It’s Just The Way The World Is

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“We cannot jolly ourselves into feeling safe when there is a catch in our throat and a racing heart that tells us something here wants us to hurt.”

When I was a child we lived close to a large park. It was a popular place. It had swings, a highly exciting whirly bird contraption that spun people around, picnic tables, a basketball court and a BBQ area where teenage boys would try and blow up their Lynx deodorant (*cough*2000’s*cough*). The most notable feature of this park was a long, winding, walking track that followed a river. It was a gorgeous, relatively secluded track. The trees were high and there were rocks big enough to jump over if you had the mountain-goat urge. There was also a man. We called him ‘Nudie Man.’ Cute name right? He was thought of as a harmless joke. He would walk through the underbrush a few metres from the track, naked, his clothes gripped in his hand. He was never too close, but never far enough away.

Sometimes he would just walk. You’d turn a corner and see him, and if you were twelve, like my friends and I, you’d shriek and run laughing in the opposite direction. If you were twenty, like my sister, you’d set your mouth in a grim line whilst grabbing your little sister’s hand and lead her away with bigger steps than she was used to. Occasionally, the man would seek you out. It could be a Sunday afternoon, a time made for playing games in the water; swinging off tree branches and seeing who could made the biggest splash. You never knew how long he’d been there for. He was silent, and still. He would watch. Watch until someone noticed his unclothed presence and then the shrieking and running would start, an uninvited adrenalin rush on a sunny afternoon. Other times, he wore a coat. It was a cliché tan trench coat, ironic and unsettling. If there was a game on at the basketball court he’d show up, quiet and waiting, perhaps drawn by our laughter. The laughter of children playing. Once you’d noticed him he’d open his coat and once again, naked. Parents knew about him, teachers knew about him, police knew about him and they’d sigh and advise us to stay away and be careful. We weren’t sure what that actually meant, when we’d never sought him out like he’d sought us, but we nodded our heads and agreed, because it was just a naked man, right? Nudie Man. A joke. Harmless.

Except that he wasn’t a joke, because we stopped going to the pond and stopped playing basketball. I stopped walking alone through my local park and when I did walk along the track with friends, we were quiet, subdued. Our park had been stolen by a danger we couldn’t quite understand, and our loss wasn’t really interpreted as a loss. Especially by older kids, who would scoff at our fear and accuse us of being scared of something that would never happen; Nudie Man wasn’t ‘doing’ anything, he was just walking around naked. Or standing there naked. Plus we probably wanted to see a real-life penis anyway. We were over-reacting.

One afternoon I took my brother’s Rottweiler for a walk to the park. He was an overly friendly dog, more inclined to fawn over strangers than protect me from them, but he looked intimidating and my mother told me I’d be fine. I breathed in the tall trees and the singing birds, I felt safe. I didn’t know what to do when I saw the photos, placed carefully along the track, a rock in the centre of each one to keep it there – to keep it visible. The photos demonstrated very clearly that at least one child hadn’t thought of this man as harmless. I shook as I walked home, filled with shame and fear. It was agreed that the danger was real now, the scale had tipped from harmless to harmful and we were exhorted more vehemently to avoid the park, or to only be there in the presence of adults.

The problem with this recollection is that the perpetrator was guilty all along, there was never a point where any of his behaviour was harmless. Yet, the adults in my life at that point in time taught me that a certain amount of uneasiness was inevitable. We were taught to be comfortable with discomfort, that the distortion of power was just the way the world was.

Nudie Man had a cute name, it was designed to take away the fear and make him an object of laughter. We cannot hide danger behind a name constructed to help us feel safer, a name that tells us we are wrong and there is nothing to fear, no one is being hurt. Reverse racism and reverse sexism are such names now, they try and tell us that there is no danger, and if we’re careful we’ll be fine. Personal Responsibility. Except people are careful and they’re still dying. Hate is behind these names just as it was for Nudie Man. We cannot jolly ourselves into feeling safe when there is a catch in our throat and a racing heart to tell us something here wants to hurt us. Something in our world is very wrong. Hate isn’t innocuous. We’ve just been told so many times that we’re overreacting and calm down, it’s just the way the world is, because after all, it’s harmless, isn’t it? It’s not as if people are dying.

From Exhaustion to Love.

