Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Why I was Thinking About Ralph Fiennes late at Night

As the enormous summer holidays loomed before us last year I thought to myself ‘what can we do as a family that keeps us out of the sun and away from our iThingys.’ I decided to go old-school and start reading them a book, and Harry Potter seemed a worthy choice.

For some unfathomable reason, none of the girls had ever read Harry Potter. I think the fact that we had told them that Dad and I bought and read them ‘when we were younger’ instantly made them old-fashioned and embarrassing.

We got off to a great start, with the (then) five year old and (then) seven year snuggled under my arms, and the ten year hovering around in the background pretending she wasn’t interested.

It was going really well, until the local TV station decided to show each of the Harry Potter movies, starting with The Philosopher’s Stone when we were only halfway through the book.

Suddenly it was like we all had a ball to go to. The excitement of watching the first movie was palpable and we all talked about it like there was nothing else going on in our lives (there wasn’t). We even planned some special movie snacks.

The night came, and as the ending drew near, I found myself with a rather frightened seven year old on my lap. [Warning: spoiler alter] When Professor Quirrell took his turban off to reveal Voldemort’s head, well that was it. She was gone like a flash.

I found her playing in her room later, and when I spoke to her, she said she was ok.

Clearly that was a lie.

As the holidays progressed, my best sleeper suddenly didn’t want to go to bed anymore. She insisted on watching me lock the doors, made me turn the alarm on at night and tried to bribe the dog to sleep with her by hiding treats under the sheets.

But still she couldn’t even voice her fears, or put a name to the thing that was scaring her (‘he who shall not be named’ - well played JK).

By the time I figured out what was going on, I was faced with a sweet little girl who was now scared by bedtime, something I could strongly relate to. I was terrified of ET – the extraterrestrial living under my bed until I was about ten years of age, thanks to Mum and Dad taking us to see the movie when I was the tender age of three. They regretted that decision for years!

So I did what I tend to do when I am unsure, and I talked. And talked.

‘What you have to understand,’ I said ‘is that Voldemort is just a character played by an actor named Ralph Fiennes. And unlike Voldemort, Ralph Fiennes is actually quite handsome. To start with, he has a nose.’

A tiny smile.

‘And in fact when Ralph Fiennes goes out on the street, he doesn’t have people running and screaming in the opposite direction, he has people (mostly mums, I added) running and screaming towards him, because he’s just so handsome, having that nose and all.’

The smile got a little bit bigger.

‘And in fact,’ I went on now acting out my story, ‘if you ever saw Ralph Fiennes, I think you might actually fall in love with him and his nose a little, and you’d be all like ‘Volda-who?’ And you and I would get into a fight over who could ask Ralph to be in a selfie with us.’ (I started pretending I was jostling her, and holding up an imaginary camera).

‘I’d win mum,’ she said.

‘Why on earth would handsome Ralph Fiennes and his handsome nose choose you over me?’ I asked, pretending to be mortally offended.

‘Because I’m cuter than you.’

Maybe she is, but I’m smarter – and she hasn’t had a nightmare ever since.

Ralph – she’s all yours!

thanks to https://celebrities.knoji.com/ralph-fiennes-trivia-13-essantially-fun-facts-about-english-actor-ralph-fiennes/ for this yummy picture

Friday, November 24, 2017

How to Ruin a Secret

Because I am easily susceptible to flattery I found myself saying yes to taking on a special art project for my middle daughter’s class, a split class of six and seven year olds. And the project was: a quilt.

Yes, I agreed to take on a sewing project with 23 beautiful six and seven year olds.

We were making the quilt because our school has a wonderful end of year event where each of the classes make a collaborative art piece which is then auctioned off to raise money for the school. In the past the bidding has gotten a little out of hand, one year reaching at least $900 for a single piece – putting it well out of reach of many families and all the teachers.

So because our teacher is dearly beloved (and because I clearly didn’t have a clue what it would mean to make two quilts simultaneously) I decided I would also sneakily make a second quilt at the same time, which the kids will present to her as a gift at the end of the year.

I’ll skip over the past two months when I was actually helping the kids make the quilt and then sewing fifty individual squares because it would sound like this:



Ooops didn’t mean to do that.

Where are my scissors!

Damn, ran out of thread.

Bugger, back to Spotlight.


Where are my damn scissors!

I don’t want to do this anymore.

F*** back to Spotlight AGAIN!

What in hell is wrong with my machine?

What in hell is wrong with me?

And then –
Mum – I really need your help to finish these damn quilts.

Skipping to this morning when my mum showed up at my house with the finished quilts, I had one of those moments when the angels sings and you realise that your mum is in fact a little piece of heaven bundled up and delivered back to earth in a pair of jeans and sensible shoes.

