When good rules go bad

The idea for tonight’s post actually began about 18 months ago after Picasso started school.

After complaining about the amount of rules at “big school”, he told me about one he found particularly confounding – he had to hold a classmate’s hand on the walk from the classrooms to the bus shelters.

“It’s silly,” he told me, “because then two people will get lost instead of one.”

Now, I did smother a laugh in my hand, but how could I argue with that logic? I agreed it was indeed a preposterous rule, risking, as it did, two young lives instead of just one.

So, skip forward to today, when I drive to work and am as usual confronted with the three thousand 5km/h signs in the basement car park.

Now, let’s just take a moment. I get that no one wants hoons speeding down 10 winding basement levels. But I must ask – has anyone ever driven at 5km per hour? It’s not actually possible. It’s like the car does this weird thing where it can’t actually move forward but it’s not actually stopped. Your foot is perched between brake and accelerator and starts jerking spasmodically between the two because you’re not sure which one you should be pressing. Your eyes are glued to the speedometer so you can’t pay attention to anything else and are in far more danger of becoming a safety hazard than if you picked up the pace to the hair-raising speed of, say, 8km per hour, and were ACTUALLY DRIVING.

And here’s another rule  – nowadays you are not allowed to hang your jacket over your chair. It’s not just a recommendation – it’s a RULE. A colleague of mine, who had – quite brazenly – draped her jacket in such a fashion got reported and “spoken to” about it. Now let me be clear – her jacket was not a floor-length, Cruella De Ville-type affair, it was a SUIT JACKET.

Possibly the best example of a nonsensical “non-rule” comes from my time at high school, when a Head Teacher decided to give the students a dressing-down for not wearing their school hats (in the days when hat-wearing was voluntary).

“If you DON’T wear your hats,” I can remember him thundering, with all the fervor of Maggie Beer with a bottle of verjuice – “I will make them compulsory!”

Um, I kind of think you just did.

Now, don’t get me wrong – I like rules. I am Navy, not Pirate – I generally abide by rules even when I don’t understand why they’re there. But – secretly – I think I’m with Picasso. Because after his lament about the school rules, I asked him if he was going to obey them anyway.

He gave a cheeky grin, and said,

“Yes…for now.”

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The way it often happens…

So I worked from home today.

The plan: a calm, motherly morning where I pack lunches, make breakfast, kiss foreheads and drive Bookworm (8.5 years) and Picasso (7 years) to school before heading home with Little Miss (4) to “watch” her draw as I work.

The reality: let me give you a rundown of the crucial hour-and-a-bit between waking and 8am (when we have to leave the house to avoid the hell that is being late for school, which involves explanatory yellow slips of paper and slugging up an enormous hill to the school office which is at the other end of where the classrooms are).

  • Wake up. Realise we’ve all overslept a little. But that’s okay, because it’s my work-from-home day.
  • Have shower.
  • Kiss everyone good morning and decide porridge for breakfast would be nice.
  • Before starting on the porridge, check emails. See there has been big crisis overnight.
  • Start to get worried. Get dressed.
  • Colleague calls re: having been up all night with the crisis.
  • Ask Souljourneyboy to get kids breakfast.
  • Go back and frantically read all the emails that have come in over the night, while simultaneously making lunches.
  • Picasso asks why I have given him ham and not cheese on his roll. I explain it is because he has told me many times that he likes ham and hates cheese. He is in disbelief  – apparently he LOVES cheese and of course he wants it on his roll!
  • Surge of frustration at the Orwellian, 1984-esq word children inhabit, where something is absolutely true one day and then its opposite absolutely true the next.
  • Crankily tell kids to hurry up and get dressed.
  • Souljourneyboy leaves for his early start.
  • Call different colleague re: crisis.
  • Kids are not dressed. Take deep breath and calmly tell kids they need to stop watching iView and make sure they are dressed and their bags are packed.
  • Powers-That-Be call re: a separate and potentially worse crisis.
  • Start to get dismayed.
  • Call Boss re: both crises and can’t get through.
  • Call colleague back about both crises.
  • Realise the time and firmly remind everyone to turn off iView, finish getting dressed and pack their bags.
  • Colleague calls while I suddenly remember Crunch and Sip and start to frantically peel and chop carrots for lunchboxes while on phone.
  • Picasso is without his hat. Loudly demand why this is so. He tells me it’s missing. I tell him to look in the car.
  • Realise no-one’s bags are packed and Little Miss won’t put on her socks.
  • Powers-That-Be call again.
  • Yell at everyone to GET OFF IVIEW NOW AND PACK BAGS AND PUT SOCKS ON OR ELSE I AM TAKING EVERYONE’S POCKET MONEY AWAY!!!!!
  • Boss calls again. Utterly relieved children are quietly watching iView and won’t interrupt the call.
  • Picasso wandering around as though his hat will materialise in the air in front of his face. Tell him AGAIN to look in the car.
  • Send a text message to colleague.
  • Picasso adamant his hat is not in the car and the cleaners have hidden it.
  • Send highly urgent email with one hand while upturning entire house looking for hat with the other.
  • Tell everyone we’re leaving NOW, with or without the hat.
  • Picasso becomes highly distressed.
  • Ring Boss using my “everything is completely under control” voice.
  • As we’re heading for the front door, Bookworm suddenly recalls his Jump Rope for Heart money MUST be in today and he can’t find it.
  • I would take a moment to scream in disbelief at his complete lack of organisation only that would take too long.
  • Frantic call to Souljourneyboy yields Jump Rope for Heart money buried under papers on the bench.
  • Keys now missing.
  • Second frantic call to Souljourneyboy yields keys under papers as well.
  • Yelling intensifies as Picasso still without hat, Bookworm’s money doesn’t add and Little Miss doesn’t like her socks.
  • Shove half of what’s in my wallet in Bookworm’s bag, run down to the car and FIND PICASSO’S HAT, get Little Miss new socks and corral everyone into the car.

