Husband Blog Post - Andrew and Eloise on Beach

My Husband Would Rather You Didn’t Read this Blog Post

Husband Blog Post - Andrew and Hammock

February

The shortest month of the year has just been and gone. With both Valentine’s Day and my husband’s birthday nestled in February it is a month where a focus on Andrew, our relationship and love seems unavoidable.

 

Uniquely Mr. S

I fell in love with Andrew a long time ago but have found over the years many of his idiosyncrasies interesting, even lovable. Here are a few:

He is a quiet, stoic man. Case in point – we had elected not to find out the gender of our firstborn so when our son was born it was an exciting time. Andrew called up his parents and in a calm voice said two words: ‘Yep, boy’. He does however become animated whenever he finds a typo in a newspaper article.

He has a lot of regulations about how a dishwasher should be stacked correctly will rain wrath down on anyone who attempts to wash the sharp knives in there.

In no particular order he loathes crowds, mushrooms, Facebook, horror movies, spicy food, and most bizarrely, pizza. Yes. Pizza. Everyone likes pizza.

He peels bananas from the bottom. Just because.

He doesn’t think people should wear t-shirts of the band they are going to see in concert but it is perfectly acceptable to wear another band’s t-shirt to that concert.

 

Grumpy Pants

I like discovering these things about my husband. But my goodness at times, I get grumpy with him! As usual it is about the tiniest things – he was telling me off about my driving this morning. But really it is always about the big things. Obviously he doesn’t trust me, thinks I am a terrible driver, always knows better… all the things my angry brain says to me.

To reduce my cognitive dissonance – I married this man and we produced two incredible children together so there must be something there – I find it helps to do an exercise where I list out things I like.

So here goes…

 

Love Letter

Andrew,

Sometimes I find it hard to unconditionally love you so I thought I would write a list of some of the reasons (conditions??) of why I love you instead…

I always think you are very handsome, especially when you have the right amount of stubble (I never notice or care that you are bald)

You are a fantastic daddy – you are a rock star to Dylan and Eloise

You are very practical and do lots of things I wouldn’t ever do myself like fixing doors, fridges and toys

You have great teeth

I am very grateful that you don’t follow sports or spend whole weekends watching cricket or motor racing

You show love through action and I am eternally in your debt for washing and vacuuming my car

You make a mean stew and a tasty lasagna

I like your intellect, dry sense of humour and your ability to pick up cultural references (you told me what ‘jump the shark’ means)

You freely give out good hugs and sometimes if I am really lucky a nice back massage

I love you, Julie

 

Just writing this list has put me in a better frame of mind. I guess I should do it more often. It is probably good that there are cultural institutions like Valentine’s Day and birthdays that remind us to love what is right in front of us.

 

References

The Five Love Languages Book: The Five Love Languages on Amazon.com

‘Jump the Shark’ definition via the Urban Dictionary:

A term to describe a moment when something that was once great has reached a point where it will now decline in quality and popularity. The origin of this phrase comes from a ‘Happy Days’ episode where the Fonz jumped a shark on waterskis. Thus was labeled the lowest point of the show.

Husband Blog Post - Andrew and Eloise on Beach

 

The Baby Mysteries Blog Post - Party Table First Birthday

The Baby Mysteries

 

The Baby Mysteries Blog Post - Eloise Jan16

Wonderfully Horrible

Our baby daughter, Eloise, turns one on Sunday. The past year has been tiring, wacky, joyous, boring, momentous, difficult and amazing. Being mama to Eloise has been horribly wonderful and wonderfully horrible. Because babies are easy… except when they are not.

This inherent contrariness makes parenting a baby so fantastic and so awful at the same time. This clash makes them seem loveable even when they do something disgusting. This innate conflict is why we find everything stupendously hard the first time round and then try for a second baby a short time later. Babies are a paradox.

 

Baby Mysteries

For instance, a newborn is tiny but she takes up so much space in your life. I mean, how much washing is there? It just never ends. And how much stuff do you take with you just to get out the door?

