Archive for the ‘step-parents’ Category

It grew very quiet for a time, high up there in the stillness of the bush with its greys and blues and greens and my daughter glowering at me. Her ‘this is too hard’ had morphed into ‘you are too hard’. I told her about how magical it would be at the summit, I told her we had come this far and we had to keep going, I told her that she could do it.

After a time, I urged my boyfriend to go on without us. My daughter was wailing and cursing by then, like someone strung out. She was digging in hard, all resistance and hopelessness, snot and tears. My boyfriend walked off up the trail and disappeared around the bend. I imagined all the second thoughts he must be having about us, about binding himself to this crazy, broken thing.

From “What you really see when you climb a mountain with your child” in Essential Kids. 

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Years ago there was this silly British comedy film made by the Monty Python team called Erik the Viking. There’s a scene in it where the vikings have set off on a terrifying quest to the edge of their world. One of the vikings has anxiety and has never fit in properly with the others. As the quest becomes more challenging the vikings begin talking about these horrible unfamiliar sensations they are experiencing – queasiness, heart-racing etc. “That’s fear”, says the anxious viking. “You’re feeling fear. That’s what I feel all the time”, he says delightedly.

Just as these vikings were culturally inexperienced with fear, so too my boyfriend seems culturally unaccustomed to anger. It’s been a curious experience for me to observe someone so, apparently, peaceful. Because I come from a family almost proudly angry. Artist parents get quite angry and there is little effort made to contain it. It just erupts and recedes. Not all of it is productive anger but neither is all of it seen as destructive.

Besides, anger happens regardless of how comfortable you are with expressing it. And seems particularly inevitable when you are juggling work, study, co-parenting, step-parenting and new relationships, as Seth is.

Lately I have been teasing him when I see him tense up. “That’s anger. You’re feeling angry. That’s what I feel all the time,” I say.

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One day I am chopping vegetables at the kitchen bench and negotiating something around time and care and children, with the boyfriend, whose name is Seth. It’s quite a friendly negotiation but none the less we’re not yet in agreement. I’m making a concluding point but I’ve skipped the argument that underpins it. The bits about men and women and how our time, particularly when it comes to parenting is identified and valued differently. And I think, what are you talking about Seth, I’ve already fought this fight and I won?

Then I remember, that argument was with my ex.


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I do not say to my daughter that I think there is chicken stock in the vegetable soup and chicken salt on the chips we ordered. She is eating them gratefully, but this is a small town. Too small for vegetarians.

I do not say to him how much are you reminded of your honeymoon with your ex on this trip.

I do not say please take the children for a walk, please make them shower and organise their meals and break up their fights. Because these are my children, not his. And he is already doing so much.  I do not say, please, I just need some quiet time alone.

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