Letters to My Children

E, aged 3 years, 11 months

Your vocabulary and use of language continue to amaze me. Gone are most of the adorable babyish mispronunciations I never knew I’d recall with such nostalgia (‘jumpaline’ for trampoline, the ‘leaf mower,’ ‘tloilet’ with its inexplicable additional ‘l’). Just a few remain now. This year you moved up to the Wallaby room at day-care, but struggling to get your tongue around this, you refer to it as the “Wobbly” room. Yet you rattle off long and complex words, including a catalogue of dinosaur names, without missing a step. You know all of the letters and the sounds they make. You love to spell out words to me: “B. L. U. E. Exclamation mark. Bluuuue.” You also love to play with language – you have inherited the nicknaming gene from your parents, and you are always making up words.

“What’s that?” I’ll enquire of some sort of play doh or lego creation.

“It’s a boota butta,” you explain, without missing a beat.

“What’s a boota butta?”

“It’s a bike with no wheels.”

Of course.

Your memory and sense of time passing have developed noticeably. Over the past year I have listened to you struggling to anchor yourself in time, and of course the biggest problem with such time travel is one of grammar. “We went to the shops next week,” you tell me, or, “Last year, when I get bigger I can eat chillies.” But this fluid sense of time has become more sequential of late. You have a clear idea of the order of the seasons and certain major events (particularly those involving gifts), and you are desperately looking forward to going to the snow, which you know happens in winter and July. “After Rosie’s birthday,” you confirm, knowingly.

You are currently very preoccupied with dinosaurs. “Mum,” you say to me in that solemn tone that implies I had better be listening because you are about to say something of grave importance, “Mum, all the dinosaurs have died.” This offers you a perfect segue into your other favourite topic – space. “An asteroid hit the earth and made the volcanoes explode,” you say.

In fact, space may be overtaking dinosaurs as your primary obsession. I have heard Chris Hadfield’s version of ‘Space Oddity’ more times than I can count, and together we have discovered a rather amusing series of space-themed rap songs on YouTube, my favourite of which has to be “I am so hot” by the sun.

Your Nan bought you a book about the solar system last week. You were able not only to name all eight planets pictured on the front cover correctly, but also supply a number of facts about each of them: “This is Jupiter. Jupiter has a giant red spot, which is a raging storm. Jupiter is a gas giant. This is Saturn. Saturn’s rings are made of dust and icy chunks.” You recently spent a Saturday night with your Grandparents, and were delighted when Grandpa showed you his telescope. The things you knew about space blew Grandpa away. “He even knows about the Dwarf planets,” Grandpa told me later, incredulously. “‘Eris is one of the dwarf planets,’ he tells me. ‘Makemake is the only planet with no atmosphere.’ What kind of a 4 year old knows this stuff?”

Since daylight savings has ended, our nightly routine has had to incorporate a trip outside to see the stars. We name a few constellations, note Venus shining brightest of all, and the current phase of the moon. You show no signs of tiring of this. Perhaps this love of space will turn out to be a passing phase (perhaps not – your Dad and Grandpa are self-proclaimed ‘space nerds’ and your great-grandfather was an astrophysicist), but given your enthusiasm and love of learning, I have no doubt that you will become an expert in whatever passion you settle on in future.


R, aged 21 months

You are SO cheeky. Your nickname is monkey because you are always into everything, always on the go and love climbing. Sometimes you will pluck an object from your brother’s hands and run away, cackling. It angers him, but you are stubbornly playful, teasing. ‘You can’t catch me!’ say your squeals, and in the right mood he can’t help but be drawn into your game.

Hide and Seek is your current favourite. We all play together, the four of us taking turns to count and hide. You like to do both, simultaneously, fingers spread over your wide eyes in imitation, counting 2, 5, 2, 5, 2, before you run off and squeeze yourself into an unlikely hiding place, giggling at your own cleverness. ‘Where’s Edward?’ We ask you when it’s your turn to seek. ‘Gone,’ you reply, matter-of-factly, and then, ‘Dere you are!’ when he is found.

