Gratification

I forgot to publish this post in May and just found it in my archives. In  a bid to regain some credibility after so much slacking, I’m publishing it now.

 

After starting the day with a weary sense of generalised despair, and plodding off to work in a very negative state of mind, whining to myself about how I didn’t want to, and how I just really needed a nap,  I was uplifted first of all by a not-disastrous class ( I don’t require too much in this respect) and secondly, by the boys who work in the courtyard underneath the building where I work, who came up to talk to me all star-struck by the beauty and usefulness of my bike, which they alone in all of Warsaw recognised (If anyone steals it, it will be us, they said.  Nobody else realises.).

Instead of being annoyed that they were bothering me as I tried to go home late in the evening, I found myself simpering away as I told them what this bike (and me on its sturdy steel back) had done. I didn’t believe it myself. I felt like I had just been introduced to somebody who had done something amazing, but no- it was me! I rode home feeling smug in the twilight on my bike which had taken me over the Kizil-art Pass into Tajikistan and through the Japanese Alps and other places too wonderful and distant to list here.

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Mad July

I have been slacking on the blog front. For the whole of July I have been teaching 5 hours a day, and I am stretched in so many ways that I can hardly believe I am still standing at the end of the week. I spend all day (beginning at around 4:30 in the morning) in a ferment of lesson planning and teaching, and come home to the whirl of dinner-bathtime-bedtime. After which I fall into bed myself and the whole cycle begins again.

I’m happy and relieved to find the teaching exciting instead of terrifying. I have a class of 11 young Belarusians who amaze me and amuse me (“Rose, your tights remind me of a rabbit”) every day. Their neurons are also firing madly,  so we are in it together. They do not realise the extent to which I am experimenting on them-I feel like I need to try out any new trick I can think of while I have such an energetic and responsive audience.

So much of this is new. For the first time I am developing warm and constructive relationships with my colleagues. For the first time I am farming out my children all week long, so that I hardly see them. Sometimes I hear their sleepy early morning jabbering building as I exit the flat in the morning- more often, everyone is still sleeping when I leave.  I know that my parents (who have the kids 3 days a week and often do overtime on weekends) are stretched as well, and I barely see them either. I call in the afternoon to remind them I’ll be late and hear the sounds of their secret life together-we’re just in the kitchen having our nana, says my father, and then, he’s escaping too! We’ve got two Trobriand Islanders, and they’re not wearing their leg ropes!

I don’t plan to live like this on a permanent basis, though I know that many people do and somehow manage. But I don’t feel guilty either. For this month, I can wallow in work and see how it feels.

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Getting our summer on

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Finally set up our bikes to carry the kids and went for a ride and a barbeque by the big brown Wisła, all full of foam and swirling brown water from the southern rains.  They had no objection to travelling this way and were happy to have their own (hideous gendered) helmets at last.

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Comparisons are odious

This is what my mother used to tell us when our constant  competitive childhood ranking  (his is better, his is bigger, she got more!) was getting her goat. It sounds like a piece of wisdom inherited from her own mother, and possibly used for the same purpose.

I make them anyway. It’s a constant source of amazement to me, how different my children are. I could touch each of their bodies with one finger and know whose it was- Janek’s dense wombat-flesh, Maja’s springy little muscles. I watch their different kinds of bravery- Maja, who hides behind my leg and wards off strangers with a murderous scowl, has no qualms about sliding headfirst down the slippery-dip. Janek is devoid of any fear whatsoever of unknown humans, and goes about the playground stretching out his arms to other people’s Babcias, saying try!try! (this is what they say when they want to do something and need help).

Their absolute and irrefutable difference  has saved me endless mothering guilt, in particular over Janek’s eczema, which I would otherwise think was my fault. It’s one of the biggest advantages of twins- seeing the way they turn out to be themselves, regardless.

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Conversations with my daughter

Do you want to go back to bed? No, no, no.

