Posted on April 29, 2017
It goes something like this when you’re home again: Settle the baby, make sure they’re comfortable and of course close. Kisses on flushed foreheads. Extra I Love Yous and lingering looks, exhale, count fingers and toes in your head, remember the length of eyelashes and the slightest of dimples. Then a shower, quickly, water hot to burn off the tension in your shoulders. Exhale. And then climbing into bed – it feels like I do this no matter when we are released. Day or night I crawl into bed and curl like a bracket around my baby. And I type. Tiny feet beneath my knees the hum of my old laptop and the tap, tap, tap of my keyboard soothes my weary and worried soul. Finally release through my finger tips onto a white screen. As my rose-coloured baby sleeps beneath my tired eyes.
Is it that same way always? Back and forth, back and forth, should we take him in? Last pamol? How much water has he had? And you go back and forth and back and forth and then something makes you grab the nappy bag and then you’re on your way before you can even fully comprehend it. But it’s better than an ambulance or a race against time so I try to say that to myself as my jaw tightens. And as you make your way, half in the back seat, muttering soft it’ll be okays to your tiny love, you feel as if the world outside is water. Both shall row, my love and I.
Oh small mercy a separate area for children and families in ED. Finally! The Accident and Emergency waiting room is a mass of humanity, the best and worst and everything in between. And mostly, it’s no place for children let alone very sick children. My sweating and shivering baby, wrapped in a blanket rests his head on my shoulder as I fill in a form and wait for a blessedly short time. The nurse immediately tells me to take his blanket off. Of course. Why on Earth did a wrap a feverish baby in a blanket? “Don’t worry, it’s an instinct” she says. I want to hug her. They shiver so you want to keep them warm and a blanket is a comfort. She gets it. And then I am doing the verbal dance of the anxious mother who wants to be taken seriously. One, two, three, four and He is just not himself and he’s so hot I really have tried to get his temperature down for at least 16 hours now and STEP two, three I would never come in unless I really needed too, we were in a lot when he was little so I know when to come in and when to stay home Four and again, two, three I’m struggling to get water into him, he’s had half a lemonade ice block. I repeat the dance with every nurse and doctor.
The books are poor quality and the toys are shit. When I get out I will remember to donate some new, nice stuff. I’ll get Eddie to pick his favourite books. This will be a short trip I’m sure so my mind is already turning to those who are here for the long haul. I can see it in their faces as they are herded in, shuffling like zombies behind beds with wheels that carry their loved ones. I used to touch a button when I was a child, the start probably of my nervous anxiety. I felt convinced I could change the fate of someone in an ambulance if I just touched a button in time. I’ve grown. I’m grown. I still sometimes search for buttons before my brain catches up and reminds me that miracles are performed at the hands of the qualified not the anxious.
I spend my life trying to get the kids out from under me, but when they’re ill I want to scoop them up and hold them as close as I can. Pull out the sickness through my touch. Lips to hot cheeks to try to ease the pain and absorb it for them. I try to sing away the fever and the aches and pains. Tender thoughts and gentle cuddles to keep them safe. A little bird under a mother’s wing. A home under hospital white.
To distract Eddie from the IV line the doctor and the nurse ask him questions but I know he wants to know how much blood is being taken. “Will they take all my blood?” he whispers, fear in his squeaky voice. “Will they leave some for me?” I explain the procedure, put his whirring little brains at ease. Then I suggest one day he could do this for a sick little child. “Would you like to be a nurse or a doctor when you grow up Eddie?” He looks shyly at those holding his tiny hand. “No thank you” he says. “Well what do you want to be?”
“A dad. I want to be just like my dad”.
“Can you be very strong and push your feet against my hands as hard as you can?”
“I am so strong” Eddie whispers weakly.
“And now relax”
“I don’t know how to ever relax. I am just prolabley proll-a pwobly the strongest boy you ever meet before”.
“Is there anything going on at home that might be making him feel stressed or worried?”
I consider this and ask Eddie directly.
“Yes” he says and I am alert – what is going on? Is it kindy?
“My mama hurted my feelings”
Well I wasn’t expecting that answer. “Can you tell us more Eddie and then I can say sorry?”
