There are sometimes a few perks that come with writing about food and being invited to be on the panel for the inaugural Free From Food Awards Ireland this year was definitely a perk. I will never …
Amazing post about our past, our present and our treatment of women within a “moral” framework.
When I was in first year in secondary school in 1997, a girl in the year above me was pregnant. She was 14. The only people who I ever heard say anything negative about her were a group of older girls who wore their tiny feet “pro-life” pins on their uniforms with pride. They slagged her behind her back, and said she would be a bad mother. They positioned themselves as the morally superior ones who cared for the baby, but not the unmarried mother. They are the remnants of an Ireland, a quasi-clerical fascist state, that we’d like to believe is in the past, but still lingers on.
The news broke last week of a septic tank filled with the remains of 796 children and babies in Galway. The remains were accumulated from the years 1925 to 1961 and a common cause of death was malnutrition and preventable disease…
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One of the cutest things Crazy Redhead says is: ‘it’s Daddy’s pault’. It’s always cute when someone else is getting the blame for something. And saying p for f is adorable – pish pingers, uncle pillip, punny etc. But cuteness aside, it strikes me that there a strong culture of blame in my house. Nothing cute about that.
The accusations abound. While trying to escape one night to my Writer’s Group, a discussion went on where Boy Wonder pleaded me to stay and put him to bed, while I tried to remind him of the zillion things we had done together in the previous 12 hours together. Of course being with them for 12 hours straight means nothing; the fact is you’re going now. I listed off everything we did together: breakfast, going to school, collecting from school, lunch, homework, dinner, play. ‘No,’ he said, ‘you never played with me today’.
I never played with him. So when I eventually left for Writer’s Group, late as usual, I reviewed the day with not only the guilt of having left him behind before bedtime, but the thought that I had never played with him that day. Who do I blame for that?
Blame comes in other guises. He hurts himself on the wet floor – ‘you should have stopped me from running on it’. Well yes I should have, but telling you fourteen times that the floor is wet didn’t work, so who’s pault is it really? Not having time for a snack before bed, because he stayed out playing on his bike too long – ‘you should have told me it was time to come in’. Eh I did. Hollering at the top of my voice up the street until you finally acknowledged my fish-wife-impression.
And it’s not just him; Crazy Redhead is queen of ‘pault’. She does something wrong, gets reprimanded and has such a heart-wrenching meltdown that you quickly forget who is the victim and if Marathon Man is the one to correct her, oh boy. ‘It’s Daddy’s pault!’ she sobs and you quickly forget that she deliberately poured her breakfast all over the floor.
Thinking about this, that evening, on the drive to Writer’s Group, I quickly realised that as the saying goes, they didn’t lick it off the stones. Marathon Man and I are good at accusing each other of heinous household errors and God knows we do it enough on front of the kids. ‘The house is very stuffy; did you not open a window today?’ ‘You didn’t get the right apples/cheese/ham.’ Of course the retort to that is ‘then you do the shopping…’ It goes on and on. A vicious circle of blame that sometimes goes back as far as ‘but I told you I never wanted kids’. Of course that’s to wind me up and boy it works – so on we grind.
The bottom line is that life has changed beyond recognition and I think that sometimes it’s hard to reconcile our old lives with this new one. The one where we can’t control the spilling, or the medical bills, or the lack of sleep. So we feel for the thing that will temporarily ease that lack of control. We look for someone to blame. Because the truth is, I do wonder, would I have chosen this life if I knew? Probably not, but that’s the whole reason we don’t know or can’t comprehend how kids upend your life – otherwise the human race would probably come to a fast end.
Fortunately love overrides regret. While we might miss the lives we once had, there’s no question that what we blunder through now is richer in so many ways. Right now my kids are playing shops, with a brand new cash register (Crazy Redhead has a birthday) and they have invited me to play. So I should put away the laptop and join in. It might be pun after all. Perhaps I’ve been so busy blaming parenthood for the feeling of drudgery that I’ve failed to see past the cleaning up after them.
