Growing up, my Christmases were a wee bit different to the ones my kids enjoy.
I am the oldest of eight children and trust me, we never lacked in love or happiness, but sometimes Christmas was a little less than the years before. The funny thing is though, as I’ve gotten older and recalled to my mum the Christmases I remember most – they are the ones where she thought we had the least.
There was the Christmas my sisters and I got cat food in our Santa sacks and nothing else. We were disappointed but amused. It also took us a lot longer than Mum thought it would to find the kittens hiding. Mum had adopted us two kittens to share because they were free to a good home. Those free kittens and a couple of cans of jellymeat are one of my favourite Christmas memories.
One of the other things I’ll always remember fondly is sneaking into the pantry with the house phone and ringing the 0800 222 222 Santa line. Our giggles always gave us away, that and the fact the phone back then had a cord on it which led right to our hiding place. That Santa line was so magical that we would start ringing from the beginning of November in the hopes Santa would pick up.
This year, the Santa line has stepped up. Technology definitely has its place in being able to add to the magic of Christmas for kids, and the new Naughty or Nice Report is fastly becoming a favourite with my two. They love moving the naughty or nice slider for each other and crack up if one says the other has been ‘naughty’.
Hands down, their favourite part though is the messages from Santa. Trilly is sold that it is indeed Santa right there talking to her and she may not admit it, but I’ve caught Miss on the site when she didn’t think I was looking too.
It’s just like my memories of the Santa line, only new and better.
When I was in third form I used to favour wearing my hair a particular way. It was center parted and then tied back into half pony tails. I did this for a couple of reasons; my mum had always done my hair this way, I was growing out a fringe and this meant I could tie the shorter bits back and someone had once commented I had a long skinny neck and wearing the back of my hair out helped with my self consciousness on that issue.
One day a friend and I got into a disagreement. I’m not sure who threw the first ‘punch’ but as 13 year olds our Arsenal was limited and I told her her fringe was stupid and she told me my hair made me look like baby spice. You’ll have to rewind to being a 13 yr old in the year 2000 to understand this was highly insulting. The spice girls were no longer cool. I was mortified and I never wore my hair that way again.
The feeling of that one comment as trivial as it was is something you don’t forget. It was essentially a strike at my appearance and in hindsight my comment to my friend had similar repercussions because I can recall she wore her fringe clipped to the side for the few weeks to follow. We never admitted to one another the hurt we had caused each other and as girls do our fight was quickly forgotten however the fall out was not because whether it was a conscious decision or not we both proceeded to change our appearance after that.
This morning Miss asked me to tie her hair up in two pigtails, infact she also wore her hair that way yesterday. This morning when I walked her to class however a girl from another class commented that ‘pigtails are so dumb’ as we walked passed. The comment was not said directly to Miss but there was no one else with pigtails around in that moment, the direction was obvious to Miss and myself. I had to contain my potty mouth as I was taken back to my hurt 13 yr old self and felt my heart plunge as Miss looked up at me. Once in class Miss asked me to take her hair out and change it to a pony tail. This was not a time to argue that she stand her ground and that her pig tails were fine, this was a time of silent commiseration as I took her hair out of the hair ties and redid it into one. This was a time for me to hug her and reply ok as she told me she will never wear pigtails again.
The point of my ramblings and the question I ask is this, why is it so ingrained in girls even at such a young age to comment on and attack another’s appearance? Why is it so easy for us at any age to pass judgement on another for how they look, dress or present themselves with no thought of the impact of our commentary?
I was raised not to be so callous yet as a 13 yr old girl it was my first call of defense despite having been subjected to it personally myself. How can we teach our girls to see past the outside and to encourage them to support and love the inner beauty of a fellow sister?
I mentioned recently over on my Facebook page that I am a mid-years mama, a Tween mama if you will. You can find a wealth of knowledge and blogs full of advice on Newborns, Babies, Toddlers and Teens however I’m noticing a serious lack of talking on the Tween phase. It’s almost like we jump from Pre-schoolers to Teens and forget we have to get through the murky middle waters before the teen stage.
