Things I Didn’t Know You Could Do. Until You Did Them.

You grow so used to your role; which is ridiculous, considering it is ever-changing. Like that saying about the river; you can’t step in the same day of parenting twice either. Though it may all seem a vibrant blur of similarities; the same faces and foibles and fruitless searching for misplaced items and adjectives, it’s an ecosystem that is constantly developing. Somedays hugely.

Like this morning; when Theo got in the shower, and washed himself, and turned the water off when he was finished, and dried himself, and dressed. And I was like, huh? Aren’t you…Shouldn’t I…Don’t you need me to…? Nice work, Bubba! I’ll just sit on the couch for 5 luxurious minutes, shall I? Wait, who am I again?

You don’t have much cause, I find, to feel genuinely astounded. But parenting is like an explosion of astonishment. At first, you’re pregnant! You or your baby-mama are literally growing a person! In your/their body! Then, everything going to plan, you/they give birth to that person! From your/their vagina! I know! Then, you actually have a baby! …but what do you do with it, exactly? Oh! You do everything! Everything!

But with that Everything! comes opportunity of shameless astonishment. Of falling in love with everything about this tiny person you are getting to know. They have such tiny hands! They look like you today!  You’re obsessed with their bowel movements! They were foamier than yesterday! But it is allowed. It is warranted. Because, wow, you know? It’s huge.

And then they do things like roll! Off the change table! And sit up! And get teeth! And you stumble through all these parameter shifts, clinging hopefully to established milestones for reassurance, where there is no certainty. Crawling, walking, communicating. It all happens, but on its own vastly broad and variable terms. But at its heart, it’s you and them. The same.

And though it is all you are doing, it often goes unnoticed that you are teaching them everything. How to be people. What to do, and how and when. So though it is your very mission, it is still cause for astonishment when they actually do it. Especially of their own volition. That they are learning to do everything. The very Everything! you have been so dedicated to. That the central goal of your role is to gradually do yourself out of a job.

Parenting is so immediate, even though you will always be a parent now. It is easy to lose sight of futures you are only able to imagine. Where you do not have to wash any bottom but your own, or remind anyone to share or say sorry or use their manners. Where you do not have to do Everything! But, everyday, those futures are finding their way to you. Slowly and surely. And for certain.

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How To: Have Chickenpox – A Retrospective.

Your crippling social phobias will allay long enough for you to entertain the largest group of children you are not obliged to have at your house if not for a birthday. They will kiss and dance and squabble and feed each other handfuls of hummus, sand, bogies on toast; that sort of thing. And because you are all liberal; or perhaps, because you are so tired; or perhaps because this is the first adult conversation you have had in months, you and your merry band of other long-suffering parents will not interfere or send them conflicting messages about sharing or delouse and disinfect them as you usually would.

And when things begin to turn; when the babyest packs it in or the eldest begins to resemble a communist dictator; or when the adult conversation turns to money or ailments or age, and bags are packed into bags and babies are packed into bags; and remember the days when you could just walk out the door? And some semblence of sticky normality is returned to your overturned house, you will relax and commend yourself on living the dream; of raising children, of having friends you’ve had since you were children, of having friends you’ve had since you were children and now they’ve children. You’ve come full circle and you all eat organic. Atleast in front of each other.

Then the next day you will receive a call; if they have manners. A text if they don’t. Atleast the text will be in all caps, if they have any decency. ‘OMG!’ it will say. ‘WE HAVE CHICKENPOX!! I AM SO SORRY!!!’. And you be initially sympathetic; send over good vibes or hard liquor, dependent on your resources, and you will talk about the process and keep tabs on the development and tell your own childhood war stories and assure them that these things happen and placate each other with lies like ‘rather sooner than later!’ and ‘better to get it young!’ and ‘no, no, don’t apologise!’.

And then you will wait.

Did you know that Chickenpox has an incubation period of up to 21 days? It does!

And then on the 21st day, after 21 days of ‘Is it? Do you think that’s one? Is this it? IS THIS IT?’ your littlest baby, who is most prone to generosity, and partial to fistfuls of hummus, sand and bogies on toast, will get a cough and a cold and a fever; will yell in your face of this grave injustice; will have a fanny that’s on fire, that you will have to fan with a magazine, for hours on end, while they lie, pantsless, in your bed on a towel, just so they can sleep fitfully enough that they will be less fearsome in the morning. Then as days pass they will itch and pick and flail and not sleep and then only sleep on your head and scab and scar and continue to yell in your face of this grave injustice.

