Plane awful

“Sorry but can you please get that little girl to stop screaming?”
Master Nine and I looked at each other in horror.
The voice floated over the back fence and landed on me like a lead weight.
“It’s not a girl, it’s a two-year-old boy,” I called back stiffly.
She (and therefore I) was referring to Lil Fatty, who was on the trampoline with his big brother.
Santa’s gift had been both a source of pleasure and pain, granting Learner Dad and I free time to get things done but also causing fights between the boys.
On this day, in this week of this month, Lil Fatty was probably about halfway through an excruciating screaming phase.
They were piercing, relentless and awful.
They were almost always emitted in the vicinity of Master Nine.
And, if I were my neighbour, I’d be going nuts too.
“I’m doing my best,” I said sadly.
I heard her back door bang shut.
Master Nine just stared at me.
Lil Fatty kept bouncing and babbling, unfazed.
I carried Fairy Floss back inside, put her on the floor, and went and cried on my bed.
I’d felt the sadness in my neighbour’s voice too.
She’d hated doing that.
So why did she?
It reminded me of the time friends flew in from interstate and complained about a crying baby on the plane.
“I don’t know why its mother didn’t do anything,” one said.
I’d had Master Nine by then.
I knew that mother would have eaten an air hostess if it would have made her baby stop crying.
I know this because recently Learner Dad made a huge sacrifice himself.
He actually abandoned a flight because of a screaming Lil Fatty.
Petrified from the moment he’d stepped on to the tarmac, our two-year-old had stood on his seat (35E), pointing frantically at the door through which he’d embarked, and screamed.
I couldn’t bend him in half to put on his seatbelt.
A traumatized Master Nine was crying and Fairy Floss was arching her back in fury.
Amidst it all, Learner Dad’s eyes found mine and he stunned me with: “I’m going to take him off.”
Within seconds, I knew he was doing the right thing.
Passengers who’d been shifting obviously and deliberately, passengers who’d been shaking their heads at us, watched amazed as my brave husband and terrified toddler walked back down the stairs (which had to be driven back in) and across the tarmac.
The lady in front of us, who’d made a show of blocking her ears during the chaos, suddenly doused me with sympathy.
They all did.
“Oh, you should have kept trying, he would have calmed down.”
“Poor little darling, he would have been fine.”
“I can’t believe they let him leave. They could have taken him to the cockpit or something.”
I felt shaky.
And vomity.
At the time, it was a very big deal.
But I’ve buried it at the bottom of this post lest people think our tot a true terror(ist?).
A naughty brat who had a tantrum so big it delayed the plane an hour.
He’s not.
He wasn’t.
He was just scared.
Inconsolably so.
For now, apart from the occasional still-loud squeals of joy, Lil Fatty’s screams have abated.
Embarrassed that day on the trampoline, Master Nine has laid off on the teasing.
And, a late talker, Lil Fatty is finally replacing sounds with words.
I’ve been told I’ll laugh at the plane story one day.
By his 18th birthday, I’m sure I might smile.
But I’ll always think of some of those people on that plane – and my neighbour – with a tinge of sadness.
For parenting is like handling little explosives.
You can wire them so they’re as safe as can be.
But when expert detonators – siblings – and unknown detonators – in this case, aeroplanes – come in to play, they just explode.
And you can jump on your little bomb, take as much of the physical and psychological trauma as possible.
But you can’t stop it happening.
Ever.
People who haven’t had kids would do well to know that.
And people who have would do well to remember.

The Care Factor, part 2

‘Ok here we go,’ I thought, as Learner Dad’s name flashed on to my phone.
I’d been waiting for this call.
“How did he go?” I asked nervously.
There was only silence.
And then a sniffle.
“Are you there? What happened?” I asked in a panic.
More silence.
Then… “I can’t do it.”
It was Lil Fatty’s first day at childcare and it seemed it wasn’t Lil Fatty who was struggling with it.
“What do you mean?” I whispered, glancing around the office and covering the phone slightly.
“He just doesn’t suspect a thing,” Learner Dad said between sniffles. “I feel so mean leaving him here.”
After weeks of debate, Lil Fatty was enrolled for one day a week of childcare.
Learner Dad didn’t like the idea one bit.
I liked it a lot.
For a start, I’d been ready to take on another day of work a week.
And secondly, Master Nine had loved childcare.
He’d learned more about sharing and hygiene than I’d ever taught him.
And it filled the arts and crafts component of parenting I had always lacked.
“Do you want me to come and walk him in with you?” I asked my husband. “I’m sure Nathan would understand.”
Nathan was my boss.
And Learner Dad’s.
There was no way he was going to let me tell Nathan he was crying in the car outside Lil Fatty’s childcare centre.
“No, no, I’ll do it,” he said.
And, to his credit, he did.
Two hours later we were called to collect an inconsolable Lil Fatty.
Both flat out at work, we picked him up and took turns looking after him at the office.
Over the following weeks, things barely improved.
Learner Dad had the ugly job of dropping Lil Fatty off.
I was the hero who picked him up.
Learner Dad would leave him waving tearfully at the window.
And I’d find him in the same place seven hours later.
Of course he didn’t spend the whole day at the window.
A large portion of it was spent on the toddler room couch, clutching a rainbow abacus and screaming at any kid who came near him.
And so, by the time I was heading off on maternity leave for Fairy Floss, I was under the assumption Lil Fatty would be taking a crèche sabbatical too.
But the tables had turned.
Learner Dad was starting to see social improvements in Lil Fatty.
He no longer cried when his daddy dropped him off.
He’d begun venturing outside to play.
And he was, of course, a big fan of the hot lunch.
“If we take him out, we’ll have to go through this all over again,” Learner Dad said, referring to my inevitable return to work.
“You shouldn’t put him through all this again,” Lil Fatty’s carers reiterated.
And so he stayed.
I doubt I’ll ever feel comfortable watching Lil Fatty and his dad roll out of the driveway on a Friday morning.
But he waves cheerfully to me now as he leaves and he no longer cries when he gets there.
And nor does Lil Fatty.