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Exhaustion happens quietly. There is no sudden realisation – a cold rush of comprehension, that your limbs will not obey you the way you’ve come to think they should. Exhaustion is slow, it creeps its way over your body. Leaving in its path a weight, a heaviness that expands each day as you push and pull heavy arms and legs through this ever-thickening fog. You don’t reflect on it, you don’t truly experience it; you just sigh and think ‘I’m tired.’ Sometimes, you sleep and you sleep (or you don’t and you don’t) and still the weight never quite leaves, it’s anchored to your form as you wrench yourself along the path of motherhood, life and love. Exhaustion does not announce itself. It sighs, it rubs hands over your face and fills your mind with forgotten things instead of facts and needs. Exhaustion is not loud. It is quiet. It reveals itself in slow movements, in deep sighs and sentences beginning with ‘I’m ok, I just…’

Fear hides too. Fear is a finger sliding down your back, creeping up your spine, ice on your skin through the thickest layers. Fear holds your arms and wants to make your helpless. Fear is a memory and a promise and both feel real even when they’re not. Fear lives in corners, in darkness and in the eyes of strangers. Fear pours out of keys struck on social media and wants to leave imprints on your mind, a never-ending wake of vitriol.

Panic is thunder riding on your heartbeat. A pulsing in your blood and a rushing through your brain. A breath that never reaches your lungs and a reaching for something just. out. of. reach. But you breathe the breaths you don’t believe will save you and slowly, the thunder retreats.

Love is quiet too, it stays quite close to panic and fear and exhaustion, it stays where it’s needed. Love is in a friend who told you ‘I know you’re used to accepting second best, but not with this’ and so you didn’t. Love is tiny hands that slip into yours and clear eyes that brighten when you kiss tiny cheeks. Love is still waking up in your partner’s arms, when you can’t remember falling asleep in them at night. Love is patient, it waits while you comprehend the exhaustion, and the fear and the panic; it waits for its turn. Love is always last, but perhaps it needs to be.

That Child Needs Consequences: What You Don’t See.

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No-one is born scared or ashamed, it is something we are taught – that there are bits of ourselves that are bad, worthless and should be kept hidden. We are told to give our children consequences, but what about the unintentional ones? What about the consequences that teach them they’re incapable when they’re still learning, or the ones that teach them they’re bad and disrespectful when they’re still figuring out what respect looks like. Children learn from consequences, yes, but not all consequences are equal.

I loved books as a child. My parents would buy ‘life lesson’ books, and with hope in their hearts they would place them on the shelves and trust that eventually their children would stop jumping on the furniture while they napped on Saturday afternoons. I remember reading about Susie, whose Mummy thoughtfully made biscuits one day. Susie climbed up on a chair to reach the cooling biscuits and CRASH! Biscuits and Susie were both crushed. Susie was contrite, she apologized and was forgiven. These books always ended with the same sentiment ‘and Susie NEVER disobeyed her Mummy and Daddy again.’

I always disobeyed Mummy and Daddy again. Then I was given consequences. Those consequences hurt.

Even at the tender age of five, I recall listening to those books and feeling a mixture of shame and awe at these children who demonstrated such majestic self-control, while I obviously possessed none. I would make up my mind to do better, and I would fail. Particularly when there were biscuits involved. While these books are clearly from another era, the sentiment still exists. Children should learn appropriate behavior quickly and effectively. Otherwise, there will be consequences!

Consequences are not linear, we cannot control what children learn and what they don’t. There is no direct relationship between spanking or yelling at a child (a commonly held strategy for ‘teaching children’) and subsequent behavior. Children are emotional beings and they throw their own interpretations around. We’re not handing them resilience and respect through spanking or yelling, we’re teaching them how to be violent. Altschul, Lee & Gershoff (2016) found that spanking was associated with increases in child aggression over time, above and beyond initial ‘expected child aggression.’ Parents weren’t trying to control an aggressive child; they had created an aggressive child, and the more they spanked the angrier the child got. When children get pushed out of the way for being slow or tutted at for running in public, we’re not teaching them how to behave in public spaces – we’re potentially teaching them it’s ok to push people who annoy you.

Words, unsurprisingly, can be worse (*heavy sigh*). Grille (2002) found that phrases thought to be relatively harmless (eg, You always do this! You’re so lazy!) have long lasting consequences to a child, often showing up as shame and low self-esteem years later. The words we use to describe children often become the words they use to describe themselves. Shellenbarger (2014) found that yelling was damaging when it was a personal attack, calling attention to a child’s faults rather then the situation. There is always a difference between a child’s behavior and who they are, and understanding this distinction can be the difference between shutting down a conversation by saying ‘Bad Boy!’ and opening one up with ‘Are you sure that was the right decision?’ Shaming children is particularly insidious, because unlike anger or fear, shame doesn’t have a physical emotional outlet (Grille, 2002). We can’t cry shame away, or shout it away, it doesn’t go out – it goes in, into our minds, into our hearts and there it sits. Waiting.

