Somewhere along the line, I have become anxious. I worry. I frown. I do not relax.

When I go out with Wren, a few bad experiences have left me unable to enjoy myself.  I worry that he will break something, whinge or scream too much, make me chase him when I sit down to talk to someone. Of course, this doesn’t always happen. But even when we have a perfect outing, I ruin it myself by being anxious, waiting for something to go wrong.

At home, I am anxious about all the things I need to get done. It is a rare moment when we just play, laugh, be. When he is asleep, I make myself sit down for a cup of tea. But I do not relax. The cup of tea has become just one more thing I must do. I move inefficiently from one task to the next, leaving each incomplete.

But last night, we danced. We went out together, the whole family, and we danced. The Desert Festival is on and there was a brilliant outdoor concert. Bedtimes were forgotten, anxieties dissipated, hearts uplifted, with music from the coolest people in the Australia, The Black Arm Band, a collective project featuring the greatest indigenous musicians around. All the classics, beautiful, danceable tunes, with politics at it’s heart. If I could wish one thing for Jasper, it would be for him to one day dance like Dan Sultan (well…).

For one night, we danced. For one night, the racial divides eased, as black and white danced side by side. For one night, the town danced. And there was hope.

Wren almost fell asleep in my arms at his usual time, but then got a second wind. He was adopted by a very sweet 7 year old boy, they cuddled and danced together for hours. There were children everywhere. People had come out of their little boxes of isolation we call homes, and were dancing together.

And me too, I danced. And I relaxed. The whole family stayed out until – wait for it – 10pm! That’s past all of our bedtimes.

For one night, we danced.

Today, we are living the consequences. A cranky toddler who didn’t get enough sleep and has become accustomed to constant playmates. A tired, anxious mother, trying to cope with my first day of solo parenting for over 3 weeks (we’ve had visits from both grandmothers).

But in my head I sing “Blackfella, white fella…”, “Fish soup and rice…” and “Solid Rock”, and I remind myself that for one night, we danced.


To allow to me to gloat a little, and for you to get to know Wren, here is a list of my favourite things about him and our relationship at the moment.

To allow me to vent a little, this is followed by a list of the worst things about Wren and our relationship at the moment.

I hope to do this as a regular list, for my own personal record, perhaps to share with Wren one day.

The Best of Wren:

1. Your love of music and dancing. You can dance to anything, any style of music. You are starting to request songs for me to sing. Your current favourite is the hokey pokey.

2. Your energy and love of a physical challenge- while sometimes exhausting for me, it is impressive. You are happiest running, climbing, jumping, and sometimes just want to run up and down the hallway with me, or around and round the lounge room, “fast, fast, fast!”. When we go for a walk in the bush and your favourite part is climbing the rocky hills.

3. Your growing capacity for independent, creative play. I love to see you digging away on your own in the sandpit, or playing imaginary games with your toy animals. Adorable. Oh, and it gives me a much needed break.

4. Your love of animal, particularly horses at the moment. The enthusiasm with which you spot them at every opportunity, in real life and in pictures (you’d be amazed how many horse pictures there are in this world once you start looking).

5. I love watching your growing awareness and knowledge of the natural world. You can “read” the landscape, for example knowing when we are likely to come across a waterhole. One day you’ll be a great tracker – you already excel at spotting animals holes / nests and particularly animal poo and can identify which animal it came from – kangaroo, dog, horse, rabbit.

6. Your social skills are better than mine. You love other kids especially and can win anyone over with a cheeky grin, friendly giggle and silly antics. You love to perform and be watched and feed off the energy of people. Your boisterous friendship with Jade is particularly lovely, and the way you look after May, who is only 15 months, is particularly lovely.

7. Your rapidly growing language – a sponge for words – I love the earnest way you repeat new ones. You talk a lot, though sentences are still forming.  You are picking up little instructional phrases like ‘keep going’; ‘come on’; ‘do it’; ‘find it’. I love it when you come back from walks with dad and rush to tell me “kangaroo… hopping… hill… rabbit poo… walking”. I also like it that I know you so well that I can interpret whole stories from just a few words, which are often meaningless to others.

8. You like to HELP. You are so proud when given a task which you can do, like putting things in a box or passing me clothes to hang on the washing line.

