Sunday, 31 May 2015

Bad Hair Day

When your 3-year-old daughter tells you she really wants her long hair cut off to her shoulders, DON’T DO IT.

Just get a trim!

She’s only 3 years old, she doesn’t know what she’s saying. She’ll walk out of the hairdresser, sucking her complimentary lollypop and want her hair back.

This I learnt this afternoon and I’m feeling terrible. I should never have let her cut it. Even the hairdresser suggested we come back during the week because it would be $10 cheaper.

At that point we left.

‘We’ll come back on Monday,’ I said.

But my daughter really wanted her hair cut so I threw caution to the wind, something I rarely do with money. It was our special afternoon, if she wanted a haircut at the weekend rate, then so be it.

Wrong decision.

We went back and a different hairdresser served us and asked if I was absolutely sure that she wanted her hair cut.

I looked at my 3-year-old. She nodded.

‘To your shoulders?’ I asked, showing her clearly where that would be.

‘Yes,’ she said. I think she had one eye on the lollypop jar and another on the portable DVD player they bring out for kids.

I asked her about 25 times, if she was sure. She was and so we went ahead.

‘She’s very mature,’ the hairdresser said.

At that point I started to worry. She’s 3 years old. She’s not all that mature. She doesn’t have to be. I’m the mature one, supposedly. Was I doing the wrong thing?

Then I saw big pieces of her hair on the floor and I started to hyperventilate, just a little bit. But my daughter was quite happy. Maybe all would be fine.

And all was fine. We paid. She got her lollypop. We walked out.

Then she wanted her hair back. And our special afternoon went downhill from there.

‘It’s only hair,’ I reminded us both as my daughter sobbed in the back of the car, green lollypop goo running down her chin.

‘It will grow,’ I said.

She didn’t believe me. I felt devastated. I know that feeling of panic when you do something and a second later, you realise it was the wrong thing to do. For one very dark moment, you can’t live with your decision. She was upset so I was upset. I wanted her to love her haircut but she didn’t so I’m felt the same regret. As the grown-up, I should have known better. I shouldn’t have let a 3-year-old make the decision.

But then again as the grown-up, I know that her hair did actually need a cut and now it does look much better. She will have less chance of picking up head lice at daycare and her hair will be easier to look after.

And as the grown-up, life doesn’t get much better than that.

Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Parenting the second time around: have I really learnt anything?

When I had my first child, I had no idea what I was doing. I lived in a state of shock, madly reading baby books, attempting impossibly strict routines and making lots of mistakes. And I felt guilty 99% of the time about everything I did or didn’t do.

You would think, the second time around, I would have a firm handle on one or two parenting skills. I certainly felt better equipped when I was expecting baby No. 2. I’d been there and done that so surely my parenting skills would be bordering on professional.

Not at all.

They seem to have got worse. And not only that, I don’t feel at all guilty about it.

Recently I was at my local playgroup discussing this very topic with another mum who had just had her second baby. My No. 2 child, now three years old, was trying to tell me she’d hurt her foot. I had a quick look; it seemed fine so I continued my very interesting conversation, sharing my expertise as a second time parent.

Eventually another mum came over to tell me that my daughter’s foot was bleeding but it was fine. My poor child had to seek out another mother to get the attention she deserved because hers was too busy chatting.

It was then I realised how I’ve digressed from a neurotic helicopter mum into a laid back, almost laissez-faire one. The toe wasn’t badly hurt and later my daughter told me with confidence that ‘it was going to be okay’. I knew all would be well. I just didn’t tumble into the dramatic decline that I might have with my first child. Still I was fairly certain I’d broken some sort of rule firmly set by myself as a first time mum.

It prompted me to think about where else I may be falling short of my own parenting expectations. Are there are other rules I once made and simply haven’t kept?

The answer is yes and it didn’t take me long to compile a list:

1. Stick a strict bedtime routine: This is very important and good in theory however with an older sister, it just doesn’t happen. Besides child No. 2 tells me quite firmly when she’s ready for bed and that seems to work for both of us. Sometimes it’s earlier and sometimes it’s later so it all evens out in the end.

