What follows is a letter I recently sent to my son’s childcare centre, in response to the above note I received from them. His last day with them was this week and he moves on next month to the centre his older brother attended, so we are thrilled.
Firstly, I would like to thank you for the wonderful year my son has spent in your care two days per week. You have been very kind to our whole family and he has been comfortable and happy there–we really appreciate your efforts. We especially appreciate the photos and hand out of his year that you sent home yesterday, the DVD and his teacher’s individual updates on via email throughout the year as to what he’d been up to that day.
One issue I would like to bring to your attention is to please ask that in the future look at your policy on lunchbox notes. A few weeks ago, I received a note in my son’s lunchbox berating me for including potato chips that day. Fortunately for me, I had a day where I felt rested and confident in my parenting abilities and laughed it off. In fact, I took a photo of the note and posted it on Facebook, where I jokingly referred to myself as a “bad mom” sending chips to child care.
However, the comments I received (which I am happy to share with you if you are interested), made plain that the note really touched a nerve with people in several parts of the world, which made me consider the note and its ramifications further.
As I said, I feel fortunate that I was able to find humour in the note. However, what if my husband had been away for work that week? What if I also had a new baby at home and had been up all night with him? What if I sorely needed some respite from my active toddler that day by sending him to childcare, and the only thing I could find in my pantry to send him to childcare with was chips? A note like that could have crushed me.
My excuse happens to be that I was simply tired from my regular daily life of three kids and a part time job, hadn’t been shopping and the best I could think of late in the evening, that was nut-free happened to be chips. I realize that was not the first time my child has eaten chips, and I can assure you it won’t be the last, but I do try my best to offer him healthy foods.
Mothers today are judged and analysed for every decision we make, and we should not be worried about impersonal notes from our children’s caregivers pointing out our faults, not for something as trivial as potato chips. The mental health of mothers today concerns me, and our society needs to be careful to support mothers, not judge them.
I completely understand and respect that your aim is for children to receive proper nutrition while they are in your care, and beyond that, in their homes. The best way for you to know you are achieving that aim would be to provide the food yourselves.
However, I realise that would be quite an undertaking. May I suggest that if the families are responsible for providing food each day, that you quietly keep a record of instances where children bring in unhealthy foods in their lunches, and then, if you notice a pattern, approach the parents in a friendly, non-judgemental, but helpful manner to discuss the issue? A person to person interaction would be much better received, in my opinion, than an impersonal, formalised “mum-shaming” note, with the child’s name and offending food filled into blanks.
You could even extend this practice to other important issues including children’s cleanliness each day, fit of their clothes, health, happiness, etc. Food is only one aspect of many contributing factors towards our children’s wellbeing.
Whatever you decide to do, and please feel free to completely disregard my uneducated suggestions, please endeavour to find a process more mum-friendly than mass-produced notes in the lunchboxes following intermittent offences. I would be happy to discuss this further if you would like.
Thank you again for your wonderful care of my son and kindness towards our family.
Where do I even start?! I haven’t updated this in over 3 months. I have a good reason—I have a beautiful, 6-week old baby boy. However, I’m getting ahead of myself….first to quickly recap the time leading up to our little Samuel’s birth:
My brain is mush now and it’s hard to remember. My days are filled once again with spit up, dirty diapers, sleepless nights and the smell of a newborn asleep on my chest. It’s hard to remember what they were like before. It’s as if he’s always been here. I feel strongly that we’ve been waiting for him—as hard as this time is, he melds right into our little circle of love, just like he always had a space waiting for him. He has.
Anyway, I digress, again. Get used to it! June was quite uneventful, other than preparing for Sam’s arrival and wrapping up my kids’ yoga classes. That was very bittersweet. It’s always hard to leave behind the known, the routine, and prepare for the unknown, the loss of control. I know at the time it’s happening that I want to return to teaching, but it’s also in the back of my head that I really don’t know what the future holds and I can’t say anything for sure.
We had our last little getaway as a family of four–a weekend in June on beautiful Stradbroke Island with friends. We saw lots of unique wildlife and enjoyed the busy two days immensely. Then we had our treasured friends from Boulder in town visiting their family, and got to spend quality time with them as well.
