by Lori Dwyer on May 10, 2013 · 9 comments

My children appear to have some kind of obsession with death lately.

It’s not so much an obsession with their father dying, or having died, as with the whole concept in general.

I’m not sure if it’s entirely normal, or ‘normal’ for children who’ve had to deal with death so close up at such a young age. I’m not sure if it’s healthy for them to discuss it so much. I don’t encourage it, but nor do I discourage it or shut them down when the topic comes up. I find myself watching keenly in order to see if I actually do hear the words ‘dying’ and ‘death’ as often as I think I do, or if I’m just overtly sensitive and tuned to the sound of it.

The characters in my daughters dollhouse- a mixture of porcelain nic-nacs, Barbie dolls and Maccas toys- are constantly dying, their whole families perishing in terrible hot air balloon accidents. The make-believe games that the Chop and her play often end in death, and my son makes dramatic declarations about what would happen, exactly, should he step into the gas heater (“Goodbye, family…” he roleplays, a mimic of seriousness attempting to squirm itself into a smirk on his face).

Part of the reason for this phenomena has to lay in the testostor-isation of my boy-child, the newly found roughness that’s come with Big School and Skylanders, Ben 10 and being five. And if I compare one child with the other, the Bump at this age to the way the Chop was two years ago, then her questions and discussions around death seem comparative with his. She still asks questions, about Heaven and death and Daddy. My son rarely questions anything anymore, and acts as some form of instigator of truth and their reality as he sees it. Generally it’s kind and gentle corrections, filling in the potential gaps in her knowledge with what he already knows. Only occasionally does it take a more fervent, aggressive tone (smacking his sister in the head because she dared to argue the topic of whether or not people can come back from the dead- the Chop obviously on the side of the negative- was a particular low point in sibling instruction).

As I do with most everything I’m not quite sure about, I’m leaving this one to run it’s course. I’d rather they talk about this stuff than didn’t. I’d much rather them mention it when they feel they need, than not be able to mention it at all.


There’s been a thread of holier-than-thou judgement of my parenting in a few comments left of late.

It’s made me afraid of using my own space in the way that I find most therapeutic– spilling all my secrets into the digital Neverland. I don’t like being afraid. These are comments that pick and pluck at the spot where I am weakest– my own parenting skills, and the way I navigate life with two little people. The possible damage I may be inflicting on my children. 

I think it’s the soft spot of all parents. We’re all hyper-aware of the responsibility of raising little people. We know we will be judged. From the moment we reveal we’re carrying a baby, until long after we’ve passed away. Forty years from now, should our child break all social codes and do something terrible; one of the first places people will look for answers will be with us. Where did we fail? In what facet of parental responsibility where we so inept that it can explain what went wrong with our children?

And we are judged on the tiniest, most inconsequential endeavours. It seems so socially acceptable to comment on the parenting of other people and the probable fate of their children; and to do so with such casual study of their situation. There’s a self-justifying benevolence in the social sport of picking apart another mum because she works, or doesn’t; or smacks, or doesn’t; on whether her children are well-behaved and polite, or not. The behaviour of children is seen as an obvious manifestation of their parents child rearing skills, or lack of them. And we seem to encourage ‘keyhole judgements’– taking a tiny slice of a story and attributing it as the rule, when it just may be the exception.

I think, perhaps, that’s one of the elements that digs at me so much, in regard to comments left here lately. The arrogance of assumption of people feeling that because they’ve read my blog, they then have the right or the obligation to comment on my parenting; on the lives of myself, my mum, and my children.

You only know what I tell you here. Judging me on what I choose to share with you is the online equivalent of judging a parent at a local playground after watching them interact with their child for two minutes. It doesn’t give you enough information to make calls like you do, to look down on someone else because they’re not doing it the way you consider to be ‘right’.

I share a lot of my life on these web pages. I write without thinking much about how I’ll be perceived. I tell stories about my children and myself. That leaves me inherently open to judgement… that’s okay. It’s part of the give and take of blogging. People have every right to voice their opinion, particularly when there’s a comment section inviting that very thing.

