Advice for friends who are about to become parents.

I’ve been thinking about this for you a bit lately and this is what I have come up with so far… unfortunately (or fortunately, I don’t know) this is something I could write about for hours.  But I will try not to!   🙂

We went through a lot of IVF and god awful crap to have our one little miracle, and when he got here, we were incredibly grateful to have him at all – so even the hard stuff was good stuff in my opinion. He was born four weeks premature, which comes with its own issues – he was only 5lb 7oz and his tiny little hand fit through my wedding ring and his head was about the size of an apple.  He wouldn’t breast feed (suppressed suck reflex) so I was pumping every feed and he was getting a bottle and when I did try and put him on the breast he would go into what is called Infant Shutdown Syndrome (he would go from crying and struggling and hungry, to eyes rolling up and going floppy like a rag doll – like someone had flicked off a switch) which happens when they are expending too much energy to get food, but without reward.  This was scary as all shit btw, but no one ever tells you about things this until it happens to you and you’re ready to call an ambulance!  All I had to do was wait patiently and rub his cheek a little until he was crying and hungry again, but the first time it happened – I freaked the fuck out.  So mostly his early weeks were spent just worried he wouldn’t put on weight and would end up back in hospital on a NG tube… eat, sleep, eat, sleep. It was a bit overwhelming – he went from 24 hour, round the clock care of professional NICU nurses, to being sent home with US.  Crazy talk.  I didn’t bond with him immediately, to be honest, I was mostly just scared of the little bugger – scared he wouldn’t put on weight, scared he wouldn’t thrive, scared he’d catch the flu and his immature little lungs wouldn’t cope… there is such a thing as ‘too educated’ in these situations. When you are aware of everything that can go wrong – you will worry about all of it going wrong. In hindsight, I shouldn’t have been so stressed – the little buggers are extremely resilient and he was never at anything even remotely resembling risk, cloistered in our cosy living room and his warm cot.

He was a really good baby – especially once I gave up on the breast pump and reluctantly switched him to formula at about the ten week mark… it was a self preservation move, but one that I beat myself up over nonetheless ( the breastfeeding nazis are hard to ignore).  Both Mr K and I had been attending to every feed – he would feed the baby while I sidled up to a cold breast pump at 11pm, 3am etc.  In the day time, I would feed bub and then while he was sleeping, spend the next half hour pulling out the next feed.  It was never ending, very time consuming and meant both of us were sleep deprived.  Not long after we switched to formula, he started sleeping through the night and unless he was unwell, he has slept through ever since. There are a couple of things that I think helped him be a good sleeper… one, we had a dimmer switch in his room, and would never turn a bright light on at night or take him to a brightly lit room, and two, when he woke for a feed in the middle of the night I wouldn’t talk to him much – he would get a feed, get a fresh bum and I’d hold him and rock him a bit and then straight back to bed.  No playing, no singing, no visual stimulation, just dark and muted and quiet.  If he fussed, I would hum to him, or ‘shhh, shhh’ him quietly but there was a very distinctive difference between what day time looked like (bright, colourful and playful), and what night time looked like.  I think it really helped. But… I have since read articles that claim good sleeping as an infant is genetic – if you were a good sleeper as a baby, then chances are your offspring will be too… so what the hell do I know?   🙂

After the tiny infant stage, parenting for us was pretty easy compared to what some people describe. He was just a little person who lived in our house and was expected to live the way we live. From almost the very start, he was never treated like a ‘baby’. That is, we didn’t ‘baby’ him like some parents do. He got all the love and cuddles and affection and fun that a child needs, but we spoke to him like a little person – I never baby-talked at him and used my usual vocabulary from dot.  From about 12 months old, he would constantly amaze me when he did things that demonstrated he totally understood the things we said, even though he wasn’t able to verbalise comprehension yet.  By the time he was four he would ask me to explain whenever I said a word he didn’t understand, and would say things to the doctor like, “I am rather concerned about my sore throat”… kids are little sponges and can absorb so much more than we give them credit for.

