THE POWER OF A NAG

Have you heard a child nag before? It’s the most annoying sound in the world, worse than any earworm song I’ve ever heard. It’s repetitive, going on and on like the wailing sound of a fire engine, but without an ounce of the melodious upbeat tempo. Seriously, you could put the sound of a child nagging on repeat and you’d have the perfect torture weapon.

Anyway, as a parent, the minute one of my children starts a nagging sesh, I get the dreads. You know the one I’m talking about? No? Well, let me explain. The dreads is like an evolutionary coping mechanism for parents. Think fight or flight response for when humans face danger, but instead it’s when parents face nagging children. The dreads activates a parent’s automatic coping mechanism whereby their mind and body goes into survival mode.

Parents in dread mode are easy to spot, their eyes tend to glaze over, some mumble incoherently to themselves, most shut down their auditory function. All these responses help fortify their mental shields to ward against exposure to sudden nag attacks. 

Undoubtedly, without this evolutionary behaviour, most parents would fall prey to the nagging wiles of their children. Unfortunately, the dreads brings about the onset of the ageing process. We literally age faster while suffering from a child’s nagging. 

Why am I harping on about this? Well, I recently fell victim to a nag attack, and feel an obligation to tell my story as a warning to would-be parents and parents alike of the dangers of giving into your child/ren. In this instance, I was blindsided by not one but two children nagging at a force of 10/10. No amount of defence or coping mechanism could protect me from that kind of onslaught, I caved faster than a house of cards. The result? I became a mother to three instead of two needy beings.

Yes, we’ve added another to our brood of four, a wee one my children have aptly named Mr Dave Hobart Turtle. One child wanted the name Dave while the other preferred Hobart. Neither were willing to compromise and so the poor turtle copped both names. I guess it’s a bit similar to hyphenated surnames, why keep to one when you could have two? 

Little Dave became our ward after suffering from neglect at the hands of my trigger-happy-retail-spending dad, who thought he could buy a couple of turtles to put into his fish tanks without doing any research on how to properly care for them. In the end, my dad relinquished his ownership when one of the turtles died and he realised turtles weren’t as easy to care for as fish. 

Despite initially being reluctant to have yet another thing to worry about, Dave has really grown on me. He’s been with us for two weeks now and every morning when he swims excitedly against the glass waiting for his food pellet, I can’t help but smile. I imagine he would say, ‘Good morning my lady, thank you for the lovely breakfast spread!’ You know, because he’s polite like that.

He was a bit skittish at first but now, Dave and I are like BFFs. We have a connection you see. Dave trusts me enough to eat right from my fingers. He will even let me rub his head – or at least that’s what I think I’m doing. Unlike a dog, it’s a bit hard to tell if I’m petting him or pushing his head down further into the water.

My husband thinks I’m crazy to think the turtle and I have bonded. My daughter, who was sick of me gloating about Dave letting me rub his head, decided to prove me wrong. Yesterday, she stuck her finger into the tank and shattered any illusion I had about special relationships. The dirty little bugger let her rub his head!

‘See Mummy, he just wants food. Doesn’t matter who puts their fingers in. You’re not special.’

Ah, Dave. I thought we had a thing. I thought we had a special bond, you and I. Remember the time I stuck my finger into your tank, and you came right up and sniffed it? Or that time you almost climbed on my hand? I thought we were BFFs!

Anyway, I still feed Dave every morning despite his betrayal. Now when I see him staring at me with his beady eyes, I imagine him being a bit more like my children. Instead of his polite aristocratic English accent, I imagine Dave nagging like my children, ‘Mummmmmmyyyy, I’m huunggggrrry! Where’s MY foood?’ I’ll bet it won’t be long before he reaches Pre-Teen Turtle age and starts rolling his eyes at me. I expect he will be turning his turtle back on me in no time. 

Back to my nagging point. It’s like children are pre-programmed with advanced psychological warfare techniques, primarily well-versed in the art of negotiation and harassment tactics. Can you imagine a world where children got what they wanted because they nagged their parents to death? A world where children won’t take no for an answer? It’ll lead to a generation of spoiled and entitled brats, who will grow into a bunch of spoiled and entitled adults, and the cycle will continue and doom Earth.

