Parenthood

‘NONE.’

This morning, I dropped the kids off at Before School Care, as I do every morning.

After I’d signed them in and hugged them and bid them adieu, the lovely woman who runs it pulled me aside.

“I’ve been trying to decide whether to show you this,” she said, and opened a folder full of ‘profiles’ from all the students.

My favourite time of day is ‘going home’, wrote Lily. I like it when mum lets me do what I want. I smiled because she is so sassy.

But then I read Georgia’s. I like playing on the iPad. I like reading. I like talking to my mum.

And under the heading “My friends”:

NONE.

In big, angry capital letters. In red pen.

NONE.

“I was really surprised,” the BSC lady told me.

I wasn’t.

“She’s always chatting to the other kids and playing with them,” she said.

I had had the same conversation in our parent-teacher interviews two weeks prior. Georgia finds it hard to make friends, please watch out for her. I don’t want her to be lonely.

“Of course! We do lots of things with the other classes, I bet she’ll make friends.”

If you think so.

“They always make friends.”

Well that’s a relief.

So now I’m sitting at work with seven hundred pounds of guilt on my head, trying not to quit and just work in the tuckshop forever.

Parenthood

The sound of one woman barking

Tonight, my 6-year-old and I had a conversation. You might know it.

SCENE
INT. ANNA’S DINING ROOM – ANNA, LILY

ANNA:
Here you go, I made you this incredible spaghetti. I poured my heart and soul into it. There are literally pieces of my heart in it. I made it for you because I love you.

LILY:
[indistinguishable]

ANNA:
You’ll really like it. I made it with most of the things you eat and then just a tiny, tiny bit of mushrooms because they’re good for you but there’s only about three. You’ll eat them, right?

LILY:
[indistinguishable]

ANNA:
Come on, just eat one. Just one! You don’t even have to chew it, I’ll just drop it down your gullet from up here.

LILY:
[indistinguishable]

ANNA:
I’ll move your jaw up and down for you so you don’t have to do any work. Just put a mushroom in your gob, sit back and relax. Go on. Just one. HALF, EVEN. JUST HALF.

LILY:
[indistinguishable]

ANNA:
If you don’t eat one mushroom I will throw out your favourite pink horse. Is that what you want? Do you want me to throw out that pink horse you love? I’m going to put it in the bin! Watch me! Here I go!

LILY:
[indistinguishable]

ANNA:
I AM. AND AFTER I THROW YOUR HORSE IN THE BIN YOU CAN FORGET ABOUT HAVING A BIRTHDAY PARTY. You will get zero presents and none of your friends will come over!

LILY:
[indistinguishable]

ANNA:
I’m not even joking! I’m going to call their mums right now! Look, I’m pulling my phone out of my pocket and I’m going to call them. I’m going to go into the other room to do it. WATCH ME. HERE I GO.

LILY:
[indistinguishable]

ANNA:
FINE. THAT’S IT. WE ARE NEVER DOING ANYTHING NICE EVER AGAIN. NO MORE PRESENTS FOREVER.

LILY:
[indistinguishable]

ANNA:
Okay, I’ll eat them. Don’t tell dad. Let’s watch a movie.

LILY:
[indistinguishable]

Womanhood

A little bit of International Women’s Day

To the exceptional women I am lucky to call my family:

My nan

We are now 12 long years without you. You remain the most courageous woman I have ever known. At 26, in a post-war recession, you became husbandless. You never remarried. You took those children – also women – and taught them how to be good people. You lost one of them. You nurtured a whole family of strong women. You were our rudder.

As a teenager, I sat with you while your arthritic hands knitted toys for foster children. I watched you give hope and faith to people around you who had it so much better than you, who had lived easier lives than you. You never wavered. You only knew how to give love, never spite. You were stoic, but never cold.

We all miss you, but see you in the women you raised.

My nanna

Womanhood has brought you pain. It has limited your life. It has diminished your joy.

You are so strong. You have buried a child. You have been widowed. You have worked the land. You have cried for the mercy of a man who did not value women, but who you remained loyal to for sixty-two years.

You are much more than you were ever given credit for being. I hope that I tell you often enough.

My mother

Could I be any more fortunate in the universe’s choice of mother for me? You are extraordinary. I’ve never heard you say “I can’t” or “I shouldn’t”. You just grabbed your life by its sweaty balls and forced it to give you more than it did. When your father told you that women shouldn’t go to university, you turned on your heel and you prepared children’s bodies for autopsy to pay your way through law school. When that wasn’t special enough, you did it with three kids in tow.

And when that wasn’t enough, you thought ‘fuck it’ and decided to be at the forefront of gender quality in corporate Australia. You carved out a path for women like you. You became an inspiration to so many.

But with humility. You think you are unspectacular.

You could not be more wrong.

My small children.

There are so many things about you that are remarkable. You are smart, quick witted, funny and clever. You are insightful, empathetic, generous of self and thoughtful. You are strong willed, determined, big hearted and ambitious.

You are women.

Unfortunately despite the best efforts of other women who came before you – and me – we still live in a world where you may be hindered by being a woman. People may overlook you. People may take credit for your hard work. People may consider you less valid. People may make baseless judgements about you. People may belittle you.

It will never be because of who you are; it will be because of who they are.

You have qualities that they could never hope to have. Hell, you have qualities that I aspire to. You are an inspiration. You are a wonder.

We have progressed.

I know you will show them all what we are capable of.