Four

It was dark and I heard a little whimper then: “mama?”

A little body quickly climbed into my bed and huddled up closer reaching for my hands.

I pulled my arms around him and softly stroked his hair.

“I saw a shadow”

“It’s OK baby you’re safe”

“Can I come in bed even when I’m four if I see a shadow an is a scary man?”

“Of course”

“Can you tell me a story so I don’t cry?”

I was tired. But he was almost four.

“What story?”

“A story about a monkey been my best friend”

I whispered into the dark about the little monkey who wants to be best friends with the little boy. They build a house of flowers. They’re always safe.

The story ends the same every time.

“You finish it – mama is tired” I say.

“An den that little boy found his mama and she carried him up the big hill to the house and she cuddled him to sleep”

“Goodnight baby” I said and a short silence followed and then…

“Even if the boy is four does he keep his mama?”

“Yes”

“Even if the boy is..” he struggled to free his fingers to hold up six or maybe eight – finally ten. “…this many?”

“Yes. Go to sleep”

He wants to be a big boy but he fears it.

And tomorrow he will be four.

He wants big boy clothes and big boy toys but he also wants cuddles in the night.

He wants adventures – pirates and monkeys and houses of flowers but he wants his mama to carry him up the hill when his legs are tired.

And today was his last day as three.

He wants to DO IT MYSELF but he wants the crook of my arm, my shoulder, the space under my ear, the arch of my back, his hand in mine.

I try to reassure him that four isn’t a threshold to cross where everything changes. It’s just another day but on this particular day the answer to “how old are you?” is a new one. And every time you say it it’s a little less new.

But it’s a hard concept for an almost four-year-old to fathom.

And I’m not good at explaining. Because I look at that little button nose, and the flushed red cheeks, the golden locks, and pointy knees and the little ears and I fall over myself trying to say what four is.

Four is how did you get so tall when I remember saying to your father “quick, quick – now” and he would rush to me and put both hands on my belly. He wanted to feel you move and now you run between his legs and climb him like a little monkey on a tree.

Four is folding you up like origami so I can hold you in my arms like I did when you were born. I put you in a sling and sang to you as I walked around the kitchen.

Four is trying not to laugh when you flail around dramatically demoting me of best friend status at any given moment. And trying not to be too pleased when you say “I didn’t mean so, you are my bes fren”.

Four is trying not to cry when I drop you off at kindy and you say PLEASE MAMA I MISS YOU. I miss you too don’t you know? I’d rather have you on my knee but there are bills that must be paid.

Four is trying not to curse everything when you tell me other kids are mean and there are all these rules about clothes that you don’t understand. I don’t want you to have to change for anyone.

Four is realising every birthday that I’ve learned so much from you and there’s so much more to learn.

Exhausted on the couch after the fourth birthday party I said to my husband – I’m too tired, my eyes are going to fall out of my head.

He kissed me on the forehead and said – yep, maybe four is the year of sleep.

But maybe I can take one more year of little visits to my bed.

Little arms around my neck.

One more story.

One more trip up the hill carrying a little boy with tired legs.

I could do this just a little longer to keep you all mine.

Maybe four. Maybe more?

Maybe forever.

Maybe that’s what four is?

It’s so many, many things.

One thousand four hundred and something days of sleepless nights that you wouldn’t swap for pockets full of gold.

A house of flowers, a tired baby, a best friend, lessons learned, a button nose.

Yes, you’ll always keep your mama.

As long as you need me I’ll be here.

Happy birthday baby.

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Goodbye, old friend

I said goodbye to my friend today.

The longest relationship I’ve had.

I was 10 when I got him. I didn’t like him at first. He looked like a rat. But he slept behind my neck. He used my hair as a blanket. He got rounder but never much bigger.

He went everywhere with me. He was my friend. When I moved to New Zealand he came too and he was my home so I wasn’t so homesick. When nothing felt sure or stable – he was there.

When I felt lost and hopeless trying to find my place in the world he was my companion. I felt as if I always had this funny little friend who would accept me.

When I became overwhelmed with life and it all seemed too hard I often thought – well, he’s still here, I’ve still got my friend.

When I met a very cute boy and moved into my first flat with him – my friend joined us soon after. This boy had never had a friend like this round little thing. They became best friends too. And when we got married our friend was there in the front row.

When I finally, finally got those two lines on a stick – our friend ran around our legs as we hugged. It’s all going to change now we told him. And it did.

Everything changed.

One baby who followed him everywhere, then two.

And he was old and tired and he was too little and frail to reach the bed to sleep on anymore. He was moved to the corner. I had less time for him, I didn’t stop as much to cuddle him. He nipped at the kids and he growled and he barked and woke the baby. And we stopped talking late into the night.

And then last night – out of nowhere – he came to me as I was watching TV. He never does that.

What’s wrong? I asked. It had been so long since we’d talked. He lay down at my feet and I lifted him up. He was so light. He rested his little face on my arm. I gave him a cuddle then took him to his blanket. I had a feeling.

In the morning I got up before the children to check on him. His eyes were closed. Then he opened them just as I thought – oh.

He lives, I almost laughed.

The immortal Otis.

He’ll always be there.

I began to get the kids ready, quickly did a bit of work in a stolen moment, then my husband said from the bathroom “hon, something is wrong we have to take him in”.

He had gone into the bathroom and I wonder if it was to hide from the children.

My husband stayed with him, I got the kids in the car, then we carried him in his blanket. I wasn’t sure how he’d react to a car ride, but he was quiet. Calm.

Why is Otis in the car? Eddie asked. I thought back to all of the car trips we had with him, and realised after the children arrived we stopped taking him out. He was to old and always needed to be carried. It was too hard, a baby and this old little thing. So he stayed home. To my son he just never goes in the car – but I’d had decades of him riding on my lap. We had driven all over the country, moved house, beach every day…a long time ago.