Leaving the second quilt at home, I carefully bundled up the art quilt to show to the teacher. We laid it out on the table and let everyone have a look. The bell hadn’t rung yet and I still had my youngest daughter with me before I dropped her at the pre-primary. The teacher was appreciating the beauty of the kids’ designs (and my mum’s impeccable binding) and clearly Child Number 3 felt she wasn’t getting enough attention.

‘She has another one, you know,’ piped up my daughter.

Lasers shot out of my eyes and my heart sank. ‘Shhhhh’ I hissed at her.

The teacher was looking at me, shock on her face.

‘There is another one at home. On the table!’

I quite literally tried to kill my daughter with just poisonous looks (didn’t work). I wanted to throw myself across the table at her and wrestle her to the ground.

She had just given away a secret half the school had been keeping for two months and I literally could have cried. However I wasn’t actually prepared for what the teacher did next.

She took a big gasping breath and patted me on the arm.
‘Oh my gosh Shannon, do you know what I immediately thought when she said you had another one?’

I shook my head, miserable that she knew the secret.

‘I thought she meant you were having another baby!’

Wait. What?

I couldn’t quite decide what was worse – having the surprise ruined or being mistaken as pregnant. I packed up the quilt and shuffled away with my youngest who clearly knew she had done something wrong but wasn’t entirely sure what. Poor mite. Something for her to talk to her shrink about when she’s older.

Now with a bit of time (and a muffin or two) under my belt, I can look at this morning’s event with a bit more clarity. I get mistaken for being pregnant all the time so I decided that having the secret blown was definitely the worst thing.

Never trust a five year old.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

What Happens When You Don't Listen to the Experts

I did one of those things today that parenting books and experts always tell you not to – I got over-involved in my daughter’s school project.

It’s a major project due for a major program she is involved in. It’s a big deal that she is on this program, but she treats it as part of her normal school, so she gives it her normal level of care and attention.

Our assessment of this ‘normal level’ varies wildly. While she would probably say she does enough and her grades are fine, I say she does a half-hearted effort at the last minute which is well below her ability.

In reality, we are both probably correct.

With her major assignment due tomorrow, I finally pinned her down and convinced her to read through her Powerpoint presentation for me.

Clearly she hadn’t proof read it, or if she had, she’d decided the small typos weren’t an issue. She didn’t capitalise her last name. Spaces inside the brackets instead of outside the bracket. Starting a sentence with a lower case letter.

I wanted her to fix them, which she did without complaint.

But then I realised there was a major point she had missed – maybe she had thought it too obvious to include, or maybe she hadn’t made the connection yet. Either way, my suggestion was met with an eye roll, and then she rolled off the chair to play with the puppy.  

On her last assignment she had received a comment about her bibliography being incomplete. I asked to see it. It was a few dot points that listed the URLs of two websites, then ‘google’ ‘google maps’ and ‘google translator’ making up the last three items.


She’s ten, I get that. Apparently they haven’t actually taught the kids what a bibliography is (so she says) but if that’s the case, then I don’t think they should assess them. Either way, I’m pretty sure listing ‘Google’ as a reference is not considered the height of academic authenticity and I may have said that.

So she left. In a huff. With yelling.

More yelling (hers and mine).

She wanted comforting, so she grabbed the dog.

The dog didn’t want comforting so she bit my daughter.

Now my daughter was angry not only at me but at the dog, and kept chasing her and yelling at the dog, and I was chasing her and yelling at her. The other two kids were open-mouthed, watching us run around the couch like something out of a cartoon. It would be stupidly funny if not for the words we were shouting.

‘You’re trying to make it your assignment, Mum. It’s not mine anymore,’ she finally screamed.

I stopped. She was right. Totally 100% correct. I was trying to correct her ten year old mistakes and omissions and add the knowledge of a forty year old.

A forty year old who was making a rookie mistake: don’t do their work. Don’t even try ‘to help’.

Keep your fingers awaaaaaaaay from the keyboard, lady.

It pained me (it actually pained me!) to select ‘don’t save’ as I removed her USB from the laptop, but she needed to submit her own mistakes, not my corrections. [She refused to come back in the study at this point.]

There are two possible outcomes tomorrow. The first is that her teacher is happy. The second is that her teacher isn’t happy. If it is the first, then I will be happy for her, and know that next time I should definitely keep my fat trap shut. If it’s the second, then she may feel upset or embarrassed. She will learn that she might need to work harder next time. She will learn (hopefully) from the experience and she will be better for it.

The bigger lesson in all of this is that I need to trust her more.  I think as a parent I was right in offering advice and pointing out where she could improve. It’s her choice whether or not to take that on. 

