Motherhood on hard days

Motherhood on hard days

She struggles in her cot. I lean in for the third time in two hours, bent, exhausted.

Roo simply can’t settle and I think of the half teaspoon of banana she’s sampled for the first time.

The rattling of the cot rail punctures the quietness of the night as I bundle her in my arms again, nuzzle her soft downy hair and she nurses, relaxes.

My inner voice murmurs, Breathe. Deep.

It’s hard dealing with the push and pull, the rock and roll of motherhood. I wait.

The room is finally silent and I steal out.

There are empty cups in the sink, an unfinished load of laundry, rice smeared onto a floor that has tasted oatmeal and cheerios for eight years.

My hands get into soap and water for the umpteenth time in a day of 13 nappies, food preps, nursing, toddler activities, dishes from three main meals and two snacks.

The phone buzzes and I go through messages in the toilet where I can now enjoy five long blissful minutes without interruptions.

They toss words like “Supermum” because I have four kids and I wonder who that might be because I want to sit down for coffee and cake with her and ask a gazillion things.

The wanting and not wanting.

The loving and the hating of a role I cherish yet want to fling away in some moments for all its polarities – the attachment and isolation, the vivacity and boredom, joy unspeakable and the cave of despair.

This I-need-to-be-in-five-places-at-one-time intense vocation.

I get on the treadmill hurriedly before Roo goes into light sleep and ease away the knots in my back and shoulders. It’s the season of baby wearing while vacuuming and cooking stir fries when Roo can’t be put down without wailing and older kids need to eat.

They don’t tell you this. Those parenting books that make it seem the other mum has got it all sorted and why oh why haven’t I, yet.

I stare breathlessly at the numbers racking up too slowly on the treadmill.

Am I supposed to love toilet seats that I have to scan constantly for little boys’ pee pee before sitting down? Or perpetual crumbs on the floor and spills? Legos and trucks that find their way into my handbag alongside the occasional rotting tidbit? Broken lipsticks in my make up kit?

They don’t tell you how to deal with being with them almost 24/7, seeing the rewards but also having to suck the desperation in.

Breathe, deep.

I pray and pray this mish mash in my head while the shower runs and it feels so good. Done, I check off lists in my head.

I think of Roo’s nursing, 3.00 am and 5.00 am, welcoming her sweet baby scent and warm toes snuggled up to my tummy and then feeling the heaviness of a body aching for sleep at dawn.

I think of tomorrow’s lunch and dinner, kid journals, a project deadline. An unfinished written extract that weighs upon me, yet captivates because it breaks the monotony of reading Clifford the Big Red Dog three times a day, pays some bills and makes me want to create something other than menus and play dough cars.

It isn’t easy being home for everyone’s health, happiness and peace of mind and juggling so many hats.

It’s tough, missing the daily camaraderie of colleagues and holding myself back from busting the family budget just so we can live this life the way we want it.

Tomorrow I’ll revel in the sight of my children running uninhibited in the breeze and zipping down slides, then struggle inwardly with a rising temper because of dawdling over meals, bickering and nap time struggles, trying to remember I’m the parent here and feeling sick just for feeling this way.

Sometimes it seems I’m the worst mother in the world giving begrudgingly of herself to motherhood.

Then it comes to me.

The normalcy and intentionality of it all – the ebb and flow, the glory and the mundane. How it’s all designed to bring me to my knees and gift me with the realisation of my pride, selfishness, impatience, need for divine grace.

And how all of it can break my fallow ground and hone me gradually (if I so allow it) to become the sort of person who utters kind words in between the laundry loads more often than not.

The sort of person who can find joy in the boring ordinary, who knows the discipline of sacrifice, of contentment, of being slow to speak and slow to become angry.

And so I breathe again, deep.

I remember our perfect moments together, laughing as tennis balls go over the net and Papa missing the return.

Tiptoeing to set the table, helping a little brother put on his shoes, chocolatey faces because they’re still learning how to lick and swivel ice creams.

I think, That’s the way it is. The vocation that helps bind families together, that builds a nation, that changes the world one child at a time – how can motherhood be anything less than heart-warming and arduous at the same time? Buffeted from within and without from all sides?

“Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty…” ~ Theodore Roosevelt.

Roo wants comfort and I step away from my laptop and go in, careful not to wake the others. The room is dark but I can see them lying in their beds.

My children, my quiver full of arrows.

 

 

Pour Your Heart Out

Sensory play at our place

One of the things I gradually discovered as a new Mama is the joy (and to be honest, the horrors) of sensory play (also known as messy play). This kind of play is so important for young children, especially toddlers as they learn so much through the senses (primarily taste and touch) at their age.

Some examples of sensory play include playing with shredded paper, sand, mud, shaving foam, blowing bubbles, moulding with and sticking objects into play dough – you get the idea.

Now, if you’re someone like me who functions properly only with a “Clean Desk, Clean Mind” type mentality, has a To-Do List a mile long and must deal regularly with poop and crying and something cooking often at the same time, the whole idea of messy play and the prospect of cleaning up thereafter may well make you shudder. It’s been a journey for me, learning from the children and letting go.

Wait – did I say letting go? (Insert self-delusionary laughter)

Anyway, here are some things I’ve discovered:

The JOY on those little faces when they can dig their hands in and if there’s mess involved! The things they learn! Why not swallow our adult inhibitions about spills and “dirt” so that our children can enjoy healthy play and artistic pursuits?

The good news is that the mess of sensory play can be somewhat contained by setting up such activities in the bathroom, kitchen or in a deep tray placed on a large mat or sheet. Lots of messy fun can happen outdoors too.

