Father’s Day

To my Husband,

Today is father’s day, and in a lot of ways it will be a day just like any other. You will be woken too early by the wild enthusiasm of a toddler, you will be asked to find Lego pieces as though life depends on it and your baby girl will coo at you in the voice she’s just beginning to find.

This day may not feel different, but I want to tell you why this day, and all the others that you’re in our lives, is exceptional.

Our boys watch you, more than you know. They watch your dedication to your work, they watch you do the dishes and see you dance with me in the kitchen. They see you choose kindness even when you’re angry, and patience even when you feel frayed. Those moments when you make them the centre of your world? That builds them up. The games when they laugh so much they need to catch their breath? That’s more precious than any toy they could own. They’re learning how to be men from every day they spend with you.

Your actions teach them in ways words never could.

Sometimes they act up for you. They shout too loud, they dig their heels in, they argue just because. I know that feels heavy at times, so I want to remind you something. To those two little boys the world seems enormous. There is so much they don’t understand, so much they can’t control. They’re strong boys, your sons, just like their Dad, and they can’t always find a place for their strength in that big world just yet. So they turn to you and they let it out like a breath they’ve been holding. Because you’re their safe place, Daddy, and knowing that you’ll love them no matter what gives them wings.

A lot of things might feel unremarkable now, but those moments are making something. The back scratches before bed, the games of monster trucks on the living room floor and the cuddles that scare away bad dreams. You’re weaving them a childhood from those moments, and that’s remarkable indeed.

They’ll grow up to be men one day and pass on traditions you didn’t even know you shared with them. They’ll tell their children jokes you told them in passing, and remember stories you made up that made them laugh. They’ll remember how comforting your hugs felt, and be determined to give their children the same.

They’re learning family from you.

Your daughter is little now, only eight weeks old. She knows you as warm arms, the gentle smell of cologne and a prickly beard. She knows your smile and funny faces and is just beginning to realize what “Daddy” means. Before you know it her head wont fit in your palm quite so easily and her hand wont wrap so neatly around one finger. Her laugh will be louder, her smile toothy and she’ll run at you like a cyclone when you get home of an afternoon, just like her brothers, her face lighting up just like theirs do.

Yes, in a lot of ways today will feel normal, but I want you to know that fatherhood is anything but. Thank you for giving our kids ‘Daddy’.

You are loved.

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Outtakes

We all have nutty days, and I like to photograph them.

I’ve always taken more photos on the days that feel like chaos – in the quiet moments, in the laughing moments, the moments in between the utterly normal madness of family life.

In the evening I can sit down and look back on the day that just exhausted me, and I don’t see the tantrum over the broken stick or the kids arguing in the car, I don’t hear “he LOOKED at me!!” or two boys in mad debate about who got into the garage first… I see the joy. It’s always there. There’s always so much happiness in between the moments that drive us mad on those days. There’s always giggles between the whinging, always delight between the cranky faces. There are adventures of huge dogs or lizards eating apple by the beach, there are sand castles and hermit crabs to find and sunshine that could melt winter.

Those are the highlights and they look so good in photographs.

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Then again… what about the rest?

We always laugh at outtakes don’t we? But we often forget to laugh at our own outtake moments, the ones that don’t quite make the cut. Admittedly it’s not always funny at the time when you’re asking your toddler not to lick his shoe, or being given an extensive booger collection. It doesn’t always make you smile when your child can’t possibly poo in a public toilet because it’s not sparkly enough, or when your shopping trolley keeps going missing when you turn around, but later… I think I’m going to start capturing some of those moments too.

You see I didn’t really appreciate our outtakes today. I was tired, and they didn’t feel funny then. But tonight I went through photos and I found this one…

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It summed up today perfectly.

I think I’ve been missing a lot on these nutty days. I’ve wanted to capture the good bits to make memories, forgetting that the best memories are loud and colourful and feel a bit like madness at the time. The chaos of these days is as fleeting as the cuteness, and maybe I’ll appreciate it a little more if I mix up my highlights with the outtakes.

Because honestly, you can’t help but laugh can you?

The gift of misplaced words

To my Son,

You gave me a gift today, little one, and I almost didn’t notice.

We had been grocery shopping, a necessity despite you not being yourself due to a headcold… or the wind… or your teeth coming through… or maybe just getting up on the wrong side of the bed.

And I asked you to be good and to focus at a time when those ideas made as much sense to you as saving fish from drowning. So you tried, with your mind elsewhere and your hands all over your brother who was NOT in the mood to be your human stress ball. I asked you calmly to give him space, once, twice, probably five or six times before I announced the loss of a privilege for not listening. I’d handled all this pretty well so far, I was calm and in control and explained things peacefully enough for you to completely ignore.

