Canada we have arrived! Also, tips for long haul traveling with a baby 

We made it! After possibly the most gruelling week on record, we’re finally in Canada. It was a very educational experience I have to say. We’ve come away from these last 6 days bearing the scars of much learning and I would be happy to share a few tips for those contemplating long distance travel with a baby:

  • If you possibly can, don’t do it. A 30 hour journey that includes an unexpected 6 hour layover with a little sausage who is sick and pukey and who can’t sleep is potentially the least fun you will ever have. You might find yourself walking up and down the same two travelators for over two hours in spew encrusted clothing during your layover because the motion and low droning noise is the only thing that gives bub respite. 
  • If you must do it, take said baby, and substitute with, say, a nice pastry and an engaging book. 

If that is not possible, then I would recommend NOT doing the following prior to traveling:

  • Break a bone immediately prior to departure.
  • Let your permanent residency card expire at the same time as new immigration regulations come in requiring folks from visa exempt countries to apply for a visa waiver, but which would act to revoke one’s permanent residency. 
  • Have your baby contract gastroenteritis and liberally scatter Sydney with spew on the entire way from home to the check in counters. It’s a bit like a breadcrumb trail but much less likely to appear in fairy tales. 
  • Shortly thereafter also contract gastro together with your partner. V romance. 

Upon your wobbly recovery and when you decide to try again, I would further recommend not doing the following:

  • Letting the check in staff forget to check you and your baggage through to your final destination. 
  • Letting baby spew with wild abandon into the sleeping cocoon you had to bring because the airlines decided that a bunch of baby boomers needed the bulkhead seats more than your baby needed a bassinet. 
  • Letting your already lengthy stopover balloon because your connecting flight is delayed by hours. 
  • Letting your devastatingly exhausted Peanut contract a bacterial throat infection on the journey. The one draw back of having an extremely sociable baby who insists on smiling pointedly at everyone as a gateway to forced and persistent interaction is that every other passenger / disease vector wants to touch her. If this happens, your bebe might refuse to feed, and break out in uncontrollable twitching resulting in a panicked call for doctors on board. 

That’s today’s wisdom. That being said, hopefully we’ve used up the bad luck for traveling parents out there and you’ll be fine. Other families on board managed it with minimum drama!  Further, on the upside, extensive long haul travel will make even giving birth seem easy. (And we did THAT one without even a single Panadol.)

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Mind the gap

The rain! It’s pelting down, clattering against the brick, a continuous feedback hiss against all our windows. Occasionally, there’s a whipping crack of thunder, the fabric of the sky mercilessly rent. This is a serious tropical storm. It’s an afternoon flash flood in wet season sort of storm. It’s a drinking super sweet triple strength coffee in my grandma’s kitchen sort of storm, frantic palms dancing electrified, and fretting about the survival of nearly ripened avocadoes on the battered backyard tree. It’s a motorbikes veering dangerously into 6 foot monsoon drains sort of downpour. Mosquito clearing humidity relief in the aftermath, a moment of clean stillness, and that glorious smell; petrichor, I think it’s called. Literally the golden blood of the gods in stone. Storms are some sort of ancient magic. 

During thIs afternoon’s rains, it occurred to me that I am now outnumbered in our small family as the only person not born in the New World. I’m the only one with old country memories, who associates storms with flailing palms and banging shutters. Who remembers the man who came around on a motorbike selling bread, another with pork, and yet another collecting old newspapers. The only one who has memories of tangled jungle vines and coconut trees and monkeys in my backyard. A reckless mango tree climb aborted with flapping and screaming due to a full body swarm of fire ants. Pitting carefully selected pet spiders against each other. The lingering memory of my grandfather’s mysterious cloistered indigo fighting fish, flashes of iridescence in his dark and shambolic shed. 

