“But I struggle to pull together bits of my worth and tape them piece by tangled piece into something resembling a person.” 

I have never wanted anything as badly as I wanted to be your Mama. I dreamed about you, I cried for you and I fought for you. Then you were here, and you were unutterably perfect. You made me fierce, you made me brave and you made us a family. You dragged me over coals, you showed me this new world through your eyes. I cherish every beat your ridiculous heart has taken since I saw it flicker away on a screen with a probe I was emotionally ill-prepared for. But I got to see you so I didn’t care.

I have done this twice, I have watched flickers turn into limbs turn into features and then met that face in a perfect moment while repeating ‘Hello baby! Hello! Hello! I love you! Hello!’ Even though I tried really hard to say something more meaningful the second time it seemed I was a compulsive greeter. Which is fine because neither of you really cared. You were there mainly for the boob, which was completely understandable, and having some lady screech the same word at you and sob was probably distracting.

You’re both perfect. You’re both intensely strange little people, one who shouts out after dogs ‘You have a great waggy tail! Really great!’ and then looks at said dogs owner like ‘who the hell are you?’ when they chat to you. Plus another who insists that gumboots are practical footwear for every occasion. Including sleeping. You are joy and laughter all wrapped up in button noses and butterfly kisses with the occasional catastrophic meltdown.

Being your mama makes me feel more inadequate than I could have possibly imagined.

Because I really wanted to be good at this. I am fine with sacrifice, I am so fine with sacrifice. I am patient, kind, and I love you more than anybody will ever love you (I know eventually you’ll probably meet someone and maybe even create additional weirdos but pfft, I will still love you more and that’s just an indisputable fact because Mama) but I struggle to pull together bits of my worth and tape them piece by tangled piece into something resembling a person at least once a week.

This, as usual, has much more to do with me than it does you. This is about my perception of perfection and striving for something which a) doesn’t exist and b) is kinda fucked. This is about failing in public and dealing with strangers. This is about having a plan most mornings to make buckwheat pancakes and instead having three coffees because a child slept on my face. This is about reading articles about the importance of a back up plan when you’re a SAHM because divorce and realising that ‘write some shit about vampires because people love vampires’ is not an adequate back up plan and then giving my husband shifty eyes when he says he’s going to Bunnings.

This is about Mothering in a society that tells you ‘you need a village’ and then shows images of mothers who probably just needed a village, and instead wound up on social media at their lowest moment with their parenting and their hearts open to flagellation. This is about trust, and faith, and how I trust you so much to tell me what you need in some form or another and then get told that I’m pandering to you and you’ll get over it. This is about my complete confusion in raising you in this world neither of us can control or even interpret sometimes, and wanting to just sit down and watch The Little Mermaid with you and explain why it’s sexist and marrying a prince is probably less cool than being a mermaid but still sing along to ‘Under The Sea.’

This is about going ‘yeah, he’s Autistic’ with varying degrees of defiance and warning in my voice because I wish I could say it the same way I go ‘yeah, he’s tall’ but I never quite know what response I’ll get.

I live in dichotomy, and I can’t figure out if I’m giving you either an incredibly valuable childhood or a really shitty role model who is devoid of reasonable back up plans. I’m lucky enough to be a SAHM, but I’m still conflicted about being lucky enough to be a SAHM because there is no other job I’ve done where I’ve gotten so little feedback or been so aware of the impossible expectations placed on me. The most response I get from raising you both is a) you’re growing because I have to keep buying clothes and b) your grandparents really like you.

I’m drowning in being a mama and it’s so weird that I’m laughing while I’m doing it. I try and think of the future, of being on my death bed (I’m so fucking chirpy!) of the things I will find valuable and the steps I’ve left behind me – and of course my family comes first. Then I wonder if I’ll remember the day I hid under the bed to write emails or that sinking feeling when a urine-soaked child crab walks up to you and you know you don’t have spare clothes. The failures stay with me too.