My autistic son has consequences, but I don’t always get a say in them and this breaks my heart. We went on holiday a little while ago, and on the last day we were lining up, waiting to collect our luggage and go home. Everyone was tired and a bit grumpy. My son climbed into a woman’s chair after she left. His back was to the world and he’d curled his head down as far as it would go, blocking out as much of the noise and the light as he could. Self-regulating. But she came back. She asked him to move, it was her chair and she was tired. Ok. I put a hand on his back and whispered to him. ‘No!’ he yelled. ‘Hurry up’ she said. He curled tighter. Then he climbed into my arms, pushed his head into my neck and screamed and screamed and screamed. ‘What a bad boy,’ she said, ‘he needs consequences.’ Later, he whispered to me ‘Am I bad? Everyone was looking at me.’ So yes, he has consequences, he has shame, and it’s my job to take these unintentional consequences and turn them into something approaching resilience. My job to shatter them without shattering him.

I am not a perfect parent, some days not even an ok parent, I fail, and I make mistakes. I have bribed and yelled. I have three loads of laundry to do, a freezer full of oven chips, a habit of recklessly throwing things labeled ‘do not put in dryer’ into the dryer, and an unshakeable belief that baked beans are a nutritious dinner. However I try to be aware of the unintentional consequences I hand my own children and those other children we meet as we go about our lives. I will not describe any of them as naughty, or bad, or selfish. I will not make predictions regarding their future because I do not own a crystal ball and if I did the cats would knock it off the table anyway. I know what shame feels like; I know how it sits heavy in your heart and the lies it tells you about your worth. I will not contribute to that. Fear and shame don’t have to be a part of consequences, only learning does.

Altschul, I., Lee, S. J. and Gershoff, E. T. (2016), Hugs, Not Hits: Warmth and Spanking as Predictors of Child Social Competence. Journal of Marriage and Family, 78: 695–714. doi: 10.1111/jomf.1230

Grille, R. (2002). Good Children – At What Price? Retrieved from http://www.naturalchild.org/robin_grille/good_children.html

Shellenbarger, S. (2014). Talking to your child after you yell. Retrieved fromhttp://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424052702304691904579348773978001590

Touch has a memory: Owning your skin.

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10 Tiny Toes

Dear Daughter,

Keats said that ‘touch has a memory’, and while he didn’t have a daughter, he was a poet and he loved someone so perhaps he knows something about it. I do have a daughter, you, and I hope he was right; I hope touch does have a memory. I fervently hope that the many hours I have spent holding you in my arms have sunk in somewhere deep; and when you’re older and I’m far away you will run your own fingers over your face and a tiny part of you will light up with memory.

I want the delight I poured into your skin to be swept into your soul, I want it to stay there and keep you safe, keep you strong when the world inevitably tells you that you’re not ‘enough.’ I want you to own your body, to be completely and utterly certain of its power and strength, and also of the undisputable fact that it belongs to you. I want you to feel like iron in your skin, whole and complete.

There are girls, already, who are being taught that they are not the owners of their skin, that their bodies are not built for running and skipping, but for something far darker. When your Daddy blows raspberries on your belly you laugh, you have that guttural laugh that little girls sometimes have – like you’ve been hanging out in the backyard smoking a pack a day rather than making mud pies. Sometimes you’re still laughing as you hold up your hand and say ‘Stop! Stop!’ Your Daddy stops, he stops at your words, he stops when you wriggle your body away and he stops when your laugh just isn’t quite right. May all the people in your life honour your right to your skin. You have a privilege in being taught this, in being protected in ways other girls are not (I know, I cannot truly protect you, and neither can you, believe me I know). Some of those girls are in far-away countries, but probably one is also on our street. I hope the injustice that happens in our society fills you with rage. I hope the way you are loved allows you see that injustice more clearly. I hope you fight for other women, I hope you use your voice as an ally, a supporter but not a rescuer; people are strong but they do need empathy, and understanding. You will be a better person for obtaining that understanding.

