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

 

 

 

 

Four Easy Craft Activities That Were Difficult.

Please tell me it’s not just me and my genetic legacy that are terrible at craft. I see so many amazing blogs and ideas for craft and I just think ‘is this real? Are people actually doing this? Or is this an industry based on lies?’ I have seen pictures of happy children sitting down and decoupaging the equivalent of a Ming vase, and then apparently waiting for it to be ready. Personally, I have super-glued my own hand to my face. Twice. Due to my own ineptitude I had quite low expectations for craft and my children. This has come in handy.

Here are four easy craft activities that fought back.

Colouring: Or as I experience it, admiring my children’s dedication to artistic work for 23 seconds followed by saying things like ‘Not on the wall!’ and ‘If you stab the paper like that then the pencil will break.’ Which results in ‘Oh no the pencil broke! *under breath* like I TOLD you it would.’ They graduate to using pens, ‘Look Mummy!’ my boy exclaims, ‘You’ve used a lot of orange!’ I say. This is not good enough. ‘Do you know what it is?’ Crap. It’s an orange swirly thing with stabby orange bits. This, incidentally, is the wrong answer.

Nature Boxes: I thought this would be great. Really great. I was excited. Hubris. We all eagerly went into the garden with our cardboard box (thank you Bunnings) and I explained the parameters. ‘We’ll put bits of nature in our box, flowers and beautiful leaves, maybe create a secret garden?’ Dirt. This was interpreted as throwing in dirt. I was carrying a box filled with dirt. I explained again. Eventually, we had a box filled with interesting leaves, flowers and gum-nuts. My children were skipping around like pixies and I was thrilled. I had successfully crafted (kind of). We went inside to add dinosaurs (because we see them in nature all the time). That fucking box was tipped out in 3 seconds flat. There was nature everywhere.

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IS IT NOT GLORIOUS?!
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I really should have predicted this. Small Excitable Child. Box of leaves. Sigh.

Painting: Painting sucks, for me. They love painting. My husband loves it when they paint too, although I suspect this is because he gets to donate a ‘painting shirt’ which is really just a novelty t-shirt he hates from last Christmas. My children burn through painting, they swish their brushes across the page and shout ‘MORE PAPER!’ I am in a frenzy of trying to hang up bits of wet, dripping paper and supply the demons with more fodder. When I’m not quick enough they paint themselves, each other, and on one memorable occasion – the cat.

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An attempt to get around the constant need for new paper. Lasted 2 minutes. Not worth it.

Making a Sparkly Crown: There was a slight obsession with royalty at one stage in my house. ‘I need a crown’ the small one insisted. The big one chimed in ‘I know how we make one, we get paper and a stapler’ (I was leaning against the wall doing deep breathing at this point). When things stopped being blurry I girded my loins (I’m not actually sure what this means but it is a fantastic sentence) and got paper and the stapler. After the third packet of glitter was flung around ‘I’m opening it! I’m opening it!’ and the fifth finger stapled (mine) we all agreed to use pretend crowns.

I know it’s not just me, there are others out there who too feel the cold chill of fear down their spine when craft is mentioned. I was at a library Rhyme Time watching my small people over dramatize ‘Old MacDonald’ when it was announced: ‘Craft Time!’ The suction created from myself and at least ten other parent’s horrified intake of breath meant a small child cycling past was pulled off his bike. The terror is real.

For those of you who can craft and craft well, and who have children who do the colouring in thing without the stabbing thing – I am in awe of you. You are a majestic crafting unicorn. But alas, I will never be you. I’ll be over here, watching my children massacre ripped up colourful bits of paper and a glue-stick, and thinking ‘hang on, they’re actually improving.’

A motivating guide to toilet training. Except not really.

