family

I am a feminist

 

I have been on a bit of a blog hiatus. My parents were here all through May and it all just got too much – the blog was something that had to slide. Been feeling a bit burnt out these last few weeks. But anyway. Here I am again.

I’ve been reading some feminist and female-focused stuff lately. Well, I guess I’m always reading this but somehow it’s all come together, as things tend to do. I read Viv Albertine’s autobiography, Clothes, Clothes, Clothes, Music, Music, Music, Boys, Boys, Boys. And Roxanne Gay’s Bad Feminist (followed by her novel An Untamed State). And a million online articles (headlines at least) about the Stanford rapist, the Cincinatti gorilla, Johnny Depp & Amber Heard’s breakup and the fucking US election. All of them seem to relate to the topic.

I don’t know. I feel a bit hopeless and helpless with all this stuff. We’ve come so far and yet we’ve come barely any distance at all. I look at my two little boys’ willies in the bath at night and think – how can these mini-Elephant-head-looking bits of the human body be responsible for so much crap in the world? I don’t even need to say “Why do men think they have a right to women’s bodies?” because I sort of know why – because it’s been like that for a very long time.

Why do we tend to believe the male story over the female? Because we’re so much more used to male-led stories, it’s familiar. It’s the authority we know. The norm.

I loved Viv Albertine’s book because it was a female perspective on a time and movement I’ve read so much about (the London punk scene circa 1976-79). I loved her insights on music – that women often focus on the lyrics rather than the instruments because you didn’t see many females playing instruments (still don’t, really) but words are relatable – I totally get that. It’s something often said in feminist and anti-racist discussions but I’ll repeat it: it’s so much easier to do something when you can see an example like “yourself” already doing it. I was somehow disappointed when Albertine disappeared into motherhood and domesticity – someone so obviously talented — (although she’s back on the scene now).. And that she was so concerned with appearance – clothing, her weight, hair removal – but then that’s also me. Completely. So I appreciated the honesty. And it’s not like being a mother or doing domestic stuff is non-feminist… is it? I guess maybe a part of me kind of does believe that. Probably a post for another day. And don’t even get me started on the struggle between motherhood and artistic endeavour…

This leads me to why I read Bad Feminist. Because the synopsis struck a chord – about how the author, Roxanne Gay, strives to be a “good feminist” but lives with the contradictions of things that are considered anti-feminist, such as wanting someone to look after her and loving music that’s horrible to women. In her case, rap à la Robin Thicke and the Ying Yang Twins et al. In my case, hair metal à la Aerosmith, Guns & Roses, Motley Crüe etc. (I’d say Steven Tyler is a feminist in many ways but that’s a whole other blog post again). I liked that she was so articulate about not having to be a perfect feminist to still be part of the cause. And how there’s still this lack of… stuff… for women — so few examples where you see “yourself” as I mentioned earlier — so we kind of want everything to tick all the boxes and fill all the gaps, which is impossible, of course. I was also enlightened by her words about how women of colour have so often been excluded from the feminist movement over the years. The book takes the form of a series of essays. Some of her arguments, particularly early on, were a tad patchy, but towards the end, some chapters are searingly on point: concise, cutting, powerful. Her essay on reproductive freedom, The Alienable Rights of Women, nailed it. Really worth reading. You can also watch Roxanne Gay’s 11.5-minute TED talk.

Heard/Depp and Gorillas. Well… you read my poem Over Heard and Cincinatti (didn’t you?!) We enjoy judging, feeling superior, BEING superior. Watching and jeering from the sidelines. It’s human nature. It’s nature-nature: survival of the fittest, red in tooth and claw. I guess that feeling of superiority and entitlement that’s so appealing is something like being a top-of-the-foodchain white, heterosexual alpha male? Maybe I’m oversimplifying. Maybe I should just stop reading my Facebook news feed. All this stuff really has nothing to do with us – it doesn’t really change my life one iota knowing, or not knowing, that, on the other side of the world, a child was endangered and a zoo animal died, or the state of two strangers’ marriage.

