Thomas the colonialist tank engine and Sodor the capitalist nightmare

I hate Thomas the Tank Engine. I hate it. I think Thomas is a naïve arrogant asshole who sacrifices other trains to further his career and suck up to the Fat Controller. Sodor is quite frankly a capitalist nightmare. Trains are sent to the scrapyard if they’re not Useful. And we all know what that means – it means they’re executed. They execute workers who don’t work hard enough! Anyone who isn’t Very Useful is goneburger. There are no unions in Sodor that’s for sure. And that’s not even the most fucked thing about Sodor either. Don’t get me started on how lacking the representation of women is on the show. The women trains are actually girl carriages. You don’t need to have a masters in gender studies to read between the lines on that one. Either they have no personality (Daisy) or they spend all their time giggling and chasing after Thomas and the other dudebro engines nagging them (Annie and Clarabelle). I feel like there’s a weird subtext about lady trains and that time of the month as well but I’m very tired and certainly not very useful right now.

What about Hiro? Poor Hiro was taken as a slave. He dreams of his homeland. But when he’s too old to work anymore, after a lifetime of service, do you think his “owners” will let him go home? Hell no! Coz this is Sodor and life on Sodor is an endless grind of working until you die. You’re Helpful or you create Confusion and Delay and you’re dead. Hiro ends up wasting away in the damn forest! But this is a better fate than being slaughtered by Topham Industries AKA The Government. Thomas finds him and of course Thomas dobs him in to “help” him get back to his home. Thomas signed Hiro’s death warrant and he didn’t even realise because he can’t see beyond his white privilege. He doesn’t know that one day he won’t be useful anymore. And ain’t nobody going to save him then.

I especially hate Thomas the Tank Engine because my son loves it because somebody bought him one train and that was it. It’s like an addiction. It’s toddler crack. And he can’t say “Thomas the Tank Engine” he says “Thomas the Asian” and when we are out IN PUBLIC he yells at me to get him an Asian. Or he yells “WE-AHS MY ASIAN MUMA” and I have to really loudly yell “I don’t know where your ENGINE is. Maybe your ENGINE is in the car. No I won’t buy you another ENGINE”. And someone one day will buy your child a Thomas train and that train won’t fit on the tracks you have. And the tracks you have won’t go with the other tracks someone will buy you. And you will have eight different tracks that don’t go together and you will need a second mortgage to actually build just one figure eight track and have the trains to go with it.

AND I THINK I’M JUST GONNA DOUBLE DOWN ON THIS RANT:

I hate Jeff from the Wiggles. Fuck you Jeff. Why are you always sleeping. You don’t do anything. Do you know how much I want to sleep Jeff? But if I just go to sleep instead of looking after my kid I’ll be reported to the authorities. Do your job Jeff.

I hate Elmo. My husband keeps telling me that Elmo is three and a half and I have unrealistic expectations about his behaviour. But fuck that. Elmo is an entitled little prick. And Abby – I hate Abby. Why do the adults on Sesame Street never stop Abby from doing her “magic” when they know she will fuck it up? Why is there so little adult supervision on that street? They all pop in for a song but then they just piss off after rattling off a few numbers or some dictionary definition. Maybe hang around and actually stop Abby. She’s out of control. And stop whining Big Bird. How old are you anyway?

What is up with Mr Noodle. Just no. Why does an adult man need to be taught how to throw a ball. And why does he live in the closet of a three-and-a-half year-old’s house?!?!

AND IT’S NOT JUST TV! BOOKS *flails* BOOKS:

Maisy, you are illogical. Why would a mouse be friends with a chicken? Why is everyone always shaming Eddie for not fitting into places. He’s a fucking elephant. What did you expect?

Rock on Scuffy the Tug Boat. Don’t let the man bring you down. They might be telling you not to chase waterfalls and to please stick to the rivers and the lakes that you’re used to but that’s because they’re classist. You have just as much right to hang out with the barges as any other boat. Keep on keeping on Scuffy.

And the worst: Love You Forever. Damn woman! Leave your kid alone. Let him sleep! When he turned nine you should have been assessing your health. It’s just not good news when you’re that fixated on your child not growing up. Getting on a bus at night and breaking into his house so you can sniff him when he’s a grown ass man? That’s NOT RIGHT. And if you had to call him to tell him you’re sick, you clearly don’t have a great relationship – and that’s probably because YOU ARE BREAKING INTO HIS HOUSE AT NIGHT AND TOUCHING HIM WHILE HE SLEEPS! And dude, I know your childhood was hardcore what with your mum creeping on you every night and not respecting your boundaries, but you need to break the cycle!

So I guess it’s just Jay’s Jungle, Play School, and Margaret Mahy books in this house.

Jay, you’re great. You just keep being a lovely, singing, handsome man. While I think it’s mildly narcissistic that the island you live on is shaped like a J, and it’s weird that your “friend” is a talking lighthouse I’m willing to let that slide because of your soft, sensuous singing voice. You keep being you Jay.

Justine and Jay - I ship them.

Justine and Jay – I ship them.

This post is dedicated to my sister who is the best person to rant to about Thomas. I love you Jo.

If this makes you angry and you want to comment all angry-like: Relax, it’s a joke, it’s meant to be a laugh…

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Accepting help

I once received some excellent advice from two wonderful women who at the time were holding a tray of fish pie.

“Take help when it’s offered,” they said.

Why is it so hard for us to accept help? When you’ve just expelled a human from your body, and you’re exhausted, sore, and overwhelmed, it should be easy to say “yes, thank you, I’d love that”. But it’s not, at least for me it’s not. And I’m sure other mums feel the same.