I had my first three nights and four days ever away from my little crew of men in early July for my yoga teacher training retreat. It was wonderful, although very demanding physically and mentally. It was great to be able to have that time to be away, and the boys enjoyed themselves immensely during their “vegetable-free days”. 😉
The retreat was over the 4th of July weekend, so for the first time in my life, I had to forgo celebrating the holiday, which was also bittersweet. It was a great reason to miss it, but also a little sad. Several people wished me a happy one, though, which is so kind.
We enjoyed a relatively slow paced two weeks of school holidays that included our first Disney on Ice. Also, thanks to the help of dear friends, Steve and I enjoyed our last date for a while—a low key breakfast out in Brisbane one morning. It’s funny—we were both enjoying each other, but could also feel the apprehension in the air as we were well aware of the uncertainty and changes to come, getting ready to meet the new member of our family.
My sweet friends threw a beautiful baby shower for me on the 11th of July. I have missed family incredibly throughout my pregnancy, so it was great to feel such an outpouring of love from my “family” here. It was my first truly girly baby shower, complete with a color scheme, games, fancy food and decorations, and I loved it! I am so humbled by the work they went to and the turnout.
It’s ironic—when I was pregnant with Drew I thought baby showers were completely lame. We bought our house a few months before he was born, so instead we had a combined baby shower/housewarming for all friends, men and women. It was fun! Then Zach was born so soon afterwards that our friends instead organized a meal delivery system, diapers and groceries for us, which was just what we needed. Now I cherish time I can sneak in with girlfriends and relished every minute of that shower. J
On July 23rd, my sweet Drew was officially diagnosed with asthma. It is nice in one sense to finally know for sure and learn how to deal with it, but also always sad to find out your child is less than perfect. I have to wonder if there’s anything I could have done to prevent it, if there have been times I didn’t help him enough when he was struggling to breathe. I am really bad with “What Ifs” and mother’s guilt. I’m working on it…..Hopefully, he will grow out of it, and even if he doesn’t, there are a lot worse things in life and we are very fortunate. It doesn’t slow him down–the two of them ran their 1st 2k race the Sunday before Sam arrived.
As for my pregnancy, it got a bit bumpy in July. On Sunday the 5th at my retreat, I started to worry about the baby’s movement. I remember being paranoid about that in my previous pregnancies so I ignored it, knowing that odds were that everything was fine and I was being psycho. I was still a bit worried at my next appointment that Wednesday, the 8th, which the whole family attended. They put me on some fetal monitoring and then reassured me that everything was fine.
I started to worry about movement again on Friday, the 24th, (37 weeks) and thought I was noticing quite a few painless contractions and feeling very nauseous. I figured labor was starting, but then nothing happened. I was about to call the doctor on Sunday if things hadn’t changed, but then I felt better. Monday and Tuesday were up and down. I was worried about all of the above, but then I’d feel better.
Wednesday morning, the 29th, started out good. I had an appointment and was worried about driving the hour each way alone with how tired I’d been feeling, so offered Zach a special “Mommy and Zach” day before baby came, which thankfully, he agreed to (he almost refused me!). We walked Drew to school and back and then I started feeling sick again. We drove down, had a nice morning tea and then went to the doctor. I told them how I’d been feeling and my doctor saw me have a contraction on the exam table (turned out I’d been having more than I thought I was—some of them, like the one he saw, I just thought were the baby sticking out on one side) and noticed baby’s heartrate was low.
He put me on fetal monitoring, which ended up lasting for about 2 hours, instead of the initial 30 minutes. They told me I was having regular contractions and baby’s heartrate was getting low often enough that we needed to do the C-section now. I was in labor.
Then everything started happening! My doctor’s office is connected to a hospital that I hadn’t planned on going to, because it was so far from home. Steve was near home, at work, and Zach was with me—what to do?! I have to say that in my teens and twenties, I would never have believed someone who said they could find comfort and companionship in a 5-year-old, but I absolutely did. My little Zach was an absolute gem during all this and it was wonderful having him with me. During the monitoring, he found a soccer game on TV (he’s a sports nut) and cuddled up next to me in the hospital bed to watch. When it all got chaotic, he was patient, well-behaved, unquestioning, trusting, helpful and concerned. It was beautiful and I will remember it forever.