It is also so strange how unfamiliar a newborn is, but how you cannot remember what your world was like before she arrived. She is exactly how you pictured her, even though you didn’t actually have an image in your head.

These baby mysteries extend further – where does all the time go? How come time seems to have gone so fast even though some days were so looooooonnnng, they seemed to last forever. Being awake at 2am does give that impression.

And when she sleeps badly overnight, how come she does not sleep well during the day too? Surely she would want to nap more? Oh, and the most perplexing thing of all when it comes to sleep – how is an inadvertent two minute car nap the same as a two hour sleep in her actual cot?

How on earth are the car keys or TV remote control so much more desirable than an actual baby toy? How does she discern the difference at such a young age?

Babies are soft yet so strong, cry one minute and laugh the next, and do the most enormous bowel movements yet smell divine. It’s all so baffling.

 

Revoltingly Cute

No matter what babies do, it seems super cute. If older children or adults did these things you would probably find it quite rude or revolting. Eloise has taken to pointing to other people’s food to try and solicit a bite. This is met with people kindly offering a morsel to her. They simply can’t resist. If she starts a game of ‘raspberry’ – putting her tongue between her lips and blowing to make a sound – then not only does she spray everyone within a three feet radius, but they all want to join in. And don’t get me started on bodily functions. I would challenge anyone not to smile when they hear any baby pass gas.

Babies are also super cute with things that are deemed easy. How incredible is it to see a baby in a peaceful slumber? Bonus points if she is in a front pack at a busy park or market.

And if none of that seems cute enough for you, then get your baby to wear adult size clothing like hats, shoes or sunglasses. There is something so innately confusing about large clothes on a tiny baby. It seems right and wrong at the same time.

 

Fun Theory

What is the root cause of this paradox? Why are babies wonderfully horrible and revoltingly cute? I have a fun theory that is likely to be wildly off the mark, but here goes…

Maybe it is because babies are better than us adults but we don’t want to acknowledge it. After all, we take care of them. We are the parents. But babies effortlessly do all the things that we are told makes life special and worthwhile. Things like smiling, being present and having courage come naturally to babies, but are sometimes hard for us.

The other day there was a little spider crawling across the floor near Eloise. It brought home all the things that Eloise is better at than me, including:

  • Marveling at nature and being curious
  • Being in the present moment
  • Being fearless (trying to pick up the spider)
  • Using both hands (to pick it up)
  • Trying new things (she also tried to eat the spider)
  • A single minded focus (nothing was distracting her from getting that spider)

 

A Ton of Smiles

The number one thing that Eloise does better than me – in fact, better than anyone I know – is spreading joy. Did you know that babies smile or laugh around 300 times per day, and I am sure Eloise keeps this average high. She smiles at strangers in the supermarket, shows delight at the slightest interaction and makes others laugh with her charm. She shows off her great big toothy grin freely, unreservedly and without any expectation. What happens, of course, is she elicits an absolute ton of smiles back.

Happy 1st Birthday Eloise. I hope you keep the best of your baby traits as you grow, particularly your cheerful nature. My wish is that you are always the recipient of a ton of smiles.

The Baby Mysteries Blog Post - Party Table First Birthday

 

Surprise Blog Post - Constant Fear Three Year Old

Surprise!

Surprise Blog Post - Boy or Girl Image

Be Careful What You Wish For

When I found out I was pregnant, I decided that I did not want to know baby’s gender until he or she was born. A typical conversation from about six months into my pregnancy was as follows –

  • Other person: “Do you know what you are having”
  • Me: “Yes, a baby”
  • Other person: “I mean a boy or a girl”
  • Me: “Yes, hopefully either a boy or a girl”
  • Other person: “But don’t you want to find out?”
  • Me: “I think it will be obvious when the baby is born”

Yes, I was deliberately being a bit antagonistic but I had decided that there was very little that was a surprise in the 21st century information age. Everything seems so immediate nowadays. After all, we can online shop with next day delivery, look up information on the internet and have an answer straight away, plus take a photo and not only see it but upload it in a flash.

