More

I’ve alluded to it in other posts and especially in my back and forth comments with Jess, but I thought it was about time I talked about having a child who is what I describe as More.

As a little background my older two as babies and toddlers were for want* of a better word normal. Sleeping, eating, developing all at manageable rates, sometimes early in Miss P’s case but nothing quite so, well, exhausting. ​Other people refer to them as Spirited children but for Eve I feel the word more is what sits right with me.

Awake – ​Eve is more often awake than not, no full night sleeps or reliable naps here because she has more​ to do.

Physical – ​Once Eve was on the move (walking at a reasonably normal 10  months), kicking a ball followed soon after and so did jumping.  While it’s pretty awesome to see that my child is coordinated (unlike her mother) what’s not awesome is the climbing of ladders, bedheads and jumping off with a complete lack of fear.

Mental – ​Eve is more ​switched on than my other two were.  If I don’t want her to know how to open a lock or get what is in a cupboard I can’t let her see me open it.  Putting things up high is no barrier, obviously.

But

For all that the more-ness takes out of me there is one thing that makes it worth it.​

Love – ​We get more smiles, more ​hugs, more ​kisses, more ​laughs, which reminds us no matter how tired and worn down we are so so blessed to have been given a child who is more.

*and I do really​ want a better word as I don’t like the obvious inference of people who don’t fit a particular pattern or mold as abnormal.

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Dear (imaginary) baby

Since the ‘incident’ that pushed me to decide there will (most likely) be no more babies, I’ve had a touch of melancholy mixed  with wistfulness about the baby I had imagined we would have.​  A piece written by Sash has encouraged me to vocalise this and in an effort to put it out there, let go and move on I wrote this.

Dear (imaginary) baby,​

If things were different we might be preparing for your conception, but instead I am packing away and getting rid of baby things that will not be used for you.​

But some reminders of your absence will not be packed away.

Some tangible like the beautiful rocking chair that I purchased thinking that it would be where I fed you and documented your first year, the special pieces of clothing belonging to Eve that I planned to use for you. 

Others intangible like the names rolling around now permanently relegated to the ether, Magnus if you were a boy Blythe if you were a girl or possibly Celia, maybe Astrid, they will not be narrowed down without you.

I watch Eve and her tenderness with new babies and am saddened that she will never meet you and teach you all the naughty and beautiful things that she excels at.​

​The knowledge that it has always been difficult does not diminish the sorrow of knowing I will never breastfeed again.  Nor does my puffy unmodel like pregnancy figure outweigh the desire to feel the strange beauty of feeling someone grow within me.

I wonder who you would have looked like and if you would have been laid back or busy like Eve.  ​

I wonder if my patience would have multiplied like I know my ​love would have.

Dear sweet (imaginary) little one I know you would have been a true blessing, I just don’t know that I would have been the mother that you deserve.​

All the love that I will never get to lavish on you.​

X

Outcry vs Sales – Lego friends

When first launched the Lego friends range in January 2012 it attracted a vocal backlash.

But with Lego experiencing a 25% surge in global sales this year, the friends range placing fourth in Lego range sales ​and Lego have struggled to match supply with demand despite doubling production. It seems that there are ample consumers that don’t have a problem with gender specific toy marketing. 

For our family it’s important to provide options for our children, regardless of whether they are considered gender specific or neutral.  Miss P played with dolls but also loved Thomas the Tank Engine as a toddler, Tarrant had his own Bratz* doll along with about a million hot wheels, I know there was a million of those because I stood on each and every one of those surprisingly sharp cars.  Eve has a range of toys, we try to stick to cloth, timber and unbranded but make an exception for Lego (Duplo range) because of its imaginative and developmental benefits.

Our take on taking on gender restrictions is not the extremely difficult path of having exclusively gender neutral toys.​  Truly neutral toys, beside being a relatively limited pool to select from, I feel foster a false reality for our children.  Gender lines are out there and drawn clearly in pink and blue, if we only present our children with gender neutral values how do they learn to think critically and navigate or better yet cross societal lines when we aren’t there to guide them?

