Come on baby girl, I say as I hobble down the stairs in what has become the mandatory moon boot on my left leg. Good God when is this foot going to heal, I wonder as I hold the railing with both hands, and step down, step down, step down… Let’s go, I call.
Although why I say that, when I am not quite ready to walk out the door is beyond me.
Why oh why did I use my excited cheerful tone?
I know when I do that there is no stopping her.
I really ought to know better.
She is already rattling the baby gate beneath the stairs in a bid to get to her vehicle of choice for the day.
It is another cracker late winter’s day in Sydney, and we are due at playgroup in six minutes.
Actually, at this rate we are going to be late, as I know it will take us longer than I have anticipated to make the journey.
If I could see, we could totally rock that sucker in five minutes, but alas, I cannot. So perhaps it is better not to go there.
Although I cannot stop the thought from passing through my mind like a shooting star.
However, it does not bother me this morning in the way it sometimes can.
I simply look at it with detachment and curiosity.
Hmm, I think, as it leaves my orb. And then I promptly forget about it as it vanishes as quickly as it appeared.
I hate being late, because I feel we should maximise the time we are there in order to get value from the experience.
And of course, by experience I mean the financial outlay.
We started going several weeks ago, and now cannot get enough of that informal, somewhat expensive for what it is, but oh so worth it social interaction and crafty kidlet goodness.
Fortunately for us we have stumbled across one where we don’t have to supply morning tea once a term, or think of an activity for the kids, so I guess it is worth that little bit extra after all.
Although Emily lets me know, she really can do without the singing and dancing component.
When we first went, Michael drove us the three or four blocks to the local church/community centre where our variant of said toddler tradition takes place – held twice a week on a Tuesday and Wednesday morning between 9:30AM and 11:30AM during school term.
He came in with us and introduced me to the organiser.
I had nearly fallen to the floor in relief when Emily’s best friend Ronya and her mummy Seyrin spotted us from the doorway.
It was obvious to me that the organiser felt the same way.
Because although Michael had dutifully explained to her that Emily and I would be fine, and I had enough vision to see colours and shapes, she clearly was not comfortable with the situation.
I could almost see the oh thank God there is someone she knows because now it is not my responsibility to look after her cross her face, as Seyrin excitedly came up to us and picked a very willing Emily up.
Emily loves Seyrin, and whenever she is around, mummy and daddy become redundant.
As I watched our daughter swan off in the opposite direction, happily perched on Seyrin’s hip, I briefly considered leaving myself.
After all, it was not as Little would care.
She’s good like that.
Or at least I think she is.
We’ve never actually left her with anyone apart from nanny that one time when she was twelve or thirteen weeks old, and granny Jenny when we were last in the Rosy land.
I didn’t care what the organiser may or may not have thought of our presence.
Ok, well I did. But not enough to placate her bamboozlement.
I had my own shit to deal with.
So what was more important here?
If there is one thing that motherhood is teaching me, it is to care less about what others may think of my blindisms, my methods, my madness, and my mountains.
I may feel awkward and bumbly at times, but Emily is my top priority, and whatever it takes…
Although sometimes in my quiet moments when I am reflecting, I have to admit that maybe I don’t give people enough time or credit to adjust.
The problem being, that because I live with this day in and day out, and thus know it so well, I expect others to do the same. Even if they have never had any experience with a blindy before.
Not to mention that sneaky defence default setting that many of us have when living with a disability.
So umm, yeah.
Sorry about that lady.
I was glad Michael took the role of advocate.
Partly because he is more approachable than I am, and partly because again I just couldn’t be arsed.
I do that shit a lot. And it is tiresome.
Fuck, how nice would it be to land in a situation where I didn’t have to wear that hat.
But here we were.
Little needed further social interaction apart from the twice-daily trips to the park, the occasional sojourn to the library, the shops, or around the block.
And I had mamma questions, which needed answers.
So what better place to meet each of our needs than the local playgroup.
Besides, it had been raining for days, and like everyone else living in toddler territory, we had to get out of the house.
I could not have faced another day trapped within our four walls.
The same toys, the same company, and the same same same routine.
For months, all it felt like I did was go to work and come home.
The blind mamma blunder weeks blog was so stale, because all I did was write about the same shit every week.
Monday this, Tuesday that, Wednesday bla bla, Thursday Friday work, Saturday something, and Sunday sleeping…
We were in a rut, and I needed to create something different within our universe.
I needed some new ideas about what I could do with Emily.
Recently I made Michael rearrange our living room so it was more functional.
I had threatened to burn the ugly dining room table if he didn’t move it.
I was sick of looking at it piled with junk.
I was even sicker of trying to manoeuvre around it to get to Emily’s toys.
What I had wanted was for him to concede it was an eyesore and a waste of space.
I had hoped he would throw it out.
However, we compromised and it is now in a different part of the loungeroom, more out of my way.
This isn’t to say I have stopped plotting its demise.