You (finally) love books. We’ve done the hard yards of endless ‘That’s not my…’ touchy feely books, lift-the-flaps and the (tedious) real-picture-one-word type books, anything to pique your interest, and it’s paying off. Now you will often select a story from the shelf before attempting to place it directly into my cornea while issuing a demand approximating “read book.” ‘Please?’ I venture, and your expression will soften as your draw your lips back: ‘Peeeeease’. At the moment there are still distinctly Edward books and Rosie books, but your approved selection is steadily growing, the crossover gradually increasing, and occasionally we manage to cuddle up all together and read several books in a row, which is easily my favourite parenting activity.

You are obsessed with clothing. Putting it on. Taking it off. Getting changed. Dressing up. Today I snapped a picture of you wearing an aeroplane backpack, clipped twice in front of your chest, pink leggings and bright yellow gumboots, a blue and car print neoprene legionnaires-style swimming hat with a sparkly black purse over your right arm and carrying a bumblebee umbrella with your left. 10 minutes later you had ditched the gumboots for your brother’s too-big sandals, swapped the swimming cap for a bike helmet and added a blue pendant necklace to the ensemble. When I came home last night you had on a doctor’s coat and a pilot’s cap, and your Daddy was addressing you as ‘Captain Doctor Rosie’.

You don’t always articulate your words that well, but your vocabulary is steadily increasing. Your word for cuddle, ‘cuggle,’ is so cute we’ve permanently adopted it into the family vernacular. You are an excellent and very well practised cuggler, one of your favourite pastimes being to follow me around the house insisting ‘cuggle, cuggle!’ Which despite being tiresome and problematic at times, is a request nearly impossible to deny since it offers the reward of the most genuine, heartfelt cuggles ever bestowed. With your head buried into my neck, and your chubby little arms wrapped tight around mine – you cuggle like you mean it. You wear your heart on your sleeve. You may not speak that well yet but we seldom wonder what you think of something.

Sometimes I just wish I could freeze you at this beautiful age, a snuggle-monster with your nommable cheeks and your perfect, crazy curls. Before the insane requests for triangle shaped toast when you really wanted squares, the baffling three-year-old logic and foot-stamping meltdowns begin. But there won’t be any holding you back.


Beating the Odds

Death breaks down our assumptions about life. Near-death can have the same effect. The assumptions that today will be much like yesterday, that we will wake up and go about our day as usual, and that everything is generally going to be ok, are as necessary as they are unfounded. Necessary to function without crippling fear and anxiety; unfounded because the unexpected happens. Statistics are meaningless to the individual. Life is a series of risks and the calculations don’t matter. 1 in 100, 1 in a 1000, 1 in a million – what do I care, if I happen to be the one? 
I look at the crude diagram on the page of the car accident that wasn’t. The page that almost didn’t exist, that my daughter almost didn’t scribble over in that toddler way that she does. Reduced to a few black lines of pen, the almost-collision of our family car containing the three people I love in the fiercest way one can love. Grateful, so grateful, they were not the ones. 

Life is what happens when…

The check out guy at the supermarket this afternoon asked me if I had any plans for tonight.

Why yes, I do.

I’m going to go home and pulverise those vegetables you’ve bagged into a thin film of nutrients which will hopefully cling to the pasta my children reluctantly eat after I bribe them with promises of that watermelon you’re scanning. 

Yes, that’s them, trying to escape from the dubious trolley safety straps, the ones with cheese all over their faces. 

They will assist in the cooking process by demanding to be picked up, declaring their intense dislike for whatever it is I’m making whilst simultaneously asking for snacks and stealing grated cheese off the chopping board. (They really like cheese.) 

From then on I expect a wild ride of picking shit up off the floor – if I’m lucky, in a metaphorical sense – bathing, and bedtime stories. 

