Monday, June 27, 2011

The right way down a wrong way street

Things are going wrong. Drastically wrong. A sure sign I suspect, that things are beginning to go right. There aren't many people who know me well who wouldn't use the words 'anally retentive' at least once in a three word choice to describe me. Colour coded charts are my passion. Checklists and to-do lists are my best friends. Perfect retail therapy? A rampage in a stationary shop - the more colour segmented notepads and highlighter pens the better.

So you can imagine I embraced motherhood with as much energy, exhuberance and practical planning as an A4 folder with colour dividers would allow. I religiously followed Gina Ford's rules to a letter, I enforced Annabel Karmel's healthy menu's to a tea, I restricted TV, drowned in Arts & Crafts and read each book enthusiastically 164,493 times (sometimes in one night it seemed). I put pressure on myself like a cherry on top of an icing cupcake of pressure. But recently things have been changing. I'm not sweating the small stuff any more - perhaps because I've so much big stuff to sweat these days.

Last week alone, I did so many 'wrong' things, I might as well have been following the Bad Book of Parenting. Here's a few tasters:

  • I let the girls watch TV still in their pyjamas. At 3pm.

  • I took them to Eddie Rockets for burger and chips because I couldn't be bothered to make tea and fancied somewhere that threw away the plates
  • That was how my precious baby who only eats home-cooked organic foods celebrated her 3/4 year - with a chip in each hand and 4 in her gob.
  • I didn't wait for the girls to be in bed before I opened a bottle of wine - it was 6.15 and the sun was shining, and I thought I should raise a toast to the glowing sky

  • I didn't retch, scream, or pull out my hair when circumstances of a day out meant Ruby didn't go down for her 12 o'clock sleep until 3pm.

  • One day I rejected every pore in my body and sat on the sofa while Ruby slept and the girls played and ....... read my book. I did not hoover. I did not bake. I did not clean behind the pot plants. I read. A Book.

I'm wallowing in my wrongness. I'm rather hoping this week is an utter disaster.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Tap Tap

I don't know about you, but 6 years and three children in, I still look over my shoulder occassionally to see who might be coming close enough to tap me on the shoulder and tell me I'm not a real mother, please move along. If only there was a manual - one that doesn't tell me to listen to my inner gut which frankly only tells me I ate too much chocolate and drank too much wine last night, or one that tells me exactly what time I can eat a slice of toast (honestly, one does) and lays out my parenting tasks like a military opertion - with as much loving as that would entail. No, we just have to muddle through, hoping against hope that we aren't on the social services list for mad mothers, and gaining strength in numbers by hanging out (or blogging alongside) other mad mothers, in every form the word mad entails.

And just when I think I'm really not very good at this (last week my 6pm phone call to a friend went like this: 'is it ok to open a bottle of wine before the kids go to bed?' My friend replied, 'well, what are they doing?' to which I confessed they were eating chocolate and watching TV. 'Oh you're way past wondering if drinking before their bedtime is ok!" she replied) my cohorts in co-parenting (for that is what friends are), boosted my confidence by confessing their own wayward ways. There is nothing like someone else's badness you make you feel good.

On Friday night, during a much needed girlie night drinking wine (it was after the kid's bedtime!) my friend and I decided to watch our favourite girlie night DVD. Oh come on! We are grown women but admit it - we all love a teenage vampire! After fiddling with the controls for a few moments, she announced she was off to get her daughter up. "But she's been asleep for two hours!" I gasped. "Yes," she said, as she carried her sleepy 8 year old into the room, "but she's the only one who can work the DVD player."