Care Factor part 1 was written prior to my return to work in 2013

First the Weetbix, Second the Breast

I hoisted Li’l Fatty out of his cot and popped him on the ground.
“Here we go,” I thought, waiting for the ‘I want titty’ tantrum.
But he just turned and plodded out of the nursery.
I followed him in to the kitchen, where he yanked open a cupboard door, pulled out a plastic bowl and threw it at my feet.
“Geh,” he said, looking at me questioningly.
“You want Weetbix? You want Weetbix now?” I asked.
“Geh,” he said, picking the bowl up and throwing it at my feet again.
“Too bad,” I muttered and heaved him over to the couch, popping him on the boob for his morning feed.
IMG_3356
Li’l Fatty is about to hit 15-months-old.
I’d always planned to breastfeed him for 12 months.
When that time came, it just seemed easier to keep going.
He’d have food and a bottle during the day, but first thing in the morning and last thing at night was a breastfeed.
Cheap, nutritious and bonding, plus it kept baby plump and mummy not so plump.
But I’d felt weaning time approaching.
I wasn’t planning on taking Li’l Fatty on our honeymoon and a breast pump wasn’t exactly a sexy item to pack.
Breastfeeding had also become mildly inconvenient and a bit embarrassing.
“I’m only doing it morning and night, I’m going to stop soon,” I’d mutter apologetically to anyone in earshot as I hoisted my toddler on to my lap, wondering why we feel guilty if we feed for anything less than six months and anything more than 12.
A week after he demanded Weetbix for brekky, Li’l Fatty, his father, brother and I came home from a birthday dinner, full and exhausted.
I lay him out on my lap.
He smiled lazily, nestled his nose into my nipple, and fell asleep.
There it was.
I’d been made redundant again.
With a full weekend of work coming up, I decided it was a good time to stop permanently.
I’d start a few days earlier by cutting his night feed completely.
I put him to bed that first one, came back into the loungeroom, sat down and began to cry.
“What’s up?” Learner Dad asked, moving over to hug me.
I’d told him I was weaning Li’l Fatty but, as is a man’s way, he hadn’t really noticed.
I’d denied him so much bottle-bonding time with his son, yet he’d never uttered a word, either for or against it.
That night he assured me Li’l Fatty was happy and healthy either way, that we could afford plenty of milk, and that I’d still squeeze into my wedding dress despite losing my little calorie vacuum.
But, as I lay in bed that night, none of that mattered.
All I could think of was Li’l Fatty’s smiley blue eyes looking up at me, his chubby little fingers running through my hair, or exploring my mouth, as he fed.
The little ‘gorr’ (‘gone’) he’d eventually murmur in his husky, tired voice, milk running down his cheek, as he drunkenly passed out.
Now my milk is almost gone.
I don’t think being upset meant weaning was the wrong decision.
Apparently the hormonal shift largely accounts for a mummy’s sadness in letting go.
It’s just the end of another stage.
Like wraps and rolling.
Next it’ll be bye-bye to spoon feeds and sippy cups.
Prams and dummies.
Then dirty nappies.
I’m not sure I’ll lay in bed at night fondly remembering that end of him though.