As a parent, I have a responsibility to curb the entitlement and mold these children into well-rounded and good human beings. Therefore, it is important they take accountability and responsibility for their pet turtle. This means being involved in the cleaning of Dave’s tank and feeding him (under my supervision). Have you seen turtle poo? It’s hard to believe a small turtle can drop such big whoppers. And the smell… bleugh, worse than bog water on a hot stinky day.

So without further ado, please welcome the newest addition to our family, Mr Dave Hobart Turtle. Let’s hope he survives the week under the care of my children.


Update 18/11/21: For those of you who are curious to see what a turtle poo looks like…

Spot the poop!

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MOTHER-IN-FLAWS

I’ll start off by saying this post is more of a rant than anything, so I apologise in advance for the unleashing of pent up emotions I’m about to heap on you.

It’s about my mother-in-law. I could probably just leave it at that and you’ll all be nodding your heads and expressing your commiseration. Well, those of you who have had or have one, and know of the pain.

I promised my children I would never end up like their grandmothers. I would not be overbearing, impose on their time and space, offer unsolicited advice, or suggest they should take up hobbies and activities just because I like them. My daughter told me it was bound to happen and that old people were silly and forgetful. I hope to prove her wrong!

I read somewhere that one in four daughters-in-law hate their mother-in-law, with half claiming to have difficult or uncomfortable relationships. Reasons for daughters-in-law resentment stemmed from their mother-in-law’s excessive maternal jealousy and asserting parenting dominance. From the looks of things, there are plenty of stories online about difficult, emotionally manipulative and outright batsh!t crazy mother-in-laws. You may even have one of those! Please do tell us in the comments section if you have a story or two.

I have always had a tedious relationship with my mother-in-law. We’ve never really gotten along. I’m too headstrong in my beliefs and parenting style, and I’m not afraid to voice my opinions. Similarly, my mother-in-law is stubborn, volatile and set in her ways. At times, it’s been a clash of wills between the two of us with surrounding family members becoming collateral damage.

Having children brought forth a multitude of tension to our already fraught relationship. As a new mother, I felt offended whenever my mother-in-law and my mother offered parenting advice, usually because it was often outdated and questioned my competence as a mother.

I raised so and so many children and they turned out fine. This is what we did when we had young children. Blah, blah, blah!

Can I just say, I hate it when people tell me how to parent based on their experiences, no matter how well-intentioned? Sure, your kids survived but it doesn’t mean you did a great job! My mother likes to remind me that I turned out ok, so her parenting must have been great. I turned out “ok” despite her parenting not because of it.

When my daughter was 2-years-old, tensions between my mother-in-law and I built to such extremes that we ended up in a major blow-up after she called my mother unintelligent. She was jealous my mother got to babysit while I worked a full-time job, and the two of them clashed whenever their time crossed paths. Being from different cultures and having a language barrier meant the two grandmothers could not find common ground. The blow-up caused a deeper rift in our relationship and I refused to have anything to do with her.

Several years later, the arrival of my son somewhat healed the relationship. We are now civil and respectful enough towards each other to make the relationship functional and comfortable for those around us and for her to have a meaningful relationship with the children. It’s thought that a poor relationship between grandparents and children-in-law results in a poorer relationship with grandchildren. I don’t want that for my children so I try, oh do I try.

However, every time they come to stay, I can’t help but feel anxious. I don’t like having my personal space invaded. Plus we have two bedrooms so our whole family squishes into one to cater for guests. Routines for the children are disrupted. Sometimes we have to host for their guests who come to visit them.

Next week, we will be breaking the rules to allow them to stay over. I relented despite feeling nervous about the consequences of being dobbed in by neighbours and fined. I can’t say no without looking like a b!tch because they’ve not seen the children since lockdown started in August.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t hate my mother-in-law. I just don’t relish spending time with her because I find the things she says and does grating on my nerves. My mother-in-law is a wonderful grandmother and is well-meaning. However, she is simply not a self-aware person. My mother-in-law repeats the same stories over and over, talks about people like we know them and care, is woefully ignorant, and occasionally racist. She also does what she wants and refuses to budge on anything once her mind is set.

For example, today I thought I’d be nice and offered to buy food for their stay and asked what dinners might suit them. My mother-in-law told me she wanted to cook a roast while she was with us. She insisted on paying and to avoid arguing over money, I suggested we buy the meat when they were in town. The supermarket is literally a 5 min walk, just up the road from us. But no, being stubborn, she insisted on buying the roast, freezing it, and then carting raw meat in an esky for a 7-hour drive instead. To say it set my teeth on edge is an understatement.

