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Posts Tagged ‘parenting’

It’s not enough these days to simply have Harry Potter books, movies and merchandise. They have to be cross-bred with Lego so there’s Harry Potter Lego and then they get in bed with Nintendo so there can be a Harry Potter Lego Wii game. It’s like one big cross-promotional orgy.

And then there are the “brand extensions” where marketing people push brands in new (and often unexpected) directions.

Just the other day, when we were stuck in a Canberra motel with nothing but the Disney Channel for the kids to watch, we saw an ad for My Little Pony Mermaids. Yes, My Little Pony Mermaids. Apparently (according to the ad) whenever the My Little Ponies visit the sea, they magically turn into beautiful mermaids – or rather, pony mermaids. I mean, I was still getting over the Barbie film The Pixie made me watch, where the Barbie character found out she was half-human half-mermaid. What that actually meant in reproductive terms was disturbing enough, but a stallion getting it on with a trout’? That’s more ‘sick-as-fuck’ than “magical”, people.

“Who comes up with this sh…” I started to say, but then I saw the look of wonder on my daughter’s face. It was like that commercial had spoken directly to her soul.

“…imply fantashtic shtuff!” I concluded, brightly.

“Oh, I want a My Little Pony Mermaid Castle for my birthday, Mama,” The Pixie said. “Oh, please can I have one. Please??”

So I did what any parent would do. And no, I didn’t refuse to buy it. That’s what an ‘ethical’ or perhaps even ‘sane’ parent would do. Instead, I delegated the purchase of said My Little Pony Mermaid Castle to my father.

A few days later, my dad rang me from Target. He sounded in shock. A seasoned-father of three daughters, there was nothing in his nearly 40 years of parenting that had prepared him for the My Little Pony Mermaid range.

“There’s a My Little Mermaid Pony dolphin carriage here,” he said. “But no castle…”

Of course, there is a My Little Pony Dolphin Carriage, I thought to myself. Because if a mermaid pony wanted to get around under the sea, they’d totally make the dolphins their bitches rather than do any actual swimming themselves. You know it makes sense.

I considered for a moment letting him off the hook and telling him to get her the dolphin carriage but I knew, in my heart of hearts, that it was the My Little Pony Mermaid Castle she wanted.

Sure enough, a few days later, my decision to bully my father into searching until he’d found the castle was vindicated. After her party, I asked The Pixie if she’d liked the presents she’d received.

“They’re great!” she said, and then her bottom lip started to tremble. “But I’m a little sad because… because… I didn’t get the present of my dreams!”

And she burst into tears.

“Nobody gave me the My Little Mermaid Pony Castle!” she wailed. “And… and… nobody gave me the Dora Mermaid that [Baby C] got for Christmas!”

Dora the Mermaid Explorer? Oh. My. Sweet. Fuck. Is there no end to this madness?

Apparently not.

 

Just waiting for Lego to come to the party...

 

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Darling Pixie: Happy 6th Birthday for yesterday. Remember, your mummy loves you so much that she bought you a Dora The Mermaid Explorer (after she worked out that it wasn’t a talking or singing toy, that is. Small mercies, people. SMALL MERCIES.)

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My husband once told me that the ninety-ninth push-up feels extra hard when you are doing a hundred push-ups. But if you’re doing two hundred, it’s a breeze. His wisdom was, of course, a little lost on me because the closest I’ve ever been to a push-up is the wonderbra range in David Jones, and even then I’m only walking past them on my way to the Mama-jug Scaffolding Solution bras.

Still, last Wednesday, I felt the full strain of my ninety-ninth push-up of one hundred. Last Wednesday was the second last day of a five week stint of looking after my dear friend KT’s two children three days a week (see “And Then There Were Five“). It also happened to be my second last day ever helping KT and her husband Uncle B out in this particular way.

Strangely enough, having five kids on a part-time basis hasn’t been too bad – as proven by a distinct lack of blogs on the subject.

Some might say I’ve even developed a certain knack for dealing with five children. For example, I have learnt never to ask the question “Would anyone like something to drink?” because it only turns me into the kiddie-equivalent of James Bond’s drinks waiter, taking orders for everything from “half-lemon half-orange cordial with cold water and ice in a big cup with a twisty straw” to “milk at room temperature in a drinky pot with a lid, but not the one with the orange lid, the one that used to have a clown on it”. Now, I just fill five similar-sized cups with tap water, plonk them on the table and then flee the room screaming before anyone can complain.

