motherhood

Why You Need to Film your most Painful Moments

I never filmed any of my baby deliveries. Not the twenty-two hour labor with suction, forceps and episiotomy – the one where I alternately begged to be put out of my misery and yelled at the Hot Man to go find a different doctor who would know what to do with my misery. Not the three emergency c-section deliveries with their associated suffering and traumatization – especially not the one where a very young, not unattractive orderly said, “Hey I know you, I think you taught my sister!” Just before they numbed me from the chest down and whipped off my hospital gown for the entire room to check out (and cut up) my very naked, very pregnant self. #KillMeNow

Nah, I wasn’t interested in recording that kind of stuff for posterity. But if I’m being totally honest though, its because we were poor students and didn’t own a camera. And it was before the internet and mobile phones were invented. (Yes, Im that dinosaur who remembers a time BEFORE mobile phones…)

But now, I’m wishing I recorded my suffering.

Because today Big Son comes running upstairs from his gym set-up in the garage, full of excitement. “Look mum!”

He pushes his sweaty T.shirt out of the way and points at his bicep. I look. All I see is a sweaty arm. “I’m looking. And I’m smelling. You need a shower. You reek.”

He brushed aside my critique of his hygiene. “No, look at that! I have a stretchmark.” He points to a miniscule thread-like squiggly mark on his skin. So tiny and faint that it wouldn’t even qualify as ‘worm-like’.

“So what?” I say.

“It’s a result of all my training. A sign of my muscular development.” He flexes for extra muscular emphasis. So I can get the full impact of his rippling muscular self. “It means I’m getting ripped!”

I roll my eyes. “You call that a stretchmark? Boy, you have no idea what real stretchmarks are.” I roll up the cuff of my shorts revealing the side of my warrior-woman thigh. In all its spangled glory of patterns. “See that?! Now that’s what you call stretchmarks.”

I’m not done. Oh no. Not by far. I heft up my shirt and gesture grandly at my midriff. Well, if it had a tapering indented waist it would have a middle and thus classify as a ‘midriff.’ But it doesn’t. It’s just lots and lots of squishy RIFF RIFF RIFF.  And stamped all over it in intricate, epic style – are bold centipede tracks. “Check it out son!  Your wimpy squiggle is pathetic. Put it away.”

Big Son isn’t happy about having his stretchmark upstaged. “Mine is different mum. Mine is from hard work and struggle and endurance in the gym. You didn’t get those marks from anything like that.”

“Excuse me? These are from pregnancy.”

He nods sagely. “Exactly my point. My stretchmark is like a  battle scar. A sign of my gym WAR. You didn’t work hard for yours.”

What. The. Stretchmarked-hell??!!!!!! 

“You did not just say that…I cannot believe a child of mine just said that.” My voice starts to climb a mountain of outraged horror. “Growing an elephant baby is hard work. Do you even know the kind of trauma that inflicts on a woman’s body? It’s ten months of endurance training, it’s an alien life force ripping through your insides, shredding the abdominal wall, pressuring and tearing the skin of your stomach and thighs…and boobs! And since you were the first, you were the one who inflicted the most damage. I used to have abs dammit. Before I sacrificed myself to give you all life…blah blah…”

Big Son is rolling his eyes like he’s heard all this before. (He probably has. Growing too many babies also does funny things to your brain. Compromises memory retention.) I resist the urge to slap him. Or body slam him with my outraged squishy self. “Don’t you ever show me your pitiful stretchmark again, you hear me? It’s an insult to true warriors who have gone to hell and back to give stupid eighteen year olds life.”

By then Big Son is suitably chastened, convinced of my fierce warriorhood and contrite about his insensitive and offensive remarks. Or at least he’s pretending to be. The child knows how to behave when there’s a war he can’t hope to win. “Okay, okay. Forget I even mentioned my measly little stretchmark.” He slinks away.  To go shower hopefully.

Leaving me wishing, wishing that I had a video of me getting cut open to birth his ungrateful self.

Note to all women out there who might have a kid one day. Make sure you film the whole thing. Get audio of the screaming and cursing too. Close-ups of the blood and sweat.

You never know when it might come in handy.

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To Dance with My Heart

If we were living in Samoa, my children would dance the traditional Samoan siva at school and it would be no big deal. Because everybody does the siva in Samoa at some point, either for a school culture activity, or church/community/village event. And sure, I would go watch them and clap and cheer for them – but only because I’m their mum and that’s what mums have to do. Watch their kids and clap enthusiastically when they perform nice things in public.

