The advent of a new advent

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I grew up with Advent as a central part of my family’s Christmas. It was part of our cultural heritage and my memories of it centre on the four, weekly sessions of sitting around the advent wreath, Christmas music playing, dreamily burning little sprigs of pine on the available candle light so that the sweet smell of popping pine needles filled the house and we had to replenish our wreath for the next Sunday session. It was intoxicating. My sister and I also had the advent calendar with its little treats each day – a chocolate, a bouncy ball, a matchbox car (back when they still actually fitted into matchboxes; before the cars got big and the matchboxes got small).

I like traditions. I think they are an important part of remembering who you are, but in my attempts to continue the European flavour with my own children, I have come to an impasse. Each year for the past three or four, I have tried a different strategy – one countdown that we all share, one little treat for each person each day, a ritualised slow-reveal of a Christmas image – but each one has failed. Dismally. This year I decided to “downgrade” and went for the Aldi chocolate calendar for each child (so they each had something to count down on) and one carefully chosen Christmas book that we could share each day, to give us the quiet together time thinking about the nice Christmas messages that I hope I can reinforce for my children (I don’t think they are ready to burn pine responsibly yet). But even this has descended into a constant nagging about “when can I have my chocolate?”, “why can’t I have two?”, “How come his chocolate is bigger than mine?”, “I want to choose the book!”, “It’s my book!”, bla, bla, bla… The paper covering the books is wrapped in is ripped and thrown on the floor, the books are snatched, the quiet reading time is filled with cries of “get off my feet!”, “I’m getting squashed!”, “I can’t seeeeeeee!”, and invariably it ends with the book being tossed aside in preference for chasing each other with imaginary swords. It leaves me with the distinct feeling that their building expectation has little to do with the impending birth of Christ and a sense of reverence, and more to do with the impending day of “getting stuff” and a sense of entitlement.

In dismay, I asked myself this morning, what I am trying to teach my children about this time of year. And it occurred to me that they are learning three things with the advent tradition as it currently stands: 1) To be forever looking ahead at what tomorrow will bring; 2) That you get stuff for no real reason and with no real effort; 3) That Christmas is about the accumulation of stuff, preferably bigger and better than the stuff your siblings get. Perhaps it is just that my children are too small to be able to put the countdown into perspective, but I fear that if I allow these misconceptions to continue that they will never be able to.

And so, next year I will try a new approach – my fifth and final attempt. Should it too, fail, the tradition of counting down to Christmas will die and I will officially become as much of a Christmas Grinch as I am a Halloween Grinch.

Next year I will go back to the four Sundays before Christmas and frame them as a time to “prepare” for a celebration of giving and sharing. Sunday 1 will be dedicated to putting up the tree and getting out the dusty old carols to hum along to. Sunday 2 will be about preparing lists of gifts to give to family and planning Christmas craft projects for the weeks ahead. Sunday 3 will be dedicated to clearing out toys and selecting items to give to those less fortunate. And Sunday 4 will be about wrapping gifts, making cards, baking treats to share with neighbours. And all the while, I will be avoiding all shopping centres, Santa photos, catalogues and the like, while reminding them that I love and honour the Christ within each of their precious little hearts, and that I hope, with my love, that their light might grow to fill the world with joy… not just stuff.

I’ll let you know how it goes!

Sing a song of desperation…

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A child who sings is a happy child. I get it.

A singing child is a happy sound. I get it.

But there comes a time when singing is neither necessary, nor appropriate nor, God help me, bearable any longer! There comes a time when the sound is no longer of happiness but of a droning, whining, screeching machine that quite obviously needs to be doused in oil or put out of its misery. And, ashamed as I am to admit it, that time comes at least eight times a day. In fact my day often starts with one of those times and the silence that embraces me at the end of the day when the singer has finally passed out is like heroin.

So I am begging for help here – how can I make my little girl stop singing? Not all together. I don’t mean I never want her to utter another sound. That would be just plain wrong. But how can I get her to stop narrating her entire existence in dubious attempts to reach angelic heights and harmonies? Seriously, it’s an ever-present narration of events both real and imagined… a Broadway musical contains more spoken words!

I have tried: “Darling, Mummy’s ears are tired. It’s time for some quiet now.”

But I’m met with: “That’s alright, I can sing them a lullaby!”

Dear God NOOOOOOOO!

So I try: “I think it’s time for the birds to sing now. Let them have a turn.”

And the reply: “They are singing, Mummy. I’m singing with them.”

Game Set Match

I’ve gone down the path of: “Can I hear what your talking voice sounds like?”

She’s on to me: “But singing is so beautifuuuuuuuulllll.”

Not right nooooooowwwww it’s not!

 

So you get the general gist. I’m running out of ideas. She’s even figured out that if there is silence in the court and “the first one to talk is the monkey”, then she has a free pass to sing. I’m rapidly approaching strategies that are likely to kill every fibre of creative expression in her little 4-year-old being and I’d like some alternatives before I fall into “JUST SHUT UP! SHUT UP! SHUT THE FUCK UP!!”. Or worse: my sarcasm and snide tongue might emerge and then no eye will stay dry.