Then you lost it, and so did I.

We all have challenges, and one of yours is magnifying life’s stresses when you’re not at your best. So this loss of privilege, which really wasn’t so bad, seemed ENORMOUS to you in that moment. You melted down, and as you did you said some really awful things.

I should be used to your use of words as weapons, and remember how quickly they fall when the moment passes. I should remember that your attempts to hurt with them just mean that you’re hurting and you need to get it outside of you as quickly as you can to lessen the burn.

But we all have challenges, and one of mine is taking what is said at face value. So I got hurt along with you. I got loud along with you. And as you fought to get all your anger out I fought right on back. Not in the same way, of course, and to an outsider I probably handled it just fine… but the truth was I lost myself in those words of yours, and that wasn’t fine at all.

We drove home with both of us fuming and not much talking going on. After a while calm returned and we talked about the reasons why what you said wasn’t ok. That was true, it wasn’t, but neither was my response.

Most of us go around as adults thinking we’re doing pretty alright. We learn to play to our strengths and push our weaknesses aside or justify them. We make beautiful masks to wear for the world and they hide a myriad of faults.

And you, little boy, are particularly skilled at making my mask slip.

Taking words at face value is fine, it’s not a fault as such, but it misses a LOT. A lot that you deserve and that I do too. It reaches to other relationships and to my marriage. Responding to someone losing their cool and over reacting by losing my cool and over reacting… well, that doesn’t work.

Your gift to me today was reminding me of something I could do better. Reminding me that sad doesn’t always have tears, and hurt doesn’t always shrink back. Reminding me that small things to me can be huge things to someone else, and that grown up concepts and instructions sometimes don’t fit little people whose minds are in the clouds that day. You showed me that anger is not always about the one who receives it, but sometimes about just getting something out before it hurts you more, and that a moment and a deep breath can change everything.

I snuggled you in bed shortly before you went to sleep tonight and we talked about today. I reminded you that just as Dad and I talk to you about things you could do better you have every right to do the same to us, because we’re all learning no matter how old we are. I acknowledged your feelings from earlier than you’d hidden behind your anger, and asked you how I could have handled it better. I reminded you that just as you owe others respect they absolutely owe it right back. Your lip trembled as you told me how I could have handled it better, and I promised you I would try my hardest next time.

Growing up isn’t easy, and the truth is we never really stop. We will get it right together so much of the time and we will get it wrong an awful lot too. It’s all part of pulling off the mask I guess. And each time we’ll get to know ourselves a little more, become more patient, more kind, more humbled by this huge life thing we’re doing together. It’s just about being honest, really, and the trust that goes with it.

So thank you for your gift of misplaced words today little one, they made my mask slip perfectly.

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Copyright Nirvana Dawson 2013

I’ve never been one for love letters…

My Husband…

I’ve never been one for love letters. Perhaps my heart is a little too big to wear on my sleeve, or the words fall over eachother clumsily when I try to bring them together. When I try to say ‘I love you’ with all the words it deserves.

But as time passes I realize that those three words can’t possibly contain it all, and that they tumble from me so often they blur into the other words that make up our days. They become like habit, comfortable and reliable, but not all they should be.

The truth is that life gets busy. It gets so busy at times that it steals whole days sometimes before we get a chance to really see eachother. We see the mess to clean up, the squealing kids, the work to be done. We talk about all the have tos and need tos but the wants… they hang there unsaid, stolen by all the stuff that distracts us and we forget how much we ache for them.

Sometimes I watch you when you don’t realize it. When you’re focused on work or when laughter escapes your lips. I drink in all the intricacies that make you who you are and I allow myself that moment to fall in love a little more. Sometimes it feels like a warmth bubbling up in my chest, other times like a comfort, a safe place to land.

The I love yours in marriage become mixed over time, and you realize now and then that the thoughtful moments say it as much as words. That the gestures and touches and private jokes blend in with the hard work to make this family whole and it becomes a bit of a tapestry together. It’s quite beautiful really, the dance we do getting through the every day, each move so essential to the other.

Thank you for the soft place to rest my head when I lay in your arms, thank you for the tingles when you kiss me, for taking out the trash when it’s too cold outside, for the way you rest your hand on the small of my back when we walk up hills to give me a boost. Thank you for making a space where I can be raw and honest, angry, passionate, crazy or sad and still seeing the beautiful in me.

I’ve never been one for love letters, but every day is my I love you.

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Copyright Nirvana Dawson 2013

Jellybeans

There are many “wow” moments in parenthood. Sometimes they’re big ones, other times they’re beautiful bits of daily life that make you fall in love with your family just that little bit more. I had one the other day, and it was all over a packet of jellybeans.