I’m a touch melancholy about this. As it is, so much of what should be my heritage has already been diluted, or totally lost. My father’s knowledge of the edible jungle plants and fruits – the backhanded gift of an impoverished childhood. My great grandmother did not pass on her traditional Chinese medicine learning.  I suppose I have another non-English language, which is itself already a creole. But what I have is at best, stunted by childhood immigration, and more accurately thought of as vestigial. There is not much of my Peranakan heritage I can truly teach, without language and without place. The backyard jungle of my childhood is gone. The tree-fresh coconut juice and baby pythons coiled around kitchen taps have been erased by a metropolis of high rises. Is it my culture if I no longer live it, apart from some echoes, associations and resonances that exist, perhaps only among my family of origin?  What of this then can my Peranakan-Chinese-Polish-Quebecois-Newfie daughter lay claim on? I wonder what will pass on, and what else will merely pass through. Will we truly be able to understand each other?

My great grandfather is the bossy looking dude in the middle, in the sharp white suit.

International Women’s Day: the idea of “choice”

On this International Women’s Day it is my little nugget’s two thirds birthday. Hems are a subject of intense fascination at the moment, as is, possibly, the indignity of being dressed like a tiny Floridian retiree (the double edged sword of hand me downs!).

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Life has pivoted, reordered itself around this small being. Priorities have scrambled, seemingly automatically. My world has a new fulcrum, and railing against this inevitability would be like shaking your fist at the sunrise.

Some of the other mums have, by virtue of the crushing machine that is the Sydney childcare shortage, been forced to accept spots far earlier than they had wanted and have gone back to their paid jobs already. Others, like me, continue to linger/malinger, in this strange bubble of unpaid employment. Strange in many ways, but mainly that the raising and sustaining of a small human is apparently considered of little market (and therefore) societal value. But I digress.

The experience of the other mums have made the reality of many parents – but primarily women – clear. And this is no revelation to anyone really. It’s just that I’m finally living it myself. The future appears to be the choice between devastating guilt, and career sacrifice (as well as financial loss). Or perhaps I’ve read this wrong, and the future is a towering crap sandwich of guilt AND career sacrifice, topped with the pickled gherkin of financial loss. Already I have experienced the primary carer vs career advancement head to head. I was asked to step into an Acting Director position – a role that I strenuously want, that I could do so much with. But, at this tender moment, the primary carer corner won. Total knock out. The odd thing is that as a concept, I simply didn’t entertain the decision – could not entertain the idea that there was one to be made. Whether it is a question of physiology, or temperament, or (newly acquired) custom, Ari is everything right now.

So. Yes, these are champagne problems in a world where gender inequality can mean serious harm to person and soul. But there it is. Happy IWD! I wish many many things for my girl including safety, peace, good health, and for the world to truly see her as a human and not merely female. I wish for her a passionate life, and easy transport to transcendence and profundity through a love of words, art and music. And I hope for her that she can really have it all.

 

 

Grit 

I once ran a 10km beach race for a lark. I thought it’d make a good story. The longest I’d ever lightly cantered before that was about 5km. I didn’t have any gear so I ran it in my pyjama pants. I’d also thought it was a good idea to run it barefoot given I hadn’t packed any running shoes for this holiday. To be fair, I hadn’t planned on running 10km that particular Sunday morning (or ever, for that matter). 

I ran that whole race, even though my lungs were on fire, and even though the skin literally fell off the bottom of my feet. I mean literally in the true sense of the word: I couldn’t walk properly for a couple of weeks after and antibiotics may have been involved in the aftermath. 

It did make a good pub story. It was a tale of heroism with a touch of backfiring spontaneity, a challenge conquered by mammoth effort, rewarded with meat pies and beer. I thought that undertaking required strength of character. Others did too. Well.  Ha!  Pre-child me, you naive fool. You thought that took grit? Suck on the nausea-flavoured lollipop that is the four month baby sleep regression for a while, and running 10k on wet sand with grated feet might actually seem like the soft option. There is also precious little beer involved, and pretty much no one wants to hear about it either. 

Redefining

The tiny tyrant demands to be held to sleep, disdaining slings and other such helpful devices. And so I sit here, a human recliner, typing one handed, trying to recall what life was like before my current career as some sort of sophisticated piece of furniture for a little swaddled sausage.