In the days after my second son was born I had quite a few offers from friends and I turned quite a few down. For no reason! I thought, oh I don’t want to be a pain, oh I’m not that hard up right now, oh that would be good but I don’t want to seem needy. It’s so bizarre!

Someone offered to make me fudge and I said no. I said no to fudge. What the fuck was wrong with me?

My friends with the fish pie gave good advice. And I listened to them because they’re very wise. They’ve got two gorgeous boys and they’re mum inspirations (you’re thankful I didn’t say mumspirations right? Who the fuck even says that?) Anyway, I admire them and think they’re very clever and I want my boys to grow up and be as loved and spirited and supported as their boys are. So I started saying: Yes, thank you heaps! Instead of: No, I’m fine.

And it was great. I got chocolate and peanut butter brownie which I scoffed down as my son cluster fed. That same friend who is literally The Nicest Person I Know brought us a bag of goodies from the supermarket – my husband was in awe. There were ice creams in there. Fancy ones. She’s continued to be a huge support to me eight weeks on.

Our closest friends brought round KFC! The bogan food of the Gods. I thought my husband might cry with joy. They gave us hugs as well as the baby, it was wonderful. We sat there with stupid grins on our faces gorging on fried chicken and thinking “shit, we are lucky”.

I got the most incredibly huge amazing lasagne there ever was from another friend who will one day be the most excellent mother. Damn, her future kid will be lucky to have her. I got a damn cheesecake! A cheesecake! The cheesecake was from a friend who is the most selfless, kindest person. She too is going to be a such an awesome mum one day I just know it.

I basically lived on the lactation cookies another super busy friend made me. I will probably look back on those days in years to come and still think about how great those cookies were. 

Another totally badass and awesome friend who I so admire for her bravery and strength bought me medication for a blocked duct within hours of me having a cry about the pain I was in. She wouldn’t take money from me to pay for it. 

I could literally list so many lovely people who kept me company and dropped gifts off in those first three weeks. Also, a lot of them were friends on Twitter (one day I will write about how Twitter is your best internet home for support as a parent).

I now know that accepting help is so important. When I started accepting help (or at least trying to) I stopped feeling so overwhelmed. I stopped feeling so isolated. I stopped feeling so scared. So alone. It’s really, really hard to ask for help. Harder than it is to accept I reckon. So when it’s offered – take it, even if it feels weird.

And if you’re in a position to help a new mum, maybe just give her stuff (especially if it’s food) even if she doesn’t expressly ask for it. It can be hard to get past that “I don’t want to be a pain” reflex that a lot of women have. Women are taught to always be the provider, to always help instead of being helped. It can be really hard to overcome all that social conditioning to allow someone else to look after you. I’m grateful to my friends who just said “I’ve made you some dinner, when can I bring it over?” 

So thank you! Seriously, thank you so much. To all the people out there who make cheesecakes for new mums. The ones who make lactation cookies. The people who drop off  fancy ice creams or expensive tit medicine. The people who drop off lasagne and are the perfect guests because they only stay 15 minutes and wash their hands before they hold the baby. You’re all actually saints. You’re angels. You’re wonderful, awesome people. You’re making life easier for new parents – that’s huge. Thank you.

And mums: say THANKYOU and YES PLEASE. Trust me on this. You’re not being a pain.

Also, always listen to lesbians brandishing fish pie. They know their shit. Trust me.

 ***

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Pinterest Fail Mum

Sometimes when I want to feel bad about myself I go on Pinterest and look at what mums who have their shit together are doing.

I look at their miraculous messy play ideas at 3am and resolve to do them the next day with my toddler. My broken sleep is dominated by dreams of my son and I deliriously happy playing with home made rainbow snow and glittery gloop and glow in the dark playdough.

And then I wake up and reality hits.

“Shall we make some playdough?”

“No. No. I don want dat playbo”

“Come and make playdough with mama! It’ll be soooo much fun,” I say with forced cheeriness.

“No fun. No. Cars”

I lovingly make the playdough while my son plays with his cars. He ignores my perky, sing-song commentary. He’s probably thinking “who replaced my mum with this Stepford Wife?”

I put glitter in the playdough. I follow the recipe to the letter but the playdough is slimey. I add more flour. Now it is crumbly. I add more water. The glitter clumps together. It’s both slimey and crumbly now. The recipe says it’s fool-proof.

My son looks at the playdough then at me.

“I don like dat”

I don’t know who he’s referring to. I chuck the playdough into the bin. I used an entire packet of flour.


I will make gloop. It has three ingredients. Surely I can’t fuck this up.

I crush coloured chalk to make four bowls of gloop. All are different colours. My son is absolutely delighted. It has taken me all morning to make the gloop and get it to be the right consistency.

“I like dat!”

I am ecstatic. Such praise! I run to grab the camera. It takes me three seconds.

I return to find the bowls of coloured goop on the concrete by the front door.

“Finish mama. I finish da goop”


I will make snow. The recipe says “Easiest clean play recipe”.

I have decided that after spending two hours cleaning up after the eight second gloop messy play I want to have clean play.

Three cups of baking soda. One cup of water.

It looks like snow. The toddler is excited. He begins to play with it and I think “good, I can empty the dishwasher”. I take one cup from the dishwasher and the toddler appears.

“Where’s your snow?”

“I throwed dat snow away Mama”

He has tipped the bowl of snow from the deck onto the roof of the neighbour’s house.


