Tag Archives: parenting

Whoopsie

Missed a few days there…

It’s funny how as soon as you miss one, it’s easy to miss the next day too. And the next, and the next… The biggest problem is that in my head I have to justify why I let things lapse, which just sets up a road block that quickly becomes enormous.

But I’m back now! And in a weird mood. And with a post long enough to make up for the missed days.

I got drawn into a debate on a friend’s Facebook today. He slammed a proposed tax on sugary drinks that my preferred political party (the Greens) has developed.

I don’t really have a strong opinion about it either way. I agree that some sort of official stance is needed to encourage healthier eating habits in general, but see it as a complex, multi-pronged issue (as do the Greens themselves, who see a 20% tax on drinks with at least 5g of sugar per 100ml as just one step within a larger program to curb obesity). 

Anyway, many people in the discussion started wringing their hands and accusing the Greens of being paternalistic and out of touch, claiming that a sugar tax would unfairly burden the most poverty-stricken members of society. I agreed that a broad tax on sugar wouldn’t be the best idea, but pointed out this was just a tax on drinks – not food in general. I figure the greater burden will be borne by middle/upper class types who think nothing of grabbing a can of Coke at lunch: the poorer people around here generally go for no-brand options that are super cheap to start with. We’re talking a price hike of 10-15cents per 1.25L bottle…

Enter my nemesis, Kitty.


(As opposed to my kitty, Wolfgang, who cares nothing for politics so long as the tuna keeps coming)

Background

Kitty is the wife of the friend that started the conversation and an ex-acquaintance of mine. An ardent feminist and intellectual, we got on quite well for a while there – until we both had children and I immersed myself in an Attachment Parenting approach.

I don’t know if she felt like I was judgemental about mothers who go back to work (I’m not), or if she was projecting her own insecurities, or if she bought into the common argument that Attachment Parenting is inherently a step backwards for feminism (IT SO VERY MUCH IS NOT), or, quite frankly, she was bitter that whenever we met up at parties her daughter preferred my company to hers, but one night she unfriended me with a flounce via private message.

I won’t go into full details, but at the end of her message she wrote:

“PS Your attachment parenting is insane. Let your kids have some boundaries, FFS.”

It cut pretty deep. The implication that my kids were somehow flawed made me seethe for many days. I wanted to rip into her but managed to hold back and just walk away.

The really funny thing was that the night she sent that message we’d been to my brother’s 40th birthday party. It was at an all-you-can-eat buffet that included a dessert bar. My oldest was 4yo at the time (my youngest only 3 months) and as we got there I said to her: “It’s a party tonight so you can help yourself to anything you want! I just want you to have at least one serve of green veggies before you go for the desserts, OK?”

She ended up filling two plates with pasta and bread and vegetables and trying out a bit of everything. When she was finally ready to check out the dessert bar, she had a couple of skewers of marshmallows and fruit dipped in the chocolate fountain, one very small cup of soft serve ice cream, and a couple of tastes of various cakes and jellies.

She was 4. And had been given license to go nuts. And had a very balanced meal with a slightly big dessert.

But, you know, clearly she was crying out for firmer boundaries…

Back to the story

Anyway, Kitty jumped on one of my comments this evening and accused me of being dismissive and elitist. I’ve had a charmed life and have no real-world experience with actual poverty so was not fit to question points made by the people in the thread offering real, lived experience. I was bringing my usual arrogance and condescension to the conversation and was completely blinded by my desire for the Greens to be in the right.

lolwut?

I’d had a few wines at this point so got into a bit of back and forth, trying to remain civil without being drawn into justifying why I had a right to an opinion (not least of which being that people were discussing the effects of a tax on cheap sugary food while the proposal was for a tax on expensive sugary drinks). In the end I threw my hands up and let rip.

I thanked her for the attack. I told her that the last time we’d talked she’d insulted my parenting choices and as a result I’d doubled down on my approach and my kids were thriving. Now? She’d inspired me to double down on my community outreach efforts (volunteering as a teachers aide at the school and becoming more active in the local Greens chapter) just so I can prove her wrong there too.

