Behaviour matching

I recently read this great post on life as a rambling redhead, about pairing your child’s bad behaviour with wine, but I just can’t agree with the wine choices. How do you pair wines with your child’s less and desirable behaviour?

When navigating such a complex parenting decision, I feel it is best to talk through scenarios we may encounter in the every day life of a toddler, then pair these with the appropriate drinks. Food and wine matching is all very well, but that won’t help you when the food is sliding down the lounge room wall now, will it?

  1. Epic threenager meltdowns of the nuclear variety coupled with sweet ramblings

In this situation, your toddler has meltdowns on their meltdowns. So much so that you think some kind of brain damage has either already happened, or will inevitably follow. This is then closely coupled with sitting quietly on the couch with a butter-wouldn’t-melt -in-his-mouth expression, patting your arm and saying “I love you mummy”.

Combination behaviours require a combination wine.

What better wine to pair with this demon wrapped up in a conundrum than a Grenache Shiraz mouvedre? The GSM, as is affectionately known, has vanilla tones from the Grenache to mimic your child’s sweet moments, the punch of the gutsy shiraz (because you know you want to) and it is all held together with a fuzzy blanket of mouvedre. Second glass in you’ll move from rocking back and forth in a fetal position to watching him sleep, lovingly. Mummy’s little helper indeed

2. Come on, mum!

Hey mum! You’re my playmate! Let’s do a puzzle! Watch me! Watch me do this lame thing again and again just to get your undivided attention during your working from home day! Look! Ok let’s run! Ok we’re in a car park and……go! And, paint! And paint and paint! And…

No wine can do 11 hours of this justice. Crack a beer.

3. What did you forget?

Oh thanks mister childcare worker! J-man didn’t feel like his nap today? Cool! That’s good sweetie, that you’re so good at decisions for your own welfare! Aren’t you advanced? I don’t feel like wearing pants, but you don’t see me rocking up to the office in my cottontails, do ya? No, no!

But thanks! Thanks for letting my child assert himself. Its great I now get to spend 3 hours with a psychotic stick wielding banshee. Good choices!

After you’ve lifted his sleeping face out of the mashed potato and peas and popped him into his bed at 7pm, I’d recommend you both drink champagne. Served as cold as a working mother at drop off

4. Throw me under a bus

For any illness involving staying in the house more than 3 days, add a scotch to the following suggestion.

In case of vomit, I’d recommend white spirits. Something like a Moscow Mule with its cheeky vodka afterglow, then cleansing freshness of lime and the stomach soothing ginger for the illness you will inevitably catch. Rinse, and repeat.

In case of amazing quantities of snot, I’d recommend a pinot grigio. This light young Italian adds a fresh cut through which means you’ll be able to sniff your glass out as you dig through the used tissue pile. Very handy. Plus, being fresh and light, it is quite easy to swill. Swilling is important.

In case of anything festy, aka hand foot & mouth, school sores (Impetigo), nits or anything unidentifiable and itchy, it is quite hard to recommend a suitable drink. I think something as close to a disinfectant as possible, so gin or vodka must necessarily be involved. It is also possible to have medicinal vodka whilst showering, or, to drink whilst sitting on the toilet lid bathing your festy child and applying mind altering chemicals to their “festiness”. If nits are involved, one of those cocktails you set alight could be a good thing. Flame has amazing healing powers.

5. Oh my god please tell me he’s asleep.

Again, hate to tell you lady, wine aint gonna cut it.

What this requires, after a bedtime that has involved two different kinds of water, a special cup, a special car, milk, warmer milk, bread, spilling a drink, snoring and waking himself up, the phone ringing JUST AS HE WAS DRIFTING OFF TO SLEEP, requests for the ipad, and repeated call outs just when you thought it was safe…..what this requires is LOTS and LOTS of chocolate. And crappy TV. And Chocolate. And a GIANT cup of tea. Did I mention chocolate?

6. Drinks to save for a terrible, no good very bad day

  • Dark ales such as Guinness. These are handy when the weight of your failure as a parent must be presented in beverage form.
  • That bottle of unidentified sweet crap involving the word “Crème” that has been at the back of your booze shelf since 1984. It should be a weird colour. Save it for homicidal rages.
  • Any kind of infused vodka (eg chilli, gold leaf, other random flavours). I’ve heard these are very handy for the post hospital visit come down. You get a bigger glass if you arrived in an ambulance, and you can pour doubles if there was something embedded in someone.

Under no circumstances should you condone the consumption of sauvignon blanc, or cask wine. I mean, you’re a parent now, right? Someone needs to set an example.

