parenting

How to Be a Shaamaazing Parent.

The Hot Man was sad today. Bella had ‘Fairytale Day’ at school and her class was having a shared lunch. She had to dress up in her funnest fairytale clothes and take a plate of yummy treats to share with the class.

The Hot Man is new to this kind of thing. It’s 8am and Bella wants to know, “What am I gonna take for shared lunch Dad?” Panic mode from the relatively new to the job, SuperDad.

So I step in briskly. “No problem. Get a six dollar sponge cake from the bakery on the way to school.”

The man is relieved and off they go to school. He comes back decidedly less happy. “I felt like a loser. All the other kids had really nice plates of food. Homemade cupcakes, platters of sandwiches, pies, cakes. All these mums with their fancy dishes like this.”

acup

“And there I was with my pitiful cake from the bakery in a ugly box. Like this.”

cake-bakery-box-half-sheet-19-x-14-x-5-50-csI comforted him with nuggets of wisdom from my many years as a wannabe SuperMum. “It’s all about the presentation. I bet you some of those parents bought those fabulous treats from a shop and then beautified them on a plate so they would LOOK homemade. So they could outshine all you loser parents.”

He was unappeased. “Now I know why you would go all out baking things for Big Son and Big Daughter when they were little and they had to take food to school. I thought you were over the top with it but now I get it.” I am happy the Hot Man has seen the light. But then he adds, “You don’t bake anything for the younger three kids schools though. Ever. What happened?”

I got older. And wiser. Food is food. Kids don’t care what it looks like. I give Little Son a two dollar big bag of chips to take to school for HIS shared lunch day and he thinks he’s in heaven.

And I got tougher. I don’t care anymore what the other parents do or think. If some woman (or man) wants to slave for hours over an intricate, divinely inspired gourmet creation for their kid’s class shared lunch, then let ’em. And all the power to them. I stand in awe of them. And am happy to sample their fabulous food concoctions.

I, on the other hand, am far too busy doing other things that I’m good at. (Like watching an entire season of True Blood in one day. And eating a Dominos Shrimp pizza and hiding the box so the kids don’t find it when they come home from school and then have to eat cereal for dinner because their mother has been too busy watching True Blood to cook any food. Shhhh…don’t tell.)

No, after eighteen years of chasing after five kids, I hold this truth to be self-evident: a parent can’t be shamaahzing all the time…at everything… No matter how bad we want to be. And comparing ourselves to the cakes that look like these?

acake3acake

acake5Is just downright foolish. (And depressing.) Because if this is who you are on a cake plate –

imagesCASQQK18Then be smart and buy a cake in a box from the bakery.

And be happy to be shaamaaahzing at the OTHER stuff you’re kick-butt awesome at.

When Your Husband Runs Away From You

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I used to say that the only way I could ever get a holiday from my Demented Domestic Goddess duties – was to get pregnant. Because then I would have to go live in New Zealand for a few months before and after the baby busted out because I have a small problem with sustaining an alien lifeform (I nearly die every time.) A rather extreme way to get a little ‘me-time’…

Now, the Hot Man is our resident ‘Demented Domestic God’ for a few months and he’s decided to cross a few things off his bucket list while he’s at it: a triathlon and a Half-Ironman.  So in between laundry and dishes and making sure everyone brushes their teeth – he also bikes, runs and swims a lot. It makes him very tired. And a little grouchy too because he has to reach a certain weight so he can’t eat what he wants to.

He’s been doing a fabulous job with the Domestic Duties though, making it possible for me to write lots. ( And eat lots…) Until he tells me that he has to go to Samoa to run in a half-marathon and get some training done in the humidity there. He’s going away for ten days, he says. So I can acclimatize, he says. It’s essential preparation for the Half-Ironman in August, he says.

Okaaaay, I say.  So he makes his flight bookings. Excitedly.

Then he tells me, when he comes BACK from his half-marathon, he has to go BACK to Samoa nine days after that so he can do a triathlon there. And be there for another ten days. So I can acclimatize, he says. I can’t do the Half-Ironman later in the year if I don’t do this triathlon first, he says. You know the roads there are very different from here in NZ, I’m taking my racing bike so I can get used to the terrain there, he says. We don’t want me to have any accidents in the Half-Ironman, he says.

No we don’t want that, I say.

So he makes his flight bookings. Gleefully.