Children know how to have fun. If I want to find some joy in my life, I don’t have far to look – and since there’s a game of shops going on right now with a fabulously pink cash register and some fake money, I’m off for some retail therapy – the kind I don’t have to even feel guilty about. No-one can blame me for that.
Ever notice how It’s hard to break bad habits, but amazingly easy to break good ones. Despite the fact that blogging was a good weekly habit, part of my routine that I relished, all it took was one little blip to throw me off kilter. Following a minor hospital drama with Crazy Redhead, May Bank Holiday weekend, I fell off the blog-sphere for a while and it’s taken me an awfully long time to get back on track. Here I am, still feeling the guilt that is perpetual to parenting. Thankfully, writing is perpetual to my sanity, so I’m back.
Returning to the hospital drama. With what is considered ample notification by an Irish hospital administration, I got a call one Wednesday, telling me my daughter was due in for her adenoidectomy – on Friday. I just about had time to purchase a Peppa Pig Doctor’s Bag which transpired to be the best-spent €18 ever; thoroughly recommended if your little one has a hospital trip in the offing. It duly empowered her not just to be the patient, but “I be doctor,” she would say and continues to say regularly, taking out her hot pink stethoscope and listening to your heart through your ankles.
The adenoidectomy had me nervous because as per a previous post, I had sort of insisted that she was going through the same ENT problems as her big brother, Boy Wonder. Naturally, until the surgeon actually saw whether the adenoids were unusually large, I sat wondering if I was suffering with Munchausen’s syndrome, putting her through something she didn’t need!
For any parent who hasn’t had the experience of their child being operated on, there are a few things to contend with that make even the simplest of procedures, an emotional rollercoaster. She’ll be okay; what if she’s not; she’ll be okay; what if she’s not. Possibly I watch way too much medical drama, but that can be a subject of another post.
If it’s an elective surgery, one parent is allowed to accompany the child as far as the operating theatre. So dressed in the hospital gown – or not in the case of Crazy Redhead who was offended by the lack of prettiness and marched down to theatre in her socks – the prep is all done and the fasting finally coming to an end (hard to eat when you can’t let your child eat for several hours). Temple Street, where my kids have been patients for everything bar being born, have nurses on standby to accompany parents into the theatre. After all the checks are complete, (do we have the right child, etc.), I donned a surgical gown and lifted Crazy Redhead onto the bed where they were going to slice out her adenoids. Drama, indeed.
Of course, this is what’s going through your head: am I doing the right thing? What if this goes wrong and her heart can’t take the anaesthetic? What if she doesn’t really need this and I am a bad mother putting her through this – although surely a surgeon wouldn’t agree to chop out some bits unnecessarily – surely? Yes there’s your rollercoaster.
And then they bring on the gas. It’s not for you mind. They slap that mask on over soft cheeks and rose coloured lips and they count back and at first it’s okay, Crazy Redhead like most children was surprised but not scared. Then the realisation they are being knocked the hell out and they fight it. That’s when the tears come – springing into your eyes and causing a blockage in your throat. Which you have to fight in return because you’re busy squeezing the tiny hand in yours. Telling her it’s okay. Mommy’s here. See you when you wake up.
That’s the first bit over. You just about have time for breakfast as ENT procedures are fortunately not very long. Then you wait, until they return your crying, dazed and confused child back to you. Hospital procedure doesn’t allow parents to be in recovery when children awaken, a fact I found heart-wrenching on our first experience. But four sets of adenoids, grommets, tonsils and a crushed finger later, we have gotten used to that fact and even curtailed the guilt. Slightly.
Crazy Redhead arrived back indignant and tragic and we spent the rest of the day making up to her the fact that we had abandoned her to modern medicine, when for her, a hug would have done.