Even from when he was as young as one year old, we would set an example of what is expected of him to live here, with us, and it was a ‘monkey see, monkey do’ situation. I’m a bit OCD, so I probably didn’t let him feed himself as early as other Mums do because I couldn’t stand the mess.  I didn’t give him food to eat in the car, or in his pram either, because I didn’t relish the idea of teething rusks being smooshed into the upholstery fabric. I also didn’t want my house to look like a BIG W toy sale had exploded in it, so we had a cupboard in the living room which housed all his toys, and together we would always put all the toys back in the cupboard before going onto another activity – even if that was just to go have lunch or go have a bath.  All other toys belonged in his room, so they weren’t constantly scattered all over the house. He got used to cleaning up after himself which is a good thing to try and drill into them early – for years now it has bugged him when other kids come and mess up his space.  It is amazing too, how much shit kids these days accumulate, even if you are not buying it for them yourself – he had more toys by the age of three than I had my entire childhood.  Unbelievable.  And in those early years – they would honestly be as happy with a pot, a wooden spoon, a bucket full of clothes pegs and some tennis balls, as with the fancy expensive newest Fisher Price Whatever.  They don’t know, they don’t care, they won’t remember.  Keep the toys to a minimum if you can, because you’ll be giving them away when they grow out of them within months anyway.

Behaviour?  Well, he was never one to throw a tantrum, because the first time he tried, I just wasn’t having it… he would start to wind up, and I would say things like “Well, that is very interesting, but it is not going to get you what you want”, and if it was safe, I would turn away from him.  Or he would see other children having tantrums and decide to try it on for attention and I would respond by saying, “We don’t do that.”… and it very quickly got to the point where he just didn’t bother, because it was a waste of effort.  Actually “We don’t do that” is a very useful phrase for all sorts of things, but the best thing I ever did was shutting down the tantrum thing before it ever really started… we got to the point somewhere around age three or so, where we would see other children throwing tantrums and HE would look on, confused, and say “Why is she doing that?”

Shutting down the tantrums and introducing very early the concept of actions and reactions – that his actions had consequences were probably the best parenting tools we had.  “If you do that, then this will happen.”  And always following through with any threats of consequences, whether that is early bed time, no games, no dessert, no stopping by the toys shop… or if you’re pulling out the Big Guns and threatening a smack.  Not going to go too in depth on the whole smacking/non-smacking thing here… but we were smacking parents.  It was always the last tool in the box, but we used it when he was too small to respond to logic and reason.  He never got smacked a lot, but when he did it was always in a reasonable and considered manner – never when one of us had lost our temper, which I believe is the worst time to be smacking your kid – and it didn’t take long before the threat of the smack was all it took to alter behaviour because he knew we would follow through.

I think we managed to get through the infant and toddler years relatively unscathed compared to what some people relate.  Sometimes I think this is because we had an ‘easy’ child – he had no developmental issues, is completely normal and actually has a rather easy going of temperament (thankfully took after his Dad there).  Other times I think that things went well because we were firm and consistent with him right from day dot – he always knew what was expected to live here, in this house, with us, and we never changed up the rules on him without there being reason or logic and discussion surrounding what was, and was not, allowed.  As a result we now have a teenager who is smart, thoughtful, caring, considerate, aware, well spoken and can negotiate the hell out of any given situation.  🙂

I’ve already written way too much and I don’t have all the answers – no one does… but one thing is for certain, your lives are about to change enormously.  In amongst it all, try not to get swallowed up in your new roles as Mum and Dad, try to remember who YOU are.  And … good luck!

screwing it up

Birthday Bait and Switch

Last week, the Small Child thought he’d make himself some Mac ‘n’ Cheese.  You know, the horrid microwave kind, which passes itself off as food and has very doubtful nutritional properties.  It’s stupidly easy to make, full of MSG goodness and the kid loves it, (though god knows why), all you have to do is tip the sachet of macaroni into a bowl, add water, heat for three minutes on high and then stir through the pretend reconstituted cheesy stuff.  Simple right?

Unless of course you miss a vital step, like oh… I don’t know – adding water.

