We’re taking things slowly this afternoon. There’s a chill in the air and nothing to hurry to or from. Just after school chit chat with the girls and breathing into this moment.
We saw some brightly coloured birds on the way home today. One of their favourite things to do is look up birds we see in my Grandpa’s bird book. We (they) rushed to the bookshelf as soon as we walked in the door and we discovered the birds we saw were
Pixie looks me in the eyes and tells me that she is not going to cry when I leave her at kindergarten. I nod solemnly and agree, she’s a big girl now. She sits at the play dough table wielding a pair of scissors, showing me proudly how she can cut the dough. I’m going to go now, I say. Just one more minute, she asks. I nod, ok, another minute. I crouch beside her, marvelling at the dough and her cutting abilities. I squeeze some in between my fingers, it’s creamy coloured, warm and soft. Give me a kiss, I ask. And another one please. She turns her face towards me and kisses me each time I ask. I remind her I’ll be back after snack time and then, I walk away.
I put my hand across Bird’s narrow back and gently guide her towards the school gate. I carry her school bag across my shoulder, the baby perched on my left hip. She tells me she doesn’t want to go to school today, the day is too long, it’s too much time to be away from me. I guide her along the narrow path, chatting cheerfully about all the fun she will have. We place her school bag in her box, her reader in the tub, we get out her drink bottle.
I lean down to kiss her goodbye and her face crumples, she clings to me, her arms latched tightly around my neck. I place the baby on the floor, kneel down and wrap my arms around her. She feels fragile, small. My hands wrap around her bones and I pull her towards me. I whisper in her ear: Shhh, it’s ok, it’s going to be ok. She sobs and my cheek is wet with her tears.
The teacher coaxes her into sitting on the mat. I promise to wait at the door for a few minutes. I do. She looks up at me every once in a while, her face distorted, anguished. She is reluctant, she searches my face for something, some way out of this.
The teacher speaks and the children put up their hands, mine included. Her eyes are red and she is hunched over, the occasional post-cry sniff and shudder. She looks at me. I’m going to go now, I mouth to her. Her faces scrunches up, a sob spurts out of her small mouth. I blow her a kiss. I walk away.
I get home and take the baby out onto the back deck. I stand holding her at the edge, looking for birds, making twittering sounds. She responds with coos and ahhs as she peers out into the distance, everything new, everything wondrous. I take her to the bedroom and slowly peel off her knitted cardigan and replace it with her sleeping bag. I hold her and her soft bunny close and sing Here Is The Sea.
Here is the sea,
The wavy sea,
Is a boat,
Wiggle their tails,
Her eyes close gently as I sway back and forth. One of the floorboards creaks beneath my feet as my weight shifts. I slowly lower her into the cot and she cries. I pat her chest and continue to sing. I walk away and stand in the kitchen listening to her cries. She’s calling for me. I go back into the bedroom and pick her up, holding her close, my cheek against hers and I sing and I sway. This time, once her eyes close I continue to sing for a few minutes, swaying gently to the rhythms of my soft melody, looking at her eyes rolling beneath her eyelids, breathing her in, rubbing my lips against the downy softness of her hair.
I lower her into the cot and place a blanket over her. I walk away.
In the kitchen I touch my palm to the red kettle on our stovetop. It’s warm. There is ground coffee scattered on the bench, bowls of half eaten porridge, school notices, milk, vitamin c. Memories of the morning rush.
I reboil the kettle and move slowly through the ritual of making a pot of tea. Spooning tea leaves into my silver pot. Waiting for the whistle of the kettle. Pouring steaming water and watching the leaves swirl through the rush of water. Placing the lid on the teapot. Pouring milk into a small jug. Gathering a teacup, a strainer, a board to place it all on.
I carry the tea over to a small teak coffee table and place the board down first. The little table belonged to my Nana, I try to take good care of it.
I sit down in an armchair made by my Poppa to pour myself a cup. The song mills around in my head, my three daughters the little fish, me in the boat watching as they wiggle their tails and swim away.
Only some days it feels as though we aren’t quite ready to be apart.
So it turns out I am perfectly capable of living a normal life outside of social media, without turning into Gollum searching for The Ring. After the first few days, I actually didn’t miss it at all!
The other day I downloaded Instagram onto my phone again. I’ve clicked the app maybe five times in the last three or four days, as opposed to five times in an hour that I was capable of previously.
I can now sit down and think, my mind feels clear, my feet are on the ground.
I was sitting at the traffic lights during the week and I looked into the window of the car next to me. I saw a two year old in his seat, tapping away eagerly on a screen of some sort. This time spent away from social media has really made me think (again) about the place screens play in our lives. How seamlessly they slip, unassuming, into the fabric of our homes.
We bought an iPad last Christmas for KB’s work. I have used it a handful of times and actually forgot we had it until about six weeks ago, when the girls asked if they could watch ABC KIDS on it. They sometimes have a go on one at their Nan and Pa’s place, and surprisingly (or not?) they knew how to use it better than I did. Since that day they have asked to use it constantly, and being so bedraggled I started to say yes. Before I knew it they were having iPad time every afternoon and started to cry if I said no.