I want your body to be a place of safety for you. I want you climb mountains, swim in the ocean and cuddle up under blankets with someone you love. I want you to do those things wearing whatever the hell you want. Society will try and tell you that your skin somehow belongs to them, that other people have a right to tell you how much of it to show, how much of it to cover and what to do with it. Society is wrong. You own your skin. Our world is imperfect but your body is not.

You won’t ever remember the months you spent growing under my heartbeat, or the months afterwards that saw you sleeping over that same heart, my arms wrapped around you and kisses placed on your forehead. You won’t consciously remember how hungrily I searched your face, wanting to know who you were, how I ran my fingers over your baby arms and legs and counted your baby fingers and toes. Perhaps a part of you will remember it anyway. I hope you love your skin as much as I do, I hope you value it as much and I hope you stay out of the sun on hot days because your skin while fantastic, does not like the sun.

You will always be loved, always,

Mummy.

Keats, J. ‘To -‘ ‘What can I do to drive away’ https://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/k/keats/john/poems/to–.html

 

The 10 Stages of Dating after Kids

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I would kill for hair like this. Particularly the green. Respect.

You may remember dates with your partner consisting of conversation and connection. They even happened outside the house. Those days are gone, people, gone. You’re a parent now, and you don’t get to have real people dates. You get parent dates. These dates are about survival, and eventually, if you’re lucky, napping. Dates in which communication is limited to ‘gnerghh’ and connection is both of you agreeing your toddler is nuts. However, parent dates still bind you together and potentially decrease the amount of time you spend daydreaming about that remote tropical island. With the cocktails. And the sleeping. Oh god, the sleeping.

  1. You both stare at your newborn as she does nothing. This nothing is the most compelling thing you’ve ever seen. You will talk about the nothing in excited voices and if one of you wanders away the other will gesture wildly for you to return ‘Come on! You’re missing the nothing! She’s still doing it!’ You barely look at each other as you drink in what is clearly and obviously the most delicious baby to ever grace the world with her presence. If there is any doubt, just ask the baby’s grandparents.
  1. Your home looks like bears had a rave in it, you have no real food and you become obsessed with sleep. Because sleep is a measure of personal success in every way except that it has nothing to do with you, and nothing you do actually matters. You are quietly crying in time with the rhythm of the rocking chair as you heroically face another doomed sleep attempt. Your partner comes in and makes soothing hushy noises while lifting a wide-awake baby from your arms. It’s uncertain if the hushy noises are for the baby or yourself, but you’re appreciative. Parent Date. Ten minutes later, you want your baby back.
  1. Partner comes home. Ten minutes later then usual, ten teeth-gritting and excruciatingly long minutes later than usual. You scream ‘Take the baby!’ *run to shower* *sob in shower*
  1. You silently watch your child eat toast he found on the floor. You have not made toast today. Or yesterday. You take this immune-system boosting time to chat with your partner. Parenting ideal abandoned, parent date acquired.
  1. You write a love-note consisting of ‘Buy bread’ and stick it on your sleeping partner’s face before passing out at 4am.
  1. You go out, giddy and wild and carefree, on your first proper outside date since becoming parents. There are vivid plans of staring into other’s eyes and having real adult conversations. You talk about nothing but excrement and leave twenty minutes early to pick up your child.
  1. You go to K-Mart and come home with a stack of things you didn’t know you wanted or needed. Neither of you have any rational explanation for this phenomenon. You have a vague memory of previous dates consisting of late nights and romantic Italian restaurants with checked tablecloths, but then you realize that was Lady and the Tramp. That movie rocks.
  1. You wrap yourself in a giant blanket and sit on the couch. Depending on the trauma of the day, you may be rocking slightly or mumbling. Your partner tentatively puts out a hand to touch your shoulder, then slowly retrieves it. This is their gift to you, the gift of non-bodily contact. You ask for tea as well.
  1. ‘What? Are they in their own beds then?’ Bada Boom.
  1. You could go out, you probably could. But that requires putting on clothes, like, proper clothes, and make up, and driving, and parking, and other people. Instead, you hustle the rugrats into bed and demolish a bottle of wine whilst loudly deriding each other’s taste in Netflix. This is it, this is how you date now.

The main thing about parent dates is that you are having them. You are finding moments when you still think your partner is ridiculously funny, or cute in pyjamas, and you are aware that the life you’ve built together is valuable. The tiny flame that bound you together when it was just the two of you has expanded to fit however many small people you’re sharing your life with. You’re doing it, you’re a family. And it doesn’t always suck.

