Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Large Family Stigma

Camille goes to Tiny Tots Ballet.  She loves it.  She is a born natural.  Dancing around the house constantly.  Making up her own routines.  She eagerly asks when "dance day" is.  Every. Single. Morning.

As I left her in the studio today, I made my way up to the “parents waiting room”.  A small room with 6 or so chairs and a couple of toy boxes.  I took my spot on one of the chairs and settled in for a hour of reading my book.  I smiled at a couple of the other mums and joined in a brief conversation and was then asked the dreaded question.  “How many children do you have?”

It is a question that defines us as mothers.  I held up my hand, my whole hand, and sheepishly said “Five.”  The gasps were deafening.  I looked around the room.  Pure shock  was written all over their faces.  “Oh. My. God.  Are you crazy?” asked one of the mothers.  I smiled, unable to think on my feet of an answer.  I don’t know these mothers.  I knew I was going to spend half and hour or so in this room with them every week, so I didn’t want to “snap”.

Another mother, pregnant with her 3rd and 4th child said “Well, I guess I am only 1 behind you, but we only planned 3.  Did you plan 5?”  “Yes” I quietly replied, not really wanting to go into the details with a bunch of women I don’t know.

I already knew what they were thinking.  I have heard it too many times.

According to society, I must be either stupid, a slut, doing it for the money or a combination to have this many children.  Nobody in their right mind would have, yet alone plan and want five children.  Too many times I lunge straight into my standard spiel, quickly telling them that all FIVE are to my husband of 14 years -  making sure they knew that my eldest was only 12, subconsciously making them aware that I didn’t get married just because I was pregnant.  That is a whole other conversation.  Why do people assume that the only reason I got married at 20 was because I was pregnant?
These days I choose to smile and just answer yes or no to the stupid and rude questions including:

“Wow!  You’ve got your hands full, don’t you?”  Ya think?  What is your point?

“Don’t you know what causes it?”  Seriously?  How do you want me to answer this question?  It is just plain rude.

“Are they all from the same father?”  Another extremely rude question.  What are you implying?

 “Don’t you have a TV?”  Seriously.  I get this one DAILY.  All.  The.  Time.

“Have you had enough yet?”  Not that our decision on having a family is any business of yours, but yes, we have decided that 5 is our number.  That said… if we wanted more, we would go ahead and have more and there is nothing you can say that would change our minds.

Unfortunately the amount of people asking rude and disrespectful questions, far outweigh the lovely comments that I do receive.  What I don’t understand is people motives for asking such questions.  No matter the answer it is none of your business, and my answer is much more of a story than the quick answer you are after.

Next time you see a mother (or father) with a bunch of children, either mind your business and keep your stupid questions to yourself (and be assured, she has heard them all before) or just smile politely and move on.

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Saturday, April 18, 2015

One Big Reason

I always knew I wanted to get married and have a family.  I remember as early as 12-13 mapping out my family life.  I was going to find Mr Reason, get married and have 3-4 children, at least!

When I left school, I went to work in the family business.  My parents owned restaurants.  I had worked in them since I was 15.

In mid 1998, they opened their 2nd restaurant.  I worked mainly nights, which I loved.  Just before the restaurant opened, Brett moved into a house with a couple of mates only a street away.   They would come down for coffee, and sometimes dinner on a regular basis.  During the next few months we got to know each other and we found we had a lot in common.  Brett tried a number of times to "woo" me, to which I was a little stand off-ish.  I had a boyfriend, and Brett was also a customer.

A few months later, I broke up with my boyfriend.  Brett knew this.  I started finding things on my car window when I would finish a late shift.  I would find chocolates, flowers and little notes on my windscreen as I came out to my car at 1am.  Brett tells me now, that he remembers saying to his mate, the very first night we spoke, that "I am going to marry her one day!"

In May 1999, I was driving to my little granny flat after finishing another late shift.  I had to drive past Brett's house to get home.  No really, I did!  This particular night, he was out the front of his house, saying goodbye to some mates.  His cat ran out in front of my car and I stopped.

We talked for over an hour.

In the middle of the street.

With my car still running, door wide open.

I invited him over for dinner and a movie the following weekend.  It was something I did with my friends all the time.  We would have dinner and crash in my lounge room.

This particular night was "The Goonies".

I remember thinking that it just felt right.  We just clicked.  I was 18.  Brett was 25.

But I was still in denial.  We were just friends.  I wasn't over my boyfriend.

In June, both of our leases were up.   Brett wanted to move out of his mates house, and I was after something bigger - my place was a shoebox.

I am not sure who suggested it, but we found a cute little house a couple of streets away.  It was only $10 more on rent each than what we were paying, but was 3x as big.

We moved in as "flat mates".  We had separate rooms, came and went as we were single.  But, really, it was more than that.  He continued to "woo" me.  We had dinner together on the nights we both weren't working.  He would cook me breakfast.  He would bring me home flowers.

I remember thinking about why I thought it wasn't real.  It couldn't be real.  He was perfect in every way.  Then why was I in denial?