With all that in mind and a great deal of thinking on my behalf I thought I’d write a little bit on the things I am learning from my Miss 8 and the crap people forgot to warn me about. I’m hoping it will resonate with some fellow mamas who are at the same stage as me and even if you aren’t then look forward to it or read it and think back on when this was you.
26 Things I’m learning about my Tween
I am still her favourite person. Until I’m not but I know in an hour or so I will be again. Its ok, I get it. I remember feeling the same with my own mum.
She hates most the clothes I buy for her. Mainly because I chose them. On shopping trips I keep my mouth shut and pray she chooses wisely. It’s still ok though because I will not buy what I don’t think is appropriate.
She likes to spend my money and she neeeeeeeds everything. It’s not true.
She is aware her body is changing and it is confronting and confusing for her. She isn’t sure why some clothes I used to let her wear I now tell her are inappropriate. It’s tough trying to explain.
She looks older than she acts. I still let her be a child. It is unfair for people to expect such grown up things from her.
She is a tiny hurricane of turbulent emotions. Pre-puberty mood swings are real and they are taking over her body and she has no idea what the heck is wrong.
She still needs cuddles. She acts like she doesn’t but deep down she stills craves them. So when she scraps her knee or stubs her toe it is still easily fixed with a big bear hug.
Unless we are in public. In public I tread carefully. Some days she is unreadable. Some mornings a kiss goodbye is fine but other days I dare not touch her. I am learning it depends on our audience.
I can’t fight her battles for her. As much as I want to march up to that bully and sort them out with stern words and evil glares. I can’t. I have to trust her to do this for herself. I have to trust that I have taught her to cope with these situations. I know she wants me to rescue her but I also know she would be mortified if I did. It’s tough.
I can’t choose her friends for her. She has her own ideas and the best thing I can do is get to know them. They are her posse and their influence on her is inevitable, I must know who these girls are.
She uses my shampoo and body washes in the shower. She swears she doesn’t touch them but she smells just like me.
She wants to wear my make up. Not smeared on lipstick like her younger sister but properly applied.
She is still ok when I say no.
She is starting to doubt herself. Gone is the fearless I can do anything attitude and the worry and self-doubt is coming in its place. It is my job to teach her she was right before. She can do anything.
She is starting to need privacy. She changes in the bedroom with the door shut and is starting to dread the school swimming changing rooms.
She can slam her bedroom door with the force of a strong man.
But she still can’t shut the pantry door.
She is not me. She is herself. I must let her be her.
People at school are telling her that Santa, The Easter Bunny and the Tooth fairy aren’t real and she is looking at me for answers. Of course, they’re real. I will cling to this magic of childhood for as long as I can.
She makes me cry, laugh, feel hopeless and hopeful all in one day. I want to save her and praise her, hug her, kiss her and scold her all at once.
With every new emotion or mood swing I pray my mother is wrong and the upcoming teen years will not be pay back for how I behaved during my own.
She has a great sense of humour. She is funny, and smart, and witty. She reassures me I am not.
She has discovered sarcasm. Its crap and it’s often paired with eye rolling.
She is still fragile. She may deliver the comebacks but she cannot handle them.
As much as I want to be her BFF forever I am her Mum first. She is learning this and I am learning how hard it can be to step back from the friend status and be a tough Mama. Some days she tells me she hates me and I have to remind myself that if she didn’t hate me I wouldn’t be doing my job right.
She still needs her mum. No matter how old she gets, no matter how determined and independent she is, she will still need me and this reassurance will get me through this.
This stage is just as rewarding and tedious as any stage of parenting but that’s parenting in a nutshell really. There are good days and bad days but at the end of the day it’s a journey most of us wouldn’t give up for the world. It is a gift and a rollercoaster of a ride.
Christmas is coming up… Yeh I know it was just March and now it’s pretty much Christmas tomorrow. Well, not really but it’ll feel like it once we are there!
I am a kind sort of person and I like to help people out so I thought I’d give some tips and advice from my Mum perspective. Not a list of things to buy for my kids because that’s a bit presumptuous but more a list of things not to buy. Why?! Because I can! So take it onboard if you care to and consider the parents of those cute wee kids you are gifting presents to this year.
Kinetic Sand or Playdoh.
