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Archive for October, 2008

This Weekend Edition of the NDM explores different strategies that can be employed in the pursuit of that most elusive of delicacies: The Good Night’s Sleep. All of these strategies have been used in our household at some point or another, with varying degrees of success – if, that is, you consider pretty much no success at all to be a degree of success, which I do, because it’s the Little Things you cling to when you’ve had as little sleep as I have the past six years. So here goes:

Comforters
Comforters present any parent with an interesting conundrum – whether they be a stuffed Rottweiler (such as Mr Justice’s – and it’s a soft toy, not a taxidermy project, in case you were wondering) or a manky old scrap of grey cloth (such as The Pixie’s – see “The Duck One” for more information).

When they are clear and present, comforters act as gentle ushers to the land of Nod. However, when they are Missing In Action, possibly left behind in the park or – worse still – lost somewhere in the House That Ate Paris, they are the agents of Satan Himself.

The Pixie, in particular, is prone to unprecedented hysterics when Duck One has gone walkabout at bedtime. And while she might fall asleep while you’re ostensibly “still looking for it” (or rather, having a stiff drink in the loungeroom), she will wake throughout the night – as if she had instantly thawed out after being cryogenically frozen mid-sentence – and carry on exactly where she left off. 

And as for those delightful Gastro nights when the comforter is usually the first casualty of war… frankly, I think it way easier to withdraw Australian troops from Afghanistan than it is to wrench that beloved vomit-soaked object from an already-ailing child’s hands. Which is why I would recommend anyone considering the introduction of a comforter to their child to think very carefully about the material it is made of – something fashioned out of easy-to-wipe-down plastic would be practical, or better yet, try looking at some type of hard plastic receptacle that could double up as a Sick Bucket. 

My final word on the subject of comforters is this: don’t make the mistake I made in effectively becoming Tiddles McGee’s comforter. I am currently working on a plan to transfer some of his abundant Mummy-Love to a stuffed monkey. Those who have met me in person might think that an easy enough task but so far he seems to be able to tell the difference. I’ll let you know how I go with it. 

Night Horrors
If your child is prone to waking up at night with the night horrors, my advice is to get a night-light. There are all sorts available on the market – hell, you can even get talking night-lights if you want (you’d hope it would say useful stuff like “Get back into bed Right This Very Minute or So Help Us All” or even just “I’m getting your father”). However you could just do what we do which is to use a regular lamp with one of those energy-saving light globes that starts off shedding less light than a match when you first turn it on and then ends up, a few hours later, radiating more light than the sun. I don’t know if you’ve had a look at your exhaustion-ravaged face in broad daylight recently but let me tell you now, I’ve looked at mine and it’s not a pretty sight. So when my children wake screaming in the night and see my face before them,  they have naturally reassessed the monsters their nightmares are made of and chosen sleep as the far-less-scary option. 

Rocking/Patting/Smacking Your Child to sleep
Violence is not the answer. It might feel like it at the time, but it’s just not. Just walk away. Walk away and take it out on the cat instead. In any case, even with the gentlest of patting and rocking, we all know that there’s nothing to be gained from this in the long term, especially when – once the job’s been done – you have to slowly crawl out of the child’s bedroom like a whipped cur. Geez, you might be desperate for sleep and all, but try have a little self-respect, will you.

Co-sleeping
Also known as the win-lose situation. The win? It is a guaranteed way to get your child to sleep through. The lose? Don’t count on getting any sleep yourself, particularly if you’re like me and pre-disposed to waking up upon hearing even your child’s nostrils flare from four rooms away, let alone when it is amplified from within the same bed. 

Every night I end up sleeping with Tiddles on the fold-out couch in the kids’ room – and every morning, I optimistically pack the bed away – not so much to tidy the room up (that would be completely out of character) but because I live in hope that the next night will be different and I might get to spend the whole night in the marital bed away from the relentless glare of the “day-light-night-light” and having Tiddles try to thrust his little toe up my nostril every few hours. This is when my mantra of “It’s just a phase and this, too, will pass” really comes into its own – if, that is, you define “coming into its own” as pretty much “not getting you anywhere at all particularly fast or otherwise”. 

Controlled Crying
For heavens’ sake, pull yourself together. If you really must sob through sheer exhaustion and the overwhelming feeling  that you just can’t go on, try exercise some self-control and cry into a pillow in a room far away from the children. They’re like dogs in that way – if they even get even the slightest whiff of distress on your part, then they’ll make you their bitch forever. 