The US election probably does affect things. Although maybe not as much as America, or the world’s news organisations, might like us to believe! This week it officially became about Hilary-first-woman-everything and Trump the bigoted alpha male. It will be both fascinating and, I fear, horrific to see how it plays out.

In some ways, feminism, and perhaps even the wider equality movement (if you can call it that), is trying to do something completely radical, get us to go against the grain. Use our brains first, instead of our bodies. Ignore and/or embrace difference rather than fear it and/or seek to oppress. But then we’re too much in our heads they say, we need to live in the moment, be instinctive, feel ourselves breathe.  I wonder if that Stanford rapist was “in the moment” for his 20 minutes of action? Ugh. I feel sick thinking about it.

When I break up playfights between my boys, I’ve been trying to explain to my five-year-old that it’s not cool to push or take advantage of someone younger / smaller than you. In fact, that it’s not OK to physically take advantage of anyone ever. That disputes can be solved in different ways and that violence and using your larger body to push down a smaller body is not one of the acceptable methods. But he is still small (except compared to his brother).  I want him to be able to defend himself. I hope I can give him non-violent tools to achieve this throughout his life.

I’m sad. I’m not writing this very well nor expressing all the stuff I want to say properly. I don’t have any insights, others have said it better (see above). It’s a statement that will surprise precisely nobody but I still feel the need to say this: I am a feminist. I am a feminist. I am a feminist. Everyone should be. I’m not sure I even want to know you if you’re not one. I don’t feel a lot of joy in the world right now. I really hope things get better.

Dear Mr Zoo

Anyone who thinks we don’t have inherent sexism in our language and most of our texts from childhood onwards needs to do this simple experiment. Take the popular children’s book Dear Zoo by Rod Campbell and switch the genders of all the animals to female. And suddenly the characteristics seem way loaded.

Dear Zoo

 

Here’s an interesting Guardian article about gender imbalance in children’s books. And another article about the fact female voices figure far less than male ones in Disney films (yes, even Frozen, which seems mad).

When I think of the films my 5 year old son loves such as Finding Nemo (a dad looks for his son, and aside from one main female character, all the other main speaking parts are male – the irony being that a male clownfish actually TURNS INTO A FEMALE if/when his mate is killed.) Cars (one main female speaking part, the love interest) and Planes (two minor female love interests and a female secondary member of the crew) it does make me despair.

We’ve also recently started watching Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, a show I watched regularly in my youth. There’s 4 male turtles, their male mutant-rat ninja master, the male enemy – a Darth Vader style dude named Shredder – and his overlord Krang, his two male offsiders etc. There is one main, strong female – April O’Neil – a journalist, so that’s awesome. But do we really celebrate ONE main chick among NINE male characters? What kind of ratio is that? And how is it anything like real life? I could outline a similar catalogue for Star Wars and everything else but you get my drift. Sigh.

Also everything is Mr Sheen, Mr Muscle, Mr Mower etc. I’ve noticed this, along with the huge gender imbalance in kids cartoons, since I was a child and it always bugged me. I know this is because maleness is seen as “the norm/neutral” (I am not a gender studies expert, so excuse me for not using the proper terminology here) but still.

Going back to my first example. It’s not just that all the animals are male. I find that changing them to female gives the characteristics of the animals – She was too: Big, Tall, Fierce, Scary, Grumpy, Naughty, Jumpy – a whole different dimension that makes me feel uncomfortable in a way I’m not even sure how to articulate. What do you think?

Anyway…

Happy Mother’s Day!

Teeth: a family portrait

teeth

The new one’s teeth are new

Only seven have come through

His little cheeks so red today

I think another’s on its way

 

The big one’s choppers have no caries

But soon he’ll lose them all to fairies

I’ll be sad to see them go

He’s growing up so fast, you know

 

My fangs have recently been cleaned

The nurse was brutal and it seemed

far too painful – I was sore

So now I brush better than before

 

Himself’s pearlies gleam — no worries

Despite the years and years of durries.

