haven’t won yet. “What would we spend it on?” Silence. “We could pay off our bond”. More silence. “Maybe a nice holiday”. More silence. “We know some people that could use some help”. That’s when it occurred to me. There’s nothing I could think of that I want that a large sum of money could buy, I just want more time.

I want time with hubby. Time together just the two of us, to be us again. I want time together with the kids. Time where we aren’t doing a mad scramble to get to places or clean up or do errands. Just time to watch them play and grow and enjoy them. I want to take things slow. I want to care less. I want to swim in the ocean and walk barefoot in the grass. I want to listen to good music and dance. I want to push the kids on swings and go down slides with them. I want to walk in the forest and find waterfalls and read stories in our teepee at night. I want peace.

At that moment I realised a winning lotto ticket wouldn’t change a damn thing. Our problem wasn’t money it was our mind set. We didn’t need a bigger house or a fast car or a boat. We needed each other. And we already had that. So on that random Tuesday I won big on the lotto,but I didn’t win a huge lump of cash. I won something better, a new mindset.

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A Real Gift

Today I waited until the kids weren’t around, until I was alone, and I cried. Really cried. Tears of gratitude. Because someone gave me a handbag. I know that make no sense but let me explain…

When I left South Africa I left many people behind. My mother, my foster sister, family, friends. And I left behind my domestic worker. I know many people who live in South Africa see their domestic worker as an employee, someone they see in passing and give direction to. But Lucy was not my employee, she was my friend that we happened to pay. Despite being miles apart in so many ways – age, culture, upbringing, language, income, race; Lucy and I saw eye to eye on so much. We would happily chat in the mornings, we would share stories and she would give me advice. When my first baby arrived she showed me how to rock him to sleep when he was inconsolable and would sneak in to check on me changing his nappy when he screamed blue murder. She watched petrified when I first used a snot-sucker on him, telling me I was going to suck his brains out, and then later calmed him saying “it’s ok mommy is helping you” when she saw it was safe. She brought me toast in bed when she could see I had stayed by his side the whole day and hadn’t eaten, not because I told her to, but because she cared. She was there when I found out I was pregnant with my second child, she held my eldest’s hand in the garden while I anxiously waited for the test to show positive. And she was the first person I told. She cried when I told her we were leaving South Africa. I tried to reassure her, I promised I would find her a new job and would send her money when I could, she lives off of the equivalent of about AU$15 a day, but she told me she was crying because she would miss us.

This woman, this amazing person who has lived through apartheid. Who didn’t receive the education she deserved. Who has lived a life of hardship and oppression but held no grudge towards me and the white privilege I grew up with. This wise lady who saw me as a person and I saw her. Who has so little money she struggles to feed her family. She bought me a gift, a handbag to send with my mother in law on her trip to see us in Australia.

I know she cannot afford this gift. I know she lives her life in donated clothes and does not buy anything for herself. This wasn’t just a gift, this was an act of pure selflessness. And in this crazy way it gives me hope for my home country. A country divided by racial tension, corruption, anger, violent crime and income disparity. Because from that country a friendship was born. And now two woman, one African lady in her fifties and one white woman in her twenties, love each other from across the world.

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How to teach your kids not to share

I think it was Stephen Cobert who I heard say it, “the Muppets are radical Marxists!” I laughed at the time, I didn’t have kids then. But now it’s got me thinking…

Yes sharing is great, it is ingrained in us to teach our children to share, but we also live in a Capitalist society. Surely we have to draw the line somewhere?
We have a rule in our house – if you take a toy to a public play area you have to share it. Parks are for everyone, so if my kids take their toys along and leave them lying on the ground they are fair game. And they are pretty good about it.

A few weeks back my son took a digger along to the park. Someone wanted to play with it and he kindly handed it over, he was more interested in climbing. But about half an hour later just about everyone had played with his digger except him, and he wanted it back. He went and asked the kid who had it and when he said ‘no’ my son’s friend (he could learn a thing or two from her about assertiveness) said ‘its his he wants it back’ and retrieved it for my son. The kid’s mom saw this and stepped in saying ‘he’s playing with that now you can have it when he’s done’.

