Some days you just want to wrap your kids tight and shield them from the world outside the front door.
Most days that can’t be done.
When all the explaining, all the listening, all the salve of mothering is done the world is still there waiting. Like it or not.
For those days there is tea. There is hot chocolate and marshmallows. There is chocolate pudding. Gooey, stick to the ribs chocolate pudding warmth. There is love, mixed in with a wooden spoon and baked.
1 cup spelt flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 cup raw caster sugar
2 tablespoons coco powder
60 grams butter
1/2 cup full cream milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
Sift and mix dry ingredients into your pudding bowl of choice.
Heat milk, butter and vanilla until butter is melted.
Add milk mixture to dry ingredients and mix well.
Over the top of the batter sprinkle 1 tablespoon of coco and 3/4 cup brown sugar.
Pour 2 cups of boiling water over the batter that has now been sprinkled with the brown sugar and coco.
Bake in a moderate oven for 35-45 minutes.
Serve with cream or ice cream and a generous serving of mother love.
So, Mothers’ Day. I had a cup of tea in bed, enough bacon for at least three people and was given a cup the size of my head as a gift. I may sip tea out of it forever.
I also went grocery shopping with Hubby and went out for a run. We had cheeses to nibble on for lunch. I opened a bottle of wine. Just like we do each Sunday we are home. Happy and warm in our house.
In the afternoon I watched a movie while the kids were on youtube and Hubby was off bike riding with a mate.
It was the perfectly simple day I wanted.
You see, in the past there have been some less than pleasant Mothers’ Days. No blame, just too much pressure. On me, on the kids, on Hubby. Too much. High expectations. So, this year I said I wanted it to be a perfectly ordinary day. No muss, no fuss.
When asked what I would like for the day I replied nothing, just a normal day. And I meant it.
The pressure to be perfect on a certain day is great. My kids feel it, I feel it, Hubby feels it. Some of my most memorable Mothers’ Days have been the ones where the day has been about other things. Like the year we spent the day cutting down trees with family. When I have taken part in the Mothers Day Classic. This one.
Yesterday Hubby checked in just to be sure I meant what I’d said. Yep. I’d love a cup of tea in bed, but that was it. Besides, I get a cuppa in bed most Sundays. I love weekends at home.
The gift was a surprise. I’d made a throw away line about wanting a huger than huge tea cup. Luckily we have a tea shop a short walk into the village. The saucer is just the right size for two rounds of buttery vegemite toast, which was my Mothers’ Day tea of choice.
I don’t begrudge any other family their Mothers Day. Everyone is different. I am just happy with mine. With my choice.
The day was spent as many other Sundays are. Quietly, with time alone and time together. Because we are family. I won’t say all Mothers’ Days will be like this from now on. Because every year is different. Children grow, circumstances change. Time moves on. But this year, for this family, for this mum, it was the perfectly ordinary day. And that’s how I like it.
Turns out I am perhaps the world’s worst dance mom. I have an accomplice though in the Husband, he’s not all that great a dance mom either.
Recently The Green Eyed Girl was part of a school dance troupe for a local competition. This was our first foray into the dance world. We have up until now escaped. There may have been a reason for this. A very good one.
Being the weekend we were having a slow kind of day. So, it was no surprise that when it was time to leave, there had been no thoughts about food. Not to worry, how long could this thing go for? That right there? That was the first inkling we were novices.
The second inkling was when all the other performers turned up with bags. Because they’d need somewhere for their regular clothes to go while they were in costume. Luckily someone had a spare supermarket bag for our child.
There had been some forethought into the evening. We had one bag of fantails. For three people. For four hours. We managed to purchase a bottle of water and 2 bags of salt and vinegar chips while there. I managed to pass our daughter 3 fantails, as she had to sit in the performers area. So, she was well sustained for her dance.
By the time the dancing started my thoughts had turned to gin. The fantails were all but gone and Hubby and I were calculating how long each dance on the programme would go for; how long between each dance and added ten minutes for interval. The horror when we realised how long the evening would be was written all over our faces.
Turns out interval was twenty minutes. Plus an extra five for good luck.
Audience members treated the event like some kind of über competitive sport in its own right. Yelling out, cheering and clapping with such ferocity I needed to hold Hubby’s hand. The MC even had to remind the crowd to only cheer before the dances, but not during. Tennis crowds had nothing on this lot.
