Tag Archives: Motherhood and Parenting

Blossoming Bean, 20 months

It’s fun watching Little Bean’s play habits change and develop.

Right now it’s all about the nurturing.

She feeds her doll, she gives her soft toys water, she takes her little plastic farm animals over to a little bowl to feed them, she holds her baby doll’s hand to wave bye-bye, she kisses and cuddles her toys, she rocks her doll and pats her on the back, she hugs the cat until she’s half-squashed, she insists on having a soft toy sit in the chair with her at meal times, she tries to brush her toy dog’s teeth, she puts toys in the basket of her trike and pushes them around whilst talking to them, she picks her up her doll and dances along with her to the music or makes her do the hand actions, she won’t leave the house without a soft little friend tucked under her arm, she tucks her doll into bed, she strokes her daddy’s head and plays run-and-hug games, and she kisses and holds hands with other children she likes.

Louann Brizendine would say this is all such a prominent part of her behaviour because her brain was ‘marinated in estrogen’ during her development and so she’s hard wired for social connection. I tend to think it’s beause she’s at the pretend-play stage, and she’s a sweet kid. And because adults coo and praise her for that very sweetness (very likely more effusively than if she were a boy, because that’s how these things roll). Truth be told, my little girl is also physically brave to the point of foolhardiness (I told her she could go down the big slide when she could climb the ladder by herself so she damn well learned to climb the ladder, of course) and when she’s not being affectionate with something soft and furry, she’s completing a puzzle, building a block tower or pushing a truck around. Even so, many people still point out how ‘girlie’ she is, what with all the kissing and hugging that goes on. We see what we expect to see.

Anyway, I don’t much care what the origins of her play are right now. I figure if she makes sure her doll is fed and cuddled and given lots of attention that’s got to be a good reflection on her father and me.  And — this stage is totally frickin’ adorable.

 In between tantrums, that is.

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Filed under Motherhood and Parenting, Musings, Reflections and Rantings

What if someone took you?

This afternoon The Bean and I had a lovely time playing in the sunshine in an outer suburban playground with fencing all around. It was a weekday afternoon; only a few parents (mostly mothers) and their toddlers/babies were in attendance.

A little girl – about 2.5 years old – came over to sit on the swing next to us. She was walking about six metres ahead of her mother – who was none too pleased about this state of affairs, as evidenced by the shrill admonishments that followed:

Zoe! Don’t run off! Why were you running ahead of me? You know you shouldn’t do that, don’t you? It’s very naughty, isn’t it? Yes. Very naughty. Don’t do it again. You must stay with mummy. You understand? You must stay with mummy!

What if someone took you?!

Now it would be very easy for me to be smug about this. Hell, my parenting is pretty Free Range compared with hers. And there was absolutely no reason for this mother to imagine that any of the other parents enjoying a sunny afternoon at this park were actually child predators with a big white van waiting around the corner. I feel sorry for that kid, and the fearful person she may grow into.

But I’m not posting this to anonymously shame an anonymous woman I saw at the park. She could well be suffering from an anxiety disorder or post natal depression or have been a victim of child abuse or have an estranged spouse who has threatened to take her child — there could be any number of scenarios I’ve not been privy to that would make her behaviour seem less bizarre.

There is a tension that parents face every day, between wanting to keep our children perfectly safe and allowing them to learn about the world for themselves. I remember when Bean was a few days old, just sitting and crying while I looked at her face as she screamed in hunger and frustration at my breast. I wanted to put her back in my womb where she had been nourished and protected. Always warm, always embraced.

And how do we – those of us who have faced hardships like molestation or neglect or bullying or abuse – learn to trust others to keep our children safer than we ourselves were? How do we do this without causing harm ourselves through our ‘helicopter parenting’?

I don’t know the answer to that, but I do know that most parents could do with a little more kindness and understanding. We live in a world where some people tsk and frown at parents who put their toddler in a harness to keep hir close by in a crowd, and an equal number of people rant and complain at parents who fail to keep a toddler completely quiet in a cafe. In an ideal world we’d all find a happy medium between appropriate supervision and allowing children to develop their own resilience through learning natural consequences, and we’d be supported in that by a child-tolerant society.

