Archive for the ‘travelling with a toddler’ Category

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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This year my resolution involves more beauty, more connection. That is, for just a year I will try prioritising both in my life, like they are needs. Like it is not enough to notice and enjoy them as they occur but that I may choose a direction or a moment over others simply because it will deliver either beauty or connection to me. That sometimes that choice would otherwise look frivolous or even reckless.

Fittingly, I then spent the beginning of 2016 travelling around Tasmania, me and my two children and the boyfriend that I now have. Doesn’t it sound strange to say you ‘have’ someone and doesn’t it seem strange to say boyfriend, at this stage? And who knows what else you find strange about that declaration. He’s appeared here and there on the blog already but this is still something of a coming out.

Some of the trip was also spent with family and friends and some of it was just the four of us, going happily crazy together in a little car.

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Picnic dinner outside a cabin with my brother. These nachos I cooked us tasted stupidly good after a day hiking in Cradle Mountain.

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Tasmania being, generally, ridiculously beautiful.

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Lauca and the boyfriend are two of the dots over on that rock island in the centre of the photo.

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And then because it is Australia, a wallaby comes up to the boyfriend on the beach.

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The boyfriend and I discovered Tasmanian Pinots. We drank them by fires in cabins, we drank them skinnydipping in an indoor pool at night, we drank them in caravan parks, we drank them on beaches.

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Lauca looking out to sea.

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And then I found Cormac looking out to sea, too.

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We did a lot of hiking. Big walks and big views are some of my favourite things in the whole world. The children mostly claim the same. And apparently, the boyfriend also acquired a taste for hiking somewhere along the way on our trip.

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And we swam a lot, even if it was cold. We found completely empty beaches and then a little more patience for the next leg of the trip. Cormac also found an incredible number of sticks that he in love with and amassed in the car as imaginary weapons.

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We also visited Port Arthur and the kids were, in turns, fascinated by and heartbroken by the history. We had lengthy discussions about inequality and the justice system and oh, how we did homeschool.

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Even now, with Lauca aged ten and Cormac six years old, I am still amazed by the powers of goddamn craft with my kids.

They were both quite tired, and frankly, rather shitty to be with until I squeaked them into the last convict peg doll making session available at the site and then, woah, little powerhouses of pep and gratitude after that for the rest of the day.

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The boyfriend proudly presents pizza he made and Internet he obtained for me one evening when I am feeling particularly wretched about the lack of solitude I am experiencing  while road-tripping with kids.

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The boyfriend sleeping.

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The wedding we attended at the MONA of one of my best friends. Cormac in the foreground watching the dance floor.

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Lauca with grown up hair at the wedding. Aw, little button.

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Oh, how MONA loves come and dicks and pussies and shit. Fortunately, Cormac is in a peak toilet humour stage.

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Mrs Licia Ronzulli, Member of European Parliament from Italy with her daughter. (Yes, Mrs Ronzulli is part of Berlusconi’s crew but let’s just rest a moment and gaze at work life balance in action).

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Now that they’re not toddlers, the girls transition between the light and dark better than I do. Their short memories allow them be present in the light’s absence or presence without thinking about what it might be otherwise. They adjust to blackout shades and blue skies, to reading bedtime stories in a sun-drenched living room. They accept the clock and its stern green numbers telling them to go to bed despite the light. On winter mornings, they walk to school in the dark and walk home from school in the twilight. They’ll happily ski on lit trails. To them, light isn’t good and dark isn’t evil. Light and dark are just present or absent, part of the flux of the seasons.

Beautiful writing from Nicole Stellon O’Donnell in Literary Mama with “Seven Minutes Less”. I love reading about parenting experiences in different parts of the world. I once wrote a couple of posts here with some of my mother’s own recollections of parenting my brother and me in Iraq.

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This is a delightful response from The Travelling Circus to my 10 questions about your feminist parenthood. She shares some very interesting perspectives in her response, including being partnered to a professional athlete and living for some of their time in Japan and her conflicted relationship with breastfeeding. I love how she describes her interactions with her male partner around feminist parenting, too, but my very favourite part of her response was this:

  • What has surprised you most about motherhood? It surprises me all the time how it is both so intuitive and so very confusing. I have feelings of real, true confidence in my instincts followed by sheer doubt over my decisions or priorities, often within the same 10-minute period.
  • How has your feminism changed over time? What is the impact of motherhood on your feminism? My realization that my feminism does not have to be complete or perfectly wrapped up like a mission statement was hands-down the most important change I’ve ever made. I had this idea that I couldn’t share my perspective or give my opinion until I was 100% sure that I knew my position would never change/was correct/would be accepted by other feminists. Motherhood provided me that reality check by putting me face-to-face with the constantly evolving nature of life and knowledge. I am totally winging it when it comes to parenting, but that doesn’t mean I can’t have an opinion or feel confident or discuss my experiences and feelings. I apply that same principle to my evolving feminism and try to go easy on myself when I realize my own inconsistencies or change my point-of-view.

The way she expresses such acceptance in herself as a mother and a feminist – I really appreciated that.

(You can find all the many other responses in this series here. If you’d like to respond to these questions yourself you can either email me your answers and I’ll put them on blue milk as a guest post or you can post them elsewhere and let me know and I’ll link to them).

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This is part of a series on my mother’s experience of parenting in Iraq. Our family lived in Iraq for a couple of years during my childhood. We were the only Australians in the country at the time. My brother and I were roughly the same ages as my children are now. I thought it would be interesting to ask my mother what her memories of parenting were like … and it was.

Part i here. Part ii here. Part iii here.

More of my mother’s words in the next post in the series, this time, some photos.




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Thank you Economist for a sensible response on the crying babies in planes issue. Thank you, because you are written and read by more than a few conservative men and when I saw that you were looking at this issue, well, there was a little trepidation in me, and then I read your piece and thank you for getting it.