Once the cherubs are in bed I will try to squeeze in some of the many elements of life that have been neglected earlier in the day whilst tending to the every need of two small humans. You know, housework, exercise, quality time with the husband, personal interests, personal hygiene… Time will be limited; I may have to focus on one or two.

So yes, I have plans. Depending on how events go in the lead up to bedtime (whether the shit is metaphorical), those plans may be modified to include wine.

Do you have plans tonight? 

Women have pubic hair. Get over it.

As a mum of one (soon to be two), there are some topics I overhear pregnant first-timers discussing with a certain degree of amusement. Some of the things expecting first-time mothers often seem to worry about in the lead up to labour and birth seem so insignificant once you’ve actually had a baby that it boggles the mind that my pre-motherhood self might have ever given them a second thought (in fact, I’m not sure that I did, but I seem to be atypical in this area). There are lots of decisions to be made when pregnant – private or public, cot or bassinet, capsule or car seat, but let’s be honest: many of these things really don’t matter that much in the big picture. However, within the plethora of things to decide, consider, or otherwise worry about whilst pregnant, there are the things that don’t really matter, and then there are the things that definitely, absolutely, beyond any shadow of a doubt, really do not matter.

So, in light of recent discussions with other pregnant ladies, here are my top 3 things that you most definitely should not worry about when it comes to your impending labour and delivery:

1. The removal of pubic hair prior to labour/internal examinations.

There seems to be a lot of angst about this issue. Right now, first time mothers-to-be are actually sitting around worrying about when to schedule that last waxing appointment ahead of their due date to ensure their OBs and midwives are not offended by their heinously hairy vaginas. Ladies, rest assured your caregivers, as the name implies, care very much about you and your baby’s health and safety during labour and birth. But one thing that they most decidedly do not care about is the amount, shape, colour, or overall style of the hair on your hiney. You’re probably reading lots of wonderfully positive and uplifting birth stories now about how birth is beautiful, blah, blah, blah. And that’s true in many ways; birth is beautiful, and magical, and amazing. But it’s also, to put it bluntly, rather gross. Here’s the scoop: you will mostly likely poo during labour, in front of whoever happens to be there at the time. You might not even realise that you’re doing it. There will be lots of blood, mucous, and various other yucky things exiting your body in a fairly undignified manner. So trust me when I tell you that whatever you’ve got to show down there, your doctor/midwife has seen it before. ***Warning – extreme grossness ahead.*** As one midwife told me, once you’ve seen a woman push live threadworms out of her rear end during labour, a bit of pubic hair hardly seems that bad now, does it?

2. Your general appearance during and immediately after labour.

On a similar theme, it seems that not only are expecting mothers concerned with their appearance south of the equator when that elusive labour begins, but also with their appearance everywhere else, too. Whilst on the phone to their waxers, today’s mothers-to-be are also making appointments with their beauticians and hairdressers, purchasing waterproof mascara, and generally planning how they are going to look in those precious first photographs. I’m not sure if this is something that our mothers and grandmothers worried about. Given the increasing popularity of birth photography, the invention of the ‘selfie’, ‘Instagram’ and other social media over-sharing outlets, perhaps this is a recent phenomenon. Either way, I will say this: ladies, I promise that you are not going to care about what you look like during labour. As you push a watermelon from your nether-regions, it will quite rightly be one of the furthest thoughts from your mind, right up there with how your partner is coping, and what you’re going to have for dinner about three weeks from now. At some point once you are holding your precious baby in your arms, someone is going to take a photo, and your hair is going to be messy, your face puffy, and your brow sweaty. And guess what? It will still be beautiful. Once your baby is here you will understand why.

