Show Home Family

After almost five and a half years of living in a house with my Mum, I’ve narrowed down the negative side-effects.

I’ve worked through the little niggling comments she used to make about Chef that, when combined, were really potentially damaging to my marriage (“wouldn’t it be great if he was interested in building a shed…”).

I’ve worked on the constant assessment on my cooking – “I like my chops a little bit more cooked”, “what did you put in this that is spicy?” (answer: that would be freshly ground pepper), “I really feel like . . . “, “is it meant to be that dark” and so on and so forth.

I’ve (almost) resolved my body image issues the weight obsession, so comments such as “I’ve also got fatter” and “you should join my cult (rhymes with serves) too Kimmy” (almost) roll off my pysche.

But the passive agressive bullshit meddling into how I raise my children is still REALLY PISSING ME OFF.

There is generally a fixation that lasts a few months – sometimes it’s their diet because you see, we eat pasta, onions, garlic, tomato and like our salad with a home made dressing on it and she hates (read “can’t eat that, it doesn’t ‘agree’ with me”) all that so naturally they mustn’t be healthy, nutritious or good for you. So when we eat pasta for dinner she will say something like, “is there much nutrition in pasta?” or “it isn’t very fatty is it?”. Ironically, on the afternoons she looks after the boys for me, they always ALWAYS have lollies, chocolate and icecream. Go figure.

Sometimes it’s how often they clean their teeth which in all honesty is every night but not every morning. There’s a range of reasons for this – mainly I’ at the time teeth cleaning should be happening and I have a husband who’s focus and dedication to dental hygeine is more laxadazical than militant. I figure he doesn’t beat me or the kids, he holds down a job, he loves us, is funny and can cook. Today he even fixed a leaking toilet. In the last 6 months he’s put up shelving. He’s in the process of setting up his restaurant. So ya know, his questionable dedication to morning teeth cleaning isn’t something I’m really going hard on him for.

At the moment it is how much television they watch. In our house, during the week, there is no TV before school and it get’s switched off in the afternoons at 5pm. Until they go to bed and then it is on baby ON. The latter parts of my pregnancy, when dragging my carcass around was bloody exhausting, coincided with the last term of the year and the boys main work at school was making so much freaking craft I am still wondering how long you’re meant to keep it before you’re allowed to throw it out because it takes up so much FUCKING room. The TV rule was moderately relaxed.

We’re now in the midst of our major summer holiday – you know, the one where you just hang out, maybe meet up with some friends, go to the movies and generally just regroup from the year and brace for the next.

This has been prime passive aggressive hunting grounds for Mum’s current “telelvision stunts brain development”. Subsequently The Simpsons Super Sunday is being given a good flogging because I LEARNT FROM THE MASTER. Please note, she never turns the television off in her place, just allowing the boys to swing by upstairs and channel surf to their hearts desire. But it was when she started going on and on and FUCKING ON about it with Jasper, I had enough. You see, the Good Child’s (formerly the New Recruit) ability to focus is improving and in the last 10 days has discovered this big bright thing on the shelf that has lots of colours and sounds coming out of it. Well damn, I’m 33 and find it bloody compelling so I can only imagine was a 12 week old brain makes of it. FUCKING BRILLIANT I imagine. So naturally, every time she drops in, which is currently averaging about 15 times a day, and Jasper is awake and looking at the big shiny noisy box she says, “don’t you watch that television, it’s bad for your brain development” in that sing songy voice we all use with little babies that is really really STUPID AND ANNOYING. Finally last week I let a little ‘tsk’ escape, scooped up Jasper and went to find a corner of SILENCE. She said “oh, I just worry about these sorts of things” (as if the brain development of my children – when I have a CHILD WITH FUCKING BRAIN DAMAGE – is something I don’t even think about). My reply was along the lines of mock surprise and something like, ‘really? because from the 50 times you’re saying it to me every day I would never have guessed’. She hates sarcasm. See, I know. So anyway she said something about her saying it wasn’t a comment on my parenting (LIKE FUCKING HELL IT ISN’T) and on we went. Then, on Sunday, there was an article in the paper about a study proving television damages children’s brain development. So she sent it down to me with Felix. Even I was impressed at how pissed off I got as quickly as I did. You see, she sent him down with it, calling out from the stairwell that ‘it wasn’t my idea, i didn’t put him up to it, it was his idea, he wanted to show you’. EXCUSE ME? I mean I know Felix is bright (in that life skills kind of way) but I didn’t know he could read the newspaper! Remarkable.

