Busytown by Jolisa Gracewood


Silence is golden (Talking: priceless)

My good name is being besmirched! Someone has been putting it about that I have been economical with the truth on the subject of parenthood. Let me unsmirch myself right here and now. All you have to do is 1) read back through the archive and 2) note my profound silences. It’s all there, folks, in black and white, and sometimes? In invisible.

I may not be blessed with the Worst Baby in Christchurch -- aim higher, li’l Bob, Worst in the South Island is yours for the taking -- but there have certainly been some not what you'd call best moments along the way. And of course I could have shared them with you, blow by messy blow. (No smacking, she adds hastily -- well, hardly any, and I usually had it coming).

But I often found myself too busy to work up those days, as in one-of-those-days, as in we-all-have-those-days-don't-we?, into handy anecdotal form. Too busy, y'know, thumping a cushion, or self-medicating with endless repeats of Ground Force, or floating just under the surface of the bathwater, yelling my submerged head off until it was safe to come out.

(You want war stories? I got 'em. I can joke about it now, feebly and wincing a little, but much of 2006 was rendered a complete blur by the twin demons of reflux and staphylococcus aureus. The former bedeviled the baby, although not as badly as Bob by the sound of it. The latter made mincemeat of my hard-working boobs and transformed our breastfeeding relationship into a vicious S/M song and dance for several excruciating months until we realised it wasn't thrush. Yes, several months -- and we're still at it. I have nipples of brass, people. Fear my bloody-mindedness! Question my sanity! And pass the antibiotics.)

And anyway these days, I'm too busy amusing the child who never sleeps and, bizarrely, is none the worse for wear for it. Actually, if he never slept that would be one thing. At least I’d know where I stood. Instead I get the mind-bending Guantanamo-style random nap treatment. Which will it be today, ladies and gents. The regulation fifty minutes? Fifteen? Or five? Or the once-a-month two-hour special? Place your bets. But first you must spend an hour putting me to bed, and then five minutes making a cup of tea. On a good day, you might get to drink it. Gosh, sorry Mummy, am I doing your head in?

If he wasn’t so smoochable and downright funny, I’d have to sell him to the circus. As what, I don’t know. The incredible human alarm clock? One of these new and improved models.

It’s a shock to the system of his night owl parents, as well as his big brother who has the amiable circadian rhythm of a grad student. Big bro also used to take naps of such awesome torpor and length that I can only fantasize about them now. I would put him down after lunch and often had to shake him awake for dinner – aaah, those were the days.

I really shouldn’t be complaining, though, as it’s his father who gets up with the little cockerel at the crack of dawn, to preside over an hour or two of books and a hundred other games. I merely spend most days with him chirping at my side -- or behind me, now that I have a bike with a baby seat. The seat is called “Co-Pilot” and says so in big bold letters on its back. I’m so tempted to hunt down some letraset and turn it into a bumper sticker. Like, “God, is this my [Co-Pilot]?” or “If you can read this my [Co-Pilot] is safely strapped in and beating on me with little fists saying ‘GO BIKE GO!’”

At one and three-quarters, little bro is steadily assembling his vocabulary, and while I sometimes feel nostalgic for his older brother’s paragraph-length soliloquies at the same age, I also feel it’s nice to be able to get a word in edgeways. He is asking for words, by pointing at things and uttering a disyllabic “mm-mm,” which I assume is toddler for “thingamajig.” Autumn is here, so he loves to ask for hot chocolate, or as he sings it, “OCK... coco. OCK... coco.” Always the same tune and inflection, like a Victorian street vendor touting his wares.

He understands everything we say, and knows exactly what he means; it's the rest of the world that's communicatively challenged as far as he's concerned. The day his incredibly slow-witted mother figured out that "g" means "s" was a red letter day for the boy who had been asking for a goggug, and a gor to drink his giger with. At first patiently, then more insistently, and then almost hysterically. "I said a motherflippin' sausage, woman, and a straw for my apple cider while you're at it!"

Some of his words are still sound-effects, like the panting noise that means dog. But I caught him the other day singing “How Much is that Doggie in the Window” to himself. A vaguely musical hum, then a pant-pant-pant, then more humming. He arched an eyebrow – he’s very arch, this boy – and grinned at me when I guessed what it was.

There is so much more I want to write about at the moment but my typing hours are few, and evenings find me pretty much burned out. But it’s all lined up and ready to go, when Sparky decides to hit the hay properly and give me an hour or two at the keyboard.

What we’re reading lately: Swallows and Amazons, anyone? I can’t say enough about these wonderful books, which is why I’ll have to say it next time, at length.

More Iceland stories up at Babble, including glacier thrills and the bowl of soup that took ten years off my life.

In the Listener, my sketchy review of Miranda July’s book of short stories. I didn’t like it as much as the Frank O'Connor prize jury did; in fact it kind of creeped me out, but the promotional website is a hoot. And coming soon, also in the Listener: a review of the selected letters of Martha Gellhorn. Helluva gal, terrible mother, great holiday reading.

And finally, anyone out there know anything about Utah? If so, have I got some SLC FAQs for you! We’re heading there next week for a few days. Where should I take the boys, apart from the fabulous new library and the supercool kids’ museum and the giant talking Jesus statue in Temple Square (but only if they’ve been very naughty)?

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