There is an emotional labour to this mothering thing that I don’t think ever ends, a continual outpouring, pleading, joy and a few ‘I can’t do this’ rendings. I just have to trust that this inadequacy I live in, this filtering I do of what to expose you to and what to protect you from even whilst some barbs hit me exactly where it hurts – I need to figure out how to live in this.

So yes, I love this life, but I feel so inadequate.

And yet, every night I tiptoe into your bedrooms, kiss your sweet faces and compulsively say ‘Good night, good night, I love you! Good night!’


The Risks We Take.

It’s ok dude, you’ve got this. 

Motherhood can feel risky, there is no other experience where perfection is so encouraged and so laughably out of reach. Every decision I make feels like it has consequences. I can never be entirely certain if I’m doing the right thing in the choices I make both for you and with you. However the hours I spend talking with you, watching you and playing with you make me confident that these choices and risks are right for you. Even the ones that look a little mad. Especially the ones that look a little mad.

I’m watching you climb the webbing in the playground. The sky is above you and the grass is below you and the words ‘be careful!’ are rushing to my lips but I bite them back. I’m watching you and you are being careful, you are being so careful. Your hands are wrapped around the rope so tight and you’re tapping your feet along the next one before resting any weight on it. I know you’re really considering your next move because your eyes have the same focus usually reserved for picking spinach out of dinner.

You are being careful and the last thing you need is for me to act as if you’re not. If you can swallow down your fear and place tiny feet on ropes in the air with such trust then I can swallow my fear too. I can trust you, I can trust that you know the limits of your body and you’re learning how these muscles you own move in the wind. You’re learning that you’re strong, and careful and capable. I’m learning to let you be these things without acting like I have any part in it, because I don’t. I don’t know where your limits are – I can tell you that I’m worried so I’ll just stand underneath you, I can ask if you want help, I can point out a difficulty I think you’ve overlooked; but ultimately it’s up to you and the risks you think you can handle. My yelling out at you would just tell you that I don’t think you’re being careful, that you obviously need to be reminded to be careful when plainly you are devoting every inch of determination you have to conquering this ridiculously bright spider web on the beach – carefully.

You take risks. You are glowing when you jump down. Your cheeks are red and your smile is wide and you are loving yourself sick.

‘Did you see me? I went up to the top!’

‘I was watching you the whole time! You chose the places to put your feet so carefully!’

You nod, a sage in this small lanky body, ‘it’s tricky and I wanted to be careful.’

I take risks too. But not with your heart. Sometimes it feels like I’m swaying in the wind, choosing where to put my feet and hoping for the best. I can see the sky above me and the ground below me, and I feel the risk in being your Mama. I take risks with you every day – crossing the road, figuring that a sandwich that fell on the floor is probably alright because I’ve seen you lick dirt and the only after effect was my own sense of nausea. But, I won’t risk your heart. I choose my words. I think about your point of view. I explain things. I hold you when you’re having a bad day. I tell you you’re my favourite in the whole wide world. I ask you what you would like to do. I follow your lead.

You drive me crazy. You make me laugh. It should not be possible to talk all day. I gave you three biscuits so I could relish silence for a few minutes. You sprayed crumbs at me while still chatting and it sucked. The sugar gave you enough energy to tell me all the things you’d already told me, but louder. You ask questions and walk away just as I’m getting really involved in explaining the answer. You insist that a tea-towel is all that’s needed to dry your pants when you were fully submerged in a puddle. You walk slower when we’re running late. You have a pathological attachment to weird-ass t-shirts and a crocodile onesie.

I’m careful. I make decisions that feel right for you, not for any other child – just for you. I may grip the ropes tightly and close my eyes for a second, and I may question these decisions a thousand times but the end result is the same – I’ll keep climbing to the top because this works for us. I want you happy, and healthy, and safe, and confident, and ridiculous, and caring and I want you to never doubt for a second that you are valuable.

Maybe, when this is all over (I know it’s never over) I’ll also look back on the risks I took and think ‘It was tricky, but I was careful.’

