Always a touchy subject to discuss, however I do have a little wisdom to part with, as I think I have raised two beautiful boys, Nico who is now 18 and Jules who is 12.
I have to confess, I wasn’t one of those people who was desperate to be a mother. I mean, I always wanted kids but I didn’t lie around all day dreaming of the moment I first held my child. To me it was something that would come naturally when I met someone and fell in love with them and when that finally did happen, I could actually picture myself having kids.
It is never as easy as you imagine it’s going to be. Firstly Nico took at least a year to conceive, I mean seriously, what was he waiting for?? I did all the right things and stopped drinking and started eating better, exercising and taking the right supplements, but in the back of my mind, every time we had sex I was thinking ‘I’m trying to make a baby’ and I think that pressure can really stuff things up!
The moment I did get pregnant was when I stopped trying. I started drinking and partying and not thinking about it at all – and voila! He was conceived on the ferry we owned and lived on when we were in Sydney – motion of the ocean baby! Of course I felt hugely guilty that I had trashed myself for the last six weeks and immediately went back to my healthy ways and suffice to say her turned out ok (so far) – but note to reader – I do not recommend this method – apart from the relaxing bit..
Nico was a month premature and breach, so I had to have a C-section. It was a very strange and wonderful time. You can’t actually believe that you are a mother! I still felt like I was 21, when in actual fact I was a late bloomer at the tender age of 37 when I had Nico. I guess I was so used to doing my own thing that it felt weird suddenly having to be responsible for this tiny little thing. We continued living our life as we always had and he just fitted in with us and came everywhere we usually went, sleeping under tables in restaurants and luckily he was a good baby and happily travelled on planes to wherever we were flying. I thought we were the luckiest people in the world with the most perfect of babies.
Fast forward to 18-24 months when he could walk, or should I say run. He ran everywhere and loved to take his clothes off. I remember around this time, we were living at our hotel, The Albany in South Yarra and I decided to take him across to Fawkner Park for a picnic. It started off well. We sat down, spread the blanket, I got out a magazine and some toys for him, next thing I turn around and he is running towards Commercial road. I was watching him and thinking, any minute he will turn around and come back. I waited and waited and called his name and he totally ignored me and kept running. It finally sunk in that Usain Bolt was not coming back so I jumped up and chased after him calling his name and he literally just kept going and going until he almost reached the end of the park. By this stage I was in a total panic and had raised quite a sweat and just barely managed to grab him before he ran onto a busy street. Life as I knew it, was over.
So this was our new life, everywhere we went he just bolted. You couldn’t sit down anywhere. One of us had to constantly follow him around. Going out became a nightmare, he was action Jackson! Even going to a kid’s birthday party in a park, off he would go. I remember by the time he was 3 and we took a trip to Sri Lanka. We spent 3 solid weeks chasing him everywhere. I couldn’t work out where he thought he was going? Were we such bad parents he didn’t want to be around us? I never did find out.
When we arrived in Sri Lanka, we decided that we were going to nappy train him. I have to say it was a great idea waiting a little longer and doing it on a summer holiday. On the first day, we told him that nappies were coming off and he was old enough to understand it. We said it was ok to pee outside but number two must be done on the loo. The first few times he got it around the wrong way, which was a little embarrassing to say the least, but after a day or two he got the hang of it and for a few weeks he only had a nappy overnight, but that was pretty much it.
Our days were spent finding fun things for him to do hoping to exhaust him so we could relax in the evening, but even dinners were a just as bad, as he wouldn’t sit still and so we would take turns following him around. We organized a nanny one night so we could have a nice dinner together but before entrée Nico and the nanny appeared at the table, because he told her he wanted to see us and so she brought him downstairs, fun over….
By the end of the trip we were exhausted and decided then and there, no more kids, it was too much work!! We figured he would eventually outgrow this and be our one, perfect child. Apart from the bolting, he was a great kid and reached all his milestones and slept through the night from 3 months of age and we absolutely adored him. He was curious, loving, had a great sense of humour, had the biggest blue eyes, a shock of white hair and was the most gorgeous creature I had ever met.
I’m not sure why we waited so long to have another baby, I think the bolting was deeply etched in our memories and I was 41 and Ian was 54, but we started trying for another baby. This time I did all the same things as before but a year and a half passed and I still wasn’t pregnant. We both decided to give up and then suddenly, just like before, I conceived. Jules was born just before my 43rd birthday, he was also a month prem and breach but he was so desperate to come out, he flipped himself around and flew out of me naturally about an hour after we got the hospital.
To say the boys were different is a complete understatement! Any more relaxed and Jules would’ve been in a coma… he slept all day long, like literally 22 hours a day, he barely cried and I had to wake him for most feeds. Once he had eaten he would go back to sleep. I was a little worried and took him to the doctor but he said he was fine and healthy and to enjoy the peace, we were also lucky that he slept through the night at 3 months.
Fast forward 12 years and he is pretty much the same. Super chill and easy, funny as buggery and just the total opposite of Nico in most ways. He is still my baby and I can’t bear the thought of him growing up, I want him to stay just as he is forever. He has the most beautiful big green eyes and is very loving and adores cuddles and affection, but I know I need to cut those strings and let him grow up.