Since it’s passed by DNA

I hope the boys’ genes went his way

 

There’s something so lovely about mouths

And the chunks of calcium in ours

might not look like Hollywood

Yet the smiles are very good

 

I’m giving National/Global Poetry Writing Month (NaPoWriMo / GloPoWriMo) a go – write one poem, per day throughout April. Today’s prompt/challenge was to do a family portrait in poetry. I wanted to write about teeth anyway so it seemed to fit nicely.

The Spring Thing

Springtime in Zurich

I wanted to write a more cheerful post, as promised. This is not so easy for me – as anyone who has read more than two entries on here will know, I tend to go for cynicism over sentiment, self-deprecation over life affirmation. But hey, it’s springtime! Let’s bring the happy.

So I’m going to talk about parenting again. Funny story, actually. Last week I spent Mon-Weds working quite a bit, and doing my German. Then I took “time off” Thurs-Friday and spent it with my kids without working (ahem-much-except when they were asleep-ahem). And it was SO NICE. It made me realise two things. 1. I tend to think of myself as a Stay At Home Mum but I guess I’m really not. (I actually read a nice blog on this very thing – the Stay At Home Mum (or parent) Who Works) and 2. It’s soo fucking hard to get the balance right.

I make point #2 because it seems like the obvious answer to More Happy should be – well, just work less and spend more time with the kids. But I know that wouldn’t work either. I’d get bored, frustrated, and feel like I was losing myself, losing my edge in the workplace. Or do I protest too much? Hmm maybe I should try it. Unlikely. And, to be honest, I don’t think many Stay at Home Parents (SAHPs – waitasec – Saps? Really?! yikes) are “just” that anyway. Whether you’re doing the muffin tin meals I talked about last week, or not, or whatever else, there’s loads of stuff to get through when you’re fulltime on “home duties”: from grocery shopping, bill paying and, yes, fun crafternoons as well (which, I’ve since been informed that dads do do with their kids, although that wasn’t quite how I meant it… but I digress). I guess what I did last week for a couple of rare, early-Spring days was push all the other stuff aside and just hang out with my kids and my mum friends (I’m afraid I don’t know any local SAHDs – ooh, another unfortunate acronym!) and it was lovely and it made me happy.

As kids will do, both of mine seem to have moved into a new stage lately. The baby started walking a week or so ago, he sleeps better at night and is generally a pretty happy chap. It’s lovely although not unexpected – poor old second child is not breaking any new ground! I find I’m far more content to sit back and enjoy each stage with him, as opposed to chivvying for the next development. The downside is, we’re full-on into that Clash of Schedules time, which I also remember from my first kid. This seems to happen in the months around their first birthday… you’ve got yourself into a nice little groove with doing stuff with the baby, seeing your mates, maybe a bit of daycare in place… then suddenly: everyone’s schedules change! The kids are no longer napping. Well, not at the same times. Some are still doing 2 per day. Some have a longy in the morning, others have to be home by 11.45am for lunch and arvo nap or the whole day is shot. Some kids are walking and need to run around outside a lot now. Others are just observing life so their parents are still keen on the cafe. Some parents are starting to get back to work, so there’s a juggle around that too. It’s an awkward time. In a weird way, almost lonelier than the early days of motherhood when at least you’re in a sleepless babylove daze most of the time. Now things start to feel a bit more serious, a bit more this-is-how-it’s-gonna-be.  A new normal.

