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Family, Love, Parenthood

Happy birthday Georgia

May 29, 2013 | 22 Comments

Ten years ago, when I was 20, I had a baby.

I’m not sure whose idea that was exactly. It definitely wasn’t my mum’s idea. I remember the way her voice broke when I told her I was pregnant. I’d known the man who would become my husband for three months.

I know this post is a little (lot) self-indulgent, but it was hard. At times it was really, really hard.

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Mum bought me two pairs of maternity pants and the t-shirt you see in that  photo. That was all I had to wear. I couldn’t afford maternity clothes. I couldn’t afford rent. When I went to the supermarket, women stared at me, at where my wedding ring should have been. They felt it necessary to comment on how hard it would all be. I looked them in the eye and told them everything would be fine, but in reality I had the least idea anyone has ever had about anything.

This is an excerpt from the journal I kept at the time.

We got our eviction notice for our flat yesterday because we couldn’t make our rent payment this month (they’ll evict you if rent is 14 days late), which gives us 2 weeks to get all of our stuff out. We couldn’t make our rent because we had to pay for repairs on the car after it broke down (meaning Michael couldn’t get to work). I told my parents this last night and they YELLED at me. Then, and this was the clincher, he had the audacity to say that “poor Michael, you got him into this situation and now he has to put up with you”. When I asked him what he was talking about, he said “well, you got pregnant”, as if I did it all by myself. He said I’d been waiting for a guy who was gullible enough to knock me up so that they couldn’t leave me.

I thought I was so clever, being a pretend grown up with my round belly, buying Target onesies in packs of three and hoping I could keep my baby in them for a couple of days in a row. Michael and I moved into a shitty unit and I was so scared that I made him drop me at my parents’ house at 5am on his way to work, every morning, and then sat, waiting, hoping I would figure it out in time.

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And then I had this little baby. When we brought her home, I put her down on the bed and she looked at me like, “Oh come on!” and I looked at her like, “Now what?” and we sat like that for the better part of 9 months. Post-natal depression held on to me with its rough hands, waiting for me to break. And I did break. I pulled this little girl inside my cocoon and cried into her soft skin. What was I doing? Why did I think I could do this?

And then she became a person. She grew upwards and she teetered on her skinny legs. She didn’t say anything–and she wouldn’t say anything until she was nearly 3 years old–but she looked. She looked at everything. She touched and she smelled and she grabbed and she held. She had an incredible naivety about her, a way of watching things for the first time, every time. She was always fascinated.

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She was never still. I couldn’t take my eyes off her for a second, though I often did. She used to take all of her clothes off and piss on my parents’ hearth. I taped her pants on with duct tape and we just sat there, staring at each other, me daring her to do it again, her daring me to admit defeat. That pretty much sums up our relationship now, just egging each other on, daring the other to be more awesome at life. She is winning. She is amazing.

Tomorrow, Georgia will be 10. She has become the beautiful person she is because of and in spite of what I’ve done for her. I was clueless and hopeless, and she was perfection. She is a good person. She is selfless and generous. She is clever beyond comprehension. She is so much like me and also nothing like me, and for both of those reasons I still get frustrated by and anxious about being her mother. I don’t know if I’m fully equipped. I don’t know if any of this is even true, or whether she is the unfortunate recipient of all of my first-time-idiot-teenager-parent projections.

I might have done Georgia a disservice by being young and stupid. Maybe she would have been better off with 30-something parents with jobs and mortgages and gym memberships and Labradors.

But I love her with my whole heart, and that is the best tool I can offer.

Happy birthday, Georgia Cait. It feels like no time at all since I wasn’t sure I’d make it through your babyhood, and now it’s gone.

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Parenthood

A Tooth Fairytale

January 10, 2013 | 4 Comments

We had some Big Dramz at my place last night. If you’ve ever wondered why you might need an ex-husband, one of the reasons is that he will occasionally come to your house, sit on your couch and then accidentally elbow your mutual child in her wobbly tooth.

I was having a relaxing sit in my study when I heard the wailing. Dear God! I went, What horrors have befallen my daughter? When I rushed out to the living room, Lily was howling and flailing and her mouth was full of blood, so in the usual rational way I thought she had been bitten–in the mouth–by a spider. Georgia continued to sit and play Lego Harry Potter, because she’s cool in a crisis, but Lily looked and sounded like she was being quartered.

‘Nrfff!’ she yelled, pointing at Michael. ‘Bllrt pssht mm foo!’

‘Oh, dad punched your tooth!’ The scene of the tooth punching was grim, but the tooth itself clearly ready to come out. ‘I’ll just finish it off,’ I said, in an hilarious display of incorrectness. About 18 months ago, Lily fell in the school playground and knocked out both of her front teeth. The residual effect of having a dentist sedate her and then yank on her face is that she would sooner let you saw her leg off than put anything near her mouth.

We went through the usual process of pleading (come on just let me do it!), crying (this is really hard for me too!), begging (just let me do it), negotiating (you can have a Frosty Fruit!) before we arrived at the last resort option of pinning her to the table and putting her in lifelong therapy.

I don’t know how to describe the noise to you. It was as if we’d concurrently taken away her favourite toy, killed her cat, stabbed her in the arm, told her there was no such thing as mangoes and laughed about it in her face. I sat on the floor with my hands over my ears while Michael did the hard part. Then I cried. For half an hour.

‘Oh yeah, it feels fine now!’ she said, and I just rocked back and forth.

She set about writing a letter to the Tooth Fairy. After it was all coloured in she narrowed her eyes at me and said, ‘I’ll know if the Tooth Fairy is real, if her handwriting is different from yours.’ Challenge accepted.