I then turned off notifications for that post and had a good vent on my own page to try and diffuse my anger (and, as much as I hate to admit it, my tears).

This was an excellent move.

I’ve since had about half a dozen mutual friends reach out and reassure me she was out of line in that conversation, and reaffirm that it was a good idea to switch off notifications, and imply that others had gone into bat for me.

Feeling much better now!

I just wish people like that didn’t elicit such a strong reaction from me. It’s so childish and high-school and ridiculous. I know I’m awesome, and I have many important people in my life who agree with me!

Why can’t I just let it go when I know people don’t like me for reasons they’ve completely invented in their own heads?

Anyway, I have a new mantra in my life. If I’m making an important decision around parenting or social views I will ask myself: “Would this choice spite Kitty?”

I can’t see how it will possibly lead me astray.

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Oh Supermoon!

We missed the moonrise this evening, but got to a beach at Jervis Bay in time to watch the Supermoon playing peek-a-boo with the clouds as the sun set.

It was pretty magical.


I only had my iPhone, but still managed to get a few decent shots to remind me of such a special occasion.

My girls loved it too, which made me extra happy: I have some pretty fond memories of sharing significant astronomical moments with my parents as a child. I remember counting down the seconds to 1:23:45 on 6/7/89 with my dad. And we were at the radio telescope in Parkes when Voyager 2 encountered Neptune later that year. We were among the first people in the world to see the signal kick back in once the probe had traveled behind the planet and out the other side.


I hope there’s a parallel universe where another Meg is a successful astrophysicist, because that’s definitely a path I was curious to tread.

As it is, I’m happy to keep dabbling and sharing a love of all things lofty with my little ladies. We really are made of star stuff, and I always feel at peace when I can look at the sky.

Sisters

I am the youngest of three children. My brother is 5.5 years older than me; my sister 3 years older.

Growing up, my brother tolerated me as best he could. Occasionally he’d roughhouse or play things like board games or Star Wars Lego with me, but mostly he did his best to keep me away from him and his friends (which wasn’t always easy!).

But my sister? She was my hero. I have very few memories of playing with my parents, but my sister and I were inseparable. She taught me to read and to draw. We wrote stories together and did origami and music and dancing.

She was my BFF in a way nobody else was. Friends and I would always drift apart (I was kind of intense and weird in primary school and I think I burned friends out pretty fast), but my sister and I had to stick it out. We would fight (and how!) and sometimes stay mad for a while, but eventually we simply had to get over it and move on. There was no other choice.

I idolised her and wanted to do EVERYTHING she did. I followed her to piano lessons, and horse riding lessons (I was never even into them much, but she was obsessed and I wanted to do what she was doing), and ballet lessons. I listened to the same music and read the same books and loved the same shows.

Then one day she hit puberty.

Everything changed. She didn’t want me bothering her and her friends anymore. She spent a lot of time alone in her room. She yelled at me to stop copying her all the time.

I was gutted. I just didn’t understand what had changed and I got resentful and angry.

If it so happened that I liked something she also liked I would lose my shit if anyone suggested I was “just copying her.” I took every opportunity to be snarky and sullen and tried to get cousins to play with me and ignore her at family get-togethers.

Basically I was an enormous bitch – who only got bitchier once I hit puberty.

Eventually we both became adults. She moved to Perth with her partner and I stayed in Sydney. We never got back to being as close as we were as kids, but bridges were mended.

One New Year’s, many years later, we had a drunken deep-and-meaningful and I finally found out exactly what she was going through at the time.

Relentless, soul-destroying bullying.

Even now, the thought of how much I compounded her issues by being such a bitch at home makes my eyes burn with shame (she says she never felt victimised by me, but I know the thoughts I was having about her at the time. There is no comfort there).