“He’s going to see some old friends” I told my son.

As I dropped the kids at kindy I started to cry and I was grateful for a kind teacher. I got back in the car and we drove slowly so our friend could see out the window. He watched the scenery pass and seemed to enjoy seeing the hills and the water one last time. Before we reached the place though he’d rested his head against my hand. His eyes hidden beneath my fingers. We were taken straight through which was a small comfort. Inside a kind man talked us through what would happen.

We both began to sob. I did not expect it to be so hard.

We told him he was such a good boy. We thanked him for being our friend. Always. All these years. A constant companion. We said sorry for how things had changed. I wish we had taken you to the beach more. Tried harder when the babies came. We love you. We do. He just closed his eyes and lifted his head toward us. We scratched between his ears. We smoothed his fur. He went to sleep. And then he was given a final helping hand to leave us. And as we cried that little heart stopped beating and we said goodbye, finally, to our friend.

I carried him home on my lap wrapped in his favourite blankets and that’s how he’s buried. With his collar and lead. Covered in flowers. Ready to run along sand dunes like he used to. To chase butterflies somewhere. Somewhere where there’s lots of crumbs. And no children. And laps to sit on. And a space on the bed.

Tomorrow, if it’s sunny, we will plant wildflowers in the part of the garden that now belongs to him.

As I tucked my babies in tonight Eddie said “was Otis your best friend when you was little?”

He was, I said.

“Was he deddy’s best friend too?”

He was, I said.

“He was a good best friend” Eddie said.

“He was”

The best.

Rest in peace Otis.

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What is it like to have a child?

I was asked – what is it like to have a child? To have children? The person asking was trying to decide whether or not to have children and if they did – when? Is there a perfect time? When do you know you’re ready? Do you just know?

And I said – I have no idea, because really I don’t. I don’t think you can prepare – not really. You can buy the cot and buy some nappies and read the books but everything falls away when you hold your baby for the first time. And then again and again and again it changes.

The car seat capsule is no longer just a car seat capsule that you bought because the price was right or it looked safe or the bored teenager at the shop said “this is our most popular model” or it was gifted or given or shared or hired.

You put it in the boot “just in case”. Maybe joked about how weird it will be when one day you will turn around and in the back seat will be your baby. Your baby.

You’re going to be a parent I mean how? You’ve got the capsule. That’s the main thing you need right if you’re giving birth at the hospital. You’ve got to get this baby home and then you parent right? That’s how it works surely…

When we left the hospital the first time with our first baby – I crawled into the back seat on reflex. We had been together 37 weeks and I wanted to stay as close to him as I could. I sat right next to him. Still sore. Head spinning from lack of sleep. Nursing an aching heart.

He looked so tiny in the capsule. He wrapped his tiny fingers around mine. I touched his tiny ears. Marvelled at his perfect little nose. Gently stroked his cheek.

His beautiful big eyes gazed up at me and I thought – this is all I want forever.

And that is what it’s like to have children. Every day very normal things are filled with wonder because your child is here and you get to parent them. You were lucky enough to have this child and they’re exquisite because they’re yours and you love them so much it feels like you’re carrying your heart around everywhere.

The second time around the capsule was again magical as I climbed a little more confidently into the back seat and sat again, his little fingers around mine. I marvelled at his tiny ears so like his brother, his perfect nose. I gently stroked his cheek.

And he gazed up at me, just hours after his birth, and I told him about his brother. Tears streaming down my face. Still overwhelmed by the beauty and enormity of the moment.

My love tumbled out in an incoherent mess of words – You will love your brother. He already loves you. We love you. We are so glad you’re here. Welcome. Look at you! You’re the best, most beautiful baby, we belong to each other. We will look after you, keep you safe, love you so much. I promise, we promise. It’s going to be so good my little one.

And I thought again, please, let me just have this forever.

And it’s often said we don’t get moments forever. Of course, they grow like weeds and get so tall out of nowhere and they get a haircut (and you’re like – you are not a baby when did this happen). Of course. And no futures are promised to us, how fragile we all are. Some moments aren’t forever.

But that’s not the end of the story.

We are told we will never have that moment again and I don’t know that that’s very fair in many ways. The specific moments are, of course, different – frozen in time – but that same hum of breathtaking, heartbreaking love revisits you over and over and over. The feeling, it stays.

When my boys are playing – shrieking and whooping with delight, chasing joy – suddenly the sun hits golden hair just so and I catch a smile, and in a rush that hits me so hard tears prick my eyes I see their little ears, perfect noses, flushed cheeks and those beautiful blue eyes.

And I think, no – you can’t prepare for this specific type of magic.

The warmth, the comfort of truly being so content in a moment because my gosh we get this, my gosh we are so lucky we get this. Maybe not forever but for now. And around the corner is four-years-old (how?) and nights slept all the way through (I hope, I hope) and new battles and challenges and moments of gold and moments of grey and heartache and broken bones and first days of school and sleepovers and everything all wrapped up into lives lived.

But for now, let me have this moment forever. I have this moment forever.

This is what, I think, it is like to have a child.

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The JFDI club – Introducing Sera

I meet some awesome mums and I thought – instead of this blog always being me, me, me which is so freaking boring and uninspiring….I’d talk to some of the totally badass getting it done mums I meet. They inspire the shit out of me. So maybe they’ll inspire you? A while back I wrote about the Just Fucking Doing It club. I think it struck a chord with some mums and I’ve thought about it a lot since.

The mums out there who are just fucking do it really inspire me. I don’t need perfection, I’m not perfect. I don’t need marathon running and conquering the world – I just want to talk to real mums who are doing cool things – no matter what the scale. You can nominate a mum for me to chat to by commenting here or on Facebook or Twitter. Let’s celebrate mums being awesome.

So here we are! The very first JFDI Club mum – I’m very happy to introduce you to Sera Devcich!