2. Watching television will be permitted but limited: Television has become my best baby sitter. Even more so the second time around. At least then I know child No. 2 is then sitting on the couch and not trying to parachute off it.

3. Eat your vegetables or there’s no dessert: While the seven year-old chomps her way through three or four carrot sticks, child No. 2 firmly refuses to even try. And I always give in and allow her favourite yoghurt for dessert. I’m worn down by years of fussy eating and have no more answers. However after a recent check-up at the doctors, child No. 2 has agreed to a tiny nibble on the end of a tiny carrot stick, which I consider a fantastic outcome.

4. No sleeping in our bed: Initially I was adamant about this rule but now it happens all the time. My husband and I are both too tired to sit up and re-settle child No. 2 in the middle of the night so she often makes her way into our bed. I know we’ll pay for it in the end, in fact we’re already suffering the consequences as she sleeps crossways, leaving very little usable space.

5. A bath everyday – A bath ‘not quite everyday’ is a relief as far I’m concerned. Apparently kids these days are too clean and are not building up any immunity to germs. Well that’s what I tell myself anyway.

6. I will never raise my voice: With two children this is simply not possible. I find myself raising my voice more frequently, usually to draw attention away from the television. (See Rule #2)

7. Sending to Time Out:  I always found using Time Out for disciplining my first child extremely effective. I would count calmly to three and pop her in bedroom for a few minutes. Now with the general chaos in the household, I forget all about Time Out and simply revert to breaking Rule #6. However all is well because when child No. 2 does something she knows she shouldn’t, she actually takes herself off to Time Out without me knowing. Five minutes later she calls out from the bedroom, asking if she can come out again – all round a win-win situation.

8. Give children full focus: As I’m writing this piece, child No.2 has come running in nude, saying she’s hungry for breakfast and let’s just say I’m not immediately jumping up to help. I always try to be present with my children however have recently found myself moving the goal posts. What was ‘just checking a few emails’, maybe ‘organising a phone interview’ in between craft activities and imaginative play has become ‘writing an entire piece to meet my deadline the following day’ while child No. 2 watches a little bit of television. I have to write when I can and ballet lessons don’t pay for themselves.

People often ask me and my husband if we’re more relaxed parents the second time around. Perhaps we are but for me, it’s only because I simply could no longer meet my own unrealistic expectations. I had to relax a little for the sake of my children, my patient husband and my own sanity. And it’s all working out in much the same way.

Now my No. 2 child has just come back in proudly showing me how she got dressed on her own. Something she knows how to do and by me giving her a bit of space, (and finishing my article), was able to get on with it.

What’s there to feel guilty about?

Wednesday, 4 February 2015

A Joke? I think not!

Have you ever received a text that is meant for someone else? You know, when the sender presses one wrong digit and you end up with a message that has no meaning at all.

I recently got one over the holidays. The sender said that they were heading down from Brisbane and should they give me a call on the way to see if I wanted a cuppa. They also said that they were telling ‘Graeme and Donna but can’t remember the name of Tim’s restaurant.’

This was not for me (although I would have loved to meet up for a cuppa and a chat as they sounded quite nice) so I sent a polite message informing the sender that they had made an error. I also said something like ‘Enjoy your holiday and please drive safely.’

My tone was chatty and good-humoured and I let them know immediately so they could re-send the message.

No such effort was made for me when I recently sent a message to the wrong person.

My 7 year-old-daughter was invited to a birthday party on the same day as her end-of-year ballet concert. I sent a lovely message saying how sorry she was that she could not go and hoped the party went well.

The message I received went a bit like this:

Well f_ _k o_ f then. M is a sl _ t anyway.

I was shocked! 

I won’t write the complete phrase in case my daughter somehow logs on and finds my blog. She’s much better at computers than me so it wouldn’t surprise me if she did.

Anyway the message was nasty, rude and completely inappropriate. I was extremely angry that someone felt the need to make such a comment. Obviously it was some person’s idea of a joke but when it was at the expense of a young child, (my young child!) I was not laughing.