She matured very young, at 11yo, and was the first girl in her year to wear a bra. She was also mildly overweight and a nerd. She developed disordered eating patterns that did nothing to help (turns out she has PCOS) and could not wait for me to join her at high school because then hopefully the girls who viciously abused her at the bus stop might finally leave her alone.

I genuinely had no idea how bad it was and still get angry at the level of secrecy and shame that surrounded her experiences.

Now I look at my two girls and cherish the love they share. Miss 4 completely adores her almost-8yo sister (her first word was her sister’s name ❤️) and the feeling so far is mutual – although my Miss 7 does need personal space more frequently than her sister would like.

I must confess, I struggle with that. I cannot bear to see my little one so devastated by “rejection” and my gut reaction is to try to force Miss 7 to keep playing.

Thankfully I manage to get over that. Most of the time.

For now, my older daughter (mostly) enjoys having a little shadow following her around and copying everything she does. There is nothing quite so satisfying as hearing them playing in another room, making each other laugh so hard their tummies hurt. It triggers so many wonderful memories and emotions that I can’t help but laugh along too.

I hope that connection lasts forever, but if it wavers, I hope I can help them understand each other and keep communication open.

As for me and my sister, we have one of those connections that we both know is rock solid even though we rarely talk. Whenever we’re together we click immediately and we both know we’re there for each other if ever the shit hits the fan. Even though we’re a whole continent apart.

You know what? I’m cool with people thinking I’m following in her footsteps now. There are far worse people in the world to be accused of copying. 

Inspired by the Daily Prompt

This is stupid

The kids are stupid. I’m stupid. It’s all stupid.

Nuclear families are stupid.

We’re not meant to raise families in isolated little bubbles like this. We evolved to live in tribal groups, with many adults and older kids to share the burden of keeping young children fed and healthily stimulated, the living quarters in good order, and the parents socially connected and happy.

You would think in a big city like Sydney I could gather a tribe around me, but no. Everyone is too caught up in treading water with their own insane rent/mortgages and living costs to match. Everyone has jobs to keep up with and their kids in care and activity programs and family spread all over the goddamn place.

Plus, chances are as soon as you do make quality local friends they end up having to move further out – or leave Sydney altogether – because they just can’t afford it anymore.

I’m so over it. I would love so much to have friends within a one block radius who I could meet up with spontaneously. Some people do manage it but I just cannot catch a break. I either make friends who live locally but aren’t interested in a friendship that close or I make good friends I have to schlep a few suburbs over to see (which becomes a real barrier when you can’t drive!).

Our Christmas break down the south coast was so lovely, with the in-laws right there to chat with and distract the children (long story short: we were staying in the house next door to them, with a gate in the back fence to go back and forth through. It was awesome). Plus we only had a fraction of our stuff with us, which was obviously very freeing.

I was seriously tempted to just stay there.

I grew up in the country and have never wanted to return, but Sydney is just not much fun unless you’re child-free and wealthy. I’m sick of the struggle.

Not sure what that really means for us though, since hubby won’t find as good a job anywhere else and we have WAY too much stuff to make moving anything but an anxiety-riddled nightmare, but I had to vent. It’s hot and boring and my kids are listless and cranky. I tried taking them out but they were so awful to each other that I had to take them home again. I want out of here!!

In other news, despite my best intentions I only managed to clear out 2/16 boxes before hubby went back to work this week; my house is a pigsty again; I’ve successfully been getting healthier and losing waist circumference (which I’m so proud of) – but that’s stalled the last couple days thanks to a mix of depression and heat; I’ve managed to re-crochet 12 of the rows of my table topper that I had to unravel; I’ve been getting some editing work through a friend and LOVE IT; I’ve been posting one thing I’m grateful for each day on my Twitter account (@meg_mediocre); my 7yo has gone seriously nocturnal again and I am NOT looking forward to school going back in a few weeks – but then we’ve been so slovenly and disorganised this break that I’m no longer sure homeschooling is a viable alternative. Not sure what to do there…

So, hits and misses in the world of Meg. Here’s hoping the hits keep on coming.

