Ballerina Girl

Recently, little princess decided it was time for her to start ballerina class. With two brothers finally at school it was clearly her time to do a bit of dazzling. So every Thursday we glam up and head on down the highway. I can’t begin to tell you how much I love these Thursday classes. I refer to them as my weekly therapy. There is something about your perfect little person trying bizarre and unnatural positions with such joy and zest that really warms the heart.

 

We are actually quite understated in our attire. We usually go for a cotton top and a chiffon base with minimal sparkle. The other girls are usually more sparkly. Today we had a black swan complete with tight bun. She only started last week but her mum has a bun too so I’m thinking there may be ballerina lineage there. The rest of the mums are pretty relaxed, which suits the dilapidated dwelling in which we gather each week. We are country town dwellers so the nearest class is still a LONG way from city sophistication which is a good thing. The teacher is warm, non-anorexic and friendly. The owner is a bit heffalump-ish and formal, except for the tracksuit she wears which is very informal. She comes in and checks their toes from time to time.

There’s a Grandma who brings her Granddaughter, Esther. She does ballet followed by tap and prior to that, she starts her Thursday with a swimming class. I kinda feel that’s a lot of classes for a four year old. Esther hasn’t really warmed to ballerina class. When the lovely ballerina teacher tells the Giselle’s to tap lightly on the floor with their little pointed toes so as not to wake the fairies, Esther jumps up and down trying to kill them. When the lovely ballerina teacher tells then to walk quietly as they are not footballers, Esther declares she wants to be a footballer. I’m sot sure she’d find the time considering how many classes she attends. I think perhaps she may be low on sugar. Or a little tired. Her Grandmother spends a lot of time watching her phone trying to avoid Esther’s many commands for toilet, water, food etc. She is probably tired too with all the too-ing and fro-ing to classes.

 

Last week was the beginning of our second term of ballerina class. Baby girl and I were excited to be back to our routine but I received a nasty shock as we entered the dance studio. The lovely teacher was on one side of the door and the heffalump on the other explaining to us that in term two, no adults were allowed in the studio. I use the word “studio” here very loosely. We were welcome to stare through the small glass porthole in the studio door, but that was as far as wecould go. I was devastated. I stood glued to the door watching the little girls having fun on the other side of the glass like I was some demented bubble girl. The next week, other mothers joined me whispering how sad they were not to be inside with our shiny ballerinas, but none brave enough to go to the heffalump and demand we be allowed back in.

 

My ballerina doesn’t care. She still enters and leaves with the same amount of joy, a little bit more grown up each week. I guess that pane of glass is the first step of letting my baby grow. Soon it will be more kindergarten hours, then school…..and then my babies are all flown. I hold on so tight because this is my last baby and I know now how the clock ticks so fast and if I look away for a moment I will miss these last rays of tiny childliness with all it’s wonder and perfection. I breathe her in with such gratefulness. The third child who was a girl, not a boy. Who followed a miscarriage and who was never planned. My miracle that every night I still watch with such awe. After four years I can still not believe she is here.

 

She holds my hand as we leave the class. We plan our next adventure together, but first it’s time for coffee and cake. We have much to chat about.

The All Too Hard Marriage Basket

Recently, my heart ended my marriage.

After fourteen years of knowing that face, heart, body and soul, I started to really question what the hell we were doing together. I finally knew I could do this life on my own. I started thinking about what I could do with just the kids. I imagined the rhythm of our days and it all seemed quite manageable. It made me breathe easier.

 

I thought a lot about failing and what that word meant. In putting so much pressure on myself to “keep it together”, had I lost sight of what was actually best for our family unit? Fractured does not necessarily mean destroyed. For the first time in my relationship I abandoned the idea of making it work and embraced the idea of making me work. I kept my bitter disappointment at bay and embraced each day with just me and children. It was hard. It was bitterly painful. But, it was something I could survive. So I wrapped up my bleeding heart and I just stayed alone.

 

Then an unexpectant thing happened. He came back. He brought his tenderness and his insecurity and his frailty. I met it with my truth, and before I knew it my heart was unwrapped, bleeding, paining. We were entwined, resolves were reached and the very thin thread that seemed to have entwined us for all these years was suddenly visible again. We were naked, exposed, but alive.

 

I don’t think anyone is more surprised by our togetherness than we are.   I don’t understand “successful, happy” marriages. I really don’t know what that means. I no longer think there is only one person for you. But what blows my mind is that we have withstood such torturous, soul destroying pain, such bitterness, such anger. Yet, there creeps within us still that golden thread. The best of who we are….. as long as we can survive it.