But for the moment I am distracted by the big colourful play mat, we have put down in its place.
Talk about so much more toddler friendly.
It is soft, plastic, and full of fairy tale pictures.
Perfect for all those messy activities I haven’t introduced her to yet.
And this is partly why we were there.
Partly so she could explore new things, and partly so I could get some inspiration.
I mean how am I supposed to know when it is a good time to buy her pencils.
My questioned included, but weren’t limited to:
Should I let her paint?
When was a good time to introduce crayons, play dough, or those dreaded puzzles?
What was the name of that froggy song again?
Not the one with the log the pond, and the hot day, although come to think of it how did it go? But the one with the la-di-da-di-da in the middle.
I have forgotten so many nursery rhymes.
I feel so out of my depth, and as though I am letting Little down.
Other kids seem so much more ahead in their gestures and abilities to identify things.
Am I doing enough?
Is my blindiness having a detrimental impact on her learning?
I worry that I cannot point to pictures within our storybooks the way other parents can.
I know daddy reads with her, but…
But I want to do it.
I want to teach her.
She needs to be with her peers!
The second week we went, once again Michael took us.
However, on this particular day we walked up and back.
He had insisted on coming with us, even though I had assured him I would be fine.
We had walked the route once before and now I knew where the entrance to the building was, I felt confident about my abilities to navigate the situation.
I had only one question about a section of path opposite our house, which although he had described, I wasn’t entirely sure about.
I’ll just take you to the corner he had said.
Then the next corner, the next, and the one after that.
I was surprised at my struggle.
Surely, this should be easier, I thought as we loped along at a snail’s pace.
However in the midst of my intense concentration, as I felt with the cane for the edges of the footpath, listened intently for cars, squinted in the glare, and followed Michael’s amazing and accurate commentary, Before I knew it we were practically at the door.
I may as well come the entire way he finally said as we approached the only set of traffic lights along the route.
I had to laugh.
Because as usual he was, correct.
Having him walk us made life easier.
Again, he took us in, re-introduced us to the organiser, reassured her I would be fine, and left us to our own devices.
I had been so unsure of everything the week before.
The sounds, the smells, the layout.
Nobody really explained how things worked, or where anything belonged.
At one point everyone was playing in the hall, wherever that was, and Emily and I were left on our own at the playdough table.
Finally, the organiser noticed us and told us to go find the others, but she didn’t tell me how to complete said seemingly simple and straightforward instruction.
How the hell was I meant to know where the hall was, I thought uneasily.
I tried not to let my own shortcomings take hold, as I momentarily felt like a failing parent.
Sorry Little, I automatically thought as I gathered my wits about me and prepared to go on the hunt for this illusive expanse.
To my knowledge playgroup had two adjoining rooms, and I hadn’t yet reached the edges of either.
What I really want to do is arrive early one day, and when nobody is there, go and touch everything everywhere. Just so I know.
As it was, I had only stumbled across the play dough table by accident.
And by accident, I mean Emily’s initiative.
Sometimes I feel terrible that I cannot ask her what she wants to do like the other mummies do, but rather I allow her to take the lead.
Ok so maybe allow isn’t the correct turn of phrase – I insist.
Because what other option do we have?
Especially when I am unfamiliar with the situation.
I also worry my lack of confidence to approach anyone is going to rub off on her.
But how do you approach someone you cannot see?
How do you approach them when there are tiny moving speed humps everywhere?
It is safer for me to find a seat, and stay put.
And even then, it isn’t as though I see a smile across the table, a nod, or a wave.
So how do I teach Emily when I cannot teach myself?
I can only hope her needing to make decisions for herself is going to make her more resilient.
I could hear the happy squeals of children having fun, but I could not find them.
Just as I was about to give up, Seyrin miraculously appeared before me.
Again, I had never been so relieved or grateful for this particular mamma’s concern or care for me and Emily.
She had arrived at our house when I first broke my foot with a hot meal in hand so we wouldn’t have to cook.
I mean what is not to love about that?
When we entered the hall, which wasn’t really a hall at all, but just another room tacked on to the second one, Little was straight on to the makeshift ball pit set up courtesy of one of those eight metre wide colourful Parashutes with all the other kids.
I stood back and watched as she was dragged around the room by all the other parents and carers.
Is Emily ok I asked the crowd of strangers as I clutched my cane like a security blanket.
I hadn’t let it go the entire time.
Partly because people needed to know I couldn’t see them, and partly because I needed to detect any obstacle in front of me.
Talk about a moving maize of madness.
Between the kids, the strollers, blocks, books, musical mat, and ever-changing landscape of activity tables, I could hardly keep up.
She’s fine another mother called back.
She has a plastic ball in each hand, and a big smile on her face.
I was so proud of her at that moment.
As there were other kids, with sighted mummies, who pulled on their parents pant legs and cried for attention because they weren’t happy with the situation.
In my irrational comparative mind, sighted mummies kids can do anything.
SO I am surprised when they don’t.