One great invention I can claim as a mum, is the mystery tray!! It was born out of the fact that one night when Nico was little, Ian came home and asked what he had had for dinner, I suddenly realized that I had totally forgotten to feed him and it was 7pm!! I jumped up and ran to the fridge and grabbed out anything and everything that looked remotely appealing. I got a tray, a whole bunch of little cute plastic coloured containers that I bought from the supermarket and just started filling them up. A little yoghurt in one, I cut up some cucumber and carrot and put that in another, some fresh raspberries in another, some leftover chicken I cut into cubes, some grated cheese, pretzels and a cup of milk and I have to say it looked kinda cute! I took it into him and he asked what is was – I said “It’s a Mystery Tray” and his eyes widened with joy!! The Mystery Tray – little did he know it was as much as a mystery to me as it was to him!! Nico has finally grown out of the Mystery Tray but Julesy still asks for them every now and again. The excitement of not knowing what is going to be on it is just thrilling for a child. The only rule we have is that you have to eat the sweet treat last. It’s amazing how much food you can get them to eat when you make it look pretty. This might seem super basic for some of you but I don’t care, it’s my invention and I’m owning it!
I adore raising boys and watching them turn into men. I have a stepson Christian, now 31, who I have known since he was 9 and we are very close. He moved in with us when he was about 15 and pretty much stayed in Melbourne ever since. The boys also have a very close relationship with him and just adore him. He is kind and loving and a big part of our family, which I just adore. Nico was 14 and Jules was 8 when they lost their dad. This is a time that is critical for boys to have a father figure or male role model in their lives, so it’s been a huge help having Christian around and if they ever get out of line, he is always there to help out. Luckily I also have my amazing mum Julia, who lives with us and has always been a huge part of their lives. In some ways they are lucky to have had strong females to raise them and some old fashioned values to shape them into who they are today.
Both of my boys handled losing their dad differently. Nico just became the strong, solid one of the family and it took him a while to cry and acknowledge the loss. Funnily enough it finally happened when he went to his school formal. He asked if he could wear some of his dad’s clothes, as Ian had a rather fabulous wardrobe. He looked sensational and wore these crazy leopard print Dolce and Gabbana pants and a black designer jacket, Ian’s RM Williams boots and my Gucci belt. He was the talk of the formal and I was so damn proud of him and cried when I dropped him off. It wasn’t until the next day when he broke down and cried for hours and said he didn’t realise how cool his dad was and how much he missed him. I knew it would eventually happen in his own time, so I never pushed him.
Julesy, for the longest time, talked about him as if he was still here and probably suffered the most out of all of us, but in a quiet way. Every night I would tuck him in and ask him – ‘Who loves you most in the world’ and he would say ‘You and Dadda’. As much as I try to keep his memory alive, neither of them say they can remember his voice anymore, which makes me so sad. But they are strong resilient kids and I am very proud of them both.
My top tips for raising boys are to always try to have open communication, be present, have a great sense of humour, teach them manners, give them discipline and consequences for their actions (as Christian knows only too well), maintain healthy boundaries and throw in a little dash of fear. I don’t mean you want your kids to be afraid of you, but there always has to be a line they know not to cross. Boys will always push the boundaries and they need to know what those boundaries are. I am a pretty liberal and relaxed mum and maybe that is because I had my kids at a later age in life, but they also know that there is a limit and my kids do try their hardest not to cross it.
Manners are also hugely important to me. Looking someone in the eye and shaking their hand is right up there. I can’t tell you how many people comment on this and are blown away when they meet my kids, which is kind of sad, because it is clearly something that stands out, rather than be the norm. It is important to help your kids understand, that how you make other people feel is an important skill to possess. If either of my kids walks into the house and I have a friend over and they don’t greet them by name and give them a hug/kiss, I will take them aside and let them know them know they have been rude. Imagine if you were in someone’s house and their kid walked in and didn’t bother to acknowledge you, how would you feel? Especially when they are old enough to know better.
Another big issue when you have teenagers is Alcohol. It is something lots of people don’t seem to know how to deal with, including myself. I never want my kids to hide anything from me and if they are going to drink, I would prefer they did it at home. I have always welcomed kids hanging at our place because at least I know they are safe and as long as their parents were ok with them having a drink, it was ok with me. This was when they were around 16 years of age. Kids are going to try everything and if you make a big deal of it, it forces them to hide and be sneaky about it. The thought of Nico being out somewhere and drunk and too scared to tell me was never a situation I wanted to be in. As far as I know, he has never needed a reason to lie to me and has a pretty healthy relationship with alcohol (and me).
One last thing. I insist of having the Life 360 app on both the kid’s phones and they are forbidden to turn it off. It’s not so I can spy on them, as they always tell me where they are, so there is no need to lie. It is just a safety measure in case anything ever happened, I would know how to find them.
So that is my brief little story on Motherhood and me! Please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions.
Great books to read if you have boys –
‘Raising Boys’ by Steve Biddulph & ‘The Making of Men’ by Arne Rubinstein