I'm trying to keep my business, my triplets, and my waistline under control. I excel at one of those, fail at another one of those, and one is a work in progress. Which is which is day dependant.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

The Guinea Pig Incident

DD1 has been desperate to get a guinea pig for months and months now. She's researched it online, taken library books out about the care and feeding of guinea pigs, talked to several guinea pig owners and taken copious notes.  It's been her main topic of conversation for several months now. DH and I didn't encourage this fascination at all - but nor did we really want to quash her enthusiasm - so we would just listen politely and ask questions and hope she would eventually let it go.

Uh-huh. Yep. Like THAT was ever going to happen.

Somewhere in there, we kinda forgot that she's .... especially awesome ... and therefore a little, ummm... obsessive about stuff. I didn't want to outright say "no" (although goodness knows why not, I totally could have) and so I basically told her that if she wanted a guinea pig, she had to do it all herself. In other words, raise the money to buy one, take care of it including the gross stuff, and blah-di-blah be in charge of the whole damn thing. The amazing thing is, not once did she actually ASK for one. Nor did she nudge me about it, not really - she just talked about it a lot, and mused about "wouldn't it be nice...?" and mentioned little adorable guinea pig factual tid-bits endlessly. (Did you know that when they are born they are the size of a 5c piece?) Yes, ladies and gentlemen, I believe that's what's called "getting what you want from your parents via passive agressive cuteness."

We fell for it. Or rather, *I* fell for it.

If you don't know this already, we are actually already the parents to an entirely gorgeous and over-indulged greyhound. Greyhounds are sight hounds, meaning they see small things about ten kilometres away and they want to play or EAT said small thing right this very moment. So they will RUN LIKE HELL and catch said small thing and play with it. To death. Literally.

Did you know that guinea pigs are in fact small things? Which scurry around in  ways which are very enticing to greyhounds?

Yeah. I did too.

I still gave in.

You can say it. I'm an idiot.

My only excuse is that I'm a sucker for a kid who says things like, "I think I'll name him 'Chuckles'," while looking dreamily into the distance and clutching a book which is called, "You and Your Guinea Pig: A Beginner's Guide."

And so the hutch was bought, the hay was bought, the water bottle thingie attached to the side, and Edward the guinea pig came home with an extremely excited little girl. Four days later, we were burying Edward the guinea pig and comforting that same little girl.


They do not have a chapter in the parenting guidebook for "When Parents Do Stupid Things (like allow a greyhound and a guinea pig to live in the same household.)" The crazy thing is, DD1 dealt with it a LOT better than I did - because for her it was the loss of a pet she had not yet grown (too) attached to, and for me it was about disappointing my little girl. I have never - and I hope to never again - hear the sound which came out of her mouth when she realised her new furry friend was being held capitve by her old(er) furry friend. It was awful. To think that a decision I made caused my little girl such grief...well, I certainly took myself out of the running for the Mother of the Year Award.

So what now? Tell her it's never going to work and refuse to get another one? Get another one but make the rules about co-habitation a little more formal? Convince her that a fish is just as fun and cuddly? Bury my head in the sand and hope she does not notice the empty hutch sitting forlornly in the garden?

Remember I said that I'm an idiot? Yes. Well. Some things just don't change. So we replaced poor Edward with 2 little female furry friends (Salli and Luci, respectively) and we've put into place some seriously strict rules about when the animal kingdom is allowed to cross paths (read: NEVER in any of their lifetimes, because then there will BE no lifetimes to live.) The battle lines have been drawn - Greyhound is firmly a BACK yard animal, and guinea pigs are firmly FRONT yard animals and there are no exceptions. Ever.

Tomorrow will be Day Five of the Great Guinea Experiment Part Deux- and if we wake up in the morning and the two little critters are still alive (and there is no reason why they shouldn't be), I'm going to consider it a parenting win.

Why? Because the joy these ridiculous rodents are giving my little girl is worth the ten Xanax I need to take every time the dog even looks out the front door.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012


When my Dad died, people said all sorts of idiotic things to me. They were all well meaning but most of them made me want to look the person in the eye and say, "Are you being serious right now? Because no sane person on earth would ever say anything as stupid as that." (My personal favourite - "You're looking really well. Grief clearly suits you.") Of course I may have thought that these people were complete assholes for saying what they said, but ultimately I knew that the person just really did not know what to say in an uncomfortable situation. So I mostly let it go in one ear and out the other.