As for recording the evening, we had a camera. On my phone. So we have some blurry shots and think we can make out our child. Kind of hard among a troupe of children, identically dressed, at least half of which have brunette hair in high ponytails.
You’d think that having been parents for 14 years now we’d have things sorted. We’d be organised. We’d have water bottles from home. Spare jumpers. Tissues. That kind of thing. But we don’t.
Turns out we were not alone. We saw at least two other families in the nearest burger joint at 10.30pm having their post dance fair evening meal.
As for the dancing itself, the troupe our daughter was part of won, also receiving a special award for most entertaining. Celebrating with a giant burger and fries late at night may have been less than stellar, but that’s just how this family rolls.
Are you organised? Or like me, just roll with the burgers and late night fries?
It would seem that despite my best efforts to the contrary I am someone who likes routine. I try my best to be all let’s just go with it, but for me it just doesn’t work. More to the point, it doesn’t work for my family.
There have been some problems on the home front. Nothing major, but exhausting and emotionally draining all the same. Two schools to contend with, homework, parents working, trying to keep the house in some sort of order is hard work. For all of us.
As is the case for (what I would say) most families, things began to slip. Routines, rules (how I despise that word) and ways of doing things that work slid away as term one wore on and outside circumstances took their toll.
So, on the final day of the holidays we did something not done before. And as much as I don’t like the idea; as much as it goes against my wont to not conform, not be the typical poster family personified, we had a family meeting with our evening meal. We even called it that. Hubby and I swallowed our pride and got on with parenting in a way we thought we never would.
Routines were re-established and written down. A menu plan was made. On our weekly planner we wrote in homework, free time, and the things that needed doing to keep the house going. We added in a movie night and another movie afternoon. Something we always used to do, but let slip. Then we talked about why these things were happening. Why there would be no screen time (for any of us) between after school and tea. We put a stamp back on the importance of reading, drawing, chatting. On walking the dog, going for a run with me or a bike ride with Dad. We acknowledged the importance of downtime; time spent chatting online with friends, talking into headsets and gaming with mates. But that there is more to who we all are than our online connections.
I am a realist. I know what kind of world we all live in. I am more than happy for my kids to have time online with their friends. Friends they see face to face as well. But I know too that we all need to take a step back sometime. That family, that school work, that house work are all things that need to be done, like it or not. I know that setting boundaries is easy, but keeping them up is hard. I know that at times we all need to bend the rules, but it needs to be the exception, not the norm.
So, we are in routine lockdown. There are plans, set times, and lists of meals. It is not where I thought we would be as a family, but then life is not always what you think it will be. There are boundaries, not so much to keep anyone in, but as a protective buffer. A safety net to fall back on when life throws challenges. Which is does. Always.
It has only been this week. I know it is hard to tell long term. But for now things are working. It would seem that this mother who didn’t wan’t to be like all the rest, is. Maybe more so than she thought. But that is OK too. There is calm in our house this week. There is cooperation. But most of all there is happiness. Who could ask for more?
Today I’m heading to Tasmania with the kids. There is nothing new in this, being as much of our family live there, as do many friends. Hubby is staying home this time. He has deadlines and new work to begin.
We have travelled by plane and the ferry many times. But until this trip I have not taken the ferry without Hubby, or with such a small car.
I am a little excited I have to say.
I grew up on the North West Coast of Tasmania, and while it was not always pleasant, it was always beautiful. As an adult, with a life far removed from the full of anger and hurt teenager I was, I can look on the coast with new eyes.
Part of our trip this time will be down memory lane. I can hear the pained sighs and feel rolling eyes of two adolescent kids from here. But they will survive. I will ply them with local foods as we drive our way down to Hobart.
My tetris skills will be put to the test packing all the gear in a small hatchback while leaving room for three people. There will also no doubt be competition for connectivity to the car stereo. Though as driver I am fairly certain I get to rule over all music choices.
You can guarantee I will be instagramming the whole trip, and we think Stormy will come with us again. So look out for the #stormyintas hashtag.
So, now I begin the packing. I love packing, it begins to build the excitement.
And because I’m off to my other home state, best give you all a home grown Tassie song. This girl has talent, and I’m sure she’ll feature on my road trip playlist.