But then, in an ideal world, child abduction wouldn’t merely be rare, it would be non existent. In an ideal world our worst fears would be far, far less frightening. And in an ideal world all parents would take their responsibility to protect their children seriously, and would love them.

On that score at least, the woman at the park is doing okay. We have that much in common.

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Love language

Today The Fireman and I scrounged a few free hours to go and see ‘Up!’ (we both laughed and we both cried, incidentally). I enjoyed the delightful doggy character who can speak English with the help of a nifty translating collar. When he jumped up on the protagonist and cried ‘I’ve only just met you and I love you!’ I thought that is what Ferris used to say. He may not have had a translating collar but I knew what he was saying nonetheless.

Little Bean can’t talk. She’s trying, and there are a few discernible words coming through: Dad, that, milk, foot, jumper, block, bath, tail (for the cat), no, yes, Mum.

She talks to me though. There are days – admittedly, not the bad days – when I feel like I can hear her thinking. When she uses her gestures and expressions in such a way that we can converse without words. When she barely needs to ask because I anticipate or intuit what she needs. I suppose this has been going on since her birth, our communication. But now it is more complete and also complex and, in a way, all the more special because soon she will have words to take the place of our familiar telepathy.

I do long to hear her questions and her stories but I can wait. This is a nice place to linger.

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Give a girl a truck…

Sookie and the Firetruck

Sookie and the Firetruck

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Turn, turn, turn

Remember the Great Banana Crisis of 2oo6? (Almost all of Australia’s banana crops were destroyed by a cyclone in northern Queensland, which combined with our strict ban on banana imports due to quarantine concerns, meant that there were amost no bananas available for a few months – and those that were on sale were ridiculously expensive and of low quality.) Personally I don’t eat a lot of bananas so I endured it with the minimum of whinging and instead bestowed my opinion graciously upon others – whether they had asked for it or not. It was my opinion that a banana shortage was just the thing we needed to remind us that food is meant to be seasonal and that our demand for food availability all year round has cost us a lot – environmentally and gastronomically. Not many people appreciated my thoughts on it – even my sister, a chef, said something rather more scatalogical than gastronomical about foodie idealism when she was cranky from missing her morning energy-boosting smoothie.

Anyway, if there were a Great Banana Crisis this year I’d probably weep openly in the streets for the loss of Little Bean’s favourite pacifying foodstuff. Which of course means it would be a far more valuable lesson for me this time around.

This is all just a tangential way of saying that even in this world of 24 hour fast food and lifetimes spent barely touching soil with bare feet, the earth has a way of being noticed. And it doesn’t always take a cyclone or a storm or a bushfire.

I noticed that it felt like Spring today. I can’t even tell you why, but I took a particularly deep breath this afternoon and thought winter has ended. And then I realised that I’ve spent the last couple of days doing more reorganising than this house has seen since I was pregnant and ‘nesting’. Because I wanted to. Because, maybe, there’s something intuitive about spring cleaning. Or maybe another, interior, fog is fading and lifting.

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On bronchiolitis/(untitled)

In full bloom,

your grown head won’t recall

the nights we sat holding you while you cried,

gasping

or dark hours of pacing

ragged and unhinged.

My prayer if I prayed would be

for the woman that will be you

to sense the solace of her father’s chest and

to feel the rhythm of her mother’s midnight breath

across her forehead –

at any time,

without knowing it.

Unremembered gifts; tiny seeds.

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Please, no fighting (your thighs) in front of the children…

So I’ve finally gotten around to reading Screw Inner Beauty by Kate Harding and Marianne Kirby and yes, it’s awesome. I want everyone I know to read it – especially the non-skinny people and most especially the parents. (And yes, people-who-read-this-and-know-me-in-person, I will happily lend it to you if WHEN you all come asking me for it.) Anyhoo, as I made pretty clear in this post a while back, I have a few issues with prevailing societal attitudes towards fatness and I’m sick of the diet diet DIET YOU FAT LOSER mentality.