3. What am I going to wear?

If I had to try to name one thing even less important than the state of your lady garden or your mascara once you’ve finally pushed your much-anticipated cherub out of your loins, it would have to be the outfit that you wore whilst doing so. Nevertheless, this is another topic that regularly pops up in the expecting circles. There are even special outfits marketed to pregnant women wondering about this very question, as well as how-to guides explaining the dos and don’ts when it comes to dressing for delivery. Pregnant mummas-to-be: go ahead and ask other mothers what they wore during their labours. I’m willing to bet some of the most common answers include some variation or other of the following: a) “I don’t remember.” b) “A hospital gown.” c) “Nothing.” My advice is not to worry about what you are going to wear during labour, because whatever it is, it is likely either to be desperately ripped off in some sort of primal need to be naked right now, removed for practical reasons, or soiled beyond repair. You most definitely don’t need to spend $89.95 on a specially designed ‘birthing wrap.’

There are many worries that naturally plague first-time mothers during what is an anxious, confusing and challenging time. Do yourself a favour and don’t let any of the above be on your list.

A picture of you, Mr. Almost-Two

In a little over one month, you will turn two. You’re obsessed with trains, “Thomas” in particular, so we’re planning a little Thomas-themed party for you. Actually you love most modes of transportation. I love to watch you “Broom broom” your cars and planes and buses around your little airport, whooshing them down the ramp and carefully parking them in their parking spaces. You’re not much of a fan of soft toys but you make an exception for ‘bunny’, your favourite and bedtime companion whose silky ears are now showing the wear of your loving touch.

Your other current obsessions include your bright yellow gumboots (I think you are delighted to be able to put them on all by yourself), and water: playing with it, pouring it from one container to another, swimming in it, splashing about in the bath, showers with Daddy while clutching your little plastic cup and demanding “more” each time you empty it out, helping mummy wash up in the sink, and drinking from a real cup like a big boy.

For now you are an avid reader – long may that last. It has been interesting to rediscover some of the favourites from my own childhood as I read to you. Sometimes I question the judgement of my childhood self, particularly in the case of the story about the cat who didn’t like flying so deliberately fattened himself up by overeating until he was too heavy for the witch’s broomstick, then apparently happily lazed about at witch school for the rest of his days. But mostly you have good taste in stories, delighting in Slinky Malinky and Hairy Maclary, Where the Wild Things Are, and Giraffes Can’t Dance.

You love animals; you adore the puppies even if you do love bossily telling them off when they get in your face. I showed you a butterfly on a wall and caught myself from stopping you as you reached out to touch it – please don’t inherit my fears of any and all insects. You were ever so gentle, brushing its wing with one pointed finger, giggling as it fluttered in response. “Tickly,” you said, a big grin on your face. We admired the butterfly, with its black wings and orange spots, until “Butterfly flew away… gone,” you said, sounding disappointed.

You had a visit from a worm farm at childcare recently. They told me you put out your hand eagerly when given the chance to hold one. “Snake! Snake!” you exclaimed as the little worm wriggled on your palm. I can picture your face alight with excitement, as though one of the many little play-doh ‘snakes’ we make together had suddenly come to life in your hand. When your Daddy dropped you off the other day, they had a big pile of plastic insects, sticks and leaves for you to discover – “Bee! Bee! Stick! Snake! Tree!” – he couldn’t even get your customary “Bye, seeeeyouuuuuuu” out of you, you were so engrossed.

Lately your memory has been impressive. You recall small details from months ago – where a particular pair of shoes came from (“Grampie”), what we did one day with Grandma and Grandpa back before Christmas (“Boat. Sharks. Fish!”). Last week I took you to a midwife appointment. It was only the 2nd one you had been to and the previous time was over a month ago. As soon as we parked in the hospital car park you piped up from the back with “Baby!”

I think you’re starting to understand a little about the baby now. At my appointment you sit with me on the table while our midwife searches for baby’s heartbeat with the doppler. “Noise, noise!” you exclaim. Now, when I ask you where our baby is you point to my stomach. “Belly,” you say. “In there,” lifting up my t-shirt as you try to get a look. Baby will come out soon enough, I promise you.