  • Use cloth nappies, not because they’re good for the environment or cheaper or because fluffy bums are adorable; but because they’re irritating and therefore you will want to be rid of them earlier. If you require more motivation to toilet train, don’t use liners for bowel movements. Scrubbing poo is highly authentic. Have I mentioned the hose you can attach to your toilet? Sometimes, when you’re washing the poo off, bits of it splatter. Yes, they do.
  • Take nappy-free child to garden. Wait. Point out the stream of urine running down oblivious child’s leg, try to avoid getting stream of urine in face as child whips himself around wildly trying to see. Flail around ineffectually when child jumps up and down in wee-wee. Because they will.
  • Be oh-so-slightly disturbed when child discovers he can purposefully wee on things in the garden. Watch him perfect this skill and text husband ‘Is this normal?!’ Yes, apparently it is. Close eyes for a second. Open eyes abruptly when you realise child is standing directly above your head, naked, hand in action position. “Shhh, go back to sleep” says child. DO NOT CLOSE EYES. Be unequivocally disturbed when child announces before bedtime ‘I promise not to poo on you while you sleep Mummy.’ Vow to never sleep again.
  • Attempt to redirect garden urination to potty. Be mildly freaked out by potties and the fact they are essentially a toilet in the middle of your living room.

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    It’s still a toilet.
  • Read colourful books about potty training over and over to child who pisses on floor and jumps in it. Drink wine.
  • High five child when they announce ‘I’ve done a poo!’ Check potty. No poo. Check toilet. No poo. Thus begins the most terrifying game of hide-and-seek you’ve ever played.
  • Realise that your floor has never been cleaner due to constant mopping. Smell hands and decide it’s not worth it. Remember how you wanted to do elimination communication when child was born and berate self for lack of staying power. Remember meconium. Mentally salute anyone who has staying power for elimination communication.
  • With intense bravery and trepidation – put knickers on child to leave the house. Breathe, breathe, breathe. Do not picture urine soaked car seats. Be prepared to dump poo knickers if required. Do not use favourite knickers, if dumped, everyone will cry.
  • Develop interesting back pain from holding child on adult sized toilets as child requires at least four minutes to feel comfortable enough to go.
  • Take child in knickers to laid-back outdoor restaurant. Forget that child requires regular toilet breaks. Give child plenty of water. Drink just enough cider to be only mildly appalled when child wees standing up on seat next to you. Think that no-one will notice if you just empty a bottle of water over urine puddled on floor and discreetly whip off child’s knickers. Offer to buy round of drinks. Later, when buzz has worn off, realise that of course everyone noticed child pissing on chair and the fact that there was URINE under the TABLE. Die inside, just a little. Swear to never drink again.
  • Take child shopping (I could just leave it there really) with grandparents. Tell grandparents that the time between child grabbing crotch and child urinating is approximately 3 seconds. Offer to buy coffee and wander away to do so. Scream at Grandpa ‘His CROTCH! He’s GRABBING it!’ Immensely enjoy the look of horror on your father’s face as he runs into the toilet, carrying child in his outstretched arms. Give him a high five when they emerge, victorious, ten minutes later. Child’s pants are backwards. Ignore. Prepare to do this five more times.
  • Take child to market. Watch child pause in front of prominent tree and pull down pants. Get there too late. Have lowering moment of awareness that there is nothing you can do but watch your child finish their highly public urination and try not to make eye contact with people. Particularly the people child is waving enthusiastically at.
  • Have intense emotional breakdown regarding the use of night nappies. Mainly because child ends up co-sleeping most nights. Ponder how one would feel waking up in wet bed not of one’s own making at 2am. Decide that it would suck. Realise that it DOES suck when you wake up at 2am in puddle not of your own making. Child sleeps through the entire fraught experience.
  • Realise that child has not weed or pooped on anything in a long time. Congratulate self and book appointment for physiotherapist. Back still hurts.

Embracing the Flakiness.

Once upon a time, I was not a flake. I made plans, and then, shockingly, I kept those plans. The keeping of plans was accomplished quickly and easily with a minimum of bizarre requests (the current mainstay of my existence). These days I have children and therefore I am a flake. I cancel plans, I show up late without appropriate clothing, food or that item I borrowed from you ages ago and crossed-my-heart promised to return. If you have children, then I’m guessing you are too.

We are flakes together. Huzzah.

We make plans with wild abandon, hoping that the planets will align and we will actually, this time, be able to go to the thing. We want to go to the thing, we really do! We love the thing. But it’s highly unlikely we will ever be able to go to the thing. Here are four of my most common reasons for flaking, in no particular order. Because I’m so flakey I don’t even do order. Order happens somewhere else with the non-flakey people who probably even have white couches (screw those people and their white couches). I thought about doing five, but y’know. Flake.

