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Sunday, June 29, 2014

Bad Parent

There is no book that teaches you how to be a parent; it's something you can only really learn by doing. Sure you can read books, watch videos and listen to other parents but that's no substitute for the experience.
You also can't get everything right first time. You might be expecting to lose a lot of sleep for several months and believe that you'll cope fine, but when you're sleep deprived you can't think clearly about all the other stuff. Stuff like how to have great bath-times with your baby or even precisely how much formula a baby can drink at 3 a.m. It takes lots of practice and mistakes before you can handle those early weeks.

Once you have your baby sleeping through the night you think you've got it made. I remember taking Sondra for a walk in the park one day and meeting an old friend.
'Hi Lisbeth. How are you and how is your little Angel doing?' Jean stuck her head under the stroller canopy and made silly noises at the baby.
'We're doing fine thanks.'
'She's kinda tiny isn't she?' said Jean. 'I mean my sister's new baby must be about the same age as yours and she's very bonny. In fact she's sitting up already.'
I looked down at Sondra and wondered if she was small for her age, I mean I'd never thought about it before.
'Well I'm sure she'll catch up. You're looking quite well, no bags under the eyes I see.' She laughed.
'No, we're out of the sleepless nights now; it get's easier. '
'Yes that's what my sister says. I say she should have got the hang of it by now, this is her 3rd baby after all. I think I prefer to stay single.' Jean's laughter echoed as she tottered off on her expensive new high heels. Jean's remarks struck hard. You always feel guilty when you're a mother, somebody else always seems to be doing a better job.

I did learn about nutrition and attainment goals for small children. I learned about toilet training and tantrums too. It was hard going and nobody ever seemed to notice how difficult life was for me.
I felt isolated and inadequate, I got depression and then I felt more guilty and more depressed until by the time I had my 4th child I wondered if I'd been a fool to ever become a mother.

My husband, Dick, is a kind man and I'm sure he loves me. He was there for me when I was at my lowest and drinking a bottle of wine every day before lunch.
'You are the important one Lisbeth. You're the one who matters to me. I want you to be happy and I work hard so there's enough money to make you happy. You wanted to be a parent more than I did, but I guess that's normal. I do like kids and I'd like to play ball with my sons and dance with my daughters, but not if all this is making you miserable. I hate it when you're so sad.'
'I love you too and I know you want what's best for me. I love you and I want to make you proud of the children we raise together so that someday when we're old we can laugh with our grandchildren.
'Maybe I was just a bit too young and foolish and I thought I'd be the perfect mother. I thought it was instantaneous. They gave you the baby and suddenly you were wise and good and loving. Now I know it's not like that. I'm sorry.' I snuggled my face into his chest and cried my heart out.

That crisis seemed to sort out my head and I got right back into my parenting job, which Dick had assured me was way more important that his work as an aeronautical engineer.

In the end I had 7 babies before I raised one successfully all the way. The people at the clinic were always sympathetic and so understanding, they said some of the best parents had troubles early on.

It never became routine. Every time I had to take a baby back and have it re-cycled I cried. But every time I came back with the new one it was easier to manage. I didn't get so upset when I made a mistake and consequently I made fewer mistakes each time. I guess I must have been a 'sensitive' mother because other people seemed to accept their failed attempts with a shrug and a laugh.

Now Dick and I are living in Seniors Paradise which is a very fancy and secure resort. Our grown children, Michael and Dawn pay all the bills and they too are getting married and raising children of their own. At last we can all laugh at those days when I thought of myself as a bad parent.

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Saturday, June 07, 2014

The Eighth Voyage of Sinbad

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His eyes almost lost in folds of skin, nose mushed across his face with it's network of red veins, hair that lived it's own life in sparse clumps over his skull. Sinbad scratched thick stubble on his chin as he stared into the bronze mirror. 'I'm so old I must be dead.'
He pinched his cheek and it hurt so apparently he was still alive, but he felt no gratitude for this; sighing deeply he turned back towards his bed and was about to climb in when he heard his wife calling.

'Come downstairs you lazy bag of bones. Now!' Did she have eyes that could see through walls? He dressed and went down while the insults grew in volume and coarseness.

'I'm here my Princess.'Sinbad smiled. The beautiful maiden he'd loved so long turned her head and glared at him. Her eyes had lost none of their sharpness although her chin almost disappeared in jowls that in turn melted into her enormous bosom.

