THE MAGIC WAND

Have you watched ‘Bluey’? It’s our favourite animated children’s Australian TV series.

The main characters are Bluey, a six-year-old Blue Heeler puppy and her sister Bingo, a four-year-old Red Heeler puppy. Together, they go on adventures through their imaginative role-playing. The parents, Chilli and Bandit, often engage the pups in their games, supporting and encouraging their curiosity at the world surrounding them.

The show focuses on the importance of play-based learning, constructive positive parenting and emotional validation. It realistically depicts the modern-day nuclear family, with both parents working, sharing the housework and child rearing. There is no gender typecasting or parenting role stereotyping. The father is emotionally intelligent and portrayed as a positive father figure.

There is a great deal of resembalance between Bandit and my husband – in character not appearance! He is Bandit minus the Australian twang and goofiness. He has patience in spades, dives into role-playing with ease, and has the right balance of discipline and love. He’s funny, smart and a very hands on co-parent. He’s a great dad.

Bluey gives my children, Mandy (7 y.o.) and Henry (3 y.o.) lots of ideas to incorporate into their own imaginative role-plays. One episode in particular, called The Magic Xylophone, involving a xylophone that has the ability to freeze the dad, was inspiration for an ongoing game in our house.

Like the magic xylophone, the children have a special magic ‘wand’ that can freeze people. Saying the word ‘magic’ has the power to freeze and unfreeze. My husband takes his role-playing very seriously, never ever breaking from character… under any circumstances. It’s funny to a point. And then, it gets incredibly annoying. Especially, if the children refuse to unfreeze him and only they have the ability to wield this magic wand.

I could be talking to him about an important matter and the minute he is frozen, not even the seriousness of the conversation will make him respond. I could be needing a fresh towel and be stuck cold in the bathroom, and he would not break character to save me from catching pneumonia. Absolutely NOTHING will break him from character unless it’s the magic wand. It has gotten so annoying, that now I hide the wand and pretend it’s lost. Until the children find my hiding spot, wreak a bit of wand havoc and then it’s conveniently lost again.

Recently, I was on the phone with a medical receptionist, trying to organise the family’s influenza vaccinations. I had been quite anxious about getting an appointment and organising our injections to be performed in the medical clinic’s car park to avoid COVID-19 exposure. With the phone to my ear, I glanced over to my husband and asked if the available appointment worked with his schedule. To my horror, my three-year-old had located the wand. With a wave of his hand, an excited squeal, Henry uttered the five-letter word that I’ve come to despise. MAGIC! In a jiffy, my husband was frozen.

“Henry, unmagic your dad.”

Giggles. Giggles. More giggles. Two unrelenting kids. A frozen dad. No answer to my VERY important question.

“HENRY! Unmagic your dad.”

“Gary! Can you make the appointment or not? GARY!!”

All the while, the medical receptionist was huffing and puffing in my ear. She was talking of stock shortages, lack of appointments and pressured me to make a decision. If you can, imagine me with steam coming from my ears and nose. I lost my cool.

For the first time, my husband broke character and responded. I got my answer and made the appointment but at what cost? I broke the magic. I diluted the power of the wand. I destroyed their game of make-believe. The kids were mighty upset with me.

This was a game that brought two fighting siblings together, nurtured creativity and imagination, helped them share and co-operate and supported their emotional and social development. The magic wand was a powerful tool of learning. I had to fix the problem that I had created. I thought to myself “What would Chilli do?”

The next day, as I was sweeping the floor, Henry walked past with his magic wand. He pointed the wand in my direction and said MAGIC! I froze and to my delight, Henry yelled out to his sister “Mandy! Mandy, come quick! I froze Mummy.” Something that has never happened before. We ended up playing Magic Wand until we couldn’t keep the laughter in anymore.

“The magic is back!” I heard my three-year-old whisper to his sister.

I finished sweeping with a huge smile on my face. Who knew I’d be happy to hear that word again?!

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SUMMER SLEEP CYCLE

Every summer school holiday (six weeks – a week before Christmas to the end of January), I dream of sitting on a secluded island, surrounded by waitstaff topping up my fruity mimosas and hand feeding me grapes. I laze around a pool (no sand), food belly (not just my fat belly) protruding from underneath my tankini and reading steamy historical romances on my kindle (stop judging!). Not a care in the world. Not a soul (besides the discreet staff) to see me at my worst.

In reality, I am the full-time carer of two wayward children that constantly bicker over nonsense and defer to violence at the drop of a hat. My husband likes to comment that if he was the stay-at-home parent, he would treat parenting like a job. He would have a schedule. He would have activities. He would go for walks to nearby parks. He would have the kids preoccupied, therefore reducing the chances of fighting. The implication here is that he would have these children under some semblance of control. Insert a loud sigh. I really hope my poor deluded husband gets to test his theory one of these days – and soon.

Last I remember, having a job meant getting paid real money, enjoying hot coffees, eating uninterrupted lunch with both hands, clocking on and off, and not rushing through potty time to break up arguments. You actually have a moment to yourself. To breathe. To think. To relax.

The debate of who has it harder – the stay-at-home parent or the full-time parent – sometimes surfaces during school holidays. We are different in many ways; parenting styles, approaches to discipline and play, personal strengths and weaknesses. But regardless of our differences, we understand and respect the other person’s contribution to the family unit.

The summer school holiday just past was brutal, more so than usual. Due to the ongoing bushfires raging in many parts of Victoria (Australia), there were days where the air quality was hazardous, and we were stuck indoors. There were days of extreme hot weather, leading to three perspiring bodies laying prone in front of an overworked and underfiltered air-conditioner. The emergence of Coronavirus meant I was wary of taking the children to public places like shopping or play centres. Uncle TV came out to watch the kids now and then but the side effects of square eyes and delayed meltdown was not a worthwhile trade-off, so I avoided using this form of babysitting where possible. And there was only so much art and crafts that we could handle.

Ultimately, we suffered from cabin fever from being inside, sleep deprivation from the heat and the dreaded boredom. We were all a bit tetchy by the end of school break.

Like Tom Jones says “It’s not unusual.” It happens EVERY year. It’s nothing new. You would think I’d have my act together by now. You would think I’d have action plans in place. But every year there are add-ons, creating new challenges that throw out any expectations.

This year’s add-ons included late nights from visitors, daylight savings, transitioning our three-year-old from cot to bed, and overnight potty training. There were midnight requests “Mummy, can you do me a favour and hold my hand?” “Mummy, can you cuddle me? I’m scared.” There were early morning visits to the loo and problems with resettling. There were many potty accidents (the carpets will never be the same). These add-ons further impacted on everyone’s quality of sleep and made the summer school holidays infinitely harder.

Recently, a friend commented on how she loves school holidays and spending time with her son, and that she misses him when he goes back to school (how sweet!). I could only nod in parental unity and mask my face with understanding. But in all honesty, after sending my children back to school, I did my jazzy happy dance, waved my arms in the air like I just didn’t care and screamed… I’m freeeeee!!!!

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THIN LINES OF LOVE AND HATE

Cackling laughter erupts from afar
Loud, boisterous and carefree
Warming my soul and bringing a smile
I’m heartened by the sounds of child’s play
Not but a moment later
A woeful wail ensues
Stomp, thud and slam
A shrill cry pierces the air
My temporary peace shattered
Mummy! Mummy! Mum!
Sibling love and rivalry
Adds another wrinkle
To this worn mother’s frown

School holidays are a test for every parent’s patience. Let’s hope our sanity is kept intact long enough to send these squirts back to school!

 

Copyright © 2020, KN J Tales and Snippets. All rights reserved.

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