Archives: S-Man

A gentle surrender

Warning: this post contains an uncharacteristically high level of schmaltz
Baby

So he’s here, and it seems that I didn’t even realise this family was unfinished until this last baby completed us. The day before his birth, I couldn’t imagine a baby amongst our existence; the day after, couldn’t imagine life without his being part of it.

He’s perfect, he’s zen, he’s so comfortably present.

I wonder why it’s taken nearly a month to even post about it, but then each day I attempt to do things, am thwarted, and learn to adapt by downsizing expectations.

Domestic order, I’m delighted to let slip first. But I do have my standards. My goals for each morning are three: Wash up. Clean the kitchen’s horizontal surfaces. Make the bed. (It will never win any awards for perfect hospital corners, but on a good morning, the pillows are back in alignment and the sheets kinda taut.) Then, if I’m lucky, I score a shower during a break in feeds. Sometimes this happens before midday. In the shower, I indulge in dangerous fantasies that I’ll have time to achieve other stuff when I’m out of the shower. Sometimes I make a mental list. Sometimes I even form sentences of prose to type when I’m dry. They’re yet to make it to any page, as I’m usually greeted by a crying baby before I’ve toweled off the curling grey steristrips across the scar on my abdomen.

I feed A even more than a usual newborn; he’s taking both breast and bottle. (More on this in a later post.) Plus he has a great appetite. I probably feed him for half my waking (and sleeping, and not-sleeping) hours. Then burp him for, like, forever, particularly after formula feeds. I’ve got David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest in position next to the couch. Turns out it’s a great choice: its fragmented narrative works brilliantly with a fragmented reader.

And I am ridiculously, extremely, almost manically happy.  I was not this happy with my earlier babies: not because of the babies, because of me.

I keep using the word “surrender”, and not negatively. It may be the wrong word to use. I have surrendered to motherhood, to this evaporation of time in milk and nappies and fatigue and baby vomit. I am old enough, and maybe comfortable enough, to not resent that the only real role I can play right now is this one. Any other identity (or psychoanalytic ego-driven ideas of self) is on hold, or changed, or maybe gone. Perhaps I was affected by having my sense of self changed by an outside force (a little, baby-sized one) with the last kids, in my thirties. I know I’m still capable, but whatever those capabilities are, they’re funneled into a rather noble pursuit for now. The fact that it’s so commonly done does not diminish its nobility. Maybe that’s what I didn’t get, before.

This surrender is akin to acceptance, or mindfulness. Mindfulness. Fuck I hate that term, but it fits, despite being smashed out of shape by newage cranks and opportunistic pseudo-gurus.

The view at work

Keyboard w/- view

And I am incredibly lucky to be able to surrender to normal baby-raising things. I am lucky to have a partner who makes school lunches if I’m tied up feeding. Who pulls his weight, and sometimes some of mine. When Daddyo says he enjoys doing the vacuuming, I choose to believe him. I am lucky to be part of a community that drops off pies and offers to drive the kids to soccer. I am lucky to have parents who help with dinner when we need. So I have the luxury of being able to sit, and feed, and burp a baby, and allow myself this calm inertia that I call surrender.

We were incredibly moved by our friend Todd’s show, The Button Event, last week. Even when we know some of the story, his performance underlined the needs of managing twin babies, and then the special needs of a sick infant. This obviously resonated with me right now. We know wonderful parents of children with special needs, of children who are unwell, and their stamina and strength inspire and astound me. Constantly. My miniscule efforts in deceleration to tend to the needs of a regular newborn are nothing compared with their momentous daily, ongoing efforts.

 

 

Stop! Mama time!

I want to freeze my sons, at 8 and nearly 10, in their age of “Stand By Me” wonder, of energy and potential

of health and optimism

of delight

 

I want to always hear these conversations: the complex trading systems of Pokemon cards, the ethical posturing of Star Wars, the heavy analysis of the World Cup, the astute shunning of falsity

of hanging out squashed together on the couch watching old Bollywood

of a houseful of children, a weekend tide, surging down the hall and out the backyard and up the trees

and back down the street

 

before the angst of teenage years, the tyranny of hormones

 

To keep them from grownupness

the competitive renovation of the aspirational middle classes

the state sanctioned greed of continual consumption

the sting of rejection

the cruelty of business

the unspecial loves, the mean lovers

 

Could we halt their growth? Make them forever boys,

happy to hold my hand (when nobody’s looking), innocent yet clever?