And then there came the day I managed to gain two EXTRA-extra children. Yes, I ferried seven children home in the Star Wagon from school – they don’t call it a People Mover for nothing.

“Look, kids. Let’s watch the crazy lady put all the kids in the car,” one school mother whispered to her children as I got the kids to line their school bags along the fence and got them to form an orderly queue.

So it’s little wonder that I had gotten a little cocky by the time my ninety-ninth push-up came around.

Turns out I needed to take The Pixie to a doctor’s appointment and,with my husband unexpectedly out of town on a business trip, I decided I should just take all five kids along with me.

When I made this decision of course, I imagined them in my mind’s eye, all standing in a row, like the Von Trapps in crisp sailor suits, their arms by their side, silently waiting for me to give my orders. And while, in reality, it didn’t turn out exactly like that, they weren’t too bad. Of course, the doctor and I had to use our night-club voices to make ourselves heard, but it was okay.

And that, as they say, might have been that – except I then had to go to the pharmacist to get a prescription filled, which involved getting the kids in and out of the car a second time.

“No problem,” I said to myself. “The fish and chip shop is just next door. After we’ve got the medicine, we’ll make the most of our second car stop and get fish and chips for dinner. That way I won’t have to cook under pressure when we get home at shit o’clock.”

If I wasn’t carrying two pre-schoolers over a hole in the footpath at that moment, I might even have patted myself on the back.

The pharmacy was a little harder than the doctor’s, mostly because there were more things to break and pay for. But it was fine. Fine. It wasn’t until we went to the Fish And Chip shop that I realised I’d gone one shop too far with them. It also was at this point that the E102-saturated Barbeque Shapes I’d fed them all in the car came into their own.

All of a sudden, I was like a juggler losing control of  my super-dooper-bouncing balls, that once dropped, start bouncing everywhere, leaving me to desperately clamber about trying to gather them all up again. And by “clamber about”, I mean shouting “SIT! DOWN!” and giving my fiercest looks, while the children, completely oblivious to me, rolled around on the floor, jumped off chairs, threw the newspaper around the room, opened and closed the fridge and the icecream freezer and tried to crawl along the front window to get behind the counter.

By the time our food was ready, I was close to tears. And then it turned out I didn’t have enough money to pay for the fish and chips – I was fifty cents short. The lady, sensing my delicate state, told me not to worry, at which point, my tears began to flow.

I wept openly as I tried to herd the kids back to the car. They were still all bouncing around, whacking each other with found objects, and, while trying to strap the final child into the car, I reached the Snapping Point. You know, that point where the ‘Scary Voice’ emerges  – the voice that in no way resembles your normal voice and you suspect was sampled and used in The Exorcist – and I uttered the dreaded words “THAT’S IT! NOBODY – AND I MEAN NOBODY – IS GETTING DESERT TONIGHT!”

Judging from the response, I may as well have said “The tooth fairy doesn’t exist” or “Santa hates your guts”. The older boys went pale and the girls and Tiddles McGee started wailing like banshees who’d been told by Santa that the tooth fairy didn’t exist.

And I realised at that moment that the ninety-ninth push-up was a complete and utter bitch.

Of course, if my husband came up to tell me at that point that I wasn’t doing a hundred push-ups, I was actually doing two hundred and that KT wasn’t due back for another five weeks, it all would have been okay again, right? RIGHT?

Yeah, right.

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I’m a good mother. No really, I am! I read to my kids, I give them hugs and kisses when they’re hurt, I go to school assembly when they’re getting ‘Pupil Of The Week’ and blah blah blah and so on and so forth. HOWEVER, whenever I have to push a small child on a swing for more than two minutes, I can’t help but feel I’m completely wasting my life.

[Incidentally, when I have to swing two or more children simultaneously (and, not to show off or anything, I’ve once swung four), I also can’t help but feeling like one of those Plate Spinners at the circus, dashing between each swing, keeping the momentum for each child going so they don’t start shouting “Higher! Higher!! HIGHER!!!” again. Man, that “HIGHER!!!” thing makes me anxious. For one thing, those swings get a terrible speed wobble when pushed too high. For another thing, I’m always worried the swing’ll end up doing one of those ‘Round The World yo-yo tricks. But I digress…]

And so it was with a heavy heart that I saw that the newly refurbished park down the road had a grand total of three swings in two different locations within the park. That put an end to any dream I had of being able to sit in a 360° swivel chair in the middle of the park sipping from a glass freshly-filled from the champagne drinking fountain (which are just a few of the park inventions I have previously blogged about. Two words: Ideas. Person.).

