Sunday, September 10, 2017

Ever wondered ...

How to spot an Undercover Asshole?

What about how to survive an awkward conversation, call out a bigot or forgetting someone's name?

Find out at my new project, my blog Awkward Street Chit Chat. Look forward to seeing you there!


Saturday, August 5, 2017

My post baby body

Before I had children, I was convinced I was fat. I spent most of my 20s wishing I was smaller. Sure. my BMI was fine and I was a classic size 10/12, but it wasn't thin enough. I stressed about eating junk food, hated most photographs, and weighed myself daily. I spent years not eating cheese, and was always on a diet, about to start a diet, or berating myself for failing at yet another diet. I used to go to the gym often, but it was about losing weight more than being fit.

Fast forward six years, two children, many sleepless nights, buckets of self-neglect and countless pies later, and here I am.  I have rediscovered cheese, and while six years has passed, I eat it like I am making up for lost time. 

The result? I am bigger. My hips are wider. I like to think of it as my baby weight, but it's more likely to be the lasting remnants of the daily macaroni cheese habit I developed in both of my two pregnancies. I have dodgy knees, which the physio ascribed to the 25kg I put on in 9 months while carrying my first. I recently tried on my favourite shirt from pre-child times, and the button over the bust popped off. 

A couple of weeks ago, an old colleague sent me a photo of myself in my 20-something glory. It was a photo I had never seen before, and my first thought was how thin I looked. So thin! Then, I felt sad for me of then, as well as a bit cross. How could she not see how good she looked? How could she not understand that she was probably a total bore with all the thinking about diets and calories? How did she not realise that a life without cheese is not a life well lived? 

But then - I felt grateful. Grateful that although I am much bigger now, I have discovered a body confidence that I never had before. Who cares if I am bigger? My body is awesome. It grew two people, after all. My wide hips are testament to that. And now I know that my body is awesome, I am kinder to myself. I enjoy food so much more, and am not always starting a diet. I don't exercise to be thin; I exercise to be strong, to clear my mind, to get out of the house. 

I still don't much like photos, but that's OK. I may never like photos taken of me, but many people don't. What does matter is that I am so much happier now with the body that I have. And that's pretty cool. 

Monday, December 5, 2016

Father Christmas: to lie or not to lie?

It's that time of year again. 

The advent calendars are out, Christmas music is being played on repeat, and grumpy-looking dudes wearing red suits and long white beards can be found in malls up and down the country.  The kids are excited - there is the promise of presents, chocolate, more presents, more food, and did I mention presents?   Upon receipt of said presents, there are no thoughts of 'they spent too much, that's a bit awkward' or 'where the hell am I going to put this?' or 'another body wash, are they trying to tell me something?' All that runs through their minds is a level of excitement that can't be captured with words. While I'm thinking 'oh, a toy dog that yaps, how long until it will accidentally end up at the Salvation Army,' they are thinking '!!!!!!!!'

Part of the excitement for many children is the belief that an overweight octogenarian came down the chimney and left them loot.  Never mind that they don't even have a chimney, but a heat pump.  Who cares that the presents are wrapped with the same paper your beady all-seeing eyes spied in Mum's bedroom last week, or that the beer you put out for Father Christmas happens to be Dad's favourite?   It was Father Christmas. They know. They believe

A recent study found that lying to your children about Santa may damage them.  At first glance that feels like the Grinch that stole your ability to get kids to behave in December. Many parents talk about Santa like he's real, and go to great lengths to make their children believe in the Man in Red. Many more are willingly passive in the whole charade: not lying to their children per se, but not correcting their children either. We all have a variety of reasons for perpetuating the Father Christmas story: it's fun, let's let the kids believe in magic before they turn into cynical old bastards like the rest of us.  If my kid is the one to tell his mates Santa's not real the other daycare mums will lynch me in the village green. It makes them so happy.

But: are we actually doing our children damage? To quote from the study, "if they (parents) are capable of lying about something so special and magical, can they be relied upon to continue as the guardians of wisdom and truth?' If there isn't anything that rains on my Santa parade more than, you know, actual rain (always a risk in Wellington), it's that quote. On one hand, I want to roll my eyes. Is Father Christmas just something else I should feel guilty about? If that's true, my first thought is take a number and get in line. The line of things I feel guilty about as a parent already winds down the road and around the block. Lying about Father Christmas can stand in between 'the kids watch too much TV' and 'feeding my children McDonalds'. Or, it could hang out with my other Christmas related guilt: ‘my children have too many plastic toys’, and ‘the crappy cheap chocolate in their advent calendars will rot their teeth’. Santa guilt wouldn't even come close to the big scary bogey monsters of guilt I torture myself with on occasion, like 'being a working mother' and 'not clearing out my daughter's basket at daycare so not seeing an invite to a party until a week after said party had occurred'. Indeed, Santa fibs aint got nothing on those. 