Sera is stand-up comedian and actress and mum. She’s performing along with fellow mum and awesome person Lee Ray on Friday 30 September at the Johnsonville Club.

I had an email chat with Sera about parenting, comedy, life and buffets – all the important stuff….

Sera has one daughter “technically I’ve just the one but she has constant mood swings, so I’m counting her as three”.  She definitely qualifies as a women who is just fucking doing it though she might take some convincing…Sera

I don’t want to brag but today I got up and within half an hour I put pants on. Ok, that’s a lie but it was definitely within the first 45 minutes, they were men’s sports trackies. Hot tip for mothers playing at home if you dress terribly enough in the morning your child will be too ashamed to be seen with you and you can drop them at the corner and not have to go in. You’re welcome.”

Really, Sera is also solidly doing stand-up comedy throughout the country. On top of that, she’s producing some of New Zealand’s top comedy line-up shows, various comedy projects, and performing corporate entertainment all over the place. And that’s not all – she’s quietly pottering away at some solo shows…all the while child taming! Actually very impressive.

She’s not sure how she got here: “I’ve always been on the stage and before stand-up comedy I performed about the place in theatre shows, my favourite shows to be a part of were the ones where I got to be funny. I’ve always gotten a massive buzz from hearing people laugh but there is a real lack of comedic roles for women in the industry,” she says.

“One day I decided to do a raw stand-up comedy show and it was awesome. I got to dictate my own material and the set went really well, so well in fact that I got booked for a pro-show straight after. I’ve been going for a year now, I feel like I found my niche.”

Like, I think – all of us – she doesn’t believe in having it all. I was basically crying laughing  nodding reading her explanation:

It’s utter crap, you can’t have it all, because you can’t do it all, and you can’t do it all because you are human and shit. Having it all sounds exhausting and kind of terrible anyways. To be honest I have like 20% of my life together – the stuff that I’ve prioritised –  and the rest is a shit storm and even at 20% I’m tired but not to the point I’ve forgotten how to be happy. Does having it all make you happy? Really? Because I had it all a smorgasbord once at valentines (don’t judge me) I had it all, like four times over because when in Rome. Anyways it didn’t make me happy.  It was too much, that extra slice of ham ended up meaning nothing to me, I didn’t appreciate that fourth bowl of mousse, seriously I ate until I couldn’t breathe. Then… somebody else got up for more, so you bet your sweet ass I got up for more because in my twisted little head it was now a competition. I then continued to eat until I started sweating and then I vomited on the table and valentines won’t let me back. More wasn’t more. I didn’t win. All you can eat is a good idea but the reality of it is that it’s probably unhealthy. Maybe it’s better to decide what you put on your plate and just enjoy that – it’s not a competition. Also Valentines can be very judgey.”

“You can do anything, but not everything.”

She also doesn’t have a philosophy any more than any of us do – “My philosophy on life evolves to suit my mood, terrible but true. If I’m up to it I’m like “put your best foot forward, we carve our own way in this world” but if my daughter is sick and vomited on my shoes, I’m like, my best foot is covered in vomit, and from there my life philosophy very quickly descends into “it’s not how much we do blah blah it’s important to ask for help”Sera2

“I guess I’m trying to live my life authentically regardless of how embarrassing that may be on some days.”

I asked Sera about being a parent – “Being a Mum is the most ridiculous unreasonable job in the entire world. If anybody else had treated me the way my daughter has over the years I wouldn’t rest until they were prosecuted. But somehow it still feels like a privilege, the best bit for me is seeing her develop into her own person, my daughter argued with me over her democratic right to have a fringe despite having a cowl lick in the middle of her head she cornered me with hand on hips “AND? AND WHAT IF MY FRINGE SPLITS? TELL ME WHY IT MATTERS?” I couldn’t and I had to apologise. She has a fringe and I love that I’m raising a little girl who’s so much smarter than me.”

What else has Sera learned along the way? Even though we hate advice here, I asked Sera to tell us the best advice she’s ever been given:

“Whatever you do Sera, somebody is going to fucking hate it so play to the audience who love you. “

And since we were on a roll – I asked how she deals with the hard times as a parent – the days when you’re overwhelmed and over it…

“Be honest about the shit storm. I have daily Confessional sessions with some of my tribe, it’s not unusual for me to start a phone conversation with: “I think I might be a fuck up babes.” I have people who I can be honest with and who are entirely honest with me, it’s companionship and kindred that gets me through. It’s so good to be able to laugh at how horrible life can be, I also love hearing how terrible they are, that’s a real self-esteem raiser during a bad time. A laugh, maybe have a dramatic sob then a slap on the bum to get back out there. I’m not sure where I’d be without my tribe, I’m lucky I have good people in my life, who will love and praise on me for the most ridiculous things, “round of applause for Sera for not burning toast, she’s a modern marvel.”  In a shit storm you need to celebrate each other’s small wins. Also dancing in my knickers to 90’s music, spice up your life.”

Live LaughsComedy seems like a tough industry, I wanted to know how she stays motivated: In terms of comedy, it’s the desire to be a good comedian, which sounds kind of basic but it’s a simple as that, If I want to be good I know I have to take the knocks, so I guess I try and refocus on why I’m doing what I do, cos I love to make people laugh.”

You can laugh with Sera at the Johnsonville Club on 30 September when she performs for Live Laughs. Tickets are available here and from the bar at the Johnsonville Club. There’s an Earlybird deal finishing on the 1st Sept, $20, otherwise tickets are $25.

You can win tickets to see Sera and Lee by commenting on this post! I’ve got a double pass to give away – kindly given to us by the awesome folks at The Humorous Arts TrustThe Humorous Arts Trust are a Wellington-based arts charity helping to grow the stand up comedy community in the capital – it’s an awesome cause and I’m really glad they exist!

Thank you Sera for chatting to us! It was great to get to know you just a tiny bit! I’m looking forward to your show. It’s so cool to see mums on stage killing it. It’s going to be a really fun night. And no kids! Bonus!