At the other end of my parenting spectrum, my big boy is nearly five. He’s been at Kindergarten / school for six months now and he’s just started some swimming lessons too. I don’t really see him in action at school but I took him to his second swim class last week and Oh, my heart. In half a year, he’s gone from being a toddler who wanted to carry his bunny everywhere to a proper schoolboy. There he was, bobbing about in the water, with a bunch of other kids his size, following the instructor, doing the stuff, occasionally getting distracted. So normal. Until I became a parent, I never wanted to be normal. But from my pregnancy onwards, I have started to appreciate the comfort of normality. “Everything’s normal” is mostly what you want to hear when it comes to child development from the womb onwards. OK maybe eventually you want to be told they’re super-special-whizzbang-genius at something… maybe… I dunno. But for now, normal is good. I never thought I’d say that.

Cars and a book about WWI

Cars and a book about WWI

Another interesting factor of my kids growing up, particularly the older one, is he’s starting to reach an stage when I can clearly remember myself at that age. I have some memories of Kindergarten (which you attend for a few hours per week from 3- and 4-years-old in Australia) but I recall a lot more of early primary school (from ~5yo). I’m remembering the toys and stationery I had, going to friends’ houses to play, the games we had at playlunch, lunch and afternoon recess… I hate to say it, but it’s given me another pang about not having a girl. All the stuff with dolls and hairstyles and glitter pens and dressing up and whatever else. I loved that shit. And it’s not that boys can’t or won’t do that but at the moment mine seem pretty content to play with cars, trains, weapons (we try to discourage this but what can you do, it’s the reality) and read books on animals and World War 1 (again – eesh. I don’t mind him knowing real history but I guess I wish he’d turned his attention to this a bit later). And it’s not to say that a daughter would necessarily be into “girl” stuff either. But still… a small sigh.

Anyway, my kids are generally awesome. And they really made me feel good last week. I even managed to channel some of the fight-play into a heavy metal battle dance off to Soundgarden with my eldest so I shall not complain. Plus, it’s springtime after what suddenly feels like it was a looong winter. The blossoms are coming out in Zurich and there’s lots to look forward to.

So that’s my cheerful post. Happy Easter.

 

 

The Fall

Autumn in Zurich Feeling a bit sad lately for various reasons. But not depressed. It’s full-blown autumn now and I’m finding myself slightly dreading the winter months of cold and dark weather and being stuck indoors. Which is kind of crazy because last year’s winter was actually pretty magical with all the snow. And this year, I’m not even pregnant, which basically sucked last winter. There were lots of blue skies too, although people have told me that’s quite unusual for Zurich.

A freelance job ended recently and it was a bit of a shock. I’m mostly relieved, because the work really wasn’t compatible with my family commitments. But still, it was a rather abrupt and unexpected finish that left me flailing a bit.

It was also a bit annoying because after my recent post musing on work v. German classes had helped me decide I should focus on the German, it turned out the classes I was interested in were booked solid! And then I thought even more about it and figured starting childcare and German all at once would put too much pressure on not just me but the family so I’d decided to leave it for a few months and focus on work. Luckily I have other bits and pieces to do.

My baby is 9 months this week and I’ve just this morning dropped him off at a casual daycare, which should give me a bit of a breather… I thought it would be easier leaving the second child. And it is, in a way. On the other hand, it’s somehow more devastating.

I’m also sad because October is the month I’m usually off to Australia – for the past four years I’ve visited my homeland in October-November. I may have slightly talked myself into this one but it doesn’t stop the fact that… ARrrgghhh!!! I could-should-would be getting on a plane right now!! Instead of golden leaves and crisp breezes, I would have a lilac sea of Jacaranda in soft Sydney springtime. Not to mention the sea itself – that sparkling blue-green ocean, set off by tawny beaches and buff cliffs of Sydney sandstone. And now Facebook is showing memories of me out on the town with my two besties/bridesmaids… Oh, my heart.