Yeah, it is another way I manage to blame my disability for everything, and not even realise I am doing it.
I wonder if my expectations of what an abled-bodied world actually is are unrealistic.
And in a cold cruel secret way, I somehow use it as a validation that I must be doing something right.
Although the guilt that comes with that is immense, because in order to come to that conclusion, then I have to wonder, even if only for half a millisecond, what are they doing wrong.
So unfortunately what I am saying is, I can be as judgemental and as bitchy as the next person can.
Therefore let my confession not only be a cautionary tale, but allow me to apologise for everywhere and every time I have done, or no doubt will do this again.
Sorry other mummies.
There I go living in a glasshouse and throwing stones again.
That’s my girl, I thought with a smile as the people holding the parashute continued to change direction.
Emily was having such a good time.
Therefore any personal pain or anxt I might be experiencing was of no consequence.
I am not about to let my shyness or insecurities get the best of me, and take away from her quality of life.
Compensate, compensate compensate. I must compensate!
As the time wore on, and we fumbled through morning tea, then the songs, Emily ever the astute observer became ever quieter.
Not that she says a word when we are in other people’s company anyway. But something about her manner changes as she withdraws into herself and observes ever more acutely.
She stops parallel playing.
I know when she isn’t entirely at ease in a situation because she comes and sits on my lap, and puts her fingers in her mouth.
However we made it through.
although with my usual over ambitious mind, and faith in my abilities, I had promised we would be ok to walk home, because the rain had not let up, Michael arrived at the back door just as I was hoisting Emily on my hip in preparation for our walk.
I was so glad to see him.
He always knows, I thought to myself as he kissed me softly in greeting.
How was it he asked.
Well, surprisingly it was good, I responded.
So much so that I want to come back next week.
Really, he said with surprise as he took Emily and popped her in the car.
Yes, really, I responded with a smile.
And as easily as that it was settled.
We were now playgroup people
Thankfully The second week had been a little easier of sorts.
Although the judgement in the room over the perceived lack of care I was taking with my daughter was palpable.
Questions of what is she doing, how does she do it, and why isn’t her husband here, floated above me like advertising blimps at a sporting event.
However as usual Emily was with Seyrin, so I knew she was ok.
I was cross with myself though.
the fact that I had forgotten her bells yet again, made things impossible.
Sometimes I can find her by tuning in to that invisible umbilical cord which joins us, but other times I lose her completely and either have to call out to her, or ask the mamma who is monopolising my attention where she is. And sometimes I have absolutely no idea, which is really frightening. Especially when I call her, and nobody answers. Be it Emily or someone else.
I feel so lost. So very very lost.
It is as if everything falls away.
Every sense simultaneously dulls and sharpens, creating a world of suspense.
Making time and space non-existent until either I find her again, or a kind soul takes pity and brings her to me.
It is nice to chat to another parent, especially when they instigate the conversation.
However I still haven’t worked out how to explain to them I cannot always scan the room for where my child is the way they do, therefore I do have to interrupt the conversation, or stop listening to them in order to find her.
Not to mention I am not used to this kind of environment.
I assume she is safe, but is she?
Is she really?
what if there is something going on between her and another kid that I don’t know about, and I really ought to know about it.
What if she grows up to resent me for not protecting her.
What if she feels abandoned.
What if she thinks I am not looking after her.
Oh my God what if she feels I don’t love her.
Nobody had really spoken to me the week before, apart from one or two cautious strangers, which is to be expected I suppose.
However I had this idea that because we’re all mums in the same boat, that the comradery would be instant.
Hands up who is oh so unbelievably naive.
Or lucky, depending on how you look at it.
We have had incredible interactions at the park, and I thought an instant connection was normal.
So although the same people approached me the second week, the disparity between those who did and those who did not was glaringly obvious.
This became apparent as I sat with Emily while she played with a glue stick.
She had never seen a glue stick before, so of course it went straight into her mouth.
I wonder what kind of poisonous shit is in that thing, I thought as I watched her apply it like lip stick.
Careful honey, I said, your lips might stick together.
When out of the blue the girl next to her shouted no, and took the lid of the glue stick off Emily.
At least that is what I thought happened.
However how would I really know.
My vision can’t be trusted.
As it is I am too afraid to ask Michael if one of the globes in our stairwell is out, because what if it isn’t?
I’m sure that light used to be brighter, but I am fearful of finding out the dimness is me, and not an electrical fault.
This is where I come undone.
I feel vulnerable and helpless.
How can I protect my child from being bullied, or heaven forbid bullying others, if I am unsure of what is really happening.
I looked up to where I thought the mother of the little girl in question was, and apologised that I wasn’t sure what had happened.
Emily of course was unfazed.
As the other little girl put the lid to the glue stick down Emily proceeded to pick it up and wanted to hand it back to her.
No the little girl shouted again.
She just wants to share it with you, I explained gently, if not completely assuredly.
No No No, the girl shouted.
However the mother ignored me.