Then what you get, instead of Mac ‘n’ Cheese, is a house full of acrid black smoke, a useless microwave with burnt plastic walls, which now is only suitable for use as a temporary garden ornament until next kerbside pick up day.  I really wasn’t planning on replacing the microwave any time soon… but can not go putting fabric wheat packs in the (vaguely still functioning) machine twice a day, because they’ll end up reeking of charred acrid smoke and shortly after, so too, will the couch.  Yuk.

As luck would have it, it was the Small Child’s birthday in a week or so, and I decided to teach him a lesson about forgetfulness, by telling that he was getting a new microwave for his birthday as a result of the Greatly Offensive and Injurious Mac ‘n’ Cheese Incident of 2014.  I let him do the retail research and he got to put together a purchase proposal, so you know, I kindly allowed him to choose which one we needed (much to his disgust), and then we duly went out and purchased it.  Poor little guy was quiet and resigned throughout, feeling equal parts guilty at destroying the old microwave and despondent at the concept that the new one was to constitute his birthday gift.  We then got a week of telling him that his birthday present was all sorted but that he needed some new slippers, so he might get some of those too.  Little did he know, his actual birthday present had been ordered weeks ago…

As an avid young gamer, his eight year old hand me down laptop was his most prized possession and while it was okay for some things, it wasn’t really wasn’t cutting the mustard.  So we had decided it was a good time to replace and we arranged for the whole family to chip in and help us buy him a new one – one that would hopefully see him through the next four years or so.  Hopefully by that time, when he needs another upgrade – he can damn well get a job and save for it himself!  But it served our purposes at the moment to let him think that a shiny new microwave was all that birthday had in store for him… it significantly reduced the ‘I wants’ in the lead up to said birthday, that’s for sure.

Anyway, birthday morning rolled around and so began the unwrapping of some underwhelming decoy birthday presents that I literally pulled out of the emergency present box (everyone has one of them right?)…

Well, Happy Birthday kiddo… I think that was exactly the reaction we were hoping for…. except for that weird, “I am victorious!”, exclamation, which mostly just tells me he’s been playing way too many video games already, and doesn’t have a suitable vocabulary to express elation!


Peow, peow, peow… BOOM!

Well, the Small Child had his long awaited 11th birthday this week which means he is now legally allowed to go the range and shoot stuff! Yep one more weird-arse quirk of Qld Police Service’s Weapons Licensing Act. In the great state of Qld, you need to be 18 to vote, 18 to drink, 17 to drive and 11 to go shoot guns! How on earth they decided 11 was a suitable age for young people to be handling firearms I don’t know… but there you have it.

Belmont Shooting complex BrisbaneSo I took him out to the range for the day at one of our RAM (Real Adventure Men) Days which are subsidized shooting days that our club runs every couple of months to encourage non-licensed shooters to come along and have a go.

First cab off the rank was 12ga shotgun clays.  I saw it on the activity sheet and thought, ‘Oh great, let’s give a kid whose never really shot an air rifle a shotgun to cut his teeth on!’. :S And then of course we get down there and they have these very heavy shotguns with 28” barrels that are almost as big as he is and that he can hardly hold up let alone operate and then let’s give him a moving clay pigeon target! Talk about throwing him in at the deep end! But he did okay. Admittedly the instructor was loading for him because he couldn’t break it (hell, half the time I can’t!) but eventually he got his eye in and managed to get off a good shot and hit a pigeon.  Never seen such a huge smile on his face  🙂

RAM day belmont shooting range

belmont RAM day SSAA Brisbane

Next we moved onto black powder pistols which are always heaps of fun because they’re a bit more hands on, you get a bit grubby playing around with gun powder, big lead balls, beeswax and stuff. Then there’s lots of big teeth rattling booms and smoke and coughing and all good stuff like that 🙂  The Small Child had a go at loading a .40 cal black powder revolver and had five shots to fire.  He managed to get three of the five shots on the target which was pretty good considering some of them kick like a mule!