Besties

Homesickness can take some funny forms though. Out of the blue recently, I got a craving for Iku macroburgers. These meatless mofos were a delicious treat, best eaten when one was hungover or equally ravenous! Anyway, after a bit of frantic googling, I decided to have a crack at making my own. The Iku website lists the ingredients for the tofu fritters, but has no recipes – however I found this approximation on Billie Bites and, with a few modifcations it came up a treat (couldn’t find Aussie-style brown rice, and wanted to include umeboshi vinegar, not that I could find the stuff in Zurich!) I also found a recipe for the steamed buns but since I am not a breadmaker and it would involve purchasing special equipment (ie: steamer) they will have to wait for another day. If ever. My homemade Iku-style tofu fritters and tahini sauce, on a bun and with salad, while not a dead-match, is close enough to quite vividly recall the real thing. Yumm. I was going to post pics but a) They don’t look that amazing and b) I didn’t take any – too busy eating.

Plus there was a mystic ipod moment – while eating them, my ipod on shuffle threw out Crowded House (Weather With You), Cat Power and AC/DC… I dunno, sometimes things just come together.

Now I’m also wondering if it’s time to really have a crack at that novel? There’s so many ideas floating around in my head. My biggest problem is picking one to stick to and then fleshing it out with, hey, actual story, plot, characters (rather than just fancy turns of phrase). I guess now we’ve started this childcare, I might even have time for that too…

Sometimes, I think Autumn is my favourite time of year. The turn of season and the bite of the wind feels like there’s so many exciting possibilities, with that all-so-important dash of melancholy or nostalgia that seems to produce the best art – stir the creative juices. I hope I can capture that feeling and not be too sad as the days close in this year. Maybe I need to also book a plane ticket for Sydney at some point. I don’t know if I can wait until 2017!

 

 

Ten Years

Wedding photo

You build a life with someone

Half thinking you might go back…

And try again

With someone else? Or alone?

 

You live a life somewhere

With a semi-subconscious idea

You might return

To spend the time anew: the same years, but in another town

 

You create two lives with someone

And still quite often ponder

A different existence

If they weren’t around… as though you had the choice

 