Wait a minute. Yes we like to teach our kids to share but as adults would we consider this normal? If a stranger wanted to borrow our car would we be ok with it? If we said ‘no I need it to get to work’ would a ‘you’ve got to learn to share mate’ be acceptable? I’m really non-confrontational, I wanted to say ‘let him have it for a bit’ but the mom in me knew that this was unjust for my son. He had shared well, he did not know the kid, and at the end of the day it was his. After an awkward silence she mumbled about not knowing it was his and relented. I felt awful but my son looked relieved.

The situation reminds me of another maybe 8 years ago when my own mother had just started fostering a little girl. She had walked into a store’s play area with a box of those things you throw and they pop. Two boys had approached her and demanded she share with them. Growing up in a children’s home she was no stranger to asserting herself and told the two much older kids ‘no’. They raced to my mom shouting ‘she won’t share with us’ beaming with entitlement. My mom, in her years of experience mothering, didn’t miss a beat telling them ‘she doesn’t know you, she doesn’t have to share’! I didn’t have kids yet but I instinctively knew something big had just gone down. Our little girl who didn’t have anything of her own at that time, who had to share everything, needed to know that it was ok not to share more than those boys needed what she had.

With so much parenting advice out there you would think that we would have all the answers. But real life isn’t written on paper. Sometimes you have to listen to your gut, go against the parenting advice en-vogue, and do the non-p.c. thing. Sometimes you have to admit that just maybe the Muppets are radical Marxists.

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It Goes Too Fast

I was walking along the broadwater one afternoon when I noticed a young woman. She was reclining on a park bench, feet up, under the dappled shade of a tree. She was engrossed in a book and looked so peaceful. She looked so peaceful that I felt peaceful. Suddenly I noticed how quiet it was around me. The wind on the water, the rustling trees, the sound of my son shouting ‘come on the grass’ echoing in the bluster. The warm spring sun and cool shade like tides as we walked. I was taken back to when I was a young woman. When my days were my own. When I could decide to spend the day reading a book under a tree. And it dawned on me that I am not envious.

Yes I have two small children, God knows I need a break. I need to read a book with no pictures in a place other than our teepee. But that’s not where I’m at. I had that season, I had aimless youthful days. And then I decided to have kids and as tired as I am most days, I realise I’m happier, so much happier, unbelievably so. This season in my life is so much better for me.

One day my time will be unscheduled again. One day there will not be little feet in my face and socks in my bed and sloppy kisses. My house won’t be filled with the echoes of laughter and endless buzz of business, my floor won’t be littered with snack crumbs and dinosaurs. I won’t sleep with fluffy hair in my face and small warm bodies in my arms. I won’t have scratches to kiss, right now my kisses are magic to them. Or little tears to wipe and hug away. One day I will walk to the bathroom without hitch hikers riding my feet throwing their heads back laughing. It can drive me insane but I know I’ll miss it.

One day I won’t rush my dinner while a watch chubby fingers rub the remains of theirs into full-fat naked tummys, smiling with appreciation. All too soon the quiet dinners for two we miss will be our daily habit except for the odd visit. And that’s ok, they will grow up and lead their own beautiful lives. But for now I have them. Their mess, their chaos, their silly games and naughty giggles. Their ‘mum mum mum!’ that continues even when you say ‘yes’. The climbing bodies that hurl themselves onto you the minute you sit down. The small hands that grab mine to drag me to a bug or flower. The smiling eyes when they catch me with a snack they want to share.

I could wish it away and long for rest, some days it gets frustrating. But when old women look at my little boys with longing and say ‘it goes too fast’ I know it’s true. I feel like the first few years I missed too much in a tired haze of struggling and I’m finally breathing again, finally taking it all in. And I don’t want to miss another thing.

We’re not based on efficiency here

My kids go to this awesome soccer class. I hold no hopes that they will one day be star footy players signed by big clubs, they are 2 and 4. It’s just really fun. I think the coaches make it. They are goofy and silly and in touch with what the kids are all about. My sons love it.