The Blanket

My three year old daughter has a blanket. Her father decided it had to go and took to hiding it on a regular basis. I would find it and give it back to her because I come from a history of blankets. Therefore, I understand the blanket.

 

I didn’t actually realise I had a blanket until my daughter’s blanket came under attack. My blanket is a large deep purple plush overlay that lives at the bottom of our bed. It is an extra layer for winter and a lighter layer for summer so it just lies there unobtrusively throughout the year. It was given to me by my best friend after she introduced me to the Nanna Nap one afternoon whilst we were waiting to collect her young children from school. She swathed me in her blanket that lay quietly on her couch. I didn’t have children at the time so didn’t really see the need for a rest (I’m totally across the Nanna Nap now) but I loved the way that blanket felt and how I was lovingly smothered in it. She presented me with my own blanket at my next birthday.

 

My blanket lay on my bed for a long time before it became my blanket. It started coming out to the couch at night when I was chilly. Then it became my pillow when I was sad. It was the cover I used when my children were sick or needed an extra tight hold. Finally, it was my go to when I needed to be protected.

 

I realised that as an adult, I didn’t really have anyone to hold me in that completely encompassing way you are held as a child. That unconditional, nurturing support is not always available in grown up land. But I can get it from my blanket. It will stay with me as long as I want, it won’t complain or judge me and it won’t make me answer any questions.

 

My mum had a blanket, although she probably didn’t realise it either. It was saffron coloured  and made from thick wool. Like my blanket, it started down the bottom of her bed for extra warmth or light coverage. It was given to her by her parents. When she had cancer, her brother and sister decided the blanket had to go, along with all the other dust and germs that could attack her weakened immune system. She cried without her blanket and told me it was her link to her parents who had given it to her just after she was married. I fought to get her blanket back. Sometimes, there are worse things than germs.

Last week, my spiritual sister had a big birthday after a really bad year involving retrenchment, unemployment, moving house, moving cities and the suicide of her brother. There’s really no way to deal with all that so I produced the only thing I could think of that might give her some love and protection as she started on her new journey –  a deep red, plush fringed blanket. I told her our blanket history and I pinned a brooch that belonged to my mother, who she loved so much, into the corner of her blanket. She captured my little girl and held her tight as both were enfolded safely in that capsicum red softness. We smiled and cried.

 

I can’t take her pain away and I can’t hold her hand when she is so far away, but maybe that blanket will make the bad days bearable.  It is a reminder of our connections and the love that still enfolds us….now in blanket form.

 

My Christmas Survival Package

It started at the bike shop. It was relatively pain free. I gave the measurements of our child to the bike man so he could tell me the best size bike to buy. The guy informed me he couldn’t measure anything as “the idiots” had lost the tape measure. I suggested we ask his co-workers at the front counter where it was but he told me not to ask because they were idiots and only he would know where the tape measure was, and he didn’t know. We improvised measurements using a 60cm towel. He told me to buy the cheaper bike as we could use it for longer which was oddly refreshing.  He was very odd and suggesting the cheaper bike was refreshing. So Christmas Shopping began in a relatively easy way.

 

Next was the shopping centre. It was early December so there was a good chance I would survive it. Parking was a breeze. My hopes soared. Inside the shopping cave was not so pleasant. People were in a very big hurry. I managed a book buy really well. Then I needed a doll with accessories from the department store. I passed Santa on the way. He looked a bit out of sorts as there were hardly any children about. He had a real beard which compared to all the other images of Santa made him look strangely dirty. He seemed quite sweet as he chatted away to the photographer looking like an old man dressed strangely in a big chair.

I entered the department store and after a long time found the baby dolls. They were really ugly. It was like the manufacturers were trying to tell the child “if you can love this, you will have no trouble accepting the one that comes out of you”. There was a lot of choice. Dolls that fed, dolls you could bath, dolls in plastic baths you could not bath in a real bath , dolls that shat, dolls with clothes, dolls that spoke in really annoying tones. I consciously slowed down my breathing but I could feel a panic attack coming on. Then I put a dummy in an ugly doll’s mouth as suggested on the box and she started to cry. Loudly.  I ran.

 

I obtained a smoothie and had a brief chat to an elderly gentleman who was rooted to the spot as he was too frightened to move. I knew I had to go back in, but this time it would be easier as I knew what I wanted and I was prepared that the dolls were going to be really unattractive. I breathed, threw some crap in my trolly, and I had done it. I had completed the C-word shopping.