And you will think; gosh, that was worse than you were lead to believe it would be. And, have I been wearing these clothes for 10 days? Is that a new personal best? There will be a tube of calomine lotion in every room of your house. You will have had more luke warm baths and less sleep since that time you got Mastitis. And your friends were right to apologise.

And then you will wait.

Did you know that Chickenpox has an incubation period of up to 21 days? You did?!

Did you then realise that if your other child was not initially exposed, you, my friend, will now have the potential of up to 42 days of combined individual incubation periods PLUS! Up to 10 days of active illness in each child! For a grand total of 62 days of Chickenpox! Right in the comfort of your own home!

And then on the 21st day, after 21 days of ‘Oh no, is it? Bloody hell, do you think that’s one? This is it! THIS IS IT!!’ your biggest baby, who is most prone to hypochondria, and partial to fistfuls of hummus, sand and bogies on toast, will get a cough and a cold and a fever; will yell in your face of this grave injustice; will dare not admit to his fate, though will beseech you for trips to the Doctor, at once and often, for the treatment of his ‘pimples’; will insist on sleeping in your bed, though they are enormous and hot and only content to sleep at a 45 degree angle, which you will abide with a toe up your nose so that they will be less fearsome in the morning; then as days pass they will itch and pick and flail and sleep and scab and scar and continue to yell in your face of this grave injustice, and remind you, constantly, to make them that Doctors appointment.

And you will think; nothing. You will be a withered husk of zen-like endurance. Just burn those clothes. You will feel anxious if there is not a tube of calomine lotion in every room of your house. You will have had more luke warm baths and less sleep since that time your littlest baby had Chickenpox. You will hate your friends. They could never apologise enough. They should bake you a cake! And mow your lawns! But you’re never socialising again. And not just because you now look like this:

THE POX!

So, it sucks and you hate it? – A Love Letter to New Parents.

Just know that I love you. We may not know each other, or maybe we do, and maybe you are reading this now because it applies to you, or it used to, or maybe it will in the future. I love you in those instances too. I love you even though you sleep in your clothes so much there now is no line between clothes and pyjamas and you feel so far away from the you you used to be, it is like a whole new life began with your babies. It did and it didn’t, and there is comfort in both. You are still you, you stinky wreck. And there will be a whole new you after this.

I love you even though your house is spotless but you know, for certain, your baby dosen’t love you. Your baby loves you, but this is the very beginning of your love affair, you know? It takes a while for these things to develop. Even if it was love at first sight, you still have to get to know one another, figure out what you like and don’t like. This is just like any new relationship. Remember that. Taking a while to fall in love does not lessen your bond. Because the most important thing to your baby right now? Food, comfort, sleep, working that poop/gas/vomit out. And you. Always you.

I love you even though you feel like this has all been some kind of mix-up. That you have ended up in a life that you were not looking for, or that you wanted so terribly, that the fact it does not feel like everything you imagined is the worst kind of wrong. A wrong that you feel like might never be right. Give it time. Give it 10 minutes. Give yourself a break. You are strong enough and good enough and you are doing this. You ARE doing it. Just do the best you can, on a case by case basis. Like with everything else. Be patient. Your good things are coming.

I know all the “one day’s’ or the “it’ll be different when’s…” seem so very far beyond imagination. Because you are here, or you were, or you are somedays. And there is nowhere so real as now.

So right now? Open your windows. This was very good advice once given to me. If you can’t do anything else, you can still air your bedroom. Call your person. The person that will listen to everything you have to say, and then tell you a joke. Or tell you they love you. Or who will change the subject completely. Or will ask your opinion on something in the world outside your right now, and value it. Call the person that will make you feel good. Text everyone you know. Shine your sink. Put your kid in a ridiculous outfit. Commune with your dog. Write a list of all your favourite songs as you hear them. Listen to them often. Dance with that bloody screaming baby. Put flowers in every room of your messy house. Be honest with the people who love you about how you are feeling. Be generous enough to let them love you back, even if they don’t say or do all the right things all the time. Remember that sometimes the most important thing is just doing it. Go outside. Change your sheets. Chase your happiness. Say, aloud, ‘it will not always be like this’, because that is true of every situation, and we should choose to see the freedom in that.

And know, when you are crying at the sink or staring at this expectant little face as it screams commands at you in a foreign language, or dying with jealousy at strangers holiday photos, or nothing feels quite right, I love you, and I have been there. And it is going to be okay.

It’ll be better than okay.

We Make: Alt-Country Refrigerator Make-Over.

Feel constantly affronted by the tedious aesthetic nature if your kitchen appliances. Long for things that are wildly beyond your means. Remember that everyone feels better in a new outfit – surely this also applies to ones fridge.