Bodhi had been obsessed with jellybeans for a while. Obsessed in a way that a five year old does so well, with every supermarket trip spent running to the candy aisle and gazing at these mysterious sweets that he had never tasted but frequently imagined. He wanted those jellybeans with every fibre of his little being. 

Sweets are something we do very rarely, so I tried – and failed – to distract him. He asked about jellybeans several times a week, even telling me that he was dreaming about them and imagining holding them in his hand. 

Last week I found some vegan jellybeans – unhealthy enough to be sweet and colourful, but healthy enough to be free of anything artificial. He jumped up and down and cheered when I bought them, but waited patiently until a ‘junk food day’ before he could have them. 

On Monday, my wide-eyed little boy got his jellybeans. He flung himself into my arms bubbling with professions of love and clutched that packet with everything he had. His hands practically shook as he tasted the first one. His eyes closed and he sighed – they were “perfect”.

Then my boy gave me one of those wow moments.

In between savoring his jelly beans he came over to pop a few in my hand, then ran to the other side of the house to give some to daddy. Sebastian had been given four or five, and Bodhi the rest of the pile, but instead of eating his long awaited stash he looked at his brothers high chair tray with those few colourful beans and then at his own pile.

“No, that’s not fair, is it?” he said, then gathered up a handful of his precious sweets, placed them in front of his brother, and sat stroking Sebastian’s hair while he excitedly ate, saying “Here you go brother. You deserve good things.”

 After all his giving, Bodhi ended up with around a quarter of his jellybeans left. And he didn’t care. Not one bit.

After their treat Bodhi sat in the doorway to his room with Sebastian curled up on his lap, head over his heart, chubby toddler arms wrapped around his big brother.

This was my wow. Because it’s in these little moments that he shows me ‘him’. In these moments, while I still have the privilege of knowing him better than the world does I get to see who he is, and I love him all the more. 

I am blessed to have so many wows. Some are like this. Some happen at the dining room table when he announces “Every woman in the world is beautiful when she has heart love.”, or when my husband and I are grumpy at eachother and he walks up to his Dad with the courage of a lion and sticks up for his mum (even when I was probably at fault ;). Some are wows because we help eachother come back to the best of us at the times when we’re frustrated or angry or upset. Some are wows of beauty, others of rawness and trust.

Some push me, some catch me: all humble me.

Thank you jellybeans, you brought sweetness with you.

 

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Copyright Nirvana Dawson 2013

 

Things that shouldn’t raise eyebrows

My son hugged a boy at the playground the other day. He had been playing with him for all of five minutes and he swung him in the air, arms around him and exclaimed “You’re so hansome, I’m going to marry you one day!”

Now I should clarify that my son’s list of future spouses is extensive. He has proposed to more people than I can remember, from old ladies to babies, hippies with flowing hair to rough brickies with impressive beards, so this boy who played a game of dinosaur attack so very well was unremarkable in his proposal.

But I still turned around to several parents with their eyebrows raised. Mine were a little too. And I’m disappointed in that, just as I’m disappointed in myself for whispering that it might be best not to propose to boys for a while, at least unless he was certain he actually wanted to marry one.

I’m disappointed because my reaction was quite normal. And that’s a problem.

We have talked about love. We have talked about the kinds that exist between family, between friends, between pets, and between spouses. We have talked about why he cannot, even if he very much wants to, marry me. We have talked about falling in love and marriage, and different points of views on all of it, and my son, like the rest of our family, firmly believes in equality. To him the idea of certain types of love being considered less valid just because of gender is madness. And I’m proud of that. I’m proud that my five year old can grasp marriage equality better than a lot of politicians.

So I really should have applauded that impromptu proposal. But the raised eyebrows got me, and it’s occurred to me that that’s a bigger battle than the one being fought for those legal rights.

The more that we teach our kids to “accept” it, the more than we unwittingly make it strange. The more that we clarify it, the more that we isolate it. Love should be love, it really should. Our kids don’t need a commentary from us on what makes up the majority, they need the diversity we preach to become organic, because most of the time it is to them. It’s us that make it ‘strange’, even without meaning to.

Who my kids grow up to love will come from who they are, not from an innocent game at a park or playing with makeup, and I will be just as proud of that love no matter what form it takes. But it is my reaction, and yours, and everyone else’s that witnesses these little moments, that can keep it innocent.

