Out Past Bedtime

It didn’t start until an hour past their bedtime, and it meant not getting home until 10pm. It was a school night. The parking was going to be difficult. It was starting to rain. There were so many reasons not to put our pyjama-clad six- and three-year-olds into the car and head into the city last Wednesday night, but still we went. 

Lily packed everything we might need in her fluffy butterfly backpack: drink bottles, a small organza gift bag, a gold purse that belonged to my nana, a twenty cent coin and a slightly broken maze puzzle. 

  

On the drive in, we watched the dark clouds bloom brightly around the slowly falling sun. My normally quiet city had come alive for the Fringe and Festival. The East End was humming: antenna-wearing pub crawlers, sleek prowling lads, tipsy hens in shrill pink dresses, elderly couples conspiring together, carnies in striped suits lugging odd paraphernalia, and a pair of kids in slippers and hooded dressing gowns. 

  

The city at night is an adventure. Small fingers stroked the fuzzy artificial grass on a restaurant wall and attempted to lift shiny coins embedded in the sidewalk. Wide eyes took in quirky shop displays, gleaming motorbikes, a circus tent across the road, the smallest car ever seen. We sat at a table outside, enjoying the mild night, eating chocolate ice cream and watching the world go by. When the rain started again, we moved inside and sank into a big orange couch to finish our treats. The kids were buzzing with sugar and life. 

The shower passed, and we started walking towards the car. “Not back to the car yet!” begged Lily. We reached our carpark and kept going; it was not bedtime yet. All along North Terrace, the usually sombre and stately old buildings had come alive with dazzling displays of projected lights and images. The kids watched enchanted as fish swam across the Art Gallery, Dreaming stories decorated the Museum and one of the university buildings was transformed into a circus tent.

   
 
Then there was a street performer making bubbles from smoke and rainbows, a white puffball of a dog, a bagpiper playing Amazing Grace. There were steps to leap from and water features to examine. It was a lot to take in. 

When we finally got back to the car, Lily asked for a story about when I was a little girl for the drive home. I’m sometimes disappointed by the meagre handful of childhood memories I’ve brought with me through to adulthood. There are pieces of memory, of course, sensations and scenes, but not many complete stories that unravel neatly from beginning to end. I told Lily that she needed to make some memories herself to tell a little girl or boy of her own one day. 

I don’t understand the science of memory; the system through which some memories are filed and some discarded seems a little strange and random. Sometimes I wonder which experiences will become locked in as my kids’ first memories. I hope an event such as this night in the city might make the grade, rather than me telling them I can’t play now as I have to hang out washing. Perhaps it won’t settle in their brains as a complete narrative, but maybe as a few bright images, or even just as an imprint that our family does spontaneous things and has adventures together. Maybe they won’t remember a thing about the night. That’s ok too. 

All I know is that sometimes you have forget all the possible repercussions of a late night adventure, and just go. 

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A very little love story

Valentine’s Day: I really wasn’t feeling it this year. It’s not that Jeremy and I usually go all out for the day; we prefer to make a bigger deal of our anniversary which is the month before. But feeling decidedly less lovely and loving on the international day of romance than on any normal day was unexpected and a little disappointing. 

We had been to a wedding the night before which was the epitome of romance: heart-felt vows, a radiant bride, fairy lights twinkling across an outdoor dance floor, and a groom who serenaded his bride with Bryan Adams, “Everything I do” (my 15-year-old self would have died to witness that!). It was a beautiful night, but I was a bit shocked at just how shattered I felt on the 14th. I’m not used to going to bed after midnight any more, and Lily and Elijah aren’t used to having sleepovers. I was tired, head-achy and irritable; the kids seemed to be intent on punishing us for having fun without them the night before (though I’m willing to concede that might have been all in my head!). From the time we picked them up at 8.30am, Valentine’s Day was unique only in that it seemed to have an excessive number of hours needing to be filled. 

We went straight to church, and before the service started my three-year-old sneakily helped himself to extra jelly beans from the service desk, then worked through his sugar rush up and down the aisles. In the supermarket trolley my kids were all pokes and prods and “he dropped bread on my foot” / “she looked at me meanly.” At the bakery Elijah leaned out of the trolley and forcefully poked a bag of finger buns, which earned us a killer look from the bakery lady and a mortifying lecture about how she could no longer sell them (and a free bag of finger buns, but that is definitely not the lesson here…). The rest of the day was more of the same – capped off with Jeremy having to go back to work, leaving me utterly wrung-out and without back-up for the evening routines.