Medication
If all else fails, three quarters of a bottle of gin should do the job – although I hasten to add I’m advocating medicating the parents here, and not the children. Unless, of course, you’re on board a long haul flight – in which case, Phenergan away. But remember you run the risk with Phenergan that it might send your kid the Other Way and so this is definitely a case of Try This At Home First before you find yourself trapped for 14 hours at 39000 feet with a free-basing toddler.

But back to the gin: chug it down – use a funnel if you have to – and you’ll be surprised what you’ll be able to sleep through. Of course you might not even stir when Social Services come to take your children away – and some could argue that this almost certain eventuality – plus the ensuing hangover – might somewhat detract from the overall benefits of a good night’s sleep. But listen, you can’t have it both ways, okay? Sheesh! 

 

There’s a saying – at least in our household there is – that “Sleep is for the weak”. But then, aren’t the weak going to inherit the earth (or at least the meek, a term that not only rhymes with the weak, but also implies an inherent weakness) and that’s hardly fair because they’re all so well-rested and that’s prize enough in my books. But then again, to be quite honest, I’m hardly in a state to inherit the earth right now: capital gains tax aside, I’m just too damn tired. Ask me again in the morning…

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The other day, I was waiting at the supermarket check-out and felt this little frisson when I looked in my shopping basket. I had realised that its contents  - with 1 litre of no-fat milk, a block of chocolate, cat food and an impulse copy of “NW” magazine – represented a “Single Girl Shop”. I felt all footloose and fancy-free as I walked out to the carpark – there was almost a little skip in my step – but by the time I had climbed up into my 1986 Tarago, noticed the snot streaks on my black tracksuit pants and then the strains of Angela Lansbury singing “Beauty and The Beast” on the car-stereo, the spell was broken and I drove back home with a heavy heart.

It took me back to about a year ago, when my friend JS (she who star-jumped off the wagon with such glee – see “Kicking the Habit“) persuaded me to come into the CBD to meet her and a few girlfriends for a drink or two. It started off badly: I caught the bus in, I couldn’t find the bar because it was too cool to be clearly signposted, and the bouncer looked young enough to be a child of my loins. And then, when I finally located JS and her friends, I saw that they were all fabulously frocked up and drinking exotic cocktails, while little old me (old being the operative word) stood awkwardly with my glass of cheap fizz, in three-quarter length trousers and a large floral hand-bag over one shoulder like some kind of poster girl for Miller’s Fashion Club. As I caught the bus home (which, upon reflection, was even more tragic than catching the bus there), I concluded that I probably would have felt more comfortable wearing a garbage bag held together with gaffer tape and was grateful that nobody had had me escorted from the premises for looking like Somebody’s Aunt.

In my own habitat, I still feel just a little bit cool. I wear vintage cardigans! I’ve never owned a pair of white trainers! I wear “New Media” glasses! My hair is interesting and well-cut by a funky lady! (No-one needs to know that she comes to my house to do it). I had the first pair of Crocs out of everyone I knew and even before Meg Mathews (ex-wife of rumoured ex-member of ex-It band “Oasis”, Noel Gallagher) was featured wearing them in UK “Heat” magazine!! (Okay, so strike that last one). Listen, goddammit: I’m a cool mum!!

I guess the telling sign in that proclamation is that I can’t honestly just say “I’m cool” – I have to put the word “Mum” in there, which is a little like saying you’re an “uproarious funeral director” – both words kind of cancel each other out. Some people like to use the term “Yummy Mummy” but that just rubs me the wrong way whenever I hear it applied to anyone who’s not all laid out on Hannibal Lecter’s dining table. I don’t know why it drives me so crazy – but it does. It’s almost as bad as people saying “It’s All Good” when, clearly, it isn’t *all* good, nothing ever is, and to pretend that it is “All Good” is to be walking around in a state of perpetual delusion.