A thousand and forty one nights

So today, I’ve agreed to go on a brief last minute business trip, against my better judgement. An overnight to Brisbane for a presentation.

I can remember the feeling of the walls closing in when jman was born, when I looked ahead and thought about breastfeeding, about life in general, and thought “crap! I’m trapped. I’m really really trapped”. He needs me every two hours. Get me a paper bag to breathe into.

Somehow, as the blob turns into a small person, and the small person turns into a bigger person, as I adjusted to this new version of myself, the “trap” became what I wanted to do. I couldn’t imagine being anywhere else, or wanting to be. Mostly. Like any mother I had the Thelma and louise meets disappear to a five star hotel alone without notice fantasy, yep, but mostly,I wanted to be there for him. Mostly, I couldn’t imagine being anywhere else.

Tonight, after a thousand and forty one nights, I will be somewhere else. 36 hours apart…the longest separation we have had in nearly three years.

Parenting, where you have to go from separate to embedded and intertwined, wrapped together, and somehow, over time, get back to being separate people. Separate but bound. Tied. Linked. It’s like a personality decathlon for the parent. And I suspect, with this bring our first night apart, this is only about the fourth event.

I’ll be thinking of you, jman. I will also quite enjoy the king sized bed.

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We made it

Well. Not a lot of posting lately.

See, I took the new job. Back in October.

I hated the new job in October.

I hated it quite a lot in November.

I thought about going back to my old job in December.

No longer could I work from home 2 days a week (down to 1). No longer could I knock off at whenever teaching was finished, because I was on a learning curve as steep as a roller coaster.No longer could I leave work, drop into the shops and pick up dinner supplies, and pick up at daycare by 4:30.

There were a lot of reasons not to like the new job. Won’t go into them here, just in case.

Then we had a break over Christmas.

Then the extra money from the new job allowed us to buy our apartment we’d been renting for 5 years.

Then things weren’t as financially stretched as they once were, even with a mortgage.

Then my abject terror at not knowing ANYTHING changed to occasional nervous wobbles, and finally to a combination of mostly confidence and a bit of “feel the fear and do it anyway”.

Then i quite enjoyed getting the ferry to work.

Then i occasionally enjoyed the intellectual challenge, and the ability to effect change in the new role.

And today, today my first exam ran. For 3,500 people  in many worldwide locations. And it went ok.

We made it. And I feel like, well, if I am not quite over the hump, then I’m at least nearing the top of it. All of pick ups, hub in boots. Most of the dinners. Hub in boots. For a while i worked 9-5 in the office then 9pm-12 am at home. Then I realised this was unsustainable and mixed it up, sometimes working 9-6 in the office and 8-10 at home. I ran a discussion board 24/7 for 13 weeks. Somehow. With a toddler climbing on my shoulders, draping himself around my neck, yelling in my ear for me to sit down and build block towers.

And sometimes I built.

And sometimes I couldn’t build.

And then, as my confidence / comfort grew, sometimes I’d just go “stuff it I’m not coming in”. I’m hosting teleconferences in my lounge room in my tracky dacks. And sometimes I knock off at 4. And today, we can get off the express train. Sure, I have to get on a different train, developing new material for the next offering, but still.

It has been hard. It has been challenging. It has been tiring. It has put pressure on all of us. But I’ve done it all once now. In education, the first time through is always the worst. I have made a huge change. A huge change. I have got this household a significant payrise. I have jumped off a pretty safe ship to a crazy one. But I’ve lifted my game, learnt 3000 new things, and opened up my horizons. I think. Big time.

Pause, breathe, and repeat.

We made it.

Once upon a time, I didn’t pause long to celebrate achieved goals, and instead went great, where’s the next goal. So I was in a state of perpetual wanting, always in motion, never still and satisfied.

I hope I’ve learnt from back then. I hope I have learnt to stop. This is a stopping point. We drank a bottle of veuve tonight. This weekend hub in boots is off to a car rally all weekend. A fitting reward for the extra work. I’m going to rebond with the jman. Take it slow. Enjoy an actual weekend. something I haven’t had since february. Smell those roses.

We made it.

CBF

So like anything parenting, there’s a lot of methods of toilet training out there. The 3 day potty training method, timed potty stops, the follow their lead method. Most of the books assure us it’s all about timing. If they’re ready, it will be easy, if they’re not, it will be an epic waterfall of bodily fluids at completely inappropriate times / locations, possibly involving walls being painted with poo*.

I’d like to propose a new method. The CBF’d method. The CBF, or Can’t Be F()$*^d method, starts whenever your nearest mum pal has their same age child reliably toilet trained. At this point, you think, we can do this, and commit to toilet training wholesale, going out and buying copious quantities of cute appealing underwear, a nice comfy potty, a seat and steps to go on the big toilet, and a lot of washing powder. You’ve got this, you think.