His eyes well up “I dunnant want to come to hosdiddle and mama said I had to and it did hurt my feelings very bad”.
The doctor tells him that that’s the job of mamas, to make sure their babies are well looked after even when their babies don’t like it.
He interrupts her-“A couple more years ago at kindy there was a boy and he did bite me on the leg and I never bite anyone at all”. He continues on about the biting incident that happened around two years ago.
“Is he a good eater?”
He wants to go home and he’s pulling on the splint and bandage on his hand. He’s pulling on the line underneath. He won’t drink the cup of sugary salty stuff that apparently tastes like bubblegum. He can’t pee for the urine test because he hasn’t had any water. He won’t drink any water. Or juice. He has pressed one ice block to his ruby lips before passing it to me and shaking his head. One small spoonful of red jelly. One small spoonful of yellow jelly. He won’t drink the salty sugar stuff. It doesn’t taste like bubblegum. I try again to get him to pee into a cup and he sways and says “Please mama I jus want to sleep”. The tiny frustrations don’t feel like frustrations here – they feel like something else. Less anger-inducing and more resigned. Not white caps on water just a gentle lapping of a tide and your damn shoes keep getting wet. It’s not their fault. It’s nobody’s fault.
Alarm bells remind me I’m lucky. Beepers going off ensure I know I really am blessed. Angela is right that we do do our best work as mothers when the going is tough and we have to make it count. My blood pulses and my heart beats for him and I am good at being what he needs. I think I get better every time I am here. Maybe it’s more trust in the system. More ease in translating the language of this land. More familiarity with the view from here. More surrender to the ebb and flow of the seasons of poor health in our fragile babies. As his temperature begins to fall, I close my eyes as he rests on my chest. Dreaming of my bed and my babies by me. Home, home, home. These walls are tear stained and full of hope for home. Wishes behind every curtain. We walk out the doors and don’t ever look back. It’s bad luck. Touch a button. Cross your fingers in your pocket. Thank the lucky stars for those with skill not superstition. Kiss twice, one for each. A whisper of gratitude and we’re home.
Posted on February 22, 2017
I don’t usually publish stuff like straight away but I am tired and I just got back from this thing and I wanted to tell you about it.
Sometimes I am invited to things and I think – that would be nice to do if my kids weren’t the age they are and the particular combination of whirlwind energy that they are. I don’t feel particularly upset about it because evening is either my wine drinking time or my lose all hope that the children are ever going to blimmin go to sleep time. And I don’t particularly want to share either of those things with Greater Wellington.
I was optimistic that despite the fact that the launch was being held during The Witching Hour, and my children are not the children I’d imagined I’d have, it would all be totally fine.
When I say that my kids are not the kids I imagined they’d be – that’s on me, not them. They’re better than I could have imagined – I was just very stupid and imagined children as sort of half-human accessories that were mainly just Very Cute and That Was It. I didn’t factor in that kids are little human beings who get tired and too excited and overwhelmed and everything in the world. I used to say some REALLY DUMB SHIT before I had kids.
Dumb shit included but was not limited to:
- “We plan to take our kids everywhere because that’s how you get them to just go with the flow”
- “They need to fit around us, not the other way around”
- “They just need you to be calm and then they’ll be calm”
- “I’m not going to be one of those parents whose life is ruled by her child’s routine”
- “They won’t be like those other kids because I will set boundaries”
Why was I so insufferable? Why? Who knows. Maybe deep down I’m just a douchebag. Having children has been a thoroughly humbling experience because I have learned that my assumptions were wrong and stupid.
The reality is that my children, in the evenings, at this age, are often cranky as shit and totally hyperactive and barely able to concentrate long enough to hear me say FOR THE LOVE OF GOD DON’T TOUCH THAT.
I learned this long ago, adapted, and was fine with it. Because you know – they’re only young for a short time and I can cope. They’re not behaving in any way that is designed to upset me or anyone else. And frankly, I’d rather just go out without them in the evenings.
But today I decided to go to this Capital E launch and almost instantly it was Too Much and there was Great Regret.