Finally, unbelievably, we’re on our way. The drive is 15 minutes, which gives us all a chance to calm down and apologise to each other. Don’t you love mornings like that? I love my kids, and I love my job (most of the time) but balancing them is hard. I only went back to full-time work a year ago and I can honestly say it has taken nearly 12 months to get past the mother-guilt.  I am fortunate that I have hugely-supportive Souljourneyboy in my life and that mostly it works. But when it doesn’t…wow, it can be a killer.  I feel like the kids get the raw end of the deal because my work stress leaches into parental stress – you know how it is.

But you know what? It was a beautiful morning, the sun was shining, and I got the kids to school on time. So it wasn’t all bad. And there I was, standing in the playground, watching them kiss their sister goodbye and run off with their friends… thinking actually we did all right today, considering – when suddenly, Picasso runs back up to me and yells,

“Mum, I forgot my library bag!”

For the second week in a row. 🙂

The beginning of a journey

So, I decided to start a blog.

It was a spur-of-the-moment decision, and for anyone who knows me knows I like to make decisions this way (a few examples…building houses, changing jobs, enrolling in Uni, and Poppy, our cat).

This is how it started: I was on the train this morning and my thoughts were the regular kaleidoscope of work, husband, kids, boss, errands, recipes – and whether there were any leftover Pineapple freddos in the chocolate fundraising box. Then I began to think about how all of these thoughts come and go, and there’s no record of them because I haven’t kept a journal in a long time. I kept one religiously as a teenage girl – hilarious reading from which I will share excerpts down the track – but I guess life got busy and I became a mother and it just fell by the wayside, along with being able to go to the bathroom by myself.

I like journals – I like the idea of respecting moments enough to record them and marking time for the future “you” that will look back over those moments and either laugh, sigh or cringe. So I started scribbling away in my head, and I got to thinking about how probably a lot of what I experience is similar to hundreds of other women out there, all busily working away at their lives as mothers or sisters or neighbours.

That’s when I got the idea of a blog – a place to not only chronicle my life but share my experience with others and encourage you to do the same.

So here it is: I am a full-time working mother of three; a wife, sister-in-law, friend, daughter, writer, reader, university student,  foodie, philosopher, and a believer.

I struggle with juggling work and motherhood; I worry about my weight; sometimes I yell at my kids and other times I don’t do the housework because I’d rather have a cup of tea and read a book. I’ve hidden in the wardrobe so I could take a work call away from the kids, I’ve written books, studied politics and literature, love my family to pieces, eat too much chocolate, worry about being a better person, and spend a lot of time formulating opinions on obscure topics I’ll probably never be called upon to share.

But mostly, like all of us, I am a soul on a journey. So that’s why I called this blog Soul Journey, because essentially that describes all of us, no matter who we are or what stage of life we are at. I hope to share thoughts and poems and embarrassing teenage diary entries and recipes and ideas and ups and downs because this will be like a journal for me. And I am going to share my journey with anyone who’s interested to join me for the ride.

Em x