You declare it “pants off Friday”. Fridays will forever be known as pants off Friday in your house. You carefully select a day when both parents are on leave from work, and the schedule and reliability of bowel movements are both delightfully open ended.

The first day, he wears the potty as a hat. You encourage, and make the potty fun. You get spectator shy dad to demonstrate how it’s done, allowing him to share in the joy that is the accompanied visit to the loo.

The second day, a wee on the potty. There is great rejoicing and the giving of marshmallows. everyone shouts ” hooray!”. Your toddler takes to weeing off the corner of the first floor verandah, onto the driveway below, thankfully missing unsuspecting passers by. “We’re Just watering the plants,” you smile and wave to them. ” hooray, I did a wee on the verandah” your toddler announces. Hooray! You say, as you move the potty onto the verandah to avoid embarrassing incidents with the neighbours. There is more giving of marshmallows.

The third day, pants off Sunday, you’ve carefully discussed poos in the potty. You’ve smiled and been very positive through minor accidents. You go out and buy a thomas the tank engine potty book, complete with stickers. This is the big day, you’re thinking.

And sure enough, without warning, he runs gracefully to the potty and whips out a giant turd. I say whips out, because, just like a soft serve ice cream, he does it standing up, with perfect aim. It’s amazing . You gently coax him into sitting next time. Everyone stands around to inspect the poo. The presence of blueberries is noted. It is tipped and flushed with great ceremony and applause. And duly hand out marshmallows.

To your surprise, he never misses, has perfect aim, and only once or twice wees in a non designated toileting location.

The next day, radiant with confidence, you bring in the underwear.

The underwear does not go well. The underwear, wet or not, feels like a nappy. So it is wee’d upon. You smile, nod, and say “hey, accidents happen! Help me clean it up!” Feeling a little like a dog trainer rubbing his nose in it. And we all smile, and clean it up.

Then we get changed.

Then we all smile, and clean it up.

Then we get changed.

Then we all grit our teeth so it looks like a smile.

Then we get changed.

Then your knees are red from kneeling and scrubbing carpet. And you’ve run out of rag towels and start using the good ones. But tomorrow! Tomorrow it will click!

“Nappy ONNNNN!!!!!” He declares in the morning. Apparently he is fearing type 2 diabetes due to marshmallow intake. He can’t take the cleaning. A truce is declared.

CBF’d, you think, reading the thomas potty book again, thinking gordon looks like a raving homosexual. Not that there’s anything worn with that, just sayin. You pack the potty everywhere you go, but your heart’s not in it.

Two days later, you’re back at work.
“Underpants! I want racing car underpants! No no the RED ONES!!! The red ones!!!! I want to sit on the potttttyyyyyy!!!!!!!”

The split second morning schedule is screwed. Because, seriously, he is one step away from a prune eating old bloke with a giant newspaper on the dunny. It takes HOURS.” We have to go now!” “I’m sitting on the potty!”

It’s time for an upgrade. You ditch the marshmallows. Roll out the lolly snakes. In an ornamental jar. And stand, eating them late at night, as you stuff clothes into the washing machine.
“What do you want for breakfast?”
“SNAKES!”
“Snakes are not a breakfast food. Snakes are for when you go on the potty. For poos on the potty.”
“Snakes!”

You leave then house. He’s wearing a nappy and eating snakes.

And you? You CBF’d. Just like weaning, it will probably happen before his 18th birthday.

“Don’t send mixed messages!” The books say. “Never look back!” The books say, like somehow nappies are a biblical Lot’s wife and you’ll all turn into a pillar of salt if you venture back into this now forbidden territory.

“Screw that” you say. I finished work at 1am and I don’t fancy a turdburger before work, strapping him in to the snuggest most spill proof nappy possible.

“We’ve reassessed, and the timing is not right” you declare, you well read bastion of bowel research.

But, really, the thought of going out like your elderly mother, aware of every toilet within 10 nanoseconds in an already insanely busy life just fills you with dread and makes you look for a paper bag to breathe into. And honestly? Toilet training?

You just CBF’d.

* yes. This actually happened. To our Friday nanny. Yes. It was jman.

Hello. Tap tap. Is this thing on?

Yes I’ve been kind of absent. Blame the new job. I’ll do the backstory. Very soon. I hope, how are you all? How is life? I haven’t even been blog lurking. I’ve missed so much.

I just thought I’d pop on and quickly share a little parenting moment.