A little wish

We told our little one that for his fourth birthday we would all take the day off  – no work, no kindy, just us – and he’d be able to pick what we did for the day. High tea? Staglands? The Zoo? Looking for penguins at Greta Point? A bush walk? A ride on the cable car? Whatever he wanted – we would try to make it happen.

He asked us about whether we would be collecting again for the “hosdiddle” because he remembered that sometime near his birthday last year he’d stood at the railway station and shaken a little bucket. He had filled the bucket with coins, met some new friends, and given all of the money raised to the Wellington Children’s Hospital.

“I want to get moneys again for the sick babies” he said.  I flicked an email to the lovely Sara and lined us up for an hour collecting – this year the street appeal actually falls on his birthday.

A week or so later I said – have you decided what you want to do on your birthday? We could go on a ferry if you like? Or maybe to Zealandia? And he said – “I told you! I want to get moneys for the sick babies who getted made better at the hosdiddle!”

Oh OK I said to him – but you only collect for an hour – so we can work that into your day. And he said – “No, that’s what I want to do all day! I want to get moneys for all the babies all day for my birthday!”

I got a bit teary because it was just so sweet I mean gosh, but I thought – does he really want to do this? So I said – do you just want to see Hospi again? Because we might be able to see him even if you just collect for an hour. You don’t have to collect all day to see Hospi.

And he said – Yes, but then continued on in that stream of consciousness way of talking three-year-old’s have: “an I not only want to see Hospi I want to collect moneys all day because when I was a liddle a couple more years ago I seen Hospi all the time an he maked me ged all better when I couldn’t do breaths an I had to be at the hosdiddle. An Hospi maked my baby brother ged all better too. An they maked better the sick babies when they come to the hosdiddle. So I want to get them not jus one whole bucket but six whole buckets of moneys”.

I sometimes wonder how much he remembers from his time in the children’s hospital. We – my husband and I, our family, and all of the doctors and nurses, worked hard to support him and we tried to help him understand what was happening but he was so, so small. It was so hard to explain what was happening to him during surgeries and tests – we tried. It was ever harder to put him through procedures and wipe the tears away before, during, and after. We all cried so much during that horrible time. But we tried not to do it in front of him. We tried to make the environment a good one for him – and so did the hospital.

Sometimes it’s hard to believe we are through the other side – but we are.

And when we hear our precious baby say he wants to collect money for the hospital for his birthday it reminds us that they did more than care for his tiny body. The children’s ward is a breathtakingly sad place a lot of the time, but there’s so much kindness there. There’s so much love, it’s overwhelming in its abundance.

Now my baby can breathe, because of the wonderful people at Wellington Children’s Hospital. Now he just takes my breath away. And that kindness that enveloped him during his time there has turned him into this beautiful little boy who wants to give back.

So on his birthday – 30 September – we’ll be heading around Wellington and Eddie’s little wish is to collect six whole buckets for the place that was so gentle with him and his very grateful parents. We’ll be with him – and if you think your workplace would tolerate a visit from Eddie and his bucket – please let me know by commenting or emailing me at emilywritesnz@gmail.com. Please make sure it’s OK with the boss! All of the funds raised will go to the wonderful folks at the Children’s Hospital of course and we have their permission! We’ll also end our day collecting at the railway station so we might see you there!

If you’d like to help Eddie reach his six buckets birthday goal – you could also donate here, we set up a Givealittle that will go directly to the hospital. It’s a way for people who aren’t able to give in Wellington to support the cause if they’d like to.

To anyone who donates on the day to any of the collectors,  or directly into Eddie’s bucket, or on the givealittle – I want to say thank you! Thanks for supporting my little one and showing him he can make a difference in the world, more importantly – thanks for supporting a wonderful cause. The Children’s Hospital staff are just wonderful, amazing people. And we love them.

I’ve written a bit about the kids and hospital if you’d like to read a bit more about how we feel about all of this –

There will be lots of people collecting 30 September so please give generously. Or again – let us know if you want a visit! emilywritesnz@gmail.com! Or there’s the Givealittle! Thank you!

If you have a little one you think would love to shake a bucket for a great cause you can apply to be a collector for the Children’s Hospital here. You can follow Eddie’s collecting journey on Facebook.

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I asked Chris from Hi-5 some terrible questions

I was talking to my husband and I said “I’ve been asked to interview Hi-5” and before I could say anymore my three-year-old started screeching at me. Because he had just so much to say about his best most favourite “TV people” ever I figured he could come up the questions while I sat back and drank wine. He came up with these hum-dingers and I thought it was hilarious that Chris from Hi-5 actually answered them. Well done. My son is very happy. His questions and responses are in bold (I mean obviously, they’re very – three year-old – type questions).

Acid trips amirite?

Acid trips amirite?

Do you like marbles?

Yes. Love them, I used to have a pretty big collection but I gave them to my little brother as a present.

I have a little brother I don’t have a little sister I have one marble and it is red. What is your favourite colour?

I have two favourite colours – purple and red!

My favourite colour is green and also my nanna’s favourite colour is green and also my mama’s favourite colour is black and my daddy doesn’t have a favourite colour he loves all of the colours and red and purple like you and green and kakariki is green. What month were you born?

June.

My name is Eddie. I am September. Do you like the song Yellow Submarine and do you like the Boo Hoo song from Songs for Bubbas 2?

I have been learning to play Yellow Submarine on the Ukulele and I love singing it with a funny voice. Unfortunately I don’t know the Boo Hoo song, boo hoo hoo. Hehe, maybe you can send it to me?

Don’t do a funny voice. Did you have a birthday party and what did you do?

On my birthday, my Hi-5 family brought a big yummy cake onto the stage during our concert in Singapore. Then, all the boys, girls, mums and dads in the audience sung happy birthday to me. Afterwards we all ate lots of sausages and sung fun songs together. It was the best birthday ever!

