Monday, January 24, 2011

Sleep and this and that

I had to have blood taken last week at the hospital. I arrived to see about 40 people in front of me, some of whom sounded as though they were about to cough up their left lung. The germ phobe in me wanted to run out of there screaming and not stop until I had plunged into a hot bath full of bleach. But reason prevailed; with small kids the opportunities to go and wait for two hours to have blood taken don't come up that often.

I had just settled down between two surly looking men (no obvious symptoms), when a man came out and announced: 'For those of you who are waiting, there is a completely empty blood room in the basement.' About five of us raced downstairs and were seen to asap. I think some of those waiting upstairs didn't have English as a first language and couldn't understand him, and the others probably felt that after waiting a couple of hours they'd be damned if they were going to give up their place in the queue.

I've had a few spells of being ill recently which hasn't been good. It's taught me a valuable lesson though, and to quote a Middle Eastern taxi driver (who gave me this bit of wisdom en route to an antenatal appointment back when I was pregnant with my son), 'A woman is like mother earth, she must take care of herself. If she gets ill, everyone that relies on her suffers.'

It's easy to forget when you get wrapped up in the all-consuming needs of your children and family, but it's so true. I got very ill with the flu (and shortly thereafter bronchitis), and one morning I was literally unable to get out of bed. The rest of the days I just felt like death but carried on as you do when you have kids, but on this occasion I was simply too ill to get up. Someone had to help me with the children, get my daughter ready and take her to school, see to the baby, and it was horrible and scary. A stark reminder that if something happens to you, well, it doesn't bare thinking about.

So I've learnt that it's vitally important to beg, borrow, or steal help from time to time. Get a bit of rest where you can take it, remember to nourish yourself, and if someone offers to babysit (barring any criminal record or penchant for your wine collection) take them up on it and enjoy some time out for yourself or with your partner. Jokes aside, you absolutely have to take care of yourself physically, emotionally and mentally (not that these things are unrelated or even separate) so that you can take care of your family. And a bit of fun from time to time, dare I say it even a bit of reckless abandon? And an opportunity to forget all the responsibilities and just be the you that doesn't care for or worry about others all the time? Well, essential really.

I recently had a spring clean of my closet. It's evident that the items I've had for absolute ages (those that have survived successive culls over the years), are items I've spent a little more on and where I've chosen classics: black woolen trousers, fitted shirts, a simple and well cut cocktail dress. They last because they are good quality, suit my shape, and they defy trends. I think Tim Gunn would approve. The items in the chuck or give away pile are almost always impulse or trend purchases. And I hate to say it, but the really cheap stuff is never good at surviving the rigours of the washing process. It's a false economy. Less is definitely more. At the age of 36 I think I'm finally coming to appreciate this.

Our baby is almost 8.5 months old. Time flies. We feel like we've surmounted the hump - i.e. the really difficult (and at times nightmarish) bit of the new born months and juggling two children. This morning I even had, heaven forbid, a brief (very brief) thought about the merest possibility of having a third child.

It was about this time, when Julia was nine-months-old and we were in the swing of having a child and enjoying her, that I contemplated having another for the first time. Funny thing about human nature; you just get over the tough bit, start really enjoying your child/ren and having some time to yourself again, and you think, 'Hmm, why not go and throw myself back into the wars again?'

I seriously doubt we will have more children. It's just that I woke up to the sound of my baby boy gurgling and 'chatting' to himself in his cot (the best alarm clock in the world, other than say, a sultry good morning kiss from a sleepy lover), and I thought, 'Oh my goodness he is so wonderful and cute and lovely, and he's going to be one-years-old soon and no longer a baby, and I won't get woken up by those lovely gurgling sounds ever again.' (Legal note here: This momentary lapse of judgement did in fact follow a most excellent night's sleep.)

This kind of dangerous thinking is how perfectly sane people land up with a rugby team of kids. It's true.

Which leads me to my next point; While our baby is growing up, sleeping through the night (praise the Lord), and is happy to play (supervised) independently, it's still full-on and hard work mostly because we have two small children.

Our three-year-old daughter has pretty much skipped early childhood and become a teenager overnight. I say this because I believe she is supposed to be entering a parent-pleasing phase at this age. No idea what happened to that? She is so stubborn it drives me crazy. 'But why do I have to do dat? or 'But why can't I do dat?' have become standard phrases. Followed by me retorting with things like 'Because the alternative is plummeting a meter or so and breaking bones on the hard tiled floor, that's why, " or "Because you've watched enough television and too much of it rots the brain."

We also get into these incredibly time consuming and annoying tautological exchanges which go as follows:
Her: No I don't want to
Me: But you have to
Her: But why?
Me: Because of X Y or Z (I give an overtly generous explanation given the fact that these conversations usually take place when we are running exceedingly late for something)
Her: But I don't want to do dat sing
Me: Listen, sometimes we all have to do things we don't like doing, but it's not all bad right? I mean, you get to see your friends at school right? And that's fun isn't it?
Her: But I don't want to go to school, it's too noisy
Me: I understand that it's noisy, but surely there must be some things you enjoy about school?
Her: But I want to stay home wis you
Me: It's three hours and then you are home with me all afternoon, now let's go we are running very late
Her: But I don't want to go

And on and on and on and on, until I become the mother you see in the supermarket shouting at her kids and you think to yourself, 'Those poor children, that women has no patience at all.'

On other days the children play together and I sit nearby sipping (and amazingly get to finish) a cup of tea, smiling beatifically and thinking, 'Ahhh, this is lovely. I love my little family,' that is while ensuring she doesn't bend his fingers back, place plastic bags in her mouth, or he doesn't chew on the underside of the rug or eat newsprint.

It's all good. But then pretty much most things are after a good night's sleep.

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