Jman is 2.5 now. As of last Monday. We have Thursdays together, when I work from home.

This week, I felt like he was deliberately pushing my buttons (probably because he was deliberately pushing my buttons). I hate it when I try to do something “nice mum”, like giving him an empty porridge tin & putting some mung beans in it to make a noise, and he buggers it up by opening it up and spilling it everywhere and shoving mung beans down the back of the couch. Really really annoying. I lost my cool at him. I hate it when I do that. Then it cycled up into a “if we had a big house and a yard he could do messy things, and he’s missing out because he’s an apartment kid…” And on it goes. (More on this later, too. We have lots of news).

But I stopped myself. He was so so upset that I’d swept up the mung beans and binned them. I stopped. I got down on his level and looked him in the eye, and empathised. Ok. So he wanted something different out of this than I did. Ok.

We agreed to go and get the messy mat together. We agreed not to spill mung beans everywhere. Then we got more beans, and lots of different containers.

And for two hours, I kid you not, two HOURS, he sat there. He tipped, he ran them through his fingers, he clogged up one funnel so we made another, he got fine motor practice by dropping the beans one by one into the funnel, he talked about “empty” and “full” (scary bright brain, this kid).

And naturally, eventually, mung beans went everywhere. But he’d done his “play work”. And I’d done my empathising and extended his play / self directed learning. And we were way overdue to vacuum anyway.

It was awesome.

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Let them eat cake

Birthday last week.

Late night working in old job, came home day after my birthday and Jman heard me and insisted on getting up. So we shared a piece of my birthday cake. After 9pm. I’m an awesome parent.

Anyhow, first mouthful, he gets this weird look on his face, and spits it out. But he’s still not really breathing normally. “Bub, are you ok?” Blank look. “Bubby?” And he sort of looks at me, but doesn’t look at me.

I thump him between his shoulder blades, but not much changes. I get him to drink some milk, then some water, then to chew and swallow a tiny piece of bread to check his throat was not obstructed. He has it, but he doesn’t really chew normally. It was odd.

I kept saying to hub-in-boots “he’s not going to bed til I’m sure he’s right”. And he wasn’t wrong, but he wasn’t quite right either.

Then he moved from sitting next to me, to lying on me, and his head started lolling to one side and his eyes rolling backwards in his head. Just buggered and falling asleep? He was a bit yellow. His lips were white. I kept holding him. “Bubby. Buuuuubby. Are you ok?” He looks at me but doesn’t look at me. He’s there, but he’s not there.

“He’s not going to bed”. We gave him more water. What was going on?

The weirdness continued for. 20-30 minutes. It was weird, but not crazy. He didn’t really talk at all, or move much. But he did shift position, and he did make some eye contact occasionally. “He’s just really tired” hub in boots said.

“Don’t care, he’s not going to bed”.

Then 20-30 minutes in, PING! he sits up, bright eyed, and started singing, talking, and moving around the room. It took another 30 minutes for me to unpack the experience and realise. Seizure?

I start my new job tomorrow. So I was really looking forward to our day with our Friday nanny so I could have some serious time out. And Friday, he projectile vomited all over the carpet and speaker when she arrived. Like a fire hose. So she left. And I cleaned carpet. Then took him to the doctor.

The doctor suggested we see our paediatrician, but adopt a watch and wait strategy on it. I agreed.

Then I got home and realised, this wasn’t episode number 2, where episode 1 had a clear cause. This was episode 3. There was a very similar episode on the plane going on holidays in July. He didn’t want to be strapped in and was going nuts as the plane came into land, and the same laying down eyes rolling thing occurred. We dismissed it as an over due nap, but at the time I did say “it’s the same face he pulled that time we got the ambo.” . I put it down to my hyper vigilance after the stopping breathing event a few weeks before. And I dismissed it.

i was very upset Friday, thinking it might be epilepsy, or worse, thinking of kids that have giant seizures and end up with brain damage, medication, your basic catastrophising parent. Luckily, I had a rare night out booked Friday (and Saturday!), with “mums group gone wild”. It started with bollinger and ended with a bad pub band, dancing, and very little sleep. A good antidote to a rough week.

I’ve spoken to the new boss about participating In the appointment via speaker phone if we could fit it in. And she has told me to go to the appointment. So tomorrow morning, we are off for a chat. I hope a chat is all that is viewed as necessary.

The new referral to the paediatrician mentions my sub chorionic haematoma during pregnancy. I just pray none of that crazy journey through haemorrhages and bed rest  resulted in faulty wiring in a little growing brain. Because the mummy guilt from that, it could kill me.

so monday= paediatrician! then new scary job (and the Penski file). Big day.