Now if I’m brutally honest, I’ve not been feeling so great lately. I’ve been gaining weight. In itself that’s not an evil and I’m beyond beating myself up over how I look (waaaaay beyond). But right now I feel lethargic and slobbish and a little too familiar with the biscuit tin. I know if I stopped bribing the boredom and angst to shut up with sugar hits and started eating more of what might actually improve my functioning and, like, moved a bit more, I’d probably feel better. So… here’s to working on that. But you know what? This lethargic phase hasn’t been all bad because I learned some things. Like, I still love myself this way. It’s damn easy to be all warm and fuzzy about self-acceptance when you’re lighter than you’ve been in a while and edging closer to what the magazines tell you to naively aim at but it’s another thing entirely to look at yourself and think ‘whoa, you just got a whole lot bigger’ and still be able to say ‘meh – I’m still the same awesome person I was for the last couple of dress sizes.’  Not that I can always say that or that it’s always easy but the will is there, k?

The other day I was shopping for jeans and I overheard some women talking. One of them was shopping for an outfit for a function and she had a friend along to advise. It wasn’t going so great. She was having trouble with sizes and styles and I guess just experiencing one of those shopping days that makes you want to crawl into a dark, dark cave and live among a tribe of tracksuit wearing troglodytes. I know, because I was having the same kind of day. Anyway, whilst trying on what was obviously one of many ill-fitting outfits, she complained to her friend that everything just looked crap on her. And then she said it: maybe I should just stop eating. Maybe, if I just didn’t eat anymore, something would fit me.

I wanted to call out over the cubicle wall that maybe if they just made more clothing that fit a range of body shapes and sizes we could all spend less time struggling in poorly lit cubicles and more time taking long walks or, you know, eating watermelon sorbet. Luckily she’d chosen a good friend who reassured her she was fine and that they’d find a better dress (not body) soon.

Anyway, this whole thing got me thinking about two questions: one being why the hell do we still think WE should diet to fit into clothes instead of, you know, getting clothes that fit US? and the other being why the hell do I, a fat woman with whole bunch of other neuroses, seem to mostly be able to resist the tendency to loathe myself out loud?

I can’t answer the first one except with sputtering, apoplectic type noises.

For the second, I think a small clue lies in my upbringing. Sure, my biological mother is fat-phobic and has done charming things like greeting me after years of separation with the words ‘my, you’ve gained weight haven’t you.’ Yeah, mum, it’s called puberty and by the way THANKYOUVERYMUCH. I also went to boarding school and learned a lot about adolescent self-loathing and body criticism there. But there was one part of growing up where no one could be bothered with any of that shit and that was in my family home.

It occurred to me when I was reading the chapter on families in ‘Screw Inner Beauty’  that I don’t hear my (half)sisters complain about their bodies. Sure, they mention sometimes that they’ve gained or lost weight and they occasionally rib each other about bust size because that’s a running joke from adolescence. But when they talk about their bodies, they use neutral-ish descriptors and they do not ever say crap like ‘I hate my thighs’ or ‘I wish my arse wasn’t so big’. I don’t remember them doing this even as teenagers. In fact, they often say positive things about their own appearance and each other’s – and mine.  As women in their early twenties this seems like kind of an achievement. So why is this so?

Seems pretty likely that it’s because their mother, J., unlike my mother, doesn’t bother to torture herself for not looking perfect. She. Just. Doesn’t. When I visited my incredibly thin and fashionably tanned mother did I hear constant whining about thighs and calories? Hell yes. Did my sisters ever hear this from their mother? No way. At our place bodies were for doing stuff: lifting lick blocks off the back of the ute, going to gymnastics class, making playdough animals, lounging in front of the fire eating golden syrup dumplings. They were not a collection of parts which could be graded and assessed according to factors like size and weight and smoothness.

Remind me next time I see J to ask her how she managed to avoid the seductive pull of all that body hate and how on earth she fitted in with other women when talking the language of diets and thighmasters is practically compulsory in some circles. And while you’re at it, remind me to give her a hug and thank her for showing me and my sisters what a healthy relationship with your body looks like. I bet one day Little Bean will thank her too.

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Filed under Body Image/Fat Acceptance, Musings, Reflections and Rantings