Steve got moving and this is when the incredible outpouring of love, support and help from our friends began. It would go on for the next several weeks. I arranged friends to bring Drew home with them from school. My doctor is a friend of ours and his family offered to take Zach and so did one other friend in that area. However, thankfully, we reached our dear friend’s mother, who lives an hour away and who was set to come watch the boys on August 4th, the date my C-section was scheduled. She dropped everything and left right away to come get Zach, and then headed off through rush hour traffic to our house, where Drew met them and she stayed the night. She made them lunches for school the next day and took excellent care of them. The same friends that kept Drew that afternoon, picked up the boys for school the next day as well, and then this dear woman cleaned our house and did our laundry before heading back home. Just incredible!
After Zach left, it wasn’t long until I was prepped for surgery. I have to acknowledge that preparing for the C-section was terrifying. I will never go through that again. With the one I had with Drew, I had been in labor for so long that it was all a blur. This time, I was alert. Everything is so sterile and medical. It doesn’t feel like you’re about to bring life into the world; it feels like something bad and scary is happening—you’re about to be cut open. I hated it. Thankfully, yoga and meditation helped me—the idea of impermanence. I focused on breathing through the scariness, remembering that it was just a brief time and at the end of it I would have my baby.
The surgery itself, body being cut open and stitched up again aside, was the most beautiful, peaceful birth I’ve had. They lowered the sheet so I could see my precious boy just as he came out, and then I was able to watch everything else that happened, including Steve cutting the cord. I didn’t get sick from any of the medications this time and my arms were not strapped down. Therefore, they were able to bring Sam to me and I held him on my chest while I was stitched up. He even started eating! That’s the only time I’ve been able to hold my baby to me so soon after his birth and I will cherish the experience.
The scary part is that our precious Samuel Sullivan Charles was small, too small for so late in the pregnancy. It turns out my placenta was not in good shape—much of it was dead or inflamed, and they were surprised the little man was getting any nutrients at all. He was also covered in meconium. It is just perfect that I had such excellent care and I had my appointment that day and he came out when he did. He is our little miracle and we couldn’t be happier to have him with us.
Because of his size and because he was slightly early, he had a bit of trouble with his blood sugar initially and some jaundice, but nothing major. He was able to stay with me the entire time I was in the hospital and the stay was pretty uneventful. Sam was born at 5:35 p.m. on Wednesday, July 29th and we brought him home on Monday, August 3rd.
We Face-Timed Patti and the boys as soon as we could that evening after Sam’s birth. They were thrilled about their new brother and couldn’t wait for their visit the next evening to meet him. We called the next morning before school as well and she told us that all morning they had been talking about Sam, wondering what he was doing as they got ready, how he felt, etc. Gorgeous.
Several people have asked me to compare the birth and hospital experience here to the ones in the U.S. I received excellent care in both countries and overall it was much the same in each. There were a few minor things that I preferred over there, and a few little things that were better here. We are very fortunate to be able to live and give birth in such safe, wonderful places, so we have nothing to complain about.
I had been worried that by having the baby in this farther away hospital, I would be lonely during the stay with it being too far for friends to visit. I was pleasantly surprised and touched to find out this was not the case. For one, my stay included a weekend, so Steve and the boys were able to be with me more, which was great. We made sure the boys were our first visitors on Thursday evening and Steve and I enjoyed the time before then to get to know our new son. A couple friends did make the hour drive to see us, and then a couple others that we knew in that area were now able to come as well. Steve’s family lives in that area and was able to be more involved this way also.
In the hospital and since we came home, as I said before, we have just been overwhelmed by the kindness and help from friends. We have had numerous home-cooked meals and baked goods brought to us as well as gifts. People have been helping me with the school runs, so I have not actually had to do them too often this term. I have had visitors, friends giving advice, listening to me cry, helping me to get out and run my first errands with Sam and even trying to do my chores. They’ve also watched our big boys for us to give us extra time to rest.