In recent weeks I - who by nature can talk the paint off the walls - find myself in a similar situation with various people in my life. I just don't know what to say to the people around me who are in crisis. The friend whose husband recently passed away at an age far too young for one to die. The friend whose parent is losing their battle with cancer. My sister, who every day puts up with a extremely demanding family situation all on her own. The friend who lost their close friend to cancer, again at a young age. My employee, who is struggling with issues of self-worth and confidence. My friend who is an only child, looking after a very unwell mother.  Friends who are dealing with long term unemployment, friends who are struggling with a lack of career direction. You get the idea. All around me there are people who are going through some pretty difficult situations. Some situations which are only temporary, others of which will have longer lasting consequences, but all of them are situations of sadness, pain, frustration or loss.

Finding myself at a loss for words is an interesting experience for me - because I believed (or maybe still DO believe) that sometimes the best words one can say are simple. Words like, "I'm listening," or "I wish I could make it better for you," or just total honesty - "You know what? This whole thing really sucks." As one who talks endlessly, and one who has a horrible history of foot-in-mouth disease, AND one who really wants to be that person who says the right thing (because I so longed for that kind of person, those few years ago) ... I'm struggling with my words. I want to comfort and commiserate and instead I find myself thinking, "What on earth does one say to help ease this pain?" and I end up saying something horribly awkward and inappropriate. Or I say something sarcastic and funny (to me anyway!) Exactly what ARE the right words to convey so much? And are they the same words for everyone? I don't think so. Some of them will want to hear that "things will get better." Some will think that "it will get better" is a load of bullshit. Some will want you to ask how they are doing, others will wish people stopped asking them all the damn time.

This leads me to that old adage that sometimes the best thing to say is, "I don't know what to say" - because at least saying that much is an improvement on silence. Personally, I'm no fan of silence and so I do employ that technique once in a while, because to me honesty is always a better idea than loneliness.  I think silence would equate to loneliness when one is going through a crisis. The idea that nobody was listening would be somehow worse than the idea of someone who listens but comes out with awkward or misguided sentiments.

What I would not give to have the right words to say, at the right moment, to the person who needed to hear them. I just want to convey all of that which is in my head and in my heart. In the absence of that ability, I just go with what I know - which is to speak from the heart, never make a promise I can't deliver on (like, "soon enough you'll look back on this and laugh") and just hope that my awkward ramblings do the job well enough. Ultimately, no matter what I'm really trying to say, the basic message is always the same: YOU ARE LOVED.

Maybe that's really the most importance sentence of all.

Thursday, May 17, 2012


Let's get one thing straight right at the very beginning of this post. Actually, let's get two things straight. One, I write the birthday blog post for them, not for you. You just get to come along for the ride. And two, one thing never changes from year to year and that's this:


I'm one hell of a lucky person to have them as part of my life, so I have no shame in telling you all about their awesome-ness. Enjoy. 

I just adore this photo. All my favourite people, being silly.
Claire, Alexis, Julian (at Taronga Zoo)
Claire, Alexis, Julian (out to lunch in Melbourne)

Claire, Alexis, Julian (at Jenolan Caves.) I included this as proof that they don't always smile and look sweet on command. Sometimes they revolt against the papparazzi.

All of a sudden I find that once again it is May, the time of year when I sit back and think, "Holy Mazoly, you guys are a year older, I think I blinked and missed it AGAIN!" The older you three get, the faster time seems to move - which is in keeping with the pace of your lives but certainly not the speed at which I would like your childhood to go! This year has gone by so quickly that I'm finding it quite difficult to even remember half of the adventures we had, but rest assured they were many and varied. You all learned to ride bikes, you all learned to ski, we endured (and loved doing) the mother of all road trips, and in general our family had one hell of a kick-ass sort of year. Your Dad and I have been raising you exactly in the manner we always said we would - with love, with care, with good intention, with patience and with a sense of humour. You all seem to have survived - no, you've THRIVED - under those conditions, so I think we'll just keep on keeping on, even though some days are more interesting or challenging than others.