I felt entirely out of my depth.
How am I supposed to deal with other people’s children I wondered, as I considered redirecting Emily to something else.
However in the meantime, I had tucked my cane under my arm, and another little girl had taken off with it.
I imagined her swinging it around wildly, and causing injury to another kid, and then what.
Would someone make me put it away?
Emily occasionally plays with my cane, but to my mind that is to be expected.
I cannot very well tell her not to play with it, when that is exactly what she sees me do every day.
Besides, she displays such control, consideration, and awareness of that thing, that it is different.
But this, this was beyond my scope.
How was I supposed to chase the kid with my cane across a toy stricken room?
Maybe I could crawl, I considered, as the panic set in.
At least that way I wouldn’t trip over anything.
Least of all a moving toddler.
God, I’m glad I didn’t bring Little when she was still crawling, I thought as I tried to listen for the swish swish of my cane through the air.
However detecting the breeze said movement would create was thwarted by the even stronger breeze coming from the opposite direction due to the door to the as yet unexplored by me outdoor area.
Oh no, I thought as the ensuing chaos of my imaginings unfolded before me in my inner eyes.
Would someone else notice and hand it back?
I wasn’t exactly over enemy lines, but I did sense hostility in the air.
Was it that no one else knew what to do either?
Was it that no one really knew how to approach me?
Or was it that women are simply bitches?
I didn’t know.
And nor did I have time or space to be pondering such questions.
What I needed was to have my stick back safely in my hands, and this situation resolved with Emily, the glue, and the little girl.
God this playgroup gig is fraught with dangers I hadn’t considered, I thought as someone did indeed hand my cane back to me.
Again we fumbled through morning tea, and tolerated the singing and dancing.
However Emily was definitely ready to go home by the time our I’m so glad we came, but shit that was a hard session was over.
At least it was slightly easier and more familiar than the first time, I thought as I picked up my tired baby girl and she snuggled in for a cuddle.
By that I mean, we got through it.
However as taxing as it was, I couldn’t articulate the benefits, but knew were there. Which is why we will do it again, I continued.
I don’t bother trying to pack or unpack toys and activities the way other parents do, as I don’t actually know where anything goes.
I simply can’t cope with anything else.
Even taking a sip from my water bottle is all too much while we are in the midst of everything.
There are so many colours, so many noises, and so much constant movement, that my limited brain capacity is on overload.
I had just strapped Emily into her trike, and was handing her an apple for the trip home when I heard daddy’s voice.
Secretly I was grateful he had returned to fetch us.
Or perhaps not so secretly given the languid kiss I greeted him with.
Play Group takes a lot out of a blind mama, and I was exhausted.
We walked home along the busy highway, whereby I found it too noisy to be able to navigate safely.
Not to mention the idea of oncoming traffic, and my fear of a truck coming up on to the curve and mowing us down, and it was all too much for my mind to handle.
I will always take us the back way I declared as we crossed over the train station concourse and made our way toward the sanctuary of our front gate.
Ok honey, he had said, kissing me on the forehead.
You walk whichever way makes you feel safest.
Safest is when my hand is in yours, I thought as I sunk into the familiar intimacy of my husband’s physicality.
I love you honey, I said as we walked.
I hadn’t remembered having so much trouble with this highway route before.
But there were a lot of things lately, which were more trouble than they ever had been.
For weeks I had been planning to take Emily to something like this, but every time I woke up with the energy and the urge, Michael would opt for a sleep in, and by the time he got up, it was too late. Therefore I would be left frustrated and someone resentful that we were stuck at home yet again.
This would be closely followed by the usual guilt regarding expecting miracles from the man, and I berate myself for not communicating my needs more clearly.
Sure we could leave the house without his permission, but we would wake him in our attempts to get ready.
And once we were gone he wouldn’t sleep properly anyway, because he would worry for our safety and happiness.
Therefore I would aqueous to his obvious requirement of more sleep, and ultimately feel like a shit parent.
By the time he awoke, I had thought too much about it, and talked myself out of any sort of trip.
Be it because it suddenly all became too hard, or it was too late, or too close to nap time, or any other number of excuses.
Finally it all became too much and I had to speak up.
However one of the problems I have is that I think about something for so long before I say anything, that by the time I do, I am so worked up that it comes out with such frustration, fury, and resentment, that neither of us know what to do.
After all, Michael hasn’t seen it coming, and I’ve been living with it for so long, that my blood is boiling.
I had to do something else.
Being upset was not living.
And hadn’t I promised Emily the world?
Today is our third attempt at this playgroup together, and the first time we are making the round completely on our own.
I am excited.
But not as excited as Little so it would seem.
I have barely opened the gate, and She is already in her trike, beckoning me to get a wriggle on, as evident by her fussing and whinging for me to strap her in.
The problem is, I know I have too many layers on, as does she, and I want to quickly exchange our long sleevers for T-shirts.
However she isn’t having a bar of my I should have thought of this earlier mistake, so long tops will have to do.