For the record, I had been enjoying that park immensely while it was being refurbished. Oftentimes, I would park the car with the five kids in my care just outside the building site and watch the workmen hard at work talking on their mobile phones. We would chat excitedly about all the new equipment and all the fun we’d have when we could finally go there – which I promised to do the very minute the park was open. It was the best fun I’d ever had at a park because nobody even unclipped their seatbelt, let alone asked me to hold their legs (and their full body weight) while they ‘swung’ across the improbably high monkey-bars or ran in front of an oncoming swing. Nobody tried to sell me a handful of tanbark posing as ‘chips’ and then expected me to eat them. Nobody took their shoes and socks off to go in the sand pit or dipped their arse into a puddle the size of the South China Sea at the bottom of the slide. And most certainly, nobody asked me to push them on the ruddy swing.

So I was just a little disappointed when the park actually opened and we had to get out of the car and go in it.

And of course, within minutes of stepping in the place, I found myself, eyes glazed over, tanbark in my goddamn shoes, simultaneously pushing two children on the swings, with yet another child over on the ‘big swing’ looking at me with imploring eyes.

“Higher! HIGHER!” the children all shouted.

“I’m wasting my fucking life!” I thought to myself. But then I thought about how I could turn it all into a blog post so now I suppose I’m just wasting yours.

The end, by me.

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Every parent dreads it: losing a child in a crowded public place. Of course it’s a little different when that child is made of plastic.

Yes, we had brought Abby, my ‘fourth child’ (and my daughter’s plastic doll) to the indoor play-centre. I had initially convinced The Pixie that Abby was “happier” watching from the stroller, but after four hours of constant exposure to screaming children high on food colouring and sugar, my judgment became somewhat obscured. I found myself agreeing to let her take Abby on the slides – admittedly as a strategy to avoid having to go on the slides with her myself. I have a long-held hatred of those play-centre slides, mostly because I am naturally a ‘charged’ person and the static electricity I get off those damn things turns me into the Emperor from the Star Wars movies. No, really.

I had just come back from taking Tiddles McGee to the toilet for the 87th time, when The Pixie came up to me, crying that she’d lost Abby. Apparently, she’d been sending Abby down the slide by herself and then following shortly after. But after one too many turns, she got to the bottom to find Abby gone.

We looked under tables, in the ball pit and asked at the counter. I even sent a reluctant Mr Justice and his friend up into the extensive labyrinth above the slides to see if she was up there. We looked and looked. Abby had vanished.

Knowing I’d never be able to leave this hellish place if we didn’t find her, I approached some mothers sitting near the foot of the slide.

“Sorry, but have you seen a baby doll in a pink jumpsuit?” I asked.

“She’s not a doll! She’s my sisssstttterrrrrrrrrrrrrrr!” The Pixie wailed behind me.

“Yes. I mean, have you seen a baby in a pink jumpsuit who, uh, looks very much like a doll?” I carefully rephrased my question.

The mothers hadn’t seen her but a couple of them, seeing how upset The Pixie was, offered to help me look.

Finally, one of them (who, though we never knew her name, shall always remain one of our Family Heroes)  located Abby lying on a table at the back of the play-centre in front of a woman. My guess is that one of her kids had picked her up and taken her back to the table to share the chicken nuggets and potato wedges. I found myself bristling a little when I saw how casual the mother at the table was about Abby’s presence there.

“Excuse me, but that’s my daughter’s sister,” I said huffily, scooping Abby up. I mean, if one of my kids found a doll or a teddy bear at the play-centre, I’d immediately take it to the counter. It’s called ‘civic diligence’, people! Well, admittedly, that might not be what it’s called but it’s close enough.

Anyway, a few days later, I found myself regaling this tale at our local cafe to the owner and one of the waitresses. The owner, after all,  had asked after my ‘fourth child’.

It was when I got to the point in the story when I asked the mothers if they’d seen a doll that the penny dropped for the waitress.

“Oh!” she exclaimed suddenly. “Oh, thank god. I thought you were talking about an actual child. You seem so… so… ”

“Non-plussed?” I suggested.

The waitress nodded, no doubt secretly taking her finger off the speed-dial button for Social Services under the cafe’s counter.

Note to self: make sure you issue a full disclaimer to all people in hearing range before talking about your “fourth child”.

Other note to self: make sure you don’t write the previous note to self on a piece of scrap paper and then lose it.

Final note to self: ending posts with notes to self is lame and clearly shows you didn’t know how else to end this post.