Alexis - my first born sunny, funny, beautiful Lola girl - you are gorgeous on the inside AND on the outside. You're the only person I know who can take all the right things in life seriously - from the sorting, cleaning, and care of seashells you so carefully picked on the beach to the math homework you used to hate but you've discovered you can excel at when you decide to put your mind to it.  My most favourite thing about you is how very much 'in the moment' you are all the time - you notice things other people don't. You have insight into people or situations that other people don't. You are so very aware of people and places that you often force the rest of us to sit up and take notice rather than just keep moving. That just one person can make a whole lot of others actually stop and pay attention to the world around them is an incredible talent which you are hugely lucky to posess.

You've really surprised me this year, Alexis. My shy, awkward little girl is suddenly trying out for the school musical (with no prodding from me), asking if she can go on endless Girl Guide excursions and camps, volunteering to sing in front of people, telling stories of her day punctuated with giggles and "Wait, wait, I've got to tell you the FUNNIEST bit!" It's as though this year you finally learned you have a voice and how to use it. My all-legs-and-arms coltish little girl has turned into quite the amazing pre-teen, emerging from her shell and announcing to the world, "HERE I AM!" The child who hid behind her teacher's skirt and had to be dragged up on stage has learned that being noticed can be a source of joy. You've finally decided to speak up when the other two try to railroad their talking over yours (which is often), you stand up for what you believe in, and you make it very clear that you are a girl who will not be messed with. There are still times when you would rather NOT do things - and you're terribly clever at avoiding them and kicking up a fabulous fuss about it  -but on the whole you have grown this year into the kind of girl we all would like our daughters to grow up to be. Confident, kind, smart and able to do a handstand (and may I say, you're damn good at all of those. Especially the handstands. Yes, I'm jealous.)

I'm pretty sure I gave them a brother so they had someone to lean on in times of exhaustion.

Julian, Alexis and Claire..enduring yet another of my "Seriously, just smile! Once? Please?" moments.

Autumn haircuts. They did not get the awesome hair gene from me, sadly...

This is actually a fabulous collage of photos of you, my boy - because it shows almost all of the things which you love to do! Cook (or more accurately, obsess over food to the point of distraction), play music and sing off key (I forgive you. Dad and I are crappy singers, too,) Scouting (especially the dirty-camping running-around-being-foolish-boys part of it) and just being YOU. The only photo missing from this collection is one of you with a book in your hand - and that, my son, you definitely got from both Dad and I. You have had an absolutely amazing year, Julz.  You've really come into your own in terms of your hobbies and interests. Someday you'll appreciate why even though it's not all that fascinating to sit through yet another basketball practice in a freezing gymnasium, I'll do so just because you asked me to. You really CARE about things, and you want me to care, too. So I do. A lot. Because I think you're worth it and I'm really proud of you for having the nerve to say, "Mum, this is important to me." You're still an overly emotional sap - but that's okay. You openly cry at movies with me, and feel real sadness when you get to the end of a really great book - and I think the intensity with which you feel things is a positive trait. To be able to love and be loved as much as you are is a gift - no matter how embarrassing it is when I give you big ol' squishy hugs in front of the rest of your basketball team.

You and I have spent an enormous amount of time together this past year, mostly thanks to our "shufflin'" - twice a week you and I (and the dog) spend half an hour or more walking together in the cold morning light. You're usually in shorts and t-shirt, happily walking along while I've got fifteen layers and a beanie on and I'm just trying to stay warm and not complain. Some days we talk. Others we stay silent. It doesn't really matter - it's the being together part which matters to both of us. I've discovered on those walks that my boy is quite funny, in that wonderfully Australian dry humour sort of way. I've also discovered that you have a lot to say - you just choose your moments well - and you're a great storyteller. There have been a few frustrations this year too - you wouldn't be Julian if there were none - but we are all learning that the Julian we know and love is a complex person. How boring life would be if you did not challenge us once in a while! You, my "sunny son son" - are going to be interesting to watch as you grow older. You are such a hugely intense person, about everything - that it's going to be a challenge to teach you to just relax once in a while. I'm not too worried though, there are countless mornings and countless kilometres to walk side by side with my son during which I can teach you the meaning of life (Although I suspect there may be a few lessons which I'm taught by you as we meander along.)

Miss Claire all bundled up..
The only girl in the world who knew ponchos were cool (before they became cool again.)

One of many of self-portrait photos I found on my phone and camera. I especially love the eyebrow action.