Within three point eight seconds of arriving my two year-old had knocked over two glasses of water all over the craft table. His older brother whacked him for getting water on his picture and then he whacked his older brother and then his older brother whacked him back and then they screamed at each other like two wet cats while two perfectly behaved angel (older) children looked on in horror. My oldest ran screaming across the room and the baby chased him and the (older) children there stared in wonder at these shrieking creatures.
I mopped up the mess on the floor while saying I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry to the waitress who assured me it was fine but honestly I am so sorry and the children belted each other and threw pens on the floor. A lovely lady picked up the pens and my youngest thought that was hilarious as he threw them on the ground again. Instead of drawing on the carefully prepared colouring cards my youngest drew on his arms, his feet, the floor, the chair, the desk and my hand as I tried to wrestle the pen from him. I cleaned as he ate some glue stick and I began to sweat.
It was hot. Everyone was hot. There was wine but I couldn’t reach it which turned the whole thing into some kind of horrific desert nightmare to be honest.
I tried to have a conversation with someone I was really happy to run into while also trying to stop my children from CLIMBING ON THE TABLE I MEAN WHAT ON EARTH. They know they’re not allowed to climb on the table. Why would they? They would never do that at home?!?
“I don’t know why they’re being like this” I hissed as if I didn’t know that they turn into Hellspawn at 5pm if they’re not at home snuggling in to read a book and having down time. More water was knocked over and my son touched at least six eighths of the canapes without eating them at all. BECAUSE WHY WOULD HE EAT DELICIOUS FOOD WHEN HE CAN JUST SAY MUM MUM MUM MUM MUM MUM MUM MUM MUM I’M HUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUNNNNNNNNGGRRRRRYYYY over and over and Fffffffffffffffffffff over again.
And then they ran outside and decided to pull at a fluffing basil tree (is it a tree? I DON’T KNOW I AM STILL STRESSED OUT THINKING ABOUT IT) as if I don’t fucking hate basil enough I MEAN REALLY.
And at one point as they were making SO MUCH NOISE my life force just kind of left me and I abandoned hope. I texted my husband something that cannot be repeated here because I far too often actually say things like – Let kid’s be kids! And I was trying to think of that as my youngest turned into a furious potato because I wouldn’t let him brain himself on the concrete by climbing into a pot plant.
The text signalled to my husband that he needed to stick a fork in me because I was DONE with these kids that I had willingly chosen to bring into the world because now they were throwing rocks like they were honestly desperately trying to be content for some kind of ready-made column by someone who hates kids. It’s like trying to control a hurricane. I mean I can see it now:
“These children threw rocks and the mother just stared at her phone blankly because she’s an awful parent who should never have had kids”.
So I got my phone out and put ducking Bob the rucking Builder on while I got down on my hands and knees and picked up rocks. I kept looking at everyone’s nice shoes and I kept thinking I should not be here. I should not have come! Why did I think this would work? They’ve been at kindy all day, no naps, and they didn’t sleep last night – of course they’re going to be ratty and shitty!
The kids stared at my phone like brain dead zombies and I once again considered that without screens I’d be an even worse parent than I currently am.
My oldest began a slow whinge that sounded like nails on a blackboard and I lost it and said I WILL CALL SECURITY ON YOU OK IF YOU DON’T STOP THAT NOISE. I mean, I went there. And another parent there saw me and I didn’t even bother trying to cover up my crap parenting. I was just like I AM TIRED AND HOT AND THIS IS TOO HARD OK.
AND WHERE WAS MY VUCKING HUSBAND TO PICK US UP? I got a text saying Nanna was getting us because he was still working. I heaved my Ham onto my hip and he became entranced by a beautiful baby and I know people thought it was cute but I could also see a look in his eye that nobody else could see. And it was the spark of a thought process that included “I wonder if I squeeze this baby’s foot really hard will it make a loud noise” or maybe it was “What would this tiny baby hand taste like if I just bit it like a little bit”. I did not want to add “Her child actually ate part of a very cute baby” to my list of misdemeanors for the evening so I hustled us away.
Eddie punctuated Mayor Justin Lester’s speech with “MUUUUUMA MUMA MUMMMMMA MUMAAAAAAAA MUMA MMMMMMUMA MUUUUMMA MUMAAAAAAAAAAA MUMA I’M BOOOOOOORRRRREEED!” and I actually clamped my hand over his mouth which he thought was hilarious because of course he did.