Two is so becoming

Two is ridiculous!

PRETEND
“What you like? A babycino? You want marshmallow? Here’s your money”

Yes, we can play cafes, we even wait while the pretend cup fills up, but the money is never quite going in the right direction.

It started two weeks before his birthday, in a cafe. He made this horrible loud noise, sitting beside me. “What are you doing?”
“I’m an elephant, mum”. Yes, yes of course you are. And just like that, we’ve gone into pretend. Sure, we’d done pretend toast and cups of tea, but nothing like this.

This week he has:
* washed a “shirt” (face washer) in the “washing machine” (small bucket in the bath) and handed it over “here’s your new shirt all dry, mum.”
* ordered zucchini slice with calamari, schnitzel, mashed potato and broccoli for dinner (just a moment sir, the bistro will call you when your number is ready )
* driven in a “car” (box) to grandmas, then loaded all the animals (animal fridge magnets) in. When asked where he’s going ” to the zoo!”.

LANGUAGE

His language is ridunkulous. Just insane.
“You’ve got a drink of water. I’ve got a drink of water. Daddy’s got a drink of water”

“I was splashing, Aunty cathy. I splashed.” (His use of past tense is better than my students).

” look mummy! There’s a dump truck! A dump truck! Hello mister dump truck. Where did the dump truck go? Where’s he gone? Mister dump truck, where are you?”

“Oh wow, that’s delicious, mummy”

Revisionist sentences: “milk, mummy. A drink of milk. I would like a drink of milk. I would like a big drink of milk. A cup of tea milk, (milk in a mug not a sippy cup) mummy. Please, mum mum. Tank you.”

Gross motor skills / independence

He can walk up and down stairs without holding on, all of a sudden.

He likes to climb into the car seat, not be lifted in.

He can climb rope nets on playgrounds (mostly).

He is suddenly very cooperative about having his teeth cleaned, but allergic to high chairs. Whereas he used to quite like being fed when he was tired, this Is not a thing we do now. In fact, many things have rules. Like :THOU SHALT NOT BUTTER MY TOAST. I DO IT.

But he still runs like a little fairy called twinkle toes. Very funny.

WEANING

I thought I’d never say it, but I think we’ve weaned.

We’d been on a feed first thing in the morning in bed thing for a long time. There was a feed when you pick me up at daycare thing, but that passed a little while back.

He still quite likes grabbing at my boobs. “Mummy’s boobs. Mummy has boobs. I don’t have any boobs.”

And we had a half hearted attempt at a drink on request the other day, the first in two weeks.

I was at a a loss how to manage weaning. The only method that made sense to me was first, night weaning (via dad only settles in the night). That happened a long time ago , maybe at 8 months?

Then, the only thing that made sense was “don’t offer, don’t refuse”. It was the only “way” that seemed ok to me. Don’t get me wrong. There were times I thought oh for the love of god, stop!. But I never wanted to make that decision for him.

There was an undercurrent to it early on, because weaning would be needed for any subsequent goes at IVF. When everyone asked “what about number 2?

And I wasn’t ready, and he wasn’t ready, and I couldn’t force weaning on him. Especially not with an “other” motive. I needed to put a full stop on one sentence, in the right place, before I began another.

It turns out that full stop is probably the last one in that paragraph. And I think I’m (mostly) ok with that. And we’ve weaned. We’ve just about weaned. We made two years. I am so proud of that. Not to put down anyone else’s choices, but when most other things were the exact opposite of natural, this was one thing I really really wanted, that I saw as very important.

I was only ever aiming for three months.
Then six months.
Then a year.
Then the questions started. are you still feeding him? When will you stop? You can give him cows milk, you know (I did. I still do).
When it works for us.
Which turns out to be just after he turned two. Which was a lot longer than I’d ever thought.

FUNNY LITTLE PERSON

There are a lot more moments, these days, when I just stop, and look at him, and think you are amazing. You are just a funny little person, where did you come from? How could this be me, sitting here with you? hoe could this be me, singing Bob The Builder with you as we walk through a supermarket? (On a loop : bob the builder, can he fix it? Bob the builder, can he fix it? Bob the…. you get the picture).

For so long, as babies, they are becoming. becoming a sitter, becoming a babbler, becoming a crawler, a walker, a laugher, a talker.

Now, at 2, all of a sudden like a light has been turned on, I feel he has become.

You really should appreciate every day in Morocco

In the last few days, we’ve caught up with a Mexican friend who I met over a decade ago. I was on the trip of a lifetime (hopefully the first of many), a year on the road, Europe and Africa, and solo.