I always try and dress myself in something comparable to her, so that I can gage her level of comfort.
If I am hot, surely she is hot.
If I am cold, surely she is cold.
It’s only logical.
Quietly she sits as I struggle with her buckles.
The straps are twisted, and I cannot figure out how to click them in properly.
It takes me several minutes to puzzle this problem out, and have her tied in safely.
But still she waits.
She’s such a good girl like that.
I grab the longest longest longest almost too long a cane I have, which is as tall as I am, reach for the keys on the hook, throw the nappy bag over my shoulder, and gently close the wooden door behind us.
I am wearing a hat in a lame arse attempt to cut down the glare.
However given all my sunnies are missing, I know this isn’t going to do too much apart from make me look like a bad mummy, as Emily does not have a hat on.
But of course The reason she doesn’t have a hat, is because she won’t wear one.
She will wear my bra as a hat, the keyboard, a book, a block, a nappy… But not a hat as a hat.
That is ridiculous mummy, she says with her actions, every time I attempt to put one on her.
We make our way along the narrow white path to the entrance of our complex, turn right, and head up the hill to the crossing.
I know that if I could see we could simply make use of the roundabout, and cut out the block, but as I cannot, and safety is our primary objective, we continue on.
My right knee is sore, due to having the moonboot on for over two months.
However I ignore it.
Taking pride in the fact that there is nothing I won’t do for Little.
It is almost as though my blindiness limits me so much, that I cannot allow for anything else, regardless of whether by rights it should, take away any more of my independence.
I know I should have rested my foot at least in the beginning, but the idea of that was so shocking, that I could not allow myself that luxury.
Sure I justified it beautifully with the mantra if I don’t work we don’t eat but if things were different, and by different of course I mean I were sighted, then of course I would be more tolerant of my body screaming at me to slow down.
I know I shouldn’t be walking on this knee, but it almost gives me pleasure to feel the pain and push through it. Even though I am afraid of the possible long-term damage.
I have some big dreams, of which my body will be required to participate. So it makes sense I should be looking after myself more.
However I am not. Because it is as if my continual abuse of myself is proof of how much I love Emily.
Yeah, I get maybe a strait jacket is required, but you’ll have to catch me first.,
My heart is filled with joy as the shadows play tricks on my eyes.
Dark light dark light dark light dark light dark light.
My vision doesn’t have a chance to adjust, so it is like walking through a strobe.
I am fairly confident with this first part, but once we get over the zebra crossing opposite the train station, we are in relatively unfamiliar territory.
Down the hill back toward the roundabout outside our house on the opposite side of the road we go.
The first part of the path I don’t mind, as there is a medium strip of grass between us and the road, which makes me feel slightly safer than when it is straight footpath.
I know it is an illusion, but somehow even the sound being absorbed by the grass is a buffer to my nightmares.
Emily sits happily, one hand on her handlebars driving, and the other on my cane.
She is chatty.
But I am too busy talking to myself.
Congratulating myself on being so strong and clever.
Commentating on what to remember.
For example, after the dots, which indicate the small car park, the path will zig zag to the left, and is very skinny.
We will also be right on the road, so I will have to slow down even more and allow the traffic to pass if it is too noisy.
My cane is on the right so I can shore line against the bushes if need be.
My only hope is that there is nothing spiky to scrape Little.
I worry about that a lot.
The amount of times I run her into trees, poles, bus shelters, small green electrical boxes, a-frame signs, and other pedestrian paraphernalia is unbelievable.
But my biggest fear is hurting her by running into something sharp.
Oops, sorry sweetie, I say as we run into one such bush as I try and avoid a pole, but end up over correcting.
Listen for the curve, listen for the curve I say with every step closer to the railway tunnel.
Thank God a car goes around the corner at that very instant, letting me know we are a couple of metres away.
It is too bright, and I can’t distinguish between the black road and the white path.
Up the hill up the hill up the hill, I mutter under my breath like the little Train that could, as I strain to see the next orange and white zebra crossing we will need to use.
Again I have to listen for the corner.
However I also remember there are a dirt patch, and a big pole just before we reach it.
So I feel for Emily’s wheels under that, before coming to a halt, turning left, and crossing over.
I know if I don’t line us up perfectly, we will end up in another set of shrubs on the other side of the road.
And how embarrassing would that be?
But still I am a proud mamma.
I am doing this, I think with glee.
Are you ok Little, I ask her periodically.
Good driving honey, I say as we cross.
The path flattens out, and the multi-level car park next to us echoes, making me more cautious.
I know there are several driveways along this part of our journey, and obviously I don’t want to get hit.
However I think we have reached the next zebra crossing earlier than we actually have, and in my enthusiasm, or nerves I misjudge, and drive Emily straight into a garden bed.
There are people approaching us from behind, and they are throwing me off, as I feel I should hurry up as to not slow them down.
So I am concentrating on my perception of what I think they are thinking about me instead of what I am actually doing.