Am I a bad mother if…

• I stick my finger up at a smartarse Master Eight when he’s not looking?
• I let him sleep on a towel when he’s had an accident at 3am?
• I steal money from his piggy bank to ‘loan’ to the Tooth Fairy?
• I dress Master Eight as the same book character every single year (even though his size 4 Superman outfit is now ridiculously tight [and Superman isn’t really a book character])?
• I occasionally make him wear shorts in winter because I haven’t learned to patch trousers?
• I eat most of the lollies from his party bag after he’s gone to bed?
• I offer to read every second page of his book so I can get back to doing nothing on the couch?
• I hide Li’l Fatty’s favourite book because I’ve simply had enough of ‘green sheep’?
• I often give him finger food, forgetting he had his fingers in his own poo earlier that day?
• I once pretended not to notice when he weed on the floor and rubbed his hand in it?
• I give my children fruit buns, convincing myself the word ‘fruit’ means it’s healthy?
• I am almost out the driveway before Master Eight has his seatbelt on?
• He occasionally goes to school with a sandwich that has nothing in it?
• I tell him Santa’s elves are watching even though it’s only April?
• I ‘accidentally’ vacuum up the teeny tiny Lego pieces that plague his bedroom floor?
• Wine o’clock sometimes starts well before their bedtime?
• I had the occasional wine during pregnancy?
• I tell Master Eight I’ll tape the rest of Big Brother – but don’t?
• I let him watch Big Brother in the first place?
• I time him to run and fetch the newspaper of a morning?
• I tell him he can barrack for whichever team he likes but keep buying him Collingwood pyjamas?
• I give Li’l Fatty Baby Panadol after convincing myself his bad mood is definitely ‘teething’?
• I let him play with the DVD player when his dad’s not home?
• I sometimes serve Master Eight two minute noodles for lunch AND dinner on a Saturday?
• I sometimes serve Li’l Fatty a tub of yoghurt for lunch AND dinner on any day?
• I consistently throw their ‘lost tooth’ and ‘new tooth’ photos up on Facebook? And still have Master Eight’s bloody first tooth hidden in my cupboard?
• I stalk them at night, sitting in the dark by their beds, listening to them breathe?
• I’d kill, steal or starve for them if absolutely necessary?

Nope, I have a feeling I’m pretty much the norm… 

Party pooper

“Ok I’ve got 55 people,” Learner Dad said, thrusting the list in front of me.
“I’m sure a lot of them won’t be able to come,” he added, as I choked on my cereal.
I didn’t realise he’d even begun a guest list.
I certainly hadn’t.
“I’ve found an invitation website where we can get invites done for a dollar each,” he said proudly. “I figure we get 50. Fifty dollars total. Easy.”
Ok so why was I in shock over 55 guests and a fifty dollar invitation cost?
Because, dear readers, we weren’t talking about our wedding.
We were talking about Li’l Fatty’s first birthday.
I thought back to Master Seven’s first birthday party.
There were about a dozen people there.
Same with his second birthday and pretty much every birthday since.
But there were two differences now: 1) Back then none of my friends had children; and 2) since then I’d had a baby with a man who had a big family.
I began my own list.
The family members I’d invite only amounted to a small number of people.
But once I added my friends and their burgeoning broods, my list was nearly as long as Learner Dad’s.
A hundred people for a first birthday?!
Was this unheard of?
We had to cater for them and would probably wind up taking home dozens of presents.
Master Seven had burst into tears when 12 people began singing Happy Birthday to him at his first party.
How would Li’l Fatty go with nearly a hundred?
Would I even be able to get to the front of the pack to find out?
I sighed.
And scheduled an emergency meeting with Learner Dad.
We were barely past ‘attendance’ when we struck a surprisingly quick agreement: we’d rather not have a party after all.
Just a birthday cake at home with a handful of rellies.
It seemed the idea of hosting a barbecue for a hundred people in a park on the first day of winter was all a bit too much for Learner Dad in the end too.
Besides, this year we had another event to organise, another guest list to focus on.
And I had a feeling Li’l Fatty had plenty of partying ahead of him.

Baby and the bathwater

It was the moment I’d been dreading.
Li’l Fatty had found it.
Every morning in the bath, he’d glance about as if trying to remember something, then suddenly look down and grab it.
He’d laugh or frown as he pulled at it, depending on his mood.
Then he’d pop it in his mouth.
Ok, don’t be disturbed, I’m not talking about his doodle (he made that discovery long ago).
I’m talking about the bath plug.
Every morning, sometimes 10 minutes, other times 10 seconds after he’s in, out comes the plug.
It doesn’t matter how many bubbles I create to hide it, or how many toys I try to distract him with.
Forget the pirate bath with the spraying cannons.
The bright red Elmo jug or the colourful array of rubber duckies.
He just wants the plug.
The plain little white round plug.
Sometimes we play ‘See How Many Times I Can Get Mummy To Put It Back In’.
Other times he’s out the moment IT’S out.
Like I can teach an 11-month-old a lesson.
The plug is of course not the only everyday household item he’s obsessed with.
There are electrical sockets.
Wherever you go in our house, you’ll see the two red eyes of switched on power points.
Barely in sight, they don’t emit music, radiate light, or do anything entertaining.
They’re just plain old lethal power points.
Drawers are another one.
You can pull them out with one hand, then push them closed with your other hand still inside.
Fun!
Cupboards are great for whacking yourself repeatedly in the head.
And blinds are a fantastic alternative to clothing.
The attraction of babies to the seemingly mundane is also true of TV.
Li’l Fatty won’t raise an eye to Thomas the Tank Engine but everything stops when Harvey Norman is advertising cheap lounges.
And Fireman Sam has nothing on CLR.
Or Jackson’s Security.
In many ways, babies are simple creatures.
You can have the brightest, loudest, funniest, sweetest, most outrageous toys.
But at the end of the day, Mummy’s drink bottle will dominate.
The lesson here: enjoy your little one while he’s still obsessed with the simple things.
Because one day he WILL want Thomas the Tank Engine.
In his toy box.
And on TV.
All day.
Every day.
The plug will be a distant memory.
For you, that is.
It won’t even be that much for him.