Before you came along, when I pictured motherhood, I used to imagine a little blonde-haired boy laughing and running amok. Eerily close to reality, but I never really could have imagined you: how you give the best cuddles (when you want to – when you don’t want to do something there is generally no convincing you!), the way you ‘blow kisses’ by touching your hand to someone’s lips, your cheekiest smiles, your endless curiosity. You make me laugh. You constantly amaze me with the new things that you can do and say. You are my favourite little person; my best boy; my love.

As we approach your 2nd birthday, part of me never wants you to change, and part of me can’t wait to see how you change next.

A Day in the Life

I love being a part-time SAHM, but it’s hard work. Days at home with a toddler are full on; there is a reason I call the days I get up before 6am, commute to North Sydney and spend 7.5 hours working ‘my days off.’ It’s hard to convey to others exactly what goes on during our days. On the surface our days seem pretty simple, but it’s hard to capture the frenetic pace, the physical exertion, the military-style planning, the unbelievable mess – and half the time when you try, you can tell people are wondering just what exactly do you DO all day? Sometimes I wonder myself. Well, here’s one example of a typical day in the life with my 15-month-old.

It begins at the respectable time of 6.30am when I awake to the dulcet tones of my son clamouring to be picked up. It’s not crying, but it’s definitely not a peaceful transition into consciousness either. We play a little game that I like to play most mornings, called “mummy buries her head under the doona and hopes that those 10 seconds of silence she just observed were her son miraculously falling back asleep even though he is merely taking in an especially deep breath so that he can resume wailing to be let out of his cot.” Catchy. I relent and pull on my ugg boots and dressing gown as quickly as humanly possible, retrieve my child and return to bed for our morning breastfeed, followed by snuggles under the doona for as long as E will tolerate before he demands to get out of bed and get moving, usually by clawing at my face with his razor-sharp talons (seriously, how do babies always have such sharp fingernails even when you swear you’ve just cut them?) until we get up.

I change his nappy and make us some breakfast while E plays happily in the kitchen (read: pulls out at least a dozen kitchen utensils from their drawers and strews them throughout the kitchen, all the while demanding I fetch his breakfast faster) and we sit down to eat. Porridge gets smeared over the table and through his hair, and tossed onto the floor. Some gets eaten. I clean up with the first of about 5 dishcloths used each day to wipe various grime from my offspring.

We let the dogs out and feed them and then suit up for our walk. It’s freezing outside so we are wearing puffy jackets etc. It’s too hard to walk two dogs while pushing a pram at the same time. Maybe it could be done in theory, with two non-crazy robot dogs that never react to any external stimulus but simply stay in their allotted positions flanking the pram at exactly the same pace as you want to walk. But with our dogs, it’s too hard, so I strap E to my back in the ergo with a dog lead in each hand and we set off that way. Sounds easy? Convenient? Keep in mind E now weighs around 13.5kg and is wearing at least 1kg worth of aforementioned puffy clothes.

With our walk done, we have some time to kill, and since Daddy has taken the car today, we stay at home, playing with the puppies in the backyard that I mowed and tidied up yesterday for this very reason. In choosing to play outside, I accept that there are going to be some dirty hands, a black-smudged face, etc to deal with afterwards, but I am always amazed at my son’s ability to hone in with drone-like precision on the quickest way to get the filthiest he possibly can in any situation. If there is dirt, he will find it. In tidying the backyard I forgot to put away the pot we use to collect the ash from the BBQ. E walked straight over to it, stuck both hands in to the apparently glorious pot of squelchy black mud and then proceeded to wipe them all over both of us (dishcloth #2).

When I tire of chasing E around outside we retreat indoors and I take advantage of his happy mood to get the vacuuming done. When you have a toddler you have to seize those rare opportunities where they are actually content to amuse themselves for a while to fit housework in where you can, or else wait until they’re asleep. E’s mood was further enhanced this morning by my offering of a box of sultanas for morning tea. It worked out well because as he dropped sultanas all over the house I was poised to vacuum them up. When he finished with the sultanas he picked up his little $5 vacuum cleaner and current favourite toy and ‘helped’ me with the task.