Everything old and so on and so forth

Howdy! Well that sure was a longer break between blog posts than I intended. So much has happened both inside and outside my own head that I just had to sit back and coast for a while.

But that’s not important right now.

What’s important is that it’s my oldest daughter’s 7th birthday party in THREE DAYS – and I have fallen back into old, unproductive habits.

Hardcore.

I started off well. I set a date and made up invitations 5 weeks ago. The guest list ballooned out more than I initially wanted, but my girl has had a rough year socially so I skirted up and changed my expectations to accommodate her excitement. I’ve been keeping a tally of RSVPs. I’ve been prepping and pre-purchasing things for it here and there over the last few weeks. I’ve queued up people to help out with stuff on the day.

But in my head it is Utter. Chaos.

I tried to deal with the panic by relaxing and drawing up lists until the final week, hoping to use the last-minute adrenaline to streamline it all and churn through the tasks involved.

But then I got a tummy bug on Sunday night.

And then once I finally started feeling productive again yesterday, my youngest puked her guts up.

So that knocked out yesterday and this morning.

Seriously, just kill me.

I have 20-25 kids turning up on Sunday morning for a fun Messy Play Party and all I want to do is curl up into a ball until it’s all over.

Can I pull it off this time? Or will I have a nervous breakdown and leave my daughter with an inexplicable sensation of dread every time her birthday approaches for the rest of her life?

Stay tuned…..

Bad day

Um, I mean hi! How are you going? It’s been a while, huh? Please excuse me while I vent now…

I love my kids (natch) but sometimes I feel like my 6yo would be a completely different person with a better-suited, more zen mum.

It’s like she’s genetically engineered to bring out the worst in me. If this is some sort of test then my report card would give me a B for effort and maybe a D+ for outcomes. (It’s like high school PE classes all over again…)

Thankfully my 2yo has a completely different temperament: that helps me keep perspective and know that there’s only so much I can do to guide my big girl. A lot of our issues just boil down to the way she and I are innately wired.

Don’t get me wrong, I nail it a lot of the time. We have plenty of golden moments where everything is in sync and the connection is palpable. It’s just that she’s a really empathic Highly Sensitive Child (possibly with early stages of anxiety/depression – no formal diagnosis as yet though) trying to establish a secure attachment with a mother who has regular bouts of depression and a really short fuse.

We had a perfect storm today. Sibling sniping followed by me losing it over some rejected food leading to anxiety-driven school refusal followed by me giving in to the Beast and letting rip with my feelings of frustration and helplessness (we’ve been doing so well the last few weeks! I thought we’d turned a corner!). Then cue hysterics from Miss 6 and MASSIVE guilt for me, triggering a huge a chasm of depression for the rest of the day.

I gave up. I lost all fucks to give and spent the rest of the day basically being as horrid and unlikeable as possible so the kids would leave me alone (it took A LOT for them to give up on me, which is…something? Is that good or bad? I don’t know anymore). I couldn’t stop crying for about half an hour there – which is unheard of for me. It takes a lot to make me sob like that so I guess my body made the most of that window of opportunity.

Hubs had a crisis at work so couldn’t come home and rescue the kids from me. I was on my own. I simply had to skirt up and pull myself together. No other options.

It was hard. Not gonna lie: I had to skull some cooking sherry to numb my head out enough to stop crying and start on the damage control.

We managed to find some sort of fragile equilibrium that kept cracking around the edges but held enough for us to survive – and even occasionally enjoy – the rest of the day. Hubby was able to head home early so now I’m sitting in a local restaurant eating gluten-free penne bolognaise (they didn’t have gf spaghetti) and drinking wine and trying to work out the way forward from here.

I want out.

Not forever, but long enough to miss being so viscerally needed by my little people.

Because right now it’s suffocating.

I can barely keep my own emotions in order – how am I supposed to nurture two children through such tumultuous times in their lives?

All I can see is the scars and bad habits I’m consolidating right now. I don’t want my sweethearts to go through the same bullshit my head dishes out to me!!