Sorry sweetie, I say again as I back up, and we try again.
Gees, Michael wasn’t kidding when he said if we hit a set of shrubs straight on we have gone too far, I think as we hit said set of shrubs.
As I turn right and line us up with the now visible crossing, the two women who were behind me cut in front dismissively.
At least I can follow their footsteps, I think smugly, as they cross the road in front of us.
Normally that kind of thing would piss me off, but I am too happy.
The day is too lovely.
And Emily and I have so got this!
It is harder work than it ought to be pushing her up the next hill.
The moonboot slows us down, and twists my gate in uncomfortable ways.
I have to push the trike with two hands, while holding my cane between my little and ring fingers in order to keep us steady.
Whereas normally I would push her with one, position myself almost beside her, and hold the cane in my other hand, thereby taking up even more space, but feeling like we were on more equal terms.
I know there is another zigzag coming up, and if I miss it, I will end up in the snooty private girl’s school grounds.
I am intimidated by such affluence, and worry that if it happens, I will be chased off like a stray scruffy dog, rather than redirected with understanding, empathy, and dignity.
The hill is longer than I remember.
However given Michael did this walk with us a week ago, at a comparable time, I know what shadows to look for.
When it becomes really bright because there is a gap in the trees, that is where the drive way is, and we need to turn to ten o’clock.
Still baby girl chatters happily.
She seems to sense when mummies is giving everything, and knows not to whinge or ask to get out.
I am ever so thankful for that, I think as I stop to kiss her on the head.
Are you having fun, I ask her as I listen to the mower in the background, and readjust her nappy bag.
I really need to get her a backpack, or a better tote I think as I swing it back around off my hip.
This one is too big and too floppy.
And it never stays where I want it.
We continue on, and I am relieved to find the skinny fence, as it means we are on the right road.
The skinny fence is presumably where the girl’s bus stop is, as it forms a barrier between us and the road.
But I know the fence also heralds another corner, so I have to listen carefully.
I also know there is a slight slope down before we reach it, and it is best to run my cane along the inside edge of the path to keep us on track.
The last thing we want is to end up on the road.
Especially because we have the trike, and one front wheel off a high gutter isn’t nearly as stable as two.
I stop to give Emily some water, as it is hot.
We’re almost there baby girl, I say in my singsong voice.
She has done so well.
We have been walking for at least twenty minutes, which is a long time in toddler time.
But still she is content.
It isn’t until we reach the traffic lights at the highway, just opposite the building where we need to be that she turns around and asks to get out.
Just one more set of lights I say, pointing to her playgroup building in the vein hope that she’ll recognise it, and understand that within three minutes she will be free from these restraints.
I struggle to get her arms back in her straps, as the cars wiz past us.
It is so noisy and off-putting.
Not to mention these are one of those stupid sets of lights where the ramp is angled at such a way that if you followed its trajectory you would end up in the middle of the highway rather than on the opposite side of the road where you had intended.
We are paralleled to the traffic, so I have to listen hard for our beep beep beeping.
Little is trying to tell me something, but I don’t understand.
As the lights turn green, and the auditory sound lets me know it is safe, I hurry us across the road.
Worried that a car is going to scream around the corner and knock us down.
Again I have to concentrate hard to make sure we hit the ramp on the other side at the right angle so we can use it without halting.
This means turning the pram in all sorts of ways.
Clearly whoever designed this is an idiot, I thought as we hit the corner of the gutter and I had to back up and readjust.
But who cares, because we made it.
I was just contemplating where the front door might be, and wondering if I had indeed walked passed it, when who should come up from behind but Emily’s best friend Ronya, and her mummy Seyrin.
Hello hello, she says cheerfully.
That must have been what Emily was trying to show me, I think a little coyly.
Again my saviour appears just when I need her most, I chuckle to myself, as she passes us and takes the lead.
Taking us straight to the entrance, which I hadn’t actually yet passed.
That was lucky, I think as she chocks it open with her own pram, enabling us to get through.
After all, I may know where it is – sort of, but I haven’t yet had cause to use the handle.
It is a panel of four glass sections, framed in wood.
I remember when Michael showed it to me on our first time here from the inside that the highway sounded further from the corner, which is how I knew I would need to turn left after crossing at the lights if I were ever to walk it on my own, rather than simply head for the first brick wall I found.
Over there he kept saying, pointing to the busy highway, but I couldn’t make it out, let alone make sense of where it was in conjunction to where I thought it ought to be in conjunction to where I thought I were.
Sometimes my spacial awareness is completely thrown when something is different to how I imagine it in my head.
Because in my world the door should be directly on the corner, not a little ways up.
The world would be a series of grids if I had my way.
Once we are inside, I find somewhere to park the trike, where hopefully I can find it again.
To be honest I am not quite sure where we are in relation to the playgroup door, but I can smell the fruit being cut up in the kitchen, so we must be close.