Did that make me feel good or what! Then, at a lovely afternoon tea with some other girlfriends the next day (it's been an amazing rare, but gorgeous friend-filled weekend) my child pyschologist friend - who for years has been guiding parents on how to bring up their children, confessed she's too confused and traumatised with her own two children to follow her own advice. "I used to be a parenting expert until I became a mum," she wailed as we all smiled and consoled her with the reminder that we had never been parenting experts. And maybe that's the point. We do the best we can..... with a little help from our friends. Thank you mad mothers everywhere for living in my world.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Family Friends

When you become a parent you don't think that your children will start having an influence on who you become friends with. But they do! One of my best friends is the mum of Daisy's best friend. How weird is that? Because Daisy made friends with a little girl in playschool, Ruby has Liza as her godmother. And now as Daisy ends her first year of school, I realise that some of the mums and dads I say hello to every morning - and who I will share time with for the next eight years - have slowly become friends. One a really good one. I never expected to make close friends at this stage of my life. Thought that was all done years ago.
I have always admired and envied my mum's circle of friends. As long as I have been alive, they have been around. I called them 'Auntie' and they shared every momentous and mundane moment of my mum's life, and by association, mine. They know me as well as anyone. Apart from the fact that 'The Girls' (as they still call themselves 40 years later) met every other Tuesday night for over four decades, they also chinked drinks and wrapped arms around each other at every significant event in their lives - children's births, divorces, parties, celebrations, bad days, good days and all the dramas and dilemmas that mark everyday life. There were days when they kept each other afloat and I always wished I had something similar.
But I didn't. Or so I thought. Sure I don't have the close knit circle, but I have something else. At my 40th I was pregnant so I decided to have a birthday lunch with my best girlfriends - a disparate group who I realised had also shared every moment of my life with me - just not all at once.
I realised I had a friend from every part of my life, and together they had chinked drinks and wrapped their arms around me for every significant event in my life. But, life has a funny way of keeping the circles intact, like a swirl, making circles within circles. One of the first phonecalls I made after my mum's stroke was to her best friends. Their devastation was profound and gave depth to mine. Over the last nine months they have kept me afloat. I text them, I ring and ask for advice, they call in to see me when I'm up with mum, and our lives now entwine once again, the love of my mum our common language. My mum's friends have become mine, friendship stretching generations. And as my new layer of friendships develop around the lives of my children, I hope the circles continue to spiral and my girls too will know that my friends are there for my life and theirs.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Simply complicated

There is one phrase I've been saying a lot of over the last couple of years..... "how did life get so complicated?"

Never mind the added extras - hubby's job insecurities and working away, miscarriages, chromosome disorders, mum's stroke, Poppy's coeliac - but even the bare basics of life as a mother - money moans, lack of childcare and support, planning and catering for umpteen meals a day for umpteen ages, timings and diets, school runs, 28 hours of jobs in 24 hour timeframe - life is simply, complicated.

I often wonder how my carefree days where the decisions all centred on, well, me... (what should I wear, red or white wine, which party??) ended up so crammed with conundrums and challenges created by the responsibilities of the lives of other people. I look at my girls and wistfully wonder at their frivilous freedom. Pulled back and restained by the few obligations in their little lives - teatime, bedtime and school /playschool - they shout "can we play?" at every opportunity of freedom, their battlecry of life as a child.

But recently I've realised the grass isn't greener, it's just a different shade. My little 5 year old daughter Daisy was forced into the position of older sister by two giddy siblings and the responsibilities and expectations that hang on that mantle are... simply complicated.

Since last September when she was just about to turn five, she got a new sister, her nanna was struck down with a devastating stroke, her mum dived into a dark remote place, she started school, her other sister went through tests and got lots of attention to diagnose ceoliac and now has 'special' food, her other sister sucks the air from her parents, ill, young and needy. Quite a lot for little shoulders. On top of that, recently, she's had trouble at school - a little bit of bullying that has made her retreat into herself, battering that wall I've built up to protect her, dashing that confidence I have tried so hard to instill, clouding over that sunshine that eminates from her. Schoolyard socialising can be a dynamite place. How do I teach her to stand up for herself while being the good person? How do I not put too much responsibility on her when I need so much help? How do I protect her and guide her and teach her to cope? How do I help her make her complicated life simple?

But, like so many things in life that I have been taught by my children, she is teaching me again. She is teaching me to smile through it all, to take the complications on the chin and to seek the one thing that gets us through it all - family. At times like this, we turn to the ones that know us inside out. We stop trying to think outside the box for once, and get right back inside that box where it's safe and secure. Simply? We uncomplicate things whenever we can.