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Procure your desired contact paper. This is usually available from dollar stores; alongside the doilies and various other wipeable housewares for the elderly. You could also use the childrens Duraseal, if you were that way inclined. The benefit of contact paper, besides its thickness and durability, is that as with most things no one wants in their home, it is cheap. Go crazy and buy two rolls in case everything goes tits up. Mine ran me around $6. The contact paper, not my actual bosoms. Those I owe to good genes.

Clean the surface of your fridge. I also pried the name badge off with a tiny screwdriver. Try not to inhale the asbestos, or Legionnaires’ disease, or whichever airborne horror came free with whiteware from the 1950’s. Dry thoroughly with the tea-towel the children have not been surreptitiously wiping their noses on.

Fridge 2

Now begins the maddening task of sticking that stuff on. Good luck with that. I can offer no advice other than, try not to lose your shit. Trim to size and starting from a top corner press on slowly, while keeping the tension to avoid air bubbles. There is something to be said for a busy pattern; not only will it give you a headache, it will also be relatively forgiving where it comes to accuracy and pattern matching. Distract the children from the great sweeping lengths of insanely sticky excitement by giving them the cardboard rolls to fight over. Or offer up the discarded backs of the contact paper as a treasure map; they curl perfectly and there are all those little squares. Tell them not to come back until they have discovered gold.

Fridge 2

Like all good home improvements, feel uncertian if your completed project is actually any improvement at all. But remember: if the internet has taught us anything, it’s that there is nothing that a bunch of flowers in a Mason jar can’t fix.

Fridge 4

Fridge 5

Fridge 6

Gingham Style.

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Day-Before-Payday Dinners: Poverty Fried Rice.

Directions:

Send your children outside. Take a deep breath and remember that this portion of the evening means that you are on the downward slide towards bed. Or, if your children do not sleep, remember that you are on the downward slide towards them moving out.

Find the pot that was previously being used as a hat. Give it a rinse in the sink. Remember that heats kills germs. Place on element. Put cup of rice in pot. Put cup and a half of boling water over rice. Or cold water that has sat in the jug for 10 minutes because you were too tired to notice it wasn’t boiling.

Check outside to see if the children are playing nicely with something dangerous or playing dangerously with something nice. Remember what I said about them moving out.

Dice your onion small enough that it cannot be discernable from the rice and therefore cannot be complained about. It’s inclusion in this meal gives the old ‘but you do like it. darling. You eat it in ____’ argument, legs. Throw that in whatever pan is clean enough to not make you think briefly about food poisoning with a little oil and cook until onion softens. Stir the rice because your ability to cook it and pay your bills almost on time are pretty much the only things discerning you from your teenage self.

Find the least limp carrot in the bottom of your fridge and slice lengthways. Now do that again. Is your carrot in four long strips? Good. You may have only slept for 4 hours last night, but you are still able to follow the most simple of instructions. This is a good day. Now slice your carrot sticks in to teeny tiny pieces. Because they will cook faster and you are very tired. Throw those and a ‘yeah, nah, that looks about right’ of frozen peas in with the onions and absent-mindedly stir everything you are currently cooking. Remember when you had the time and money to actually Make Dinner. Think briefly about that restaurant in Paris you went to 10 years ago and how the Chef came out of the kitchen to kiss you. Break up whatever cracker-related argument the children are currently involved in.

Now at this stage all the water over your rice should have vanished via a magical process called You’re Doing It Right. Take off the heat. Have a rummage in the pantry and crumble whichever flavour Oxo cube you unearth over the rice. I use the Vegetable one. No Oxo cube? Any powdered instant packet sodium mix will no doubt suffice. Results may vary. Stir in and leave to stand with a lid on the pot. No pot lid? A plate will do; but that sucker will get hot, so mind your mits. You do not want the children to learn anymore profanity than they already know.

How is that other shit looking? Pretty good? Yeah, I reckon. Turn down the heat and clear the lunch dishes off the table. Find whichever very specific dishware the children are currently favouring. Shut all pets out of doors, lest the dinner you have just spent 15 minutes slaving over become theirs. Remember to let children in to actually eat the bloody thing. Make them wash. I certianly will not judge you for excluding this portion of the excercise, but mine live in the garden, so scrubbing is necessary. Sling your rice in with the cooked vegetables and fry while the children make a sodden mess of your bathroom.

Get everyone to sit down nicely, sit down nicely, darling. Yes, you both have the same amount. Yes, I will get you a glass of water. No, I don’t know where that very specific cup is. Sit down, darling. Sit down and eat your dinner please. BLOODY SIT DOWN, WILL YOU? And serve.