Is Babi coming today? tak, tak, tak. (emphatic nodding of the head).

Holy mother of God- she is talking back! She also has her first bilingual words- shoes/buty and light/ lampa.  It’s like the walking – I know everybody does it, but when my kids do, I am amazed and delighted.

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Why having children doesn’t mean social death

Who knew? Because when you don’t have children, all the staying home at night because you don’t have a babysitter, all the not going to restaurants because your kids will wallow in the sugar bowl and then smash it into a thousand pieces, all the I’m- too -tireds and I-can’t-because-it’s- nap- times seem to mean it’s all over. But I, ladies and gentlemen, would like to report, both truthfully and optimistically, that it’s not.

My first inkling came when I managed to find a mother’s group. We would  meet once a week in a yoga studio, do yoga for a while (our kids were still tiny, and only one was ambulatory), and then talk about our tribulations- about our experience of birth and feeding, about what had happened to our relationships, about what had happened to us. Most of us were on our first babies, and still reeling. Contact with strangers is harder to make in Poland, but we seemed to have created a charmed circle where the usual rules of standoffishness didn’t apply. We would share our dark secrets amongst a chorus of wails, and I would go home feeling slightly less shipwrecked.

I also have another set of new friends which my children have brought me . A couple of months after they were born, looking for some connection, I joined a Facebook group of women who had twins due around the same time that mine were. Most of them are in the States, but some are in Europe, one in Australia, one in the Gambia. It’s secret group, which means that our ‘real’ friends can’t see anything that we write there. And oh, how they save my sanity. Together we have obsessed over sleep, over feeding, over the weights and skin conditions and moods and teeth of our offspring. Many of us have older kids, and one has already produced a younger sibling for her twins.

But it’s not only about children. When I get a new job which I desperately want to boast about, I boast to them. When one of their husbands is diagnosed with MS, she tells us. We confess  our  pain, our fear, our isolation, our triumphs.  We advise each other and commiserate and cheer each other on.  It’s the internet, and we are total strangers, and engaged in that most competitive of businesses-motherhood-, but we are gentle with each other, and unjudgmental.

And then there are the playground friends. At the mummy-cafe, I met an Austrian who takes care of his daughter while his wife works, and a Frenchman who does the same. We go to the playground, and try not to lose our children or let them kill themselves, while engaging in desultory conversation about all manner of things. The Frenchman divulges his plan to become a failed writer (“I’m well on my way”,) the Austrian tells me about his hobby of motorbike racing and shows me a picture of the 6 screws and a metal plate he had put in his knee after an accident. We cover the usual- food, sleep, a quick boast about new achievements- and then are free to talk about ourselves.

I expect it to go on like this, more or less. There will be preschool and school, and they will have friends whose parents I might like or not, but they will bring us into the orbit of people we would never otherwise have met. I don’t expect each and every one of them to be my bosom buddies, but it makes me realise that maybe kids aren’t tyrannical little jailers after all.

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16 month lexicon

It occurs to me that these are the final moments when I will be able to even attempt counting the words that the kids know, and I will likely want to remember at some point what was going on when they started talking, so here is a list of words they use at the moment. Besides these words, they also have a repertoire of yelps and gasps to express surprise and shock.

ball

bath (this word leads to a frantic rush to the bathroom and desperate attempts to tear off clothes and climb into the bath)

book

uwaga (look out!)

no,no,no, no, accompanied by a wagging finger

thank you

daj! (or try)

hello

doon-doon (a word used in my family for generations to describe a cave made out of sheets or blankets)

lampa (light)

nana (all food and drink)

gloom (this clearly means milk, though I have no idea where it came from)

pić (drink)

tak (yes), maybe?

butybutybutybutybuty (shoesshoesshoesshoesshoes)

papa (byebye)

hauhau (woof woof- apparently this covers all animal noises, so koalas and cats also say hauhau)

tam (there)

mama

tata

baby

nose

 

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