What have I done!?
I think it’s unrealistic while I’ve got such a small baby that I ban screens altogether (I’m actually just not willing to put myself through that right now… for better or worse) but I am so conscious and conflicted as their world is saturated with technology, unlike my own childhood… it just doesn’t feel right.
We’ve got some thinking to do, that’s for certain.
I looked down at Peach today and saw she was smiling at me. I nearly missed it
because I was too busy scrolling. Mindlessly scrolling through the depths of Instagram.
I couldn’t tell you what I was looking at. It was just one image after another, scroll, scroll, scroll, pause… like… scroll, scroll… then suddenly a movement on my lap caught my eye and there she was looking up at me, gums and dimples and all.
Then and there I decided to follow in the footsteps of some other friends on Instagram and take a break.
I used to take every January off Facebook in the days when I was quite addicted to it. It was amazing how quickly I forgot all about it, how quickly it was replaced by real live things: books, the newspaper, phone calls, conversation, writing. Thoughts that didn’t automatically translate into status updates. But sure enough February would come around and the habit would begin again.
I like Instagram a lot more than Facebook which is both good and bad at the same time. Good because I am engaging in things and people that truly interest me. I’ve connected with some wonderful people that I would never have had the opportunity to otherwise. I’ve had windows opened towards me into other people’s lives. When you’re home with small children it can make you feel less alone to have a peek through those windows, to see what other people are up to. I’ve been inspired by creative people and learned things from other mothers.
But it can also take away from real life, if you let it. Just like it did today, when I almost missed the sweet and fleeting smile of my baby. I’ve misheard questions and comments from Birdie and the Pixie because I’ve been on my phone, ignoring them and not being present. I don’t like the example I am setting them, losing myself in cyber space while I should be reading them a book or listening to their ideas, or just observing, thinking, watching, sitting. I find my attention span is becoming more and more limited as my thumb flicks from here to there, not fully engaging… and it’s not just Instagram, it’s my phone in its entirety. I remember the days I used to scoff when I heard people talking about phones that had cameras on them. I have a camera thank you very much. Ha!
So bye bye Instagram, and while I’m at it: Twitter and Facebook too… I’m off on hiatus for a week or so. Destination: Real Life.
If you’re thinking about it too, check out this video, it might give you the motivation you need!
With KB back at work I’m now almost two weeks in to what will be my regular life as mother of three, staying at home while he is at work. I must admit, I am a little on the sleepy side.
While I had an extra pair of hands it was easy to go about our days in holiday mode. We spent some time during that first month down at the beach. We had coffees and went for walks. I slept in. Every. Day.
Now I’m up between 6.30am and 7am regardless of what has occurred overnight. KB leaves the house at about 7.30am and gets home between 6.30pm and on some nights, 8pm. Yesterday was one of those 8pm days. At 9am I was sitting on the couch breastfeeding Peach while the bigger two danced around with snotty noses and porridge on their chins. I looked up at the clock and my first thought was a grim: I’ve got 11 hours to go. Insert panicked emoji here. ‘
It’s funny how you forget the ways of newborns. I remember the first time around when I finally (quite late in the piece) discovered the concept of Eat Play Sleep. I remember a particular exasperating day where little Birdie was awake ALL DAY. Because I had no idea that I should actually try to put her to sleep at some point. By the end of the day she was screaming and I was beside myself.
Nowadays I know what to look for in a tired baby. I see the familiar jerking of the limbs and Peach is bundled up and popped into her bassinet (which now, during the day, resides in our lounge room amongst the noise, the shouting and the crying and the mess. It seems she loves a bit of background noise… for the moment anyway). I’m not surprised when I see her face scrunch up only moments after smiling and cooing – I know just how quickly play can turn to sleep, with some encouragement. I recognise those small windows of opportunity where you have your hands free and I know exactly what to do with those moments (go to the toilet, put a wash on, make tea, and eat, in no particular order).
I had forgotten, though, just how quickly these rhythms flow throughout the day, and how time consuming it is to move through each. Feeding, changing, playing, wrapping, cuddling, and sleep for what seems like moments before it all begins again.
While it seems stilted at the moment, as I get used to this new flow to our days I can see a pattern emerging. I am (re)learning to quickly prepare some bite sized snacks for myself in the evenings, to meal plan as best I can, to start the bedtime rhythm earlier than normal (yesterday I ran the bath at 4pm… and three and a half hours later I finally managed to get the girls into bed… with a small amount of smugness that they were all (all) singlehandedlybathed and hair washed and fed and teeth cleaned and read to and kissed and goodnighted).
Now I am sitting here with the Pixie and Peach asleep, and Birdie is at kinder. It took me over an hour to get P and P to sleep… I haven’t done a food shop so I ate popcorn and a breakfast smoothie for lunch, and now I have to wake them both up in five minutes to go and collect their sister.
I read a book recently that aims to help you find out what you want to do in life, and how to achieve it (thanks CR + SP! I love it). It’s great book and one I will refer to often. I had to write a list of all the things I wanted to do and be, and although it was different to this list, it made me realise that you don’t just have to be one thing in life.