Instead we provide toys from all areas and in all colours, I’ll admit I try to limit pink but that’s because I find most pink garish. Eve at the moment loves balls and cars but also likes to nurture her dolls.  I’m sure her interests will develop and change but in the meantime we are trying develop a strong sense of what she likes and why it doesn’t matter if that something is considered to be for boys or girls.  I feel that there is a limited time to ​teach Eve that these labels are not important, what is important is whether she enjoys play.  I say that it is limited as I have experienced first hand the rough transition that kindergarten and primary school can provide when the opinions of others become incredibly influential.  We’ve navigated it twice before with others trying to impress conformity on Miss P and Tarrant at many turns, thankfully I have strong willed children who only occasionally flail and give in to the boundaries of others and that experience is valuable too.

But back to the outcry vs sales figures for the Lego friends, what exactly does it say about the outcry, is it a battle that people are truly invested in?  It may not be if sales figures are anything to go by.  Did the outcry garner the product a higher level of publicity and did that additional visibility then boost sales of a range that may otherwise have passed largely unnoticed (as most of the previous Lego ranges aimed at girls have)? Does it even matter as long as we are all free to raise our children with our own individual values while teaching them to respect the choices of others?​  The market says there is a place for specialised Lego ranges for girls and even ninjas, does that influence what you buy for your children?

*Yes my kids played with those big headed dolls until​ the day that the hemlines rose so high you couldn’t tell if the doll was wearing a dress or missing its pants.​

Broken

How a lamp made a difficult decision for me.

A short while ago I received the most beautiful household item I have ever owned.  It’s milky glass, black wooden legs and woven cord made it more than just a lamp for me.  It was the first designer item (that wasn’t shoes or a knock off) that I have ever owned.

Was.

Yesterday was a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.
It started well but Eve entered her naughty destructive mode a few
hours later after I unthinkingly let her have the foam from my soy
chai.  I had forgotten that the chai mix had milk in it, even though it
is only a minute it was enough to set Eve into whirlwind mode.  I have a
theory that because it makes her stomach hurt and she can’t express
that verbally she expresses it by acting out.  It’s either that or my
kid is one of “those” kids that people make snide remarks about.

The
peak of the acting out resulted in Eve climbing on to our bedside table
and shoving the aforementioned prized lamp off shattering the delicate
glass top. Lest what I say next sounds materialistic and shallow. While
it was the height of the low that the afternoon became it was just the
last straw in being run circles around, jumped on, screamed at, bitten
etc.  As a mama these are the times that I become extremely fragile and
fail to cope.

The long
and short of it is that I am now 99.9%* sure that Eve is our last baby,
while I would love another child I can’t see myself giving another baby
and my existing three a happy healthy home while trying to find a
constructive way to manage Eve on a bad day.  I hate the way it sounds,
like I care so much about an object that I place it above family, but
really the lamp is just a snapshot of the challenges of parenting Eve,
challenges that are new to me as the older two were much calmer babies. 
Eve requires a lot more energy and careful watching made more
complicated by the house being a work site.

I’ve
really been torn on whether we would add to our family since shortly
after I had Eve, and it’s hard to know that we won’t be.  But the
reality is that there is only so much of me to go around and I need to
be the best parent I can be to the children I already have instead of
worrying about a person that doesn’t exist.

I guess that answers my earlier question, how do you know when you’re done?

*I’m not silly enough to say 100%, I’m sure if I did fate would laugh at me and I’d be pregnant before I knew it.

Here’s one I prepared earlier

My girls, so alike yet growing up so different.

Both of my older children dote on their little sister, it’s beautiful to watch.

But there is another side to having such a large age gap.  Miss P often takes Eve for the short walk to the shops or occasionally to the library (I know lucky me).   This loving outing is often met with inquiring stares and presumptuous attitudes. 