I desperately wanted to text back and tell them that there was no need for such a comment, especially as it was a just a simple mistake. But I didn’t.

It would not achieve anything and I did not want to give the situation any air. And I certainly did not want to get into a texting war with a person like that.

So I deleted the response and re-sent the message. I then got a lovely text saying that they were sorry M could not come to the party and hoped the ballet concert went well.

Order had thankfully been restored.

Thursday, 29 January 2015

A New Year - looking through rose coloured reading glasses

A new year and I just found out I need reading glasses. Well, when I say ‘just found out’, I've known in my heart of hearts for about a year but have been pretending that printing on packaging has just got smaller and lighting generally more moody.

So there you go. After much deliberation I selected two pairs and will pick them up in 10 days. Now I will be able to administer the correct dosage of baby Panodol to my three-year old.

I’m also hoping they will make me read and write more prolifically. And if they don’t, the fact that I am cutting out TV during the week might do the trick.

I’m constantly complaining about being time poor but one thing I’ve learnt over my limitted years of writing is that everyone has stuff going on in their lives. Everyone has jobs, kids, school pick-ups, family commitments, household chores or financial requirements.

I’m not the only one. I just have to get on with it.

It’s a matter of making it happen. Finding the time. Or turning off the TV. 

In his book ‘On Writing’, Stephen King says that ‘TV… really is about the last thing an aspiring writer needs.’

So true apart from the fact that I love TV! Remember, I’m an actor as well so I really love good telly. Plus I’m an insomniac and I find that TV calms me down at night and helps me to relax so I can get to sleep. 

Writing excites me, energises me. Once I’ve started, I find it hard to stop. And once I do stop I find it hard to sleep. Which is fine except my children are early risers and the youngest still a night-waker.

So I’ve decided to find a happy medium. No TV during the week so I can work, read and hopefully start on the second draft of my book. Then on the weekends I can catch up on my favourite shows and maybe a bit of sleep.

A new year is refreshing and inspiring but it’s the follow-through that counts.

We’ll see how it goes.

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Halloween Horror

Halloween is well and truly over. And I’m relieved. Not because it means the end of costume planning, trick or treating and overly excited children, hyped up on too much sugar. All that part of it was quite fun. I know it’s not really our tradition here in Australia but these days it’s hard to avoid especially with a school-age child. So my husband and I have adopted a ‘go with the flow’ type attitude to Halloween and all went well.

No, it was the lead-up to the big day that was scary. Three days before, I took the girls up to our local shopping centre to buy the Halloween lollies and I hit one of the many (very scratched) poles in the car park. Those yellow poles always look so bashed up, I used to think, who on earth hits them? Now I know. People like me. People with kids, chatting or fighting in the back. People with too many things on their mind. Or in my case a person with a brand new car that is slightly bigger than her last one.

Being our first ever new car, I could have wept. And I did. In fact I couldn’t stop. My daughters hugged and kissed me, not really sure why it was all so traumatic. It’s just a car. And that’s true. It is just a car. But it’s only three months old and now it’s damaged. When I got the quote to have it fixed, I had another little cry. Only in private this time rather than the lolly aisle in Woollies.

However the tragedy was put into perspective the next day when we found the small battery from a flashing witch nose in the mouth of our three-year-old. Nothing was ingested so no trip to emergency was required. But it was too close. We were nervous about buying the nose in the first place for exactly that reason. But we bought it anyway. Then we had it up high on a shelf out of danger all week. And then, somehow, it was in reach of little hands.

A car can be fixed but a swallowed battery can be fatal.

So for me, Halloween is now a time to beware cheap merchandising and yellow poles in car parks that are probably installed by some sort of panel beaters’ association.

Not that I can really blame Halloween for my lack of care but I’m going to anyway. Normally I wouldn’t have gone to buy lollies after school in the car and we would never have bought a flashing witch nose from the $2 Shop.

Maybe next year we won’t ‘go with the flow’ quite so readily…