But if that is the case, how to fit it all in? Going back to work, life just feels like such a struggle and a juggle. It feels a lot like survival, setting out each day just to get through it and maybe even be slightly organised for the next. My girls are cross, Birdie in particular. I’m tired and KB is just as muddled as I am. Washing is literally climbing the walls, the dog is depressed and on weekends we are all just falling in a heap. I feel as though I am so many things, good things, but at the moment I’m spread so thinly I’m just dipping my toes in each area. There is no immersion.
What is this all about? Am I conforming to the way of the modern family, just going along and doing it because I sense some expectation about the way my life should look? Or do I genuinely want to be here in the midst of all this, paddling around, doing lots of things but never quite reaching 100% in any of them? And if I wasn’t doing this thing – these things – what would life look like? What could it look like?
I love so many of the different aspects of my life – parenting, working, the outdoors… just not all at once. All at once it feels overwhelming, chaotic and dull. You might be imagining me typing this from my studio, looking out a white washed window into a forest, my face pensive and thoughtful. In reality, the lap top is currently on the kitchen bench, I’m typing single words, phrases or sentences at a time, in between making lunch, tidying, vacuuming and playing princess fairies with Birdie.
That is what Birdie said to me last night when I was bribing her with a cupcake after dinner.
Hmm, ok, well I think it will have gone stale by then…
I’m SO AWKWARD with three year old death talk! And it’s all we seem to be talking about this week!
“I can’t water those flowers because they are dead.”
“If the sun doesn’t come out all the plants will die.”
“When you’re dead what will you do?”
“Teddy can’t play because he’s dead today.”
And the most difficult: “I don’t want to die.”
I suppose this is just the beginning, as although she is having fun playing with the word, she is still too young to have much or any understanding of what it actually is.
Dear little Birdie, I suppose this is just the beginning of a number of difficult topics and conversations we will have together. I remember thinking that my parents knew EVERYTHING. These are my earnest words: I most certainly don’t. Wish me luck! Love, Mama.
We took off down to the beach five days ago. A wintery, blustery, windy, soulful, refreshing time we had. We are back home now feeling relaxed, but of course not as relaxed as one would like once the pressures of life and all its administration return to flood us.
My favourite part of our time away was heading off for the afternoon with Prince Charming. We made left-over roast lamb sandwiches and chose a 6km bushwalk along the coast. It was just brilliant! Simple bliss. Just the two of us, stopping midway on a sandy beach to have our sandwiches before walking back. While we were walking down the little bush track we realised with amazement that it was actually the first time we had gone out together and left the children with the grandparents since the pesky pixie was born! Didn’t take us nearly as long the first time around!
I have been asking many questions of myself and Prince Charming lately. Who are we, what is our capital P Plan, where are we headed, which path will we take, and so on. We seem to have hit a time in our life where we are faced with a number of options, which is nice but also a bit daunting. One of the options is to stay put and do nothing different, which we have decided we will do, for a spell. I’m a dreamer but the Mr is a sensible chap, he only likes to delve into big plans if he has some sense they might actually happen. Boo to that Prince Charming.
My mouth spilled questions on our journey back from the beach. Then I got home and after the unpacking of the car, the dinner rush, the bedtime sagas, I sat a moment and had a little scan of a few blogs. I stumbled across this post and it was once again the little reminder I needed to stay put, in body and in mind, and be content with where we are at this moment.
“Where is Max?” Asked little Birdie this morning over breakfast. Max is my step-dad’s dog who sadly had to be put down a little while ago. Max is one of two dogs we know that have recently died and Birdie has become quite curious/obsessed about the where’s and why’s of the situation.
“He got very sick and very old and had to go away.” I clumsily replied.
“To the clouds.” she stated.
“Uh, yes, maybe.”*
“And one day I will go and be with Max. And then later you and Daddy and Pixie can come to be with me again.”
One mother, stumped in her tracks.
With language comes conversation. With conversation comes many, many, many questions. With many, many, many questions comes thought, depth, concentration, understanding, concepts, shape.
Children have a way of dragging and pulling and pushing and persistently enforcing us to stay in the present moment, the here and the now. Birdie brought me to such an abrupt halt with her thoughts this morning, my eyes welled with tears. I realised, with a surprising amount of shock, that we will not be together forever. There will be a time when our wee family of four will be separated.
I don’t have them forever, and they don’t have me, and that is why I slapped a smile on my face and hugged my babies and didn’t care that the Pixie wasn’t sleeping and that Birdie spilled her porridge on the floor. I didn’t care that I put her shoes on and she pulled them off, that I forgot to brush my hair or that my coffee went cold.
I hugged my babies and smiled and went about my day. I hope you are doing the same.
*I am unsure about the whole “to the clouds” thing that people have been telling her. I didn’t grow up in a religious family, and haven’t given the death conversation much thought until it has suddenly become such a popular topic for our little lady. It has surprised me how many people have told her that we go to heaven or to the clouds when we die. I am ok with it, but I suppose I would prefer to give her a more flexible answer about where we go when we die so she can one day make up her own mind – for I myself am unsure of the answer.