I should have said I’d make him into a purse. – A Children’s Story (with Stage Directions)

There were a lot of Crocodiles in our house today.

They sat on the couch and hid under the pillows on the bed. There was one in the pot cupboard before lunch and Mabel claimed to have one up her jumper at one point; though on investigation it appeared to be her own arm – but we took it off and jumped on it, just to be safe. Her jumper, not her arm. That would be silly.

Naturally, this infestation was keenly discussed at bedtime; where it is common for me to make up a story with whatever prompts the children provide. They weren’t interested in a fanciful tale this evening, oh no. They just wanted to know how I was going to deal with all these bloody Crocodiles.

“First!” I told them, “I will sneak up on them, very slowly, like this”( – Exhausted, unwashed Mother sneaks across Lego strewn bedroom.)

“Then! I will look them right in the eye, and tell them firmly BE STILL CROCODILE!” ( – Exhausted, unwashed Mother does best Crouching Tiger.)

“Then! I will leap upon its back and tie a bright red ribbon around and around its snappy jaws! I will tie it in a bow, nice and tight.” ( – E.U.M demonstrates much wild yet determined miming of clutching and winding, ending in an elaborate bow tying flourish.)

“And I will kiss its Crocodile lips, like this!” (- E.U.M furiously kisses squealing children.)

“Then! While the Crocodile is dazed from my kisses, I will slip a collar and leash on to its neck and walk it to the bathroom” ( – Pretty straight forward, really. Leash over head, strut across Lego strewn floor. Not my best work, but it was solid. I stand by it.)

“Where! I will throw it in the bathtub and gurgle him down the plug-hole!” (- E.U.M snatches up Crocodile before flinging him into the bathtub, throws arms in to the air, triumphant big finish.)

“But…what if the Crocodile eats you?” Theo asks.

“He wouldn’t dare! Look how tough I am!” (Exhausted unwashed Mother flexes arm muscles.)

“BUT! What if he eats Otto?! Otto would be sad!” He remains unconvinced.

“I would have that Crocodile down the plug-hole before he even got the chance. Remember?” (More arm flexing. Both arms this time. Draw up sleeves of my ever-present shrouds for effect.)

“Mama?” He sighs. “That’s not a very good idea.” Jeeze, kid. Don’t let me go on or anything.

“We should just take the Crocodile outside and lock the doors and shut the windows.”

“Well, sure, Bubba.” (E.U.M scrambles to regain some credibility.)

“That’s a great idea too. But we don’t really have to worry; there are no Crocodiles in New Zealand. That’s the country we live in.”

“…What about pretend Crocodiles?” Mabel chimes in.

“Well…yes. There are pretend Crocodiles in New Zealand, I suppose. But-…”

“THE CROCODILES ARE GOING TO GET ME!”

It’s going to be a long night.

You See What I’m Working With?

It is bed time. But someone had a nap today.

Mabel: ‘Mama, lie down. Close your eyes.’

I comply. She pries them open.

Mabel: ‘Say you like it! Happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you. I’m the Christmas Mae-Mae. Open your present, Mama. It’s a flower! Here, this is Theos present. No, don’t open it! Happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you. Look it’s my bum!’

Waking Up Before I Get To Sleep, ‘Cause I’ll Be Rocking This Party Eight Days A Week.

It will go like this: You do not sleep. You have not slept in years and years. You no longer remember what it is like to sleep for 8 hours, and maybe you never did? Surely this is but a myth, some archetypal parable, another tropical destination you will never visit.

And on the nights where this feeling is most acute; the nights you forget what you are talking about as you are saying it, like whistling in the wind; the nights you try to use the milk as washing powder and feed the children a bottle of hammers, this, THIS, will be the night that your children will refuse to go to sleep. More than usual.

They will play hide and seek in each others beds and sing all of the songs they know, of which there are only three, but on repeat, and laugh and laugh at you as attempt again and again the cycle of desperation to get them to rest. Much akin to the cycle of grief; and perhaps that is what you are doing, grieving for the sleep you have lost and will never get back, it centres around bargining and dispair. Empty threats. Threats you mean but will forget. Threats of every colour. Threats for every girl and boy! You may yell. Or maybe you are the type of parent that can illict the same desired response from the raising of an eyebrow as the raising of your voice. Raising children will also raise your blood pressure.

And as you watch the minutes turn into hours while the children torment you in ways you assume must be taught to them by some secret baby militia, your mind will drift back to the good old days wherein you were always holding two drinks instead of two children; and you will savour this very moment, because this is what will play in your head when your next friend or relative or over-zealous aquantiance announces the news they are expecting. For they will certianly not be expecting this.

Then it begins to happen: The Winding Down. Oh blessed event! The rubbing of eyes. The languid limbs. The twiddling of hair. The little dimpled hands searching for stuffed animals. The kicking off of blankets, those which you will later return to cover sleeping bodies, while holding your breath. The blinking is my favourite. Must! Blink. Keep! Blink. Eyes! Blink. Open! And when they finally close and all is calm and quiet and as you have been waiting for since 5.59am that very morning, you sort of miss them for a moment. Even though they are right there, snoring and farting and heavy and warm.

But then you will stand on a piece of lego as you are trying to sneak out of their room and as you do a sort of terrible dance of silent pain you will realise of all the things you have to do, missing people who will be waking you up before dawn to ask you what you are dreaming about, is not one of them.