After hiding the goods it was time to retrieve the three small ones. In the car they resembled popping corn but we made it home relatively unscathed. It was time for the tree.

 

Daddy had obtained a small potted one. It was just big enough to get away with and they were happy and eager to cover it with crap. We produced the decorations and gave a lecture on form, style and colour. By that time, most of the decorations were on the floor. The father proceeded to separate lights which seems to be an oddly male job. The three year old rang around with sparkly bits in a demented fashion. The eight year old argued fervently as to why the big tinsel must go on the little tree  and how it was desperately important for the survival of his soul that it was used.

Amidst it all was my miracle. The middle one. A little face that had lain down on the ground so he could just stare up and look at the lights turned on for the first time. There he was with all his wonder and all his perfect joy. I breathed him in and found again I could fill my lungs and find my own peace and joy in this season of madness. The house was a mess, the evening chaotic but there was still that face, that perfection. It was more than enough to get me through.

 

The Two Year Old’s Forbidden Drinking Ordeal.

The two year old decided not to sleep during my home yoga session. She was sat on the couch looking doll like and demented with strange bits of clothes emanating from different parts of her body. She had obviously found time to re-style several times during her non sleep period.

It was some time during shavasana that she drank the hand sanitiser. I surfaced from my bliss bubble to see liquid coming out of her mouth, sanitiser bottle gripped by chubby fingers and a cheeky grin.

As it was number three I wasn’t so much panicked but wondering if I had a duty of care to ring the poison’s line. It was suggested by the manufacture to do so if swallowing occurred so I decided it best to give the number a go. It’s not that I don’t care; it is just that they do wear you down these little people. It is a lot of effort for me to go into a full blown panic with three children and six years of sleep deprivation under my belt. It is a lot of effort.

Basically, Mr Poisons Expert told me she had drunk alcohol. I have no idea how much as I really didn’t know the hand sanitiser bottle existed let alone how much was in it.

So I sat by and watched for signs that my two year old daughter was inebriated.

She fell off her stool whilst trying to brush her teeth which I thought was not a great sign. She seemed quite happy and relaxed which could also suggest one too many sips of the sanitiser. She strode to the car to pick up the four year old brother from Kinder with great gusto and refused to hold my hand which is pretty standard.  On the way in the car she spontaneously told me she loved me. So I am thinking she is smashed. I started to cry. She told me to stop. So I stopped.

She seemed very confident on the Kindergarten play equipment and quite loud. Maybe a little bit flirty. I could have imagined that, though. She did navigate the bouncing bridge extremely well so my fears started to abate. Then we picked up the six year old from school and there was no more time to focus on her possible drunkedness.

I don’t know if she drank the sanitiser. It is hard to get a straight answer out of a tiny person. I was told by Mr Poisons Expert that at her size it doesn’t take much to become intoxicated.

For that, I envied her.

 

 

 

Gentle Little Man

There is nothing wrong with the banana you will not eat. It is no different to all the other bananas you have eaten over the last four years. Everything is different because your daddy is away, travelling for work in a new job. Everything is different and you just don’t quite know what to do with all those feelings.

I hold you tighter and for longer each night. I kiss and cuddle you during the day. But I can’t take away the ache you do not understand.

Your baby sister doesn’t seem to mind because she is too little and is easily distracted. Your big brother seems OK too. He has his focused, busy brain. He has books and school and an ability to just get on with things.

You my soft, gentle, watery boy just don’t know what to do with all that blustery sadness.

So here’s the deal. I will give you the low down on getting through this and it will be a little like ripping off the band aid quickly – painful but swift.

What you are experiencing is life. People will come and go. They will say nasty things. You will experience behaviours you do not understand. You won’t always get to do what you want even though others sometimes do.

What I can tell you but you will not understand, is that whilst you feel you are missing out now, that will all change. People will always be drawn to you because of your sweetness and your kindness. They will embrace your natural joy and be drawn to those beautiful deep pools of honey brown liquid that make up your eyes. People will see and recognise all these magical qualities and your simple, happy way of being will buoy you in this world and will always drift you back to a safe place. At least that is my dearest hope, Gentle Man.

Daddy comes home late at night. He snuggles next to you just like I promised he would. You stir and smile. Next morning I make muffins to celebrate the reunification of our little family unit but I burn the blueberry ones that I made especially for you. You forgive me. Daddy runs to work again. You and your brother and sister are bustled to the car to begin another busy day. Your brother is dropped at a friend’s house and they travel on to school together. You are so sad that he gets to do another thing that you miss out on and you desperately want to go home and play with Daddy, but that just cannot be.

