Watching mothering in action

‘Lie still,’ says my youngest to her doll, ‘I’m putting coconut oil on Lemonbalm,’ she says by way of explanation (her doll’s name is Clementine, but over time it’s become Lemonbalm). She up ends the green drink bottle into her hand, the water coating her hands, then she rubs her hands together, and smears it all over her dolls arms and legs, and belly and face.

‘See, I’m pretending this water is coconut oil,’ she says. ‘Now turn over Lemonthyme, I need to do your back.’

‘You’ve already done her back,’ says her sister. It’s true, this is the second time Lemonthyme is being coated from head to toe in my youngest water for the night. But my youngest doesn’t care for details like that. She is being the Mama, and its her favourite game.

‘Now I’ll do your bottom,’ she says, rubbing thoroughly. I wonder what her teachers must think of me at her school if she does this there. Do they think I spend this much time on her bottom? I swear I don’t.

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Oh, the fighting…

I remember when I was a kid, my Mum was always talking about how much my brothers and I would fight. She used to tell us that our Uncle, who happened to be staying with us at the time, would hide in the garage until we had left for school just to avoid the noise. My brothers and I would laugh. Now, I find myself saying something similar to my girls it makes me wince. My girls have discovered the art of fighting. Yelling, crying, whinging, hitting, pinching, taunting, you name it, it’s in their armoury.

Now, I say similar things to my girls, trying to find the ‘thing’ that will make the yelling and crying, the whinging and the hitting, the pinching and the taunting stop. You name it, it’s in their armoury.

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There were seven in the bed and the little one said…

‘Where are we staying?’ I ask my husband as the plane begins its descent into Hong Kong. Through the window, there is a dome of smog covering the city. I’m not sure I’m going to like it here despite everything I’ve read and heard.

‘We’re staying in an AirBnB,’ says my husband, still responding to emails.

‘Why aren’t we staying in a hotel?’

‘Because you wanted a kitchen to cook in.’

I don’t remember that conversation but it sounds like something I’d say. I must have figured it would be hard to get food that I could eat in Hong Kong, given that I still couldn’t eat rice, or spices, or sauces, or herbs for that matter. Oh, to be able to eat.

One of the specialists I’d seen had told me it ‘probably’ wouldn’t do me any damage if I kept eating these foods, I really appreciated his conviction, and that I might just have to suffer for a bit until my body became used to these things again. But my stomach felt like it was on fire whenever I ate anything that wasn’t ridiculously plain and slow cooked. It was as if my body had completely forgotten the art of digestion, so that food just wandered around like lumps of lead while my body panicked, trying to figure out what it was supposed to be doing.

Inside the apartment, my husband tried very hard not to let his head explode, and I tried very hard not to laugh hysterically.

‘We can’t stay here,’ he insisted, ranting at the tiny matchbox that would sleep all seven of us.

‘It’ll be fine,’ said my Mum, ‘an adventure.’

Our nanny and her fiancé, chose the double mattress wedged into the cupboard to the right. Their very own little burrow.

Traversing the kitchen/loungeroom/diningroom in three steps, that was tiled so that it could be hosed down, we ignored the shower/toilet combo which we would learn should only ever be used in one order, into what was ambitiously calling itself the second bedroom. Really, it was the end of the loungeroom cordoned off behind glass sliding doors that were just waiting for one of my children to run face first into.

The girls picked their bunks, and my husband and I drew straws for who we would sleep with. I drew the short straw, and ended up with my youngest’s feet in my face for two long nights.

Mum slept in the only room that looked as though it was originally designed as a bedroom. And if you stood on your right foot, with your head tilted wildly, and your eyes squinting you could just make out a rainbow of neon.

Yes, this will do nicely to pass the time until our flight to Amsterdam.

On the plus side, the house my husband picked for us to live in, in Amsterdam, was bound to be better than this… wasn’t it?

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