Using persuasion on crying children is something that non-parents are convinced will work — until the moment they become parents themselves and realize their own utter stupidity. No, if a child is bawling uncontrollably during a flight, it’s not because the parent is derelict in their parenting — it’s because they’ve already exhausted the first four policy options and have no recourse but acceptance.

I’m an economist, too, as it happens. And I also travel on planes occasionally with children. The other morning (a very, very early morning) we were all on a flight and I got chewed out by a guy for my children making noise on the plane because he wanted to sleep. I was pissed because the flight was an international one that had left at 4 in the morning, so yeah, of course he was tired, so was I and so were my young children and that’s why when they started squabbling towards the end of the flight it was more difficult than normal to resolve. (We had long since used up distractions of food and colouring-in books and looking out the window). I was also pissed because after a brief crying bout during take-off I had actually managed to get my toddler to sleep for the next two hours and he’d been heavy in my arms and it had meant I couldn’t move in my seat the whole time to go to the toilet or get a book or have something to eat lest I risk disturbing him and having him awake and crying again.

And yes, looking after my own kid is my job, bully for me, but I still felt like I had made something of a gesture to everyone’s peace already on the flight. I was also pissed because I wondered if whether Bill had been sitting there instead of me this guy would have felt so comfortable chewing a parent out. Finally, I felt pissed because this is life, kids are life, and I am sick of people getting shirty about this non-issue and taking it out on mothers, especially when I am frickin’ tired myself, thank you very much. It tells me something about how segregated our lives are, about how contained children and their mothers are, that the sounds of a baby crying on an aeroplane can cause such a fuss. That some people are not tolerant of these sounds the way they are of the sounds of a noisy city  – that tells me something about the way it happens that women’s lives are not included.

People travel, people travel on cramped, budget aeroplanes; some of those people will inconvenience you and sometimes you will inconvenience them. Try to be nice about it, whomever you are, the wronged or wrong-doing. And Get Over It.

Cross-posted at Hoyden About Town.

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Image: My mother with my brother and I when we were living in Iraq.

This is part of a series on my mother’s experience of parenting in Iraq. Our family lived in Iraq for a couple of years during my childhood. We were the only Australians in the country at the time. My brother and I were roughly the same ages as my children now. I thought it would be interesting to ask my mother what her memories of parenting were like … and it was. 

My first question to my mother had been what had she liked most about living in Iraq. She is someone fascinated by Arab cultures, who readily befriends ‘lost and lonely’ immigrants she comes upon from the Middle East,  so I was stunned when she replied, nothing. At the time, she clarified, nothing. Looking back I love some parts of it. When pushed for things she had enjoyed then, she nominated the moment she had seen a wolf in the desert. She was desperate to take a photograph but knew it would startle and disappear if she reached for her camera and so she was forced instead to only watch it and try to absorb the moment.

How did you parent us in Iraq, I asked. What did you do with us all day, how did you occupy us?

We took some toys with us. Your books and bikes and farm animals. You were doing distance education so there was that to occupy you, too.

I remember watching you play and you had arranged all the farm animals into Iraqi-style farms rather than Australian farms.

[My mother was raised on a cattle and sheep property in Australia].

Your brother and you were very close and you didn’t need a lot of other children to play with. You played very well together, hardly any fighting. But I was worried that it was a very limiting experience for you two. You didn’t have much contact with other children. There were Armenian, Iraqi and Greek children around but you didn’t speak each other’s languages.

The nutrition was extremely poor. And you had no garden to play in. Nothing could grow. We tried growing vegetables but as soon as you watered the ground salt would just rise to the surface. The salt was everywhere, when you swept the floors you would find enormous salt crystals growing behind the doors – an inch long. It was nothing like Australia, nothing. We were so isolated. There was no stimulation for you. We lived in a tiny English colony in the desert. I was very worried, I felt we were neglectful parents for doing this to you. It was a critical time in your development as children and you had nothing. And the food available was so limited. I really worried about your nutritional intake. Hardly any fresh fruit and vegetables, mostly only canned goods and when you bought a sack of rice you had to sort through it first to get rid of all the rat poo. You would sometimes manage to get a small amount of vegetables – cauliflower or tomato and it would be so old it was rotten because it was imported. Or it would be full of maggots and you would have to clean those off first. I kept you on baby cereal because I didn’t have many choices to feed you. There was no detergent, I grated soap.

Your father and I were very close then [they since divorced]. He used to start work very early in the morning [he is an engineer] and he’d be finished work by early afternoon. He would come home and have late lunch with us and then we’d get in the landrover and we’d all four of us go driving out on to site [into the desert]. He and I were each other’s best friends.

See Part 1 here.

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Here’s Bill and an icy cold lake that I swam in.

On one of the not so pleasant mornings of our trip I woke up wanting to get the hell out of there but the faster you want to get a campervan full of our kids and Bill going somewhere the slower it will proceed, so I decided to have a swim in the lake while I waited. It was quite a spiritual moment, for an atheist like me, with the way I showed faith and didn’t even test the water first. I knew the water was going to be cold and that’s why I hadn’t even brought swimmers with me on the trip, so I improvised with underwear because there were too many people about to skinny-dip. And as I walked towards the water I told myself that there would be no turning back no matter how cold it was. Of course the water was icy, there are snow-capped mountains on the other side of the lake, and the water bit into my skin and left me breathless, but with a religious kind of determination I submerged myself. And the lake was so empty and tranquil and it felt so special to go under. I was thinking how baptismal it all felt and how it was washing away all my irritation and then I smoothed the water out of my hair and turned around to come out … where upon I found a backpacker and his camera, apparently photographing all this.

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