I freaken hate this crap! Yes that most likely makes me a terrible mother when it comes to creative play BUT if you gift this you must be aware you are now obligated to stay for the clean up.
Same goes for glitter, goop, silly putty and molding clay.
Keyboards, drum kits, whistles, recorders.
Yes music is delightful but please be aware if you gift these to my children I will remember it forever and when your child’s first birthday or Christmas rolls round, look out because I will hunt down a harmonica and a kazoo and gift it to your child!
Any battery powered toys, without the batteries. C’mon people! Don’t make me the bad guy when I have to say ‘oh, we’ll have to get batteries tomorrow‘. They want to play with it now damnit!
Craft kits that require my help and attention for more than the set up. It’s Christmas Day, the day where it’s appropriate to have wine for breakfast. Don’t freaken ruin this for me.
Fur-real pets. We have real animals. Let’s keep it that way.
A real pet. I have one husband, two kids, three cats and four house plants I’m already trying to keep alive.
More freaken loom bands! I kid you not I will throw them back at you. I don’t care if they were 200 packs for $1. They are clogging up my vacuum cleaner.
Technology I haven’t agreed to. Please don’t swoop in and be the ‘fun’ family member who buys my kid an iPod/iPad/iWhatever. You will only be cool to them, I will loathe you and tear you a new one.
Giant oversized soft toys. Just no. They have absolutely no purpose, so no.
Above all, don’t be a dick. Don’t trump the parents present. If they say Santa is bringing the kids a scooter, don’t buy them a motorbike.
There are so many things I want to teach my girls that my mind threatens to explode. Half of it they are far too young to even understand yet but the life lessons I want them to learn are always front of mind for me. Some are simple wee tokens of advice that have served me well, others are bigger lessons that I need them to understand. I know I can’t save them broken hearts or hard lessons but when the time is right I will pass on my pearls of wisdom.
Things I want to teach my daughters
Always make eye contact when speaking with someone. It is respectful and good manners.
Live to eat. Food is delicious and there is so much to enjoy and discover. Don’t eat just to live.
Never judge people. You don’t know their story and you haven’t walked in their shoes.
Learn to say NO. You don’t need any reason except that you want to say no.
Read books. Lots of books.
Don’t take life or yourself too seriously.
Tattoos are permanent. Think it through, trust me.
Don’t settle in a relationship. You deserve a prince who captures your heart and protects it as if it were made of glass. Wait for that man.
No matter how old or young you are, if you are drunk, ring me. Do not drive. Do not get in some ones car. I will not be mad at you and I will get out of bed for you.
Don’t sleep around. Just don’t.
It’s not the quantity that matters when it comes friends. It’s the quality.
Don’t be afraid to do you. Be proud of who you are and be you with confidence.
A naked face can be liberating. Don’t be afraid to show it.
Always have wine in your fridge. For when I visit.
Buy the shoes, the handbag, the perfume – you deserve them.
Be a good listener. Really hear people when they talk to you.
People always remember how you make them feel. Make them smile.
No one is any better than you, and you are no better than anyone else.
We are all in this together, be kind.
Take responsibility for your mistakes. Apologise when you should.
Don’t be afraid to fail. Take a deep breath and try.
You can be and do anything you want to.
You can also do absolutely nothing all day except eat chocolate and watch tv. That’s ok too but only every now and again.
If you’re not married to him, use protection. Safety first.
Just because it zips, doesn’t mean it fits.
Wine/beer and pizza is a perfectly acceptable meal.
Tights are not pants and you are better than track pants. Unless it’s Lazy Sunday and then anything goes.
I don’t care if you choose to love women or men. You are still you and dad and I will always love you.
If they make you cry, they aren’t worth your tears.
Have the courage and strength to walk away. Sometimes things aren’t right for us and we must accept this.
Childbirth is painful. Few things are comparable. Except bikini waxing, that’s kinda the same.
Always have something you do just for you.
Your youth will fade, so may your looks but your mind is forever. Keep it sharp.
Never lose your sense of humour.
If you have to, try the weed but stay away from the hard stuff.
See the world. Go on adventures.
Stay at school. Go to university. Education is your weapon.