I said at the beginning it’s a big deal she made it into this program - she’s bright and they saw something special in her. I need to sit back and let her make that something special shine. Even if it means sitting on my hands.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

The Ugly Mother

‘Can you put this in the bin?’ I asked my seven year old daughter, holding out a wet wipe her sister had just used to eradicate the half bottle of tomato sauce covering her face.

She wrinkled her face up and motioned at her younger sister. ‘Why can’t she do it?’

I shrugged. My hands were full of shopping bags. ‘You have to put your rubbish in the bin, can’t you put this in too?’


Who else has had a conversation like this? A seemingly reasonable request, in my eyes at least, that ends up being the catalyst for a string of events that ends up with public announcements over Radio Lollypop and almost being accused of shoplifting. Yes, that comes later.

I had taken the three girls to a local fete. They had been on a few rides each, harassed some bunnies in the petting zoo, chosen various knickknacks that I was now lugging around and they’d eaten their way through icecreams, donuts and hot dogs. It was a good day.

Asking my middle child to put some rubbish that didn’t belong to her in the bin though, clearly, was unacceptable. She refused. I got angry and turned my back. There’s nothing more fun than having a screaming match with a child in a public space, so I was channelling as many mindfulness meditations and as much bloody rainbow breathing that I could muster. I didn’t need to lose my bundle in front of the seniors a Capella choir who were all watching intently as they did their warm-ups nearby.

And then she was gone.

In a fete with hundreds, maybe thousands of people, my seven year disappeared. It’s her way of protest. ‘You don’t love me,’ she will cry. ‘I’m going to find a new family who will love me.’ Then she will grab her little purple bike and strap on her kitty helmet with the fuzzy pink Mohawk and ride around the block till she calms down enough to come home.

But we weren’t at home. She was swallowed up by the crowd and I could no longer see her. I wasn’t afraid. Not yet. Even when she’s angry she won’t go too far, as though a long piece of elastic keeps her attached to me. But I couldn’t see her curly head and fuzzy tutu. So I marched right up to the Radio Lollypop van, who were hosting a range of performers and made announcements throughout the fete.

‘I have lost my child,’ I told the lady. ‘Well,’ I admitted. ‘She’s run off.’

The lady looked at me kindly. ‘Middle child?’ she asked. How did she know?

Having someone make a lost child announcement with hundreds of eyes on you, judging you for losing something so precious, is never fun. But neither is being that small child, slinking back through the crowd after hearing her name called out over the speakers. It would have mortified her completely, being as private as she is. She curled into my arms.

The Lollypop Radio lady then took her aside for a chat. She had lost children before. She had been a lost child herself.  She knew how both of us were feeling, and with a kind word for me, and an activity pack for each of the girls, we headed towards the car in disgraced silence. But then…

‘I really want fairy floss,’ the eldest whined as we neared the edge of the fete.

‘The machine was broken hon, I’m sorry. Besides you just had a hot dog and icecream.’

‘But they had hotdog and icecream and something else as well. I want three things too. It’s not fair…’


One day she will read this and her stomach will clench at how petulant she sounded. I know I was a grotty kid, but I didn’t realise this until I was an adult and it was too late. But at that point in time all she could see was the scales of justice tipping in favour of her younger sisters, and she wanted them corrected.

I knew I was going to stop at the shop to buy a birthday gift for a friend so I said she could buy something at the bakery while I stopped at the florist. [At this point if you are shaking your head, admonishing me for being such a suck as a parent and letting them get away with too much crap – you’re absolutely right. I clearly suck at this.]

The middle child, still seething with resentment, refused to get out of the car. I flicked the lock and walked with my youngest into the shop [I already said I suck at this]. I was standing in the queue with a bunch of sunflowers in hand when a car alarm sounded.

My gut clenched. I knew exactly whose car that was. I could see the headlights flashing as the alarm wailed. Girlish shrieks pierced the gaps. Flowers in hand I began running towards the door. I could see the register attendants reaching towards me as I shoplifted a $17 bunch of flowers. I could also see the top of my eldest daughter’s head as she pulled on the door handle of the car, clearly not cluing into the fact that the doors were locked. I dropped the flowers onto the register as I ran through the doors into the carpark.

I shouted at my youngest to ‘wait there’ pointing to the fellow selling the Big Issue [I KNOW!] and I ran across the carpark in front of cars while everyone stared at me and the ten year old trying to break into a car and a seven year old inside wailing even louder than the car alarm.


What a bloody nightmare.

Can I use a stronger word here? It was a fucking nightmare.

I turned off the alarm and unlocked the car.

I don’t think I even used words to tell my eldest to get in the car. It was more of a guttural cry so deep and primal I think blood started dripping from my eyes and butterflies fell out of sky, dead, for miles around.

I stomped back across the carpark, muttered thanks to the Big Issue guy and grabbed my youngest’s hand. Back in the car, the silence was so thick it was almost smothering. I couldn’t decide if I wanted to cry or scream. I tried a bit of both. Nothing helped.