But there’s no do-overs

There’s no need for turning back

There’s only me

and you. Us. Here. With them. The love of my life. x

21 unexpected benefits of being a sleep-deprived mother of two

Making music together

  1. I get things done in a crazy adrenaline rush with the idea that it might give me time for a nap later. Today I dropped my eldest at Kindy, took the empties to the bottle bank and completed my grocery shopping by 9am. I never take a nap later.
  2. I give less fucks about attempting my abominable German in shops now, and then switching halfway through to English anyway. Haben sie putzessig? Um… you know… für… putz-er-(mumble, mumble) cleaning?
  3. Sometimes I don’t even bother putting on makeup before leaving the house. This is a big deal for me.
  4. Likewise, I tend to choose one outfit and wear it all week. Maybe a fresh top here and there. Fuck it. Who am I trying to impress?
  5. When my husband’s away, I can get both kids through dinner-bath-story-bed in about one hour flat. If he’s around to help, it takes 3. Once they’re down, it’s wine o’clock.
  6. That said, I drink less. I just can’t handle the hangovers when I’m up several times in the night and there’s no lie-ins. So that’s a health benefit.
  7. I’m thin from all the anxiety. I may look haggard, I may eat poorly, but I am thin. And I’d be lying if I said I didn’t appreciate that.
  8. Trips to the basement laundry room, rather than being a chore, are now a delightful “me-time” mini-break. Ditto for showers. 5 minutes when I can’t hear if someone’s chewing on the power cords or stealing each other’s toys. Bliss!
  9. When I see my friends, I can download information about everything I’ve been thinking, feeling and doing for the past week in about 30-minutes flat while we’re both kid-wrangling. My friend then does the same. We’re like socialising supercomputers. Or something.
  10. If I think I can hear my kid crying in the Kindergarten playground (it’s right next door to my house), I “just walk away” – maybe my heart is breaking but I gotta be callous and let him work it out himself. I’m so tired anyway: fuggeddabouddit.
  11. I used to be great at remembering birthdays, sending cards etc. Now they just whizz by and I don’t bother. Meh. Does the world need more Hallmark? I think not.
  12. Emails from friends are precious missives – I often read them several times over and look forward to sending my replies. Please write! 🙂
  13. I’ve become so efficient at clothes shopping – nup, nup, nup, yep that’ll do. At the moment, I no longer even consider dresses (because: breastfeeding), shoes with heels, “office wear”, anything with tight sleeves (can’t heft a baby with constricted arms) or anything too tight really, straight skirts (can’t sit on the ground), plain tops (show too much dirt), etc. It makes shopping very efficient, if rather boring. I don’t shop much for myself anymore.
  14. A night out is so rare, I get stupidly excited. I can’t believe I used to take this for granted! It’s almost worth having no social life in exchange for how wonderful it feels when I do finally get to go out of an evening. Almost.
  15. The precarious loveliness of small overtures – two playdates, a few yoga classes, a lot of information-sharing about our kids, and we’re becoming friends. We’re all just hanging by a thread, it feels like sometimes we just catch each other by the fingertips before one of us slips through the net.
  16. The look another mum gives you when you think you might have gone too far, but it’s fine because we’re all so exhausted and we understand.
  17. I’ve only got time to “play it forward” – I can’t remember enough day-to-day to return favours and I’d like to think we’re all helping each other as and when it’s needed. Plus, it’s SO NICE  when it comes back around.
  18. A true appreciation of the money vs. time/effort equation. Here in Switzerland I call it the “Going to Germany” conundrum (cheaper prices, but more time and effort).
  19. I’m learning to switch off my phone and shut down the laptop and try to spend “quality” time with the kids… um not right now as I’m writing this, obviously.
  20. Getting better at saying “no” or, at the very least, “not now”. It’s still hard and I don’t like it. But the saying-no-anxiety seems to melt away quicker with so much else on my plate!
  21. My emotions are much closer to the surface. I cry easily, whether it’s due to happiness, sadness, anger or stress. When I do something enjoyable (sightseeing, swimming, a good conversation, dinner out) I really love it. I may be finally learning to acknowledge my emotions. It’s a crazy time. I wouldn’t swap it.

A Walk Down Memory Avenue

Making new memories... my boy walking to his last day at Kinderkrippe

Making new memories… my boy walking to his last day at Kinderkrippe

Another successful AirBnb holiday over the weekend in Strasbourg. It’s nice and oddly intimate to stay in someone’s family home. I’m not sure I would be comfortable with letting my space out in this way but I’m very glad others do it and so far, we’ve had some great experiences with AirBnb (what did we ever do before this? I guess we used to do these “farm stay” holidays when I was a kid – or rent a beachhouse with another family).

Being in someone’s house like that got me thinking of other houses I have known, both inside and out, throughout my life. As a child in the Melbourne suburb of Camberwell, I guess we spent a lot of time walking, riding bikes and driving (or being driven) along these streets of our immediate area, so the local houses formed a well-known backdrop to my childhood. As, indeed, did some houses further afield on common routes. (A friend recently wrote a lovely piece on this for the Punt Road Project – also documenting a Melbourne childhood.)

Of course we knew several families in our immediate neighbourhood, where the streets were named alphabetically: Allambie, Bringa, Carramar, Doonkoona, Ellaroo, Fordham, Gowar… Killarra. And sometimes you’d make a new school pal or mum would get chatting to a lady she met waiting at the Doctor’s surgery, or a family we knew would move house. And they would turn out to live, “just around the corner in Doonkoona Avenue…” And then another piece of the puzzle would fall into place. A house with a familar facade would now be populated by an acquaintance. And you’d get to see inside.