But anyway, I digress. Last night, when I was still musing on this post and my own state of “Mumsiness”, I found myself walking into the local supermarket with my bicycle helmet still on, a stained t-shirt which kept riding up and an old pair of pregnancy trousers that kept falling down. To protect the public from the Horror That Is My Midriff, I promptly pulled the trousers as high as they would go, so the stunning result was as bad as Simon “Harry Highpants” Cowell would look like if he wasn’t surrounded by American Idol stylists 24/7.  Much to my delight, I ran into a fellow mother-of-three wearing her netball skirt and a heavy metal tshirt from a band her brother was in during the 80s. We regarded each other with the respect we deserved – after all, nothing we were wearing was inside out or could be classified as nightwear and – here’s the most impressive thing – there we were, both chillin’ in the dairy section of Coles, without our children while our husbands were at home doing the childwrangling. Now that’s cool.

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Book groups are a bit like trying to find a Steve Guttenberg movie at your local Video Easy store – difficult enough to find in the first place, but to find a good one is nigh impossible.

One friend once belonged to a group organised through her local library and her tales of it chilled me to my core. Firstly, they expected you to have closely read the whole book and not to have just sped-read each chapter in the three minutes of reading time you have each night. Secondly, you were expected to turn up with notes you’d made about the book – and not just of the Brodies variety. Thirdly, there was mention of additional reading – and not just “Mr Brown can Moo. Can you?” or “There’s a Wocket in my Pocket”. And finally, it was the sort of group that would certainly never – never! – approve of anyone wikipedia-ing the book’s synopsis five minutes before you went along to the meeting. Should such a heinous crime be uncovered, you would be summarily dismissed from the group to allow some more worthy soul on the waiting list to take your place. Yes, apparently there are people waiting  to join such groups. In my day, you would have just enrolled in an English unit at a university but I guess these-a-days the book group option is a whole lot cheaper, if unaccredited. 

Thankfully, my group is a little more relaxed than all that – for one thing, it’s not essential that you finish the book or even read it at all. The conversation usually – and quickly –  stretches beyond the nominated book to larger issues such as religion, politics, philosophy and why that body-shaping underwear I bought makes me look like the Michelin Man (not quite the “body-shape” I was hoping for, thank you very much, Nancy Ganz). We may then return to discussing the book, but then again we may not. 

There are many reasons why I love my Book Group. For one thing, I love a good healthy round-table discussion with lively like-minded individuals. And not the usual kind of round-the-kitchen-table discussion I have with my family – bless their little odd-socks – where it starts well but usually disintegrates into in-fighting and name-calling – and that’s just between me and my husband (boom-boom!). I also like reading books outside my comfort zone and being surprised by books I would have otherwise bypassed because they had silver writing on their covers. And – on occasion – I even enjoy reading books that I don’t like, particularly when a forum like a book group forces me to articulate *why* I don’t like it and not just dismiss it out of hand the way that Mr Justice used to dismiss anything green on his plate (“It’s yucky.”). I think it’s so important to remain critically aware in some aspects of my life and not just completely surrender to the indiscriminate enthusiasm required of a parent (For example: “Oh Pixie, that line you just drew is so straight and so very liney! You’re the best line drawer ever!” and “Oh, Tiddles – you did a poo! What a clever little boy you are! And what a lovely little poodly-schmoodly-poo it is, too!”).

Anyway, a couple of nights ago, it was my turn to host book group. (Over the years, we’ve experimented holding it in many different locations and have recently discovered it’s easier to hear each other talk over the sound of our children wailing in their beds than it is over ambient music or people just generally having a normal social life). I was surprised by how excited Mr Justice got about it, particularly because he was about to be condemned to wail in his bed for the night. He spent a lot of time lovingly preparing the loungeroom – which mostly involved sticky-taping a peacock feather to the coffee table and writing a sign which enigmatically read: “Book Group Only! Take a book!”. 

Soon after 7:30pm, everyone arrived and I can safely say that pretty much no-one paused for breath for the next two-and-a-half hours. About half-way through, my husband – whose monumental task is to settle the kids each night – dropped by to say Mr Justice was still awake, apparently still beside himself with excitement. Too shy to come out himself to see us, he’d instead asked my husband to take a photo on the digital camera and bring it back to show him “what a book group looked like”. I don’t quite know what he was imagining we would be doing, but we must have come in well below expectation because when I checked on him five minutes later, he was fast asleep.

Luckily for me, I obviously get a whole lot more out of Book Group than that. And here are my hopes for the future: may my book group go on and on and on and keep giving me an excuse to flex that otherwise sedentary brain muscle, may people keep writing good books for me to read, and may I eventually find some underwear that actually makes my stomach look flat. And not necessarily in that order.

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