Is she yours?

Being the question most often on their lips and presumably on their minds. She’s always very nice in dealing with these people which makes me proud of who she is, at the same time I wouldn’t mind if she told them how rude they are.  It amazes me that I find more rudeness from the older generations than the younger ones, when the older generation seem so keen on drumming manners into younger people.

It bothers me on another level because the age gap between my girls is similar enough to the gap between my eldest and I that can see why the question forms in their heads.

As a (very) young mother I remember the looks and the attitudes that I faced.  Every time I look at my girls I remember that I was so young, perhaps too young, but more I remember the judgement.  That judgement was so unhelpful, I was a good mother and I coped quite well, Aînée was always fed, clothed, happy and clean.  I know that a portion of this judgement is because of young mothers who aren’t managing those things.  While their children deserve better judgement doesn’t help.  You know what helps?  Actually offering help, not advice or instruction but support and making yourself available to them.  If you can’t do that then stop staring, close that slack jaw and go back to reading your trashy celeb mag.

I’ve seen criticism that young motherhood has been romanticised and while that might be true I believe that it’s only true to the same extent as motherhood itself has been.  No one is keen to show all of the bad stuff and display their flaws for others to pick at.  Less so when as a young mother you face the glares and slack jaws from people every time you venture out of home and even less so here on the internet where you garner enough criticism for focusing on the good things.  I wouldn’t choose young parenthood for any of my children; but in all honesty there were a lot of things that were easier about raising a child when I was younger, energy reserves for one, expectations for another.  I was a lot more capable of going with the flow when I was younger, things I find trying now didn’t even blip on my radar back then.  I don’t think I was a better mother then or now, just a different mother. 

A mother who could (have) use(d) a polite conversation, adult company and welcomes your point of view even if it’s different to mine, as long as you’re up for respectful debate.

More on mothering across ages 17-33 can be found here

If you have a few minutes to spare I’d really appreciate your vote in Apartment Therapy’s Homies – Best Family and Kids Blog.

Voting for the first round ends on the 8th.

We don’t hit

I’ve found myself saying this a lot the last few days.  Often while I am telling Eve this I am also listening to my own stern voice and reminding myself of the very same thing.

I don’t want to hit my baby, but when she has spent hours lashing out at me kicking, biting and headbutting, my frustration beginning to boil under my skin, it’s hard not to revert to how I was brought up.

Violence begets violence.

Smacking might, if done in a controlled manner (free of anger and with control of force) do no damage to a child.* But as someone who grew up in a house fearing being screamed at for so much as knocking over a drink accidentally and later went on to an abusive relationship it’s impossible for me not to see a connection.

That connection is like a big flashing warning light when it comes to smacking and yelling.  I feel that introducing those behaviours into my household normalises them and teaches my children that it’s okay for the people who love you to hurt you and it’s okay to hurt them in turn.  Obviously that’s something I’m now** very aware of and am doing my utmost to avoid for Eve and to repair for the older two.

But Thursday was one of those days that are so hard. Eve woke up in a wonderful mood, which was promptly spoiled by taking Papa to work and running errands.  Thursdays are often our bad day which is why my best friend sacrifices her alone time to come and do the shopping with me normally.  On the odd occasion she can’t I realise just how much her presence helps calm me.

Thursday was a day where I lost my battle with not yelling (and felt like a thorough arsehole for yelling at a baby).  Thursday I said so many many times we don’t hit because I needed to be reminded as much as Eve needs to be taught.

* At least according to this and other studies

** When the older two were younger I was too entrenched in my own upbringing and poor relationship to see the correlation of aggressive discipline and abuse. But smacking was still a rarity.

Anony..NO

There are a few little issues floating around the place over the last week or so. My thoughts have been bubbling around. I probably wouldn’t have had anything to say to these recycled arguments. People just don’t seem to know when to shut up and mind their own business.  Or more politely they don’t remember being taught if you don’t have anything nice to say don’t say it at all. That rule doesn’t apply when the other people have said stupid things first so here I go.