From the current vantage point I’m not even sure that is possible…

I need a hug. 😞

Aaaaaand here’s how it looks now…

  
I left the girls to their own devices while I made dinner, so they made use of the new space and rediscovered a bunch of neglected toys.

There was also a massive pile of artwork in the doorway but I got my oldest to help me clean it up before I thought to take a photo.

My instinct is to just sigh and tidy it up on my own, but instead I’m going to get the kids to help. Maybe this can be a good starting point to establish new habits (even if it takes a lot longer since they’re both a bit tired and crazy right now).

Wish me luck!

House Inspection: T – 5 Days

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Seriously.

My life right now is all about fussing and cleaning and sorting faster than the kids can mess it up again. I basically tidy one room enough to distract Miss 2 with a box of random toys on the floor, to buy myself enough time to tidy another room enough to clean walls and vaccuum a section, by which time Miss 2 is bored and wanders in – to be distracted by another pile of toys, at which point I dash back into the other room, quickly throw things back in that bucket, and dust/vaccuum a section in there. Rinse. Repeat. And it’s not much better when Miss 6 gets home from school (although thankfully it’s not much worse either).

To say it’s exhaustingly frustrating is an understatement.

Yesterday the hubster took both girls out to the park for a couple of hours and I got so much done! Sadly it was just the tip of the iceberg though, thanks to the sheer amount of stuff that needs to be moved around.

I grabbed this tub fully expecting it to be able to contain all the random small toys in the kitchen, living room and girls’ room. This is what it looked like after my pass through the kitchen and living room only:

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On the plus side, there’s a full garbage bag right next to it that was sent to the kerb last night. Yay! On the minus side… yeesh. That is so much freaking stuff to go through (eventually) – not to mention the equally full smaller tub behind it. And the several other boxes and tubs scattered liberally around the house.

I am the clutter-bucket queen.

Ugh.

Thankfully my new pottering-fu is making slow but steady progress. There’s currently a lot more clear space in the kitchen, for example, with a couple of new organisational protocols in place. Our hallway is still full of dollhouses, but the shelving in the girls’ room is all clean and sparkly and starting to have things put back into it. I have thrown out a bunch of rubbish and put aside a few things to sell/give to charity. I’m finally caught up on the dishes again after a few days of de-emphasising them.

Plus hubby did a bunch of work on the yard on Saturday and it’s looking the best it’s been since my oldest’s birthday party last November. I’m so glad I left that up to him! There were a couple of crumpled tarps on the ground that housed a few cranky huntsmen. *shudder* I hate startling those guys.

I think tomorrow will be all about resting and strategising and only doing stuff if the urge takes me.

And cleaning up the mess my kids make in the morning…

How do you do it?

What a shitty, shitty morning.

For real, everyone in this house is tired, cranky, and disconnected today. I just want to curl up in bed and find a good chunk of silence so I can get my head together.

But no. The kids randomly woke up earlier than expected (typical for my 2yo but unheard of for my 6yo) and roused me in a bad part of my sleep cycle, meaning I’ll be groggy til well into the afternoon. We’ve recently started watching My Little Pony (a new obsession for my oldest) so had to put a few episodes on, which dragged out way longer than my 2yo could handle so I nursed her through most of it to keep the peace (yes I am breastfeeding my 2yo. If that is an issue for you please take it up with the WHO) as I was too tired to think of anything else to do. Then the girls couldn’t go two minutes without fighting or whining or snatching while I tried to get the kitchen in order and dealt with my 2yo bugging me for lollies and my 6yo bugging me to sit down and play pretend. Eventually hubby woke up – only to tell me he had a helpline call to deal with and retreat back to his computer for a while. When he came back he was grumpy and over-hungry too so stomped around the kitchen, snapping at everyone and generally not helping things.