Reader, I’m ashamed to tell you that at this point I considered drinking the dregs of somebody else’s wine. Somebody who was smart enough to not bring their kids to something they knew their kids wouldn’t be able to handle.
And then I got a text from my mother-in-law saying she was in the carpark. Just as the performance began because of course. Ham was playing a really fun game of “Let’s see if I can run into 6pm traffic on a main road” and so I scooped him under an arm and raced to the carpark. I barely stopped as I threw him at my mother-in-law and yelled “I’ll just grab Eddie”. When I got back in Eddie wasn’t where I had left him because of course. I searched at knee level and still couldn’t see him. I started to frantically whisper “Have you seen a little thing like this big” and I checked all of the toilets as I tried not to panic.
I was gone three seconds. Honestly. I swear.
My alarmed face attracted a small amount of attention from those outside and a few people helped me look.
This was it. It had been too much of a qucking day and I was exhausted and hot and over it and what the HELL? Where was my kid why is this gig so hucking hard sometimes! Why do they do this? My oldest is not a runner, so where is he?? I cannot with these kids right now! I am SO OVER IT. I AM SO OVER IT. God where is he???
I went back inside and searched between legs again and then I saw him.
He was standing at the front of the room – staring at the performers. His eyes wide and full of wonder. For the first time in an hour and a half (possibly all day, let’s be honest) he stood perfectly still. Every little tiny tooth sparkled as his face lit up with his most beautiful smile. He looked utterly enraptured. He looked so very happy. I could see that he could only see and hear the performers. They made every child in the room feel as if they were the only ones there.
The preview was of a show called Cheese and I watched Eddie hand feed a woman dressed up as a cow which sounds super weird but honestly if you’d seen his face! If you’d seen his little face! His head thrown back in beautiful laughter. His little hands clutching his cheeks red with joy. It was perfect. And I forgot every second of the last hour in that moment.
And gosh I was thankful for those people who see the magic in kids when we are too exhausted to. I am so grateful for those people who always see our little ones as little joys and create art just for them. JUST FOR THEM! How lucky are we? How honestly lucky are we? All of these people devoted to making our little ones happy! I am so glad they exist, that they do this. That they create these smiles and fill these little lives with wonder when we as parents are over it and unable to see beyond this moment of irritation and annoyance.
I think I always took for granted that we have a not-for-profit organisation set up just to bring arts and culture to our babies. That makes this accessible to all kids – no matter their needs. They’re just dedicated to bringing joy to our kids. It’s delightful – a whole festival for our children.
“Nanna’s here” – I said to him, reluctantly pulling him back to reality. “It’s time to go”.
“But I want to stay!” he said.
He grabbed my hand, “Look! This is the best time of my life!”
Awww nice! Capital E have given me a family pass for this post. I’d already bought tickets to see some of the shows with Eddie so I’m giving it away! Click here to enter.
Posted on February 6, 2017
When I was pregnant with our first baby, my husband and I would sit for hours and play the what will baby look like game.
I hope he has your teeth – well obviously.
I hope he has your hair.
I think he’ll have your nose surely.
The family ears are big so he might have those.
Will we skip a generation and get curls?
These chats always began in a very light-hearted way but then there was always a thought that began clanging around in my head – louder and louder, like thunder, until it filled the space between us.
Posted on January 27, 2017
So I’m busy writing stuff and editing The Spinoff Parents. I hope you like it there. It feels like such a privilege to share such amazing stories there.
Posted on January 2, 2017
I went to Assassin’s Creed with my movie bestie Chris. Neither of us have seen the video game. The basic plot of the movie is that Michael Fassbender is a crim who killed a pimp and his mum died or something he gets attached to a big machine that sends him to fight olden day baddies and find an apple, they need to protect the apple from the Catholics. Also probably from other people. Like everyone. They are Assassins and they have a creed which is where the name comes from.
Here is an abbreviated version of what we said in the car on the way home.