First – Anonymity, and how the lack of it affects my children.

Seriously? My kids are growing up in the digital age, not the land of the commodore 64 and the floppy disk.  The older two both have Facebook and if you’ve never seen the rubbish that teens in general put on Facebook then pop off and have a look.

Okay educated? Anything I can put on here will be no more humiliating than anything that they have already put online themselves*

Would I put a photo up that my teenagers (or toddler potentially) didn’t like? No I wouldn’t.  Do I talk about things that are anything more than superficial? Not without discussing it with them first. Those naysayers that think they can’t possibly be informed enough to consent need to stop thinking of children as idiots. Both of my older children would pass a Gillick Competence test so they can decide something as simple as this, and they will always have veto** power. 

As for the pedophile-fear do you people seriously think that reading mommy blogs is how those cretins roll? There are places on the internet that they go to and if they were luring a child via parent it would be more likely to be through a dating site than through trawling blogs.  It’s an ill informed, today tonight level of journalism that has crept into societies’ subconscious and made you all scared of the boogeyman, or boat people or whatever else they’ve decided to shake their hate stick at this week.

I do not choose to be anonymous for several reasons.  Online is a community, it’s an ephemeral one but that doesn’t make it any less of a community.  I have made a conscious decision to genuinely be who I am in all areas of my life and being online is no exception to that rule. If anything I am slightly less filtered. But the key reason that I am not anonymous is that it I am held to a higher standard of behaviour when my name is attached.  Being anonymous makes it easy to pick at others and to not be accountable for your words and actions. While not every anon takes advantage of the cover anonymity provides but I have the feeling that many of those who hide behind anonymity would be a lot less brave if their name had to be attached. 

Second – Boobies

I no longer breastfeed as Eve self weaned, but you can be assured that when I did I breastfed in public, often GASP while walking around a shop with Eve in the sling.  Did anybody see my boobs? Who cares! If you saw my boobs the fact is you saw a third of the cleavage that was inappropriately on show when I was a teenager (actually less than that because I have had a breast reduction).

If you equate the breast to sexuality there is something wrong with your worldview and I suggest you hook up with a therapist to talk over your issues.  

Another point I’d like to make is the fact that somehow Kochie got involved in this whole blow up.  FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT IS WONDERFUL stop watching crap TV and listening to irrelevant toolboxes like him, you’ll be a lot happier and less afraid of the world around you I promise.

Boobies don’t bite, but if I catch you shaming a breastfeeding*** mother anywhere I WILL.

 

*My kids are actually pretty tame compared to a lot of their peers, possibly because they’ve had the digital footprint lecture seven thousand times now.

**They are also a litmus for judging whether Eve will be embarrassed by any content relating to her.

***Or a bottle feeding mother either, why the way a baby being fed is public domain is beyond me.

18 things I want her to know

My eldest turns 18 this year and while her birthday is still a long way off it’s made me think of all the things I hope she knows* before venturing out into the adult world.

1. You are the best thing that could have happened to me in a dark and reckless period.

2. That I’m so proud you have gone through your teen years without being the train wreck that I was.

3. When you stand up for others and call people out on their bullshit it makes my day.

4. I hope you never endure a tragically bad relationship, but hope that any crap you do go through teaches you what you deserve in a partner.

5. You can always come home no matter what.

6. That you can have it all, but not all at the same time.

7. People can change but you can’t change people.

8. It’s okay to put yourself first, but find the balance.

9. Putting others down never lifts you up.

10. Drugs can be fun, but they take more than they’ll ever give, be sure before you take that gamble.

11.  Sex should only ever be had when you are 100% sure you want to, if that’s rarely or often is noone else’s business.

12. If you wouldn’t want your children to grow up like him/her don’t have babies with them.

13. It’s okay to be opinionated, just make sure you know what you’re talking about.

14. Dance, enjoy it and don’t ever worry about how you look while doing it.

15. There will be people who are much better than you at what you love doing, that doesn’t mean your work will be any less valid or successful.

