I’ve had four kids, and am raising three. One lives with my parents as his needs outstrip our ability to manage him. The three hilarious and strangely well-adjusted parasites that remain in the care of my ex-husband, and our formidable and fantastic tribe, make me laugh every single day. They are aged 14, 12, and 5. Two of them have my face, and one looks a bit like Will or Mike (those two look sooooo similar) from Stranger Things. He also looks a little bit like his father did at his age.
We are a motley crew. Most of our public outings include dance routines, ad-libbed singing to whatever songs may be wafting through the mall, supermarket or amusement park lucky enough to host the hobbits West. We. Are. Loud. We are kind, complimentary to strangers, observant of hilarity wherever and whenever it presents itself, and we are perfectly happy to catch the eyes and confused or slightly scared looks of strangers. We are a team of tyrants who will not tolerate injustice, insist on honesty, and aren’t afraid to have a laugh at our own expense.
I’ve been home now for about four days or so since my last major overseas jaunt for 2019. The Love I have for my chosen homeland bubbles up and exploded out of me in an expletive laden rant as I traversed through the mighty Waikato on our way to the Bay of Plenty for a rhythmic gymnastics competition that Stephanie-Jane actually kicked some serious ass in. Coming up over the saddle between the Hauraki plains and BOP sent me raging loudly with such colourful collogues as:
“Jesus Mary AND Joseph Daniel and Steph, just look at those HILLS! They don’t even look real. That hurts my brain. How are we so blessed to live here? OMG! OMG! OMG! Do you see the light beams bouncing off the forest over there? LOOK AT YOUR BEAUTIFUL COUNTRY! LOOK AT IT!”
My enthusiasm is always met with utterly unrelated observations about brain hemispheres, grave social injustices, or, sometimes dark jokes about ennui and depression from Daniel. Steph is more prone to shrill yelling, because she pretty much yells at the top of her lungs when she wants a thing, until she gets the thing, then simmers down until a wave of desire for the next thing takes hold and the yelling resumes.
Luckily, this bullshit behaviour is reserved only for me. They don’t even pull out the big guns of assholedness I have been privy to this weekend for their dear old dad. They save it for me, I am assuming, as a punishment for the vast swathes of time I spend abroad, and a clear reminder that they do indeed, Love me dearly, and my own eccentricities have not gone unobserved; rather clearly noted and expertly simulated with sardonic stealth. These kids are comic geniuses with very different schticks. They are also unafraid to speak freely of their fears and feelings, no matter how fucked up either of these things may be at any given time.
Now, don’t even get me started on my kids’ friends. They are all kinds of clever and quirky and fantastic. There’s something about being the mom who simply does not give a fuck what other people think or say that has earned me a firm foothold of trust and tenderness in the hearts of all of the kids chosen tribes. Well, we’ve kinda established that Daniel pretty much doesn’t have any friends except for Ben (the incredibly detail oriented, and perhaps slightly OCD tour guide who joined us on Daniel’s 14thbirthday trip to Japan) because he’s pretty much only ever had room for one friend at a time for as long as any of us can remember. Steph, on the other hand, has several gaggles of gregarious and gloriously giggly guys and gals. Mostly gals to be fair. Her social circle is vast and varied and she hangs with creative kids who now reside around the planet. Her two major social circles in New Zealand are her Gym girls and her Junior High posse of perfectly pained pre-teens. These girls are shoveling all kinds of shit and insecurities, while Steph wafts wanton through her weeks, shrieking at me and me only when she neeeeeeds something to happen. I adore her very loud friends. They are all taller than me, they are all very clear on the fact they will always have a home and a hug with the super weird West clan. They remind me in many ways of my own group of friends, only far more vanilla. None of the kids nor their social circles have any interest in veering very far off the tracks. They are drug and alcohol free, do not drink coffee and only “spill tea” (this is what their ritual of spilling secrets and sharing their deepest fears and problems among a safe and secure circle). I Love each of these kids like they were family, and for most intents and purposes, they actually are family. We have found each other in a crazy world, and I suspect I will support and cherish them all in one way or another for as long as I breathe.
Then, there are my kids friend’s parents. Love, respect and earnest strain and parenting pain bind us together. There’s no need for anyone in the world to know what troubles these kids are facing, nor the lengths their legendary parents go to protecting and guiding the greatness that is contained in their offspring. But we share our struggles openly, honestly, and without judgement. I suspect the reason my kids’ parents confide in me so readily, is that I am so open with being a complete fuck up a lot of the time. We are all doing our best, with unique and challenging children. Some of them are feisty, some shy, some angry, some have a tendency to lie. But they are all actually really great kids, and not raging too far in the face of social conventions or norms, rather, they are all kids with convictions, unafraid to disagree with the world, their parents, or society. They even have the ability to respectfully stand up to one another, which, at this stage of development is very rare indeed, as this is the stage in our lives when friends and social acceptance are the holy grail of existence. They’re a good bunch. I just hope that their disinterest in all the trappings and poor choices presented through peer pressure continues.
I may be downplaying some of the heavy shit we have been through together over the years. My kids are far from perfect. My eldest son is a proper pessimist, daughter is a diva, and my baby boy Jamie has absolutely no ability to use an inside voice in any situation. He’s possibly the cutest and cuddliest human I have ever met though. This kid will rage at you for a solid 30-40 seconds when he’s overtired or hangry, and then come bounding up into your arms apologizing for his mean words and expounding his undying adoration for his less than perfect parent (that includes his other mum and dad, the Nanny Lou and her husband Mike).
So, tomorrow I am off again on an epic road trip with two of my goddesses across the country finalizing the details for an international EV extravaganza in November.
Three more nights away from my babies, and home for two nights, then down to Wellington with my magnificent ex-husband Phteven. This time next year, I have every intention of taking my children out of school for a semester and settling for a month in each of their favourite cities, and just being their mother and writing every day.