I watch him pack all his gear. The bike, the protein powder, the carbo bars, the energy gels, the shoes. He’s excited and I’m excited for him. For the most part. It would help if he didn’t look so damn happy about the thought of escaping from us and the laundry and the dishes and the making of school lunches…

I wish I’d won the lottery  so I could afford to go with him. (Actually purchasing a lottery ticket would probably have been helpful with that.) I wish we didn’t have five children who needed looking after so I could go with him. I could drive alongside him while he runs on the road, blasting encouraging music, throwing water at him – all while I eat panipopo from Siaosi’s shop. While he’s recovering from his event, I could be meeting up with my girlfriends, Kristin and Kathy  for sundaes and gossip at McDonalds. ( okay, so we’re too old to be ‘girlfriends’ but you get the idea…) What a shaaamahzingly awesome trip it would have been. If I had gone.

But I didn’t.

Because I’m not the one who’s an athlete. Because I’m at home with the five children I gave birth to just so I could go on ‘holiday’ each time. And get a break from the rest of the children.

I’m such an idiot –  what I should have done  – is take up running. And run AWAY instead.

 

Are You a Sicko Child-Snatcher?

Little Daughter’s school sent home a notice, warning parents about a ‘strange white male who tried to entice one of the students into his car while they were walking to school.’ They advised parents and students to be extra careful.

I’m not too worried because the Hot Man walks Little Daughter to and from school every day. Little Daughter IS worried – but not about the ‘strange white male’ who may or may not leap out of the bushes to abduct her. No, she’s more worried about her Dad.

Because the Hot Man is on fire. He read the notice and he is raging and roaring, ready to beat the crap out of any and all “sickos who dare to try hurting ANY kids.” He did this warrior killer man routine that involved lots of pacing, clenching of fists, vehement waving of arms and displaying of fists and accented by ferocious facial expressions. “I hope I see him. Just wait till I see someone trying to grab any kids on the way to school. I’m going to pull them out of their car, chuck them on the ground and hurt them so bad. Sick people who hurt kids that way make me so angry… I hope I find one! I’m going to look out for any strange looking man talking to a kid on the way to school. He’s going to be sorry!”

Little Daughter was aghast. “But Dad, what if you make a mistake and its like a parent of one of the kids? Or a teacher?” But her Dad is on a rampage and cannot be appeased. She turned to me and whispered, “Mum, what if someone thinks Dad is the dangerous one? They might report him instead. My Dad will get arrested and all the other kids will think I have a weird Dad.”

Which is why Little Daughter asked ME to walk her to school today.

Notice for Parents and teachers in Te Atatu, West Auckland – please be aware, there is a very vigilant brown man out on the street, looking out for sicko child-snatchers. We assure you he is NOT dangerous. Unless of course, you are a sicko child-snatcher. In which case, don’t even bother running because this vigilant brown man is very fit, fast and furious.

 

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.

A Night of Illicit Abandon – Walking on the Wild Side

A fit of fizzy flightiness overwhelmed me this weekend.  I was consumed by this insane desire to be like those people who bungy jump, sky dive and buy clothes that are NOT on sale. I felt like living dangerously and walking on the wild side.  Where did this strange feeling come from? Maybe it was because the week had been crazy busy – I Telesa chatted with  a Pacific Lit class at Auckland University on Monday, took kids to the dentist on Tuesday, wrote furiously on Wednesday, did an interview for the TVNZ Good Morning Show on Thursday, and gave a talk at a church women’s conference on Friday. (Or maybe it was because I ingested way too much caffeine via Diet Coke overdosing to assist me with all my speech writing and interview-prepping…)

Either way, I said to the Hot Man, ‘ooh, lets be spontaneous and exciting!He looked wary. ‘And do what?’

I said, let’s run away from the children and live it up all night! Dancing on tables ( or around poles), jumping off the Sky Tower, ordering not one but TWO desserts….all crossed my mind.  I  found a super fabulous overnight special for a lovely hotel in the city situated in the midst of restaurants, night clubs and assorted wild times venues so that we could do exactly that – ‘live it up all night’  (The mind boggles at all the possibilities in that phrase alone..live it up all night…)   I was ready to live dangerously.

But the sad fact is that a woman with five children can never really live dangerously without excruciating planning. And massive atonement for the overload of guilt one feels when one abandons said children. Soooooo before I ran away, I had to :
1. organize baby sitting
2. purchase extra groceries in case there was a famine while we were gone
3. Check that torches and radios had batteries, candles had matches, smoke alarms were working, all windows and doors had functioning locks, and every child remembered the emergency number and tsunami escape route   – in case there was a natural disaster, fire or influx of housebreakers while we were gone.
4. Remind Big Son and Big Daughter about paracetemol, asthma medications, treatment for spider bites, choking, accidental ingestion of too many cookies.
5. Rent DVDs and XBox games galore from the store so they wouldnt cry/be left bereft/sink into the depths of despair upon my departure.