So I do the only thing I have the power to do. I drive to the bakery and I buy you the big raspberry and white chocolate muffin. They don’t have blueberry but you don’t mind anymore. You are all lit up with your sparkly smile and shiny chocolate eyes. You squirm with delight and I know that smile will stay with you all day. Because that’s who you are.

I can’t stop your brother being older and I can’t stop your Daddy providing for his family but I can show you that amidst all the chaos and heartache, life can still be quite delicious.

Dinosaur Wars

He wanted a dinosaur cake. I planned a flourless chocolate cake. He wanted strawberry with real strawberry pieces and strawberry icing.

I hate strawberry.

 

I doubted it could be made. Who bakes a cake with real strawberry pieces? Husband found recipe.

 

So we made it. I planned to ice it but wasn’t allowed until he was with me and he had to go to bed. So we did it together the next day. He kept eating my ingredients. We compromised our wills by putting the strawberry icing in the middle of our little dinosaurs and I was allowed to put chocolate icing on top. I got out the cake board to display our finished products. He arranged the little dinosaurs on the coffee table complete with foliage.

 

It wasn’t at all what I had planned, but then, neither was he. I remembered the words my very smart blonde friend once told me when I was pregnant with him and I went from organsing a lavender infused water birth to preparing hysterically for a caesarean…”you have just learnt the first rule of motherhood – you are not in control”.

 

As we sang happy birthday, my grown up baby boy’s eyes shone in the candlelight, a little boy happily lost in his own dinosaur land.

 

This child has been hard. This one has taught me more about life, love, fear, frustration and joy than I thought was possible. I am a better human being because he made me delve deep to be the best advocate, best mother and best person I could be.

 

Thank you little man for all you have taught me. You help me get my ego out of the way. You make me want to be a better person. You were the first and in some ways you will always be the scariest because I am supposed to be guiding you as you grow and clearly I have no idea. Yet despite all you forgive me and love me. You are a brave, individual, shiny whirlwind and I love you with all my heart and every fibre of my being.

 

 

 

Happy 5th birthday you precious little man.

Grandma In The Waves

I make my children listen to a combination of eclectic and outright dodgy music.  Last night we finished the day with a Gregorian chant and this morning we started with a very country twang. I feel it’s an easy way to educate them about different styles of music and it is one of the few things that they don’t complain about. Therefore, the sometimes-dubious music choices remain.

 

When I feel things are going a bit helter skelter I bring out the spiritual soothing stuff with water and birds entwined. It doesn’t calm any one and it caused a slight commotion today when my four year old told my two year old that the birds on the CD were dead but again it makes me feel like I am at least trying to have some positive influence over their day.

 

As my four year old was listening to the track with “the waves” he asked me what Grandma was saying in the waves. I didn’t understand the question so I asked him if he meant what are the words to the music and explained there were no words but we could make some up about his Grandma if he wanted.

 

“No” he replied, “I can hear her in the waves”

 

His Grandma, my mother, died when he was twenty months old and I was five weeks pregnant with our second child. As I swell with our third due in three weeks I ache for her and mourn that she could not know our incredible human beings who defy description. In the moment that he heard his Grandma in “the waves”, my son brought her back into the room, back into our lives and for a fleeting moment she was there with us. It felt so damn good.

 

I hope I hear her in the waves.

My Prince and his Pea

All was going well until the toddler pushed a pea up his nose.

 

At first it seemed quite reachable and then it seemed to disappear altogether. He wasn’t upset in any manner but I called to my husband for a closer inspection. And there it was – a glistening ball of green way up high in his nasal cavity.

 

I didn’t want this today. It had been a great day with my two boys playing so beautifully together for hours whilst I ran around like a mad woman nesting at thirty-five weeks pregnant. It was all going so well before the pea.

 

I rang the nurses’ line and they suggested we try and remove it and if that failed take him to a GP. The pea was not budging so we opted for the doctor. I asked my husband to take him. That was unusual, as usually I would not move away from my babies if they were in any way unwell and besides, my husband had work to do. He said he would go if I could tell him why I didn’t want to go.

 

I had no words for this. There was no reason. Yes, I was tired at thirty-five weeks and desperately wanted to eat and sleep. The thought of entertaining a toddler and a four year old in a waiting room on a busy public holiday was daunting but it was, after all, my job. It wasn’t part of the job description but it was a mother’s life and I had signed on for the long haul.