We had a conversation together one night, and I kept saying that I wasn't sure whether to listen to my heart or my head.  In my heart, I had already fallen in love, but in my head, I was scared that it couldn't be this easy.  My head was telling me to be careful not to get hurt.

I remember the exact moment it hit me.  I worked a morning shift and he was working the night shift at his work.  I came home that afternoon to find Brett had programmed the CD player to play Roxette's "Listen to your Heart" on repeat.   It hit me like a tonne of bricks.  He is my soul mate.  He is my world.  I wanted to be with him forever.

Brett came home from work that night, to find that I had moved all his clothes from his room into the walk-in-wardrobe in the main room.  I had made  it official.  We had "moved in" together.

How young and dorky are we!?
I was 19, Brett was almost 26 here.

In October 1999, he proposed.  It wasn't a romantic, sweep you off your feet kind of a thing.  It was us.  It was comfortable.  And I already knew it was coming.  I accidentally found the ring a few weeks before.  Apparently he was trying to find some over-the-top, epic movie, jaw dropping way to propose.  But in the end, he just knew that it didn't matter, and one quiet Sunday morning, after making me breakfast in bed, he knelt on the side of the bed and ask me to marry him.

11 months later, we married and bought a house.  Our life had begun.....

Friday, November 21, 2014

How to get the BEST Santa Photo!

Santa has already started making his appearance in shopping centres around the country.  In Christmases past, I have been a photographer at one of the busiest Santa sets in SE QLD.  This means I have seen it all.

From over the top outfits, to spur of the moment photos.  Adult children having a photo to give to their parents, to mates having a laugh and workmates celebrating the holidays.

I love Santa photos.  For many reasons.  The main reason is it is a Tradition.  And you all know what I am like with traditions.

We have a "Santa" album exclusive for the Santa photos.

I have seen more tears and tantrums that you could imagine, but it doesn't have to be that way. 

Here are my tips to getting a picture perfect Santa photo!

1:  Prepare, prepare and prepare some more.  Some little children are not fond of Santa.  If I had a dollar for every parent that says "Well, we have taught them to not talk to strangers".  ::sigh::  Santa doesn't have to be a stranger.  At our set, we welcome children and parents to visit as many times as they like.  As soon as the silly season starts, everytime you walk past Santa, go in for a visit.

2003 - 21st December - Hayden's "First" Christmas photo - on his 1st birthday.
We were still in hospital on Christmas day for his "real" first Christmas!

One year, Joshua was quite frightened.  We walked past a number of times and he wouldn't have a bar of it.  Finally, after a few "over the fence" high fives with Santa, he decided he wanted to line up for a visit.  When it was our turn, he walked in, turned around and walked straight back out again.  The next time, he was happy enough to approach Santa, give him a highfive.  The next time, a hand shake.  A few more times and we got a wonderful photo.

Don't give up.

2:  Do NOT make it a negative experience.  DO NOT under ANY circumstances force your child onto Santa.  Be prepared for your child to not like it.  Don't get disheartened or angry at your child because they don't want to do it.  It breaks my heart when I start hearing parents telling their child off for not siting with Santa, and it makes me very angry when they are smacking or abusing their child in front of me.  Try again another time.
3:  Make sure you choose the best time for your child.  It's a no-brainer to not go when your child is due for a nap or is in a bad mood.

4:  Take your time.  If you feel like you are being rushed by the set staff, ask politely if there is a quiet time that they recommend to come back.  During peak periods you obviously won't have the luxury of being able to ease your child in.  Even our very busy set has down times.  Come back when the staff have plenty of time to play and talk to your child to get them comfortable.

2008 - 23rd December (Oliver 4 days old!)

2008 - 14th December

5:  Suggest a different pose.  For some children, they are happy to sit in the chair without Santa.  At our set, I would suggest a "hide" photo.  We get the children to close their eyes (or distract them with toys) while Santa disappears.  They are then free to sit in Santa's chair while we take the photo.  They have no idea that Santa is actually "Peeking" from behind the chair on cue for the photo.    Some children are frightened of siting in his knee - so suggest they stand next to Santa, or maybe they would prefer to sit on the floor at Santa's feet.  As the staff if they have any suggestions suitable for their set.

6: Make it a family photo.  If you still haven't been able to manage to get one with the kids on their own, I suggest you frock up and have a lovely family photo.  Make it your tradition every year.  :)


7:  Go for a "Dump and Snap".  Sometimes, the ones with a crying baby are part of the "tradition".  If you are really set on getting a photo, but your child is not, ask the photographer to be ready... dump your child... snap a photo and quickly pick them up.  Be happy with whatever the photo looks like.  Crying?  Screaming?  Mid-air jumping off Santa?  Line them up in your album and remember how much they protested that year.  That said, know when to draw the line.  Don't make it terrifying.  A tear or a scream is one thing, but having a child shaking in absolute terror is not something you want to remember (or will they!)

8:  Finally - and my most passionate point is to remember that it is ONLY a Santa photo.  If after a few weeks of visits and high-fives and test runs your child is still totally terrified, please please do not force them.  It just isn't worth it.  It is just a Santa photo!

Do you get Santa photos?  How do you prep your Children?

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