That night I don’t dream of being a Pinterest mum. I look at the photos of the Pinterest mums and imagine them sneaking Valium and hiding vodka in their tea. Nobody can be that perfect.

In the morning a little voice says to me.

“Paint mine face mama? Eddie paint mine mama’s face?”

I look up “home made face paint”. I scan the recipe. I go to the shop and buy face paint instead. I know my abilities now. I know my shortcomings.

I put the different colours into a muffin tray. I google “face paint designs”. I look at the first website and read the instructions for “butterfly”. I roll my eyes. Yeah right. I turn off the computer.

I hand my son a paintbrush. “Make mama a butterfly,” I say.

He screeches with laughter as he paints my face. We get out a mirror and I paint his face as a “butterfly” letting him instruct me on how to do it just right.

Afterwards we both look utterly ridiculous. We look into the mirror and he says “we beuful budderfies mama!”

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Because we’re on a roll, I grab the corn starch and pull the hose out. We grab a bucket and he grabs clumps of corn starch and chucks whole pieces of chalk into the bucket with the corn starch and then puts the hose in.

It makes an unholy mess and my little baker declares he is making GLOOP PIES! He then throws the gloop in the air because now he’s making GLOOP PANCAKES!

We look like a Pinterest nightmare. And it’s the most fun I’ve had in ages. His screams of laughter reverberate around the neighbourhood. And we play for two hours.

Perfection is overrated.

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Thank you

I said goodbye to my midwife last week.

I remember my excitement when I first heard her voice on the end of the phone. I was pregnant. Finally! My husband and I were absolutely ecstatic and utterly terrified. We had gone to our GP to declare our good news. Our test had been positive the day we had decided to bite the bullet and “do” IVF so we had seen them the day before. It was so surreal.

My husband said: “aren’t you going to do a test?” Our GP stared at him bemused “well didn’t you do a pregnancy test?” He asked.

I’d done five, I’d been buying them in bulk so I just kept peeing on them. Stick after stick. My husband stared disbelieving as every one showed two stripes.

“One means you’re pregnant. You did five. So you’re pregnant.” 

I think we just didn’t want to trust a stick. Or five sticks. I’d had four surgeries to treat endometriosis. My first was just two weeks after meeting my husband. We were 17 and 18. I was told then I would struggle to have kids. I went off contraception after my third surgery. I had scar tissue, a damaged Fallopian tube, and we wanted kids. I was 22. I got pregnant at 26.

They take photos of your insides when they go in during surgery and you can request them afterward. I put mine on the fridge. When people would peer at the photos and say “wow, what’s that?” I took great delight in saying “That’s my uterus!” I’ve always been an oversharer.

Our GP said our first step was a dating scan and then provided that went well, we needed to find a midwife. The dating scan was important our GP said, we were at risk of ectopic pregnancy because of my medical history. We needed to wait another two weeks for the scan. Our honeymoon was booked for the next day. We went on our honeymoon worried the whole time that our baby was in the wrong place (the nice way of referring to an ectopic pregnancy I suppose). We said we wouldn’t get excited and instead would pretend I wasn’t pregnant until we returned and had the scan.

Two hours into our honeymoon we bought a onesie that said “I listen to Led Zeppelin with my daddy”. I puked all over the floor of our fancy hotel room. I puked in our fancy hotel bed. We went down to the hotel lobby to have our buffet breakfast and I puked in a plant. I’m sorry for puking in a plant hotel I won’t name.

I puked watching Lamb of God, Hell Yeah, Slipknot, Marilyn Manson, Gojira, and System of a Down at Soundwave. My husband gazed lovingly at me the whole time. Every spew was a good sign he said.

We had our dating scan a few hours after arriving back in New Zealand. We sobbed staring at the little eight week dot. Our dot was in the right place. We carried the picture around for weeks insisting that it looked like us. The dot replaced my messed up (but clearly not that messed up) ovaries on the fridge. 

We booked a midwife. Hearing her say congratulations down the phone was one of the most exciting moments in my life. It signalled so much. Our long wanted journey had begun. It was real. Our midwife made it real.

I had a terrible pregnancy. I vomited every day for 25 weeks. Then I vomited every second or third day for the rest of my pregnancy. But my midwife was always there with me. She cheered us on. She kept me excited even when I was exhausted and overwhelmed. She more than tolerated my tears of frustration in her office. She was more than my midwife, she was my counsellor too. 

I felt so guilty that I had wanted a baby for so long but I absolutely hated pregnancy. I didn’t feel in touch with my body, I couldn’t stop puking, I felt unhealthy, exhausted, overwhelmed, I sure as fuck wasn’t glowing. She was so patient and caring and gentle with me. She always made me feel like I was strong and she gave me so much confidence. She never denied my feelings. 

My midwife wasn’t actually there for my first son’s birth. It was her weekend off. But she’d built me up and made me feel brave so I wasn’t scared when he came at 37 weeks. The on-call midwife was lovely. I have never met a midwife who isn’t a wonderful person. It seems to just be a prerequisite. There must be something about the job that attracts selfless people.

In New Zealand we have an amazing system that includes post-partum support so my midwife continued to visit for six weeks after my son was born. When he developed health complications she continued to support me for a further three weeks, helping me navigate that difficult world, before gently handing me over to a specialist team. She was always professional and I felt like she really cared about us. I really feel that she set my little whānau up to prepare for all of the challenges that lay ahead. There is nothing more terrifying than having a sick child, but I had moments of calm in the dark of the hospital late at night when I thought of my midwife telling me I was strong and I could Do This.