It was meant to be a trip with my boyfriend at the time. Then I dumped him. Then it was meant to be a trip with a good friend. And she, too, kept delaying the departure date and negotiating for shorter and shorter times on the road. And it morphed into a solo trip.

I never felt brave enough initially to plan a solo trip. But life intervened, and I got exactly what I needed.

When my old travel friend recently started getting closer and closer on his facebook photos, I messaged him. “Are you coming to Australai? Can we catch up?” And sure enough he was. A couple of catch ups ensued. He met my hub-in-boots, he met my j man. We made suggestions for his Australian leg of travel, many wines were drunk, and inevitably the old photo albums were rolled out.

It was many years ago we knew each other. In Romania, a large group of travellers and a few insane Brasov locals morphed into a crazy travel cluster. We put off other plans, for the sheer pleasure of hanging out. We drank beers in the Brasov Beer festival, and played three day long games of truth & dare, we played poker in Speedy’s house with so many people cheating the entire deck of cards was under the rug. We went on hikes and camping, we went horse riding, we visited Dracula’s castle in Bran, we shopped at local markets and cooked up feasts in the crazy grandmas house where many of us stayed.

Yet as Roberto flipped through my photos of that time, he asked me about Morocco. It was a great regret, he said. Like me, he caught the short ferry from Algeςiras in Spain over to Tangiers. And he found Tangiers such a full on assault that he got right back on the ferry to Spain. He never saw the place.

I remember getting on that ferry. There were only a few people on board. The water was not very rough. I put on my long skirt and flowing shirt. I put on my fake wedding ring. And halfway across, on the loud speakers, the call to prayer started. And the other passengers faced Mecca, and prayed. I felt, as we crossed that water, suddenly thrown, immersed in the unfamiliar, away from my comfort zone, a little lost. I was the only woman on board. I was travelling solo to a Muslim country. What was I thinking?

Tangiers took that discomfort to a whole other level. I seemed to hit the dock and be in someone’s Uncle’s carpet shop within about an hour. A man in a gelahbra collected a few travellers, and took us in his car on a tour of the city. Did I agree to this? I must have been insane. We saw spice markets, the kasbah full of children playing, crazy traffic where hatchbacks and Mercedes taxis butted up against donkeys hoofed with cut out car tyres.

Tangiers was too much.

After several hours of this tour, just like my Mexican friend, I felt the need to escape. EVERYONE was in my face. EVERYONE seemed to want speak to me, or touch me. Everything seemed worthy of my attention. So I bought a ticket on a night train to Marrakech, narrowly avoided buying a carpet, and killed a few hours in a tea house. I think I had no facial expressions. I was full of input, I was flooded, I was overrun.

I found the couchette in the night train terrifying. Random guards seemed to open and close the door all night, I was in the top bunk of three with no idea how to get my backpack into the storage area above the door. I felt like I was in a morgue, and they’d pull my bed out simply to attach a toe tag. Somehow, someone helped me to store my pack. Somehow, I slept.

In the morning, watching the sun rise over the plains as the train rattled along was beautiful. Then I realised it was 6am. I really needed to pee. And ALL THE TOILETS WERE LOCKED. At the time, this was apparently a common security measure to stop stow aways hiding in the loos avoiding ticket inspectors. But the train guard had slept in, and I needed to pee. Really really needed to pee.

Somehow I made it to the unlocking the bathroom phase of the morning, and I can still remember looking at the relief on my face in the mirror, after I’d been. Oh the relief.  Somehow we made it to Marrakech. Where it was about 8am and I had no plan WHATSOEVER.

A few other totally unplanned events followed. I stood vaguing out on the train platform, only to encounter another Aussie from Western Australia called Tim, also travelling solo. Tim was organised. Tim had a plan. Me, I’d been on the road just a few weeks. I had no clue. I’m not sure I even had a guide book.

So Tim got me to a fantastic hotel overlooking the medina. I got a room. I found an ATM. And about five hours later I had somehow agreed to go on a trip the next morning with another random man with a minivan. Over the High Atlas Mountains, across to Zagora, camel rides into the Sahara Desert, a night in a bedouin tent. Just your usual day out.

The Sahara was beautiful. The moutains were beautiful. The bedouin were beautiful. I met a man in blue who had never seen a city or been in a car. I saw a million stars. I raced camels. I saw a camel spit ten feet and hit a man square in the back of his head. I ate with my hands from a clay pot, with juice running down my chin. This is me, in the early morning in the desert. I am on the bottom camel. It was 1998.

On a camel early morning in the Sahara. I am on the bottom camel. This photo is on my office wall.
On a camel early morning in the Sahara. I am on the bottom camel. This photo is on my office wall.