Not many people saw my point of view and I thought it was because many of us had lost the respect of waiting for something wonderful to happen. But I was wrong. It was because most of the people I talked to were already parents. They didn’t understand my wish for surprise with the gender because life as a parent is chock-a-block full of surprises.

 

The Day One Surprise

In fact my first surprise with Dylan occurred before I found out he was a boy. Just before he was born, my midwife said to me – “Your baby is coming as I can see blonde hair”. With my brown hair and brown eyes, I never imagined that I would have a blonde haired, blue-eyed child.

Over the past three years I have encountered all sorts of surprises as a mummy. Here are a few, split into the good, bad and the ugly…

 

The Good Surprises

Most of the good surprises arise from the astonishing amount of development that occurs in the first three years of life. Dylan’s first smile at a few weeks old, his commando crawling by five months and when he first started saying ‘Mummy’ at 18 months – all of these were good surprises.

His ability to learn new things amazes me. At two he not only said “nigh nighs” to his toys but pushed them over to imitate that they were sleeping. He has learnt his manners a little too well and now when I say “time to go to bed” he says, “no thank you please”.

Seeing imagination emerge has been fascinating. Just after Dylan turned two, he was eating some cucumber in his high chair and held up the dark green crescent part that was left over and said “boat” to me. It was also an eye-opener when I realised his long-term memory had developed. When Dylan was two and a half, I pulled out a t-shirt for him to wear and he said to me “thank you Granny Trish” – my mum had given that t-shirt to him over six months earlier.

I sometimes feel like I am at most two steps in front of my child. Just the other day, Dylan pointed out a fly inside the house and asked me to move it outside. I asked him how I should do that. He said I should “blow the shoo-fly out with my hair driver” – that is, get my hair drier and use that to blow the fly out of the window.

 

The Bad Surprises

I have had my fair share of bad surprises. At seven months, I discovered my baby lying on his tummy in his cot despite being in a swaddle and a Safe-T-sleep. At eight months, I left him alone with a magazine for a few moments and then found a huge wad of paper in his mouth. And at ten months I trialled the ‘leaving him to cry method’ when he wouldn’t have his nap, only to eventually go into his room to find blood all over his face where he had cut his lip on the wooden cot rail.

The worst surprise so far was seeing how much blood could come out of one little finger shut too quickly in a door and subsequently spending a long evening at A&E.

Sometimes the bad surprises can be good. At 18 months, I left Dylan alone in the secure living area of our house for a few minutes only to come back to find that he had climbed onto his high chair then onto the kitchen bench and crawled along and got into the advent calendar chocolates. He turned to me and said “chocolate” for the first time.

 

The Ugly Surprises

Then there are the ‘ugly’ surprises. These are mostly scatological in nature, but thankfully not that common. The unexpected arc of pee when changing a nappy, the surprise number two in the bath a couple of times. When a cry wakes you in the middle of the night and you walk into your child’s bedroom to be hit by the overwhelming smell of vomit – now that is one nasty surprise you don’t forget in a hurry.

At ten months, Dylan would follow me into the toilet, pull himself up and when I flushed it, he would put his hands down into the cascading water. One day when he was just over one, he looked like he was chewing on something and when I opened his mouth I discovered a dead fly. At 18 months old, I caught him just in time after he turned on the oven, opened the door and tried to climb in.

Now he is almost three, I worry most about what he says and does in public. Recently at the supermarket, he asked me quite loudly “why has that man got a lot of chins?” And although I like the fact he is pretty much toilet trained, when he pulled down his pants at a busy picnic area to “water the forest” I didn’t know whether to run over to help or pretend that he wasn’t my child.

 

The Biggest Surprise of All

The biggest surprise of all is that my tiny baby has grown into a little man. Dylan, you are almost three years old. Happy birthday my beautiful boy and may you continue to surprise me for many, many years to come.