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Lily’s letter to the Tooth Fairy

The Tooth Fairy wrote her reply with a flourish: ‘i’s dotted with tiny flowers, a border of leaves and beautifulness, and she left behind an extra dollar to make up for the childhood-ending experience.

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The Tooth Fairy’s letter to Lily

Lily pocketed her cash with glee and went about her day. An hour ago she came to me with the same narrowed eyes and said, ‘Mum, the Tooth Fairy writes capital ‘A’s just like you do. Isn’t that weird?’

Give me back the two bucks, Lily.

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Better start growing some back now, Lily!

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Parenthood

Parenting the little girl with the crazy eyes

November 22, 2012 | 50 Comments

I’m quite introspective at the moment, going through that usual crisis of just your bog standard futility of life. Most nights I go to bed just after eight and sit with my back against the wall and spread out across the huge expanse (I got a king size version for my birthday recently) with laptops and books and notes and pencils. I have pretty good intentions to write, or at least outline, but mostly I end up watching old Red Dwarf episodes. Then I jot down Christmas shopping lists that include things like ‘everything the girls have ever asked for’ and ‘whatever the girls say they want’ because I am caught in a deep mother guilt and am reasonably sure that the reason Georgia doesn’t have any friends is because I didn’t buy her enough things when she was a toddler.

Here she is at her recent school disco. The dress is a fluoro number I bought from Seed, for Lily actually but she cried because she hated it so much, and the rest is Georgia’s creative license in the photo booth. I love this kid so much that the first thing I did when I saw this, before I groaned at her obsession with Gangnam Style (she showed it to me on YouTube) or the fact that she seems to have stolen everyone else’s glow sticks, was cry. A lot. Because all I see in this picture is her aloneness. I see a little girl so excited about being at the disco that she doesn’t know how to push the excitement out and has eyes that are flashing with hysteria. I see a little girl trying to do the things that will make the other kids like her, and I can imagine her asking them to join her in the booth because she knows how cool it is to wear feather hair pieces and them looking at her like they can’t even hear the words she’s saying.

I’ve started taking the time to finish my afternoon’s work early so that I can pick her up from school. Yesterday I saw her walking towards me with another girl, and my heart lurched clean out of my chest because I thought she might have a person to confide in and to feel good about it, and my brain in denial took all that time to realise it was just Lily. While Lily informed me that she had outgrown the nickname she’s had since infancy, Georgia held my hand and said that she thought a girl in her class had invited her to visit their farm, but now it turned out that she didn’t want her to come after all. ‘Maybe she hadn’t checked with her mum, and she’s not allowed to take people to the farm,’ I said, but Georgia told me that she knew it was because this girl didn’t like her anymore and maybe never had liked her.

Now I crumble with every step of my day of parenting this girl, my first born baby so blonde and soft and bleating inside a tiny body like a kidney bean; my mirror and my friend. I don’t know how to punish her when she misbehaves, because what can I take away from her that could be worse than being on her own? and what if this was the day she would meet her new friend at the pool and I stopped her because she hadn’t cleaned her room? and what if she doesn’t know how to talk to other people because she uses her brain spaces to remember how to pack the dishwasher? This morning she read a book of science experiments instead of getting dressed for school, and for a moment I yelled at her to Get Dressed, and You Can’t Take Your Book To School, but later I gave her the book anyway because maybe the other kids would like to do science experiments with her.

I don’t know how to help her make friends because she’s spent 9 years without any, and now when the other kids do show an interest in her she grabs them like a favourite toy and won’t let them go, until they slide out of her grasp like mercury and she says ‘people don’t like me’. I am hard up against a wall that shouts that it’s true, the other kids don’t like her, but it’s not because she’s not clever or funny or pretty or generous or considerate because she is all of those things. How do you look your child in her enormous crazy eyes and try inelegantly to explain that it’s the others who are missing out, not her, when you know from experience that all she wants is to be a normal kid and not give a shit about the needles in her heart and just have one friend – just one – who will cross the road to say hello to her.

On the night of the disco, when she got home, I asked her who she danced with and she said “myself”, but not in the comfortable bohemian way. Just the regular alone way.

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Actual Work, NaNoWriMo, Parenthood, Womanhood, Writing

So in summary …

November 18, 2012 | 6 Comments

Sometimes life calls for a summary post. It’s not always easy to make the words come out in the right order, especially if you’ve been giving them to NaNoWriMo instead.

Georgia

Six months ago we went to Georgia’s teacher in desperation, to have a go at figuring out why she’s lonely and sad. Last week we got the results of the school’s monitoring and subsequent assessment. Now we have a list of new people to go and see and ask the same questions to. In the meantime, Lily outstrips her in all social and creative endeavours, whilst Georgia’s various neuroses seem to be overwhelming her (and me).

Lady troubles

I have some. Now I’m going through the rigmarole of specialists and blood tests and ultrasounds and I don’t recommend it very much at all.

Writing

I’ve slowed to a halt on NaNo, but I have 18,000 words I didn’t have before, and now I’m investing that energy into a 10 month intensive first drafting course. Hopefully this time next year I will have something of substance. I think you’ll like my main character. She’s insane.

Sam Simmons on Ramsay Street

I finally launched this! It took a whole lot of blood, sweat and tears, and this is the first episode in a series of ten. They get more hilarious and absurd as they go on. I think you’ll like* it.

Now that you’re up to date, go and see what amazing things Eden is doing in India and then make this creme brulee cheesecake because I did and it is like a spiritual awakening disguised as a cake.

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