Never go to bed angry.
We need the cloudy days to appreciate the sunshine.
When nothing seems to be going right, turn the music up loud and dance that shit out.
I am always on your side. I’ve got your back.
Even if I am not here, I am always with you.
Everything will be ok in the end.
Something as simple as your breath, your smile, your laugh – completes me. To me you are everything.
As a female from the moment we come into this world we are told we can be and do anything. That we must fight for our equality in this world and we must assert ourselves as strong, competent, multi-tasking and able females. That we are the Queen of our own jungle, a lioness and the world must hear us roar.
Then some of us become mothers and we feel the need to up our womanly super powers. To juggle motherhood along with every other thing we could want to achieve in our lives. To chase the next dream, cross the finish line of the race and to tick the goals off our life check list. There are affirmations all over social media and we share inspiring quotes between us. It is a firm message that we can and must conquer the world and we can do it all with a baby on our tit and another on our hip.
I am guilty of overloading. I am guilty of not being strong enough to say no. I am guilty of trooping on and not asking for help despite feeling crushed by the weight of my commitments. I worry that admitting I am not coping will open me up to be viewed as weak. That people will realise I am not made of stone, I am not super, I am not juggling motherhood and life with ease. I read one of those glorious meme’s the other day that said ‘We are all losing our shit, some of us are just better at hiding it than others’ and I thought A-FREAKEN-MEN!
I think most women whether they are mothers or not can relate to the pressure to succeed. The pressure to prove ourselves and to have our shit under control but I want to chuck it out there that it is ok and perfectly normal to fail at ‘adulting’ every now and again, and to take refuge in a pillow fort. Not only is it normal but it is deliciously therapeutic. Take a long bath with those fancy ass Lush bath bombs, eat the whole king size block of chocolate, drink all the wine and throw yourself a big old pity party. Then get back to it.
Learn your limits. Assert yourself and your ability to say no. Don’t feel ashamed of saying no. It’s a powerful word and you need no excuses. Once you have mastered the art of using the big N-O life tends to take a turn. I’ll be honest, it’s hard as hell at first to just say no without following it with rambling justifications but the truth is you don’t need to do that. So repeat after me – no, No, NO! Let’s all be a little self-indulgent now and again and not feel a damn bit guilty about it.
While I will continue to raise my own little females with the positive affirmations of being able to conquer the world, I will also teach them the importance of putting themselves first. I will carefully guide them through the need to be selfish every now and again and that there is no weakness in asking for help. It takes great strength to admit so. They are indeed beautiful lionesses but they don’t need to be alone in their jungle. Support networks are crucial and if there is one kingdom I want them to build, it is that one.
Last week almost broke me and if admitting this helps someone else realise they need to call a time out and look after themselves then that hideous selfie was worth it. Call on your support systems, admit you need them and make sure they bring the wine!
I was going to do it all. Drug free all natural birth. Breast is best. Cloth nappies over disposables. All organic produce as first foods. Playgroups, music classes, anything that would kick start their educational journey. Mother Madonna, you’re looking at her. That was the plan anyway.
Reality is it didn’t go to plan from the start. Both pregnancies were hard. I was sick, I went into preterm labour, I was a high risk case. I had to birth at the hospital. I had to have the steroids after going into labour preterm. With Trilly I had to stay in hospital for 8 days while they made efforts to keep her in there. It was a success and I baked her for a few more weeks. Both births were long and tedious, I demanded an epidural after 30 hrs of labour and no one can tell me I didn’t deserve it. It was heavenly. The epidural with Trilly only worked down one side but there was no way in hell I was risking doing it again and it not working at all. Drug free and natural it was not but the end result was still the same, I have two healthy daughters and I am here too.
All through my pregnancies people would tell me what a good cow I’d be. I mean of course I would, I had gigantor boobs! Obviously they would work fabulously right? Both girls I persevered, I saw the lactation consultants, I fed through tears and bleeding nipples, I gave it all I could. And mostly off only one side because only one side worked! I was defeated. I had a broken gigantor boob. I felt broken. At 6 weeks both girls went on to formula. The change in them instant. They were finally being fed properly. It broke my heart and I felt a failure but it was best for us.