I wonder if all mums, even the really good ones, have off-days? As in dismally miserable I’m-about-to-lose-it off-days. Days where the bunch of stuff you always do for your kids (and even enjoy doing) seems suddenly completely insurmountable. Are there really any mothers out there who consistently manage to sail serenely above supermarket melt-downs, obstinate pre-schoolers and personal fatigue? Do they maintain voices soft as lambskins as they encourage their children to finish fruit snacks that have been styled to resemble the Very Hungry Caterpillar? Or could it be that those mums whose wisdom and serenity I admire just know when to let go; when to acknowledge that they need the sustaining power of One beyond themselves? Time and again, I doggedly slog on in my own strength, rather than surrender my burdens to Him who actually offers, “rest for your souls”.

Finally: blessed bedtime. One went down easily, leaving just the tricky one to go. Every night I sit beside him, while he chats about all the important things, and gradually winds down from the electrifying experience of being a 3-year-old:

Mama, let’s talk about what we did today!

Mama, I’m imagining what it would look like in a dinosaur’s mouth. 

Mama, do you love me?

Yes, I do.

Do you really love me?

I really do, Bubba.

Do you love me bigger than space?

Yes, I love you bigger than space.

Woah! Do you love me bigger than the sky and all the planets even the dangerous ones?

I sure do.

Woah! 

Mama do doctor-planes have propellors? Imagine if our airport just had little planes! Do some of the doctor-planes pick up the sick animals?

Mama I love you.

My arm rests on his pillow, his hand in mine. His cheek is pressed against my wrist and I feel his eyelashes brush my skin as he blinks slower and slower. 
And there, right at the end of an average day, was my love story. Because what more could you ask for on Valentine’s Day, than someone whom (despite his maddening tendency to eat the jelly beans and poke the finger buns) you love bigger than all the planets, and who you know without question loves you in return? Be mine, little man of my heart. 

 

Tonight’s Bedtime Monologue From my Two-Year-Old

7.20pm: Give two-year-old a pep talk about going to bed nicely, unlike the previous night.

7.22: Two-year-old lies quietly in cot.

7.23pm: “I’m waking up now! I want ice-cream! Green ice-creams. I want ice-creams all DAY! I want ice-cream all-ready!” (Hums for a while then stands up). “Mummy, me keep waking up! Door not shut! Not shut anymore. Not shut. One, two, three, four.” (Starts jumping in cot. I lie him down).

7.25: “Want go outside one day. All day…. Mummy! Me is cross! Me biting! Yeah! (Wet slurping noises). Want bite someone! Aaaagh! Can’t reach you, Mummy! Me not go to sleep!” (Stands up. I lie him down).

7.30pm: “Want to take off sleeping bag! Waaaa!” (Loud fake crying). “Want Daddy! Really want Daddy! Cuddle please Mummy!” (Give him a drink, discover toy Platypussy inside his sleeping bag which leads to much laughter. Put him back to bed.)

7.35pm: “Ha ha! Never seen Platypussy there before! Me know Zac. Mrs T got Zac. Me see Zac for long long time long long time. For long long time. Mummy! Not going anywhere! You stay Mummy! Never see Zac at childcare. Never see Zac at childcare. Hmmm. Pretend you is Mrs T, Mummy!”

7.40pm: “Let’s check on Lily. Let’s check on me.” (Starts humming tunelessly).

7.45pm: “Please sing song, Mummy! Not that one. Not that one. Different one. Wheels on the bus go round and round. You know that one for long time? Wheels on the bus go round and round, round and round, round and round. Wheels on the bus go round and round all day long. All day Mummy. All day Mummy. All day Mummy. All day meemee. All day hmm hmm hmm.”

7.50pm: (Starts humming softly. Hum gradually builds to scream). “Something on my Platypussy! Dad! Daddy! At work Daddy? Want Daddy! See Daddy after sleep? Then have my break-sast.” (Starts groaning loudly).

7.55pm: “Mummy! Mummy! Want Daddy! Daddy is home! I’m stuck! Aaaah! Can’t get it out!”
(I pull legs from between bars of cot).

8.00pm: “My friend’s called Wang-wo.”

8.04pm: Breathing deepens. Stay another 15 minutes just to make sure.

8.20pm: I exit room and head straight for chocolate stash.