But: I want to be a guardian of wisdom and truth. I want my children to believe the things I tell them, which is why I am always truthful when asked about the big stuff like death and illness and what happened to Mufasa in the Lion King. Sometimes those questions require linguistic aerobics of masterful proportions to be both truthful and not scary ("Mufasa bonked his head then went to sleep forever"), but I try. Sometimes I fail, but I still try. 

Why, then, is Father Christmas different? It's not even a good lie. There's a different man inside the red suit whenever we visit. There aren't reindeer in New Zealand, we're a hellava way from the North Pole, and the whole concept defies the laws of physics. There's also the social inequality factor: some kids get a lot more than others, and some children don't get much at all. Maybe I shouldn’t carry on the charade at all; maybe I need to up my game at being a guardian of wisdom and truth. Maybe that’s what my children really need.

But then, my son said: “Is Father Christmas true? I hope he’s true.” And I thought, you know what, I’m not going to be the guardian of wisdom and truth this year. He’s only little, I’ll tell him next year. 12 months is a long time at that age, and he may even figure it out for himself when he realizes his Monster Truck Masher set is from K-Mart, or that the grumpy old man in the Santa suit only smiled when a group of teenage girls draped all over him for a photo.

In the meantime, the Santa guilt can join all my other guilt in that line. Like I said, it’s a long one, so at least it will have plenty of company.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Toilet training

My daughter has recently started to show a twinkle of an interest in toilet training.

After indulging a wild fantasy about a house without nappies (after five years, dare I hope?), it was naturally the toilet training section of Modern Mothercraft I turned to. I was therefore alarmed to read that I ought to have been using one of these gadgets already to teach our daughter regular motions from a month old.

In the book, the mother is encouraged to use one of the above devices every time the baby is fed, and that if the mother perseveres with the exercise, they will be rewarded in due course. At 35 months, it seems my daughter is 34 months to late. Hmmmm.

At least I've bought a little plastic potty for her, so have conformed to the part of the book that recommends "the small child should have his own commode ... to enable him to do his job in reasonable comfort." The remainder of the advice is sparse, and I notice a lack of recommendations regarding giving the child sugary bribes, a method I intend to employ. I imagine sweet bribes are covered off by the section of the book entitled "The Lollie [sic] Curse". It is also sadly silent on what to do when the only real recent interest in the potty has been sitting on it and moving it around the bathroom with her legs yelling "toilet car!" 

I suppose that while toilets have become flasher since 1945 and are always inside, the basics of toilet training remain the same.  As for starting "bowel training", though, I think I'll pass. I don't have one of those circular ceramic bowls so couldn't possibly give it a go. That's my excuse and I'm sticking with it. 

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Actual real housewives - what my show would look like

I read on the news earlier that a new show, the Real Housewives of Auckland, is going to be on TV soon. Looking at the picture of the women and reading their bios, they don't seem like anyone I've actually met. Here are my suggestions about what should be on the show to make the 'real' in the title actually mean 'real':

1. One of the women would live in yoga pants and a Glasson's polar-fleece from the mid 2000s. Dressing up will mean wearing jeans that don't have a stretchy maternity band.

2. At least one will have had PND, or perhaps still does.

3. There will be a former career high-flier, struggling with adjusting to life in the suburbs. 

4. There would be someone who had always desperately wanted to be a mother, struggling with how the dream and the reality don't quite match up. At the very least, the dream is much less messy and doesn't cry when they are not allowed to throw supermarket oranges onto the floor. 

5. One will supplement a single income by cleaning other people's houses one morning a week

6. Someone will enroll their toddler children in activities every single day of the week as she gets lonely being home all day with nothing but a small person and a pile of dirty washing for company, but doesn't want to admit it so pretends all the activities are for the betterment of her offspring.

7. Someone who will constantly brag about how talented their children are. ("He's not throwing his food, he's experimenting with gravity - he's clever like that!")

8. Someone who will be a competitive martyr about how hard their life is.  ("You got four hours sleep last night? I've only had four hours sleep over the past month!")

9. Someone who is going back to work soon, and feels guilty. 

10. Someone who resigned from their job to be a permanent stay home parent, and feels guilty.

11. Someone who just feels guilty for no reason they can even articulate; the feeling of guilt just follows them around like a dark cloud. 