I had a faint moment of panic when I remembered that we havent actually made a will yet and what if we both got killed in a motorway crash on the way to the hotel? Or what if the hotel got taken siege by terrorists and we were blown to bits because Bruce Willis couldnt save us? It was too late to get a will done by then so I had to let those dire thoughts go. Bad mother, bad mother – irresponsible enough to have so many children and NOT get a will done.

And finally, before we could run away for a night of illicit abandon, I insisted we take the children on an all-day fun outing. One that involved a trip to the local marine world and hours at the beach. Sand, sun, water, and fish’n’chips.Fun, fun, fun. Only then could I indulge in my fit of fizzy flightiness, chucking clothes in a bag and run away.

It was 5pm before we finally left. The hotel was lovely. We enjoyed being childless. (cue fireworks and glitter cannons here) We had a delicious dinner at a lovely restaurant. We finished eating. And then the Hot Man said, with forced joviality,  Right where shall we go dancing first?

Then the sad truth hit me. I was really really really tired from hanging out with those children all day and being kind and loving and patient and joyful for such a long time. I was kinda sunburnt from the beach. My feet hurt from walking around the marine place. I didnt want to go bungee jumping off the Sky Tower. Or dancing on tables or around poles. I couldnt even order two desserts because I was still full from fishnchips from Mission Bay. I didnt want to squeeze myself into my ‘dancing on table and around poles’ attire, I just wanted to veg out and space out in ginormously comfortable pyjamas. And did I mention that I  was tired?

But mostest of all? I missed my children. And my house. And my own bed. And my own shower. And my own living room. And my own fridge.

I said, shamefaced. ‘Actually, I want to go home. I miss the kids.’

And the Hot Man said, shamefaced. ‘Yeah, me too.

Conclusion?  We must be really old.  Or just really boring.

I am resolved – next time I am possessed by a fizzy fit of flightiness, I wont exhaust myself first by taking the children out on an all-day excursion of happiness. No. I will be heartless, cold and cruel, just walk out that door and slam it so loud that I will drown out the YOU CRAPPY LOSER MOTHER! sirens blaring in my head. And then nobody will be able to hold me back from the dance tables and I will order not one, not two, but THREE desserts, because I know how to live dangerously, dammit! 

We used to know how to be exciting and fun people, honestly!
(Is that edge of desperation in my voice convincing you yet?!)

You Must KILL Her.

A long time ago, my great-aunt used to shake her shaky fist and tell me, “You must KILL her. You must fight and work hard and next time you must KILL her. She is nothing. She is from a family of pigs. She must not beat you again.” Why? Because I had placed second in class instead of first, and some other girl had gotten better marks than me in school examinations.  My great-aunt wasnt the only one driving us kids on the road to perfection. If we came first in three subjects at school, our parents wanted to know why we didn’t top the other two as well? If we didnt win at sports then our family never came back to watch us again. And we all knew that activities like music, painting, art, and etc were not REAL subjects at school…they were not suitable academic pursuits on the road to becoming doctors, lawyers, Nobel-Prize winning scientists or shockingly intelligent Professors. No, music and drawing and dancing  and even sports were for those other people who weren’t smart enough to be doctors, lawyers, Nobel Prize winning scientists and so forth.

It was rather tiring to be perfectionists and academic over-achievers all the time…

I resolved long ago to do things a little differently with my Fab5. I decided I was going be that ever-supportive and encouraging parent who would be happy with you even if you weren’t the bestest, most brightest lightbulb on the planet. I wasn’t going to only emphasize acadamics. I would let my kids know that art and music and dancing and hell yeah, even sports were worthy of their time and effort.

So how am I doing? I cheer them on at every game – even when they’re complete losers. I tell them ‘the most important thing is having fun! Trying new activities…making new friends…and just trying your best!’ (Said with the most cheerful of voices and the most smiley of faces.) Back in the day, I would drive Big Son to every soccer game and baseball practise – just so I could watch him be a spare. And clap loudly when he missed the ball. Time and time again. I encourage these children to always try new sports, new activities…and then I profess my love for them even when they are absolutely dreadful artists, dancers, readers, mathematicians, or  geographers. Its not easy to find that balance though. Because I still want them to be motivated and have goals and direction and not waste their potential and talents…I mean its all very well to LOVE them but heck, I want them to get educated and get  good jobs – and support their parents like any other self-respecting Samoan child…