I can only pray for the Universe to give me the strength to hold my tongue and grant me an abundance of patience to get me through the next two weeks.

My husband says I can’t change people and there’s no use getting upset or annoyed. He says I need to look at this from a learning perspective. I’m not exactly sure what bulldust he’s been sniffing or what kind of learning he’s expecting of me, so I’m gonna have to throw a question into the ether.

Does anyone have suggestions on how to find their inner Zen while having their patience tested?

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I’M NOT HUNGRY ANYMORE!

There is an annoying trend happening in my household. I cook and no one eats. Sound familiar to anyone? 

Every Sunday, I meal plan and order my groceries online. Each week, like clockwork, I’ll ask the same question – what would you like to eat this week? The response from each member of the family never changes – I don’t know, whatever!

So each week, I waste brain cells coming up with exciting new dishes coupled with a few solid favourites for dinner. Honestly, I don’t know why I bother with trying to expand their palates! The results are always the same. 

“I don’t like this!”

“It smells yuck!”

“It looks yuck”

“I can’t eat this!”

Isn’t the definition of insanity doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results? I must be insane. 

The worst part is having to eat leftovers for days on end because I don’t want to throw out good food and waste money. 

You’re probably wondering if maybe my cooking isn’t up to par and that’s why people are refusing to eat it, right?

Well, let me assure you that I’m a decent cook. In fact, I’d go as far as to say I’d be in the running to win Masterchef… Junior, that is. As in, if I was competing against a bunch of talented 10-year-olds, I’d totally be in with a chance 😜

Sure, there are people who would spit their coffee reading my bold declaration. For instance, my brother would bitterly disagree and claim that eating my food gives him the sh&ts, literally. My mum would roll her eyes and tell me my food is as bland as baby mush. My children and husband might balk and tell you my meals are never the same and too “experimental.”

But maybe the problem isn’t my abilities or my creations. Maybe the problem lies with everyone else?

I’ll give you an example of what I’m talking about. Just a few days ago, I made a lemon meringue pie for the first time ever. My husband suggested I make use of the surplus of lemons given to us. Obviously everyone knows baking is an exact science and can’t be replicated without a recipe, so I found a highly rated recipe online and channelled my inner Nigella.

This is what it looked like. Pretty damn good if you ask me.

Lemon meringue pie

After making this beautiful creation, my husband told me he didn’t like lemon meringue pie. My 9-year-old daughter told me it tasted terrible, and my 4-year-old son stated he was allergic. I think he meant he was allergic to my food in general.

I offered some to my brother, but he texted “The pie looks mad [but] nah, I’m good. Too risky with diarrhoea.” My friends weren’t too keen to take any, stating diets and what not.

So what do you do when no one wants to taste test your food? You try it yourself. And guess what? I got diarrhoea. My brother was right to steer clear of my food.

While the pie looked amazing, its beauty was only skin deep. The shortcrust pastry was undercooked, the meringue tasted strange and the lemon curd was playing slippery buggers between the layers. I did a rush job and took the pie out too soon, fearing the meringue would burn.

My ratios were a bit off!

But in my defence, maybe the lemon meringue pie disaster was a once-off anomaly. Just a bad day in the kitchen is all. After all, even Gordon Ramsay experiences bloopers and cooking fails.

Last night, I made a beef massaman curry from scratch. No bottle stuff, no siree! I used kaffir lime leaves, cinnamon sticks and even tamarind paste. You know, like authentic Thai ingredients. 

This is what it looked like. Smelled as good as it looked, my friends!

Beef massaman

Anyway, the husband asked if I used lemongrass or kaffir limes, claiming the taste was overpowering. The 4-year-old claimed “grass limes” weren’t for him and refused to even try it. The 9-year-old asked if she had to eat it all to get dessert. It felt like another bust.

The husband tried to placate me saying that I should lower my expectations and not strive for perfection all the time. He suggested that I should view cooking as a journey to be explored and to think of these mishaps as a learning and practice experience. 

He wasn’t trying to sound condescending or critical, but after slaving in the kitchen for a few hours, I wanted to shove my boot up his clacker!

From where I stand (…in the kitchen), there can only be two solutions to this problem. One – be a stubborn mule and continue in hopes something will change. Two – accept that I’m no Gordon or Nigella, and I might be better choosing dishes to suit the palates of my family members, however unrefined those palates may seem.

Which one do you think I should choose?

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