I swore I would never have another baby all the way through my pregnancy so I loved hearing my midwife’s familiar laugh two years on when I rang her to say I was pregnant again. I had another terrible pregnancy which I will likely one day blog about. But again, my midwife was a rock. She shared my care with another midwife who I immediately fell in love with. She had tattoos and pink hair. I mean Jesus: She was My People! She helped me breast feed so she’ll forever have a place in my heart. Every time my little one hungrily gulps down milk I think of her. She also helped me when I started to really lose it from all the vomiting. My second pregnancy took a huge emotional toll on me. The support I had from my midwives was everything during those months where I felt so out of it. They respected me. They were professional. Kind. Gentle. Caring. Compassionate.

My main midwife delivered my second boy and she was incredible. Again, one day I’ll blog his birth story because that shit was crazy. But honestly, she was amazing. There’s no way I would have made it through that labour and delivery without her incredible skill and support. 

I’ve been cared for by five midwives over my two pregnancies, one for a delivery, another for a false alarm, another for another false alarm, and another as cover for my main midwife…they’ve all been awesome, awesome people. I want to thank them all. I want to thank all of the midwives who care for us and bring our babies into the world. I want them always to have chocolate in their fridge and coffee in their pantries.

I said goodbye to my midwife last week and it broke my heart a little bit. I thanked her of course, but my words weren’t adequate. How can you ever thank someone enough for making you a family, twice? 

My midwife made me a mother. I can never thank her enough.

***

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A PSA from a cranky mum

What Feels Like Everyone: “Is he sleeping through the night yet?”

Me (through gritted teeth): “He’s doing great!”

Me (screaming in my head): He’s six weeks old!! What the fuck do you think? He’s a newborn baby! Of course he’s not sleeping through the night. Dick.

WFLE: “My cousin’s baby slept through the night from just a few weeks old!”

Me (trying to restrain myself): “That’s truly something else. Your cousin is lucky!”

My internal scream: Your cousin doesn’t exist. Your cousin is full of shit or you are full of shit. Newborn babies are not expected to sleep through the night.

WFLE: “You should try sleep training. That’s what she did”.

Me: “I’m not worried. He’s doing great.”

Losing my mind: HE WAS JUST BORN. I hope you fall over and do something to your ankle. I hope it’s sore for three days but not that sore that you can’t work because I’m not that mean. I hope you get a really bad paper cut!


I know people are just trying to make conversation, but why are people so utterly obsessed with asking about how new babies are sleeping. I mean fair enough if the kid is one or two but come on! I got asked if my littliest was sleeping two days after he was born. TWO DAYS.

He’s delicious. He smells like rainbows. He’s the best thing I’ve ever done (along with my bigger baby). He smiles this gummy smile when he looks up at me. His hair is so soft. His cheeks are so fat. He is so perfect I want to have ten of him. Who gives a rats ass about whether he sleeps X hours at a time yet? He just got here. Just stare at him for a while. Welcome him! He’s perfect isn’t he?

And to the people who ALWAYS have to point out their sister’s neighbour’s ex-wife’s cousin’s baby slept through the night from 8 hours old. Wow, so awesome. That’s a great thing to tell someone who is probably waking up every three to four hours if they’re VERY LUCKY.

Or if your baby is one of those extremely, incredibly, exceptionally rare babies that slept for very long periods overnight from early on – how grand for you. Congratulations. Keep it to yourself.

Nobody who isn’t sleeping needs to hear that you’re sleeping, or that your friend’s brother’s aunty’s mother is. Nobody.

Also, this fixation other people have on newborns sleeping through the night is why I thought my firstborn would magically sleep through the night from eight weeks old. LIES! LIES!

Newborns aren’t meant to sleep all night. They have to wake up for feeds. It sucks, their mums are freakin exhausted. So don’t tell tales about sleep. Just look at how cute they are. And make mum a coffee. She needs that more than talk about an imaginary baby that slept through from seven minutes old.

*collapses into a heap*

ZZZZzzzzzzzzzzzzz

***

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Dirty Dancing

We don’t get out as much as a family as I’d like us to. I remember the early days of parenting. We loved dressing up our first born and going out together on little adventures. We loved swanning around together, high off our new family status.

I guess something has been lost in the years since because our second is six weeks old – and today was the first time we *properly* went out as a family.

We stopped going out as much as a family for a few reasons, but mainly it was money and needing to rest. My husband often picks up whatever extra work he can on the weekend and then when he’s not working he takes one of the boys or both of the boys out so I can sleep. If he’s exhausted from working I do the same. We had started to work in shifts, it was great for sleep and rest, each of us getting a bit of “me” time, but it’s not so great for family life. We were getting to be like ships in the errrm…day.

A few weeks ago I took my two and half year old to the Island Bay Festival. My husband had a well deserved few hours rest at home watching the Cricket World Cup (which is my idea of Hell). I raced around with the kids. The MC at the festival announced there would be a dance competition. The toddler, upon hearing the word “dance”, sprinted to the stage and began throwing shapes as only he can. He won the prize for “most memorable dancer”. It was a family pass to a Capital E National Arts Festival Show: Dirt and Other Delicious Ingredients.

We decided we would go as a family – It being our firstborn’s first show and all. This morning he woke up with his usual morning mantra “Hello Mama! I’m Eddie!” but then afterward came the SHOW SHOW SHOW SHOW chant that continued unabated for the next five hours, basically until we entered Shed 6 at 11.30am.