Oh Claire. Claire, Claire, Claire Claire....and if I said that out loud, you would right away reply with, "Oh, Mummy. Mum, Mum, Mum, Mum, LOSER." And then you would probably laugh hysterically and give me the biggest hug in the world. Other people just don't understand our whole "you're a loser" joke - which makes it particularly funny when I drop you at ballet and shout out the window, "See ya later, loser!" and you yell back, "Yeah, whatever loser! Love you, loser!" and then all I can see is your little purple-leotarded butt wandering off to class and a trail of open-mouthed mothers who heard that exchange. You're such an interesting person, Claire. A girl of contradictions, in so many different little ways. You've got an awesome command of language - you're a brilliant writer, often have fantastic verbal commentary, and you adore reading...but you only ever want to mow your way through novels well below your skill level or read trashy magazines. You love being social...but will almost always choose to stay at home rather than go out. You're a born and bred Australian ... but you have a distinct American accent (Wasn't me! I didn't do it!) (I blame the Disney Channel.) As a baby and child, you refused to give anyone a hug...and now I've got a sore neck from the amount of hugs you demand all day long. You can sometimes be quite shy ...but you love to take endless self portraits, and you spend a heck of a lot of time on "The Claire Show" in whatever mirror is handy (especially the mirrors on the car visors.)

You, my loser daughter, are a great kid. You did come out of the womb as an 18 year old - but then that's what I love about you. You've always given me a bit of a run for my money - you're smart, you're sassy, you're always right (even when you're wrong.) I adore that about you.  Like your siblings, you have some quirks which make you distinctly you...let's not talk about the hurricane which leaves a trail so we all know exactly when you've been somewhere. We also won't talk about the whole being-on-time obsession (but just quietly, I think you love that it makes us all crazy.) Your year has been just one of quiet achievement. You've continued to enjoy school, and enjoy dance, and you've just been a good kiddo this year - Kiki, I hope most of your years are like that. Just keep on being the fabulous person you are...but once in a while, clear the hairs out of the bathroom sink, okay? (It's making your mother crazy.)

Dressed up for Purim. Oh wait, this is what they normally look like. :) 
Life for our family as we know is just one long series of adventures - which is pretty much how we all like it. Some of those are adventures of the 'let's go climb 1000 steps into a dark cave" sort, and some of those are adventures of just navigating the trials and tribulations of life with 3 kids, a dog, and (soon) two guinea pigs. Not a day (or sometimes, an hour) goes by that I am not grateful for the laughs you give me, the tears you make me cry (for whatever reasons), and the immense joy you bring to my life. My life - OUR lives - would just be so quiet and empty without all the noise the three of you make. Thank you all - for the messes you make, the songs you sing, the endless chatter, the laughter, the chaos, the fun and the madness which is our family life. The three of you are the most fun I've ever had - which is exactly as it's meant to be - and that's what makes you the most awesome kids that ever were.

Happy Birthday, kiddos. 

Saturday, May 12, 2012


This week I had the opportunity to chat to some Year 10 kids about what it's like to have a career in hospitality. I was a bit nervous about it, but not for the reasons you might think (although it's safe to say that 15/16 year old kids are a wee bit scary.) I was giving these talks at a private school - a private school known for educating the children of some of Australia's wealthiest and most successful families. Families where the expectation might be that you are going into Dad's business, or going to become a doctor, lawyer, or some equally well-paying profession. So there I am, showing up in my chef coat (because of course I needed to look the part, didn't I?) and I'm thinking that I'm probably the only trades person there, and that if I'm lucky I'll have 2 kids at each session.

When I walked in I was told that there were people there representing every profession from plumbers to QCs - and I suddenly felt a little bit better about it all. It was also really nice to have a reasonable group of kids show up to my chats, so at least I wasn't sitting there all alone and whistling tunelessly.  I even found myself quite enjoying the experience. Sure, I cursed (shit. oops!) and sure, I rambled a bit, but basically I like to think I imbued these kids with a sense of just how much I love my job and my industry.

One of the topics I was meant to cover was opportunities for travel - eg, did my job have any travel opportunities, and if so, what might those be. I gave a whole spiel about how cooking is one of very few professions which can be taken almost anywhere in the world, and that a formal qualification is not really necessary. Let's face it, in every country, in every economy, people NEED to eat. You don't necessarily NEED a web designer or a lawyer or a shop manager, but you do need to eat. Having a skill related to food means it's pretty easy to find a job - might not be exactly the job you want, but finding gainful employment when you have a transferable skill like food preparation is pretty easy to do. It's also a great job to do while you are doing other things, because food is a 24 hour a day business - so it's not all that hard to (for example) get a degree during the day and cook at night.