As for the whole organic produce and lean meat diet I planned to feed them when the time came as hard as I damn tried Trilly blantantly refused to eat any food. Miss has always been a see food, eat food type of kid but Trilly still survives mainly on yoghurt and ham sandwiches. We encourage her to try new food, to just taste it please but the arguments are exhausting and believe it or not she’s healthy. I will often feed her up on a banana before bedtime because I can’t believe she survives on so little. She’s growing and thriving though and isn’t that the main thing?
Cloth nappies are great but I can honestly say I didn’t do it. I didn’t realise I’d have to deal with scrapping the crap down the toilet and soaking shitty nappies. Naive I was at the reality of saving the environment and the convenience of the disposables won. I could say I’m ashamed but I honestly don’t feel any guilt on this choice.
I tried mum/baby classes. I gave them a good whirl. Trilly did gym classes from age 2 to 4 before kindy days took over. Miss and I used to hang out and even though we didn’t go to any classes that turned her into a baby genius she still developed and learned at the same rate as any other child her age. She didn’t lag behind, miss milestones or suffer from lack of stimulation on her tiny brain. Both my girls are perfectly normal. Perfectly average even. Perfectly where they should be.
In a world full of everyone’s advice and opinions it gets confusing to find your own path. To find the right way that works for you. Your mind boggles at the options and your heart hurts from the judgements. What works for them may not work for you. They say not every child is the same so it only makes sense that not every mother is and we can not all parent our children identically.
Do what works for you, your child and your family. You will never catch me saying someone else’s way is wrong if it wasn’t right for us. We all do what we have to do to get through. Spend less time worrying about what others are doing and you will be so much more confident in your own parenting decisions. Love your child, raise a good human and make the world a better place.
As I sent Trilly off to school this week and said goodbye to my years of early parenting I can’t help but reflect on the decisions I made and the children I have raised so far. They have manners after years of ‘what do you say?’ being the first response to their questions but they still fart and belch as much as the next kid. They are children, they are fine and they are mine.
I’m going to take time to pat myself on the back because despite almost failing at every prechildren idea I had of parenting and not quite being the Mother Madonna I envisioned they are still children to be proud of and unbelievably proud of them and me I am.
We spend most winter Sundays wrapped in blankets on the couch. Fire roaring, popcorn popped and watching movies as a family. It’s lazy and perfect but Hollywood has a lot to answer for with some of its unrealistic portrayals of real life so just to keep me grounded I thought I’d point out some obvious misconceptions.
14 Reasons I know my life is not a Movie
1. My hair is not glossy, perfectly styled or flowing in the wind – Nope, just nope. I have two hairstyles. Hobo, which requires a beanie or hat of some description to hide the knots. And top knot, used on days I can’t find a beanie or hat.
2. Hubby and I do not go to bed at the same time, make sweet love and then sleep peacefully until morning wrapped spooning in each other’s arms – HELL NO! I go to bed earlier than hubby most nights in an attempt to fall asleep first to get at least a small amount of decent sleep before he comes to bed and wakes me with his snoring. Once woken by his snoring I then spend most the night awake thinking of how I can get away with smothering him with my pillow but not quite killing him.
3. I do not go to bed swathed in a silk negligee. I have an old pair of trackies that hubby often tries to hide and a maternity top I’ve held on to since baby number one that I consider slumbering in style.
4. Egyptian cotton sheets?! What the hell are those?! We have the poly cotton special from The Warehouse. Maybe I should splash out?
5. Sundresses and heels while we frolic among the spring blooms and sip tea perhaps? No not me. I’ve got jeans, jandals and a takeaway coffee.
6. Not once have any freaken birds or small animals helped me with my house work!
7. I’m still waiting for my Fairy Godmother too. Lord knows I could have used her more than once already but has the bitch showed up?! NO!
8. I had my second child 5 years ago but I still cannot slink back into that pre-baby little black dress. For me to get in the little black dress it takes two pairs of spanx and a husband willing to try removing me from my beige sausage casing at the end of the night. I’ll be honest I’ve slept in it more than once when he hasn’t been up to the job.