Sensory play doesn’t have to be expensive, contrived or complicated. If you have little time or resources to construct opportunities for sensory play with store-bought items, including “informal” sensory play in your interactions with your child is just as effective.

In fact, a myriad of sensory activities can happen in the kitchen if we allow our children to explore and learn alongside us as we prepare meals instead of keeping them out. (In my experience, this is far easier and less stressful compared to shutting a toddler out of the kitchen and then worrying about her getting into trouble while she’s out of sight, unsupervised.) Simply splashing in the the bath tub with scoops and boats also counts as a sensory activity! I love that such endeavours are a natural part of our day and have intrinsic value in terms of learning through play.

Here are some activities our children enjoy which I consider equivalent to sensory play. Some take time to organise, put together and clean up, others are simply normal on-goings that happen in the course of an ordinary day. Many overlap with creative play and/or outdoor play.

Playing with sand at the beach.

Playing with sand at the beach

Playing with sand at home. Oh, but how did sand get on our car? And other gunk??

Sand play

Playing with homemade cloud dough. Far less messy but just as interesting as sand. (Recipe here.)

Sensory play with cloud dough

Moulding and sticking objects into homemade white clay dough. (Recipe here.)

Sensory play with salt dough

Making “shark teeth necklaces” using homemade clay dough. A great activity for shark lovers.

Shark teeth necklace

Making and painting Christmas tree decorations using homemade salt dough. (Recipe here.)

Salt dough ornaments

Making handprint keepsakes using homemade salt dough. This one was more for me. Mmmm. (Recipe here.)

Handprint keepsake

Creating with homemade play dough. (Recipe here.)

Homemade play dough

Rebatching candles. Name initials!

Candle initial

Writing words in shaving foam. A lovely alternative to pen and paper.

Writing in shaving foam

Experimenting with chalk pastels.

Chalk pastels

Printing and painting using sponges.

Sponge painting

Leaf painting.

Leaf painting

Messing about with finger paint.

Finger painting

Someone surprised me with his own version of “nail polish” for 3 year olds using poster paints.

Finger painting

Painting with straws.

Straw painting

Playing with sticks. Don’t mess with this 4 year old!

Playing with sticks

Creating a structure using sticks and stones.

Sensory play with sticks and stones

Playing with mud.

Digging in mud

Mud in our veggie garden.

Playing with mud

Making a leaf collage using leaves from the park.

Leaf collage

Going barefoot.

Going barefoot

Papa was moving bricks out of the garden and they pitched in. Barefoot again.

Moving bricks

Playing with water coloured with food colouring. A few sponges and a syringe encourage exploration.

Water play

Making swirls with water in the kitchen sink while I prep lunch.

Water play

Washing the chopping board. Do you know, he wanted to.

Water play with a chopping board

Scooping up fruit peels in the sink and collecting them for composting.

Sensory play with fruit peels

Washing veggies.

Washing veggies

Peeling hard boiled eggs at breakfast time and experimenting to see if they float or sink.

Sensory play with egg shells

Removing stems from shitake mushrooms before I slice them.

Sensory play with Shitake mushrooms

Scooping seeds out of honeydew melons.

Sensory play scooping out melon seeds

Grating carrots.

Grating carrots

Peeling garlic. Wonderful how a two year old finds this fascinating.

Peeling garlic

Harvesting brinjals from the veggie patch. These weren’t good to eat anymore.

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Baking. You can’t go wrong with this carrot cake. Really. (Recipe here.)

Baking

Making and decorating gingerbread men. (Recipe here.)

Decorating gingerbread man

Moulding alphabets using cookie dough. Any cookie dough.

IMG_6222

Making homemade pizzas.

Homemade pizza

What does a cucumber eye mask feel like?

Cucumber eye mask

Constructing a tower using marshmallows. Why not?

Sensory play marshmallow tower

Constructing a fruit tower.

Fruit tower

Marinating chicken with garlic and herbs. Work that garlic under the skin, my boy.

Marinating chicken

Catching rice weevils. Hmmm… Not my idea.

Weevils in rice

Washing rice.

Washing rice

Writing alphabets in rice. Okay, rice is a favourite. We always have it.

Tracing alphabets in rice

Pouring and scooping dried beans.

Sensory play with beans

Do you have other ideas for sensory play? Do feel free share your thoughts or a link in the Comments!

Delight

We sit below the window and the morning sunlight streams in. His smile is so broad and his eyes all crinkled up they turn my heart in a million directions and I know why children are a blessing.

Even in these mundane moments.

She sleeps in her cot next to us and I gaze at Piglet, his fringe getting into his eyes and his hands digging into the laundry.

I nod my head towards Roo, put my finger to my lips and Piglet smiles. A comfortable silence descends on us and I think again children are a blessing.

My itch to throw the predictibility of our routine to the wind is scratched away gradually as we put our heads together and I show him how to fold squares and triangles and tell him it’s okay his doesn’t look like mine.

Nappies

He gets busy and happy with his pile and I laugh secretly inside with the joy of watching him.

The joy of my boy, my gift from heaven.

The joy of rediscovering and relearning the pleasure of simple work.

The joy of knowing my heavenly Father delights in me – as I do in Piglet – because I belong to Him and not because of how well I fold laundry.

The mess of cottony nappies dwindles and transforms into neat stacks and we shake hands.

Thumbs up. Hug and kiss.

Lego camera

Piglet (3.6yo), Roo (7mos)

 

Pour Your Heart Out