One day at soccer the coach had tossed out a pile of cones for a game and afterwards asked the kids to pack them up, stacking them in their matching colours. One of the new mums who was helping her little one with the games started collecting and packing up some cones herself. “You don’t need to do that” coach said, “we are not based on efficiency here”

I smiled but really I wanted to give that guy a round of applause. Because this has become my sort-of parenting motto, but it has taken me so long to learn. As a parent I used to be helpful, too helpful. If I could see my kid was struggling with something I would swoop in to help (more like to do it for them). As a parent, when the majority of our job is to do things for them that they can’t do, it’s all too easy to miss the possibility that they can. And even if they can’t the learning is in the struggle. It’s hard to step back and watch them strain to pull themselves up, to get frustrated, to clumsily fumble, to spill, or as they get older to hold back from nudging them in the direction of a correct answer. Often I have to ask helpful strangers to ‘please give them a chance to try themselves’ as they look confusedly at this lazy mother. Once I even had to talk two well meaning grannies out of carting-off my youngest because he was ‘crying and looking lost’ when actually I was standing a few steps away watching him attempt to change the spade he had chosen from a hanging display. The crying was because the one he had’s tag was torn. “Me no like it”, that kid likes perfection.

But what I’m learning is the more I give them the chance to try, the more capable they become. And the more insistent they become. I hear “I can do it”/”me do it” a lot these days, and they can. Yes it’s hell of a messy. Yes it takes a lot longer. Yes it probably doesn’t get done to my standards. But you know what? “We aren’t based on efficiency here” and I like that.

Flu denial

It was a sunny winters day one Thursday morning. I was sitting on the floor of the toddler area in an indoor play center and it was pretty quiet, thank goodness. Indoor play areas are last-resort for me. The kids had been sick since Monday and the Doctor said we should be ‘in the clear’ by Friday but cabin fever had set in and I just had to leave the house. A mother at a table across from me was wiping her kid’s very green snotty nose when her friend turned to her and said “oh, is she sick?” Her immediate quip was “no she’s just like that!”

There it is, the flu-denial. I looked around the indoor play center, the mother-ship of all germs and bacteria, and 90% of the kids were suffering from varying degrees of illness or at least sniffing and coughing. But no one was going to admit to it.

You see when you are an adult and sick you can tell anyone who will listen how close to death’s door you are. You can stay home from work and lie in your bed peacefully recovering, demanding those closest to you show you pity and wait on you hand and foot. But kids on the other hand don’t stop, well my breed don’t. They just get busier. And keeping them home can turn into an episode of The Hunger Games. But there’s the catch…no one with kids wants a sick kid near theirs. And it’s bloody isolating.

When my eldest was still a baby he caught an antibiotic resistant strain of croup. It was months of on and off sickness, crying all night, and trips to the doctor with emergancy facilities so he could be put on an adrenaline nebuliser. Every time we thought he had finally kicked it the dreaded barking cough returned. From then on I was ‘on guard’. My precious bundle would not come into contact with any nasty germs. If he got sick hubby and I would do that pointless thing where you try nail down exactly where and when he got sick, find the culprit. And then get angry about it.

Now that I have been around mom-block a few years my perception has changed a bit. My second child was at play group from 4 days old. He was safely snuggled up against my chest in a baby wrap where little hands couldn’t reach him, but he was by no means hidden at home. That wasn’t an option with a 2 year old big brother. And he’s been sick a lot less than my first. A lot less. I’ve realised kids will get sick, there’s no preventing it. If it’s not the toy at play group they all gave a good communal lick before home time it’s the shopping trolley, the elevator button or the person who walked past sneezing while you were out getting groceries. And people are contagious before they have symptoms. There are certain months of the year when just about every kid I know has the sniffles. And those parents are going bat-shit crazy.

Now I’m not saying share your kid’s pink eye or hand foot and mouth around a playground because you have to get out of the house. Sometimes we have to tough it out for the greater good. But maybe the next time we finally emerge from a week long quarantine and the kids still have a sniffle we don’t play the ‘my kid??? sick? never!’ denial card. We all know your kid is sick, it happens. We know it’s tough. It’s ok. We just won’t share an ice cream.

The day I cried over a Dyson

I have two boys. Two small boys. These creatures are messy. And neither of them were in childcare yet so 90% of their mess was made at home. I somehow got it into my head that if I owned a cordless stick vacuum my life would be somewhat easier, and had been mumbling this to myself every time I vacuumed for months. I thought to myself that I could just whip it out, and like a magic wand it would pick up all that kiddie related mess in a second…with the added bonus that my youngest wouldn’t be pulling out the power cord mid vacuum every few minutes sending me into a ‘my child is going to die’ panic.