9. I don’t even have a reason for a little black dress because what the hell are date nights?! It takes me almost a full month of begging to find someone willing to watch our children so we can have a couple of hours free after 5pm.
10. Don’t even get me started on ‘movie mums’ perky boobs. I take my bra off and my tits droop so low they start chatting to my belly button. And the only way I can wear skinny jeans is with an oversized tee so I can hide the fact I’m still tucking my guts into them.
11. I have left plenty of shoes behind on a big night but not once has Prince Charming come knocking at my door. In fact I had to find my own damn Prince and just ended up with a mismatched shoes collection.
12. Despite my best efforts my children are not child protégées, I love them dearly and they are of course perfect to me but mathematical geniuses or budding CIA agents they are not.
13. When we go camping we do not toast marshmallows and sing kombayah around the fire place. We bitch our tits off about who has to hand wash the grubby dishes, moan about sand in our sleeping bags and for some reason still put ourselves through it the next year.
14. Christmas is not idyllic. There’s no eggnog and Christmas carols. There are arguments over who brings what, the price limits for the presents, who buys for who and there’s always that one person that peaks too early on the booze.
In hindsight, despite its lack of Hollywood perfection, I think our lives are probably better than most movies anyway.
I remember Miss’s first day at school. I fought back tears as she entered school full of excitement. I went to the car when the 9am bell rang and cried like a baby. I watched the clock, counting down the hours until pick up time and then sat out the front of school from 2.40pm just waiting.
Trilly starts school next Friday and the feelings are back. Just this morning I fought back tears as I organised to bring her a birthday cake on her last day at kindy, her actual 5th birthday. However, this time I won’t let Trilly see me sad, I won’t let her realise how hard it is for me because she is excited and she deserves me to be excited for her.
It’s not about her leaving me and not having her by my side every afternoon. It’s bigger than that. It’s the realisation that she is moving on to that next step. That step that involves me having to start letting go. She is no long my baby, we are passed that now. She is becoming my independent young child. So a letter for her memory box is a birthday must.
Next week you are FIVE! That is a big milestone in my mummy book. It is the start of a whole new chapter in both our lives. Me, the mother of two big school girls and you, the new big schoolgirl. A new exciting step for all of us.
I am so proud of you. Your eagerness to learn and your fierce strive for independence. Your cheeky personality and sense of humour already apparent. You are so tough, yet so gentle and kind. I have heard you stand up to other children your age as they are overly assertive with you and you do it with kindness that I don’t think I could have ever taught you. It is natural to you to assert yourself but to do it kindly.
You were once so shy, painfully shy. Uncle Hayden once babysat you for the night and you cried for so long when we left that you fell asleep on the kitchen floor. He left you for fear you’d wake up and cry again. You have grown so much and now I see you rush at kindy to sign up for saying the prayer.
Ever since you discovered you could hold a cup yourself your quest for independence has been strong. You toilet trained at 15months because you refused to let me put a nappy on you and you couldn’t figure out how to do it yourself, so knickers and the toilet were your only option. You are always wanting to help me with everything and when I say no you reply ’but how will I learn?’
You are fearless. Sometimes this worries me as you sprint towards the ocean or go full accelerator on your motorbike. You are going to learn some tough lessons about the importance of caution but these are your lessons to learn and until I am ready for you to learn them I will continue to do my best to protect you. I can’t help it, it’s my job.
I want you to remember to treat everyone as you would like to be treated. This is my biggest wish. The world needs more kindness and I know you can be it. As you go through school you will encounter some mean people, it’s inevitable but kill them with kindness. They are the ones that need it most.
I cannot wait to cheer you on at school cross country, athletics days and swimming sports. I cannot wait to see both my girls on stage for the school productions and to sit proudly at prize-giving’s for you both. I can’t believe how quick our early years have flown past but I am excited for the next part of our lives.
Love always and forever,
Ps. In about a month’s time you are going to tell me you hate school that you don’t want to go and it’s dumb. So before we get there let’s make something clear, this is you for ATLEAST the next 10 years, I will most likely enforce that you stay at school for the next 12years. So get used to it. Suck it up Princess. You and your sister can commiserate together now. School is your future and you need it.