Posted on December 9, 2016
I need coffee. Coffee is very important to me. When my coffee machine died, I cried. And then the nice folks at Terracycle and NESCAFÉ Dolce Gusto sent me a new coffee machine. And I asked if you could have one too! And they said yes! SO NICE. If you want to win one – just comment below or on the link to this post on my Facebook page. I’ll draw it on 19 December. Thank-you to everyone who entered. Our winner is KAREN OLSON. Congratulations Karen.
I was so excited when the NESCAFÉ Dolce Gusto Melody machine turned up. IT IS SO FANCY. It is honestly like some kind of Coffee Giver Thing From Space. I tried to take a photo of it but the kids were getting into everything. I wanted to be like an Instagram mum and do a flatlay or whatever it’s called but then I was tired and couldn’t be bothered. And then the kids…
Posted on December 6, 2016
Oh poor neglected blog. Now that I have abandoned you for a better, brighter, more scintillating and stimulating lover (The Spinoff Parents) I barely see you anymore.
I keep trying to come back to you but I don’t have much to say here. I have been noting things down, not particularly interesting, but they’re things I can assure you.
Children trust us utterly and completely. The fact that they accept our unique and (let’s face it) quite ridiculous customs without question is surely an example of this. Eddie’s father came home with brass cups rescued from his mother’s shed. Prizes for running races or maybe playing hockey as a child, I don’t know – I didn’t care enough to ask. The children have taken a shine to the cups. They love the sound the water in the shower makes when it hits the brass or maybe it’s tin. “Usually cups have your name on them” my weary husband says to the boys in a tired attempt to explain…cups. “Why?” Eddie resorts to his usual call. “So you know the cup is yours, and nobody else’s. Because you won it”. “We-as your name then deddy?” Eddie asks. Here – he says: “This cup still has my name on it”. And he reads out his full name from birth, and aged six or maybe nine I don’t know. Eddie is scandalised by the last name he has never heard. “What is that name?” “It’s the name I had before I married Mama. When we got married – her name became my name and our name became your name when we had you.” Eddie stared blankly. “One day…” my husband looks at me with a pained expression and I give him a look like – excuse me I had to explain what a crematorium was, you have to explain marriage. “One day if you want to marry someone..” Eddie cuts him off “I do want to marry someone”. “OK, well when you find someone to marry and if they want to marry you too you’ll chat to them and you’ll either take their last name or they will take your last name or maybe you’ll just pick a new last name together” Eddie stares. “Or actually, maybe you will both keep your last names and not change them at all. You can do that too”. “Why?” the small blonde child asks. “I don’t know, because you want to be a team so you have a team name”. Eddie returns to his game of catching water in his cup.
Finally he says:
“Is this like when you put your person in a box because they dead and don’t move no more and then you cut them up to small things and you turn them in ash so you can carry them in a small an box an you take them on the planes to go in the ground is it like that?”
A conversation at 5.30am after 30 wake-ups that began half an hour after the youngest went to bed at 11.37pm.
Me: This woman will do a consultation for 45 minutes for us for free.
My husband: I thought we weren’t doing sleep consultants.
Me: She’s not a sleep consultant.
My husband: What is she?
Me: I think she’s a counsellor.
My husband: A baby counsellor? What the fuck is she going to talk to him about?
Me: I think, like past life trauma.
My husband: …
Me: Look, I mean…maybe…I-
My husband: He doesn’t have past life trauma and even if he did how is she going to work that out? She’s going to lay him on a couch and he’s going to say cracker over and over again.
Me: Maybe in a past life his parents never gave him crackers.
My Husband: But he gets crackers now. He eats crackers all the time.
Me: Maybe he killed his last parents?
My husband: Then we have to live each day to the fullest until we die and get some sleep.
Today, Eddie said he had a gift for me. Princess drink from a plastic cup.
“Drink it” he said smirking.
I raised the empty cup to my lips and a horrified look flashed across his face.
“I sorry mama!” he yelled and pulled the cup from my hand.
“What?” I asked him.
He hung his head in shame.
“I farted in the cup so you would drink my farts” he whispered.
A website I have never heard of before wants me to write a gift guide for boys.
- To overthrow the Government
- Lace gloves
- Finding Dory slippers in the shape of fish
- A framed photo of 1989 Patrick Swayze
- An end to rigid and pointless gender stereotypes that insist boys and girls must have separate gift guides for Christmas rather than parents choosing gifts based on the personality and interests of their children.