Hubby heard my case, our child’s safety and my sanity were at stake, and we set a budget…$100. We had just moved countries and money was tight. When we got to the store we quickly realised $100 would get one that struggled to suck up a feather so I pulled the usual mom-move, said I didn’t need it anyway, and I settled for a normal vacuum that was on sale. That vacuum was useless.

So, a year later, we decided to pop into Masters about 10 minutes before a ‘I need a nap’ melt down was about to ensue. Great choices I know. The store was going out of business, there was sale-chaos. Hubby was wondering around the cordless drill section while I chased baby who happened to wander into the stick vacuum section. The $500 solution to my mess problem was marked down to $210 and there was one left, on the top top shelf. While I stood waiting for a sales person to get it down, trying to hold onto baby who had now morphed into an angry octopus, another woman walked up. I phoned hubby and said ‘please come to the vacuums NOW’. Baby escaped and crawled under some shelving. I shook a granola bar at him trying to coax him out like a feral animal while my stick vac walked away with its new owner.

In the car on the way home I felt defeated. The constant mess, food on the floor and dirt really gets to me. $210 was a push, there was no way I was ever going to get a full priced one. Hubby was mumbling about needing a cordless drill. He started teasing me about being upset about a vacuum, that I had chosen my baby over a vacuum and that I had made the right call, and I told him to stop it. “I’m going to cry.”
And then I did.

I think he was in shock. Later he told me he had never seen me cry over a material object, but it wasn’t that. It was this ridiculous idea that my life might be just a little bit easier, just a little bit cleaner and less stressful, if I just had that magic cordless vacuum.

Once we were home he was furiously typing away and scrolling on his phone. A few minutes later he told me “get the kids, we are going to get you your vacuum”. I was sure he thought I was being stupid and we couldn’t afford it but it seems he took my perceived need that seriously. I told him ‘no’ but he had decided…”if there’s one thing I’m doing today it’s getting you that vacuum.”

It was more expensive than the one I had missed, but a better model and on sale. And on the way home I cried again. So often as a mom I put what I want last on the list, everyone else’s needs always seem more important than mine. I find it easy to let things go if the people I love are happier for it. But that day I cried over a Dyson, because in this crazy unexpected way my new vacuum cleaner was the most romantic, grandest gesture of love that I could think of.

Help a mother out

I was at play group (surprise surprise). My social life is wild like that. My one and a half year old had decided to sit himself at a table with a group of kids for morning tea whose mothers I don’t know. They are all foreign, Russian I think, I have never heard them speak English or seen them chat to any of the other mothers at play group. Sort of a clique I suppose. But at my age I don’t have the energy for that kind of thing, and being a foreigner in a new country myself I have found other foreigners quite welcoming.

I turned to the closest women and asked if there was space for my son to sit there. She (kind of) nodded and they continued their conversation that I couldn’t understand. As they set out the food for their kids one of the mothers placed her coffee down on the kids table to put out a lunch box. Her child is at the grabbing age and in a second he had pulled the hot coffee towards him, spilling it all over his lap, the table, chair and floor.

And then everyone just stood there. She did too but I think she was in shock, it’s hard to react when it’s your own kid. But all her friends, the women I see her chat with every week, just stood there staring, and then returned to their conversation. And none of the mothers at the surrounding tables did anything either.

She started to clean the spill and I went to fetch wet wipes and asked if I could wipe the coffee off her son’s legs. She nodded. We cleaned up the mess while everyone acted like nothing had happened, the play group organisers eventually fetching a mop and bucket. Everything continued as nothing had happened and they returned to their conversation, discussing banana bread from what I could make out.

As we left play group she was sitting at the door and looked up and said “thank you for helping me”. It’s the first time I’ve heard her speak English.

This whole situation has me dumbfounded to be honest. Mothers have it tough. I know it because I am one. And other mothers know it too. You spend your day holding one while wiping another’s bum, juggling chores while attempting to half-arse a game, perfecting the art of doing things with one hand. As far as I know we are a tribe. Language, race, social status and age disappear when you have something so monumental connecting you. Little humans to keep alive.

We all know sometimes we need help even if we prefer to do everything ourselves. Sometimes a stranger holding the door for you so you can navigate a pram through is the biggest relief. Sometimes the mum in line who lets you go ahead of her or happily chats to your cranky child entertaining them while you wait is your day’s saving grace. We need each other because we are the ones who best understand. So don’t just stand there, help a mother out damn it.

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