OPINION: There was steam and blood. There was naked flesh and writhing bodies. There was feminist discourse and bad words.
This was Thursday morning. I was in the shower. My children, or so I thought, were dressed, singlets tucked into their undies, eating Vogel's soy and linseed mousetraps with the last of the Marmite and some organic cheddar I'd paid way too much for, in front of the fire. Sweet, brief reprieve! As I luxuriously rinsed the last of the conditioner (organic, paid way too much for it) from my hair, two slippery, little bodies joined me. This is nice, I told myself, they won't always want to hang out in confined spaces with their nude mother. Enjoy it, I told myself.
Reaching for my razor, pulling my foot out from one small armpit and hiking it up over one small head, I bent down to shave my legs. What are you doing, asked my daughter. She's removing her hairs, said my son. Why, she asked. So my legs feel nice and smooth, I said. Can I, she asked. No, I said. Why, she asked. Because you're only three, I said. How come Daddy's are hairy, she asked. Because he's a man, said my son, and they can be. Well, that's not strictly true, I said. Women's can too. Well, why aren't yours, asked my son. As I scrambled for an answer that would make sense to a child and feminist enough in rationale to not betray my politics, I stood on a Yoda figurine, slicing a wafer-thin layer of skin from the length of my shin. The blood flowed, and I swore foul curses. My daughter shrieked. Ouchy! My son reprimanded me for behaving so dangerously, for using such terrible language. And I wondered what I had gotten myself into.
Parenting is a minefield, filled with cluster bombs and booby traps. In the course of any one day you may be called upon to ajudicate, hypothesise, censor. There are risks around every corner. At any moment you may be ambushed, ensnared.
Never lie, we have drummed into our oldest.
He's left me, I tell the heavily accented man who has rung while I am cooking dinner to ask if the man of the house is between 35 and 50 and drives a car. Liar, says my son, you lied. No, I didn't, I say. Yes, you did, he says. Those aren't lies, those are untruths, I say, they're different.
Always tell the truth, we admonish our youngest.
She won't share her My Little Pony, she says. Well, I say, sometimes people have precious things. You told me I have to share my stuff, she says. True, I say. She pulled the head off my Mermaid Tale Barbie, she says. Don't tell tales, I say.
Recently my husband and I watched through a window with two dear friends as their four-year-old son sniffed our daughter's bum. We deliberated about at what point intervention would be required in their game of mummies and daddies. We were inconclusive, but agreed it looked like a lot of fun.
In two weeks the Australian Government will begin screening three-year-olds for early signs of mental illness. A particularly tantrumy toddler could be referred to a psychologist. I wondered whether, if we lived across the Ditch, that innocent fumbling might now be considered notifiable.
I'm going to marry you, said my daughter to one of her older brother's friends on the way to the skatepark the other day. Yuck, the three boys agreed. That's gross. A conversation about who liked who ensued, and then, in a small silence, one of the boys announced that, he might be, like, gay anyway. And I held my breath, fearful for him of the others' reactions. But my son did his lesbian grandmothers proud. Cool, he said, I reckon I'll have a couple of flatmates.
I've never liked team sports. I don't want to wear the same thing as everyone else. I don't want to run in the same direction as everyone else. But as a parent you must, at times, go against instinct. It's the school disco coming up. The highlight of the scholastic calendar. It clashes with soccer. I just won't be able to play, said my son, already planning his outfit. No, I said, the team will have to take a vote as to whether they play or dance, and as a team member you will have to abide by the group decision. Half the parents didn't get back to the coach's email. The wise ones went ahead and bought tickets. I resisted. Stuck to my guns. The disco sold out. My son won't speak to me.
And I wondered what I had got myself into.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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