- A fart in a cup
They turned down my gift guide and I am crushed because I needed the exposure.
I never learned Roman Numerals in school.
If I were to really give you a gift list it would be:
For kids (based on my son’s favourites)
- Capsicum Capsi Go (buy it here)
- The Day The Costumes Stuck (buy it here)
- The Genderific Coloring Book (buy it here)
- Kuwai’s Very Shiny Bum (buy it here)
- Some shit Fireman Sam book that I have to read 50,000 times a day
For adults (based on what I think is good)
- How to be Dead in a Year of Snakes – Chris Tse (buy it here)
- Don’t Puke On Your Dad: A Year In The Life Of A New Father – Toby Morris (buy it here)
- Billy Bird – Emma Neale (buy it here)
- My book (pre-order it here)
Books I want:
- Ashleigh Young’s Can you Tolerate This (When I have money I’ll buy it here)
- Sarah Liang’s graphic memoir Mansfield and Me (When I have money I’ll buy it here)
- I’ll Tell You What: Great NZ Non-Fiction (for Naomi Arnold and Tina Makereti especially and i mean it’s edited by Jolisa Gracewood so of course) (It’s here when I can buy it)
- Don’t Dream It’s Over: Reimagining Journalism in Aotearoa New Zealand (Will buy here one day)
I read a blog post that said that babies don’t sleep because of powerlines outside their windows. I bought an axe from The Warehouse today. If I’m electrocuted put “Frisky Wine Mum” on my grave.
If you liked this, follow me on Facebook for more of the same. Also I have a book coming out and you should buy it. If you want me to speak at your event email me at emilywritesnz at gmail dot com. if you want to be a jerk and say mean stuff to me or lecture me on parenting you can email me at go fuck yourself dot com.
Posted on November 23, 2016
I unashamedly love Christmas. I love decorations. I fucking love Christmas music. I love presents – mostly giving them. I love the idea that people all around the world are taking time out from life to really consider what will make someone else smile.
When I finally got knocked up I was so excited about the Christmases to come. I couldn’t wait to begin new traditions for our new family. I was happy to finally have the Christmas I wanted. Every Christmas would be beautiful and joyous from now on.
Our first Christmas Day was Wellington’s hottest day of 2012. It cracked 30 degrees that day. We drove around all day trying to get the baby to sleep. Every car we passed had exhausted looking parents in it and babies in car seats in the back – most of them screaming like ours. I had a sip of wine when we got home and promptly fell asleep. My husband who had spent a significant amount of time cooking a roast was not impressed.
Posted on November 16, 2016
Like probably everyone I’ve been feeling very anxious since the quakes. As soon as I start to feel a tiny bit calm there’s an aftershock. I’m struggling – like a lot of people. I’m worried.
I worry a great deal about passing my anxiety onto my children. The quakes have really grabbed this fear I have and put a big, bloody spotlight on it. I have tried not to ask leading questions like “are you scared?” when I might really mean “I am scared”. I have tried to use distraction – picnics on the floor, tending to a parade of injured sentient objects that my son insists have been hurt in the “earfquapes”. I haven’t said “Did you feel that?” after every aftershock. I’ve tried to hide the tension in my body every time the earth rumbles. I know we are lucky that we have no damage, unlike so many others.
I’ve been thinking so much about those who can’t hide this from their children. It must have been so much more terrifying in Kaikoura. And then to be stuck there with the shaking. And to not be able to go back to your home. It’s a nightmare. I feel so much for the parents trying to calm their scared children as they deal with their own fear and grief over losing so much.
I’m feeling a strong urge to burrow. And burrowing isn’t good for me. And I don’t want to write which also isn’t good for me since this is how I support our family.
Posted on November 7, 2016
Oh thank you for the nice things you said about my interview with Kim Hill. Kim Hill! It was so exciting I have to tell you. I was basically almost mute until we went on air because I was just like
I mean she’s a legend. The best. And I was a bit (like very fucking) intimidated. And worried I’d swear. And worried I’d say something about my vagina or something really terrible. All in all I just said tits, shit, and that we should genocide old white men. So it was fiiiiine.