By now it was nearing 11am and just about time for lunch because with a toddler, all your meals are consumed at bizarre but carefully calculated times to try to prevent the dreaded toddler meltdown that can occur in such tragic circumstances as being a little bit too hungry or tired, or having one’s nappy changed or one’s banana break in half. Lunch ensues. He’s not really that hungry after the sultanas so he only eats a little. Giving a bowl full of food to a toddler who isn’t really all that hungry is never wise, because if the food isn’t going in their mouth, you can bet it’s going to go ALL THE OTHER PLACES (dishcloth #3).

At this point I mentally high-five myself for making it through to nap-time following a pretty successful morning. Some fun was had, some housework got done; all in all, I give myself about 10 mummy points. Thankfully these days my son is a usually good sleeper and getting him down for a nap pretty much consists of plonking him in the cot and leaving the room. I’ve then got at least 1.5 and possibly even 2.5 hours before I hear him squalling to be let up again.

I’ve been on my feet all day thus far and I definitely need a break: I’ve carted him all over the neighbourhood, chased him all over the yard and run around the house vacuuming, not to mention all the incidental times I’ve lugged his 13.5kg little self up and down our stairs, and I’m physically tired. I allow myself 15 minutes to consume some caffeine and put my feet up, but not for long. I’ve got things to do: the fireplace needs to be stacked ready for when it gets cold later, dinner needs to be prepared and cooked, the dishwasher needs to be unpacked and refilled, and washing needs to be done. Sure, I could bludge around watching daytime TV until my kids wakes up, but whatever pleasure gained from doing so would be far outweighed by the pain of trying to do all these chores later while he is awake and not necessarily in a good mood. There are only so many boxes of sultanas you can give a child in one day. I’ve learnt this the hard way, so I hop to it.

E wakes following a solid 2-hour nap and I warm some milk for him. He’s a cuddly little guy and only too happy to snuggle into me as he drinks it. It only lasts for a few brief moments, but along with our morning snuggles, it’s one of my favourite parts of the day.

It’s a beautiful day outside, cold but sunny, so I decide we should head out for another walk, sans mutts this time. I have already pre-loaded the pram with spare clothing and nappies, a pre-peeled mandarin and peanut butter Sayo snack, and other assorted paraphernalia required any time you wish to take your child more than 10m from the house. We head for the shops which are about a 25-min walk away but promise coffee for me and a playland for E on arrival, so everyone is happy. I drink my coffee while he drives the little car in the playland and looks curiously at the other babies. When he starts trying to make a break for the nail salon a few shops down I figure the playland has had its run so we push off again.

We still have  a few hours to fill this afternoon and rather than go home and trash the house I’ve already tidied once today, I’ve planned to stop by at the park for a while on the way home. It’s amazing how, when you have a child, parks and playgrounds transform from uninteresting dead space in your community into shining beacons of happiness and joy. As a parent to a toddler you inevitably spend a lot of your day saying ‘No’: no, we don’t bash the walls with the meat mallet, no, don’t put your hands in the bin, no, you can’t stick that dinosaur in the power point, and so on. So one of the reasons going to the park is so enjoyable for everyone concerned is because the park is all about ‘Yes.’ Yes, you can climb, and run, and play, and generally go nuts. Knock yourself out, kiddo.

We have a great time at the park. E’s new word for the week is ‘ball’ so I felt it only proper he should have a new, big one he can chase around and learn to kick, so we play with our new ball for a while then sit down for afternoon tea. Then E wanders over to the play equipment wanting to join the other kids so I wipe him clean of peanut butter (dishcloth #4) and open the gate. Older children at the park afford parents a glimpse of what their own child is going to be like at various ages and stages in the future. I learn that by 2.5, E will likely have mastered using the play equipment on his own, and that 4 year olds have a pathological aversion to sharing.