The greatest steps towards equality don’t just happen in a courtroom, they happen in the home. They happen when our little girls can go play with trucks wearing boy clothes without a second thought, and our boys can paint their nails because they think it looks funky, without anyone looking at them as though it’s out of place. Its when we don’t bat an eyelid at little girls giggling and announcing they’re engaged any more than we would if it were a girl and a boy. Childhood games will not make them gay any more than they will make them straight. But our acceptance, our lightness about love, will help to raise a generation where equality doesn’t need to be fought for, it will be as normal as kids playing dinosaurs in the park.

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Meaningful conversations that aren’t

They say to avoid talking about religion, sex or politics. I intend to talk about all three. But not yet, not quite. I’ll just talk about God from the point of view of my four year old.

The other day a nun crossed the road in front of our car.

“Who’s that lady?” Bodhi asked.

“She’s a nun. She’s someone who has dedicated her life to God.”

“Oh.” He said, sounding thoughtful. “Mum, is God real?”

When he asks if things are real I generally turn it back on him. I enjoy listening to him hypothesize the existence of mythical creatures or lecture me on his flights of fancy. But this time I didn’t.

“People believe different things about God.” I said. “Some people believe that God is a man sitting in Heaven and other people believe there’s no God at all. You can decide what you believe as you learn and grow, but I believe that God is real. I believe that God is a word some people use to describe that big kind of love you feel inside you, or that feeling of being protected and safe, and looking around and seeing how everything is connected.”

There was a long pause. “So, God’s inside me?”

“Yes bub, God’s the love in your heart.”

Another pause, then a very loud shout “GET OUT OF ME GOD!! HOW DID YOU GET IN THERE?? THAT’S DISGUSTING!!!!!” *random beating of chest was heard from the back of the car*

In the end he decided God could stay there after all. And that he’d quite like to pray… for the world’s most enormous banana.

I think it’s safe to say that the point was nicely missed!

DO Love

I usually have someone in my life who breaks my heart a little bit. Their identity changes, and isn’t really important. What’s important is what they teach me.

Sometimes it’s one who walks away from me rather than toward me when I’m crying. Other times it’s one who cannot seem to find ten minutes to look at a photo I’ve taken or something precious I’ve created – a gesture that would mean the world. Then there’s one who talks over my tales and walks out of the room as I bubble with excitement of what I want to tell them. Or the one who scoffs at emotions they don’t share.

These someones say “I love you” often. They make this sound, this word, ‘love’ a habitual noise, a jumble of the alphabet, whenever they see me.

They say love, in these moments, they don’t DO it.

For all of us, at some time or another, our love for others becomes about our own comfort, rather than theirs. Our self esteem is linked to this love because it defines us “I’m a loving person” we tell ourselves “look what I do for them.” Maybe a lot. But when it’s about us rather than them, it’s self love, so lets not kid ourselves. It’s like buying your very favourite peanut butter for someone with a nut allergy. It’s not what they want, it’s us going through the motions for our own benefit.

“I love you” shouldn’t be a habit, it should be a promise – a promise to stretch yourself to be there for the other person as they want or need you.

Stretching for love feels good, it grows your heart and mind.

Doing love is different for everyone. It might mean taking five minutes to put on fresh clothes and some lipgloss before your husband gets home, and taking that moment in the frenzy of witching hour with the kids to take a breath when he walks in the door, to smile at him like you see him, wrap your arms around his neck and linger with a kiss even if you’re distracted by the pot on the stove.

It might be asking, rather than assuming, what your friend or partner wants to do with your time together.

It might be listening, really listening.

It might be trying to read your lovers face and moods without words, to become their own intuitive.

Maybe it’s just really taking notice of the ceaseless chatter that is so important to your child. Maybe it’s saying “yes” in place of “I’m busy” when they come to you with wide eyes and open hearts.

It might be listening to a song with someone you love, to feel how the music talks to their soul.

Maybe it’s digging your heels in and staying grounded in moments your head is in the clouds, because your I love you can be the gift of your absolute presence.

It’s keeping ‘love’ as a verb, as it should be.

I used to believe the saying “Just because someone doesn’t love you the way you want them to doesn’t mean they don’t love you with all they have”. In a way it’s true, but it forgets something – everyone, every single one of us makes a choice in every moment. Every one of us is capable of more.

So today, I’m going to make mistakes, I’m not going to get everything right, but I’m going to DO love. With every cell of my being I’m going to stretch myself for my family. I’m going to listen to those Lego tales, marvel at drawings, mirror the excitement in my babies eyes as he finds a particularly exciting leaf.

And I’m going to take this gift those someones have given me that I called disappointment and turn it into something beautiful – an ‘I love you’ that I say with my actions.

Twenty-five things…

One day, several months ago, I was having a hard day. Thanks to the absence of sleep, a cold and two sick, whinging kids I felt deflated. And to top it off I felt guilty for feeling deflated, like I should have found the silver lining by now.