As I said, my friends are now my family and I am so grateful for them. I had been so nervous to have a baby without my parents around and I have really felt their absence. So many little things that we never even realized they were doing at the time to make things easier for us, are now apparent in their absence. Therefore, the fact that we have been so surrounded by love, support, kindness and generosity has been an even bigger blessing.
My Mom isn’t even approved to fly this distance since her hip surgery until sometime this month. I keep hoping they’ll just show up on our doorstep, but I know that won’t happen. Just 12 ½ weeks until we leave for the U.S. and in the meantime we are all so thankful for technology. Face Time and texts get us through.
A positive for me, is that this experience has made me feel like a big girl, a grown up. As with the move overall, having a baby in another country has made me realize that Steve and I are a good team and we can do anything. Our little family (well, not so little anymore!) has become a tight knit unit and we are there for each other and help each other through whatever life brings.
Along this line, I have been so impressed by what big boys my big boys have become. They are so helpful and amazingly understanding about how I need to spend my time right now. And the love! The love they have for this little baby is unbelievable. I have to say that’s been one of my favorite parts so far about having another baby, watching the unconditional love and devotion they show to this little person. They make it clear that he is truly a part of our family that just hadn’t arrived yet. He belongs with us and we love him to bits.
So there we have it. It’s been three months—6 weeks of preparation and anticipation, and 6 weeks of complete whirlwind and adjustment. Sometimes I can’t believe that a vegetarian yoga teacher is a mother of three boys—in 10 years they’ll likely be getting into fights and wanting to eat steak all the time and I’ll be telling them to meditate and offering them green smoothies! 😉 We just don’t know what life will bring us—heck, it’s also hard to believe that I’m even 38-years-old, a mother at all, living in Australia, teaching yoga—all of it—who would have known?! But what a beautiful life it is.
I need to get a few more of my thoughts out related to this recent trip and our dual-hemisphere life. One of the biggest differences I noticed from this visit to the last is this: For the last trip, we had only lived here 9 months and I felt like I was bringing my boys back home, back to their familiarity. On this trip, it was painfully obvious to me that I was bringing the boys out of their home, out of their familiarity, to a fun place to visit. They are no longer American boys living in Australia; they have seamlessly become Australian boys who were visiting America. It was kind of weird.
The whole experience was a big, exciting adventure for them. One of their odd fascinations was with American toilets. They flush with a lever on the side as opposed to a choice of buttons on the top, which Zach loved because it meant he could flush the toilet with reckless abandon, not needing to close the lid and climb up to reach the top first. American toilet bowls are also filled with much more water than Australian toilet bowls, which swirls around and around, along with all of their contents, on its way down. Both boys would repeatedly flush the toilet and then stand and watch the subsequent show in awe. I think this activity took about three weeks to lose its appeal and become commonplace.
Another fascination was light switches. As it turns out, they are more often placed lower on the walls, again making them easier to reach for Zach. The switches themselves are also in a couple different shapes. Turning lights on and off therefore became another fun pastime for them and I don’t think it lost its appeal over the entire 5 weeks, which succeeded in annoying almost every person whose house we spent time in.
A third source of new fun was found in door stops. They’re on the end of a spring in the U.S. and make really fun loud BOINGGGG sounds each time they’re flicked. It’s amazing the little things you stop and notice when you’re in a child’s world.
Their Australian accents REALLY stuck out. I knew they’d picked them up, but it wasn’t until they were the only ones around who sounded like that, that I realized just how strong their new accents are. That was more a source of entertainment for everyone they were around! A couple people here have already made comments that some of their pronunciations are more American. That made me a little sad, thinking, “Are my little guys going to draw comments for the way they sound no matter which country they’re in on an ongoing basis?” Everyone means well and I think they’re not affected by it; it’s just my sensitivity. I’m happy to report that it was unanimously pronounced that my accent has not changed one little bit! I’ve got to keep something from my “past life”, don’t I? 😉
It’s actually pretty funny over in the U.S. because Americans love accents and would try to imitate the boys. Everyone in my family ended up saying rubbish and bin instead of trash, as well as footpath instead of sidewalk. The funniest was listening to my Mom playing Dominoes with the boys one afternoon, when she kept loudly saying “My go.” Such good sports! I love them.