The excitement reached fever pitch then. He began shaking all over like some kind of hypothermic chihuahua. On the stage there was piles of “dirt” – coffee beans, cloves, cinnamon, leaves, that kind of thing. In the middle of the stage was a dancer in white and brown with cinnamon sticks balanced on her arms. Well, he could not contain himself. “DIRTY! SHE GOT DIRTY ON HER ARMS!” As the lights went down he started to emit a low-level squeee that continued for the first five minutes of the performance.

There were five very talented dancers from the Java Dance Company – they danced in the coffee beans and cloves and cinnamon and made music by slapping their arms and legs and big wine barrels, and two of them also played the cello, violin, and mandolin. There was a lot of clapping which is basically Eddie’s favourite thing to do after dancing. When they brought out a marching drum it was like he had reached some kind of next level of toddler heaven. He went really quiet and I thought he might be transcending space and time or something.

Then the dancers threw tomatoes at each other. To our toddler this was the funniest thing he had ever seen ever. EVER. As if that wasn’t enough, three of the dancers climbed into a wine barrel full of water. “They in the bath when they dirty dancing!!” he cried. He looked like he might actually cry from witnessing something so incredible. A bath! On a stage! With people dancing in it! The audience of kids were losing their minds at this point.

Mr Boganette and I kept laughing at his thrilled reaction, but as well as the joy of seeing him so happy, we also really enjoyed the show (there was mad chemistry between two of the dancers, a nice extra for parents who haven’t had sex in forever because their kids never sleep).

Just as my little whānau were reaching peak warm fuzziness, the show ended. At 40 minutes it was just the right length for an under-five. Most of the kids in the audience rushed the stage to touch and smell the “dirt” and meet the dancers.

Our tiny dancer declared “I like dat” which is truly his highest praise. It feels like all we usually hear is “I don like dat” so it felt like a small miracle to hear that he could like something. Feeling really chuffed and swoony all over, we decided to have a treat by taking a walk around the harbour. We didn’t know the Waka Ama was on, so that was an added bonus. It was so fun to watch that we decided we would get a kebab each to keep our lovely day going. Our boy, in true toddler fashion, refused to eat any of our kebab, or his healthy snacks that we’d brought with us, so we let him have mini donuts – because fuck it.

As we sat watching the waka action and eating our yummy treats a covers band playing at the park started wailing Paranoid. Then Under My Wheels which Eddie recognised and started screeching “Wheel song! Wheel song!” He started headbanging with a mini donut in each hand.

It was then that I realised that actually, we HAVE to do this more often. It might be a hassle to get out with the kids, we might be broke, we might be tired – but as cheesy as it sounds, reconnecting as a whānau has to be a priority. I find it so easy to put having quality time together in the too hard basket. I keep saying that because we are a chilled out family, and we express our love for each other often, and don’t really fight, we don’t need to be ‘doing stuff’ all the time. I think though, I didn’t realise that we are actually practically never doing stuff at all.

Today really made me realise that going out together, with no distractions, just a fun activity or two, maybe a treat – is just really life-affirming. And important.

In the car on the way home our little one said “Eddie’s happy. Daddy’s happy. Mama’s happy. Widdle Baby Wonnie is happy”. If that isn’t a call to action for my partner and I – well, I don’t know what is.

It’s doubtful we will be able to afford to see any more shows at the National Arts Festival (though I do think they’re really reasonably priced and heaps of them look AWESOME) but I am going to try to seek out things we can do as a family and try to actually do them.

So let me know what you do as a whānau so I can steal your ideas because my brain is mush from lack of sleep.

Also, Widdle Baby Wonnie slept through the whole show drums and all because of course he did. A sneeze at 3am wakes him up but 40 minutes of banging and screaming (Eddie’s) is a lullaby…Go figure.

This lonely life

There’s so much about motherhood that I find lonely.

It’s such a strange concept because you’re almost never alone when you’re a mother. You can’t even shit without your little person handing you toilet paper. Showers have audiences. There’s often more than two people in the bed and it’s not the exciting kind of more than two people in a bed experience. My two year old is always talking to me. Where’s this? What’s that? This please. That’s mine! No! NO! He provides a non-stop commentary throughout his day. All in the third person.

And yet – I feel deprived of conversation. I talk to him about why you have to be gentle with the “beuful bufly” and why it’s not a good idea to put rocks in the baby’s basket. I talk to the baby: “Are you hungry sweetheart?” The answer is usually quite clear when he attacks my nipples with the ferociousness of an angry platypus (I imagine angry platypuses are very ferocious). I talk to myself: “They’re both asleep? At the same time? What do I do?”

I long to talk to other parents while at the same time being too exhausted to actually engage in proper conversation with said parents or to seek out those parents to make said conversation. The internet helps. This blog has made me feel a lot less alone. Twitter was my lifeline when my oldest son was born. Especially when I spent long nights awake in hospital staring at him with only my fears to keep me company.

In the two and a half years since I became a mother I have made some really, really great friends. Friends I can’t imagine my life without now. I love them fiercely. They make life better. They’re real friends where you know it’s not just the kids keeping you together. When I went back to work I envied their playdates and wished I was sitting in their warm and loving homes sharing coffee. I missed them.

This – my second time around – is different as they’re all working or studying now. My home is warm and loving, but it’s empty of adult companionship.

And at night, without my husband in bed with me, feeding in the darkness, I feel very lonely. There’s something truly isolating about breastfeeding. It’s again, such a strange concept, because you literally have another being attached to you. But ultimately it’s just you. You’re alone with your sore, cracked nipples. That painful let down that can be so forceful it can bring tears to your eyes in those early days. At a big family picnic on the weekend I sat in the bathroom feeding. There’s definitely nothing more isolating than hearing laughter and shouting when you’re stuck in a tiny room alone.