Surprise Blog Post - Constant Fear Three Year Old

Paradox Blog Post - Cupcake with Two Candles

The Parenting Paradox

Paradox Blog Post - Parenting Paradox Cartoon

Like

A few weeks ago, a friend of mine posted this as her status update on Facebook:

“Equal parts love and horror today. I have the two most beautiful, frustrating, wonderful, annoying, brave, wussy and amazing children.”

I had a little giggle and pressed on ‘Like’. But why did I like it? We all know that parenting is hard work, but this little quote perfectly encapsulated why it is so hard.

Parenting is not hard work only due to there being an overwhelming responsibility for another life. And it is not difficult purely because of the breathtaking array of things that we want children to discover and learn for themselves. It is hard because between these two concepts – protecting our child and also letting them be free – there is an inherent incongruity.

This paradox, this jumbled mess of contradictions, is a tightrope that somehow we as parents have to find a balance on.

 

The Simple Part

Having a baby can be terrifying and extremely difficult at times. I am not saying it is easy, but at its core, parenting a little baby is quite simple. Think about it in terms of a mathematical equation.  Food + Sleep = Good. Any thing else = Bad.

I have decided that they start out as babies with basic biological needs so that we are eased into parenting slowly and do not get overwhelmed with what is ahead. We are not hit with the inherent contradictory nature of parenting first off.

Dylan is now almost two and I have only just started to get a glimpse of this minefield of mess and contradictions that sits at the core of parenting.

 

The Hard Part

I went to a parenting course and the tutor asked us what we wanted for our children. The usual answers got uttered: to be “happy”, “healthy”, “rich”. But these seemed so ill defined and trite. Then one smart daddy said, “ I would be happy if my kid didn’t end up in jail”. There was a gentle sprinkling of laughter from that corner of the room.

Later, I thought what a brilliant example of the parenting paradox. What do we wish for our children? We cannot even define it. It is easier to state what we don’t want.

 

The Contradictory List

So what do I want for Dylan? Here is a little sample…

Want him to strive to be the very best he can be in any situation But do not want to push him too hard at the expense of other things
Want him to not take for granted the status quo, be curious and question everything But when I tell him to do something, I do not want him to question me
Want him to hold onto a central core of self-love, develop self-confidence and stand up for himself But not in an arrogant, narcissistic or weird way (like certain high profile celebrities)
Want him to face his fears head on and embrace the many challenges life will throw at him But do not like the idea of him letting off fireworks, riding a motorcycle or taking up base-jumping as a hobby
Want him to identify and challenge when rules are inappropriate or unfair But he should follow the rules in our house, they are there for a reason
Want him to embrace diversity and accept different cultures But some cultures purposely hurt animals or discriminate against women and I personally do not find those things acceptable
Want him to dream big, reach for the stars, have big, hairy, audacious goals and make every effort to achieve them But he should also have his feet on the ground and understand that life doesn’t always give you want you want every time
Want him to not be defined by his gender But if he wanted to wear hair clips to school, I am not sure I would be too supportive
Want him to be careful with money and learn the value of saving and preparing for the future But he should learn to spend without feeling guilty and embrace being generous to others
Want him to be polite But not be a pushover

 

K.I.S.S

How do I hop through this minefield? The only way I can think of to handle the parenting paradox is to look for and embrace the moments when parenting becomes very simple again.

When Dylan was a baby I could spend ages gazing at his face and cuddling him. It seemed so much simpler back then. Now with a toddler who is always on the go, the moments may be more fleeting, but when they do occur it is important to stop and realise how wonderfully simple it all can be.

The other night when Dylan was in his highchair eating dinner, he started laughing and saying “sun sun”. He couldn’t see the actual sun from where he was sitting but what he was looking at was the sunlight dappled on the dining room wall making sparkling waves of shadows. He was delighted with this shimmering display. It was a moment of pure simple joy.

 

Happy Birthday

Dylan, you are the most sweet, challenging, delightful, exasperating, fun, naughty, cheerful and awesome child. Happy second birthday my gorgeous monster.

Paradox Blog Post - Cupcake with Two Candles