But this isn’t so much about me, or my ‘emotional state’. This is about the bullsh*t judgements people feel they have a right to make, when you never know enough about a another’s person life to make that call. Whether you’re their best friend or they’re someone you see for thirty seconds in the local supermarket, or because you’ve read what they’ve chosen to share with you.

It’s about how we make parenting, mothering in particular, into some righteous, beautified social test. It’s about the way a mother and her actions are considered wholly objectified public property. It’s about the way women are expected to ‘embrace mothering’ and your children are supposed to be your ‘whole world’. The way mothers are crucified and shamed if they don’t hold up to other people’s ideals of what a ‘good mother’ should be.

It’s about the way we’re not allowed to say what sometimes might be the truth. That you can love your kids desperately, think they are the most awesome little people… and still not like being a mum very much at all.

My kids aren’t a burden. As I’ve said– they are awesome little people, and I’m honoured to be able to spend the bulk of my time with them. But changing dirty nappies, making school lunches, being yelled at, moderating temper tantrums, listening to whinging, and all the other stuff that comes with small children? That’s a burden. I’m not fond of it. Not at all. I don’t have to be.

Don’t get me wrong, there are some bits of parenting that I thoroughly enjoy. Deep conversations and answering questions. Showing my kids new things, taking them places. Watching their face light up with new concepts my new knowledge. I love playing video games or curling up on the lounge watching movies with my son. I love playing with my daughter’s doll-house (sometimes I even let her help) and painting her fingernails. I like doing the fun stuff. But I find the hard stuff really difficult. And there’s nothing wrong with saying that.

I became a mother, not a martyr. Giving birth didn’t provide me with some selfless gene that made me suddenly enjoy being every aspect of raising kids. I’m inherently selfish. Most people are; we just find ways to temper that against the realities of life and the needs of the people we love.

My children are the most important people in my life. They always have been and probably always will be. But I allow myself to have a life, and a personality, outside of being their mum. I’m devoted to them, but I never want them to be responsible for my happiness. I want to teach them that all of us are responsible for finding our own. I’m happy to sacrifice things. But I keep things, too. And I want to teach my children– my daughter especially– that that’s an okay thing to do. Women are expected to give and give and give until there’s nothing left of themselves but a shell that functions, providing for people’s needs. It doesn’t have to be that way.

I’m the first to admit that I find spending time alone a necessity. I’m okay with that. I’m also quite happy to admit that I do spend whole weekends with my boyfriend. I’ve confessed to temporarily running away from my kids and wanting to leave for good. I’ve stated– and I stand by it– that some days I just cannot handle my five and three year old (which I’m fairly sure shocks absolutely no one) and everything falls down in a screaming heap.

Why do any of those things have an influence of the effectiveness of my parenting, anyway? Do you have to spend every second with your kids, to parent well? Or is it that you can’t have other focuses in your life? Do you have to enjoy every aspect of motherhood in order to ‘embrace’ it? Are you allowed to like parenting without being particularly enamoured with the really-little-kid phase of it? Can you love your kids without liking being a parent at all?

I’m predicting that even writing that last paragraph is enough to have me labelled as unfit mother– one who’s probably causing deep, awful emotional agony– in some people’s mental filing system.

Again, I’m (surprisingly) okay with that. If you’re that attached to the concept of martyred parent that it personally offends when someone else doesn’t live up to it… I kind of feel sorry for you.

To the commenter who wrote this one; and anyone who feels the same…

I originally had a few hundred words written here, defending myself and my parenting. Then I decided, f*ck it. I have no obligation to justify myself to anyone.

So all I really want to say is this.

Get f*cked.

And bite me.


A Holy Parenting Pinnacle.

by Lori Dwyer on April 9, 2013 · 30 comments

My children grow older in great jumping stretches, strides of development and intellect that take me by shocked and awe-struck surprise. They learn things while I’m not looking, not watching, not quite paying attention; some days they seem to eat the world whole and regurgitate it, piecemeal and filtered down to it’s most keenly observed and amusingly purified status.