Anyway, the reason for this foot stamping, petulant, trivial rant is that it has shown me why I still struggle with living with her. It’s because we have to be the equivalent of the Show Home Family. You know, a pristine, plastic, FAKE representation like you see on those estates that lull you into stupdity. We have to be this Show Home Family because otherwise, as soon as there is a paint peeling somewhere or a leak somewhere else, she can’t help but pick pick pick.

And it’s just exhausting.

Yesterday my Dad dropped in for a visit. They’ve been divorced for twenty years this year. She’s still not over it. I think this is really really sad and it breaks my heart because you know what, I watched her be this remarkably strong woman, taking herself back to uni at night, working full time and raising two kids. Because Dad was an absolute utter bastard. He did things to her that I can’t write about that are so utterly dreadful I can understand why part of her probably doesn’t want to get over it. It would somehow send a message that his behaviour and actions were forgiveable or it would lessen their abhorrence. Apart from all that he shirked his responsibility for us for years. I reached a point (when I had kids) where I couldn’t carry that anger any more. I had to let it go. I know she’s not over it because she almost cries whenever she talks about it. She said to me LAST WEEK “I don’t know why he married me, I obviously wasn’t what he wanted.” WHAT THE FUCK? I can’t help her with that stuff. I got therapy to work through my suitcases, she has to do the same. But she came and just ‘hung out’ downstairs while he was here. It’s all her way of saying to me “see, we can get on” after the cat mauling incident of 2003 when I declared I would never have the two of them in the same place ever again. Instead it makes me SO FREAKIN TENSE. Did you notice?


I’ve talked here before about her constant allowance making and concession giving parenting of my brother. I’ve misplaced my anger about that onto him until it dawned on me yesterday that I don’t see him whinging about it, he recognises he has done shitty things and really, is just living the choices he has made. All the power to him.

It is MUM trying to fix it. Yesterday, in front of my children, she started having this whole conversation with Dad (admittedly he started it) about how he has no money, that it all goes in childcare blah blah blah and it was LADEN with innuendo that Dad should be bailing him out or at least giving him money because well, she’s giving him 100 bucks every other week. (talk about maintaining the dependency no responsibility relationship/ mindset).

But now she has my Dad in on it. After trying to explain to these two IDIOT BABY BOOMERS how the childcare rebate works (no, my brother’s wife, the one HE left with a FOUR MONTH OLD BABY doesn’t get any reductions or kick backs or bonuses, its a rebate that is worked out of combined income and adjusts the daily fee). JESUS. today he rang me to ask how my brother could reduce his HECS debt. Well, finishing his three year degree in three years rather than six because it was more important to get drunk every day at the uni bar would have been a start.

See. SEE? So the next step in this is working out why the rage, Kim? And I know. Because for the YEARS Chef and I had so little money (a combination of choice to stay at home and not put kids into care and the reality of Oscar’s needs) we often couldn’t go anywhere because we couldn’t afford petrol, or would quietly invite ourselves to eat at his parents place or Mum’s because we didn’t have enough money for food. Because of the 17 grand tax bill we slogged to pay off over the last 18 months (awesome achievement). Because I know none of these discussions ever took place about me. Yes, largely because I didn’t mention it (because like, we’re grown-ups now, making choices and yes we’re in a really suckful difficult patch but it’s ours and we will and also because it was just expected we would get ourselves through it.

Here explains why I see RED when relationships fall down to a base root of expectation. Always be grateful. Always be thoughtful. Never take anyone or anything for granted. This is part of my creed.

You know, the irony in all this is that we have this living arrangement because Mum wanted to help us get ahead. So now I’m livin’ the dream and my brother gets the hundred bucks…