As a kid, I had to dance the siva all the time, even when I didn’t want to…*sigh*…for my father’s village, for school culture day, for Independence celebrations, for taupou duties and even for a “Miss Tausala Soccer Pageant”  (ugh, don’t ask.)  It never occurred to me that dancing the siva was anything very special, because everybody did it. Every body HAD to do it at some point…kinda like riding a bike or making a flower ‘ula’ lei or cutting grass with a bushknife machete. (You’ve ALL done those things, right?!)  So how could it be special then? How could it be a real skill? How could it be a true ‘measina’, a true cultural treasure or precious part of my Samoan heritage – when it was no big deal??

Then I grew up and discovered that actually, lots of people don’t know how to dance the siva. (Just like lots of people don’t know how to make a flower lei, or cut grass with a bushknife! No way…serious?? ) And lots of people go take lessons from experts so they can learn how to dance at their weddings and stuff. Hmmm, interesting…

And then we moved here to New Zealand and I realized, my children probably weren’t going to absorb the Samoan siva out of thin air or via cultural osmosis and if I wanted them to be halfway useful at a cultural event – then I’d better teach them myself. So two months ago, I started teaching the daughters how to dance the siva. Even Bella was in the lessons. They weren’t always very enthusiastic about it and I wasn’t always very excited ( or loving and kind) about it either. But, we persisted and sometimes we actually had fun with it.

Tonight, for the first time, we danced the siva together in public, in front of other people. I thought Bella would chicken out at the last minute but she stuck with it and bravely danced the entire performance with the rest of us. She stayed very close by my side and looked up at me as a guide for her hands, feet and heart, carefully patterning her dancing after mine. She was afraid, nervous and at times unsure – but she trusted me to show her the way. In that moment I realized, I am a mother literally handing down heritage to my daughters. Generations of taupou before me have learnt the same siva from their elders – grandmothers, aunties and mothers and then danced to the same song that we danced to. And maybe, hopefully, one day, Bella will teach the siva to her children, dance alongside them – and have them look up to her as a guide for their hands, feet and hearts.

I had to try really hard not to cry up there – because I was so very proud of my three daughters and so very grateful I could be dancing with them, in a shared ‘cultural’ experience.  I have danced the siva many many times in my life. But tonight, for the first time, I felt like the siva was truly a ‘measina o Samoa’, something precious and essential to who we are as tamaitai Samoa, Samoan mothers, daughters and sisters. Something that links us to the women who walked before us and ties us to those who will come after.

And in a funny sort of way, I have New Zealand to thank for this experience because if we were living at home in Samoa, I would have left the siva teaching of my daughters up to cultural osmosis and the siva would have been just another ordinary thing everybody in Samoa does. Nothing special. Nothing skilful. Nothing precious at all.

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First Born of My Heart

Big Son turned eighteen the other day. I cried. (Of course.) He rejoiced. Of course. As we helped him celebrate the occasion with a social gathering of his friends (aka a party), I reflected on the journey I’ve taken with this first born child of my heart. There are pro’s and con’s about being the first. You get your parent’s undivided attention and all their enthusiastic energy as they discover the joys of caring for a puke-poop-tears machine. But you also are the guinea pig for their mistakes, their earnest yet misguided devotion and the full suffocation of alllllll the advice of those fifty-something birthing and parenting handbooks your mother ruthlessly ingested while growing you.

I was twenty one when I got pregnant and I had no experience with little people whatsoever. (My mother had three housekeepers and a revolving team of caregivers to help look after my three little siblings so I never had to pay attention to them at all. Not until they were old enough to be useful – do chores and play Little House on the Prairie with me.) I thought the baby would pop out and I would take him to lectures with me in a fashionably accessorized backpack. No problem. (true story) The Hot Man and I were students in Wellington at the time, so every day in between lectures, I would sit in the library and read every single book on pregnancy, infants, nutrition, breastfeeding, immunizations and more. I knew every single thing that could possibly go wrong with my unborn baby. Every single neural defect he could possibly be born with. Every single infection he could possibly get. All before he was even an emergency C-section delivery at 30 weeks. I was so busy with research and mental preparation that all we had ready for that premature mewling baby, was a bottle of Napisan for soaking nappies.

It took awhile for my heart to catch up with my research. I fell in love with my first born slowly, over many nights painfully shuffling to stand over his glass box incubator and watch him sleep. Watching nurses feed him through a tube in his nose. Watching them cut his tiny foot every day and squeeze out tiny droplets of blood while he screamed, so they could check his jaundice levels. The feel of his precious paper-thin skin against mine as they let me hold him. They said, ‘Lay him on your chest so he can hear your heart beat, feel you breathing. That will help him breathe on his own.’