I returned to to the frontal assault that is Marrakech, from the peace of the desert to the hustle and bustle of the city, where two hundred identical orange juice sellers ask you to remember their stall number and return, because after all, their juice is the best. I returned to the beauty of the night markets, to the dancing songs of the snake charmer, to the children running and the hookah pipes chuffing.

It was amazing. But I did not enjoy it at the time. The desert, yes. The cities, no. Marrakech, Tangiers, Fez, they each have their own way of assaulting you, assaulting your senses. And I could not take it all in. I wrote and I photographed, and I wrote and I photographed.

But it was not until I left Morocco, that I liked Morocco. It was not until I looked through the photos, and read my diary entries, and thought about my days there, that I realised what a place it was. At the time, I felt under siege. At the time, I felt in danger for hours at a time (though it really isn’t that bad, as a solo woman you are on high alert). I felt hypervigilant. I felt mentally assaulted, sensory assault.

But whenever someone mentions Morocco, I say, oh you must go. You should really appreciate every day in Morocco. Morocco is amazing.

This is a place where sometimes I had to grit my teeth to walk down a street, looking for a bathhouse, in the guidebook I finally bought. This is a place where I sometimes cried into my pillow each night, or woke in terror at the incredibly loud 3am call to prayer. This is a place where I had to politely explain to the hotel owner in Fez why I had no desire whatsoever to exchange my English language novels for hashish.

And after talking to my Mexican friend this week, I realised something.

Morocco is just like parenting.

You cross an unfamiliar strait. And everything around you changes from comfortable to confronting. You are immersed in the foreign. It is a full on sensual assault. You are on high alert at first. There are beautiful things, but sometimes you can’t even see them at the time. Later on, when the sensory overload has passed, you can remember, and process, and appreciate, and you think, why didn’t I appreciate that more? But so much of it, at the time, is just about getting through. Is just about the next place, the next challenge. You introduce solids, they are sitting up. You deal with the early phase of crawling and all the bumps and falls, then they are pulling up and walking. You deal with walking, then they are able to unscrew the lids on poisonous substances and paint your carpet with nail polish.

And many many parts of it, you cannot appreciate at all until time passes. Until you have time to sit back and reflect.

I think that is why people constantly say to you Oh they are so beautiful at this age. Appreciate every moment. They grow up so fast. You won’t believe it and you’ll be giving a speech at their 21st, or dealing with an obnoxious teenager. Really stop and appreciate it.

These comments, to new parents, seem to put so much more pressure on us. Because not only do we have to get through it, we have to now appreciate every moment or feel extra Mummy (daddy) guilt for our lack of appreciation.

And it’s like Morocco, you know. I’m early on in this gig, but many phases of parenting, you appreciate and remember after you leave. When the sensory overload has passed. When the hypervigilance has calmed down into something more akin to the every day. When we flick through photographs and look at old facebook posts or blog posts and have time to reflect.

Yes, you have moments, many moments, that are like the stars in the Sahara Desert. Funny moments like camel spit. Insightful moments like a man who has never been to a city. These all happen too.

But most of it makes  sense after the fact. When the storm of the new has passed.  Parenting is just like Morocco.

Stupid stupid morning

Stupid mummy morning.

Don’t set alarm, because I’m home sick today after a long lingering cold virus thing that’s been dragging on for three weeks. Yesterday was the world’s least successful sick day, given I spent half of it doing day care drop offs, pick ups, doctor and pharmacy visit, and stupid work emails. Today will be better.

7:13 “Mum? Mum!”

7:14 pee whilst holding jman (just not worth the tantrum)

7:14-7:30 breastfeed in bed, to requests of “more, drink? More, drink?” Every time I try and hurry things up. A few squeeezy hugs to start the day

7:30 see dada off

7:31 make a wrap x 2 for jman lunch, fend him off from stealing all the flatbread

7:35 dress jman whilst he eats flatbread (mummy fail) and holds a large model car. The negotiations to get him to swap hands for dressing could get me a job in the UN.

7:40 deposit jman into high chair and shovel weetbix and honey (bad) into a bowl

7:42 refuse seven requests of “tv, on?”

7:43 pick up spoon from floor. “More, drink?” Pick up sippy cup from floor. Run out of room and get dressed v quickly before weetbix is wallpapering the lounge room.

7:44 “more weetbix?” . Deliver more weetbix.

7:50 “pishes? More pishes ?” Deliver tinned peaches in a bowl.

7:55 “more honey?” Deliver more honey.