Emotions.

We are emotionally bereft. Going out requires fortitude, resilience and pants. Sometimes, no-one has that capacity. Finding the correct water bottle can take twenty minutes and several rounds of the grief cycle. During this time anyone who has previously agreed to wear pants has gleefully de-pantsed. We consider how much emotional energy we have available to us at the time and weigh it up against how much will be expended in merely making it out the door. I could provide my children with a rich environment and take them out to that multi-cultural night-time event, alternatively I could put them to bed and watch Netflix.

Tired.

We are tired. We are so goddamn tired that we can’t adequately explain what this much tired feels like. We make unintelligible noises instead, which we hope conveys our level of tired. Now, some people don’t accept tired as an excuse. These people don’t have children. If someone, sans children, have ever sat across from a person who has small children and said ‘Yeah, I’m tired too, but I went.’ Your parent-friend is showing masses of restraint if they manage to maintain a strained silence and a slightly raised eyebrow conveying irony at this point, because what they really want to do is grab you and say, slowly and through gritted teeth, eyeball to eyeball is that you have no right to speak on this topic at all. None, because you are uninitiated and have absolutely no conception or understanding of what tired feels like. You are like a turtle, you are a tiny turtle watching Inception with a turtle brain incapable of comprehending. You don’t understand and therefore you should be quiet. Very quiet. Do not talk to a parent about tired. Don’t.

Getting dressed.

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It just sucks.

Getting dressed is highly unpredictable. Getting kids dressed is the equivalent of an abandoned backpack at the airport – it might bring about total destruction, or it could be totally fine. We were late for a play date because my daughter wanted to wear a skirt, but not any of the skirts she owns. A different skirt. Out there in the world somewhere, and apparently waiting, lonely and scared for her to rescue it and take it home.

This story of fashion love was accompanied by much sobbing and animated head-shaking as various wrong skirts were presented. We searched fucking everywhere. Then she remembered, it wasn’t a skirt she wanted– it was shorts. The shorts she was wearing. Children think ‘Wheee I’m playing a fun game of not getting dressed!’ when you’re chasing them around the house waving a dinosaur shirt and slowly losing the will to live.

Toileting.

I remember my mother frantically checking who had or hadn’t gone to the toilet before we got into the car. She did this until I was approximately 16 and I’m the youngest. I thought it was unnecessary and weird. Then I had children. Children who seem to have the knack of holding in wee and poo until the moment their (admittedly adorable) bottoms hit the car seat. After a series of accidents that I still struggle to recall without scrubbing my hands like Lady Macbeth and screeching ‘Out, damned spot!’ I am now my mother. I hound them before we walk to the car ‘Do you need to do a wee? A poo? Is that wee face? Are you sure? IS THAT WEE FACE?’

I know I’m a flake. I look forward to a day of less flakiness, but until then I ask you to accept my flakiness, my love and my ambition to eventually attend an event I Facebooked as ‘going’. In return I will accept yours. I understand that reading a message and responding to it are two entirely different concepts. I acknowledge that a child who is sleeping is a rare and beautiful thing, and thus should not be disturbed. I get that a precious hour to yourself is more important than a park trip attempting to convince our children that it’s not actually a requirement of the sandpit to get sand in ALL the crevices in their bodies. You don’t have to explain why, because right now I know that maintaining friendships means accepting the reality of the flake situation. I will never judge your flakiness because I get it. Maybe, perhaps, we’ll go to a thing in a few years. Until then, lets maintain our friendship by posting meme’s on each other’s Facebook page. I love that shit.

Guilt is not a Thing.

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She doesn’t care that you’re watching a movie. She’s upside-down.

I spent a long time with guilt; it was a normal part of my day. A constant measuring up of how well I was doing compared to my ideal. The result of this comparison inevitably was that I was failing.

The worst part was I was really trying. I’m not sure what my goal was? Perfect robot children eating kale chips and saying things like ‘Dearest Mummy (they call me Dearest in this fantasy), this green smoothie is even better than yesterdays! The spirulina really does make a difference!’ A clean house at all times? Or was it the elusive exemplar of connection. If I connected to my children, meaningfully and mindfully and other words ending in fully, then everything else would just melt away. And sparrows would come and do my washing.