As I have mentioned to a dear friend, one strikingly different thing about the epoch BA (Before Ari) compared to AA is that, for the first time in as long as I can recall, the deep and abiding…something…rage I think, I’ve always felt about social injustice appears to have been blunted. The proverbial fire in the belly that sustained my working and personal life appears to be dampened, and at the time this realisation first occurred, it wasn’t clear to me what might have replaced it. My news addiction has been replaced with an active news aversion. I avoid the awfulness that each revelation on Australia’s asylum detention policy brings. I am unable to contemplate any aspect of governmental Indigenous affairs policy (potentially a problem for going back to work!). I’ve started just deleting every media release I receive in my inbox with a Commonwealth header without reading them. I can’t even listen to Radio National’s breakfast program anymore.

When in the past my friends have told me about what happened to their parents, and in some cases their siblings, how they were removed under the Aboriginal “protection” policies, I was, and still am, filled with horror and outrage. A 6 year old boy falls off the wagon and hurts his ankle. His parents take him to the hospital and are told they cannot stay overnight. When they return in the morning, he is gone, taken to a boys’ home 800km away where he will face unspeakable cruelty. His parents are not told where he has gone, and they never see each other again. The horror and outrage I feel was always fuel for advocacy, for seeking systemic change, for justice.

Now, reflecting on these stories in the AA era, it is clear to me what has overtaken my rage. When I think of these stories now, I quail. My breath shortens painfully and my gut actually cramps with anxiety and adrenaline.

Dr Cornel West said, “Never forget that justice is what love looks like in public.” I have always believed this, and I still do. But now, I am starting to understand that perhaps, what love looks like in private, in the secret unspoken stirrings, is a profound and crippling fear.

Enter, another insatiable galactovore in plastic pants

It is hard to comprehend that I have a daughter. 

I have a daughter. 

These words still seem surreal, like they can’t come from me, from who I am with my current set of sensibilities, capabilities and incapabilities. 

At the moment I can only focus on the micro. The endless obsessing and profound anxiety about every small cough or untoward squirm or unexplained trembling lower lip. The wide angled panoramic view is too much to process and deconstruct. 

Suffice to say, I am unsatisfied with the dominant but two dimensional narrative of “you’ll never feel love like this ever” and the almost mystical ​holy cow that maternal bonding is instantaneous and uncomplicated. It does happen, but I think the journey must be different for everyone. One of these days when I’m not destroyed by lack of sleep, and am not composing my thoughts one handed on a phone…perhaps then I’ll try to unpack this morass of murky frightening joyful ambivalent marvellous resentful fiercely protective feelings. 

Hello my girl. We’ll figure this all out together. I would be very grateful for your indulgence on the trial and error laden way. 

Pretty sure these things are capes
Pret

Justice on stolen land

A Darwin man, heavily affected by methamphetamine, runs over an 8 year old boy and kills him in a hit and run. He receives an 18 month suspended sentence, 6 months home detention (for failing to stop and assist), and a $2,090 fine for possession, use and dangerous driving.

Another Darwin man gets picked up and taken into police custody for minor alcohol offences under the Northern Territory’s new “paperless arrests” laws. He dies in police custody within three hours – for which there has not yet been any accounting.

In the first matter, the man was white, and the child was Aboriginal.

In the second matter, the man was an Aboriginal Elder. Of course, he is not the first Aboriginal person to die in police custody.

If the situation had been reversed, and a methed-up Aboriginal fella had killed a white child in a hit and run, I’d bet my last tooth that:

(1) the sentence would have been harsher; or

(2) if there was an equivalent sentence, there would have been immediate public howling for retrospective mandatory sentencing legislation – which would probably have been acted upon by the legislature (CF emergency NSW Parliamentary sitting of January 2014 resulting in utterly indefensible one-punch mandatory sentencing laws).

To be clear, I am not necessarily arguing that the first fellow should have been penalised more heavily. What I am querying is the appearance of two separate criminal justice systems, seemingly applied on the grounds of an irrelevant factor.

This…garbage… keeps happening, and I can’t help but think KRS-ONE got it right: “There could never really be justice on stolen land.”