Final FINAL note to self: Shut the fuck up.

Final final FINAL note to self: Okay.

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Wherever my daughter and I go these days, we are always accompanied by a baby doll called Abby.

People love to see little girls with baby dolls. They always smile at The Pixie and say “Is that your little baby you’ve got there?”

The Pixie tends to frown when asked this question. After all, it’s a bit obvious she’s too young to have a baby of her own.

“No, she’s not my baby. She’s my little sister,” she replies solemnly.

“Which makes her my baby!” I then exclaim, perhaps a little too brightly because the people’s smiles tend to fade at this point of the conversation and, more often than not, they take a little step backwards.

Yes, I am now officially – or at least according to The Pixie – a mother of four.

Luckily, Abby sleeps a lot. Like a lot a lot. And she never cries. Not even a little bit. After having had three babies who did lots of crying and precious little sleeping, the universe owes me an easy one, even if it is a plastic doll.

The Pixie is growing suspicious about my parenting skills, however. When she gets home from school, the first thing she usually asks is “Where’s Abby?”

“Uh, Abby’s still in the pram…” I had to admit one day.

“Still? Didn’t you get her out all day?” she asked, outraged.

“No,” I replied. “She was, uh, sleeping soundly. Very very soundly. I didn’t want to disturb her.”

“Well, aren’t you going to get her up?” she demanded .

“Could you do it, sweetheart? I’m cooking dinner for my other (real) children,” I said, careful to swallow the word “real” so as not to upset her (see below).

“She’s your baby!” she replied, her finger no doubt poised over the speed dial button for the Department of Health and Services.

“She’s not a baby, she’s a doll!” Mr Justice suddenly weighed in from nowhere.

“NO! SHE’S NOT A DOLL. SHE’S MY SISTTTTTEERRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR!” The Pixie wailed, running from the room with her fist held dramatically to her mouth.

We have had many variations on this conversation over the past couple of months, inevitably ending in The Pixie’s tears.

For example:

PIXIE: How many people in our family?

NDM: (distracted) Five…

PIXIE: No! There’s six! You forgot Abby!

MR JUSTICE: Yes, [Pixie] there are six in our family. Five people and one stupid doll.

PIXIE: SHE’S NOT A DOLL! SHE’S MY SISSSSTTTERRRRRRRRRRR!

Or:

PIXIE: Abby’s enjoying her water soup, Mummy!

NDM: (distracted) That’s nice, dear.

MR JUSTICE: Water soup isn’t soup, it’s just water and Abby can’t even swallow it because she’s a doll.

PIXIE: SHE’S NOT A DOLL! SHE’S MY SISSSSTTTERRRRRRRRRRR!

And even:

PIXIE: Abby!

MR JUSTICE: Doll!

PIXIE: SISSSSSTTTTTTTTTTERRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR!

But I have to hand it to The Pixie. She’s obviously spending a lot of time wondering how she can argue against Mr Justice’s claims that Abby is “just a doll”.

“Human beings aren’t real,” she announced in the car the other day. “We are all dolls.”

Mr Justice didn’t even pause for breath with his rebuttal. “Well, [Pixie], since you are always telling us Abby is not a doll, you’re only proving that she is not One Of Us.”

“You’re a doll! YOU’RE! A! DOLL!” The Pixie screamed back at him.

Although technically correct, Mr Justice should probably be careful at this point. His sister may well end up like Joy from Psychoville or Abby is going to go all Bride of Chucky. Either way, it’s not going to end well.

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In the Dog Person versus Cat Person war where you have to CHOOSE YOUR SIDE (in the tradition of Transformers), I fall on the side of the dogs. I mean, what’s not to love about a dog? I’d get a puppy in a heartbeat –  if the thought of toilet-training another creature didn’t chill me to my very core, that is. Oh, and if I didn’t think Genghis Cat would eat it in another heartbeat.

However, as much as I love dogs, I draw the line at this: whenever I tell an amusing parenting anecdote to a dog owner  – whether it be about how clever Mr Justice is or what a cute thing The Pixie said the other day or the time I caught Mr McGee’s vomit in my hand – they’re always quick to say “Aw! That’s just like [insert dog’s name]”.

For the record, here are a few of the key differences between children and dogs that I have identified:

People do not look kindly upon you letting your children piss or shit on their front lawn, even when you are carrying a little plastic bag.

You have to take your kids inside shops full of precious breakable objects. Tying them to a pole outside is not an option.

