Friday, September 30, 2011

Strange Men and Little Children

This is a bit of an awkward post. I am feeling quite upset and concerned but I do not know if I am over-reacting.

The Blonde Bombshell is in Kindy two days a week.  Typically at pick-up time, many of the mums hang around while the kids play on the equipment, run around like mad things, and generally make us feel old just watching them.

There is a dad that we sometimes see.  Apparently he has a daughter in one of the other classes but I usually see him on his own.  He is very friendly and interested in our children, especially our girls. Perhaps too friendly and interested.

The other day he was asking about Miss Curly Mop.  Asking her name and how old she was, admiring her clothes and hair, trying to give her a high-five.  The Bombshell saw that someone was talking to The Mop and came over to introduce herself and show off some artwork she had created in Kindy that day.  The dad admired it, and then likened the Mop to a piece of artwork.

He then admired the Bombshell, asking her general questions.  Then he started asking me questions.  Were the girls sisters?  Were they both my daughters? 

The he told The Bombshell that her little sister was very beautiful and perhaps he could borrow her sometime, take her home...

Something inside me was panicking. I wanted to take both the girls and run.  I couldn't help but think the worst but at the same time I was wondering whether I was just over-reacting to a friendly dad who was simply admiring my children.  There could well be a cultural difference involved in what is appropriate in dealing with other people's children, but for my comfort, he was crossing a line. 

But I did not say anything.  What could I say?

He has stopped before to talk with me about the Curly Mop.  He has picked up one of the Bombshell's Kindy friend's for no apparent reason.  He makes me uncomfortable.  Where was his own daughter?

I feel sad that I am jumping to conclusions and could perhaps be vilifying an innocent, perhaps lonely, perhaps clucky man.  I hope that I am, because the alternative is too scary to contemplate.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Top 10 Tips to Surviving Interstate Travel with Kids

Here are some of the lessons I learned from my recent trip to our old stomping ground  of Sydney:
1. Be prepared for embarrassing answers to innocent questions (especially if you are in public). If you are getting on a train in Sydney, explain you will be going underground and then ask your four-year-old what else lives underground, expect that they will tell you (and the entire carriage) that ‘poo pipes’ also are underground.  I was hoping for bunnies or possibly worms.  Not a discussion about the sewerage system.
2. Despite their reputation, locals can actually be very friendly to tourists.  I lost count of the number of times we had people rush to help lift our pram up stairs or on/off trains and buses.  Two blokes put their designer beers down to help my husband lift the pram up an enormous flight of stairs in the pouring rain. Thanks guys.
2b. There are an awful lot of stairs in Sydney.
3. Little kids look really cute in big beds.

4. Kids will fight sleep.  Despite all the stolen blankets and pillows from Business Class, kids in Economy will avoid sleep at all costs.  Even if you have sacrificed your seat for the 20 month old, and are propped in the seat pocket of the person in front of you, they will remain awake no matter how long the flight.  However as soon as they are placed in their car seat for the short drive home, they will pass out.
5. Don’t teach children the word ‘bored’.  Because then they will start to use it.
6. Don't Let Crap Weather Ruin Your Holiday. Even the funnest holiday adventure such as jumping in puddles and running through the rain can be made un-fun if your Mum is screaming at you to hurry up or we’ll miss the plane.
7. Be Creative. A pair of Qantas headphones, even if not connected, will bring at least 20 minutes amusement to a 20 month old, and at least an hour (connected) for a four year old. 

8. Accept the Consequences of Free Choice. If you are going to let a four year old girl chose an outfit from The Build-A-Bear Workshop for her new pink rabbit, you have to accept the fact that she may well choose the one outfit that looks like a hooker (black, sequined, strappy dress, silver shoes, pink sparkly handbag).

9. Small Children do not have the same reservations we do. A toddler will eat a lollypop even if it is covered with toy fluff.  However, they will also begin to cough up furballs.

10. As difficult as you may have it, someone else always has it worse.  You may be battling two screaming children on the train or bus, there may be hair pulling and bad words cursed under your breath, but when you look across the aisle and see the woman with tears in her eyes, staring sadly at your beautiful children, children you were able to conceive and carry and birth, remind yourself that you have it good.

For more top tips on surviving travel with small children, head to my article at Weekend Notes.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Privacy? Don't Make Me Laugh

'Arghhhh she's ruining my game!  Mum!  Mum!  She's ruining it!'

Oh God.  Why can't they leave me alone for two minutes.

'She's pulling my hair.  Mum!'

Well that's because you asked for four pigtails this morning and it looks a little strange.

'Wahhhhhhhhhh' (loosely translated as 'now she's pulled my hair').

'Oh please, they're not real tears. Please go back in the family room'.