Sometimes I slip up and regress to my Perfectionist Parent Persona. Like the time that Big Son DIDN’T get top marks for English. “What in hell were you doing all year?! What do you mean you dont know? Whatever gave you the idea that SECOND in English was an acceptable achievement for MY son?! Hello?! I’m an English teacher and a writer of books in English. I spend thousands on books for you kids to read. I read Keats and Wordsworth to you when you were in the uterus, dammnit! I would put earphones on my gigantic stomach so you could listen to Mozart and grow genius brain cells in there… If you’re not kicking butt at school then you’re obviously not trying hard enough and I will not have an English language loser for a son damnit!” Yes, Big Son’s father had to step in and remind me that we are NOT psycho perfectionist parents.

Which is why I am so befuddled by my Big Daughter. Who is absolutely bereft. Because ( drum roll please, dramatic pause) “I’M FAILING JUGGLING IN P.E”

Huh? Excuse me? Yes, you heard me right. The fourteen year old is having an emotional breakdown because she is not excelling at the juggling unit in her Physical Education class at school. I said, nicely – “It’s alright. As long as you’re trying, as long as you’re having fun, thats what matters!” (Said with the most cheerful of faces and the most smiley of faces.)

She snarled. “No, its not alright. I want to be the best at EVERYTHING I do. I don’t want to fail at anything.I’ve been practising and practising and Im still not mastering it.”

I said, still nicely. “We can’t excel at everything. What we can do is treasure every experience and learn from it.”

She disagreed. “No, what matters is to be the best. All the time. I want to have a perfect report card. My friend Elizabeth is going to get better grades then me.”

I gave up being nice and cheerful. I gave it to her straight. “Listen here, nobody gives a stuff about juggling. Are you planning on joining a circus when you grow up? Is that your life goal? Hell no. It better not be. We’re not working our butts off so you can study juggling. We didn’t move here to New Zealand so you could spend hours practising throwing balls in the air, you hear me? Is juggling going to get you a scholarship to university? Is it going to make you a better doctor or lawyer? Are you going to win a Nobel Prize with bloody useless JUGGLING?! Stop wasting your time on such stupid things.” And then I got carried away “Go study the subjects that matter. And study really hard so you can KILL that girl Elizabeth, you hear me?!”

My Great-Aunt would be proud.

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…

A Night From Hell.

I  suffer from a very rare disorder. I am – ‘navigationally-directionally challenged.’ This disorder is so rare that I can’t even find it on Google yet. (I may have to start my own support group.) Anyway, this disorder means that I have trouble with directions, spatial concepts, and basic remembering where the hell I’m supposed to be going. Its the reason why I only ever park my car in places where there are NO other vehicles in sight – because I struggle to gauge distances. And why I sometimes can’t find where I parked my car at the mall. (Or else somebody moved it just to be spiteful…) It’s the reason why I panic if I have to change lanes – because I can’t figure out how much space or time I have before the other car smashes into me….why I chucked my GPS in the rubbish after cursing it repeatedly – because it says stuff like, “Turn left after 30 meters.” How in heck am I supposed to know where to turn left when I dont know how far is 30 meters? How stupid can a talking machine be? It’s the reason why I can still get lost driving to the bank and it explains why I am  a prisoner of Te Atatu in West Auckland – because I’m too scared (stupid) to drive outside my safety comfort zone. Finally, it’s the reason why I’ve been in several car accidents – because I misjudged vehicle speed and timing and I stopped when I should have gone faster, and because I went faster when I should have stopped…

In other words, I am a crappy driver. To compensate for this failing, I try never to go outside my comfort zone. I have the routes to key places mapped out – the doctor, McDonalds, Wendy’s, the mall, Dunkin Donuts on Lincoln Rd, church, and the Fab5’s schools. Anywhere else? Forget it. I just dont go there. Except in case of dire emergencies.

The other day was one of those dire situations. Great-Nana was here from Samoa for hip-replacement surgery. She was out of hospital and invited us over for dinner. In Mt.Roskill. She may as well have been in the furthest reaches of Siberia. Because that’s how I felt about driving me and the Fab5 there. At night. But this was important. This was Great-Nana.

I did my research. I mapped it out on Google-Map. I wrote the directions down. I drove the route ‘virtually’ online. I picked out landmarks along the way. And then I went over it all on the computer again. And again.  We set off into the wilderness. The Fab5 and I. Without being asked, Little Daughter prayed first on our behalf. I know that was supposed to make me feel better. But her quickness to appeal for divine help further confirmed what my gut was already telling me. This has the potential to be a night from hell…

Against all odds, we arrived safely at our destination. We had a lovely dinner with Great-Nana. We said goodbye and set off for home. Ha. It all went downhill from there.