When you are ever-so-slightly hungover and about to merge onto a busy freeway and your daughter insists on “singing the song in my heart, Mummy!!” very loudly, you can not put a muzzle on her. You can merely request that she “sing on the inside of her head”.

Dogs are good at coming when you call them. Children are not.

Dogs, for better or for worse, tend to eat whatever you give them. Children do not.

You can exercise a dog just by simply taking them for a walk. No activity they do requires you to endlessly trek from shop to shop in search of size 4 flesh-coloured underpants for the ballet concert or to stand next to a muddy field in the freezing rain for three hours on a Saturday  morning.

Child-worming tablets are far more expensive than dog-worming ones and there’s apparently not a single louse collar commercially available that can prevent your children from getting the itches.

Children, if they come into your bed at night, will not lie at the end of the bed and keep your feet warm. Instead, they will stick their cold pointy toes into your tender bits and/or will insist on holding onto both of your ears while they sleep so you can not escape.

You can say whatever you like in front of your dog without fear of them later repeating it ad verbatim in front of the person you were bitching about.

You can’t ask your neighbours to drop by and feed the kids while you go away for the weekend.

Dogs will take the rap for your farts. Most children will not.

Children don’t tend to scare off would-be thieves and door-to-door salesmen, unless said thieves and salesmen have the same aversion to being touched by sticky-jam-hands or human snot as my husband has.

If you’re a single woman, taking your dog to the local park can be a great way to meet single men. But taking your children to the park? Not so much.

Finally, dogs don’t insist on saying “Hello” to everyone you ever speak to on the phone, answer back, tell lies, wipe snot on their bedroom wall, hide the TV remote, colour in your passport with permanent marker, hassle you to go to McDonalds just so they can get another piece of plastic shit for the toy box or ask for iPhone for their eighth birthday when you yourself don’t even have fucking iPhone.

I rest my case.

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Last Saturday, my friend Uncle B lost his Quiz Night virginity. In the lead up, he was understandably very excited.

“Obviously, film is my strongest category,” he told one of his work mates the day beforehand. “But I like to think I have a broad grasp of general knowledge… except for maybe history, politics… sport… oh, and literature.”

“So, just films then?” his work friend remarked.

“Yes, just films,” he admitted.

Still, Uncle B was lucky on the night that there was a whole section devoted to films – which our table got a perfect score for. That’s ten-out-of-ten, people!

However, on reflection, there was not a single literary question – which is my personal quiz night superpower. Most certainly, there was not a single question on feminist performance theory in the 1980s – the topic of my honours dissertation. Sheesh! (That sheesh was directed at the lack of 80s feminist performance theory questions but could equally be applied to the fact I once wrote twelve thousand words on the topic.)

And since at least three of our party were self-professed experts in the area of Politics and World Events, it was disappointing that the only vaguely related question was a close-up of [Australian Opposition Leader] Tony Abbott’s lycra-clad cock in a ‘Guess the famous person’ section. (For our sins, we got the question right).

Anyway, no wonder our team came second. It’s clear they just asked us the wrong questions. Yeah, that must be it.

Of course, the Mild-Mannered Lawyer tried to blame our loss on my “slow writing”, which, quite frankly, I found discriminatory. For reasons unknown, the person designated to write down the answers in the ‘Speed Round’ was the one person at the table with osteoarthritis. OSTEOARTHRITIS, PEOPLE! And the fact that I wrote down ‘Flemington’ instead of ‘Lamington’ was neither here nor there and most certainly not alcohol-related. Anyone – even the most sober person in the world – could make that mistake. Anyone. I dare the MML to go up to ten random people on the street and ask them to write ‘Lamington’ and I’ll guarantee that at least half will write ‘Flemington’. And by ‘half’, I mean ‘one’. And by ‘one’, I mean ‘me’. Especially if I’m completely rat-arsed.

In any case, it should be stated for the record that I wrote down 12 answers while the MML, who, having commandeered someone else’s pen so she could compile an alternate list, wrote down a grand total of ZERO. That’s possibly because she was too busy shouting “Flemington!” at me.

Anyway, there was a point when someone looked around our table and realised, of our nine team mates, only Uncle B and KT actually had a child at the kindergarten which the quiz night was raising funds for. And even then, they were both eleventh hour additions to our table.

“Uh, so why are we here?” someone asked the MML, who had arranged the whole evening.

I think her (drunken) reply was something along the lines of “QUIZZZZZZZZZZ NIGGGHHHHHHHHHHT!” which, to be quite honest, still sounded a lot like “Flemington” to me.

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