 

Please help me tame this beast. Show me how I can teach it that a mouthful of spaghetti is not the time to break into an aria; that when the baby is asleep, yodelling will be met with distain; and that when it is time to get in the bloody car because we are already late, I will not join in with a rendition of your impromptu version of a meal-time prayer. Sometimes we all just need SILENCE!

 

2 years in a nutshell

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The writing Bug has bitten me again. Hard.

Actually, truth be told, I never got rid of the Bug, I just tried to turn it into something else. But as I have learned over the last two years, you can try on a whole lot of outfits and at the end of the wardrobe, you will be what you are which is what you always have been. Embracing it is, by far, the hardest easiest road.

So here I am… all Bugged up with nowhere to go…

I still don’t have the great swathes of time that the Bug demands, so, in precisely the same way as my children, my husband, my dog, my garden, my all-together-too-many-projects and my own-little-self do, IT WILL JUST HAVE TO GET USED TO IT! This is life at present – it is a long endless interminable challenging phase and Bug will have to ride it out with the little morsels of attention I can afford it.

The two years since my last confession has included:
1) Some hard-core grappling with and healing from childhood trauma – big and exceptionally challenging.
2) Another baby – the Huge One aka The Boss.
3) Swimming “coaching” without the “coaching” but working one-on-one with some fab young people and, naturally, facing A LOT of my own baggage from that part of my past!
4) Life in the Zone – a program designed to engage, equip and empower young people to make healthy choices for their future – writing, refining and facilitating it in high schools around the place.
5) Embarking on iDAPT programs – a similar gig to LITZ but with wider applications – written by one of the most extraordinary women I know and the woman who saved my life during #1.
6) And all the other stuff – school, garden, book club, charity initiatives, tutoring, and dreaming about writing.

Oh yeah, and raising a family… and starting a Psychology degree… And resurrecting my picture book manuscript that now has an EXTRAORDINARY illustrator on board… I think that’s it… Shit… Where’s my diary?

In a nutshell, it’s great to be back.

Now, for the opinionated stuff…

Stay tuned.

Nx

Oh the grind

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I know I said my blog was changing. I know I said it would no longer be just a litany of reasons why motherhood is so damned hard and so damned exhausting and so damned infuriating, but how was I supposed to know that my toddler would choose to grow down instead of up? Nobody warned me about regressive behaviour! Nobody told me that my Little Lion would REFUSE to be anything but a baby. And I mean that literally.

He refuses to speak. Instead he says “me-me-me-me” in varying high-pitched tones, expecting me to spend my life trying to interpret his constant pretend conversation. What a fun game!

He refuses to walk. Instead he crawls through the mud in the back yard until he is close enough to me to moan, “me-me-me-me-carry-me”. We went through five outfits the other day, simply because he refused to walk. Ain’t that a fun fun fun game!

He refuses to eat. Instead he whines “me-me-me-me-feed-me…” every single meal, expecting me to sit between him and The Blossom, alternately shoveling mouthfuls and cursing the mess my two babies spit and toss on the floor. What a fabulously fun game!

He refuses to go to bed. Instead he screams for the bottle he gave up nearly six months ago and the sleeping bag that he hasn’t used in more than a year. He expects me to sit in his doorway until he falls asleep and screams the house down if I so much as go to the toilet. And did I mention the frequent night waking? And the fact that Mr D has been completely barred from helping because only Mummy will do? What a top-shelf-fabulously fun game!

He will  not consider the potty where some six months ago he was absolutely interested. He couldn’t stand a dirty nappy and he told me what he was doing when he was doing it. Now he lies and says he hasn’t done anything when the whole universe can smell it. When I check and correct him, he claims that more is coming, and when I finally take charge to change him, he screams like I am about to rip his legs off. What a top-shelf-fucking-fantastically-fun game! Especially that he can’t start preschool until the nappies go.

So I am looking down the barrel of an eternity with a petulant, frustrated, button-pushing, heart-breaking, tantrum-throwing ‘Baby’ who is, on some level, choosing to stay “just little”. Why???? I am tired. I have nothing left.

I know he has had a rough time at daycare – we took him out four/five weeks ago and we thought that had made all the difference. He’s home with me. He goes to Nana’s. He is happy – or at least that’s what we thought.

I know he has developed fears – we have done and are doing everything in our power to allay those fears, but I draw the line at having every fucking light in the house on all night. Fears are a normal developmental stage, I get that, but surely not to the point where he doesn’t want to be a big boy any more?

I know that having a sister is a hard thing to come to terms with, but she’s been around for over a year and she occasionally needs her nappy changed too! Get the fuck over it – she’s here to stay so you can stop shoving her, smothering her, lying on top of her, trying to pull her arms off… and copying her, for God’s sake!

I praise grown up behaviour. I point out all the benefits of being big. I give him options. I give him control in every area that I can. I try to listen. I try to be patient. I reinforce our boundaries with a kind-but-firm touch. But sometimes there is just no more fuel in the tank, I’m afraid. So now I just want to cry.

What can I do? How can I make the idea of being a big boy even vaguely appealing to a Lion who roars that he is “NOT A BIG BOY! I BABY!” What have I missed?

Because I’m going fucking nuts here…