We were only minutes from home. I let the kids run into the house, to tell Dad how beastly their mum was (isn’t beastly a great word, we should use it more). I slunk in and went straight to my office, shutting the door like a sulky teenager, and proceeded to write.

One thing the Radio Lollypop lady had told me was that I needed to acknowledge my daughter’s anger, that I couldn’t shut it down, even if we were in the middle of a public space. She’s right. But what about my anger? What about my exasperation and embarrassment? What about my frustration? My fear?

I could tell by the faces of people around me that I clearly wasn’t allowed to express how I was feeling. I’ve seen other mums who lose their shit with their kids. While a large part of me understands and empathises, the rest of me recoils at the ugliness of a mum unable to control her anger at her kids.

And that’s how I’m feeling right now. Ugly.

But at least I have this space to share how I am feeling. I never got anything so right as the name for this blog. Relentless. Parenting is relentless.

And now I have had my whinge I will open the door and rejoin the world.

Thanks for listening.

Friday, September 15, 2017

The Phone

I had filled one side of my notepad with dot points, each detailing a single point in time of the night:

Taking a photo of the puppy when I discovered her in the remains of the bubble bath, happily sliding in the bubbles and eating great mouthfuls of soap.

Walking into my eldest daughter’s room, using my phone to email the pictures to her.

Walking out of her room shaking my head, as my youngest daughter stretched out on the bed asking to be photographed. (The answer was no).

Hearing a strange beep when I was saying my goodnights to my middle daughter, and then thinking ‘that sounds like my phone.’

Then the realisation.

I had lost my phone.

Standing at the bottom of the stairs, my hands devastatingly empty, I consoled myself with the knowledge that I KNEW it must be in the house somewhere.

I had even called it on the landline, straining to hear it in the sleeping house. Nada.

I stood in front of my iPad remembering the ‘Find My Phone’ app, but quickly walked away remembering I’d never actually set that up. Too hard.

After writing down my steps in great detail, knowing that in the morning I would have already forgotten what I did, I did one (or three) last checks of every room. I prowled around each sleeping child, checked the bathroom, my bag, the bench. The laundry. I turned on the outside lights and peered at the grass to see if the dog had taken it outside to chew on.

I admit it – I even checked the fridge. Who knows if this was actually the start of something more serious?


I went to bed the old fashioned way. I couldn’t check the weather for the next day. I had no idea what I had written on my to-do list. I couldn’t reply to my sister’s text message.

Hell, I couldn’t even bitch about losing my phone on Facebook!

My sleep was poor.

It was in the early hours of the morning when my door slid open and there was the telltale sound of small feet on carpet. I waited for the covers to be drawn back, but instead they retreated and the door slid shut.

That was weird.

I called out her name.

‘Don’t worry Mum,’ she called back ‘I’m just bringing you back your phone.’

I looked at the clock. 3.45am.

‘Wait,’ I called. ‘Why do you have my phone? Where was it?’

She avoided the questions like a pro. ‘Lucky I found it,’ she called. ‘Go back to sleep Mum.’ Her voice got smaller as she disappeared down the stairs.

Go back to sleep? Seriously?

I lay in bed for a few minutes, alternating between fuming and bewilderment. I could only guess why she took it. She probably wanted to watch Kids YouTube, or take a video of herself or who knows – check the weather for tomorrow or update my Facebook status. Maybe she was trying to frame me for a crime. Who knows what five year olds get up to these days.

But she obviously hadn’t counted on the whizzbang new technology of fingerprint identification. She knows her Dad’s phone password (I don’t)… but she couldn’t get into mine.

Why she chose to bring it back in the middle of the night shows a scarily crafty mind… did she think I wouldn’t notice? Blame myself for just being forgetful? She does seem to think I am going die soon now I am "old" (I just turned 40).

It’s now 4.40am and I have been up writing for almost an hour. There was no hope of me ever getting back to sleep, but she did – the face of an angel peeping out from under layers of blankets and toys.

I can’t wait to interrogate her.

And just a little afraid.

Monday, August 21, 2017

The Mole

‘What’s that thing on your face?’ my five year old asked, stroking my jaw.

‘Well,’ I said, ‘it can be called a mole or a beauty spot, whichever you prefer.’

‘A beauty spot,’ she said screwing up her face.

‘I wish you didn’t have it,’ she added, touching it like it was a plague sore. ‘How do you get rid of it?’

I frowned. ‘Don’t you like it?’ I asked.

‘I wish you didn’t have it. How can it be gone?’ she replied.

‘Well,’ I said, ‘someone would have to cut it off with a knife.’

She passed, pondering this rather drastic option.

‘Don’t worry mummy. I’d be right beside you when they chop you. I would hold your hand.’
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