To clear my head, I also need to get down a bit of a list about what I miss and what I have found a new love for. I’m not sure why, but I do.
-My family. Obviously.
-My friends. Again, duh.
-The mountains and all the views.
-Driving on the right side of the road.
-Colorado’s affinity for fitness and outdoor sports and activities, and deference to pedestrians and cyclists.
-The food: Specifically good microbrews, margaritas, tortilla chips, salsa (pretty much all Mexican/TexMex/Southwest cuisine), healthier grab and go snacks, greasier and cheesier pizza, fresh berries of all kinds, a plethora of vegetarian options at restaurants and grocery stores
-The sports. I miss skiing and hiking. Also, it was so fun being around for college bowl games and college basketball and even hockey. One of the things we didn’t fit in was getting to a sporting event. Next time….
-The weather. I miss the seasons. I had forgotten how mild Colorado’s winter is. I miss snow with a blue sky and bright yellow sun to set it off and fall colors. Plus my skin cleared up within days of arriving. It got dry and cracked as well—ahh, tradeoffs.
-The holidays. Hardly any of them are the same and the ones that are, are celebrated so differently that they don’t hardly seem the same.
-The prices. I went out for a glass of wine and dessert the other night here and spent almost the same amount as Steve and I spent on an entire dinner that included four cocktails and an appetizer.
-The language, or I should say, dialect, and the accent. I can understand everyone, and it just all makes more sense to me and makes me feel more comfortable and at home.
-The vegetation and the animals. No special reason. I just love them both and they’re familiar to me.
-The customer service. Don’t get me started.
-Americans in general. I can’t put my finger on it, but I am becoming convinced that there is a difference in the way we interact. Whatever that difference is makes friendships seem to gel more easily and interactions just make more sense. I remember no one “got” Steve’s humor when he lived there and how difficult and frustrating that was for him. Even though I can’t put my finger on what the difference is, after living in both places, it definitely makes sense to me that there must be a difference, quite a large one. After all, we literally inhabit two different worlds, as the above list testifies to. Anyway, I love the positivity of Americans, the tough can-do attitude, the friendliness, the openness, the easy laughter, the creativity, the confidence…..still can’t put my finger on it.
Now, for what I’ve come to appreciate here and why this will likely remain our home:
-The people. Kind, generous, open, supportive friends who are so quick to lend a hand and extend an invitation. People here have just welcomed us, made us one of their own, no questions asked and I love that. They put up with me! All my homesickness, American snobbiness, whining and weird habits and they still come around. I have to pinch myself to believe it’s true!
-The beach. Going to the beach used to be a summer vacation for us and now we can go for the day, or just for a picnic dinner. The water is so soothing and beautiful to watch. I have always loved to regularly sit and watch waterfalls, babbling creeks or river rapids, but watching the ocean waves was a rarer treat. Now it is reversed. It’s nice to spend 35 years of one’s life appreciating some things and then the next several appreciating other things.
-Fruits and vegetables that taste like fruits and vegetables. I was appalled by how bland and tasteless produce was in the U.S., after what I’ve become accustomed to here. I had no idea what I was missing! It’s easier to eat healthier when the food is packed with that much natural tasty goodness. Plus now we eat what is in season. Seeing fresh pineapples and berries served in land-locked Colorado in the middle of winter made me realize that our carbon footprint is now less than it used to be. Americans are GOOD people with good hearts and good intentions and in most cases don’t even realize how our typical way of life USES so much more than people in other parts of the world do, without even batting an eye. How much energy and resources do we use flying those types of food in so we can eat them whenever we feel like it, and pay low prices for them as well? Things we do daily and take for granted, like using a clothes dryer in such a dry, sunny climate, are not done in the rest of the world and we don’t even realize it.
-Brown eggs and white cheese. White eggs and yellow cheese are NOT normal! That can’t be good for us!