Are you sure? I’m so big compared to him. My heart beats too loud. My breathing’s too panicked. I held him close, terrified I would hurt him. But slowly, slowly that tiny child felt right. Slowly slowly, our hearts beat in time and we breathed in unison. And slowly, slowly, a spoilt self-obsessed clueless 21 yr old found inside herself – a mother’s heart. By the time he grew big enough and healthy enough for us to take him home, I was fierce formidable Mother-Extraordinaire. (And Fiapoko Supermother as well.) Ready to take on the universe to protect, teach and nurture my son.

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Big Son has endured much as our firstborn. Here’s only a few of the “Things I know Now which Big Son wishes I Knew THEN…”

1. Don’t spend many hundreds of dollars trying to organize a momentous 1st birthday party for your kid that is so stressful you and your poor husband almost get divorced. Because your kid wont remember any of it and he will go to sleep twenty minutes into the massive party anyway. (Hugging his new teddy bear from Uncle Cam.) And its a good thing he wont remember because you will be so stressed and on the edge that you’re mean, nasty and awful anyway.

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2. When your 5 yr old kid gets invited to a fancy dress party, don’t slave over a historically accurate, authentic Hercules costume complete with battle regalia and then force him to wear it even when he cries. Because you’ll get to the party and discover all the other kids are just wearing raggedy old Superman t.shirts. Or a pair of fairy wings. And your poor kid will be miserable and feel totally out of place and cry harder.jade2

3. Yes you should teach your kid all about the sanctity of their physical bodies and even use all the correct terminology for their bits’n’pieces, very important with helping them to stay safe and confident. But you shouldn’t forget to also tell them there are appropriate times and places for shouting out such information. Otherwise, your 4yr old will be at the extended family gathering after your grandfather’s funeral and inform his cousin in a very loud voice, during the quiet of a prayer to bless the food – “See that? Its the pig’s penis. Wow, thats a really big penis!”

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4. When your 11yr old son has a Christmas present exchange in his class at school and you are to busy to take him to buy a gift for his classmate…don’t assure him, ‘don’t worry, I’ll bring the present to the class party already wrapped for you. Trust me!’ And then you buy a lovely sparkly ring and matching bracelet and gift purse from your mother’s shop Plantation House (because you don’t want to drive all the way into town) and your mother giftwraps it in organza bows and ribbons. And you both sigh over the perfect loveliness of such a gift. DON’T DO THAT. Because your unsuspecting son will give his classmate the aforementioned gift and she will unwrap it IN FRONT OF THE WHOLE CLASS and everyone will start teasing him about giving her an engagement ring. ‘ooooh, he loooooves you!’ And the girl will try not to cry. And your kid will try to macho through it while dying inside. And be very mad at you for a long time after.

jade6Yes, these are only a few of the horrors my son has endured with me as his mother. To protect the guilty, I wont share any others… Let me just say, Big Son announced the night before his birthday, “Mum, this is the last day I’ll be a child. Tomorrow I will be a man!” And I said, “Oh yeah? You planning on moving out tomorrow and getting a job?”

I tease him but I know all too well the clock is ticking. My days with this child are numbered. Next year, he will be at University and we will be many miles away living in Samoa. He will do all those things young people do when they first leave home. Rejoice. Eat a lot of junk. Stay up late. Skip class. Party a little. Experience what being ‘broke’ really feels like.

And I will be far away,  doing what most parents do when their kid first leaves home.

Missing him. Wondering if he’s getting enough to eat. Worrying if he’s warm enough. Chastising myself for not preparing him better to be on his own. Praying for his safety. Sending him money when I already agreed with the Hot Man that we shouldn’t spoil him, ‘You need to learn how to budget son…’ Ha. Calling him every so often and striving to sound casual and happy, ‘Just wondering how you’re doing son?’ (Instead of bawling my eyes and heart out on the phone and begging him to please come home.)

So each day I have left with him in my control care, I will celebrate all that this First Born of my Heart is to me. The baby that he was, the child that he sometimes still is, and the young man he has become.

Yes you’re ‘a man’, Big Son. I’m proud of you. Thank you for teaching me how to be a mother.

But it doesn’t matter how old you get – to me – you’ll always be that little boy who needs the beating of my heart to help you find your way, to help you breathe on your own, to help you stand alone.

When Daughters Drive you Nuts

Sometimes, daughters can drive you nuts.

Big Daughter is a writer and a poet. She is a disgustingly intelligent child. I can even concede she is far more intelligent then I will ever be. (Not that I’m biased or anything. What do I know, I’m just her mother.) I am very proud of Big Daughter and grateful I can be her slave mother.