I spent hours loading up a dump truck with my children. This was not connection; this was a three year olds version of water torture. Plus he kept telling me I was doing it wrong.I would be playing with my kids and trying so hard to be a good mother that I couldn’t relax. My version of being connected to my children meant that I wasn’t, I was too busy concentrating on my own feelings. I’d set myself a task with the expectation that I’d feel less guilty once it was complete. The less guilty bit never actually happened. The guilt didn’t disappear – it just wandered off and found a new part of my brain to sit in while it pointed disapproving fingers at my house, my children and my life.

Unsurprisingly, this was not fun.

Yet, throughout this paralyzing self-doubt, my children thrived. They didn’t explode or develop interesting emotional complexes; apart from being one and three which was an interesting emotional complex all by itself. Girl didn’t sleep, which was normal. Boy bought in truckloads of dirt, looking at me while I was saying ‘don’t bring in truckloads of dirt!’ which was disappointingly also normal. They pretty much didn’t care what they ate, what they wore or where they slept; as long as those things happened. They didn’t care if I was emotionally invested in the fate of the tower of blocks or if I gave an overly excited ‘It crashed again?’ while lying on the floor with my phone.

No-one cared about my guilt except myself. I wasn’t failing, I was trying too hard.

I started to think about the guilt, where it came from. Who gave it to me and told me it had to inform every decision I made? Who turned eating dinner into a measure of worth rather than just eating dinner? Who was judging me? There was no-one in my life whose opinion I cared about who was telling me what a horrible mother I was (I get that for some people they are being judged, and pfft to the judgers, but this is more about the pressure we put on ourselves. Again – PFFT to the actual judgers). Our children don’t judge us, and neither do our friends. When I admitted to friends that my kids once ate a pack of muesli bars in 2 hours, that I had threatened instead of talked and that occasionally parenting was hideous instead of brilliant– nobody judged. They raised their hands to the sky and yelled out ‘Hallelujah!’ because they’d done it too.

When friends admitted their guilt to me: One who hid packets of M&M’s around the house for her children to hunt so she could finish some work; another who didn’t remember where the vacumn cleaner was, or even what it looked like, and another who shoo’d her children away at the park with a hiss of ‘Go play! That’s why we’re here! Mummy is talking!’ We didn’t put our judgy knickers on. We put our solidarity knickers on because we got it.

We never said – ‘You’re doing it wrong.’ Instead, we said ‘I’ve done the same thing.’

We never said ‘You should do better.’ Instead, we said ‘I’ve done worse.’

We don’t care how guilty you feel. We think you’re a great mother. We care about acceptance. We care about perspective.

You don’t have to be meeting 100% of your ideals to be a good mother. Ideals are great, but so is perspective. Realistically, parenting at 80% or even 50% is still fan-bloody-tastic. Food is being eaten, hugs are being given and no one is being attacked by wolves. If your biggest parenting dilemma is that the thing you made looks nothing like the one on Pinterest then you don’t need to be doing better – in fact you possibly need to calm down (plus it NEVER looks like the thing on Pinterest).

Look at other parents, look at your friends. Remember how excellent you think they are? They think that about you, and if you really want, tell them about a Terrible Parenting Thing you’ve done because I guarantee they’ve done it too. Break out the solidarity knickers people, we’ve all been there.

Link to a Linky 🙂 Here

 

10 Things I Have Done When Tired.

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Lack of sleep leads to disturbing artwork.
  1. I have forgotten how many children I have. I was holding my newborn son when a kind stranger asked ‘Is this your first?’ I stared down at my boy in confusion and stammered ‘I don’t know.’ The stranger and I looked at each other in horror for a few moments, then she backed away.
  2. I have forgotten how many cats I have and that they are subject to the laws of physics. I woke up one morning, saw a vague shadow on the roof and screamed ‘The cats are stuck on the roof! GET A BROOM!’ while covering my months-old boy with my own body (I’d like to point out this is an act of immense bravery on my part). There are many things wrong with this scenario
  • We had only one cat.
  • Cats are known for being athletic and agile, but not for their ability to defy gravity.
  • If cats did get stuck on the roof, would a broom really be the best solution?