That day a friend posted a link on facebook, this link http://momastery.com/blog/2012/01/04/2011-lesson-2-dont-carpe-diem/

I read it and I cried because it was so what I needed to read at that moment. Glennon Melton, who writes the momastery blog has started a love revolution, she has inspired many people and created miracles for many others.  In her very first post titled “Twenty-five things you don’t have time to read” she showed great courage in her complete honesty. She laid herself bare.

In this post I do a little of the same, and share a bit about who I am, who I’m not, and who I’d love to be…

Here are my twenty-five things

1. We have chosen to Homeschool our children. I believe in this with every fibre of my being. I buzz with anticipation for the adventure ahead. I look forward to the joys and the challenges. I also have frequent flashes of self-questioning, of hoping I will do it well enough, of doubts and uncertainties. I appreciate them – they keep me on my toes.

2. In the majority of photos taken of me my unattractive twin jumps in front of the lense and works her most awkward facial expressions. So much so that when I see a good photo of me I become quite excited. I have been known to squeal.

3. I love to meditate, but stilling my mind when I do so is as difficult as holding onto a greased eel. I hear that the eel gets less slippery the more often you hold it.

4. I refuse to believe in a truth that does not allow questioning. I believe that truth can only become stronger by questioning, by wondering, by exploring all its angles and intricacies.

5. I love, really really love, to dance. Sometimes I dance down supermarket aisles when I think I’m alone. I’m usually not.

6. I despise coriander.

7. I crave travel. Its absence leaves an ache in me, a delicious thrum of anticipation that makes me want it even more. But for now I’m staying put while we build our family, and that’s ok. I keep planning and dreaming – it’s like foreplay for the journey to come. The next time I step off a plane somewhere strange and wonderful all my senses will be heightened from the wait.

8. I am loud. Oh how I’d love to be perpetually zen, but I’m not. My peaceful parenting is occasionally interrupted by the sound of me losing my shit. Thankfully my son isn’t bothered, because he’s louder.

9. I expected falling in love to be like a flash of heat, like being swallowed up by unquestioning certainty. I expected the “this is it” to knock me off my proverbial feet and take my breath away.

But it wasn’t. It was like stepping into the sun and the warmth slowly filling me from the inside out. It didn’t knock me off my feet but put me more solidly on them…. And the breath I expected to be taken away I found had actually become in synch with someone else walking in the same direction. So I could breathe deeper, and step stronger knowing I wasn’t walking alone.

10. I started asking for a pet giraffe for Christmas when i was five. Disappointingly enough I still haven’t received one.

11. I have never smoked, never taken drugs and only had a few drinks in my life. This is mainly because I enjoy mental clarity and have little interest in reducing mine. It’s also because I have very few inhibitions even when sober so I would be an extremely embarrassing drunk.

12. I once pole danced in a bar in Thailand. Sober. See the inhibitions comment in #11.

13. I am deeply grateful for everyone in my life, now or in the past. I’m thankful for the ones I’ve loved, lost, laughed with and cried over. I have learnt more from them than any self-help book I could have read.

14. I get nervous about making phone calls – pretty much every freakin’ time.

15. This poem by Ralph Waldo Emerson once changed the direction of my life:

To laugh often and much;
To win the respect of intelligent people
and the affection of children;
To earn the appreciation of honest critics
and endure the betrayal of false friends;
To appreciate beauty, to find the best in others;
To leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child,
a garden patch or a redeemed social condition;
To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived.
This is to have succeeded.

16. I was single for years before I met my husband. I had decided not to waste my time with a man who did not want the same things as I did. But then I got so comfortable in my own company, so safe in my own existence that I almost walked away as soon as I felt something. I’m grateful for those who cared enough to push me to take a chance.

17. I have fire walked.

18. I’m in love with Venice. The crumbling grandeur, the reflections in the canals, the narrow calle choked with bustling tourists and the way they become a haunting maze without them. The city is poetry and it will be forever in my blood.

19. I find intellectual conversations a turn on.

20. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve responded to “Hello” with “Good thanks, you?”

21. I love to read. I get addicted to the words and everything falls away, even sleep.

22. If I could I would quite possibly marry ice-cream.

23. My older son knows how to push all my buttons. He drives me mad. He’s absolutely awesome.

24. One day I will finish my novels. Until then the characters are growing, changing and evolving, taking on a little of the people I meet along the way, a lot of the wisdom I gain as I grow, and a delicious sprinkling of the crazy that motherhood brings.

25. I swear too much. I wish I didn’t, but I fucking do.