We’ve swung, we’ve slid, and we’ve stolen a four-year-old’s scooter. By now it’s getting late and cold so we head home. This is the time of day that often all goes pear-shaped. This is ‘arsenic hour.’ So named because you would rather you or your child consume arsenic than continue to endure it – perhaps. He’s getting tired, he’s getting hungry, he wants to be held or played with or just generally paid attention to, and I’m busy trying to light the fire, feed the dogs, and cook dinner. I am now well-versed in doing these things one-handed with a toddler on my hip. If I’m lucky he’ll lay on his little fold-out couch and watch Playschool or Thomas the Tank Engine for 5 minutes.

Somehow or other it all comes together and I get dinner on the table (at the ridiculously early time of 5.30pm). I’m no longer permitted to assist at mealtimes so I merely supervise the proceedings and make suggestions about vegetables he might like to consume or how he might like to stop gauging the table with his fork. Nearing the end of the meal I leave him for a moment to put some washing on and return to find he has tipped the remainder of the contents of his bowl onto the table and is happily smearing it all around and on to the floor (dishcloth #5).

There is a good reason dinner time is followed by bath time, which today is shower-with-mummy-time, because I haven’t actually managed to shower yet today so we may as well kill two birds with one stone. Thankfully E is content to sit on the floor of the shower with a plastic jug that fills up with water and two spoons that he can use to scoop the water out. I pretend not to notice when he scoops it into his mouth.

When we get out of the shower, the room is warm so I let him have some nappy-free time while I dry off. I don’t let E have nappy-free time very often, the reason being that every time I do he almost invariably chooses that very moment to perform certain bodily functions that are really best performed while the nappy is on. Best for me anyway. He is pestering me to let him back into the shower and I turn to him to explain that shower time is over when I realise that he has pooped right on my bathmat. Ok kid, you win. That’s one way to get back into the shower.

I hose him down, again, and dry him, again. I dress him for bed and we read some stories together. I pop him in bed, tell him I love him and say goodnight. I consider myself lucky that he will put himself to sleep and sleep through the night. The day, for the purposes of this blog post, is over. It’s been a good day, with tantrums kept to a minimum. I can finally relax.

Except that I forgot I have to deal with the poop-covered bath mat. I trudge back down to the bathroom. It’s one of the many well-kept joys of having a child that you can often tell what they’ve eaten in the last 24 hours based on the contents of their nappy (or on my bathmat, as it were). There are certain foods that look disturbingly similar on the ‘other side’ to how they looked to begin with. I have to scrape off what I can into the toilet before I throw the thing in the washing machine. There are sultanas in it.

Every-Day Happy

I read the most gut-wrenching article today. I was reading about Garry Linnell on Crikey and there was a link to his 1997 piece for which he won a Walkley award. Called ‘Hope lives here,’ he based it on a series of interviews with families on a children’s cancer ward

I debated whether to share this here. I now a lot of people will hear ‘children’s cancer’ and automatically think ‘I can’t read something like that.’  It is, of course, a very hard thing to read. You will cry. If you’re like me, you may not make it all the way through in one go, but you will be compelled to finish it.

Why read something so devastatingly sad? Because it is an amazing piece of writing (I think it will stay with me forever), and a large part of its power stems from its emotional impact. Because we owe it to those who have suffered, to acknowledge their pain. Because it reminds us how precious (and fragile) life is, something naturally forgotten amongst its many transient and mundane aspects. Because it makes us appreciate the quiet, unassuming, every-day kind of happiness we are lucky enough to find in our lives – if only we look.

I had a crappy day at work, but when I picked E up from childcare I told him that he was the light of my life and that I loved him more than he could know. He smiled and grabbed my nose. We had a bath together, and his little face lit up when he realised that mummy was getting in, too. Then he crawled over to me and just lay with his head on my chest for ages, my boy who never sits still, happily subdued as I washed warm water over his back.