In our own street – Killarra Avenue – we got to the stage where we knew about half the families, I guess. From the top of the street down was: Deborah and her deaf parents (their doorbell dimmed the lights); the Tunnel-Joneses, who had those scented Strawberry Shortcake dolls and a climbing frame that became our rocket when we played G-Force; Mrs Dunn, who would always sponsor me for a few bucks in the MS Read-a-thon; The couple across the street with two sets of twins (!), Brian and Mary next door (mostly OK with us climbing the fence to retrieve a cricket ball), the Rileys – a bunch of teenage boys who’d play football on the road; The Mukerjees, whose house smelled like tinned tomatoes inside; the family who owned Jed, a huge rottweiler with a stub tail who was friendly… ish; Lizzie Davis – a girl two years older than me who I got to play with sometimes and whose back garden had two amazing treehouses that we were never allowed to use because they contained redbacks (or maybe she just found it too boring to play in them with a little kid like me) She had bunk beds and older sisters and they taught us how to play Murder In The Dark; Mr and Mrs Papodopulous whose garden was mostly concrete. Andrew, who some guy took a swing at when he went trick or treating one year. And finally Marty – our almost-constant companion – our mums would often share a glass of wine at the end of the day while we continued playing or watching TV.

Thinking about these streets recently, I realised that somewhere in my child’s mind, I felt like I’d be grown up once all the blanks were filled in – once I knew everyone and had been into all the houses in the area. Is that weird?

Extrapolating metaphorically though, I guess finding out who lives in the houses and what’s behind people’s facades – both physical and physiognomical – is the stuff of life. And even a child recognises that (especially a child both as wise and modest as myself!) I’m maybe halfway through my life now. How many houses have I entered? How many people and places do I “know”… Am I grown up yet?

It’s also, now I think about it, yet another reason why relocating is so fucking difficult and the culture shock can sting so bad – suddenly you really don’t know anyone in the houses. It’s all unfamiliar territory, you’re no longer grounded and there’s no Safety House (another Melbourne childhood thing) on the corner.

Another aspect of this, of course, is seeing my own kids begin to populate their world – our local neighbourhood in Zurich. My eldest is about to start kindergarten – equivalent to starting school in the UK or Australia, in terms of his age and the fact it’s compulsory attendance. There are 20 kids in his class: 10 “five-year-olds” and 10 “six-year-olds” (I think he would have been in a reception class of ~30 kids in London!). And, seeing it’s so small and there are loads of other kindergartens around, I assume all the children must live within spitting distance of the premises, so we’ll probably get to know a few local homes a bit better once friends are made and playdates happen. My son is already such a smart cookie, asking about street names, recognising landmarks and with his favourite things to spot en route to the pool or shops. It’s cool to see him start to put the pieces of his own local puzzle together. My sweet, smart little boy is growing up! When the time comes for him to take his own walk down memory strasse, I hope he’s got as good recollections of his childhood as I have of mine.

 

 

Six Months

 

Six months I’ve known you

182 days

I’ve seen you asleep and awake

in so many ways

 

That transformative moment

as your eyes roll and close

slipping between time

where do you go?

 

My beautiful, funny, round-headed thing

with your gurgles and growls

a patient, determined little one

Love: mine and all of ours

 

How many times have I looked at you

touched you, waited til

I see your belly expand, a hand twitch with life

so you’re alive still

 

I need new words for your vocabulary

and the way you move

Watching as you change each day

grow and improve

 

The love for a child

gentle. wild. free

the adventures and dangers to come… fatal cliffs… my heart!

But right now, you’re with me

 

 

 

Easter Eggs Are Hollow

Angel of Chillon

I wrote this post a while ago but didn’t publish it. What do they say about not discussing religion or politics? The same probably goes for parenting too, but what the hey.