However, my equally sleep deprived husband leapt out of bed – and got a broom.

  1. I have told helpful checkout people my life story. Just because they were adults (adults!) and I. Could. Not. Stop. Talking.
  2. I have (this one makes my blood run cold): Announced a friend’s pregnancy. This is pretty much the worst thing you can do to a person, and I did it. Whenever you feel bad about something just think ‘Have I ever accidentally announced someone else’s pregnancy?’ You’re Welcome.
  3. I have been convinced I was in the early stages of schizophrenia. This is because, I recall from first year psychology,  a common early hallucination is spiders, and whenever I hung out the washing I would find a spider.

Me: I’m hallucinating, I saw another spider today.

Husband: You’re not hallucinating, you’re just paranoid.

Me: That’s another symptom!

After a week of frantically taking photo’s of the spiders and shoving my phone in my husband’s face screeching ‘CAN YOU SEE THEM TOO?’ it became clear that I did not have schizophrenia, but we were people with a spider problem.

  1. I have told my doting husband, quite seriously, that he should abandon his wife and family so he could sleep. That way at least one of us would be sleeping.

Husband: I’m not leaving.

Me: Are you sure? Last chance?

Husband: I’m not leaving.

Me: Can I leave?

  1. I have struggled to open the door after dozing off putting the baby to sleep. I tried to open that door; I tried really, really hard. Eventually, the only logical conclusion was that it was gone. This was scary. I was scared. I sat down on the floor, in the dark, trapped and quietly sobbing when my husband opened the door – which turned out to be on the opposite wall, to see what was taking me so long. All I could do was sob harder because I was so relieved.
  2. I have lied about my daughter’s name. A friend of a friend pointed at my daughter’s toy puppy and asked it’s name, so I replied ‘Puppy.’ ‘Oh? That’s very unusual!’ Hmm, really? When she later introduced my daughter as ‘Puppy’ I understood the unusualness. This was beyond my social-skills scope, so I let my daughter be called Puppy for the day. She loved it.
  3. During an interesting Mother’s Group conversation about sex and co-sleeping I told everyone that I had shagged on the couch. The couch they were sitting on. So help me, I even pointed. My friend sitting on that bit of the couch quietly slid to the floor.

I could have pointed again.

But I didn’t.

This is called progress.

  1. I have looked at my beautiful, glorious, perfect babies and thought: ‘I just can’t do this anymore.’

This is the turning point with sleep deprivation and babies and parenting in general. It doesn’t matter how much you love them. Love doesn’t make things that are quintessentially not easy and not fun, easy and fun. It doesn’t matter if you’ve met your baby and thought ‘Oh good, this is so natural!’ or if you think ‘This small person appears to hate me and why do I have porno boobs?’ There will always be a point where it gets too much. You will be too tired, and too neglected and you will feel like your life has run away without you. This is normal and ok. It does not mean you are failing, it means you are mothering. Sometimes mothering is about falling apart and letting other people put you back together again. You are still capable, and your baby loves you even when they consistently poop on you. It’s ok Mama, you’ve got this.

 

 

The Various Ways I have Messed Up Today and What are we Learning Really?

Holidays can be hard. I always forget this. Instead, I look forward to them, to officially Spending Time Together. Why, why would I do this? What do I think will be glittery and playful about 4 people with varying needs thrown together into a world filled with:

  1. No Routine (People ask: What time do the kids usually wake up? We have no idea. None. Some days it’s 5am some days it’s 9am – this is holidays, perpetual confusion and no knowledge of what is happening or when it may be happening).
  2. Loads of Toys (So. Many. Toys. Christmas Toys, Birthday Toys, Oh My God I Can’t Take It Anymore So Yes I Will pay $10 For This Crappy Toy So I Can Perhaps Have 10 Minutes Of Peaceful Grocery Shopping Toys: Do these toys equal happiness? No. No they don’t. We know this. We KNOW this. But we still do it. Clearly, we are lacking some serious causation skills. Don’t get me started on batteries.)
  3. Lack of Food (There is never breakfast food at breakfast time, there is never dinner food at dinner-time, and lunch is just this vague time throughout the day where we sob and eat crackers).
  4. Negotiating (Due to lack of routine/food we require negotiation to get food and go places. This is difficult enough between 2 adults who have probably eaten ½ bag of crisps and a nectarine for breakfast but when you add in a almost 5yr old who can sideline a conversation about perhaps putting on shoes to go shopping into a discussion about the mating habits of hermit crabs it can be time to sob and eat crackers before you’ve even brushed your teeth.)