The emotional rollercoaster continued with the appearance of the surgeon who confirmed that yes, she did have rather large adenoids that did indeed need to be removed – salvation from guilt. The Munchausen syndrome diagnosis could be disregarded; Mother’s Instinct is back in the game.
Blame is never far away of course, when you’re a parent. Especially either self-blame or spousal-blame.
By 5am the next morning, we discovered that our little patient was sprouting blood – perhaps not quite so dramatically but there was a steady output which suggested we ring the hospital. (So back to blame – did I do the right thing!) We kissed goodbye to Boy Wonder plus the remainder of the Bank Holiday weekend as we were summoned back to A&E and so began an otherworldly period of waiting, observing, fasting, not-fasting, bleeding, not-bleeding, vein-hunting, trauma, sleep deprivation and so forth. After three nights, anti-biotics ceased the bleed and Crazy Redhead left the ward in peace, taking her Peppa Pig Doctor’s bag home to practice all she had learnt on her exhausted family.
Now we wait, only days away from blood results which will indicate three months on, whether there is a blood clotting issue or whether it was just one of those things. Apparently blood clotting disorders are common in redheads. Great.
But regardless of what’s ahead, I have to be optimistic – I mean I caught her toe in a door last month and while I scuppered the nail, she didn’t bleed out. (She wasn’t impressed mind you). Also I will not forget the other accidents and illnesses I witnessed on that most recent trip to the children’s hospital. Pain and vomiting that wasn’t going away. High fevers. Broken legs requiring surgery. A damaged spine leaving a three year old paralysed from the neck down.
As a parent, there’s no place like hospital to make you realise how lucky you have it. ENT issues, yes it’s been tough, but we’re in the ha’penny place. While there’s emotion and worries, tears and discomfort… guilt – it is a place I can live with.
What incidents have made you realise how lucky you have it?
Dedicated to parents of very sick children, whose lives are unendingly suspended within the walls of hospitals. There, but for grace, go I.
I can’t stop thinking about work. It’s constantly on my mind. I had hoped that this past weekend, with the passing of a work annual event, which has been taking up all of my brain space (hence my absence from writing for a few weeks), I would be able to stop – but no. And I only work part-time.
A few questions came up for me recently, including how was the part-time working out. And there is the rub. It’s great, marvellous, wonderful work-life-balance. If balance means that work has hold of one arm and your kids are swinging out of the other, then yeah, I have that.
So I returned to the hub of family the other day, the first day in some time that I didn’t have to catch up with anything, or quickly log on to send a quick email (post-event social media aside) and I surveyed the damage of the past month, when my every waking minute seems to have been filled with thoughts of my job.
Damage as follows:
- There are no Easter eggs left. They got demolished. Usually around breakfast time.
- My son is astonished that when he speaks to me, I don’t snap. He spilled something yesterday and I saw him ready to recoil from my reaction and then do a double take when I calmly went to get kitchen paper.
- The kids are looking for jellies at 7am – and seem to think they might get them (did I allow that at some point to shut them up for five more minutes, while I sent another email?).
- Boy Wonder has begun wiping his own bum.
- Crazy Red Headed Baby can do an Arabesque across the floor on her Fliker.
- We’re about a week behind on washing. Cue late night realisation that uniforms weren’t ready.
- My house is very sticky.
Anyway, it’s over now. Except it’s not. I might not have the annual event to worry about for the next six months, but I’m straight into another project and another and another. This is how it is. I work; therefore I am not with my children.
But when I am, I need to be present in body and soul.
I knew in the past few weeks that something was pressing down on me, turning me into Monster Mammy. It was stress and although I knew and know the ways you can avoid stress, sometimes there’s just so much of it that you can’t dig yourself out of that mire. You just have to go with it and know that the light at the end of the tunnel will come, even if it is going to run you over in the meantime.