My house husband

I walked into the kitchen.
The bench was littered with the remnants of dinner.
Li’l Fatty’s high chair was covered in globs of sweet mashed potato.
Master Seven’s school uniform was a crumpled mess nearby in the loungeroom.
Downstairs the bathroom floor was a chaotic mixture of used nappies and wet towels.
Among the chaos were my three men.
The littlest was perched on the lap of the biggest, arching his back and crying.
The middle one was doing a naked crab dance on the floor, mouth wide open and eyes bulging indicating a state of complete hyperactivity.
“You’re going to struggle next week,” I said to Learner Dad, referring to his upcoming first days of solo parenting.
“What do you mean?” he answered defensively. “They’ve had dinner, had their baths.”
I looked around and sighed.
I go back to work tomorrow.
And Learner Dad becomes house husband, for the two days a week I’m not home.
Make no mistake, he’s had plenty of time alone with his boys.
But the fact I’m the milk supplier has always guaranteed a time limit, a deadline for mummy to come home lest her boobs explode.
On this occasion I’d actually half cooked dinner and run the bath before I left for a one hour jog.
Usually, if I haven’t done this, I’ve at least left instructions – when to feed, what to feed, when to bath, who to bath etc.
So although not physically there, my presence is always felt.
“You’re on your own when I go back,” I said to Learner Dad.
Although it sounded menacing, I actually meant it in a nice way.
I wasn’t going to set out a structure for his time with the boys – he needed to establish his own routine, his own rules.
I knew that by lunchtime he’d be laughing at the simplicity of the job.
Master Seven at school, Li’l Fatty asleep all morning – plenty of time to sit back and relax and enjoy the perks of being an at-home dad.
But then Li’l Fatty would wake up.
He’d be hungry.
Then he’d poo.
As soon as he had a fresh nappy.
Then he’d do it again.
Only this time he’d put his hand in it.
Then it’d be time to hit the shops – because if you haven’t run out of toilet paper, you’ve run out of washing powder.
Or milk.
Then it’s time to pick up Master Seven, who’s always last to leave the classroom, even though you’re the only parent carrying an extremely heavy baby who’s trying to hurl himself out of your arms so he can crawl among the stampede of departing students.
Then, if there’s no after school activity planned, it’s home time.
Li’l Fatty smells again.
Is hungry again.
Needs sleep.
Fights sleep vigorously by standing up in the cot and screaming.
Poos just as he’s about to go to sleep.
Master Seven starts his hour on the Wii.
Time to start preparing dinner.
Fifteen minutes after he finally passes out, Li’l Fatty’s awake.
Crawling around your legs as you balance pots of boiling water, and eating any bits of raw onion you drop on the floor.
Master Seven’s hour is up.
He starts crying.
The six-year-old neighbour comes over.
He’s hungry.
He’s always hungry.
You send him home when the wrestling actually turns violent.
You shovel dinner into Li’l Fatty while Master Seven shovels most of his on to the floor.
Then it’s bath time.
“Can I hop in with Li’l Fatty?”
Sure, why not?
Sounds cute.
After twenty squealing-infused minutes of Li’l Fatty either pulling out the plug or pulling on his penis while Master Seven covers his baby brother’s face in bubbles, bath time’s over.
Then it’s dressing one (who poos the moment his clean and powdered bum is freshly nappied) while urging the other to dress himself (when all he wants to do is jump around giggling and parting his crack at you).
At about this time, Mummy will walk in the door.
Like a magnet, Li’l Fatty will be drawn to her breast.
Baby gone.
Then Master Seven will insist Mummy read with him tonight.
Kid gone.
And then, while Learner Dad scurries about cleaning up the mess in the bathroom and kitchen, Mummy will have to sit and quietly eat dinner alone, with only a magazine or the television for company…
Sigh.
Bring. It. On.