I love sausages too I love chicken nuggets I’m having a Mister Maker party I am three I’m fun songs (?) when I’m three I’m birthday (?) and I love hats and it’s my birthday when I’m four and my friend Vally is coming and my friend Kōwhai is coming and we all love sausages and chicken nuggets especially Kōwhai does she loves chicken nuggets and Indie loves popcorn and so does Vally.

Then he wandered off to look for his marble. Luckily I had some actual questions. Things we probably need to know. Though I think I missed an essential one which is “Is there a bar at the show?”

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What kind of show are you planning?

Hi-5 House Hits showcases some of our favourite songs and biggest hits. There will be lots of cool characters, appearances from Chatterbox, and you might even run into cheeky Jup Jup!

Will there be audience participation?

As always there will be plenty of audience participation, it’s kind of a Hi-5 staple. We always have so much fun and just want to share it with everyone around us. Did I mention that YOU get to help us pick which songs to sing?! How cool!

Why do you do what you do?

I have loved singing and dancing since I was a little kid and I guess the passion just never stopped, hehe. I love seeing kid’s faces light up when we’re performing onstage, it brings joy to my heart. I also love the learning aspect of the job and think it’s important to teach kids that it’s ok to be yourself from a very young age. I’m so lucky to do what I do.

HI-5 will be touring New Zealand this October with their HOUSE HITS tour to Auckland Sat 1, Hamilton Sun 2, Napier Mon 3, Christchurch Wed 5, Dunedin Thu 6 and Wellington Sat 8. For complete tour and ticket information visit www.hi-5world.com & www.livenation.co.nz

I’ve got a family pass – two adults, two children or one adult, three children to each of the House Hits shows around New Zealand!

So if you’d like to win a family pass – just comment below with your region – Auckland, Hamilton, Napier, Christchurch, Dunedin, or Wellington!

I’ll draw a winner in two weeks.

Easy as!

 

4 September

It’s that time of year when the shop fronts change like seasons. They’ll take the Olympic rings down and put up signs that implore you to think of your dad, to think of all dads. It’s Father’s Day very soon.

And I’m thinking about you.

I’m thinking about those who struggle as 4 September draws closer. As inboxes fill with calls to buy socks and fishing rods and rugby jerseys and books about golf. As signs are posted saying for your dad…

To those who have lost their dad, those who miss their dad: I’m sorry. I hope the signs don’t sting. I hope you find comfort in remembering him if he’s no longer right here. I hope you smile at the memory of his times with you his precious child. I hope your pain on this day is dulled by the gift of having him as your father. Please know people are thinking of you on this day. Of your loss. And they’re wishing they could find the words. And I hope you get calls and texts from people trying to find those words for you. So you know on this day, and in the lead-up to this day, you’re not alone.

Those who can’t call their dad on Father’s Day. I’m sorry.

I’m sorry if he’s never been a dad to you. And he’s nobody to celebrate. If he’s not deserving of a thought let alone a card – you don’t stand alone. I hope you have people around you who will let you vent or have a quiet place to take it all in. To work out where you stand and how you feel, because feelings change too and stories return to us even after years. I hope you know you’re loved, so loved. And one person not being the person they should have been to you doesn’t make you any less. I hope you can see what everyone else sees, that you’re brilliant and worthy and wanted. I hope those around you make sure you know on this day, and in the lead-up to this day, that you’re not alone.

To those who just don’t know – if they should talk to their father on this day: Don’t let the discourse around Fathers Day and its meaning invalidate your feelings. You matter and you have to make choices about your well-being. You know what’s right and sometimes it’s not the Hallmark thing. If your relationship with your father is just too complex, too much, if the waters under the bridge are raging – I’m sorry. And I hope you know there are others who feel that too. I hope thoughtless comments of “He’s your father and that’s all that matters” are drowned out by a torrent of love for you – and just you. And you know a day is a day is a day and there’s time in this world to heal and do what is right for you. I hope those around you make sure you know on this day, and in the lead-up to this day, that you’re not alone.

To those mothers who co-parent with grace and kindness even when their ex-partners have put them through the wringer and wouldn’t do the same for them, you’re seen on this day too, and in the lead-up. When you help your child collage a card and you work to foster a relationship for their sake – we see you. You’re not alone and we recognise you too. To the mothers who for the safety of their children have escaped homes of violence and pain to build something beautiful  – you’ve given the greatest gift to your children too. And this day is also testament to your courage. On this day, and others, and in the lead-up I hope you know you’re not alone.

And to those men who want to be dads but fertility is a shitty, unfair, rubbish roulette – I’m sorry. I hope you know there is such gratitude for the way you support your partner through the crushing lows of this desperate hope. You’re not forgotten. That pain is real and it’s shared by other would-be dads. Other dads that dream of children scrambling into bed with a hand-drawn card that says Happy Father’s Day. Those who have been through and had the best or the worst resolutions or no resolution at all – they know and they think of you on this day. There are no empty platitudes. Just the message that you’re not alone on this day, and in the lead-up to this day.

To the men who raise children with love and patience and kindness even though they haven’t known this from their fathers – We see you on Father’s Day. You broke a cycle and that’s huge. You changed a generation. You turned that pain into a beautiful thing. A fraught Father’s Day, a confusing mix of deep gratitude for the life you have now, and sorrow for the child you once were – that’s understandable. You’re not alone. On this day or any other. May your children bring you comfort, may you know it’s a special thing you’ve done, creating a family where there was none.

We honour the good dads when we put our humanity first and remember that for many Father’s Day isn’t a happy day. We can make it a better day for some, or just a day that doesn’t sting, or irritate, or anger, or hurt, if we show compassion. A really good Father’s Day could be a day where we remember we all have different ways of viewing this day. All of us. We celebrate each other and our humanity when we recognise that. That doesn’t take away from the wonderful dads, they stay wonderful, we keep celebrating them – it just makes sure nobody is left behind.

beach

Dear Mamas: The Podcast – Episode five

We are late! We’re sorry! Oh life, life gets in the way. But you will love our latest podcast. Hopefully.