Linking up with The Annoyed Thyroid here

 

 

 

 

Labelling Autism: An Origin Story.

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Choose your labels carefully.

I don’t know if it’s because he was my first, or because I’m the kind of person who checks the doors four times before going to bed then wakes up my husband to ask ‘Have you checked the doors?’ but I wasn’t entirely relaxed around my son. He is fire, and power and passion. He smiles with his entire body. I am in awe of this boy who runs down hills with his arms outstretched and screams ‘TOO FAST!’ in between the laughing. But, there was tension hovering between us.

He was the Baby Who Did Not Sleep. He was the Toddler Who Did Not Stop Moving. He was the Boy Who Was Loud. He was the Boy Other Parents Talked About.

He was unpredictable. He loathed the things we’d thought he’d love. He didn’t talk. He didn’t stop talking. He didn’t want to be held. He only wanted to be held. We begged ‘How do you feel? What do you want? What’s going on?’ but he only twisted in on himself, or gave us the answer he thought we wanted. ‘I’m HAPPY!’ he’d scream, fists curled and body shaking. We provided our own explanations for this boy we could not understand by pulling things from various incidents (he was tired/he was hungry/he’s sensitive/he’s spirited/he’s anxious/I didn’t really like that person either/that pasta was shit). We knew we weren’t really seeing him though, he was right there and we just weren’t getting it. Whilst I loved him more than I could ever imagine loving anyone ever, unease was strumming through our relationship. Then one day I googled Autism Spectrum Disorder and the penny dropped. Boom.

In some ways his diagnosis was nothing to do with him. He continued being himself, just as he’d always done. It was my husband and I who really benefitted. Finally we could see him. We weren’t so much handed a letter of diagnosis as a letter of ‘Hey guys chill the hell out, this is your kid and he’s fine, he’s just autistic.’ We stopped freaking out about dinner not looking like eating hot food at the table all together and accepted that dinner looked like rolling around the floor eating frozen peas. I stopped trying to have endless conversations about his feelings and started looking at what his actual communication was. He was still fire, and power and passion, but I was no longer tense. I got him. I finally understood my child.

We told people. Some people were surprised and others were highly unsurprised. The day we got the official diagnosis we made him a cake to celebrate his different brain. It was not all cake though, the more I researched and the more people I told the more I was informed I had no right to celebrate my autistic kid.

We were told to expect a neurotypical child and that anything less was a loss. We were told that disability was scary, and that having a disabled child was worth grieving over. We were told his future was uncertain, that autistic people struggled with finding relationships and jobs. We were told he would be shunned, or bullied, and that we should be grateful if people remained our friends in spite of our child. We were told most people would leave. We were told we would be lonely, our family damaged. We were told he would never fit in and needed to be rescued. We were told we were bad parents. We were told he didn’t look autistic and all he really needed was discipline. We were asked ‘Do you really want to tell people? Do you really want to label him, with all of THAT?’ That being all the ways society would see him, all the deficits my beautiful four year old apparently had.

Yes, we said. We do. Sign me up bitches.

All of that crap is exactly why we labelled him. Because it’s time for all of that crap to be gone, and that can only happen when we know exactly how wrong it is. Everyone else needs to get the chill the hell out letter too – it’s not terrifying, it’s not awful, it’s just autism; and it looks like a bunch of different things because it’s a bunch of different people who are doing different things. Not one of those people is wrong, or inferior. We need people to see the proud parents of autistic kids, the happy autistic adults and the thriving autistic family – all of which exist in abundance.

Labels happen, I want to make sure my son gets the right one. I want him to get the label that empowers instead of the one which shames. I want him to know he’s autistic so others don’t tell him he’s broken. I want my kid to wield that label like a weapon. He knows he’s different; he shrugs when classmates watch him bear-walk into the room ‘Sometimes I just do stuff like that’ then they shrug too, and the world resumes spinning. The power of diagnosis is knowledge, he knows that part of the reason he is so valuable, and loved, and ridiculous is because he’s also autistic.

I have a favourite quote (yep, I’m totally that person) and I always thought I understood it perfectly. It has more meaning now.

“There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost. The world will not have it.” -Martha Graham.

I don’t want my boy to think that what he brings to the world is not as valuable because of his neurology, I don’t want him to block it, because then it will be lost. Gone. I want him to keep his fire, his power and his passion;  and I want him to have the right label while doing it.