I recently had a experience where one of the parents at my son’s Krippe (nursery/daycare) spoke to me. In English. This is enough of a rare occurrence that I was perhaps overly receptive, or perhaps not. Anyway, the conversation rapidly devolved into her asking me about which religion I followed and when I said none, she persisted in pushing the “But how can you not believe in god?” thing, which made me rather uncomfortable. As you will see from the below, my beliefs are “in progress” and so far rather hazy. It’s not something I think about all that much, to be honest. Although, a few times recently I have found myself craving a bit more spirituality and wondering about how to introduce some sort of religious-type structure or ceremony to my life. Whether this stems from having children or getting older or whatever, who knows? Anyway, here goes.

This year we celebrated Easter with a short hop to the French part of Switzerland (who needs passports when you can drive three hours and be in a different-language region?!) It was great. An ideal little holiday with mountain scenery, Lac Leman (or Lake Geneva) and a day spent wandering around the medieval Chateau de Chillon.

However, when I say “celebrate” Easter, what’s to celebrate? As we were driving home, I started feeling a bit spiritually hollow as I pondered how or indeed why, without being religious and with no family around, do we “celebrate” Easter? If I don’t believe in god or the Easter bunny, what is there to differentiate this holiday from any others? Are we celebrating time off work? I’m not even employed! There’s no break from motherhood, of course, especially without family around to help out. In our affluent lifestyle there’s no need for feasting and non-religious fasting seems a little pointless. We can, and do, eat chocolate all the time. We can, and do, have “special meals” all the time. What is the point of it all?

Essentially, I like the idea of tradition and history. Sort of. Hey, I just spent a day wandering around a medieval castle! But without an underlying spiritual faith and, in fact, with more of a leftwing attitude that religion seems to be involved with more evil than good in the world, it seems a bit, well, silly to try to incorporate somewhat gristly stories of a man dying and being reborn into my children’s lives or my own. Plenty of time for them to hear about it in school (I guess?) I feel like I know the stories pretty well. I actually did a lot of Sunday Scholarship in my time. Would it be too weird if my children grew up not really hearing The Easter Story or other religious tales?

Of course, there’s Spring and the other seasons. And after all, Easter is essentially a pagan springtime ritual dressed up in Christ’s clothing. But all that pagan stuff – well, I like it but I I feel a bit too… uncomfortable? unsure? ignorant? embarrassed? to become especially worked up about it. And without the full commitment, is it worth it?

My modern malaise means I’m also lazy when it comes to spiritual matters. I don’t really want to study just to become spiritual. Although, saying that, I suppose contemplation and bettering yourself, trying to attain a higher sense of being IS a big tenet of most spiritual belief systems.

I want to say it doesn’t feel like I should have to work at it, but hard work and experiencing discomfort is kind of the essence of much religion. It’s not meant to be easy is it? It’s something you are supposed to put time and effort in to. It could even be argued that religions were invented to give reason (and/or reward) for people enduring crap stuff. But our society is all so easy-street and secular. It seems crazy to put up with hardship for the sake of a system of beliefs you haven’t chosen. In the first world, where there’s not grinding poverty or backbreaking work and the food and chocolate flows easily, it’s no wonder religiousness is dying out.

But I was left feeling as though I’d like to do something. I mean, without some sort of framework for the years and the holidays and my life, it’s all bit desolate. Can I put an ad in the Classifieds? Wanted: Non-Religious, non-ridiculous form of spirituality to practise with my husband and kids. Must not require too much serious effort or devotion, however some ceremony appreciated, as is dressing up. Suggestions on the back of an envelope…

Oh, and as for the English-speaking god-botherer mum – I did come up with the perfect answer, about three hours later: Your lack of tolerance for my lack of religion is precisely what puts me off being part of one.

I also like this quote:

For those who believe in God, most of the big questions are answered. But for those of us who can’t readily accept the God formula, the big answers don’t remain stone-written. We adjust to new conditions and discoveries. We are pliable. Love need not be a command nor faith a dictum. I am my own god. We are here to unlearn the teachings of the church, state, and our educational system. We are here to drink beer. We are here to kill war. We are here to laugh at the odds and live our lives so well that Death will tremble to take us.”
― Charles Bukowski