'You stink. I swear you are rotting away in that bed.'

'I need rest. My back hurts and my feet burn, my...'

'No!' she interrupted. 'Don't start a list of excuses that I could recite better than you can. Get yourself out in the fresh air and walk to market. Go buy me a magic lantern that will bring me back the handsome pirate I married.'
Sinbad hung his head. It was true his looks and energy were gone. She was fat, but still pretty and able to whisk him out of her way with the broom.
'I will go for a walk my Love and I will fetch you peaches from the orchard.'
Her gaze softened and she patted his cheek.

As Sinbad walked down the hill he looked at the sea beyond the town. The water looked like silk and it was as blue as the finest turquoise. There wasn't a cloud in the sky and he could feel a Westerly breeze. He loved the sea, it was good to be outdoors. His back eased as he walked on past the orchard and down to the boatyard.

She was a small, elderly Felucca. Her paintwork was rubbed and her sail had been re-patched many times, but she entranced Sinbad. He looked at her a long while causing the shipwright to wander over and ask if something was amiss.
'Who does she belong to?' Sinbad asked.
'A man who traded down the coast, but he died of fever last year so I suppose she belongs to me.'
Sinbad patted his robe but he'd forgotten his purse.
'I want her. Will you take these in exchange?' he asked as he pulled off his jewelled slippers.
'The stones in those are valuable enough for a much bigger boat.......But I'll take them' said the shipwright. He helped Sinbad down into the boat.
The warm planks felt good beneath his feet. Sinbad settled himself next to the tiller.
'Give me a push......and thanks.'

It was wonderful how skill and understanding came back. He held the sail's rope in his right hand and rested his left arm on the tiller. The wind on his left cheek, his feet away from the coils of rope. The Sun ahead lighting a path across the water. Sinbad was content again.

'I'll sail along the coast because this boat knows the way and when I'm tired I'll beach her.'

The day wore on and Sinbad felt stronger. He trailed his hand in the water to measure her speed and she went faster and then faster still, this was marvellous. Part of Sinbad's mind was surprised by how well he felt, he wasn't hungry or thirsty or too hot. He shook off his robe to better feel the sun on his skin. He looked down to scratch his belly and noticed his belly had shrunk; rubbing his hand across his head he felt long hair growing there. He stood up and no joints screamed in protest when he pulled hard on the sail. The boat responded and took him out to deeper waters.
He'd turned away from the Sun but there was a fire above in the sky.
Sinbad frowned 'What is this? It's no fireball or shooting star surely?' The fire grew closer and he could see it glimmer and sparkle. Light bounced off the fiery thing and hurt his eyes, he blinked and rubbed them. Now it swooped lower turning in the air and he could see it from the side. It had the shape of a bird. Sinbad hoped it wasn't a Roc. 'Allah let it be an Eagle.'
The bird moved closer and suddenly was on the boat. It alighted on the upper edge of the lateen sail and sat there flapping it's wings to keep it's balance. It's wingspan was half the size of his sail and each feather was aflame. Different colours played over the wings, crimson and scarlet reds, silver, gold and emerald flickered and danced. It had talons of bronze and it's eyes seemed to be molten copper.
Sinbad sank onto the deck and stared speechless at this terrible beauty.

'You are Sinbad the sailor?' The bird enquired. He nodded.
'I am the Phoenix.' The bird paused. 'You look confused. Perhaps you have not heard of me, this name was given me by the Greeks. Others have different names, but it's always me they mean.
'I have come to give you the chance to choose your fate. You are famed far and wide for your bravery and recklessness on the oceans, yet you left the sea years ago and live a comfortable life on land. Are you content to pass your final days in warm sunshine and talk with other old men of your glorious past? Or do you crave one last adventure; a journey through wonders you never dreamt of to a destination known only by those who went before you?'

Sinbad found his voice.'I went ashore for love of a chaste and delightful maiden, but I've found the Sea has a hold on me far stronger than any woman and she will not mind if I travel on; I think she's always known I would. I choose adventure Phoenix.'
'You will not return, but your loved ones will meet you in another place. If you are sure you wish to go take hold of my tail feathers and don't be afraid.'
'Take me with you Phoenix.' Sinbad reached for the bird's tail and felt the strong muscles of his forearm flex as he seized hold. There was a moment of fierce pain then his heart burst open spilling immortal light. The Phoenix rose up into the darkening sky carrying Sinbad into a night clothed in stars.