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

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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

 

This Is What We’ll Remember

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She wanted a ride on the merry-go-round. Of course. We line up while she hops from one foot to the other (this is called waiting patiently). When it’s her turn she and her Daddy dash off to find a horse.

I watch, but I’m not really seeing.

Then there’s this moment as the merry-go-round spins, and I’m struck. Tinkly music swells through the air and sunlight strikes the strands of gold in her hair and I love her. There has never been day of her life when I haven’t told her I loved her. But every so often it’s a break-your-heart love, a love that cracks you open, fills you up and makes you realize how deeply and utterly in love you are.

Part of me wishes we could stay here, in this moment. I want to tell her: We could stay here and I could always be your Mummy, I could always watch the smile tiptoe from your lips to your eyes and down into your hands as you throw your arms out wide and shriek ‘wheee!’ in the rushing wind. I wish the farthest the world would take you away from me is the other side of that merry-go-round, and that it would perpetually bring you back. I wish you would always seek me out, eyes roaming through the other people who are waving to their pieces of their hearts riding on painted horses. You see me, you have one hand gripping a cheap golden rod and the other waving frantically. For me. Half your joy in this ride is for yourself, but the other half is sharing that with me.

I remember when I was pregnant and crying one afternoon- a mess of belly on the floor. I knew I would adore you, love you and already loved you with each heartbeat that drummed through me, but I was crying because you would love me back. You would love me. It would be built into your survival, part of your DNA. I am imperfect, and I will hand you some kind of uncertainty in one way or another; and you will love me still. There is no-one in the world that could love me as much as you. My baby. No-one who will seek me out, need me, cry for me and wait for me with every single tick of the clock like you will.

I cried for the beauty of that love, but also for the weight of it. I want to be worthy of your love, but you will give it to me whether I am or not.

Back at the merry-go-round the lady next to me speaks. She’s older, with silver hair and fine lines flowing across her cheeks like cracks in a beautiful vase. She’s watching her grandchildren just as intently as I watch my daughter. ‘Your daughter is an angel,’ she says. ‘Thank you,’ I give my usual smiling shrug, meant to convey unbridled love but tempered with reality.

I keep watching, truly seeing now.

Everything is condensing into this moment. The music, the sun, the gold chipping off the paint and the clear blue eyes that look for me with each revolution.

‘This is what you will remember’, she says, ‘moments like this.’ I nod, I can’t look away from my girl, I’m trying to remember. She’s right. You’re an angel.

I think of all the people who have watched children they love go on this ride, watched them as they carefully or haphazardly chose horses, watched innocent hearts examine the patterns on saddles and waited for the whirring to begin – a slow circle of childhood. There is always someone waving, a heart seeking a heart to make a connection – an endless ‘do you see me? Do you see how fun this is? Do you see me?’ This is what we will remember.

The ride ends, she slips off the horse and runs to me. She smells like sunshine and the grass she was playing in earlier. She is lit up. Glowing. I pick her up and notice how heavy she is now. Her whole body used to fit between my collarbone and my belly button, and now her legs trail down almost to my knees.

She loves me with every piece of her heart. The weight of that is not a burden, it is a gift. This is what I will remember, the love, the moments in the sun: this is what we all remember.

 

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.’