But sometimes, I just want to smack her up’side the head.

The Samoa Observer newspaper was doing a series of feature articles for the week of Mother’s Day where people wrote about their mums and what they thought of motherhood in general. They ran an article from Big Daughter. It was an insightful, clearly expressed, and very ‘mature’ piece of writing. (Not that I’m biased or anything.) If I were still in my English teacher days, I would have given it an A. I read her article in the Samoa Observer and I was very proud of her and grateful I can be her slave mother.

Then a few days later on, I just wanted to smack her up’side the head.

My Uncle – otherwise known as Professor Albert Wendt – was specially awarded and recognized at the recent Auckland Writers and Readers Festival. There was an evening of readings, music, and tributes to celebrate him. I took two of my daughters with me to the event. So they could have a culturally aesthetic and artistically uplifting experience. Broaden their intellectual horizons. Get their brain synapses zapped in a way that maybe Hannah Montana just isn’t zapping them?

We went. We listened. We clapped. Ten minutes in and Little Daughter was half-lying down in her seat. “What’s the matter with you? Sit up.” I hissed at her.

“I’m bored,” whined Little Daughter. I considered giving her the pinch of death. You know the one where you smile lovingly at your child for all to see – all while pinching their arm and muttering threats of dismemberment if they don’t bloody well behave? But then Uncle Albert came out on stage and she perked up immediately. Thankfully he was scintillating and funny enough that even an eleven year old didn’t need to lie down on the floor and take a nap.

Then it was time for the music. There was a glorious opera number which transported us all to heavenly places.

Except for Little Daughter. Who had her fingers stuck in her ears and her head down in her lap. I poked her. “What’s the matter with you? Sit up.” I hissed at her. Again.

“The song is so loud it hurts my ears,” she whined. “She’s not singing English. How am I supposed to like her song when I don’t know what she’s saying?”

By then, the ruse was up. There was no way ANYONE in the audience could possibly mistake us for artistically literate individuals or connoisseurs of the fine arts. Please forgive us, we are savages who never go to the opera.  I glared at my child and didn’t bother hissing. “Stop being rude. Sit up straight, be attentive and smile. Or you’re going to get it.” She didn’t need a translator, she knew what “it” meant.

The child behaved herself for the rest of the program. Then it was time to wait in line to  congratulate Uncle Albert and “mingle”. In a manner which denoted our good breeding and exceptional manners. Except someone forgot to tell Big Daughter that patience and something called a SMILE are essential ingredients for aforementioned breeding and manners. I chatted to people I knew from the TELESA publishing journey, took photos – and Big Daughter looked surly and mean. “Why do you have to talk to so many people?” she complained.

Little Daughter said hopefully, “Can we go home now? If we drive fast, we can still watch XFactor on tv.”  Koekiki oe e…

Then some lovely ladies exclaimed, “Is this your daughter Sade Young? We read her article in the Samoa Observer. Wow, such a great piece…blah blah.” They were enthusiastic and generous with their praise. I was happy for Big Daughter. Now she can see it’s not just me who thinks she writes good stuff! What nice people giving her positive feedback!  I beamed.

Big Daughter said “thank you.” With a surly, disinterested teenager expression. One that said, ‘I’m sooo bored listening to your chatter and I have far better things to do with my time. Like watch XFactor. Or taking a Hannah Montana general knowledge quiz.

I wanted to smack her up’side the head.

And so it continued throughout the night. Later, when I asked Big Daughter why she looked like a bored brat when she was being given compliments, she was shocked. “No I didn’t! I was shy.”

Little Daughter’s justification for (almost) passing out during the program was, “I think I’m too young to go with you to book stuff. It’s way past my bedtime. Next time, you can leave me at home.” So I can watch XFactor.

I went home and told the Hot Man I wanted to smack his daughters up’side the head. He said, ‘Don’t be silly. You can’t do that.’

There’s no hope for us. I’m apologizing in advance. If you ever meet my daughters in public and they seem surly / bored / disinterested. It’s because they are shy. Out past their bedtime. And I can’t smack them up’side the head.

 

 

 

 

He’s Taking Over the World.

I did something stupid and bought Big Son the latest Halo game. I told myself he would finish it in one week and that would be that. Ha. I should have done my research first. Because yes, Big Son finished every level in Halo4 in one week. But then he hooked up with the entire world that is playing Halo4 online and now he’s lost in a world of gamers that involves him sitting there with a headset on, muttering to his Clan. Or his Tribe. Or his Secret Combination of Gadianton Robbers. Or whatever they call it.

