The List

Well I did it. I wrote a list.

Yeah sure, I hear you think. What’s the big deal? Why the big sigh and the slight grimace after that sentence Megan? It’s a LIST, not, you know, your last will and testament. It’s a piece of scrap paper on the fridge, not the Magna Carta. Why this thing scares me so much is anybody’s guess.

Well, not really. I know why lists are scary. It’s not what you put on them…it’s what you leave off. You see? Behind every List is an Unwritten List. We carry these Lists in our heads, but it’s when you put them on paper that the Unwritten List looms up, large and overwhelming, with festery talons and time-biting teeth.

Are you getting it yet? Some of you might…some of you who are still mothers of small children might…

My List is pretty straightforward. It has things like Pay Electricity Bill. Call Builder. Activate New SIM Card. Go to Bank. Wish Sonya a Happy Birthday*. None of it is rocket science. I could knock most of it over in an hour or two…and herein lies the problem.

Have you worked it out yet? Have you figured out what my Unwritten List has on it, the one that makes my Fridge List so frighteningly large? Have you worked out the real reason I don’t just write it down and add it to the other one?

It changes. All the time. It has three small pink mouths, nine eyes, one bottom that needs wiping. It needs help washing its hands, and it needs reminding to brush the hair on its three heads. And it EATS! Oh my how my List eats. And not only does it eat, it likes to have long and involved discussions on what it eats, and when, and how much.

My Unwritten List plays violin. It loves to go to the museum and the park. It swims. It eats. It sits on its little pink unwiped bottom and asks to play Minion Rush on my smartphone. And not only that–here’s the big revelation…the one that Stephen Covey forgot–the Unwritten List is the ENEMY of the List.

This is true. I kid you not. As soon as that pen is poised near the fridge to cross off one more thing, then suddenly the fridge door will fly open and milk will fly out, and a voice will scream from the other room “Muuuuummmmmeeeeee!!” This is the Unwritten List at work.

Don’t get me wrong. I adore my three-headed, one-bottom-that-still-needs-wiping Unwritten List. But I embrace my love of it more freely when there’s not a piece of paper on my fridge that’s trying to tell me what to do.

The List

The List

*Oh yes, it’s Sonnie’s birthday today! Not sure if you’ll read this today or not my friend, but HAPPY 40th BIRTHDAY!

Oh wow. I can cross that off my list now I guess!

The Card of Uncommon Prayer

"I am your Father, Luke."

“I am your Father, Luke.”

This is my son, the Ginger Ninja. It’s an old photo, as you can see by the date (and anybody who knows our family knows he’s now six-and-a-half. But he asks me about once a month when I’m going to blog about him (!!), so today, while I’m still silent under the heartbreak of the shooting in Connecticut, and still in shock from the ferocity of the response against suggestions of gun control and still grieving for the pain in a country I’ve come to love like I love my own, I thought I’d tell you a funny story.

My son, when he was two, took Darth Vader everywhere. He took Darth Vader to bed, in the car, to church…wherever he went, Darth Vader went too. Nice chap, really. He lost his light sabre pretty early on in life, and was a dab hand with the old paints and play dough. He made quite a fine cake decoration as well. He started life as a keyring decoration from the petrol station, and was quite the find for only $2, which is good, because we ended up with about four of him (ever hunted the house for a small toy when your child is screaming in the car for it, and won’t leave for church without it? I found a spare the other day, in the back of my underpants drawer).

One day, when the Ginger Ninja was about four, we took him to Kmart to spend his birthday money, and the first thing he saw that he wanted – the only thing he saw that he wanted – was a singing Darth Vader birthday card. Yes, the card sang. You opened it up and it sang the Star Wars theme. Needless to say, we heard that song an awful lot. An AWFUL lot.

I tucked him into bed a few months after this, having read stories and cleaned teeth, and he says to me “We’ll do singing prayers tonight, Mummy!”

Singing prayers? Am I to put on my best High Church voice and find my old Book of Common Prayer? Should I call for back-up? Is there a priest in the house? My Ginger Ninja, if nothing else, is known for being very pedantic about how things need to be. I envisioned tears and tantrums if Singing Prayers didn’t go according to plan, and I held my breath and waited for his explanation. There wasn’t one.

Instead, he leaned over and picked up his Darth Vader card from the shelf on the side of his bed. He wriggled a little, sat up straighter, and with a deep breath in closed his eyes and opened his card. We sat in silence, he with his eyes shut and a beatified smile on his face, as the tinny tune rang out of the creased and well-loved card. At the end he opened his eyes, looked at me and said decisively, “Amen”, then lay down to sleep.

Amen, son. Sometimes music is all the words you need.

Results May Vary

When you become a parent, those precious seconds after they thrust that mewling wet creature with tight-shut eyes and flailing hands against your chest, they don’t tell you that you’re probably going to feel guilty at least once a day from here on in. They don’t tell you that as a health-warning on pregnancy test kits either – and maybe they should. Like cigarette packets that carry those enormous pictures of cancerous lungs, I can just imagine pregnancy test-kits coming with a picture of some perfect child from some perfect TV commercial and big letters saying DISCLAIMER: RESULTS MAY VARY.

I had coffee with a friend last Tuesday, and we talked about our kids – as mothers do – and she told me she was feeling guilty. Actually it was worse than that, much worse: she’d been MADE to feel guilty. Now come on people, mothers don’t need any help along at all in that area, and it was another woman to boot that had done it, which just smacks of Treason, and nothing less. I felt angry for her, and sad, because she’s a great Mum, and doing a fantastic job, and all that great-and-fantastic-ness inside her had been overshadowed by the guilt that somebody else had cloaked her with. And then on Wednesday I had lunch with another friend, another Mum who is doing far and above more than many of us have to, thrown into these things by life and circumstance and doing an amazing job to boot, and SHE feels guilty too. I won’t tell you about my Friday friend, because by now you might be sensing a pattern, and I shouldn’t mention my Saturday friend really, because…well, you get the point.

Most of the time we don’t talk about it. Most of the time we are proud of our kids, and we’re proud of ourselves for doing an okay-enough job, because really only we know what baggage we’re carrying, and under what circumstances we labour. And most of the time we share our positive stories: my three-year-old can write her name. My six-year-old can tie his shoes. My eleven-year-old is some kind of mathematical genius and can speak seventeen languages including Klingon*. Sometimes we leave out the bits we’re not proud of – my eight-year-old chews his toenails every night while watching TV, my ten-year-old wets the bed. **

I’d love to know whether this guilt is a 21st Century phenomenon. Did our parents or our grandparents struggle with how well their children did at school/learned to read/cleaned their teeth/toilet trained? Is guilt perhaps an airborne emotion released by small children? Perhaps if they didn’t breathe over us or wipe their snotty faces over us so much we’d find ourselves with stronger immune responses to such strange and feelings. Guilt, apparently, is some kind of by-product of love. This is not right, but it appears to be true. We can fight against it, but I think the best thing we can do is love one another through it.

If you are a parent reading this, here’s a bit of truth: whether I know you or not I’m SURE you are doing an awesome job. Give yourself a pat on the back today. I’m equally sure you deserve it.

And here’s one thing for sure: I’m not going to make the mistakes my parents made in parenting me. Nosiree. No way. The mistakes I make with my own children I’m going to invent all by myself!

And that, my friends, is parenting.

 

*These are not my children. I’m not sure whose they are, but they turned up in my imagination. If anyone would like to claim them please go to the Lost Property department. Turn left at the shoe cupboard and then take your first right.

**Also not my children. I am not claiming any toenail-chewers thank you very much. I will remain in denial.