In this episode we explore how to know when you’re done having kids – is that even possible? Can you know? Holly is agonising over whether to have a second, I’m pretty sure I’m done at two…but BABIES ARE ADORABLE….so we ask our friend Andrea who has a lot of children (you’ll have to listen to find out just how many!!!), why she kept having kids and how she knew she was finally done.

In the process, she breaks every stereotype we thought we had about people with large families, graciously endures our wide-eyed questioning, and we hold hands and agree it’s different for everyone and we’re all doing just fine.

***

Dear Mamas is a monthly parenting podcast that’s all about the real honest sometimes tough stuff. Holly Walker and I hope to build friendship and community. You can subscribe to the podcast in iTunes or Stitcher, or listen here on my blog. Holly will be posting transcripts of each episode here for anyone who’s unable to listen. Absolutely so grateful to MamaMuriel for doing the transcript for us. We are just so, so appreciative!

Us too

My son doesn’t fall asleep.

He crashes. Furiously. Ferociously.

Sometimes the journey to bed is calmer than other nights. He angrily asserts that he doesn’t want to sleep. His words are MAMA, DADDA, EDDIE, MINE and he yells them one after the other. I wish we could understand him. There’s a gulf between us at bedtime. And even holding him close to my chest I feel as if there’s water between us.

He dips and falls in his cot – holding his arms up reaching for us if we put him down. We respond with love. We quietly and evenly tell him he must sleep.

A shower.

pyjamas.

Cuddles.

Bed.

A routine to the minute. We keep time and the clock holds all of the hopes for the night as well as signalling that there’s just so many open hours ahead of us.

Most nights it is a thrashing chaos. I hold my hand on his belly and shush him. I sing softly. I hold him in the chair – wedged into the corner of his tiny room. I lay on the mattress by his cot – with my hand through the bars, stroking his hair.

The mattress lives in the room by necessity. Sometimes we are so exhausted we fall asleep seconds after he does.

He cries. He screams. He coos.

My husband starts the first shift, then I’ll take over. Sometimes one of us has enough fortitude to give the other the night “off”. We’re quite equal – he seems to have no preference. He’ll drag either of us into the night. It makes little difference which one of us has to squeeze our eyes tight against tears in the dark.

When his breathing calms and I can feel his chest rising he is Schrödinger’s baby. In the dark I don’t know if he’s awake or asleep. I have to time my exit perfectly. If he’s awake and I leave I’ll have to start over. But I despair at spending more time than I need to in the tiny room of no sleep.

I think of all of the things I need to do. I become more frustrated as another half hour passes. Forty minutes. An hour. I try to swallow down and shake away the feeling that I have so much to do. I have to be here. This is where I need to be. But I don’t want to be here.

And then I think – what parent thinks that?

I feel guilt in treacherous waves. It feels like tempting fate to say I don’t want to be in this room of no sleep. The reason why we don’t voice our darkest parental frustrations is surely tied to the depth of our love for our children. What if I said something – that I didn’t want this? And what if? What if by some terrible cosmic force my beloved child was taken from me?

I touch a button when I see an ambulance. Keep the souls safe.

I am a sceptic, an atheist, and terribly superstitious.

After my baby was born I never stopped knocking on wood. The tap, tap, tap is my life now. The soundtrack to Life Parenting With An Anxious mind.

How could I live? How could I live without my baby? How could I live knowing he ever had a moment when I didn’t surround him by love? Even all the endless hours at night that he keeps us awake. All of those fucking terrible hours.

If I ever said the words what if somebody heard? What if something greater mistook the words for a wish? And they didn’t know that I just meant in that moment. That I just meant I’M TIRED. Please, I’m so very tired.

At my beloved aunt’s unveiling there was a haka. Beautiful and devastating. A powerful grief exploding. So fitting for a woman who was loved by so many. She wasn’t my real aunty. She was my husband’s. But I adored her and she loved me too. Really.

I miss her like we all miss the people who we imagined rocking our babies. Before you carried your baby you imagined a photo and they were in it and now you’re here and they’re not. And sometimes that seems absurd but it’s so ordinary – that sadness. The worst thing is how used to it you get, you shouldn’t get used to someone being gone forever.

During the haka I became overcome with emotion. I began to sob and I looked around me at the trees gently swaying in the wind. A kaumātua leaned over, I suppose wanting to help one of the few pākehā in attendance – he said, that’s our tīpuna, the ancestors, the family who were there before, they’ve come here for us. They’ve been called. And they’re all around us.

I felt like I was surrounded by love and I’ve felt that since.

I’ve felt it in the room of no sleep.

Sometimes I cry in the dark with my baby. After an exhausting day, after the night before of no sleep and no sleep before that and no sleep coming – I feel so overwhelmed and hollow.

I cry holding my baby’s hand through the bars of the cot. Imprisoned by the absence of sleep.

And then I’m calmed as he is.

I feel that feeling again.

I wonder if it’s all the love that we send each other at night.

The mamas all around the world who are so tired. Their backs sore from rocking their baby. Their throats raw from singing and shushing and a cold that never quite goes away because their immunity is shot from never sleeping. Their eyes red and sore. A dull throbbing headache. An aching neck. A longing for quiet and rest.

I think of them when I try to soothe my baby who won’t be soothed. I look past the curtains and picture Te Marama. And other mothers looking there too.

An invisible thread tying us together in this shared experience.

There’s a level of exhaustion that some mothers experience that cannot compare to anything else. It is expected and understood by most that babies are not great sleepers.

But at some point there stops being sympathy for mothers and fathers whose children don’t sleep. As if there must be some explanation. The rules haven’t been followed. It has to be someone’s fault. You just have to do the right thing.