-I’m not a huge fan of the sports here yet, but I do admire that pro athletes here are not paid obscene amounts and elevated to god-like statuses. The main take-away related to this topic that is a reason I like living here is:
-The wages. I like that people can work hard at a fulltime job, no matter what that job may be, and earn enough to support themselves. I hated watching housekeepers and food service employees in the retirement communities I worked in bust their tails for over eight hours a day and then head straight to a job at a fast-food restaurant for another six hours and then come home to six people in a two-bedroom apartment. It’s just not right. I like that my husband and I have more time with our children now and don’t feel guilty about taking more time off for them when we need to, yet we can still support ourselves and save money for the future. This point leads me to another one:
-The work-life balance. It was ironic here to come back and hear people complaining about not getting much time off over the holidays and naming off the 5 or 6 days they got in addition to weekends. I thought about all our American friends we’d just seen who only had Christmas Day and New Year’s Day off. People are less stressed out over here and I think that’s where the laidback reputation comes from. They work hard when they work. But everyone understands that “life” is more important, including employers. Again, this point leads me to:
-Free health care. I believe that good health is a basic right, right up there with “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” It has helped our family tremendously that we are able to spend far less on good health care than we were prior to moving here. In fact, whenever I complain about Australian prices, I remind myself that we pay so much less for quality healthcare that it likely balances out. Plus we are making Australian wages. And someone here pointed out to me that prices have to be higher when people are paid living wages, which I clearly support.
-The plants and animals. They’re all new to me and utterly fascinating. I love the multitude of flowers and their heady scents. I love how green it is and am fully aware that you need more rain in order to have more green, so it’s ok. In fact, I learned something interesting on our visit home: I probably annoy people (especially those who think I grew up in an ice cave, which is well, everyone) when I complain (often) about missing sunshine, because I am from a place with 300 days of it per year. Well, when I was jogging one day a couple weeks ago in Colorado, thinking how beautiful and sunny it was and how I wish I could bottle up that sunshine to take back here with me for all those rainy days, I decided to actually look up the amount of days of sunshine in each place. Well, guess what? I need to quit my whining, because they came out quite comparable, with Brisbane slightly ahead in the article on each place that I read. Ok, I’ll shut up about that one now!
-Gun control. Now I believe that several of the factors listed above lead to the lower rate of violent crime here, as of course the mind-boggling-ly smaller population, including free health care, improved work-life balance and higher wages. However, I think gun control adds to it. Now, I get annoyed sometimes with what I consider to be “freedoms” that I feel are impinged upon here. But we are safer here and there is no getting around that. Through mutual friends we know a student and a teacher at Arapahoe High School, and at one gathering the subject of the shooting there the week before came up and we all heard about how each of them got out of the school, found his parents, kept her students safe, etc. That broke my heart. People shouldn’t have to experience a school day like that. What broke my heart even more is that every single person we spoke to, without exception (well, Texans), including my most conservative right-wing friends, would like to see some basic regulations. They’re sick of it. And it’s sad that those regulations could very well likely never come….so so sad.
So, there it is. Those are some pretty big issues. As much as I love Colorado and the United States and all that they both have to offer, and all their people, it looks like we are staying here for the foreseeable future. And it sounds like I should spend a little less time being homesick and a little more time being grateful. Waaahhhh! I will. I will. I promise! Writing this has also helped me realize that some of the things I miss the most about home are some of the most fun new experiences I have currently available to me and I need to make the most of that.
Anyway, this is super long, but important to my head. Our two weeks back have been great, really. Friends have been so kind and happy to see us and I had three days with my two boys all to myself. It was funny—I felt like through all those 5 and a half weeks of traveling, I wasn’t really WITH them because it was so busy. I adored those three days and am very thankful for them. We have had a lovely three-day weekend as a family as well, including an “all you could ever ask for”, perfect, relaxing fun Australia Day holiday yesterday at the beach with good friends. And school starts tomorrow! First grade for Drew and preschool (kindy here) for Zach two days a week. My babies are growing up on me. Again, waahh! But beautiful at the same time. A summary of my life, eh?