Hello Emily the organiser says, as she climbs out of her transport and wonders off in the opposite direction to where I want her to go, as I fold up the super long cane, and exchange it for the shortest one I have.
But at least today we remembered her bells.
Her bells involve the anklet we bought her when she was beginning to crawl with the tiny tinkle tinkle bells, and an old-fashioned nappy pin clipped on with two jangle jangle bells fastened to the metal.
Although her foot is becoming so big that we are going to have to find another solution very soon.
At this rate, Michael will also find himself as our resident jewellery designer, along with everything else he does, as I haven’t found anything suitable.
As we enter the playgroup room I wish I had some squeaky shoes for her, because then I would know exactly where she was at all times.
The only reason I don’t have them, is because I worry they might be too loud and annoying for her.
At least the bells are less intrusive on her sensory experience, I justify meekly, as I strain to hear where she is.
She heads straight for the outside area.
It is bigger than I realised.
As Emily makes a b-line for the biggest trampoline I have ever seen, Seyrin spots us, and calls her over.
I feel my way around the edge until I come to the entrance of the protective netting, then pick Emily up, take her shoes off, and another mummy helps her slip inside.
Seyrin continues to call her, but baby girl is unsure.
Before I know it she is back out, I’ve put her shoes on, and she has found something else to play with.
Although I am not sure what.
Meanwhile, the mother who ignored me last week, as I tried to explain the altercation regarding the glue stick, has sidled up to me, and is making cheery conversation.
It takes me a while to realise who she is.
Have you always warned that moonboot, she asks, or am I that vague that I haven’t noticed, she laughs.
Nope, I’ve always had it, I say smiling.
Although today is probably the first day you have noticed it, because normally I have black pants and black boots, where as obviously today my magic red ballet flat, which is supposed to give me super powers, is a stark contrast.
For twenty minutes we talk about mummy nothing.
Occasionally I ask her if she knows where Emily is, and she points her out, lets me know what she is doing, the expression on her face, and we go back to our conversation.
Do you want me to take you to her, she asks.
Nope, I hate being a helicopter parent, I respond.
But what choice do I have when I don’t know what she is doing.
So as long as she is happy without me, and someone can see her, then let’s just leave her be.
She nods thoughtfully.
It is as if she hasn’t considered this before.
Yeah, I suppose it would be hard not being able to see her.
It has its moments, I say dryly.
But today I am relaxed.
Today Emily is relaxed.
Today everyone is relaxed.
My friend Beth Ann, in exchange for my perspective on a presentation she was preparing for, gave me a new breathing technique on the weekend to keep me grounded.
I have been practicing it ever since, and it has done wonders for my state of being.
I am less in my head bubble, and more in my base.
And what a difference a breath makes.
She had warned me things might be different, but I don’t think I had quite believed her.
Sorry Beth Ann.
But here I was, talking to someone who had gone out of their way to pretend I wasn’t there the week before.
And what do you know, she is as lovely as I am.
I think we could actually become friends.
For two hours it goes on like this.
I speak to one mamma then another.
Our conversations are deep, fulfilling, and fun.
Each of us having more to contribute than we previously knew.
Each of us more than the sum of a mum.
Each of us with similar, but different interests, backgrounds, stories, struggles, and antidotes.
And what do you know, all of us with mirroring questions about the layout and logic of toddler territory.
This is precisely why I have come, I think as we discuss everything from ancient history to almond milk.
I am not the only one who practically spits my drink across the room when someone asks if your little one sleeps through the night.
I am not the only one reading the latest research journals regarding child development, parenting theories, psychology, and everything in between in a bid to get a handle on how to handle my tiny human.
I am not the only one laughing at contradictory academic theories, which do not take personality into account.
I am by no means the only one making this shit up as I go along.
Low and behold, nor am I the only one who loses their wedding ring for weeks on end either as it turns out.
I haven’t brushed my hair in three days I say to one mamma.
Me either she laughs.
I can’t believe how easy it is today.
Thank God I persevered, I think.
Even the walk home doesn’t feel impossible.
Whatever works, right? Seems to be the catch cry of our tribe.
I am not being judged nearly as harshly as I first thought.
Everyone is simply doing the best they can I realise.
And most of us are too tired and ragged to actually give too big a shit about anyone else.
We’re all too busy wondering whether there is in fact enough to sustain our babies within the confines of pasta, peanut butter, and blueberries. Because that is all our kids will eat.
The only time I see Emily is if occasionally when I call to her to let her know I am here if she wants me, and she comes to give me a fly by cuddle, then disappears again.
I worry that the sun is burning her.
Why didn’t I put sunscreen on her, I scold myself.
It was because I wasn’t sure where the tube was, and we were in such a hurry.
I tried to tell myself we wouldn’t need it, even though my awareness suggested otherwise.
But still I wasn’t about to leave my spot and go hunting for it.
In my pretty mind, it was somewhere at home, not in the nappy bag, so what would be the point.
Besides, I wasn’t about to interrupt Little if she was in the flow.