If you’re as ignorant as I was – let me enlighten you. Before you too are as dumb as me and get YOUR kid Halo4. And a broadband connection. Apparently, one can link to anyone and everyone who is playing Halo4, form alliances, play against other evil alliances and work one’s way up the rankings so that one can eventually achieve WORLD DOMINATION. And be the King of Halo4. It means Big Son rushes to get all his chores done so he can put his war gear on, park his skinny butt in front of the giant screen and plot world domination strategies. (I find it personally offensive that this child can eat the way he does and SIT in front of the tv as much as he does and yet not gain an ounce. While all I have to do is look at a picture of  a donut and have it go straight to my hips.) He has a gamer tag name. And converses with other gamer tag named individuals. And all of them are entered in the Halo4 Infinity Challenge. If you’re awesome enough and make it to the top 200 in the universe, then you get to enter the finals with a bucketload of fantabulous prizes.

Big Son is overjoyed to inform me that, “Mum, I am in the top tier ranking of the Infinity Challenge!!!” He seemed disappointed that I did not fall to the ground in a stupor of amazement at this news.

Really son? I’m supposed to be excited and proud about this achievement? Are you for real?

Big Son is the very first child I ever grew which means he got the very best (and worst) of my parenting enthusiasm. I think about his SHAMAHZING Halo4 Infinity Challenge prowess and I remember the hours I spent with earphones stuck to my pregnant watermelon-belly so his unborn self could sprout genius brain matter by listening to Mozart. The sleepless nights I read him Wordsworth, Shakespeare and Keats while he consumed endless amounts of milk. The looooong afternoons dedicated to teaching him multiplication tables and spelling lists. The evenings I read him not one, not two, but the ENTIRE FREAKIN SEVEN BOOK SERIES of Harry Potter, one after the other. I remember all the days I volunteered as a Parent Helper in his Grade Two classroom – official explanation was because I was an enthusiastic mum who cared about education but the real reason was because I wanted to spy on the kids that were possibly bullying my shrimp’ish, overly bright, overly loudmouthed child. (And then maybe, just maybe I wanted to secretly whack one of those aforementioned bullying kids…just maybe.)  I was the mum who forbade television and spent thousands on books. I was the mum who hoped for great, fantabulous things from her fantabulous child, taking over the world type things! Yay!

Yeah, I remember all these things as I see Big Son strategize with his invisible global Halo4 Alliance – and I’m so-NOT excited. This is not how I envisioned he would take over the world.

Let’s Talk About Sex

Little Daughter is not so little anymore. She’s ten years old and wanted to know, “When is puberty going to happen to me?…Why does it have to happen?…Do I have to use tampons cos they look nasty…” And other such curious questions.

I answered her the bestest way I could. Because I’m all about openness and honesty and good communication with my children.

And then she asked the million dollar question. The one that has most of us scrambling through the litany of crap fanciful stories/explanations we’ve ever heard. Like, storks that fly in your window with babies, cabbages that sprout chubby infants, fairies that sprinkle baby-making dust, and invisible baby delivery trucks that leave them on your doorstep or under a coconut tree. THAT question.

“So how do you make a baby anyway?”

This is not the first time that Little Daughter has asked me where babies come from. No. The first time she asked me how did a baby get into my big fat stomach – I told her “God put it there.” (And then when the baby came out and she wanted to know, ‘why is your stomach still fat?’ – I told her, the baby forgot to take all her luggage with her when she moved out.) And that answer was enough for her.

Not anymore. Now she wanted to know what did getting a monthly period have to do with babies? And the specifics of baby-making and baby-growing.

I was not fussed. Or bothered. I’ve done this twice already you know. Talked to Big Son and Big Daughter about sex and babies and condoms and everything in between. So yeah, I was cool with this conversation.  I told Little Daughter about sperm and eggs. And (very vaguely), I told her how they get together and start growing a baby. And how it was a beautiful and blessed thing.

She still looked puzzled. “But if a man has sperm and a woman has eggs – how does the sperm get to the egg then?”

Little Daughter wanted specifics. So I gave them to her. A bit more detailed and specific than simply, “Sex is a beautiful, sacred thing. A gift from God.” Just like the parenting textbooks tell me, I used correct terminology. Words like ‘penis’, ‘vagina’, ‘uterus’ blah blah blah.

What happened next?

Little Daughter burst into tears. Exclaimed in utter horror. “That’s the most disgusting thing I’ve ever heard.”

