November 26, 2014 § Leave a comment
When we lived in QLD, years ago, we began a family tadition called ‘Family Day’. It came about through a combination of my young-family earnestness to create intentional relationship building rhythms, the fact that we lived in a new city and wanted to explore it, and Sol’s unpredictable shift work.
He had every Sunday free, so that became ‘Family Day’. We wrote a list of all the places we wished to see, all the things we wished to do. And every Sunday we ticked on off the list. Now, ten years later, Sol still works shift work, and mostly on Sundays too. Saturday just doesn’t work for Family Day – sports, lunches with Grandma…. It does not have the same carefree energy that Sunday holds.
Recently Sol had a rare Sunday off – and the Spring weather was warm and breezy, so off to the beach it was! For both Sol and I, our favourite beach outings involve bushwalking and getting somewhere off the beaten track, so to speak. We have visited this little beach on Pittwater many times before, but the length of the walk is perfect for the little ones (two of whom we ended carrying up 400 steps anyway!), and the beach has lots of rocks and physical challenges for the older boys to get into.
I was left behind on the beach with Robin while the others went exploring/rock jumping, but I didn’t mind. I explored with my camera and had a swim, almost alone on the beach. Just the way I like it: just me, and the ocean.
November 1, 2014 § Leave a comment
A little while ago we were invited to the property newly belonging to some very good friends….virgin bushland, not far from Sydney. Unfortunately the weekend this gathering was occurring happened to be one of the busiest weekends for our family….culminating in a council cleanup that we had to prepare for.
Sunday afternoon came. Sol was at work, I was hard at work in the garage, getting things out for the cleanup. As I was working, I was inwardly lamenting not being with my friends in the bush, knowing they were revelling in the beautiful blue sky day and the restorative energy of nature.
Suddenly, I felt compelled to join them. I was almost finished my work….why couldn’t I just quickly pack the car and go?! This thought came at 5pm….a quick phone call to Sol and it was decided.
Well, as anyone may know, it is not that quick to pack a car with tent, air beds, food, nappies and clothes for three children (I had quickly farmed out the boys to stay at Grandma’s as per their wishes). It was 7.30 by the time I was ready. Sol arrived home from work, grabbed his thongs and we were off!
My plans to arrive before dark were completely unrealistic. At close to 9.30pm we drove down the incredibly steep driveway, across two creeks with half-submerged pipes as the ‘road’, up some very rocky, bumpy track and finally onto the clearing – having followed the light of the campfire for the last little bit.
Our friends were surprised but delighted to see us, helped erect the tent (a new one – the first time being used), and settle in for a glass of wine around the fire.
There is something magical about being way, way out in nature. No artifical lights, no hum of electricity. Just the fire, and the amazing stars above. The body and mind deeply, gently relax. I headed for a fairly early night with the children, while Sol stayed up a little later. In the morning, we walked part of the property, crossing a trickling creek and swatting march flies.
We finally left after lunch, stopping to admire a waratah and little cave on the way out. We headed to the nearby river, a favourite swimming spot of our family’s. In turn we were delighted to see other friends there, and enjoyed a social swim before heading home. The children promptly fell asleep, exhausted from the adventure.
The next day, it was the first day of school for the term. The house was a mess, the morning was disorganised and I had to drop the children at school and then head to the shops to buy them all sushi for lunch! But it was worth it, for those few, magical hours. Way, way out in the bush.
October 16, 2014 § Leave a comment
My current home is one I have lived in for the longest period of my adult life.
Growing up, I lived in the same house for 21 years. I find it a little surprising that since leaving the nest I have lived in twelve different houses, a Buddhist Monastery, a tent, and of course I returned to the nest a few times too. I’ve written more about these homes here.
I usually approach finding a new home with excitement and positivity: seeing it as a new opportunity to manifest a home that will meet our changing needs as a family. The moving in part also presents a new opportunity – to begin new rhythms and routines, and to embrace new energy and habits. This has always been something I have welcomed, and when I look back at our different homes, I can see certain themes or lifestyle habits, or interests that we had, particular to each place and house.
Our present home was not our desired choice. It was handed to us, by friends who were moving out of it. We had been out of the rental market for a while (having lived with my mother), so this leg up back into the system was welcome, despite not particularly loving the house or its location.