I know I should go to playgroups. Maybe baby sensory. Or a rock and rhyme musical thing. There’s a lot to do out there. But by the time I have the kids dressed and changed and fed – it’s almost time for my toddler’s nap. And I will not fuck with my toddler’s nap time. It’s the only time I have to do any housework or to check the news or have a solo poop.

If I somehow do manage to get to one of the absurdly early mum and bub groups I feel so awkward walking in late with a toddler who is wearing a helmet, batman cape, and mismatched shoes. Especially when he’s chomping on some not organic at all totally processed and definitely bad for you type of food thing. I worry about what others are thinking. That’s quite narcissistic because they probably don’t give a shit. But I’m not a confident parent so those thoughts come easily.

I find mum groups intimidating. The other mums seem so together. They have philosophies – attachment parenting, free-range parenting, permissive parenting, evolutionary parenting, maybe even paleo parenting – like, no nuts or something. I can’t even spell Montessori (I had to Google it). They speak with such confidence on positive parenting, body autonomy for children – all things I care about but don’t feel I know anything about. What do you do if your parenting philosophy is just – try to make it through the day without anybody getting badly injured?

I’m sure my philosophy of just Do Your Best and Love Your Kids is exactly the same as theirs when it comes to the crunch – but I feel overwhelmed with how on to it they are. They know what they’re doing. Any topic there is they seem to have thought a lot about how to approach it. I often just feel out of my depth.

But six weeks in I’m lonely. So I’m going to have to sort it out.

Or I’m going to have to start a playgroup of mums who try hard but fail quite a bit but never intentionally. One where it’s OK for me to show up with a bit of puke in my hair. Or to drink eight coffees even though I’m breastfeeding. Or to confess that I get Montessori and Steiner mixed up. One where it’s OK to turn up late. And forget your kid’s drink bottle. And wipes. Why do I always forget wipes?

Maybe I’ll start recruiting today. Yes, that’s what I’ll do.

So, if a sloppy looking, sweaty, haggard red head with two kids hanging off her approaches you in the park – smile or run (depending on how you feel about this post).

***

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Sleep

If our household had a motto it would be: qui super omnia amatur somnus.

Above all else, sleep.

Our coat of arms would be two pillows crossed over an unmade bed.

We are a home of two adults who have a deep and abiding passion and love for sleep, a toddler who seems to hate sleeping at night with the fire of a thousand suns, and a newborn who is learning to sleep.

In the night-time wars what side will our newest human choose? Will he choose the light and literally wake at 5am every morning to meet the sun just like our oldest did for an entire year? Will he choose his own bed? Will he choose sleep? Unaccompanied? At night?

Our toddler is convinced that at night mummy and daddy get out his trains and have raging “Thomasdatankasian” parties. He thinks we get out the playdough and make really cool shit FOR HOURS. He thinks we play Zoom Zoom Zoom We’re Going To The Moon on repeat while taking turns lifting each other up and spinning around at the lift off part. If he sleeps, his patron saint Jay Laga’aia might turn up to personally sing him RockABye Your Bear and upon seeing him asleep promptly leave and never make another episode of Jay’s Jungle or Playschool again. So he must not sleep. Ever. And if he does, it must be with us. So that he knows we are not playing matchbox cars without him.

He has an excellent sense of humour. When he stays at Nanna’s house (we love nanna more than any one person could love any one thing) he puts himself to sleep at around seven or eight and sleeps in his own fucking bed for 13 fucking hours. We try to replicate the exact conditions but it does not fucking work. Short of moving in with her (which surprisingly she’s not keen on) we can’t get the same result.

She shows great sympathy for our predicament. She also never gives unsolicited advice. A kindness I will be thankful for for all of my sleepless eternity. After two years we don’t need anymore advice. But we still get it. Oh do we Get It.

I find the best way to cope with unsolicited, unwanted advice is to imagine stabbing the person giving it repeatedly in the face thousands of times. It makes you smile, which releases endorphins, which stops you actually stabbing the person.

When they smugly mutter “consistency is key” with their stupid smug mouth I imagine them being eaten by a shark.

“Show him who is boss”
“Tough love is key”
“Co-sleeping is the only way”
“If you do that he will never leave your bed”
“Use a night light”
“Put amber beads in a blender and give it to him each night with a chaser of nightwishshade oil”
“Draw a pentagram on the floor of your lounge, light eight candles, and sacrifice a virgin on a full moon”

Look, I promise you I’ve tried every type of ritualistic animal slaughter and worship of a deity there is – consistently. There’s only so many virgin blood cocktails I can drink.

So here’s what we do, consistently, we do the only thing that feels right for this hopefully short-lived period of our lives – we choose sleep over all else.

Each night we kiss each other in the hallway and that kiss says the following:

I hope you get sleep but mostly I hope I get sleep. And whoever gets the most sleep will carry us through the next day and remind us that we are a family that loves each other very much.

Then we go off to the trenches with a stoic nod of the head. He, a broken man, climbs awkwardly into the bunk bed. I get the easier (some nights) option and climb into our bed and snuggle with our newborn (he’s five weeks but I feel like he was born yesterday because there’s been so little sleep in those five weeks).