I tried to fix it. Talked about joy and happiness and tenderness and closeness and love and all that blah blah blah – but she wasnt convinced. Sex is still disgusting. Horrifying. And it didnt seem to help when I told her, “Its not horrible. That’s how we helped to make you and you’re a wonderful child and we love you so much.”

Look of disgust. “Ewwwwwww, that’s even worse. You and Dad do that?” More tears.

I think my daughter has been traumatized for life. I really screwed up this sex-talk.

What have I learned from this?
1. Every child is different. What works for one won’t necessarily work for the other.
2. I should have just told Little Daughter that babies are made with sprinkles of fairy dust. Cabbages. And storks.

She’s Got Six Boyfriends.

There was a disco at Bella’s preschool tonight. She’s been super excited for days. She picked out what outfit she wanted to wear and as I helped her get dressed, she said, “I’m gonna see my boyfriend there.”

I’m calm, cool and collected.  “Oh really? Who?”

Bella fluffs up her skirt and answers, “Brayden. He’s my number one boyfriend.”

The Hot Man is not so calm, cool and collected. “What?! You have more than one boyfriend?!”

You can tell Bella thinks that’s a dumb question. Hands on her hips. “Yes Dada, I have six boyfriends at school.”

Bella is a bad-ass.

I laughed. But I also wanted to cry. Because I miss that. I long for that. The honesty, opennes and directness of a four year old. Because Big Son is seventeen and secretive. Furtive. Holding information close and his emotions even closer. There was a time when Big Son was Little Son. When he confided everything in me. Asked for my advice on everything from homework to hairstyles. From pimples to presents for the girl he had a crush on. There was a time when his hurts were mine. His worries kept me awake at night. His fears were mine to overcome. His joys were beribboned packages that we opened together. Big Son taught me how to love. How to place another’s happiness above my own.

Now? Now Big Son puts up walls. Throws up smoke screens. Chucks angry rocks. At times it seems there is an ocean of distance between us, between me and this child who was the first to hear my heart from the inside. Yes,  I know our children must grow up and away from us. I know they must have privacy, independence, secrets and autonomy. Fall in love. Do stupid things. Make weird choices.

But it still hurts. And I miss him.  And it’s hard. To try and forge a new relationship.With the adult, the young man that he is becoming. To make sense of the confused mess that we’re in right now. To assert new boundaries and redraw the lines of our relationship.

What do I want? What do I hope for? Long for?

I want for him to confide in me.  I want us to negotiate a space where we can laugh, cry and contemplate the mysteries of the universe. (Diet Coke and Doritos optional.) I want to be the mother that he can talk to about anything and everything.

Even if its to tell me that he has six girlfriends. (Or boyfriends.)

Do you think that’s possible? For those of you out there with teenagers and adult children, please tell me how you do it? How do you let go but still keep them close?

Deceit and Dorkville

Winter sales are wonderful. I bought Bella some new clothes for preschool. I love them. She doesn’t. She doesn’t want to wear new purple sweatpants from Cotton On Kids. With a matching hoodie top. No, she wants to keep wearing the pink pants with holes in them from TnT KidsWear that she’s been wearing for over a year now.

“No mama, these are my favorite. I don’t like those new pants.” She pleads. Stamps her foot. Yells. And generally acts like a spoilt brat. But I am emphatic. I don’t want my daughter wearing pants with holes in them. I don’t want her wearing the same freakin pants she’s been running wild in all year. Just For once, I want my kid to look like she stepped out of a catalogue. Just once, I want my kid to look like she has a mother who knows what fashion, style and color-co-ordination mean. And yeah, I’m well aware that this freakish desire is all about ME, but I don’t care. Because everyone has to think about ME sometimes. So why can’t this be one of those times?​ Let’s agree that today, we’re all going to think about ME…

So I am firm. Calm. Composed. Authoritative. I make that child wear her purple pants. And she looks fabulous. Which by osmosis, makes ME look fabulous. I feel good.

Until six hours later when Bella comes home from preschool. Wearing pink pants. With a hole in them. Looking like a child who’s mother dressed her in a dumpster. I ask her, ‘What happened to your purple pants?’ Because you know, there are any number of inexplicable events that can happen at a preschool. Things involving paint, playdo, playgrounds and/or pee. Yes, it’s entirely plausible that Bella could have fallen victim to any one of these things.

But no. She shrugs. Waves a hand at me with careless ease. “Nuffing. I was take my favorite pants in my bag to school. Then when you gone and you not looking at me, I take off the ugly purple pants and wear the pink ones.”