Because I had neglected to do a very crucial thing. Google map myself travelling FROM Mt.Roskill BACK TO Te Atatu. Yeah, for SOME people retracing one’s steps is a simple thing. But not for a person suffering from navigational-directional-idiocy. I got lost. And it was dark so all the landmarks on my list? Couldn’t see ’em very well. Lost. Lost. Lost.  No cellphone. No Hot Man to save me. Nothing. Just lost.

 So there we were. One hopeless woman driver. And five children ranging in age from four to seventeen. Did I have a map? Yes, I had two. But I was having trouble figuring out which way the map should be pointing. I may have had it upside down. Big Son endeavoured to assist me with navigating. I may have yelled at him. (Blame the stress.)  An hour later and  we were still lost. The Bella Beast exclaimed, “Ooh look! We’re going to visit the Sky Tower!” Yes, it was true. We were in the city and the wonders of the sparkly Sky Tower were beckoning before us. I didn’t want to go to the Sky Tower. I wanted to pull over and cry. I felt the beginnings of a panic attack…what if we drive all night and never find our way home? What if the police notice I’m driving in circles  and pull me over and find out I don’t have a proper NZ license and I get arrested? What if gangsters or the mafia spies or the triad assasins figure out I’m a lost loser and car-jack us and sell us all into slavery? What if the car engine blows up because it’s sick of being confused and we’re charred to a crisp? What if …you see how my brain works, don’t you? Thank goodness I write books, or else my imagination would drive me insane.

And then at that most emotionally fraught moment, Big Daughter decided to share her wisdom. Because of course she navigates for Christopher Columbus in her spare time. She says, “Dad said that the reason why you never know how to get somewhere is because you DONT WANT TO know. You don’t want to learn . You dont want to get better at driving.”

Very nicely, I said, “Thank you for your comments. Sometimes that may be true, I dont pay attention to where we are going BUT that does not apply at this time. On the way here, I was very careful and very observant because I was very worried about driving to a new place on our own. I went to GREAT LENGTHS to get this trip right.”

Any other child would have shut up at that moment. But not my child. She said, “We are not lost anyway. Dad said its impossible to ever get lost in Auckland. As long as we have a map, we can find our way no problem. Auckland is a very logically and straightforward planned city. Its easy to drive in Auckland.” Says the kid who’s never driven bloody anywhere. Ever.

 I want to chuck her out of my lost car. I want to call her father in Samoa on my imaginary cellphone and yell at him for spreading such blatant truths  lies about me. I said, “You better be quiet.”

Alright I lie, I said, “You better shut up.”

Bella said, “Mum you said bad words!” I think Little Daughter started praying again.

Any other child would have shut up at that moment. But not my child. Big Daughter MUTTERS from the back seat, “Fine. But I’m telling you that we’re not lost and if I was navigating, I would prove it to you. And Dad was right – you have a mental block on purpose when it comes to directions…mutter mutter…” Muttering. It should be punishable by death. Dismemberment. Or at the very least – deserve 24hrs worth of tape on the mouth.

This time, I didnt want to chuck her out of my lost car. I wanted to smash her with my lost car. Thankfully, Big Son must have had similar feelings. He said, “Be quiet! You’re not helping at all. Can’t you see you’re making everything worse?”

My rage had one advantage. It killed the panic attack. I stopped hyper-ventilating and wanting to cry. Powered by anger, Big Son and I figured out where we were on the map. It took us two hours, but yeah, we finally got home. Alive. Safe. Un-lost.

I thanked Big Son for his navigational help. I thanked Little Daughter for her prayers.  I thanked Little Son and Bella Beast for their patience. I told Big Daughter she needed to look up the definitions for “tact” and “diplomacy” and “sensitivity” and “effective communication”. And learn them. Practise them.

And then I called up the Hot Man in Samoa. And blasted him for having illegal conversations with Big Daughter about my crappy driving skills. He was sufficiently apologetic.

And then I told him about the horrors of being lost in Auckland. At night. With five kids. I recited all the possible horrors that could have happened to us. The fear, the panic, the tears..all the killers and car-jackers and muggers and assassins that COULD have got us.

He said, “Don’t be silly. You weren’t really lost. It’s impossible to be lost in Auckland.”

A fittng end to a night from hell.