Happiness vs Wholeness, or Why A Nap is Not A Unicorn.

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Light and shade people, it’s all about the light and shade.

I recently complained about my children and was sent a link to a $125 an hour support service. The reasons this was ridiculous are many (MANY). Mainly there seemed to be this expectation that I had to be happy ALL the time, and if I wasn’t then that was uncomfortable and needed to be fixed. Mackay (2016) describes happiness as the ‘most passive, elusive and unpredictable of emotions.’ I do not experience constant happiness in my life, in fact, that seems a bit one-dimensional to me. Happiness doesn’t accurately reflect the maelstrom of emotions that I live each day. Instead, I think wholeness is a better descriptor of my life at this stage. Wholeness means accepting that failure, sadness, and downright ‘this is a bit fucked’ are all part of life, part of what makes us who we are (Mackay, 2016).

It is recognized that parenting is hard, but so often this is followed up with helpful suggestions for happiness. As parents we need support but it needs to be based on connection, and it has to be consistent. We need people to become part of our hearts and lives; to offer their own hearts and lives as well. Too often we’re told to think of three things to be grateful for each day, to make sure we have ‘me-time’ and that we chose to raise children so complaining about it is just not cool. Sometimes, this merely adds more pressure; it’s another thing to be written on an already bursting list and what happens when it doesn’t work?

There is a problem with me-time. It’s seriously hard to get. Even when we make the conscious choice to put our own needs first, it still requires the kind of planning normally reserved for running a small country. Me-time is an exercise in scheduling, finance and emotional fortitude. This occurs even before you say goodbye to potentially sobbing children and freak out about how you no longer know what to do with your hands in public because they’re usually full of a) child or b) child’s crap (ideally this is figurative, but if you’re anything like me it was once literal and you may never get past it). Being sans children does not automatically mean you are deeply and enjoyably relaxed. Bits of your heart will stay with them, even if their best descriptor is ‘not currently displaying signs of criminal/political aptitude.’ I don’t think we should be ungrateful if we carve out some time, but I think we should be realistic. Getting an hour for a nap does not undo five years of sleep deprivation. It is not a unicorn who grants wishes, it does not have magic powers, it cannot sweep away the dark circles under my eyes, the fuzz in my brain or the constant unsettling feeling there’s something I’ve forgotten; it is merely a nap.

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This unicorn is underwater so can’t grant any wishes right now (if that’s what they do?)

Mackay states that people experience their most significant personal development and growth from pain, not from happiness (2016). We grow when we let ourselves break, when we acknowledge what makes us uncomfortable and the reality we find ourselves in. Trying to skip over that experience to the more comfortable one of happiness means we might be missing out. Parents laughingly say things like ‘It’s ok, I do this every day!’ as we throw on ill-considered outfits and inhale toast in the car. Instead of shrugging away the ‘I do this everyday’ we should say ‘omfg I do this every day.’ We should let that sink in, the sheer volume of time and emotional energy that we expend in care-taking other people. This needs to be felt, and acknowledged.

My son was basically the first infant I’d held as an adult. I freaked out, just a little. Luckily I had an amazing friend, a friend who knows more about the light and shade in life than most others; and she texted me each day. She told me about her own experiences (Day 6: This was the first day I didn’t cry. Day 8: I started crying again.) Without judgment or advice she encouraged me to feel the complete uncertainty and love having my son bought me. I was not always happy, but I was whole.

The experience of happiness is not as important to me as wholeness. Wholeness means every mad step of this exhilarating and exhausting life is acknowledged. Wholeness means when I complain, cry, and break over the difficulties of my life that I’m not given another expectation in the name of happiness. Wholeness means I get to live it. When it’s time, with real support, I get to rise from it – stronger and more complete than when I started this life. The detritus of parenting, the sleeplessness, the sickness, the fear and the drudgery – it deserves respect. How else will we know how far we’ve come unless we acknowledge that the journey was super fucking long.

Maybe what we need is acceptance that joy and desperation are both present in parenting, and that it’s all forming a life. I suspect Mackay (2016) can say it best: ‘the emotional spectrum is broad and that to miss any of it – yes, even the disappointments, the failures and the daily grind – would be to miss out on the spectacular experience of wholeness.’

I like spectacular. Even the spectacular failures.

Mackay, H. (2016). Wholeness, happiness, sadness and positivity. Retrieved from http://www.livingnow.com.au/articles/personal-development/wholeness-happiness-sadness-and-positivity