It’s hot and sticky. The fans and portable aircon are noisy. The kids are grating. A nearby construction site has a digger clanking and huffing around. Hubby is banging cupboards and barking questions at the kids. The kitchen’s a mess because the recycling is overflowing and I didn’t get around to washing dishes yesterday – and just ONE DAY of dishes means the bench is completely covered with cups and bowls. The living room is cluttered with toys. And crusty, thanks to me taking the path of least resistance and letting the kids eat dinner in front of the TV last night and not getting around to clearing up crumbs (which proliferated even though I put a towel down to eat on). Even the cat piled on by puking on my shoes last night and pinching bits of ham and cheese toastie before I cleaned up properly, only to stash bits under the clutter!

AARGH! GET ME OUTTA HERE!!

Seriously, how do you do it? How do you keep ahead of all this shit instead of scrambling to pull small bits of it together once it’s all fallen apart? I feel like if I focus on maintenance cleaning I let my parenting slip so my kids get more needy and derailing. So I shift my emphasis on to good cooking and playing with them – and start feeling lonely. Then I arrange some outings and play dates with friends – and get exhausted. Then I try to relax at home for a bit only to find I can’t because the house is &*#%ing filthy again!

I’m genuinely asking. Those of you who feel on top of things and well organised: how do you do it? Do I just have completely unrealistic expectations of what a healthy amount of downtime is? Is my head just complaining so much that I’m making it way harder than it is? How do you switch off your brain and just get things done without the internal moaning? Or do you not need to? HOW DO I GET A SHINY, CLEAN, WELL-ORGANISED BRAIN LIKE YOURS?!

What does a typical day look like for you? I honestly don’t know what a well-run household looks or feels like. Maybe if you show me yours it will help…

Muddy Puddles After the Storm

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Ever have those moments where the universe bludgeons you over the head with symbolism? Where you’re left saying “Yeah OK, I get it. Sheesh!” but are secretly grateful for the boot up the bum to remind you of what you already knew?

Yeah, I had one of those yesterday.

It had been a hellishly hot and humid day, where we didn’t so much walk home from school as swim through the haze. Once home we stripped down and flopped in front of fans, too listless to do anything beyond eat iceblocks and watch a movie.

A thunderstorm was forecast and sure enough the sky got darker and darker, taking on a slightly green tinge. I gratefully opened up the house to let the wild winds gust through and blow away the stored heat until – finally! – fat raindrops started to fall. The girls and I rushed out to the front porch to watch the lightning and dash about in the rain for a bit before the thunder became too scary for my little miss and we went back inside for dinner.

It was still light when the storm passed so we got our gumboots on to go splash in the massive puddles out on the sidewalk. Now I enjoy a good splash as much as the next person but the sheer exuberance with which my girls assaulted that puddle just took my breath away. Every scattered drop was delightful, every damp leaf fascinating, every run and jump a new opportunity to make an even bigger splash.

I joined in for a little while but eventually just stood back to soak up their energy and bask in their happiness. We live right near a train station so every now and then my oldest would say “Stop! Someone’s coming,” and shoo her little sister off to the side while people walked past. Every single passerby lit up to see these two excited, wet, muddy girls in gumboots. They saw the same thing I did.

Joy. Pure, unmediated, unadulterated joy.

Un-adult-erated.

Kids – and especially little kids – really do make the best teachers. Instinctively we know the lessons they teach us, but our stupid grown-up brains need the constant reminders.

Seize the moment. Truly live in and enjoy it while it lasts.

Storms can be scary, so don’t be afraid to cuddle someone who helps you feel safe and seek shelter and sustenance until it passes.

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Once the skies start clearing, look for the nearest puddle and throw yourself at it with gleeful abandon. Jump again and again and push yourself further for even bigger and better results.

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Joy shared is joy doubled. The more people you share your joy with the bigger it gets.

Falls happen. You can choose to be upset or show your muddy bottom to your friends and share an extra laugh. Clothes can be washed (or replaced!) and faces wiped, after all.

And boots filled with water can be an annoyance or an opportunity for giggling over squelchy sounds and pouring games.

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Silver linings are pretty and all, but muddy puddles are more FUN! Always look for the fun.