There is too much noise for me. Too many voices, too many options and too much begging other people for 5 minutes to finish a cup of tea. I have that constant itchy awareness of dishes in the sink, clothes in the laundry basket, on the line, folding to be put away and the high possibility that there is wee on the carpet in the toilet. Tempers are frayed, instead of asking questions I make demands. Which, inevitably leads to the Boy yelling ‘I get to choose! I am putting my room in LOCKDOWN’ (a phrase which he got from I don’t even know where) and the Girl quietly but definitively saying ‘No Mummy’ and plopping down on the floor with the air of someone who is Not Moving Ever.

We attempt to placate the children with TV so we can work out what we’re doing, what we need to do and what is humanly possible to achieve. We say maybe 3 words to each other before Boy and Girl run into the bedroom and jump on the bed. The plan when we decided to have children in our lives was to respond to their needs with love and care and general respect – I do not follow the plan at this point in time. I yell, loudly.

This helps exactly no-one.

Having been told that your child is Autistic and that this involves ‘Deficits in Social Communication’ (Differences in Social Communication) there is an impulse to find the Learning in a lot of moments that may not necessarily have anything to do with learning and perhaps have more to do with me and my insecurities than him. This is especially true when I’m struggling myself. Instead of meeting the Boy where he is, I suddenly and inexplicably expect him to meet me where I am. At this point, I was consumed with ‘Why won’t my children Listen to me?’ with a side of ‘What about my needs?’ It’s easy to be sucked in by that fear that your kids won’t learn unless they’re explicitly taught every single thing. That fear that tells you that A Bad Day = A Bad Kid.

The Boy gets up, quietly goes into the back yard, comes back and stands in front of me with hands clasped behind his back and whispers ‘Mummy, I have a surprise for you. It’s not a butterfly. It’s a flower. You have to guess flower.’

I guess flower.

He presents me with a beautiful red hibiscus flower. ‘Now you’re happy!’

And once again, I politely tell that fear to Fuck Off. My child is learning. My family is learning. But most importantly of all, I am learning. I am learning where my own limits are, I am learning how lucky I am to be parenting these children, and that even if my Boy didn’t give me a flower today, that we would all still be ok. And that if I put my family in an uncomfortable situation (eg, holidays) then I don’t get to be all shocked when we react in uncomfortable ways.

I tickle bellies, I agree that today is a Not A Clothes day and we read books on the floor while munching on apples. I apologise for yelling and we all move on peacefully.

More or less.

L and I agree that today is a Shit Day and make amusing drinking signs at each other while pretending to play Garbage Trucks with Boy. After being wee’d on for the third time by toilet-learning Girl I hide in the pantry and scoff chocolate. This does not make the wee disappear. But it does make the chocolate disappear.

We wait for bedtime, we feed Boy and Girl in the bath. Baked beans. From the tin. They don’t even get separate spoons. We are ok with this. They are happy! They are playing penguin games and giggling. Happy! Finally, they are in bed, Boy is still wearing the same pyjamas he’s worn all day because they’re ‘cuddly pants.’ Again, we are ok with this. Happy! I kiss his baby cheek, stroke his face and tell him how much he is loved. How tomorrow will be a better day and that he is My Favourite Boy. He pulls his blanket around him and says ‘Yes, but tomorrow Mummy, if you yell at me, I will say ‘No Mummy! This is not a yelling house!’ and you will stop, DEAL?’ And I am so aware that this is a Learning Moment for me, not for him, and the best thing I can do here is make my beloved Boy feel less shit about a fairly shit day. So I say the only thing I could reasonably say – ‘Deal, ratbag, deal.’

And I go turn those amusing drinking signs into reality.