 

 

He left with my little man. I waited on the verge of tears and hysterics with my four year old for the next three hours. I felt a huge amount of guilt for not being there to hold his tiny hand. I felt an absolute ache to hold him and re-assure him and I felt the most dreadful fear that something would go wrong. Mostly I felt that, today, I couldn’t be superwoman. I couldn’t bear to watch him cry, I couldn’t sit and stand and run around a waiting room with my swollen belly and I couldn’t handle the stress and the strain of something going wrong. Today I didn’t have it in me.

 

Finally he came skipping in the door with his pea in a sample jar. There had been no tears or trauma. He had lain quite still while the doctor removed the foreign object and she had remarked on his bravery.

 

That night at bedtime I hugged him like I would never let go. I wondered if he knew I had let him down. Finally I let him go and, exhausted, he quickly fell asleep.

 

The four year old was then cuddled and kissed and I was left with the babe in my belly to contemplate the day.

 

The unborn child was not planned. I miscarried two months before falling pregnant again and this pregnancy has been overshadowed by an incredible fear of losing this one. Once knowing their love, the pain of losing it was almost more than I could bear.

 

Today was a sun filled day full of happy chirping boys and a line full of baby clothes. I just couldn’t cope with anything going wrong.

 

It didn’t. A sprightly, robust, cheeky toddler had a pea removed.

 

And we all lived to tell the tale.

 

Girlfriends

I have a variety of girlfriends of diverse ages and backgrounds and I have to say I LOVE my girlfriends. I love their company; I love how they can solve the world’s problems in a few words and most of all I love how they know when to let me be psychotic and when to give me a good reality check. I’ve always been a girlfriend girl. I have had a few male friends but I just don’t understand them. I know women who love their male friends and rave about how easy it is to be in their company. I guess I don’t do easy very well.

 

I come from a history of girlfriends. My mother had four that she knew for over fifty years so I was brought up surrounded by this tribe of strong vibrant women. All except one married men who were largely ineffectual. They were basically educated women who still managed to run businesses, raise children, solve major problems and have dinner on the table by 6pm without too much of a fuss. Consequently I was shown that having a significant other might actually be an unnecessary, even unpleasant thing. So being on my own was never really a big issue for me. I rarely found a person I was very interested in and when I did, I would usually turn out to be very wrong in my estimation of them. Being alone was usually a great time to lick wounds and a huge relief.

 

I did hate the pity associated with being single. To this day I HATE Valentine’s Day. Restaurants with full-length windows filled with brazen couples flaunting their doe eyes and staunchly showing the world they are part of a complete couple.  The rest of us can just drive glumly passed and wonder about volunteer work in Africa as a way of filling our emptiness (just a tip to those thinking of this option I have a friend doing aid work in Afghanistan getting her rocks off with an American GI and feeling quite fulfilled, thank you very much.)

 

Strong social judgment is probably the reason I often feel uncomfortable asking single women friends about possible relationships. I find when not in a relationship some can be quite defensive about it. So I just skirt about the edges of their life avoiding these questions in case I offend or make someone uncomfortable.  Consequently I miss out on a chunk of their lives.

 

I am, however, quite comfortable to pick up the pieces when things go wrong.

I remember sitting with one of my dearest friends who had just finished a particularly hideous relationship that involved a lot of late night phone calls and bottles of wine (mainly on my part). She has a tendency to completely shut down emotionally when in such a situation so the scenario usually goes that I beg her to let me come over then I sit on her bedroom floor crying as she passes me tissues and gives me a blow by blow description of how it all went so horribly wrong. She is too world weary to cry anymore so I just hope that my tears somehow flush out the sadness in her and make it all go away.

 

One day we were having lunch when she mentioned that because I was in a “solid” relationship I didn’t really have to worry about much any more. Admittedly, she was still in the very bitter stage, but it made me think about how we perceive romance. I stupidly thought that a romantic life was this wonderful, magical removal of life’s horrors. WHY I felt like this I have NO IDEA. I had no role models to suggest this was true and no one I knew had actually found such a partner. I had just somehow sucked in enough trashy magazines and bad fiction to believe this was the case. What I got instead was a painful reality check that involved years of therapy and a big clean up of the crap I had collected. What I wanted to say to my friend was that it wasn’t easy and my problems weren’t solved. I really feel we are sold a terrible myth when we believe romance fixes all.

 

I can say that I am a better human being for having the courage to love another and to allow myself to be loved. But the bottom line is when I wake in the morning and I look in the mirror, all the fears and doubts and pains I have about myself don’t go away. Ultimately the life I lead needs to be lead by me. My lover can’t solve my problems.

 

That’s why I will always need my girlfriends. They make it a damn sight easier to survive the ride.