Sometimes you just want to get away. Stop thinking so much. Stop being the parent, teacher, daughter, sister, friend. Sometimes you want to go where nobody knows your name.
Sometimes a weekend away really is to escape. Sometimes walking down an unknown street untangles the threads of reality just enough.
Sometimes a slow breakfast in a new cafe feeds body and soul.
Sometimes there is a river, and the air is warm, the sun is hot and the water so clear and cool it soothes dusty feet.
What I know is this. Sometimes you just want to get away. But the threads of your life can never be untied. Not completely. A river can undo you. Take you back to times long past. And if you sit in the quiet, with your feet in the flow, the water will call your name.
Be still, it says.
Give in to the quiet, it whispers.
Take your time, there is no rush, it will tell you.
The sun may punish your back with heat. The warm wind call out beads of sweat. But your feet will remain cool. The river stones will hold you fast. The water will flow over and through.
If you stay still enough the river will tell you its secrets. It will show you the flecks of gold left behind, too small for the mines. A reminder there is light even in the smallest of places.
And when time comes to go, feet will dry on the bank as you walk. But the river remains in your heart and there is gold on the soles of your feet.
If you were in Melbourne on Wednesday night, you would have seen a city alive with summer. People walking, milling, sitting. Sharing time with friends, family, or alone.
You may have passed a mother and her son. He just about to pass her in height. Walking across St Kilda Road, shooting the breeze, in search of food fit to satve off the constant hunger only a teen child can muster. You may have seen a kid and his first taste of Lord of the Fries, of which, I am told, there is no going back.
There is something special about spending time one on one with a child. As they get older and naturally begin to move away from the constant want of parental and family company it is good to get away from home and the confines of the did you do, are you sure, have you got…
Away from the humdrum of home, tensions seem to loosen and side by side in the car, the street, the theatre, real conversations can be had.
That is the way it was when I took The Blue Eyed Boy to LEO at the Arts Centre Melbourne. He had the pick of three shows to see, and this was his choice. The more intimate space of the Fairfax Studio was perfect for this one man performance. A fringe festival-like show that starts out with some laughs and makes a decent into darker territory. All the better for older children and adults.
The performance delights, engages and challenges perceptions as you watch both the performer and a screen that films his every move. As well as the cleverness and physicality of the performance, there is a depth of character and emotion I was not sure would be there before the show began. That was, for me, what made the performance. Not so much that my perception was challenged, but my emotional response as music, image and Leo himself changed from happy go lucky to an altogethr darker place. And, that he found his way out of that place.
Leo is recommended for children aged ten plus, and although there were younger children in the audience, I do think the promoters got the age right for this performance. The louder music and darker side to the show, which is what really drew me in, is not aimed at younger audience members. For younger theatre goers wanting something a little out of the ordinary Oh Suivant! May be more the show to see.
For my lovely, growing teen and his rather proud mother, this was the perfect show, and the beginning of a great evening in the city we call home. Leo is on now through to January 27th. Tickets can be purchased here.
Disclaimer: I worked with 360 Immerse for the Arts Centre and am duly compensated for my time. I was not expected to write a review of Leo. I did though want to write about my time with my son, and the performance we saw. Just as I would have if not collaborating with an agency.
I have memories of my grandfather walking slowly in slippered feet. More still of him in a wheelchair, feet shuffling on carpet as the chair was pushed along.
He complained of something being caught in his throat when I visited with my sisters. Emotion stuck, causing an old man to cough.
He has been on my mind of late as I shuffle through the house in my uggs. Walk slowly through the supermarket. People passing on their hurried way. I envy them their quick pace. I notice the hustle of people now I cannot join in. It will return, my hustle. But for now, it is stuck, like emotion in the throat.
Tablets and toast for tea. Washed down with water and the bitter aftertaste of uncoated pills.
My shuffling feet. My slow witted knees. My thick, unyielding fingers. I talk, I write, I walk and I wait. My hustle will return. But while I learn of patience, I think of a grandfather and complain of something being caught in my throat.
Week one of school holidays is all but gone. So far I have asked, cajoled, bribed, nagged and yelled at a number of teen boys to get of the X-Box and go outside for fucksake approximately one trillion times.
I know I am not alone in this.
I consider myself a pretty laid back parent. I’m happy for gaming to happen. Even a few hours at a time. I hear the conversation as they play, know that there is connection. Talking to each other side by side with no eye contact. The preferred method of communication for any male I have ever known.
