Lou ponders whether she missed a class in parenting. Don’t fret, take stock and have confidence in your own unique parenting style.
When I was 17 I had a pretty clear idea of what my life would be like. I’d be covered in tattoos, married to some gorgeous guy who played in a band, be travelling the world and I’d have children but they’d be off in the distance somewhere being adorable. Waving and wearing little hats. Maybe riding a Shetland pony while I made out with their father who looked like Daniel Johns crossed with Dylan from Recovery crossed with Bad Decisions. I was super confident, had all the answers and could (and often did) tell you exactly how things were going to be.
The truth of the matter, at age 33, is not quite on par with that. I did get the tattooed musician but his focus nowadays is a little less on playing onstage and a little more repeatedly falling asleep in front of the television. The Shetland pony turned out to be two idiot dogs who are scared of the toaster and watch helplessly as field mice carry their biscuits away. The happy, fat baby in a hat turned out to be a long-haired, cartoon character child who says things like, “What are you talking about, mummy?” when I ask him to put pants on and insists on crowd surfing being his main form of transportation.
But that’s all cool. We’re weird and we’re loud and we’re rarely in the mood for company. The bit that’s not cool, and that I kind of had assumed would have figured itself by now, is that I still feel like I have no idea what I’m doing.
I think that a lot of the time I appear on the surface as if I’ve got this shit at least partially together. I can pack a mean nappy bag, I can put food into mouths, I can tidy things up to a point where you probably don’t realise that I mainly just use baby wipes instead of actual products. I can do bed times and bath times and colouring in but I feel like that’s kind of the extent of my “stereotypical mother”-ing abilities.
You know what I mean. Someone’s like, “Hey we’re having a picnic, there’ll be heaps of kids there, you guys will love it”, and you’re like, “Oh no, I can’t get out of this, we’re going to have to actually leave the house”. You get in the car (with that premium packed nappy bag I proudly referenced earlier) and you’re on your way but then when you rock up you realise that you’re just… Wrong?
The other parents are all, “Here little Torrance, have a container of organic blueberries that I picked from some fucking beautiful field. I made the container out of my tears that I shed over the amount of screen time other parents give their kids. Go sit over there and be a smug little shit and off Torrance toddles to sit next to my kid who is suddenly eating KFC (from where?! how?!) and shoving whole clods of dirt so far up into his nose that they’re touching his actual brain. Torrance’s eyes bug out of his brainy little head and he keeps checking to see if his mum has any idea that he is in close proximity to this Filth Child.
Meanwhile I’m sitting next to his mum trying very hard to not fantasise about all the television I could be watching instead of listening to this multi-layered conversation about fabrics and breathing. I often feel, when I’m around other parents, that I’m actually in an episode of House of Cards. There’s a lot of loaded meaning and secret shade – like this is all a very dangerous game and if you’re not pushing someone else down to hold yourself up you’re suddenly not worthy of being a Mum, capital M. FOR MURDER. Jokes. OR AM I?! (I am)
Those conversations at work where you realise that everyone else has been doing Montessori flashcards with their kids while you’ve been playing “Mum’s a Monster” and roaring yourself hoarse while toddlers laugh and scream their way down the hallway. Eavesdropping at the park on conversations about textured root vegetables while you secret away the shared lunch of cold chicken nuggets that you and your kin will be dining on. The woman at the library who passive-aggressively snivels at you for dressing your child in a way that “prepares them for any activity in any environment regardless of appropriateness”. He’s not wearing army camos, lady, it’s bloody leggings.
I just feel like I must have missed a class in parenting …
When I was pregnant I was eating Frosty Fruits and crying about Patrick dying on Offspring, I wasn’t thinking ahead about milestone photo shoots and conversational Mandarin classes for Mum and Bub. I don’t feel like I’m by any means a bad mother (although the nasty piece at the library had a few opinions, let me tell you) but I’m certainly not walking around like I’m an expert with a pole up my arse about it.
Maybe none of us actually know what we’re doing, we’re all just hiding our parenting insecurities in different ways.
So take that, Torrance. Go suck a blueberry and stop looking down your nose at my kid. He does sick jumps and he gives ferocious cuddles and that’s just the way it’s going to be.