Raised By Wolves.

Clearly capable of caring for Small Children without chewing on them.

I’m watching you play out the front with your Daddy, he’s gardening and you’re pretty sure you’re gardening too but technically you’re pulling the heads off those flower/weed things. You are super proud of your flower head collection. It’s quite a chilled little scene, which is nice because I got so angry with you earlier. I had my reasons, and none of them seem quite good enough now. I regret the way I sat you down and used my Creepy Whisper Voice to tell you how disappointed I was. To tell you that I had expectations and you had patently failed to meet them. You crossed your legs and hid your head in your lap and I thought ‘oh good, he understands how upset I am.’ Look at me, providing discipline and boundaries, except I’m not at all confident that’s what I was doing. Sometimes I think I should just find a nice pack of wolves and be like ‘Hey guys, wanna give this parenting thing a shot?’ Wolves seem pretty confident in their choices, and they have a strong sense of family, which is nice. You’re already a pretty fast runner, so they’d have some basic material to work with there. It could go well. Romulus etc.

I’m trying so hard to walk this line of intentional parenting and not go fucking crazy with being empathic all the time when occasionally I just want to scream ‘IT’S ACTUALLY MY TURN TO MELTDOWN NOW. MY. TURN.’ But experience has taught me that you’ll look at me quite seriously and hold my hand as you say ‘Mummy, we don’t yell at each other in this house.’ Yes, you are immensely capable of being calm when other people are losing their shit and it should be testament to the fact that I am a better mother than the pack of wolves but in those moments it kind of feels like you’re being aggressively sweet on purpose.

We haven’t made up yet. Which is sad, because usually we’re really good at going back to being a team. I’m not quite sure I can walk out there yet, not quite sure I’ve recovered enough to deal with another round of ‘everything wrong with the world is Mummy’s fault’ even though I have consistently explained that I am not in charge of the world. Everything is changing for you at the moment. Our life is changing and I forget that of course you’ll react to that. I forget that I don’t have a monopoly on anxiety and instead of downing chardonnay or rubbing lavender hippie shit on your temples you demand control in other ways.

You don’t fit into the spaces around you at the moment. You’re edges and angles and everything rubs up against you and is cut to ribbons, including me. You have no patience and no time and you’re so quick to get angry and you hold onto it and I can’t get you to share it with me so instead you’re throwing it at me in these short, sharp bursts that take my breath away. I need to find you, to find a way past these edges, edges that I’m sure are cutting you into pieces too. They say all behaviour is communication and you are bursting with pain right now. You’re still so little.  I’m watching you count your decimated flowers and I’m counting up the times I’ve lost my shit with you recently vs the times we’ve cuddled and laughed and read books about terrifying animals that you love so much you big weirdo. I’m remembering the late nights you’ve had and how you begged me to play with you earlier today and I said ‘later’ which we both knew meant ‘no.’Maybe I can take the bits of anger you’re throwing around right now and turn them into something else, something that feels less like me vs you and more like the team I know we are. I can hold you close and remember that hurt and anger are so close together and you’re using every tool you have to let me know how you feel; and some of those tools suck but you are trying so hard to tell me things you don’t have words for. Maybe we can figure out what hurt feels like together, because you’ve been doing it on your own so far. I’m so sorry for that.

In the meantime, you’re carrying in handfuls of decapitated flowers and I suspect the wolves have enough issues raising their own young. I’m thinking I won’t start researching handy places to find wolves just yet, because maybe I can do this. We can work out how to blunt sharp edges and how to move through hurt to healing, together. If I see a pack of wolves, I’ll just tell them that I’ve got this, they can move along because I have books about terrifying animals to read to a Small Boy who gives me flowers. Well, bits of them.

It’s Just The Way The World Is


“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.


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.


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

Shellenbarger, S. (2014). Talking to your child after you yell. Retrieved from

Touch has a memory: Owning your skin.

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,


Keats, J. ‘To -‘ ‘What can I do to drive away’–.html