What-the-purple-pants-hell?! I stare at Bella in awed horror. I am speechless. You are FOUR years old. And you’re already sneaking alternate wardrobe options in your schoolbag so you can get changed when your mother isn’t looking?! The last time I knew someone who did that, her name was Lani Wendt. She was sixteen and smuggling a black mini-skirt to school so she could change out of the dork clothes from dorkville that her mother made her wear.

Bella stares back at me. She gets tired of waiting for me to speak. She runs off to play on the trampoline. In her pink pants with holes in them. Looking like she has a mother who dressed her in a dumpster. I shudder. Today, its ugly pants. What’s tomorrow? Stiletto heels, pink fishnet stockings and a spandex Dora bodysuit? If this is what my devious child can do when she’s four, what will she dare to do when SHE’S sixteen?

The future is flashing before my eyes.  And it’s saying to me.

Lani, be afraid. Be very afraid.

A Freakazoid Conscience Can Drive You Nuts

A conscience. It’s that little voice that tells you when you did something wrong. When you should feel bad about it. Reminds you what you should do to fix it and make amends. A conscience is an important thing. Heck, if I didn’t have one, I would be way meaner than I am now. I would have doped my screaming babies on panadol every nite so I could sleep. Instead of only every now and then. Think about all the things you would be doing if you didnt have a conscience…*shudder*.

So yeah, a conscience is a good thing. But sometimes, too much conscience can drive you nuts. Or more particularly, drive your mother nuts.

Little Daughter has a freakazoid conscience. And its driving me nuts. A while back, she tells me, ‘I think I lost my school library book.’

I tell her, ‘Dont worry. Its around somewhere. Im sure it will turn up.’ (Translation: In the universal scheme of things, I dont really care but I’m going to pretend that I do. In the meantime, I hope you turn on the TV and get distracted by Hannah Montana.)

Time goes by. I forget all about lost library books. Then one night, she wakes me up. Distraught. Tears. Sobs, ‘I can’t sleep.’

Its 3am. I’m not impressed with being woken up. Especially since i just went to sleep at 1am. But Little Daughter is crying. In a very heart-rending way. A kinder, gentler mother takes over. ‘Oh no, what’s wrong?  Don’t cry. Come, let me give you a hug. Did you have a bad dream?’

Little Daughter chokes out, ‘No. I can’t sleep because I feel so bad about my lost library book. I’m scared to walk past the library. I feel so bad. The librarian is going to look at me and know that I’m a bad person who loses library books. I’ve been searching everywhere in the house and I cant find my book. I can’t sleep, I can’t eat, I can’t be happy anymore about anything.’
Oh gimme a break. I roll my eyes. (But it’s ok, because it’s dark and she can’t see me.) #MeanMother is fighting to take over #KindGentleMother. I take a deep breath. ‘Don’t worry. I will rip this house apart and find that library book for you. What  is it called?’

More sobs. Dramatic pause. She wails. ‘I don’t know. I can’t remember!’ It seems this is the pinnacle of the massive summit which is the towering accumulation of all her sins. Not only has she lost the freakin book and proven her disrepute, but she has also FORGOTTEN what the freakin book is called. A true sign of her ill-worth.

I’m very tired. But #KindGentleMother is winning this battle tonight. ‘I have an idea that will fix everything. Tomorrow, you will go to the library and tell them you’ve lost it. Ask how much it costs and I will pay for it.’

‘But I’m scared.’

‘Why? Is the librarian a demon witch who yells at children and steals their lunchmoney?’
‘No, she’s a nice lady.’
‘So dont worry. She will understand. The important thing is that I’m going to pay for the book. So nobody is going to hate you.’ This child is soo freaked out. An emotional mess. No confidence, assertiveness, or kick-butt strength at all. I must be a crap mother. Why didn’t I pay more attention to The Help? You is kind. You is smart. You is important.  Dammnit. I need to make a sign and stick it in her room. Or tape it on her head.

Actually, I could definitely use a sign like that myself. Tattooed on MY brain…but i digress.

Finally, finally Little Daughter’s spirit is appeased. She goes back to sleep. Thank you. The next day, I give her lots of positive vibes. Extra hugs and smiles. Cookies in her lunchbox. (Hey, they always work for me…) She goes to school. I spend the morning tearing the place UP looking for school library books. I find chocolate wrappers in Big Son’s room, eighteen ‘lost’ hair ties, a pair of shoes I didn’t even know that I had, but no library books. I am annoyed.

At school, Little Daughter confesses her sins to the librarian. The librarian checks her computer and tells Little Daughter, “No. You dont have any books out. You returned all your books long time ago.”

