I was reading a blog post by a lady pregnant with her fourth baby. She included a transcript of the txt message conversation in which she’d told her husband about the pregnancy, then another in which she told him that it’s a girl (he was getting on a plane while she was having the ultrasound). Her point was that their lives have become so busy that this is how it goes.
Weelllll, I don’t have this as an excuse. My life is not busy except for weekdays between 7:30 and 9:00a.m. and then 5:00 and 7:30p.m., neither of which would be the best time for having the ‘Guess what? I’m pregnant!’ discussion with my husband. But here’s the thing. Her post made me think back and yes, I did tell him about one of them by txt (the first two came along before it was invented or the proportion would probably be higher) but even worse, for all except the first he wasn’t even the first person I told.
Jeez. Go me. Best wife ever. And with the first he was the only other person I knew in the entire hemisphere I was in, so I can’t take a whole lot of credit.
I can’t say that I was ever the kind of person to take these things too seriously but I do have to admit that my standards have dropped over time. Like the quaint idea of letting my husband know that he’s going to be the father of another small human before the coffee group, the high school friends and the lady at the bakery, there are things that have fallen by the wayside.
When Daniel was almost five he went to a birthday party at McDonalds. To start with I had to ask someone where it was, and then I had to try and explain to him what a hamburger is. He got the hang of the playground all by himself. The child had never been into a McDonalds. His little sister, though, could spot the golden arches from two blocks away and say ‘chips!’ before she could reliably toddle through the doors on her own two feet. To be fair the town we’ve lived closest to in her lifetime is much smaller and has extremely slim pickings when you need child-friendly, especially if it’s raining, but it might have happened anyway. With one or two children it was viable to tough it out until we could get home or to a playground or a bakery or something. When there are four all tired and hungry and whingey – five if you include me – it’s easier to just decide that standards are for people with OCD and I don’t want any truck with that.
Then there’s watching stuff on t.v. With my first toddler I had not discovered kids’ DVDs. I can hardly believe it now, but it’s true. I was pregnant again well before her first birthday and was crippled with lethargy. One channel had three toddler shows in a row which covered the first half hour of the day and then I was on my own. I remember in desperation trying to get her to sit and watch ‘Emmerdale’ but that didn’t really fly. It’s a bit of a blur now but I think we spent a lot of time with me prone on the couch and her wandering around grizzling and both of us wishing someone would turn up and do some parenting.
A few months later the baby came and so did winter. I went out one day to buy Amy a raincoat but I couldn’t find one so when I stumbled across a Hairy Maclary DVD I spent the money on that instead. You don’t need a raincoat if you are inside watching television. Well, it changed my life. Amy, and later Daniel, sat and watched it and didn’t need me! Hairy Maclary still gets air time every now and then and to this day when I hear the final episode come on I get a kind of panicky feeling. It was a long, hard winter with two babies and not much of anything else. Hairy Maclary helped me through it and I never wanted it to end.
Back then we lived across the road from a library which lent out free children’s DVDs. They had plenty of choice and once or twice a week we would all toddle over and get something new. The kids were young then and not stuck in licensed-character ruts; they were excited about all sorts of things so I could put them in front of ‘Suzy’s World’ and call it educational. They watched a wide variety, they had each other to play with in between, and our entire life was focused around toddler-appropriate activities so I wasn’t too bothered about a DVD or two every now and again.
Well, those were the days. Now all the playmates are at school, I am completely over the play-group thing and Miss Cassia fully expects to be entertained by the t.v. at all times. Play by herself? I don’t think so. Help Mummy do the washing like little girls in stories? Not likely. When I get sick of it and turn it off she’s fully capable of sitting on the couch in t.v. watching position, refusing to do anything else, for so long that she falls asleep from the boredom and then punishes me by partying late into the night. Hairy Maclary was eventually joined by other animated babysitters but the selection is still more limited than her appetite for screen-time so she knows whole DVDs off by heart. When Diego asks a question she answers. When Dora invites her to dance she dances. Just as well someone’s putting some effort into her up-bringing I suppose. They say it takes a village.
In my imagination I have children who have only ever eaten slow-cooked organic food, who have been taught to do housework without being asked, who spend their weekends exclusively doing healthy outdoorsy things and who treasure time spent playing board games with their family above all else. In reality I am clinging to the one thing that I’ve managed to stick to for the whole eleven years because it’s a really, really big important one. Brace yourselves: I have never yet given a little kid something to eat or drink while going round the supermarket then paid for the empty wrapper. Move over Supernanny, new parenting expert coming through.