 

Ah, no.

But what men they will be!

and how lovely it will be to meet them

The sole door to that meeting

will, eventually, sacrifice these little blokes

to adulthood

to another

to this crappy grownupness

 

Maturity and mortality

The philosophy of nine year olds

My sons, I think, have just experienced a momentus weekend for an eight and nine year old. They both kicked goals at soccer, and their teams won. They watched ‘The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou’ for the first time. They spent all of Sunday at their school fiesta. And they saw a cat hit by a car as they walked home.

The cat died, they said, pretty instantaneously. I wasn’t with them, as I’d left a little earlier to deal with necessary domestic detritus. I’m a coward; I didn’t seek details, yet I heard a few, anyway. But not many. They were fairly quiet about the whole thing, and I wonder if I should have asked more questions. Daddyo seemed more affected than the kids. (He’s still a little sad this morning.) The car didn’t stop, and he door-knocked along the road to find the cat’s owners. He found them. He came home with blood on his hands and his shorts.

Bringing trash and treasure

Looming loot

Perhaps fiesta-induced exhaustion made the experience surreal for the three of them (and the Coopers Pale Ale for the big guy). It had been a mammoth day: unlimited ride passes, old friends visiting from Cairns, and some spending money from grandparents. S-Man, in particular, went ape at Trash and Treasure. I worry about a hoarder’s future for him. Some of the toys I donated have made it back home. Again. Most of this will re-route to the local opshop. Life is circular.

It’s rare to allow these boys to watch M-rated movies, but Wes is Wes. His vision of Fantasic Mr Fox is a household favourite, and they quite liked Moonrise Kingdom. Life Aquatic is just natural progression. Now, writing about a movie we watched: I wouldn’t usually consider this remarkable enough to mention, except for the unplanned take-out they’ve drawn from it. CC blew me away when he explained, early on, his sympathy for Klaus (the character played by Willem Dafoe who feels usurped by Owen Wilson’s Ned assuming his coveted filial role). This is not a black-and-white reading, and I’m stoked by an eight-year-old’s sensitivity. Or maybe I’m just delighted to have another couple of Wes Anderson fans in the house. Hipster wanker, you say? Wait ‘til you see the triangles I’m painting on the nursery furniture.

Is it wrong to think that all of this weekend’s experiences are, in their own ways, healthy for the boys to experience? And should I ask them more about the cat? How they felt? Or should some emotions be allowed to be processed by maturing young people in their own space and time? This parenthood gig is tricky.

Culinary heritage

CC, my nearly 8-year-old, informs me he needs to create a recipe to cook something representing his “cultural background”. By the end of the week. With pictures. Which means we have to cook the bloody thing this morning, before school, as we’re tied up for the rest of the week.

Our cultural background is Anglo-boring. I write “Australian” on census forms, but that’s not what out school wants. It’s an awesome multicultural school; its motto is “We all smile in the same language.” How can we compete with the exotic menus of his classmates?

We’ve been here before, last year, when his brother the S-man was in grade 3. He presented his Scottish ancestry with Shepherd’s Pie. Easy enough, with forewarning.

CC has chosen to reference some minor European heritage, which I may occasionally claim with skewed weight: the French. (I think my sons’ genetic makeup contains about 6.25% French DNA. And another 6.25% Algerian. But there’s a tangent for another time.) Well, French he’s chosen, and it sure beats making haggis.

Oi, Oi, Oi... Oui, Oui?

Oi, Oi, Oi… Oui, Oui?

Now, what masterpiece of French cuisine can we whip up before school in order to get some pictures printed?

To my culinary relief, he has decided he wants to make French toast.

A quick pray to Google informs that French toast is, indeed, French (also Roman, and is found in the heritage of many other nationalities, including the Roma, who probably aren’t even allowed to claim eggy bread, or anything else. But let’s not peddle bread-pedantry). It even has a real French name, pain perdu. Lost bread. Meaning stale bread. We’re going to tell his class that we eat stale bread.

The only bread in the house, stale or not, is multigrain, which doesn’t seem very legit. Tough.

Where's Tassie?

Where’s Tassie?

We jazz some of it up with biscuit cutters – eat your heart out, Organised Housewife. A rectangle between two triangles becomes Tie Fighter toast. This is an example of a superior parenting tactic, something those clever parenting books call “encouraging your child’s imagination”*. I am officially an Excellent Parent.

The force is (not very) strong on this plate

The force is (not very) strong in this one

*through crappy representation

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