This is the path of less resistance. He isn’t woken by the newborn. This is pacifism in action. If he wakes he is comforted and settled by daddy. If that means not sleeping in his own bed – so be it. Sleep – wherever it happens – is all that matters. It won’t be forever but it feels a bit like forever.

We meet in the morning bleary eyed. He makes me a coffee. I squeeze his shoulder and cover the toddler’s face in smooches.

Our gorgeous, perfect, firecracker of a child, who gives us so much joy every day, who is every single kind of adorable, my gentle, hilarious, sweet and spirited boy, beams up at me:

“Is morning mama! I liddle sleeps! I seena jellyfush wif daddy. In my sleeps. We go BEESH? FOR SAN CARSULL? ON DA BEESH MAMA? FOR SAN CARSULL? Seen a SHAAARK MAMA HAHAHAHAHAHA BEESH NAO MAMA? DADDY BEESH? THES A BEER UN DEEEEEEA UNDA CHEEER US WULL DERA PEEPUL WEF GHEMS UNDA STORY TO TULL OPUN WHYYYYY CUMON SIIIIII IS PLAYSCHOOOO. BEESH mama? FOR JELLY FUSH? KINA KINA KINA KAI UN DA BASKUT….”

I catch my husband’s eye and we try not to laugh. I start to make another coffee. One for the road.

We’re going to the beach.

***

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Day three

After the horrific ordeal that was my labour (one day I’ll blog about it as a free virtual contraception to any readers still around to hear me complain) my wonderful midwife came over for our first check. She weighed baby and did the usual midwife type things and then she said as she left: “Remember, around day three you’ll suddenly feel very emotional. This is hormonal. And it’s normal. Just be ready for it. If you start to feel out of control just take a breath.”

I immediately forgot this advice while staring at my little bundle of perfection who had been born only eight hours or so earlier.

On the morning of Day Three I was feeling very smug. I still had that adrenaline-fuelled-happy-happy-thank-all-of-the-Gods-I’m-not-pregnant-anymore-look-at-my-perfect-baby rush going on. I was dressed which I felt was a huge achievement. I was still feeling powerful (but in an I survived a massacre kind of way) about my son’s birth. A coffee was all I needed and my day would be perfect.

I turned on my new coffee machine.

The little light with the beautiful little outline of a coffee didn’t turn on.

What the fuck?

I pressed it again, but the little light with the little outline of a coffee didn’t turn on.

I shook the machine. The light. It didn’t fucking turn on.

I took the thing out of the thing. It didn’t turn on.

I hit the machine. It didn’t turn on.

Suddenly I knew with every fibre of my being that this was my husband’s fault. He had clearly broken the machine. Never mind that he doesn’t drink coffee. That was a minor detail. I bet he fucking broke it and didn’t fucking fix it. Probably because he doesn’t drink coffee. And you just can’t trust people who don’t drink coffee, even if you’re married to them.

Then, like a deer about to be hit by a leaking truck fuelled not by petrol but by pure incandescent rage, my husband walked nonchalantly into the kitchen.

“The coffee machine won’t work. You need to fix it,” I told him.

“Can you just have a coffee at my mum’s?” He said in a perfectly reasonable tone. “We are already late”.

“HOW DARE YOU. HOW VERY DARE YOU,” I screeched. “FIRST YOU GET ME PREGNANT AND THEN YOU DENY ME COFFEE. YOU FUCKING MONSTER.”

My husband blinked at me. “Don’t you think you’re overreacting a bit? It’s just coffee. Just have one at mum’s.”

“JUST COFFEE? JUST. COFFEE. WHO EVEN ARE YOU??”

I launched into a 45 minute attack that covered most of his suddenly apparently numerous failings and the fact that there’s only instant coffee at his mum’s. “Why can’t you just fix the machine that you broke so I can just have the one thing I need in this world?” Clearly our marriage was in trouble if he couldn’t do this one thing that would make me so happy. Suddenly I was devastated, I had always thought we had a good marriage. People had commented on how good our marriage was. And now, it was all a lie. We would need to divorce probably. What kind of impact would this have on Christmas? I don’t want to have to fucking drive on Christmas Day when Christmas Day is clearly a day for drinking too much. What if he got a girlfriend? What if he married someone? What if my new baby called her mum????

He picked up the nappy bag.

“Are you leaving me?” I cried.

He stared at me utterly bewildered.

I began sobbing.

I was clearly a terrible wife. I adored him. And I didn’t want to raise two kids on my own. I didn’t want my kids being raised by some other woman who would probably be far more attractive than me. But he did break the coffee machine.

“Umm I don’t know what’s going on with here but I think we should just go to mum’s and we can buy you a proper coffee on the way there”.

We cannot afford a proper coffee I thought. We are so broke. What are we going to do? Now I have no coffee machine. I can’t buy coffee and I can’t make coffee at home. I’ll have to go back to work tomorrow even though it’s Sunday and the office will be closed. I won’t be able to bond with my baby. He will turn into a serial killer. I’m going to ruin my precious baby’s life. I fell to the kitchen floor sobbing.

“I am a terrible mother,” I wailed. “Just leave. Take the kids. They’re better off without me”.

My husband stared at me with a look of confused fear on his face. He walked slowly over to the coffee machine trying to avoid turning his back to me. He maintained eye contact. His movements were slow and deliberate.

He turned the power on at the wall. He pressed the button. The little light with the little outline of the coffee cup turned on.