Momentary silence, followed by scuffling and muffled screams.

'Don't make me come out there!'

Empty threat, I'm a little preoccupied and have no intention of going out there.

The door opens and the four year old comes in, tears streaming down her face. 

'I broke my game. I folded it the wrong way'.

'Don't worry, I'll fix it.'

I am left holding what used to be a Disney Princess Snakes and Ladders boardgame.  Hang on.

'I can't find the sticky tape Mum'.

'Not NOW!  I'm busy.  I will fix it later.  Come back here and get the game please'.

What wouldn't I do for five minutes to myself. 

A hand appears around the edge of the door, waving a biscuit.

'Can I have a cookie Mum?'

'Yes, now go away.  No wait, come back here and close the door please'.

I'm getting a headache.  I'm sure of it.

'Make sure you give one to your sister', I yell.  I don't need her coming in here too.


I sit with my head in my hands for a minute.

Then I stand up and flush the loo.

I walk out to the family room where the girls are eating biscuits and playing with the broken halves of the board game.

'Look Mum, she's happy now'.

Me too girls.  Me too.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

What Can a Door Knocker Preach About Being a Mother?

I was working studiously on my impending uni assignment when I heard a rather tentative knock at the front door.  Always living in hope that it would be a huge bunch of flowers or box of hand made chocolates being delivered from an adoring fan, I bolted downstairs to find two small women, clutching bags and bowing repeatedly at me through the glass.

I opened the doors and said hello.  They bowed a few more times and explained that they were from South Korea and wanted to preach to me (their word) about being a mother.

I have to be honest, I was rather floored.

Every now and then I open the door to various religious groups wanting to preach about the word of God, or the Son or the gift of life or how I should become a Jedi for the next census.  I am terribly polite but do not let them stay to talk.  I respect other people's views and their right to have them, and I wish people would do the same for me.  If it's ridiculously hot I will offer you a cold drink but it doesn't mean I want to convert.

So I was kind of curious about what two very young women, with no children in tow wanted to tell me about being a mother.  They may have been mothers themselves but I don't know.  They wanted three minutes of my time, but then started pulling out videos from their bags.

I explained that I was already a mother of two, with another coming and I was very happy with my lot in life, but alas I had one day a week to study and this was it, so thankyou but no.  I bowed politely and gently closed the door.

I admit I will remain interested what the young ladies could have told me through their preachings, and the irony is not lost on me that I have already spent more than three minutes typing this post.  The same three minutes I told them I did not have.

But the only people I learn about being a mother from is my children.  They are my teachers and my mentors.  They constantly reward me and keep me on my toes.

Monday, September 5, 2011

In Praise of Dads

Yesterday being Fathers Day, my sister and I, and our gaggle of children descended on our parents house to celebrate our Dad.

What became immediately apparent, was that despite the fact that we spent the first half hour giving presents to Miss Three Year Old and Masterly One and a Half Year Old, chatting with Mum about dinner, swapping stories with each other, practically anything and everything except to do with Dad, he sat there with good grace and patience, and offered us all a drink.

When he was sent out the back - alone - to put the bbq on while we all stayed inside and gossiped, he did so with a smile on his face.

When he was given a drawing from the hand of the Blonde Bombshell, depicting him as an overstuffed couch with triangle legs and chicken feet, he oohed and ahhed at the genius of it.

When the kids demanded music to dance to, he dug around in the his old vinyl collection until he found the record my sister and I would dance to 30 years ago, and then joined in with enthusiasm (although perhaps with more substance than style).

When the youngest grandchild demanded a lap to sit in, and a male to talk trucks with, my Dad spent at least half an hour repeating the names of various trucks and cars and fire engines.  Over and over.  And then some more.  All with a smile (perhaps wearying by now).

When the four kids ran manically around the house, getting faster and louder and more silly each time, he only raised his voice slightly (to be heard over the din).  He just shrugged his shoulders and stayed out of their way, and poured us all another drink.

When the toddlers threw their food out of the high chairs onto the carpet, he told us not to worry, and to just enjoy our dinner (however he was out of the room when Miss Curly Mop threw her dessert against the wall and we watched it gradually roll its way down, until it finally wedged itself on the skirting board).

And then after dinner, while the three women escaped into the quiet sanity of the kitchen, he sat with his four grandchildren, reading them stories, letting them crawl all over him, pull his moustache, and loved every moment of it.

*  *  *

As we were packing the cars for the drive home, my sister and I discussed how sad it was that we didn't really truly fully appreciate our parents until we became parents ourselves.  When we realised it meant that we had at least 25 years before being appreciated ourselves by our own children, I decided that I could try and take a leaf out of my dad's book: smile and be patient with good grace (and possibly a nice glass of wine).

I love you Dad.

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