It has now been four years in this house that Sol and I promised each other would be a stepping-stone with a limit of two years. In that time we have planted a little veggie garden, turned the garage into a teenage retreat-of-sorts, I have birthed a baby on the lounge room floor, and now I run craft workshops and a Playgroup from this home.
I used to feel embarassed about the retro light fittings in the living room, or the single bathroom, or the cosyness (smallness!) of the living space. I have not done much entertaining from this house. And I used to spend a lot of time fantasising about when we would be able to move to a bigger, more peacefully situated home.
This year, however, things have shifted for me. What I felt was a too-small living space is actually the perfect size to hold my Playgroup and Workshops. What I saw as a typical suburban backyard (and not in a good way) is a delight for the children who come here often. This house has use and purpose beyond simply shelter for my family, and give thanks for that.
I dream of living in the bush. But that bush is probably a good half hour drive from here. Here, where my mother is only ten short minutes drive away, and Sol’s mum just a bit more. How would we have enjoyed the same kind of drop-in closeness with these women if we were out in the bush somewhere? I don’t think we would have. As it is now, my children are always popping over for sleepovers with ‘The Grandmothers’. And I love that – for the special memories my children will have of their one-on-one times with their grandparents, and for the opportunity to give other children some extra time here with me.
We have now celebrated numerous seasons and rituals here in this house. I have watched the leaves fall and then re-grow on the star-leaf tree out the back three times. We have our little rhythms….our now-familiar walking route where the boys can skateboard along; the best times to get to the nearby basketball hoop when we know no one else will be there. It has taken me so long to see the gifts that come with this particular house, and the feeling, finally, of peace, is welcome.
September 30, 2014 § Leave a comment
Last week I read this piece on the conflict between wanting more children but feeling the time has passed. The sentiments have remained on my mind since then, and I feel compelled to write my own version, specific to my own set of circumstances.
I remember myself as a child, fantasizing that instead of just one brother and sister, I had three of each! I loved the hustle and bustle and the sense of camaraderie I observed in larger families in my community. I remember one particular family we were close to, with six children. We used to go on regular holidays with this family: days of canoeing down the Kangaroo River, lots of bushwalking in the Blue Mountains, and a trip to Cairns and the Great Barrier Reef that I was invited to along with one of their sons. I revered the can-do attitude of the parents, and the tight knit unit of their family.
I have always been a little bit all-or-nothing. I wanted no children, or lots! As a young woman, it was no children. Then I met my husband and rather quickly we were pregnant, and a whole new future opened up for me – a future that involved lots of children, a bustling house and that adventurous spirit I fell in love with as a child.
I love being pregnant. I love giving birth. I love nurturing babies and young children. Beneath the worry, I love the unchartered territories my eldest is dragging us into as he strides through his teenage years. And I do now have a large family, with five wonderful, individual children. We have had lots of adventures, though as number four and five have come along those adventures have changed, have become less carefree.
I know in my head that five is enough. Our house is full, our hands are full, our days are full. Meeting everyone’s needs in the family often feels impossible, despite the numerous gifts and positives that many siblings bring. We chose an independent school for these special souls, and that often pushes us to our limits financially. We began our family before we had established careers, and both Sol and I would like to catch up in this area, and even to get ahead. It is insanely hard trying to transition careers with so many dependents, and so many time demands. And then there is the whole population debate – I sense it is becoming less and less socially acceptable or responsible to create large families, in a world that many see as already over-populated.
Now our youngest is two, and we are moving out of the ‘baby stages’. Life has begun to get a little easier for us all. I tell myself that after fifteen years of pregnancies and births and breastfeeding and babies, that it is OK to move on to the next stage of life. Now my personal goals can enter the frame. This is both thrilling and terrifying. I have never had a career. My goals center around a business based on myself and my creative skills, and I am out of my depth even thinking about the possibilities of these goals becoming realities. Motherhood and more babies have now become the safe choice: choosing to leave those days behind and push myself into new areas is the adventure.
My midwife used to tell me that in her experience, a woman ‘just knows’ when she is done. I’ve yet to have that knowing. As I finish breastfeeding my youngest child, a void opens up in my body. There is space there, in my heart and in my womb, for one more. It is not rational, or sensible, or logical.
But it is insistent, like the constant beating of my heart. It is there.
September 11, 2014 § Leave a comment
Sol and I never used to celebrate Father’s or Mother’s Day. In the early years of our relationship, it felt contrived and unnecessary to participate in what we saw as a materialist and token experience.