***

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I am grateful and…

I’ve had a few requests for a no-swears version of my original post. I want the post to be accessible to any sleep deprived mums so here’s a censored version. My other posts (if I ever get around to writing another post – this was my first on parenting) will likely have swears in them so in future – viewer discretion advised. I am overwhelmed by the wonderful response to my post. Thanks so much for reading and sharing and I hope you get some sleep soon 🙂

It was some time between midnight and 3am. I was dead asleep. I’d fed the littliest at midnight so it was after that, and it was before he woke up for a feed at 3am. This hardly matters, because that time of night is Hell unless you’re pashing, happy drunk, smoking in a bar, dancing, or on drugs – y’know, generally having a fulfilling life that doesn’t involve milk dripping out of your breasts or playing the fart or poop game.

So, I’m asleep and I feel this tiny hand on my face and then there’s a kiss on my forehead. And for a second I’m confused like – did the tiny one do that? He’s only four-weeks-old? Is he a mutant? That would be amazing. And then I realise it’s my big baby and I pull him into my arms while still asleep and think “oh he’s delicious”. But then he elbows me in the boob and says “JAY JUNGLE MAMA” and I’m like “ughhh you’re not delicious at all. What is that smell?” And I tell him to be quiet and I cuddle him and he says “NO JAY JUNGLE” and he climbs onto my chest and it hurts so bad because my boobs are about to explode. And then I cuddle/smother him and spend the next 40 minutes or so (who knows how long it was – it felt like days) getting him to sleep. And then I got him to sleep and I got up and I went to the bathroom and I came back to this: Bed And I was like “ARE YOU KIDDING ME? IT’S MY BED. WHY ARE YOU EVEN UPSIDE DOWN? WHY CAN’T I HAVE ONE SPACE THAT IS MY OWN? WHY ARE YOU ALMOST THREE AND YOU SLEEP WORSE THAN A NEWBORN? WHY IS THERE NEVER ANY ROOM FOR ME??”.

And even though this was an internal scream the little one woke up angrily demanding a feed. While feeding on the floor I took a photo and I put it on Facebook and Twitter. And on Twitter I said ‘sigh’ because the parents on Twitter get it. And on Facebook I did a slightly longer comment because I was trying to be a bit light hearted because…well, we will get there… So, I said “How come it’s my bed and there’s never room for me in it?” Which you’ll note is not “ARE YOU KIDDING ME?…”

It was meant to be funny, a way for me to be like “see?” without being like “OMG KILL ME SEE?” And then I got this message, which I always do, from a friend’s mum. It said: “Be grateful for your boys. They will be adults before you know it and they won’t want to sleep with you. You should enjoy this time”. And I was like OK, I hope I’m never so unstable that when my sons are in their 20s I want them sleeping with me. But aside from that – CAN YOU NOT?

I know the first thing I’m going to be told is “people are just trying to be nice! They’re trying to comfort you”. Yeah, yeah, it’s hard to be charitable when you’ve had two hours sleep. Here’s the deal – trying to be helpful or not – it isn’t. It isn’t helpful. It’s condescending, patronising, and it’s actually (without being melodramatic but maybe a bit melodramatic) it’s dangerous. Constantly telling parents – Be grateful! Be grateful! One day they won’t be pooping on you! And you’ll be like “omg, I long for the days when I was covered in sour milk and diarrhoea!” So – be grateful! You might be so exhausted that you’re crying on the toilet but these are the best days of your life SO BE GRATEFUL – leads to those parents shutting down and never sharing how they truly feel.

It leads to parents not having support networks. It leads to parents walking into parenthood without any idea of how hard some moments, some days, can be. It leads to such unfair expectations on parents – enjoy every minute or you’re a monster. It leads to feeling like you’re doing it all wrong. I am so grateful for my kids. I can’t even put into words how grateful I am. So I don’t need you to tell me to be grateful. I am.

Guess what – I can be so grateful and so tired. I can be so grateful and so over it. I can be so grateful and also imagine not having kids and just pashing and dancing and drinking bourbons till I puke. These comments always come from people with grown kids. And I get it. Maybe? I mean when the boys are in their 20s I might be wishing they still lived with me and needed me 24-7. I mean, I kind of hope in my late 50s I’m acting like I was in my early 20s – boning their dad, drinking bourbons, going to gigs, spending all my money on band tee shirts and fast food. But I digress – I get it kind of. Your kids are grown, you miss them, you see parents at the beginning of their parenting journey and it makes you nostalgic. I get that there’s no malicious intent.

But just again – can you not.

Because when I make a heavily sanitised comment about not sleeping and you make a comment about being grateful, it implies I’m not grateful. And in my sleep deprived state it makes me feel like a horrible person.

And this might seem like an overreaction to a comment, but I (and other parents) get it All. The. Time. The other week I said: “Just as one little bogan falls asleep, another little bogan wakes up. They’re like a tag team” and I got one comment and three messages with the “one day you’ll miss it/be grateful” message. I get it about once a week. And the more I get it the more I feel like I can’t talk about the hard parts of parenting, or the things I’m struggling with. Because I don’t want to appear ungrateful for my awesome kids, even the one that hates sleeping. And you see how that’s a problem right? So, here are some things you can say instead of be grateful:

  • I don’t remember how hard it was never sleeping because I’m retired and I sleep until 10 now and I spend all day playing Candy Crush. SO I’m just going to shut up. (Might be too specific).
  • That sounds tough, want me to drop you over something with chocolate in it?
  • You don’t look tired at all. You look like a glam actress who only eats paleo stuff and drinks grass smoothies.
  • I heard kids who don’t sleep are smarter than kids who do.
  • Parenting is really hard sometimes. It’s ok to find it hard sometimes.

xB

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