Some mothers with children who sleep give advice on how to get your child to sleep. As if you haven’t tried everything already.

I met a mother once who said her baby slept and she didn’t know why. It was just luck she said. And she’d never ever give advice because who knows what makes a baby sleep?

I laughed and then began to cry. Big fat tears filled with relief. “Oh my gosh, what’s wrong with me?” I laughed again and coughed and sobbed. She pulled me into her arms – “It’s OK. You don’t have to be sorry,” she said.

Relief. Relief in the silence rather than the advice. The stupid advice.

You need to leave them to cry. They say. I did. They say. It only took three days to get them sleeping through the night.

You need to co-sleep. They say. That’s what I did. They say. It’s the easiest way to get them to sleep.

You need a routine. They say. The same bed time every night no matter what.

You need to look for tired signs. They say. They’ll rub their eyes and when they do – put them to sleep.

They need to be in the cot and you need to leave them and check every eight minutes, then every ten then every fifteen.

Don’t rock them to sleep. Just put them straight down.

Don’t hold them. Don’t make eye contact.

Don’t talk. Don’t sing.

They need to know bed time means bed time.

They say and they say and they say and I just watch their mouth moving as their voice becomes a hum as I hear the same words and I feel so tired.

They speak with such authority and it’s so tiring.

And each line is delivered as if it’s wisdom.

And if you react the way you want to with rolled eyes and say – our babies are different, I do have a routine. I’ve had one since he was four months old. I know what tired signs are – he’s my second child. I co-sleep. I have tried not holding him. I’ve tried no eye contact. I’ve tried everything there is. Maybe your child just isn’t mine.

Maybe children are all different just like adults are. And maybe my child is just like me. I can’t sleep. I lay in bed at night and count and then I think about the numbers and the sounds of the words that make the number and I think and I think and I think and all the thinking leads me to places that I don’t want to go to and I’ve always been that way.

Even as a child?

Maybe I’m not doing anything wrong.

Maybe this is just how it is.

And sometimes they’ll make comments like – well, when you’re tired enough you’ll change your mind. Or – I had to, I was so tired I was going crazy.

As if you’re not. As if you just have to reach some point where you say oh golly, I am tired! I’ll just try the newest sleep fad and I’m sure it will work because it worked for you. It’ll be just like a switch I flick. Once I’m tired enough.

And I start to feel so angry and frustrated and I want to scream and cry and I want to switch off all the noise. I’d rather be in a room with a screaming baby than listen to another person tell me how to get my child to sleep as if they know anything at all.

As if it’s not a cosmic joke which babies sleep and which ones don’t.

And then I feel calm. And I feel them.

The mums with the babies who don’t sleep. Who never give stupid advice. Who never assume you’re just not doing it right. Who never say when you’re tired enough you’ll do this.

They just smile and say – yeah. Solidarity. Mine is three. And she hasn’t slept through yet. Or – just – I’m so tired too. What I wouldn’t give for sleep!

And I feel safe with them. Like I don’t have to explain myself. Or lie. I don’t feel shit around them. I feel at peace.

My people. My mums. The mums like me.

The mothers of the never-sleepers who every night go to their rooms of no sleep.

I hope they feel the invisible thread.

I hope they see the moon too and know we are there. Us too.

image

I’m still alive kind of

Heeeeeey.

I’ve had heaps of emails so I thought I should write this post. The emails are kind of “I’m not on Facebook or Twitter and you haven’t posted since the Tarzan post! ARE YOU DEAD? HAVE YOU GIVEN UP MUMMY BLOGGING?”

Or they say: “WHY AREN’T YOU BLOGGING ABOUT MUM STUFF ANYMORE? I don’t want film reviews give me mum stuff”.

And WHERE IS YOUR INSTAGRAM!

And so I’m sorry. I didn’t disappear. Look at all these reviews I went and wrote for Metro Magazine:

But yeah, I haven’t posted anything since Tarzan. Because of two things:

1) I don’t like all the extra attention.

Don’t yell at me – don’t do that thing where you say but you’re a blogger you have to be some narcissist who lives for going viral and getting heaps of followers and heaps of traffic. I like my usual audience – I find sudden, enormous audiences overwhelming. I love nice comments. I don’t like mean comments.  And that’s what you get when you go viral. And then people who want to go viral all the time are mean and jealous. And all of that combines to make me want to dig a very tiny hole and live in that hole.

2) I am tired.

I have two kids. I can only blog when I have something to say. If I blog when I don’t have something to say – why am I blogging? I find that some of the most divisive stuff in this genre of blogging is written for the express purpose of a lot of hits. It’s calculated. And I hate that. And I try to stop myself being that type of blogger by only blogging when I have something to say. When I feel compelled to share something. Then I sit on it for a wee while so I know it’s not going to hurt anyone or make anyone feel shit or pit mums against each other. I rarely, if ever, write about controversial things.

POINT TWO POINT FIVE: So back to being tired. This isn’t my job though I’d very much like it to be. And if you want to hire me to come and speak at your thing or write something for you I would love for you to email me at emilywritesnz @ gmail.com. But it’s not my job. My kids and my actual paid work job are my jobs. So when I suddenly get paid work. Like with Metro. I have to focus on that. Also I am finishing my book. Which is also a paid job. So like anyone with children or jobs or both I am very tired at the end of the day. And the end of the day is when I do my writing.

And I know these are excuses – but I have been sick a lot because the kids keep getting sick.

And this blog doesn’t make me money. Like everyone was like PAY DAY! When they saw the Tarzan stats and it’s like who do you think is paying me lol? And I can’t just put advertising up because I get too scared that some mum is going to come on here and she’s going to have a two day old baby and there’s going to be an ad for “LOSE YR BABY WEIGHT FATTY” or another mum who is stressed about returning or not returning to work will see an ad that says “LOAN $15K HERE NOW JUST CLICK HERE FREE MONEY” and it’s a terrible loan shark person. And I know you can click things to make sure you don’t get that on your site but they always slip through.

