Sunday, November 17, 2013
A Parent in Six Letters
One simple word.
Six homogenous letters.
Infinite possible individual meanings.
After seven months in the job, this is how I spell PARENT.
P is for Pooplosion
Welcome to parenthood, the world of the brilliantly brave and the domain of the mighty pooplosion.
Pooplosions are the regrettable centerpiece of every parenting table, and are motivation enough to have you skulling Pinot from a plastic tumbler well before morning tea time.
As with most grand scale disasters, pooplosions have a tendency to be delivered at exactly the wrong time - when you are running late for dinner, when you forgot to pack a spare change of clothes in the nappy bag, when you've just buckled into the car for a long trip and as soon as you've finished dressing the baby after the bath.
There is no point sugar coating the most sour truth in the room, and certainly no way to avoid the clean up. Best just list your rose coloured glasses on eBay, roll up your sleeves and create a toilet training advent calendar for the fridge.
A is for anxiety
Parenting can be one of the most terrifying rides of your life, particularly if you are the kind of person who likes to travel through life with a mapped out travel itinerary and a well-stocked lunch bag.
If you listen closely enough, you can almost hear your helicopter parenting blades warming up from the moment you step foot in the delivery suite and taking off as you walk out through the protective hospital doors.
The fear of something, anything, happening to your adorable little munchkin gets right into your worrying parent veins and runs through your jumpy nervous system like some kind of offspring-induced crack.
The faint splotch of a perfectly normal rash is enough to have you scheduling urgent consultations with Doctor Google and plotting out the fastest route to the local children's hospital, while the slightest coughing sound will have you on high alert and fastidiously checking airways as though you are a plumber checking for bits of wayward plastic in a drain pipe.
You can strap the television to the cabinet and you can follow the vaccination schedule to the day, but you just can't stop the big, bad world from revolving or sneaking through the (childproofed) venetians.
R is for Rocking
The show is done, the band has hit the bar and the era for rocking out is over. The long nights are now reserved for monotonously rocking your baby up and down the hallway, like a malfunctioning Ugg-boot clad robot stuck on a short wire between the bedroom and the nursery.
To break up the relentless routine there are other soothing motions to choose from - walking, swaying, carrying, pacing, whispering, singing, shh patting, and even downright pleading - but when you boil it down, they are all just rocking by another name, and none of them smell sweet.
Rocking is not confined to the baby kingdom. Even if you do manage to jump the dirty-nappy moat and hitch a ride to town on a passing pumpkin carriage, you will still be owned by the power of the rock.
Without even realising it, you will lilt from side to side on the park bench, you will sway when you stand in line at the ATM, and you will take the concept of nursing a beer to whole new heights. Rock on.
E is for Exhaustion
Remember that time you snaffled Foo Fighters concert tickets and stayed awake until dawn listening to their entire back catalogue on repeat even though you had to work the next day? And that crazy week at college when you pulled three all-night essay sessions in a row just to scrape through the semester?
Despite what you thought at the time, you now know that you weren't even the slightest bit tired; you were as fresh as an infuriatingly pert daisy, and gaily skipping through the great park of life with some nice vino and a basket of high quality cheeses.
Tired didn't actually exist until you were hit by parental exhaustion - the kind of all encompassing, all terrifying lassitude that eats your brain and etches dark circles under your eyes.
It makes you put the butter away in the garbage bin and salt in your coffee, and leaves you zoning out in the cold section of the supermarket with a superfluous packet of smoked salmon in your hand, wondering if you were actually meant to be getting nappies from the discount chemist down the road.
I confess: somewhere around week five, I became so consumed by parental exhaustion that I actually forgot my own daughter's name. Seriously. Luckily, most of the important things come back to you after some uninterrupted sleep and coffee (and a quick check through your Facebook history).
N is for never again
Somewhere toward the pointy end of squeezing a seemingly over-sized baby out of a seemingly under-sized exit hatch, women across the ages have found themselves making desperate plea bargains and promises with the universe: mine was never again, never again, I promise, if you just get me through this, dear poor body, I will never, ever do this to you again.
Somewhere in the early morning hours of new parenthood, you will more than likely find yourself slumped against a wall, clutching a strange assortment of items (maybe a pillow, a single sandal, a bottle of tea tree oil, a microwave steriliser lid) and swearing under your breath: baby, if you will just go to sleep, go to sleep, I will never, ever, EVER, do this again.
Somewhere during the opening set of the childhood teething match, you will probably find yourself trying to pour sticky baby paracetemol between fiercely clenched gums, while prising a warmed teething ring back from the milk spot abyss: never again, just let the teeth come through, then I will never, ever, EVER, EVER do this again.
Then somewhere down the parenthood track, you will likely find yourself staring at a squidgy newborn sprawled on a blanket in the park, feeling strange thoughts stir beneath the surface: maybe just one more ... then never, ever, EVER, EVER again ...
T is for Time
Parenting is a fiercely hungry time vortex, stealing hours and giving minutes while busily spitting out spatially skewed memories to stick on the collective family fridge door.
Time is always hiding out in the bathroom when there are cloth nappies to fold, or sightseeing in Holland or Switzerland (or any other land far from here) when there are toast soldiers to cut and ear drops to administer and cups to stack and unstack and then stack all again.
The days crawl slower than your baby ever will. They creep from dawn to bedtime like individual time thieves, heavy with homemade apple puree and the dark space between routine and familiarity.
In argumentative opposition, the months rocket by, jettisoned by the endless parade of incredible baby milestones and spurred on by the parental desire to grab hold of pudgy little fingers and never let go.
Time is both the bane of my parenting existence and the bees knees of my motherhood journey - never enough, always too much, housing a growing child and her unwritten story.
How do you spell PARENT?
Linking with Grace for FYBF
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