Rainshowers sprinkled with some autumn sunshine: a perfect time for homemade cookies. I scoot our little one on top of the counter. Roll out the dough on a floured surface, the recipe says. So I need to clean the counter top then. The thing is, I worry a lot about bacteria, but also about chemicals in cleaning products. Maybe just a little bit then? What can survive 220 degrees, anyway? Right? Never mind, let’s just go to the store! Just take a deep breath, you got this. Looking at her cut out tiny stars, I wonder when something simple like baking cookies became an act of bravery. John Green describes the ever tightening spiral of anxiety beautifully in his novel Turtles All the Way Down. It made me laugh so much, because it is so freeing to hear someone else describe exactly what that feels like. Luckily some days are better than others. Going to the beach – bare feet in the sea, feeling the sand between my toes helps. There’s wisdom in this old recipe for children who are overwhelmed: just add water.
I will never forget the day my mum died. Arriving at her hillside home after a tear-filled journey, I passed underneath her beautiful roses and walked into her silent house. As I went up the stairs, the first thing I noticed was all of my silly drawings hanging next to each other on the wall. It struck me in that moment how much my mum adored them. So that day I made her a solemn promise in my heart: to take my art seriously. That promise has been in the back of my mind these past three years. Instead of creating art, I’ve been busy with creating life. After her funeral followed the arrival of a tiny unicorn, our midsummer wedding, and making a new home. How blessed we have been with all of these rainbows! But beside these life events, I have also felt really lost without my mum. She was my ideal reader and without her… whom am I writing for? The answer remained hidden until our little one fell in love with reading books and drawing together, and all of a sudden I´m back in business.
One of the books that has been sitting on my nightstand for a while is There is No Such Thing as Bad Weather. I finally got around to reading it, and had an epiphany almost as soon as I started: no more playgrounds for us! In an attempt to visit places where the little unicorn can meet others, we have traipsed all over town looking for playgrounds these past winter months. Beside the fact that more often they were completely deserted, I seemed to always be counting down the number of times I was going to carry her to the top of the slide or hold her hand as she walked over towers that are always slightly too high. I realised that most playgrounds are inanimate and uninspiring places made out of dead wood that are in fact not very child (or parent) friendly. So let’s go into the woods together to play hide and seek, climb over fallen branches, marvel at the fields of Indian Lillies, learn about ants and other small critters, enjoy our little picnic and visit the place where the fairies live.
As with all rites of passage, it took me a while before I felt accustomed to my new role. There was no maternal instinct that kicked in on day one. As Lisa Marciana describes in Motherhood, the road was full of delays and wrong turnings. In the beginning I was overwhelmed with all the different parenting advice out there. I followed government regulations on sleeping, whilst reading books like Safe Infant Sleep that made more sense. So many people recommended sleep training, whilst a cousin referred us to the sweetest sleep coach. Over the course of the first year, I have figured a couple of things out for myself. I would sum up my approach as: What would the raccoon do? Would she lay her baby down in a crib, or do they sleep huddled up together, warm and safe, in a hollow oak? Would she let her baby cry so that she’ll learn to sleep through the night, or does she respond do their needs? Would she leave her baby with a stranger somewhere, or does she take them with her wherever she goes?
It took me a while to find the courage to write this, because I wanted to write that it was dream to have a baby. But it wasn’t. I didn’t know how to take care of a newborn, on top of recovering from giving birth and being sleep-deprived. My only preparation was sitting in my rocking chair in my beautiful, cosy nursery and reading Secrets of the baby whisperer. Needless to say, that didn’t suffice. There were of course rainbow moments that melted our hearts, but those first few weeks were really hard. Our friends and family came over to help and luckily some had babies with similar temperaments, because none of the general advice worked. After reading Raising your Spirited Baby by Mary Kurcinka I understood why our child struggled to sleep, fiercely crying every single time, and why we couldn’t get her to sleep in her cradle (i.e. a non-human sleep surface). So instead we carried, we rocked, we swayed, we BOUNCED, we danced to Capoeira de Besouro… until she would finally fall asleep on top of us.