16. That I know as your mum, I can be embarrasing, weird and hold very different views and values to those that you might develop as you go out into the world, that doesn’t mean I won’t always love you.

17. Whatever you do it’s going to be amazing.

18. I will always remember her as the beautiful little girl who breathlessly told me ‘Mummy, I can hear my heart, I can hear it beeping.’

*I think she has a lot of this stuff down but as there are a few I still need reminding of it doesn’t hurt to put this stuff out there.

18 things I want her to know

Miss P turns 18 this year and while her birthday is still a long way off it’s made me think of all the things I hope she knows* before venturing out into the adult world.

1. You are the best thing that could have happened to me in a dark and reckless period.

2. That I’m so proud you have gone through your teen years without being the train wreck that I was.

3. When you stand up for others and call people out on their bullshit it makes my day.

4. I hope you never endure a tragically bad relationship, but hope that any crap you do go through teaches you what you deserve in a partner.

5. You can always come home no matter what.

6. That you can have it all, but not all at the same time.

7. People can change but you can’t change people.

8. It’s okay to put yourself first, but find the balance.

9. Putting others down never lifts you up.

10. Drugs can be fun, but they take more than they’ll ever give, be sure before you take that gamble.

11.  Sex should only ever be had when you are 100% sure you want to, if that’s rarely or often is noone else’s business.

12. If you wouldn’t want your children to grow up like him/her don’t have babies with them.

13. It’s okay to be opinionated, just make sure you know what you’re talking about.

14. Dance, enjoy it and don’t ever worry about how you look while doing it.

15. There will be people who are much better than you at what you love doing, that doesn’t mean your work will be any less valid or successful.

16. That I know as your mum, I can be embarrasing, weird and hold very different views and values to those that you might develop as you go out into the world, that doesn’t mean I won’t always love you.

17. Whatever you do it’s going to be amazing.

18. I will always remember her as the beautiful little girl who breathlessly told me ‘Mummy, I can hear my heart, I can hear it beeping.’

*I think she has a lot of this stuff down but as there are a few I still need reminding of it doesn’t hurt to put this stuff out there.

Why I don’t call myself feminist

I wasn’t raised to believe in feminism, my mother was bitter about her experiences as a woman and felt it had done nothing for her. I used to hear that feminists had only made women’s roles harder, that we now had to work and raise a family and do both as if we were superwoman. And while I don’t doubt that there is plenty of pressure to be everything to everyone, I don’t buy in to feminists being the cause of these problems.

But while I think the feminist agenda is admirable and worth supporting, while I strive to see a world where all women are treated well and not, as is far too often the case less than cattle, I do not call myself feminist.

Part of the natural shift in perspective that motherhood provided me was an insight into the way I want the world to be for my children, both male and female.

It’s not this world, where my son when still small was bullied in to cutting his hair short and shamed for painting his nails because it was girly. Where ‘don’t be a girl’ or ‘that’s gay’ are commonly thrown about without any thought that the insult is both bizarre and appalling. A world where my girls are pressured to look and act a certain way for fear of violence against them and my son’s gender are uniformly painted as potential perpetrators of that violence. This world that even while seeking an equal standing people divide in to categories male and female without looking at humanity as a whole broken apart in need of repair.

I don’t have the answers to what will fix us and make us good to each other. What will stop people from discriminating based on sex, or who we want to have sex with, who knows, it will sadly not happen any time soon. But what I want more than anything is equality, where a woman can choose to have or not have children, a career, dress as she likes and go where she wants, love who she wants. Where a man can do the same without question.

These are the reasons that I don’t call myself a feminist even as we share similar goals and ideals I find the term irrevocably divisive.

Instead I call myself an equalist and do my small part in trying to pave our way to equality.