There’ve been some fantastic developments for someone like me who leads a weather-dependent life. SPRING IS IN THE AIR. Hooray! Happiness! This is my favourite season. There’s something miraculous about soft little buds that erupt from dried up old twigs. I love the joy, hope and relentless optimism in the new growth of spring after the bleakness of winter. It reminds me that I am part of some great cycle, some pattern that is above and beyond me and only God’s purpose to truly understand.
One of the advantages of warmer weather is that dressing the kids is easier and leaving the house becomes less of a rigmarole. Not that I bother much with Megan’s clothing anymore, winter or no winter. Am I a bad mother to say that? Yes, would say the little old Swiss ladies who stop me in the street to remark on Megan’s exposed flesh. Swiss kids are always wrapped up for a trek across the Antarctic.
My nonchalance stems from the fact that Megan is almost four years old and if she is cold, she can say so. If she doesn’t want to wear a jacket, then so be it. I make sure it’s always available to her but I’m not going to exasperate myself by forcing it on her while she protests and resists by becoming either stiff as a board or boneless and floppy. I pick my battles. All I care about is that she covers her genitals when we leave the house.
I’ve accumulated so many children’s clothes. I find most clothing spends more time stacked in the cupboard or strewn around the house that it does on my children’s bodies. As soon as she sets foot inside, Megan strips down to the lightest, softest, oldest clothes she can find. When we’re in the car, she takes off her shoes before I’ve even strapped her in and, one time, she was in such a hurry to rip off her Reebok takkies that she flung one out the open window and I drove off without it. For the rest of the day and until we got home, she walked around with one shoe.
We have these piles, these molehills of clothing scattered around the house. There always seem to be shirts, socks and undies lying in the lounge, in the bathroom, on the stairs, in the passage and on bedroom floors. I can never tell what is clean and what must be chucked in the wash. I spend a lot of time picking up, inspecting, smelling and folding tiny clothes. It’s one of my least favourite domestic tasks.
Clothes, socks and shoes also accumulate in the car, which is basically just a big cupboard. It drives Alastair insane. Twice now I’ve thought Jessica’s shoes were in the car and, when we got to our destination, I realized they weren’t there so she had to pad around in her socks. She looked like a street urchin, oops.
I see some girls dressed in frilly ensembles with brushed and clipped back hair and I wonder how their parents get them to look so coiffed and girly. Megan chooses her own clothes and dresses herself. She hates brushing, washing or cutting her hair. She’s a fan of the bird nest style. She wants me to stay away from her hair, like she’s a female Samson. Last week we went to the hairdresser and it was an ordeal fraught with tears, rage and anxiety. I even rang Al to ask if he could pop by and help negotiate with Megan or pin her down. He was about to start a conference call. ‘Is this urgent?’ he asked.
‘Yes. I’m at the hairdresser and I can’t cope. Please come quickly.’ He didn’t (our definitions of urgent are different). Anyway, long story short, Megan’s next haircut will need to be administered under general anaesthetic.
One of the battles I seem to have lost is around food. I bust myself to keep my family healthy. I still breastfeed both kids. At 18 months old Jessica hasn’t yet sampled sweets or chocolate. I breed kefir. I fry with coconut oil. I home-make all meals from scratch out of mostly fresh, organic ingredients. You would think my children would automatically follow my natural, earthy example but they are on their own mission. All Megan wants to eat are rice cakes, maize balls, granola and pop corn – basically any kind of puffed grain.
Megan and Jessica think life is one big buffet. They’re always snacking, probably because rice cakes are not filling. They want to eat all the time except at breakfast, lunch and dinner. My French friend says it is ridiculous the way we expat Anglophones let our kids snack so much. The French eat three proper meals a day and snack once at around 15h30 and that’s it.
On Mondays I take Jessica to a play group. I wish she would play but instead I often catch her hovering alone by our pram, rummaging for ‘nacks’ as she calls them. When we are out and about, Megan and Jessica hang off me, fiddle in my bag and pant for a snack within 5 minutes of arriving at our destination. It’s like going out with two chimpanzees. Or, they want to eat in the car, which is so full of dry and mouldy food that it’s become a big petri-dish for breeding germs. It’s not just me. Most of my friends’ cars look like cesspits.
Another area where we need to set some limits is in the sleep department. Jessica hollers, guaranteed, at 11pm every night and then I bring her into our bed where she remains, sucking on me for the rest of the night. Sometimes Megan joins us and then Al is squeezed further to the side, where he balances on a sliver of mattress and is one roll from falling off the bed. One of my friends said, ‘Who cares! It’s only for a season! How many 16 year olds sleep with their parents?’ No. We must do something because poor Al doesn’t sleep soundly with Jessica’s toes up his nostrils.
So, clothing is a battle I’m happy to lose but I can’t admit defeat in the sleep and food departments. Boundaries and limits coming up shortly! I just have to muster the willpower to enforce them.