I give this whole spiel and one kid pipes up and says, "But surely that's not really true. You can't cook ANYWHERE in the world. There are some countries where you could never get a job."

"Sure, that's possible - did you have a specific country in mind?"

"Yeah, India. They don't eat sweets in India."

I wanted to say something witty here, I really did. Instead I gave him the real answer, which is that Indian culture is actually VERY well known for it's sweets (in the extreme, actually. Five seconds in any Indian bakery will tell you that.) I also pointed out that even if they did not eat sweets, there are plenty of hotels in India which cater to people who DO eat sweets - so, trust me, gainful employment in hospitality in India IS actually possible.

He had the good grace to look at least a little sheepish and I'm hoping that I educated this kid just the tiniest bit - and if not, well, I hear being a lawyer is a pretty good profession. :)

Tuesday, May 8, 2012


This past Thursday night I held a big, fat, sweet and sparkly party to celebrate the first anniversary of moving the business to a stand alone shop.

It was a huge night for me. HUGE. Not just for me but for the business as a whole. I looked pretty fucking fantastic. The room was filled with people who love me, who love the work my business produces, or who don't love me or the business yet but will as a result of that party. It was just one enormously great night - the food was great, the atmosphere buzzing, the love and excitement was just overwhelming.

The business - and the event - were total triumphs.

Sitting here typing this a few days after the fact, I'm actually not feeling hugely sweet and sparkly about it, and I probably should be. I actually feel quite bittersweet about it. I feel much as I did when the triplets turned a year old. There was of course the overwhelming feeling of relief that we'd made it that far - the day they were born I very clearly remember looking at these 3 kicking, pink squirmy things and thinking, "WHAT THE HELL DID I GET MYSELF INTO?"  I felt an enormous amount of pride that my three scrawny babies had turned into chubby-cheeked pre-toddlers. There was the incredible sense of achievement that the children, DH and I had all made it to the one year mark with our sanity still mostly intact, and all of us were happy and healthy. Not, of course, that there was every any doubt about that, but... you know. When the kids turned one I felt as though I could finally, finally just EXHALE the tiniest little bit.

The birthday of the shop brought up all of the same emotions - relief that the rent is still getting paid, pride that the business is growing as it needed to in order to justify the new location, achievement that it's been such an awesome year.

Even with all of that happiness - there is a small part of me which was sad then, and is sad now. It's a little overwhelming - and a little sad, too, that the 'firsts' (for this business anyway) are gone now. Just memories of exciting times and shiny new things. It's been such an incredible year, and in some ways so emotionally and physically exhausting - but tomorrow I'll wake up and need to do it again. And again the day after that and the day after that and the day after that. Small business ownership, like parenthood, does not just stop one day. Nobody throws you a big lunch and gives you a gold watch in recognition of your service. It's just you, toughing it out, every single day.

It's hard, lonely, exhausting work. And I love it, I really do - otherwise I wouldn't be doing it in the first place. I'm hoping the business follows the same pattern as the children have, which is that they've grown beautifully with each passing year, have become a hell of a lot more fun (but a hell of a lot more challenging) as time has marched onwards, and the rewards for my hard work are many and frequent. I'm pretty certain that if I managed that with my human babies, it shouldn't be too hard to manage it with my shop baby.

...and if Biz Guy (and my brain) have anything to do with it, I suspect the bigger first I'm celebrating is really the first of many successful, amazing adventures in business. My human babies are busy getting on with the business of growing up, as is the business baby.. It's probably high time *I* got on with the business of growing up as well.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Emzeegee Does Not Share Well With Others

I'm going to tell you a secret about motherhood which nobody else is going to tell you. To be fair it might be a secret about parenthood which is not specific to mothers, but since I only know that *I* feel this way, I can only speak for the mothers (which of course means that secretly all mothers in the world feel this way too.)

Disclaimer: all of it is a first world problem, all of it can be solved with better parenting, and I'm really just having a big fat whinge. But, hey, it's my blog and I'll whinge if I want to.

With that being said, here is the thing about parenting which nobody tells you: sometimes it really sucks to have to share stuff with your kids.