RAM day brisbane city council belmont

SSAA RAM Day Brisbane Belmont


After that we moved onto .22 semi-auto pistols (Ruger Mk III 22/45s), which are so much smaller when compared to the black powder revolver and have absolutely not recoil to speak of, but he didn’t seem to take to it as easily and there was no big satisfying BANG.  So, even though the gun is smaller and should have been easier to handle, and the targets were closer and should have been easier to hit – his shots weren’t as accurate and it certainly wasn’t his favourite activity of the day, which surprised me a bit, cos most of the young guys I’ve had out there like the semi-auto rapid fire fun.
SSAA RAM Day Ruger small hands kids shootingAfter we had a bit of lunch we went onto using some Ruger and Smith & Wesson .38 revolvers.  Much, much heavier, a helluva lot more kick and somewhat fussier to use than the semi-autos… but he absolutely loved the revolver and his shots all landed true with it too, so he was fantastic with it.  He handled it like a pro and came home saying that was his favourite activity of the day and that ‘we need to buy a revolver, Mum!’  Yep, no worries kid, I’ll just go put in another PTA and spend a small tonne of cash to buy another gun because you like revolvers and oh no wait!  You can’t join the pistol club until you’re 16.  Bummer.

smith wesson .38 RAM day belmont brisbane SSAA
He also had a go at .22 rifles which he managed easily and found a little boring after playing with pistols!  Love the screwed up concentration on his face while he was shooting.  😀  Then onto .223 rifles which gave him a big of a fright at first, but he got the hang of them too and managed to get a few on his fox head target.  All up, we had a great day and I was really pleased with him for his awareness on the range, his sense of safety with the firearms, his ability to follow instructions and for being able to take the whole thing seriously while still having fun.

.22 rifle .223 rifle scopes fox head

And at the end of the day, The Small Child’s verdict:  “Real guns are nothing like guns on computers, Mum!”   😉   Totally worth if for that if nothing else!


Kiddo, we’ve come a long way. :)

Getting the Small Child sorted for school every morning used to feel like a constant battle, we’d  have daily dramas – diaries, homework, permission notes left behind, lunches not packed.  Socks, swimming towels, art equipment and music satchels… all sucked into holes in the space time continuim never to be seen again and therefore never to be willingly packed for school.  All these things seemed so completely beyond the sphere of reality inhabited by a small boy and therefore couldn’t possibly be expected to be actually remembered and packed for school.

But this morning I get this:

” Morning Mum!  I’ve made my lunch and had my breakfast.  It’s sports day today because it’s Friday so I have my sports uniform all sorted, and I even found some matching socks!  I handed in my homework yesterday… which was a day early. 🙂  And some time next week they’re sending home a permission note for our excursion to St Helena Island.”  And as he skipped off down the hallway he said, “Oh, and I’ve also fed the dog too, so I’m going to go read my book for a while…  you should have a cuppa and call me when it’s time to go to school!”

I guess the Small Child is becoming the NotSoSmall Child…  🙂

morning routine school checklist drama

Worry wart.

Angel’s school has a passenger drop off zone, where you can drive past and stop safely momentarily to drop the children off…. and I hate it.  I prefer to park the car and walk Angel into school, but he’s ‘a big boy now’, so wants to be dropped off in the car park with the other big kids, so he can walk into school by himself.  The problem is the passenger zone is on the other side of a public park from the entrance to the school, so the kids have to walk through the park unaccompanied to get to their schoolrooms and playground areas.

I know that it is probably the usual hypersensitive parental paranoia…. but I cant help thinking that it is a perfect place to try and steal kids from, if someone was that way inclined.  Most of the time there is heaps of people around and lots of children meandering towards the school through the park, so Angel isnt actually walking in by himself – but for some reason that doesn’t really make me feel any better about it.

So every morning that I deliver him to school, I pull into the drop off area, and give him a kiss goodbye, and he jumps out the back passenger door, and puts his school backpack on, and comes to the front passenger window and taps on it until i wind the window down… and he sticks his little head in the window and smiles adorably at me and says  ‘Bye Mum!  I love you!’

And every single time, I tell him I love him too, and watch him walk off towards the gate …  he looks so little an vulnerable… too little to be doing anything by himself…. and an unbidden, fleeting, but very tangible thought crosses my mind…. what would I do if something happens to him and that was the last time I saw him…  🙁