12. Someone who loves the social side of hanging out for hours at end, talking about which baby food is on sale and what brand of nappies to use. 

13. Someone who would rather stick nails in their eyelids than have the above conversation.

14. Someone who takes the children running in the pram because she's desperate to get back to her pre-child fitness, hates her new body, and misses feeling toned and fit. 

15. Someone who sees the above person running and feels bad because all she did that day was unload a dishwasher.

And lastly ..

16. There will be someone who is happy, loves her life, and wouldn't have it any other way, but is careful not to say as much to her friends for fear of sounding smug. 

Is there anyone I've missed? 

Monday, March 7, 2016

Fridge, I love thee

Oh, Fridge. I've always taken you for granted. I've used you many times a day, without ever really thinking of your worth. I've covered you in tacky magnets, without taking a moment to gaze upon you with appreciation. I've even felt the rage at you, when you've made weird humming noises in the middle of night when I've been desperate for sleep after a midnight feed. 

Now, I know you might be confused by my sudden adoration. You might even ask yourself what you've done differently today. Surely, you wonder, haven't I just stood in the corner minding my own business like usual? No, you haven't done anything differently. I've just read the section of Modern Mothercraft about how to keep milk cool.

According to Modern Mothercraft, milk can be kept cool by cutting a kerosene tin in half. Then, "in this place an unglazed brick with sufficient cold water to cover it." The last step is to put the tin in a cold place, and place the milk jug inside. If it can't be put in a cold place, the book suggests under a tree outside.

Fridge, I am so glad I have you. If it wasn't for you, I would be trying to source a kerosene tin, then figuring out how to cut it in half. How does one even cut a tin in half? I don't even know that, such is my uselessness. Let alone trying to find out what an unglazed brick is. I'm hoping that the red squiggly 'this is a spelling mistake' line that appears underneath 'unglazed' every time I type it means that the word is now so dated, I shouldn't be ashamed of not knowing what it is.

Fridge, I promise to appreciate you from now on. I'm so glad to have you in my life, unlike the poor women in 1945. Otherwise my milk would always be warm. As would my Coke Zero, which you know I open you much more often for. And that, would quite simply, be unbearable.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Why I don't want to be a Tiger Mother

I read the famous (or is it more correct to say 'infamous'?) book Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother not so long ago.  I'm sure you've heard of it: Amy Chua's articulation of why many Western parents are failing their children by being too soft. I suppose part of her philosophy is in the name; she's a self-described Tiger Mother, not a Rabbit Mother or Butterfly Mother. Tigers are badass and scary. The philosophy of tiger parenthood is as well - children have to study and work, but not play and go to sleepovers. They're not allowed to do subjects like art, and anything less than an A is not good enough. Participation couldn't be celebrated for its own sake: the only thing that matters is success. Being a Tiger Mother is, according to Chua, the way to raise successful children who aren't "soft and entitled".  Apparently Chua's two girls were brought up this way - they played their instruments for hours and hours, weren't allowed to go to sleep-overs, and were called 'garbage' if they failed i.e. came second in something, 

For me reading the book was like watching a bad reality TV show: watching someone live their life in a way I never, ever want to copy myself. I was appalled and enthralled in equal measure. Here are my biggest issues with the idea of tiger parenthood:

Firstly, who gets to define success? The whole time I was reading, I was struck with Chua's narrow interpretation of what success looks like. Academic success, getting a degree, getting to Carnegie to play your violin - these are only some markers of "success" in my book. There are so many other things that make for being a well-rounded person: resilience, empathy, social skills, the ability to not act like an a-hole in the workplace. Her daughters may have studied more by not going to sleepovers, but I wonder what other experiences they missed. 

The other question I have is - does pushing kids even help them? Some kids respond well to being pushed, some don't. Some kids who are pushed by their parents make it to great career heights, and some live their entire lives feeling like a disappointment and a failure. Besides, what happens if you try your very hardest and still don't succeed? Character is formed by failure as much as success. I want my kids to do their best and to achieve something that brings them joy, but I don't want them to feel like they have let me down if they choose to be penniless poets instead of astrophysicists or the like. 

Lastly, it's not rocket science to say that different kids are different. Some might want to play the violin, but some might be better suited to maracas and a conga line. I don't see how any one-size-fits-all approach is a good thing.

I'm glad I read the book - it was interesting, as also a good reminder at the value of not giving up on things too quickly. But, tiger motherhood isn't for me. I don't agree with it, and I am glad my own  mother wasn't one. After all, I used to love sleep overs. And to me the idea of depriving a pre-teen of all of those gloriously scary ghost stories you tell at them is just too cruel to comprehend.