They make decisions. They form their own likes and dislikes, opinions and quirks. Desires and preferences and aches and soft spots. They become little people, a formation of their own selves. Without ever needing my- nor anyone else’s- permission.

My son leaves for school each day buoyant, blessed, the sunshine of scabbed knees and school awards all over his happy smile and lightly freckled nose. He adores Big School and he’s well behaved and popular, smart and polite.

I’m so proud of him I could pop, burst apart at the seams with a sunshine of my own. I worry so much for him it aches at my heart. He rarely mentions his father, hardy ever; and when he does its with the sunny side-up– spotting a star and saying goodnight, sharing a wistful  memory of ‘when we lived in the Purple House‘ with me (some days, it seems he keeps more memories from there than I do, and I don’t know if that’s happy or sad, awful or heartening).


My daughter is now older than my son was when his father died. Sometimes I look at other children, younger children, unsteady on their feet and still with a baby-fluff of hair on their heads and I think to myself, in a tone that carries a desperate guttural sort of sobbing sadness- she was so little. She was so young- just a baby, really. And again, I don’t know if that’s good or bad, a happy occurrence or a sad one.

I still keep tabs and measurements on my kids- maybe I always will. I track growths and accomplishments- toilet training, learning to count, my son writing his name, whole nights of (blessed) unbroken sleep, wobbly teeth and birthday parties. I pay extra attention to them, record and file them in the recesses of my mind. Accomplishments made. Things done. Less out of a fear of forgetting all of them, with no one to remind me; more because these are things I have witnessed, alone. My children’s accomplishments are mine as well.

My children have been mine now for much longer than they were ever Tony’s. The majority of their growing, their formative years- that’s been done by me. And I look at them sometimes, myheart beating with a pride I never thought possible, because I’ve never felt it before; my head rings with ‘mine, mine, mine’. Because I have done this. I’ve created two beautiful, smart, funny, caring and empathetic people. As a solo unit. And the three of us, we are a team.

Conversing with The Most Amazing Man In The Universe just a few days ago, we happened to touch on the subject of (in my own ill-thought-out wording, with no criticism from either of us, as negative as the phrase may sound) mothers ‘like me’. Mothers- single mums and partnered mums- who seem to struggle just that little bit. Mothers who allow washing to pile up, who feed their kids hot chips for dinner. Whose houses are always slightly chaotic, with pets and toys and half-done projects interrupting the flow of organisation. Mums that are hopeless at cooking and planning weekend outings, and let their kids watch too much TV.

The mothers that seem unable to contain the chaos of small children. The ones who wouldn’t know a housework roster if it bit them on the butt while they were vacuuming around and not under the lounge (again).

The chaotic, disorganised parent whose children turn out all kinds of awesome anyway- polite and pleasurable, earnest and enlightening company. Flowers of unmitigated perfection, grown of a garden unkempt and tended with the very best of intentions.


I’m that mum who’s always running just that little bit late, the one who forgets permission notes and homework (but hasn’t missed a library day yet). This morning, I’m attending a (godforsaken) school assembly, to watch my little man receive a special award. I’m feeling all the satisfaction that comes from years of bitching hard work and rampant parental insecurity finally manifest itself into one of those allusive “I’m doing OK at this parenting thing” moments.

It’s like some kind of holy parenting pinnacle. A rest stop on a long road that’s not marked with signs and where I have no GPS. An un-navigated journey I began naively that sometimes seems endless and I’m always worried about running out of fuel before I can stop and replenish again, getting lost and finding no one to ask for directions. 

This pit-stop feels like a victory. One that belongs to me and my kids. It’s ours, and ours alone.

I did this, raised these gorgeous little people.

And I did it all by myself.


Updated: The award itself turned out to be specifically for the Chop’s “caring and responsible personality”.

For today, I will answer tosuper-mum’ and ‘best mum ever’. In my own mind, at the very least.