So now I have a little time to reflect and to enjoy. Warm, soft bodies pressing into me in the dead of night (the bed-hopping hasn’t changed); funny little sayings (“Mom, he’s going to Lectric me (electrocute) in this game” and “I go McDonalds for Pish Pingers”); the tenth rendition of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star even if it does merge into Hey Diddle Diddle…the Cow Jumped O’erThe Moon; snotty kisses (adds flavour); head-locking-hugs; smiles so warm they would melt an iceberg.
I have missed my children and I have missed feeling good about my time with them, instead of thinking of everything else I should be doing. As long as I am a working mother, I don’t know if there is a way to change these periods when work takes over. However, work will always know that as a working mother, there are times that motherhood takes over. It’s a constant. Children are a constant. I am lucky to have them. I just hope that when they grow up, they remember the good parts and not monster mammy, who at certain times of the year is difficult to be around.
I hope they remember that yesterday we went to the park and we pushed them so hard on the swings that they belly-laughed. I hope they remember the slushy we bought them and that when we came home I cuddled with them on the couch and stopped reading my book (Harry Potter again) long enough to watch Boy Wonder scale some buildings in a new game. I hope they remember that while we are apart they are with people who give them everything they need in terms of love and attention, smartphones and chocolate. My guilt might be extreme and endless, but chocolate cures a lot.
Monday was my birthday, the anniversary of my arriving on earth, 39 years ago. The celebrations of this non-descript age, lasted over the Easter weekend, ending somewhat with an anti-climax as I spent the birthday morning cleaning the house. But there was dinner out to look forward to, so one mustn’t gripe.
I decided I would dedicate this week’s blog, which is normally about parenting, to the people who have helped make me a good parent (I don’t say great, we never think we’re great!).
Namely, my parents and my husband.
My parents, who produced an underweight child who everyone thought would die. A child that went on to become like a human cannonball when it came projectile vomiting and diarrhoea. My father says they used to follow me round the house with a bucket and spade, trying to mop it up. I never appreciated that lovely anecdote, until I had kids. It’s hard enough keeping healthy ones in check. You clean one room, move on to the next, while they get busy trashing what you’ve done.
At nine months old I weighed nine pounds. I was admitted to hospital and kept there about four months, which my father insists was the ideal solution in child-rearing. I never cried; the nurses had sorted me out! Joking aside, logistically, I know my parents, who 39 years ago didn’t have a car, visited me almost every day – there was no staying with your tiny baby in those days – taking two buses to get to me.
It’s a family tale, how sick I was. How I almost died, because I had coeliac disease and at the time they didn’t know. The discovery came due to a chance conversation with an in-law of my uncle’s and possibly saved my life.
It’s very dramatic but only now that I have my own children, can I appreciate the fight my parents fought to keep me alive, the frustration they must have felt when I began to get better on a diet of 7Up and sick again on actual food. For me, as a parent today, I cannot begin to fathom what it must have been like, especially for my mother, to have been separated from a sick baby, with no inkling of what was making that baby sick – imagine that guilt trip, because no doubt I would have found some way to blame myself, if it were me.
Now here I am; able to say that I have become the parent I am because of them. When I make a fuss of my kids, it’s because they made a fuss of me every Christmas and every birthday, without fail. Whether there was much money, there was always a sense of occasion. You were special on your birthday. And still are. My husband and I don’t always see eye to eye on this, possibly because we had different experiences growing up. But sometimes, when I least expect it, he disarms me with the extent of his efforts.
That’s how he makes me the parent I am; because when I am ready to fail, to give up, or to have a meltdown, he steps in. He reminds me to have patience when I’ve run out. He reminds me to be gentle, by being good cop to my bad cop. He often saves me from myself.
He drives me mad as well. But that’s another story.
So with the cards gathering dust on the mantelpiece and nothing left to unwrap, but good memories of a great weekend – thanks to my family and friends, I face up to this my 39th year and make a promise to continue to be the best parent I can be. Parents, children and husbands are gifts after all. The guilt-free kind.