February 2009 Archives

Judgement calls

Dear Finn

A little while ago, it was Australia Day. The 26th of January. Apparently a day when the Poms first unfurled their flags in Sydney Cove, oh so many moons ago. From previous experience it has a bit of a different feel to the NZ equivalent, it's a bit more patriotic, a bit more aussie aussie aussie oi oi oi, a bit more xenophobic. On the whole though, it's a marvellous day of entertainment, putting on the fake tattoos, waving the Aussie flags and heading down to Southbank to watch the F1-11 fly by really really low.

A couple of days before the big day we were around at Jasmine's house, an almost three year old friend of yours. You and she were dancing around waving your flags and talking about random three year old stuff. When Jasmine lept up to stand on the arm of the couch and proudly thrust her flag into the air, I made the comment that she looked a bit like Ed Hillary at the top of Everest. Continuing to ponder, I mused about what Ed had said when he'd made the summit...something about "we knocked the bastard off". As quick as a flash, Jasmine parroted me with "we knocked the basket off". I hung my head in my hands and apologised profusely to Jasmine's parents. Your Dad gave me a bit of an evil look, telling me later he couldn't believe I had actually said it. My only saving grace is my Kiwi mumble, and Jasmine's lack of knowledge of the word itself.

These things bring home to me the constant tiny decisions of judgement that make up being a parent. Today was one of those days when the same judgements that I have made on many other days come back to haunt me, and that when added to an entirely different set of circumstances, manage to turn themselves into a big pear-shaped mess of custard that sky writes BAD MOTHER above my head.

We go out for a walk and commonly we take the rubbish out with us. Often you like to go out the front door and wait for me, while I go round the back, put out the rubbish and then meet you round the front. This is a process that normally has a time scale of about 30 seconds and has on all previous occasions worked fine. Today was pretty much the opposite. It all started out as usual, except that once we got through the door into the garage, Holly was not in the pram. Bad judgement number 1. Holly decided to stop walking and stare into space. I walked around the corner, calling her name and threw the rubbish in the skip. Simultaneously I saw a fire engine pull up outside our building...presumably the guys going to buy some lunch at the supermarket. Wanting to come around and meet you I thought I would let Holly make her own way out of the garage at her own speed. Bad judgement number 2. Just as I was about to leave the garage, the internal garage door started to rise, indicating a car was coming up from the secure carpark. Realising I could not possibly leave Holly loose in the garage with a moving car, I rapidly reversed, grabbed Holly in one hand, the empty pram in the other, and raced out of the garage and down the footpath to meet you. Time taken perhaps 2 minutes.

You looking rather terrified, had backed yourself up into the garden against the wall as far as you could go. You were surrounded by four rather burly if well-meaning firemen and one not at all burly but still just as well-meaning unit manager, all presumably gently asking you....where the hell was your mother??!! Your probable excitement at seeing a BIG RED FIRE ENGINE parked right outside your front door, was undoubtedly reduced extremely fast when the firemen all appeared and only wanted to interrogate you. People in your face, you're not really so keen on. Well-meaning unit managers in my face (without children of their own) I'M not so keen on.

Oh well. It all ended OK. The party dispersed once the world's most negligent mother deigned to show up. One of the firemen gave you some stickers. We cruised off down the street gradually calming down. I can probably just put it down to one of those days. One of those days when things that should be fine, don't turn out as planned.

Sometimes those days seem to happen a little more often than I'd like. And it is probably a fine line between letting you live and within limits do what you want, and controlling your every move based on the paranoid delusions of a media-sculpted world full of paedophiles lurking on every corner just waiting to abduct you and lowlifes looking to steal your car with your children in it. And as often as I feel the slightly censuring gaze of the wider world upon me, I really don't think I need to change a thing.

As long as you want me to be, I'll always be close at hand.

Me, or perhaps some firemen.

love Mum.