8:00 where does the time go? Decide to ring annoying government department, as we received two online letters I forgot to read, and our child care rebate has been suspended. Why? Because jman’s immunisation ( which is up to date) is not up to date. Seriously?

They answer the phone. Miracle. They offer to ring our doctor and sort it out today. What the? Is this HELP?

“More weetbix?”. Decide to brave second government department. The paying one. It takes five minutes just to get through the ID Checks and disclaimers. Then we are experiencing higher than normal customer demand. You are 10 th in the queue….,.

“More pishes?” The weetbix is moving further and further from the target area. As in, it is getting thrown, by the handful, and weetbix art is appearing on the high chair tray. I’ll risk it. Deliver more pishes.

Decide to make tea. Notice slow cooker is still plugged in from last night. Reach over to unplug it. Holding phone to ear and screwing up peach jar. Put arm right above boiling kettle. Hmm, I love the smell of scalded flesh in the morning.

8:10 still on hold, running cold water over my steam burnt wrist at the kitchen sink whilst supervising weetbix art. Occasionally pause for a run in, food delivery, or intermediate clean up. Run back to tap. Its fine, its fine, I’m fine. Continue to make tea. Continue to be on hold . Continue to have wrist sting like the BEJESUS and return to running water on it.

8:15 Freak out whilst on hold. Centrelink letter, dated 7th April, said we had 21 days to sort out the immunisation problems. It is now 29th. We’re buggered. I forgot to read the online letter, notified by their stupid text message system. J man was sick and we put off immunisation twice, by a grand total of 5 weeks. It’s been six weeks since he was immunised, you stupid stupid people. SIX freaking weeks. I havent read your letters, because most of the time, your letters are letters telling me I might get a letter. Generally, they contain no information whatsoever. You people WASTE my freakin time.

And I work full time. And have a child. And keep a house. And shop for groceries. And clean. And see family. And we’ve had two ear infections, a virus, and croup since then. And I have been sick for weeks but only saw a dr yesterday. So pardon me if you whack job government departments are not the first thing on my list ow my wrist hurts.

Such a relaxing start to the day.

8:20am “All finished. All finished mum. Thank you mum mum. Thank you mum mum.” Ok jman, I got you. I’ll move away from the tap. Clean you up. You’re free to go. (his sentences are so damn cute).

8:25 “Hello”. I explain the situation. “Oh thats ok, you’re still active on our system. It looks like you’ve got….til the 10th of May to sort this out.” I breathe. My chest loosens. I wish I knew that at 11pm when I got shouty at poor hub-in-boots for never taking any responsibility and how much I hate government paperwork or forms of any kind and why is this always my problem and you never do anything its always me that has to manage this. Bad wifey ranty rant.

It is hard as I have the more flexible job. So I do all the mopping up around the edges. I do the tradie visits for leaky taps, the child immunisations, the parcels getting delivered to home. I do it and do it and do it. But just because I don’t have strict core hours does not mean I don’t have work to do. I have lots and lots and lots of work to do. I just fit it in. Around the gaps. To benefit our son. To keep him out of long daycare hours. Because I made that choice.

But it is never easy. And the trouble with flexibility is it gives the illusion of not much work. But any time out, it is always paid back. Often double. It is paid back with 1am marking when I still have a cold, or sunday night emails, or hyperventilating 2 hours in the office sorry I can’t talk to you have so much to do. A lack of preparation one week, means double the next week. I work. I work and work and work. Its just you don’t see it.

8:30 “Cmon Jman. Lets go (to daycare).”

“Trowey?”

“Yes, you can bring trolley. But no big trolley walks this morning. We have to go.”

“Car?” Yes, you can choose a  car to bring. Just hang on while I run my wrist under some more water”

8:40 Pull up at family daycare. He’s pooed during the car ride.

My wrist hurts.

Rocket bag (neoprene cooler bag containing lunch), must be placed on the exact correct angle in trowey to be pushed in to daycare. I succeed.

We walk inside. Mobile phone rings. Please let it not be government department. Please let it not be the government department. Its hub-in-boots. “I rang Centrelink. They said they can fix it.”

Yes, yes. So did I. I rang Centrelink too. I fixed my arm in the process.

Big Gay Al (At family daycare, not his real name) finds me some burn cream.

 I leave, amidst much teary fanfare.

Happy sick day. This morning may have even breached my levels of chaos tolerance. And I wasn’t even getting ready for work….

The life of a working mother is RIDICULOUS.

I stopped for Aloe Vera. And Schnitzel. And a coffee.

10am I check online. His immunisation status is up to date. Now all we need is govt dept A to talk to Govt Dept B….

11am Game of thrones series 3, here I come.