Even as morning tea was called, I left her be.
Nicky, one of my mamma acquaintances asked if she could get Emily a bowl of fruit.
Can she eat it out here, I asked.
Yes, other kids are doing that.
Well then yes please.
Even if she doesn’t want it, I will have it. But it is good to give her the option if she ever returns, I laughed.
Emily had been playing in the sand pit for at least an hour.
Occasionally another mother would let me know she was still there, and if anything of note were happening.
It was such a relief to have some space, and know she was safe.
What’s more, she was happy.
Twenty minutes later she appeared at my side, and asked for the fruit.
As I gave her the plate she carefully took it and wondered back off down to the sand pit, sat on the footpath, and ate her snack.
I wasn’t sure where the bowl ended up, but before I knew it she was back at the sand pit, doing whatever it was she had been previously doing.
Slowly the place thinned out, as parents and children made their way home.
But still we stayed.
We had avoided music and dancing, and Emily was much happier for it.
I had decided that whatever learning she was gaining from the sand pit, was far more important than whatever she might gain from scheduled singing.
Come on sweetie, I said as the sun rose higher and higher in the sky.
We were almost the last to leave.
She had to book end her day with another quick play on the trampoline, which she was far more comfortable with on the second round.
So much so she even stood up and ran around the circumference.
Everything else had been packed up around us.
I wonder where I get one of those sand pit table thingies, I thought as I picked her up and put her back in her trike.
Did you have a good time Little, I asked as I strapped her in, handed her a banana, and a bottle of water.
I hope you’re not sunburnt sweetie, I continued as I fussed with her shoes and socks.
It is too hot for these, I said as I pulled them off, and traded canes again.
Thanks for having us, I called to the organiser as we exited the building.
A pleasure, she responded with something more genuine and less uptight than I had ever heard come from her mouth.
Hmmm, we’re making progress, I thought happily.
Emily was in a meditative state as we made our way home.
We had walked out with our friends Seyrin and Ronya.
However they take the highway home.
I have to go the backway, I said to Seyrin as we crossed the lights.
I mean what was the point in going the highway when we couldn’t walk next to each other, and I couldn’t hear her.
It may have been the best playgroup ever, but I was still shattered, and who knew if Michael would be home when we arrived.
I had half expected him to come and pick us up on the way back from his errands, but as I hadn’t heard from him, I thought it best to conserve my energy.
Emily finished her banana in record time, so I stopped to give her an apple.
The trip home was a little easier in one respect, as we were simply backtracking.
However in another it was more difficult, as the shadows had changed, and my right knee was more swollen and painful.
I had been standing for hours, and my left foot wasn’t happy either.
No wonder the bone was taking forever to knit back together.
I never gave it a chance, I thought as I trudged along.
But this was so worth it.
Emily had an amazing time.
This time baby girl didn’t hold my cane.
I wasn’t even sure if she were awake.
I thought she might complain about the sun being in her eyes, but she was a real trooper.
Just as well really, because I didn’t have a hat for her.
Or at least I didn’t think I had a hat for her.
Mind you, I thought that about the sunscreen, but I happened to come across it when we were rummaging through her bag for treats before we left playgroup.
So who could really be sure.
Our trip home was uneventful.
I still wasn’t completely confident.
But what was I completely confident about these days.
After all, I loved that Michael could drop me to my new side-ways job, but the last ten metres to the door nearly killed me.
I loved that I didn’t have to cross any roads in order to get to my old job, but the the construction work outside my building’s foyer drove me bananas.
Sometimes I couldn’t find it at all.
But this we had walked a mere three hours before, so surely it could be done.
All I would have to do is take my time, concentrate, trust, and hope that baby girl wouldn’t become stroppy.
Because I didn’t have the hippy thing to carry her if she did in fact insist on getting out of her wheels.
Across the lights, turn right, along the path to the end of the block, turn left, zig and zag in the opposite direction to the way we had come previously past the snooty girls school drive way, down the hill, making sure I went right to the end, and u-turned if need be, rather than try and anticipate where the crossing may or may not be.
Across the crossing, past the multi-level car park, across another crossing, turn right, under the railway bridge, wish I could cut across the roundabout, turn left, go up the hill close to the road, tell myself that this is like a marathon, and we’re almost there, wonder if my knee is going to hold out, cross the zebra crossing opposite the station, turn right, cross the unmarked road, down the hill, past the park, turn left into our complex, follow the narrow white path to our front gate, open the front door, lift Emily out, and ring Michael to find out where he is.
Hi honey, he says as he picks up the phone.
I’ll be there in a couple of minutes.
Although I know everything.
You do, I ask, incredulously.
Yep, I’ve just seen Seyrin and Ronya up the street, he says.
Oh, well if I had known you were going to be there, I thought, I could have followed her after all.
But then I think about all that noise, and decide that it wouldn’t have been worth it for the lift home.
We made it Little, I said as I unlocked the back doors, and she toddled outside.
How about a swim…