9. You are so healthy.  I am proud of myself for that, as I have worked for it, although probably it’s just you. I finally feel like I don’t have to worry so much since you got diagnosed with cystic fibrosis a year ago. You are growing and you can recover from colds and coughs without antibiotics.

10. You have recently discovered that you too have nipples. I find it so touching when you offer them to me to have a drink. Your dad thinks it’s a bit weird, but I think it is just sweet.

11. The way you kiss your dad goodnight and then instruct him firmly to kiss me. It makes you happy to see us kiss or cuddle.

The worst of Wren:

1. Kicking the dog, grabbing the dog’s tail, usually exactly because you know you are not supposed to. You do it just to get a reaction from me. You also try to ride dog, but this is just because you really want to ride a horse. The poor dog is so patient with you.

2. Kicking the chooks, chasing the chooks, and now even sometimes catching the chooks. I am glad you like them, but you just need to learn to be more gentle. I feel bad that when you disappear in the backyard, I tell myself you are playing in the sandpit, just to get a few minutes alone, when really I know there’s a good chance your torturing the chooks, or eating their food.

3. You are so goddam stubborn. You want to do be able to do everything yourself, not understanding why you’re not  allowed to drive the car, or help cook dinner (to be encouraged of course, but the knives are very sharp and the stove hot and your co-ordination still developing). I do hope this will be a positive characteristic in the long-run, but right now it’s annoying.

4. This leads to tantrums. hmmm.

5. Your renewed clinginess. I don’t want to be too hard on you, or force you to be independent before you’re ready, but it is hard for me, hardly getting a break.  Especially since for a while there, you were so confident and happy to be left with a number of loved people.

6. Sleep. I so wish you were a better sleeper.  Still waking up several times a night to breastfeed.  It’s exhausting. I’m going to have to draw the line soon.

7. When you are deliberately unco-operative even when you know exactly what is expected of you and have an interest in co-operating. Why – even when I tell you we are going to playgroup and you really want to go – do you run around and refuse to get dressed and ready to leave the house? It doesn’t make sense. Obviously, you have no sense of time yet or concept of being ‘late’. But why so much joy in making me frustrated?

8. The way you insist that certain jobs are mine, not your father’s.  Like putting on your socks. Why can’t your dad do it? He feels rejected.

9. The ‘mine’ phase. That word has such nasty sound when it comes of your little mouth as you snatch a toy away from another child. It is exhausting for me having to emphasise sharing and taking turns whenever we are with other kids; I don’t like to police your behaviour so much, but it is an important thing to learn. So many tears in the process. I realise it is a developmental phase; it comes along with you identifying that certain things belong to certain people, which is important to know, but why so much possessiveness?

Wren is now 2 years old. And thoughts have been creeping in about what this means, as far as where he should be now, where I should be, where society thinks we should be, where I wish we were.  I have been a full time parent for 2 years now.  It has been the obvious ‘choice’; not all that much thought has gone into it.  Wren’s needs and wishes have come first and I have been happy to oblige; Turtledad has been happy to work full time.  A certain level of ‘inequality’ has been accepted, as a temporary necessity.  But for how long?

I think I may have to make a series of posts into a few things this 2 year milestone is bringing up.  This includes:

– breastfeeding:  I have been breastfeeding on demand (that means a lot) until now.  Two years seems to be a popular weaning time for people in my social group (people generally supportive of breastfeeding).  I do not want to wean, Wren definitely doesn’t want to wean, but am starting to feel the odd one out.  Do I want to cut down breastfeeding?  Do I want to stop breastfeeding at night? I would like to examine this.

– paid work: Do I really want to get a paid job?  If so, why? Or is it social pressure?  Would it be good for Wren to have more time with his Dad or another carer, or should I listen to him and let him have me all the time? He has already proven himself against childcare. Can I ask Turtledad to quit his job entirely or switch to a part time job?  How do I negotiate more equality?

– sleep: There are a lot myths and different ideas about sleep, and I don’t want to sound like I’m buying into unrealistic  expectiations about babies sleeping through the night, but now that Wren is 2, I do feel like it might perhaps be about time to start encouraging him to sleep a bit better.  He has wakes 6 or more times a night to feed – not so bad given that we’re co-sleeping – but how long can it go on?

If you are interested in these issues or would like to share your thoughts and experiences, let me know now, or drop back in again soon for longer posts.