Yes, you read that correctly. Little Daughter spent weeks, sleepless nights, guilt-ridden hours – fretting about a lost library book that wasnt lost at all. She comes home with a gigantic smile on her face to share this glorious news with me. I have spent hours rearranging the mess in my house (when I was perfectly happy with the mess the way it was) – searching for a library book that doesnt exist. I am not happy. I grit my teeth and #MeanMother struggles to say, ‘You DERWIT DER-BRAIN!’

But #KindGentleMother chants in my brain… You is kind, You is smart. You is important.

I know I must be thankful for a child with a functioning freakazoid conscience. But sometimes, it just makes me want to get doped on too much Vicodin panadol and sink into a sleep so deep that even library-book-guilt cant wake me. …cos Im in a faraway place, bustin a move with Thor and Capt America…

The Problem with Aliens

Oh yeah – I know how you feel Sigourney…


One thing they never tell you before you have kids – is how your space, your room, your air, your thoughts ( even all the ones you havent even thought yet) – none of it will ever belong to you again. Never, ever.

Children start taking over even before they’re born. From the moment that diehard sperm battles through overwhelming Hunger Games type odds to be the lucky victor. From the moment that feverish creation party starts happening in your uterus – your very body is no longer your own. Especially if you’re the kind of woman who is lucky enough to puke for five months straight when you’re pregnant. And sink into the abyss of depression because you’re sick all day, everyday. Many times as I hovered over a bowl of vomit, alternately crying and cursing, I would refer to the speck of new life growing inside me, as “the alien…the parasite…” Even though I had knowingly, willingly chosen to grow a child – I quickly changed my mind once the puke took over. (If you’ve seen kick-butt Sigourney Weaver in the movie Alien, then you’ll know exactly how I felt about my alien.)

The joy only multiplies when they actually emerge from the chrysallis. You can never ever leave the house again without taking that baby with you. Without taking all that baby’s assorted ( but necessary) junk with you. When they’re bigger, you cant even take a shower or go to the bathroom without that child trailing after you. Standing outside the door wailing. Arguing. Telling tales on their sister. “Muuum, she won’t let me have a turn on the X-Box…muuuum…muuuum…can you hear me in there?” No, I’ve melted from the sheer misery of my existence and I’m swirling down the drain even as you speak. They sit beside you while you’re trying to read a book. Watching you. Breathing your air. Suffocating you with their very presence.

When they’re teenagers, they tend to stop following you about and instead they disappear into their rooms a lot – rooms which resemble pits of infernal darkness – but then your brain is consumed with worrying about them. Oh no, what if he has a girlfriend? Oh no, what if he never gets a girlfriend and is that loner that nobody likes? Oh no, what if she studies too much and never experiences life outside a textbook? Oh no, what if she never studies at all, fails everything, never gets a job and never leaves home ever? Is he sad/happy/depressed/contemplating shaving his hair off/ pondering the pros and cons of joining the Mongrel Mob? What does she REALLY mean when she stomps into her cave, snarling “I’m fine. Nothings wrong.” Children of any age, possess and consume you.

Which is why ‘me time’ is so important for a parent. Those moments when you run away. Hide in a closet and read. Go for a powerwalk just so you can get away from them.

Which is why my ideal Mother’s Day is having the Fab5 disappear for twelve hours.

Which is why I was so incredibly insulted when Big Son told me that “No, you can’t come downstairs and work out with me in the gym. I want to be alone.”
“Excuse me?! I want to train on  the Bowflex machine and its too spooky in the garage by myself at night. I’ll workout while you’re there.”
“No, I don’t want you to. This is my me-time. My alone time. Time to myself. I need this.”

Is this child really trying to talk to me about his need for ALONE TIME? For ME-TIME? Is he deranged? He’s sixteen. Childless, job-less, flying solo, fancy free. And clearly clueless.
“Are you kidding me? You are too young to need ‘alone time’. Have you ever grown a baby? Has your body ever been invaded by parasitic creatures that then take over your life, your every waking and sleeping moment? I don’t think so. Is every minute of your day consumed by children pestering you for something?” And then I’m on a roll of epic proportions. “I gave you life.” (No matter how many times I say it, this child just doesnt get it.) “I wouldnt NEED to workout if it wasn’t for you and your siblings. I used to be beautiful once, until you all ruined me forever…blah blah.”

He listens. To his credit, he tries not to roll his eyes at me. But I know my words are going in one ear and out the other and its infuriating. I shriek, “You have not earned the right to crave ALONE TIME. Or ME-TIME, you hear me?”

I have decided. I am going to stalk this child to the ends of the earth. Harass him with attention. Suffocate him with my presence. He is not getting any alone-time, ever. Not on my watch. Damnit all.