But in more recent years, and with a few more children under our belt, we have been participating more and more. As children get a little older they become aware of these occasions, and so the questions about why we weren’t celebrating have been raised more than once. And our previous convictions began to feel like just plain old sour grapes!
It is nice, however contrived the occasion sometimes feels, to be acknowledged as a parent. And this year, when Sol had a ten hour shift on the actual day, we all felt really sad that we couldn’t be together for some family time. We did go out for a rare meal out with four out of our five children (one is on a class trip) the day before, where Samuel and I picked up some goodies for Sol on the way home:
Sol is a great father – fun to play with, great with the daggy dancing or the dad-joke, caring, calm and sensible. Now that we are doing it, celebrating – Happy Father’s Day!
September 3, 2014 § Leave a comment
August 25, 2014 § 1 Comment
Fifteen years ago I became a mother for the first time, and my breastfeeding journey began: through five children and a few little breaks between babies, it amounts to eleven and a half years of actual breastfeeding. And this journey now seems to be at its end.
I have breastfed in trains and buses and cars and aeroplanes. I have breastfed whilst doing the grocery shopping, while watching movies, while snuggled up in bed reading a book. I have breastfed while bushwalking, at the beach, even whilst sitting in the boom net hanging off a boat as dolphins frolicked just meters away (did that twice, with two different babies). I have breastfed newborn babies, just minutes old, and three year old sons who could ask for the ‘boobs’ and make a grab for them. I have breastfed for hours on end, through growth spurts and comfort feeds, and I breastfed my last baby in 10 second bursts when he was seriously ill.
Now that baby is two and a half, and in typical Robin style (he must be different from his four siblings!), he has been initiating the weaning process. For months now I have been gently introducing some boundaries around night time feeding, and now Robin is taking the lead, and taking things further.
He often asks for a breastfeed, manouvering himself into position, pointing and declaring “that”. But about a week ago he began sucking for a few seconds, then clamping down and biting. After my nipple was hastily removed (with an expletive or two: it is extremely painful), he giggled and moved off to do something else. This was the pattern for a few days.
Bedtimes became an issue all of a sudden – how would I get him to sleep if I couldn’t feed him? This is where Sol has stepped in, singing Robin to sleep some nights, and other times he falls asleep while Sol and I are chatting. But in the middle of the night, the baby has returned – rolling over and instinctively breastfeeding whilst still asleep. No biting.
A couple of days ago, Robin stumbled out to the lounge after a long sleep. He came into my lap, and began breastfeeding. My breath was held in, anticipating the bite, but he was still half asleep and in that instinctual space so it never came. It wasn’t long – a few minutes of feeding as he came into a more wakeful state. I must have known it would be one of the last ones. I looked down, at his hand splayed protectively over my bosom, lips apart, and a look of bliss of his sweet face. It occurred to me that he was getting much more than just milk in that moment. He was consciously loving breastfeeding, consciously revelling in our combined energy, and loving the taste of the milk.
His eyes found mine and we shared a moment of loving awareness, and of mutual bliss. It was as though he looked into me and acknowledged the breastfeeding journey we have experienced together: the tender intimacy, and the touchstone that breastfeeding was for us throughout some very difficult times.
Last night, he did not roll over and seek the breast at all. I have not breastfed him for a day and a half now.
I think back on all the years of breastfeeding; of the times I hated it and felt trapped, the times of mastitis. Of the satisfaction that comes from being able to nourish a baby, the gratitude of that way to comfort when babes are ill or teething, and the moments of tender connection.
I breastfed Robin exclusively for twelve months. Twelve months! Throughout his illness, when I could only literally feed him for seconds at a time before he began coughing, I was so determined to be the one to nourish him. Amidst the clinical setting of the hospital and the intrusive wires, beeping machines, and endless monitoring breastfeeding made him my baby. And that was so deeply important.
I’ve been so lucky, and so blessed with breastfeeding. In many ways it is a relief to finish: it is tiring, often limiting in practical ways, and takes energy. But the end of breastfeeding heralds the beginning of a new phase – new ways of connecting with Robin that are not yet established. Will we still have that closeness? The end of my childbearing and baby years – who will I be now that I do not have a baby to feed? It has been so long that I really don’t know. The prospect is both exciting and terrifying.