This

Life

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Lifelines - Anja Hur­ley

MOD­ERN par­ent­ing seems to re­quire a master’s de­gree. Avail­able read­ing ma­te­rial sug­gests chil­dren are in po­ten­tially dan­ger­ous sit­u­a­tions from the moment they are born. There are ap­par­ently myr­iad pos­si­ble dis­as­ters just wait­ing to un­fold as you nav­i­gate the murky wa­ters of novice moth­er­hood.

If the birth didn’t go as you’d en­vis­aged, take so­lace: this is only the be­gin­ning. And chances are your friends en­dured a more dif­fi­cult/ longer/ quicker/ more dra­matic de­liv­ery than yours. Or per­haps their off­spring were born ‘‘nat­u­rally’’ into a stress–free si­lence. Not my two. There were drugs. There was bad lan­guage. And they weren’t scarred for life (that I know of).

My two petals rolled on the floor, ate peanut but­ter, had grubby hands and kissed dogs. The dummy (frowned on but ef­fec­tive) was even dipped in wine (just to see whether the pref­er­ence was for red or white). The pref­er­ence was nei­ther. The chil­dren were tried on spicy foods, and tra­di­tions were in­tro­duced early on (choco­late for break­fast is de rigueur at our place on your birth­day). And guess what? De­spite all this my chil­dren didn’t de­velop any nasty char­ac­ter traits.

I’ve taught my chil­dren that veg­e­tar­i­ans some­times eat devon (pro­cessed sausage) and that the magic word is not please but abra­cadabra. As a mother I have tried con­trolled cry­ing — it worked . . . I warned the neigh­bours be­fore em­bark­ing on this one. I bought my­self more hours in the day by ris­ing at the crack of dawn to ex­er­cise (I loved my new curves). And I went back to work ear­lier than I should have.

Peo­ple used to tell me how easy meal­times would be once the ba­bies were on solids. ‘‘You just blend up what­ever you’re hav­ing,’’ they would say. This per­plexed me some­what. What if all I was hav­ing was a packet of Tim Tams and a shot of vodka? Not ideal, even for work­ing moth­ers like me. I was tired. I was cranky. Some­times for din­ner we had cheese on toast, just be­cause it was easy.

As a teacher, I’ve ad­mired ev­ery­one else’s chil­dren. I’ve taught them and loved them. I’ve mar­velled at their devel­op­ment, es­pe­cially how much they’ve im­proved in their read­ing. I’ve found lost teeth, braided hair and dis­cov­ered nits, all in the space of two min­utes. I’ve ref­er­eed ar­gu­ments — and that was be­tween par­ents.

I’ve at­tended count­less birth­day par­ties that have been spec­tac­u­lar oc­ca­sions. I’ve stood in parks with my arms folded at the bot­tom of the slip­pery dip, in­form­ing oth­ers that the park is now clos­ing. I have en­joyed the sound of other peo­ple’s chil­dren cry­ing (not mine, for once).

I’ve re­fused to sit up all night do­ing projects — my par­ents never did my home­work. I have made up sto­ries about chil­dren telling lies and how the Easter Bunny or Santa won’t visit them. I’ve turned all the lights off in the house at 7pm and in­formed ev­ery­one it was mid­night just be­cause I was so tired. I’ve wound the clocks for­ward to mid­night at 9pm on New Year’s Eve and watched the 9pm fire­works, pre­tend­ing it was the happy new year al­ready.

I’ve laughed and laughed when my chil­dren have en­ter­tained me. I’ve de­lighted when they’ve been kind to oth­ers.

At times I’ve won­dered if there’s enough — time, re­sources, things. Then I stop and re­mind my­self that ev­ery­thing will be all right in the end. And if it isn’t, I’ll just have to wait and see how it all turns out. Then I open the Tim Tams. And have that shot of vodka.

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