As mothers were are supposed to be selfless. We're supposed to want to give the children the shirts off our backs and the food from our plates. Actually, we're genetically programmed to do so - to protect them, shelter them, feed them, nurture them. It's fair to say that I do all of those things with great aplomb, but what I fail at is actually enjoying sharing everything with them. I just don't enjoy giving them everything which is mine, and I don't feel guilty about it. Sometimes I just want my own stuff to be MY OWN stuff.

So, it irritates me when I'm enjoying a (well earned, carefully considered, I-went-to-the-gym-to-justify-this) piece of chocolate or bowl of ice cream and one of my kids asks me for a bite and I feel obligated to say yes. Saying no would qualify me for the Worst Mother In The World Award, and I'd feel so damn guilty saying no that the ice cream would then taste like pencil shavings in my mouth. Worse still is when I put said treat down for a moment, and in that moment some kid decides to appropriate some or all of said treat for themselves. If they DON'T ask first I at least have cause to get shitty with them, and if they DO ask, see above comment about pencil shavings.

I can't stand the fact that if I'm not actually using my phone for some reasonable purpose (because contrary to popular belief it's not actually welded to me), my kids have pounced on it to play some idiotic bird-flinging game - so that when I actually DO need to use said phone, it's battery is flat and it's under a pile of clean but unfolded laundry, thus rendering it useless to me and the essential facebooking I need to do.

I hate that when the need strikes to have a Slurpee (which is fairly often for me) and the kids are in the car, I find it very difficult to buy one for me and yet nothing for them. Because if I DO decide it's only me who is getting a treat, I then have three plaintive cries for "just one sip, please?" and I end up with no Slurpee for me. Or only those bits at the bottom which require you to smack the bottom of the cup to get them out and you hope this does not end up giving you a Slurpee face washing. So a trip to 7-11 which should cost me less than $4 costs me like $15. Which is an expense I can't justify at the moment, so most of the time I do without or I just drink my Slurpees in secret like an alcoholic. I'm literally drinking Slurpees on the sly. How ridiculous my life has become. *dramatic sigh*

For my birthday last year my friends gave me a subscription to 'Who Weekly' magazine (in the US, it's 'People' magazine). It arrives in the mail on Friday, and was meant to be a way of forcing myself into some quiet, indulgent time every weekend. I figured if I had access each week to a deliciously trashy mag, I'd find the time to slow my life down just that tiny bit and enjoy that small indulgence. Instead I get home from a crazy week and my magazine has been read by all three kids ("Mum! Did you know Kim is dating Kanye?") AND it takes several askings of various innocent-looking kids before I can locate the damn thing....and then the pages are messed up. Don't they know that half the joy of a good trashy magazine is being the first one to crack it open?

It irks me on Sunday afternoon if they complain that it's been a boring weekend and they did nothing all damn day. Fuck off. I practically give my right kidney for a Sunday when I don't have to do anything, because on Saturday I've gone to work most of the day while DH has ferried the kids (and the cakes) all over town. I hate sharing my quiet Sunday with people who want to be out and about doing stuff. Want to do something? Go vacuum something or go play with parked cars. Just bugger off and stop trying to share my space.

If I buy something not-so-great for me and bring it home (read: ice cream)...chances are either I've got to eat it in stealth mode with DH, after 11pm, and wash all the incriminating evidence right then and there OR I'll go to get some out of the tub only to find that the tide on the tub has gone out and I'm scraping in the corners and praying I'll find an errant chocolate chip because the crafty little buggers got to it first.

There are plenty of other things I hate having to share with my kids. The socks my son helps himself to from my drawers. The squishy soft winter scarves my kids 'borrow' from my closet and then I never find again. The perfectly over-washed pyjamas the kids feel the need to cuddle in between my wearing them so that I can't find them from one night to the next. The toilet rolls which run out every ten seconds because apparently my toilet is the best one in the house. The hair balls in my shower which are left their courtesy of my DD who is trying to grow her hair down to her butt. The $10 in my wallet I was saving for a nice lunch with a friend which then goes to the "oh Mum I forgot I needed $10" emergency late on Sunday night. You get the idea. There are myriad little things which I'm supposed to share with my kids which I do not enjoy sharing AT ALL.