I don’t want to make money from ads that encourage gambling or other things that I think cause social harm. And then when places contact me and are like – we will pay for you to have our ad up – but their company is ethically iffy or like they want me to say just organically hey mums if you really loved your children you’d use THIS PRODUCT THAT COSTS MANY MANY HEAPS OF DOLLARS. And I have to say – While I like your money, I can’t actually tell mums to buy your thing or whatever because I wouldn’t buy your thing or whatever.

And I know some people would say – just take the money who cares. But I can’t. Because it feels shitty. And I don’t want to sell to all of you when you came here to read something not to be sold to. I have a great sponsor in Flick – BUT I am with Flick. As in – they’re my power company. It’s not hard to say – hey, you should be with Flick, if I would tell you that even if I wasn’t being paid to tell you that through having a picture on the corner of the blog. Does that make any sense, I coughed all last night and I feel like garbage on a stick.

Don’t tell Flick I would still tell people to sign up with them if I wasn’t paid because then they might stop paying me. But that’s the point I’m making. I don’t want to push products here. Which is how you monetise a blog.

Oh and a third thing even though I said there were only two things: I just wanted a break. There’s so much pressure to do all this stuff like please can you do the new thing? And I feel pressure to do the new thing.

I don’t want to hustle. I want a break.

I don’t want to do Facebook Live.

OH AND YEAH INSTAGRAM – so I post photos of my kids on instagram and I love seeing photos of your kids on Instagram. And Twitter. And Facebook. And when I share a photo of them I think it’s like just you and me hanging out laughing about our kids and they’re so cute and their faces are just so cute and look at the cheeks and stuff. But then I’m like – Oh, I have 13k FB followers now. And I don’t know, that doesn’t feel like a little crowd anymore. And it doesn’t really feel so much like just you and me being like HOW CUTE ARE THE KIDS.

But it’s hard. If I take a photo of my child and his bestie at some show that costs a lot of money to go to, they get to go to the show that costs lots of money to go to. And I get to give away family passes so other families like mine who can’t afford to go to shows get to go to shows. My sons wouldn’t ever get to do the things they’ve been able to do if I didn’t share some of it online.

It’s a moving feast. And I don’t know what the answer is.

Because sharing has created a beautiful community and I feel really lucky for all of the opportunities we have had. But my kids come first. And I don’t know, it’s hard. I want to make sure I’m doing the absolute best by them. And my husband and I talk about this heaps. And at the moment, I’m not sharing pictures of the kids anymore or as much or I don’t know.

I miss Instagram.

But I don’t ever make nice food.

So what am I going to do on Instagram because nobody wants to see photos of my food because it’s not good food. I just ate some possibly past the use by date ham straight from the fridge because I’m sick.

Will you follow me on Instagram for my possibly past the use by date ham?

So I will keep writing mum stuff. Reviews are fun but I love writing about being a mum and I’m always writing as a mum anyway.

I’m also speaking at this thing here. And I would really like you to come as well. I really want to see you and we can all raise money for two real, super great charities – Wellington Women’s Refuge and Wellington Rape Crisis. You can read about what a choice thing it is here.

Extraordinary tales

And yeah, so I have been doing that and the book and also just being like – I love to write and speak and do stuff like that but I don’t know am I becoming a very tired old lady who doesn’t have the energy to curate a life because that doesn’t come naturally to me. And while I am lucky that I don’t spend money blogging – I don’t pay for boosting on FB or for followers or advertising on other sites – there are still hidden costs. Like paying for all of the traffic for the month. I had dramas with my host and while that eventually got sorted there’s still costs there. They will likely eat up what I got paid for reviews. So it’s a bit of a poo cycle you know?

I think I’m getting my period.

Look, this has been a mopey post and for that I’m sorry. I have nothing to mope about. I am just Feelings Central over here and I’m trying to know what to do with MY LIFE you know? Like, I started blogging on accident and at no point have I said – Hmmm should I actually be doing this?

There have been millions of points where I’ve said – I HAVE MET THE BEST PEOPLE or OMG I AM SO LUCKY TO KNOW ALL THESE AMAZING MUMS and I AM LEGIT HASHTAG BLESSED AT HOW KIND Y’ALL ARE.

But not really any – so what’s your end game? When does this stop? Does it keep going? Are you done with all of this now?

So until I work all of that out things might be a bit quiet here. But I have some giveaways to do. And a review or two. I got sent food last week which is pretty great because you need food to live.

Free tip.

Anyway, after all that navel gazing – how are you? Getting any sleep? I’m sure as shit not getting any fucking sleep and the other day I got told about a sheep that helps babies get to sleep and I was like WHERE I WILL BUY IT and I should know better I mean Jesus. How the fuck is a sheep going to make a kid sleep better. But I will buy it. If it works I will have my house full of fucking sheep and just become a shepherd. I will dedicate my life to sheep. I will wear the shepherd robes. Oh I guess shepherds don’t wear robes anymore. Are they even called shepherds? Am I thinking of farmers? They wear those flannel check shirts. I was thinking about the bible I think. Like olden day shepherds.

I could buy a flannel check shirt.

If it is black.

Baaa go the fuck to sleep baaa

Baaa go the fuck to sleep baaa it’s bed time bitch

Oh and I almost forgot but didn’t. If you liked Tarzan I would really love it if you joined me for a wine and watched it with me. I’m raising money for a local kindy that needs a hand. All proceeds to them. And the amazing and sensuous Chris Tse will be reading the review in full before the screening. Buy tickets here! Please buy a ticket otherwise I will have to pay for it. And I think we have established that I can’t do that because I bought all these sheep on Trademe to live in suburban Wellington.

thirst-for-good

Goth boutique sheep farmer signing off.