I will argue that actually, this generation of kids can concentrate for extremely long lengths of time. Don’t give me any of that this generation have a short attention span mumbo jumbo. It just is not true. They want things in ADSL 2 speed, but once they have it they know how to concentrate for hours on end.
Throngs of articles tell of the virtues of lead by example. I run. Hubby rock climbs and mountain bikes. We sit out in the sun. Walk the dog. Have freinds over for meals and late night conversations and drinks. If the adage lead by example worked our son would be a running, climbing, dog walking, sun sitting machine.
I thought perhaps Hubby and I were missing something. That is was just us and our kids. Turns out it’s universal.
I have managed to get the boy child and his friends off the couch and out of doors a few times. Once for nerf wars. Once to walk the dog. Once with all the coins I could scrounge and the suggestion of a walk to the village lolly shop.
I am more than a little torn about the whole thing. Gaming is part of how Hubby makes a living. Well, making them, he hardly has the time to actually play them. Without games we may not be able to purchase that free range pork we like so much.
Games and consoles are part of the growing up deal in 2012. As are tablets, phones and apps. Unavoidable if you want children to be up to date at school. I’m talking in class here. Not peer pressure.
The argument to not have these things in the home can be made. For some people that is the choice. But for me it is not. Fitting in is a huge part of a teen’s psyche. Huge. And I for one want my children to be able to talk about and use the social currency of their peers.
For me that currency was Countdown, roller skates and the body-wave perm. For my children it’s instant messaging, games, iDevices. I have no problem with that. Move with the times. Learn, adapt or be left behind. Fitting in is important for children. For their wellbeing.
The day long screen time battle of wills between parent and child is exhausting. Does a movie instead of game play count as a win for the kids, or the parents? What if the weather is foul? What if, what if, what if. On and on ad infinitum.
In a house where we talk openly and honestly about anything; where our children know they can come to us with any problem, anytime, I have already seen my son shutdown and internalise. I know the statistics. I understand about mental health. I also know that when my son communcates with his friends it is via instant message, face time, while playing games. Do I really want all this to stop? Do I want my son to shut down and not talk to anyone? If I take away his game time, his iPad and phone, say they are only to be used for school work am I taking away his tool of communication? His link to his world? His way of reaching out?
I don’t want that. I want him to always be able to reach out. It doesn’t have to be me. Or his father. It can be anyone he trusts. As long as it is someone.
So I wonder, is it all that bad that on occasion, in his downtime, he spends a day in a darkened room side by side with his friends? Gaming. Talking. Laughing. Connecting.
Is it really necessary that every single time he has a mate over I cajole them into outside time? Or should I sometimes, just let them be?
There is a saying in our family. Usually said on a particularly good day. When things are slow. When not much gets done apart from a drawn out lunch, an afternoon snooze or sitting in the sun drinking wine.
In a quiet moment, when appetites are sated, skin is warmed and eyes half closed, ‘I wonder what the poor people are doing’ will be said. Dad’s voice filling the air.
The usual reply, ‘it’s a hard life’ from one of us.
Is there money? None to speak of. But wonder we do.
It’s a hard life.
It is part of the way we get by. Especially when things are hard. Because sometimes things are.
We are rich. In arguments and laughter. In that we love to be together and apart. Miss each other and piss each other off.
We are not perfect. When we argue people in the next galaxy know about it. Children and grandchildren hear more than their share of swearing. They hear a great deal of tear inducing laughter as well. It’s a hard life.
A few years ago my parents came to stay. I had a day off and the kids were at school. We drove into the hills and had a late lunch. We sipped red wine and sat in the sun. As a waitress came to our table Dad spoke, to no one really. ‘I wonder what the poor people are doing.’
The waitress took offence. ‘Well they are all at work getting paid I suspect.’
I wanted to go after her. Explain. How my children had been uprooted from everything and everyone to live in a different state. How my parents worked hard all their lives; how they still did though Dad was past retirement age. That this was a day off for us all. That if she looked, if she listened to the tone not the words she’d have known.
But I didn’t. I had a rare moment of being an adult child alone with my parents. I had a glass of wine and cake. There was sun. School pick up was an hour away.
So I sat. I sipped wine. Ate cake. I wondered what the poor people were doing. It’s a hard life I replied to no one at all.