Life with children is filled with blessings, and adventure, and love, and blah-dee-blah ridiculous amounts of awesomeness. It is. Most of the time. It's just that sometimes I'd like to eat a bowl of ice cream without having to be hiding behind the couch. It gets kinda stuffy back there.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Suffer the Children

A big part of the intermittent nature of my blogging is that my Mom is unwell at the moment. Over the past several weeks, some friends of mine have also been dealing with parents who are unwell. Some have chronic illnesses, some only temporary discomforts, some have parents who contracted various diseases and are likely to not survive for much longer, some are dealing with parents who are not specifically ill but who have reached an age where they can no longer live by themselves. I've got a pretty wide age group of friends, so this means that for some of them, this is happening at the expected time - meaning they are in their 50's and their parents are in their 70's or 80's. For some (like myself) it seems to be happening all too early. I'm only in my 30's and my Mum is in her 60's - several decades too young for either of us to have to deal with this. My sister and I have had to make decisions about things I never thought I'd  need to...but then I suppose we had to bury a father many decades before we thought we might need to as well. Time waits for no man, or so the cliche goes.

The details around the responsibility for these situations are vastly different as well. In my case, the care of my Mom falls entirely to my sister because I am tens of thousands of miles away. In other cases, my friends are single children, or single children by default (as is the case for my sister) and so they bear the burden of the day-to-day tasks whether they like it or not. In some cases they might be one of many siblings, but the only one with either the time or the mental strength to take care of things, and in some cases there are plenty of siblings to share the load.

What strikes me as interesting in experiencing my own situation and observing that of others, is that having to swap roles from child to adult is extremely hard. It doesn't matter how strong or weak your relationship is with your parents, or how much you felt they either raised you right or raised you wrong. What matters is that awful realisation that they won't live forever, that they won't be the main decision makers in a time of crisis, they can't be the one you turn to for guidance about how to deal with all of this.  When you're dealing with an elderly or sick parent, it's suddenly YOU who needs to be the parent. You might need to do the little things; drive them to appointments, fill prescriptions, make phone calls, organise meals, pay bills. You might need to do the bigger things; choose a course of medical action, intervene on their behalf to get them access to care, make decisions on when to go to hospice and when to keep fighting. Of course we all know intellectually that Mom or Dad isn't going to live forever. After all, living and dying are part of the normal course of events. We know too that there is no 'timeline' for these things - some will die young, some will die old, some will defy odds and some will become statistics. Regardless of the details, the simple truth is always there: we don't expect to have to be (and frankly, don't really want to be) the ones taking care of our parents.

There is no nice way to say this, so I won't even try to sugar coat it: having to swap roles from child to parent FOR one's parents is by far the hardest part of the life cycle. Maybe in some ways even harder than dealing with their death. Depending on the timing, some people are trapped in the middle, needing to parent both their children AND their parents and in some cases meeting the same needs (feeding, dressing) for both ends of the life spectrum.

I could write an entirely different blog post about the responsibilities children have to their parents. For example, one of the blogs I read (very sporadically, she does not blog much) is about a former successful professional pastry chef who abandoned her career to look after her ailing mother. Her mother shows no signs of passing on but requires full time care, so her mother has become the centre of this woman's universe. Not only does she no longer work, she also is forced to live away from her own partner and children in order to take care of her Mom. I'm not going to pass judgement, I'm not going to say if I think she is doing the right thing or not - I'm just going to say that it's such a sad state of affairs, that the life of this woman is put on hold. I guess there are some who would say that earlier on, the mother's life was put on hold as she raised her children and ran a household.  How many women do I know that stopped working and chose not to pursue their dreams because they felt raising their children was far more important? Plenty. Is it then those children's responsibility to do the same when their parent needs them to? Honestly, I'm not entirely sure.

In regards to my own situation, someone who I respect very much said to me, "At the end of the day, your Mom is a grown-up. She is not your responsibility."  The words were very hard to hear. I'm not sure I agree with it, mostly because they imply (to me) a fairly selfish standpoint, and I believe that family members are ALWAYS our responsibility, grown up or not - but I'd be lying if I said that it did not give me pause a number of times.  At what point in time - if ever - does our responsibility to our parents end? Are we supposed to sacrifice our own lives for their care? Are we somehow selfish if we choose not to?

Becoming the parents to our parents, at any stage of our own lives, is a hugely painful experience.

The irony of all of this is that, as children, we can't wait to grow up. As adults, we wish we didn't have to.