Saturday, 30 April 2016

Watching my children is a favourite thing of mine.

Not in a creepy way. In a Mum way. Watching them deep in concentration, or playing so intently in a world of make believe. Or lost in comfort and thought when they are drifting off to sleep or have just woken up.
When Meisha draws or writes, she concentrates so hard. Her tongue sneaks out and sits on the corner of her lips, somehow aiding in the concentration. Her hair falls softly at the side of her face and she absent-mindedly brushes it away, lost in the world of fantasy coming to life on her paper.

When Jaxon has just woken up in the morning, he comes sleepily out to the lounge and plonks himself on the couch with his teddy. He has slept with that teddy since he was 8 months old, and it is no different now at 10 years old. He clutches his teddy close to his chest. He knows his favourite parts and they each serve a different purpose. He gently rubs teddys ears on his lips, feeling the soft worn fur. He knows which arm is missing some of it's stuffing and he holds that arm differently to the other one. He hold's teddy close to his face so he can smell his familiar smell.

Olive loves to play cars. She will sit for hours, building a city in her mind. She knows exactly where the supermarket is in the game, and the school and the homes. She always adopts an American accent which makes me smile. Her cars have conversations. They have fights. They go to school. They get married. They go to school and get married on the same day. She gets so absorbed in her game, her world she has created, that I can stand at the door watching and she won't notice me. And I do this. It intrigues me what goes through children's minds as they play. She becomes each and every character, and knows instinctively what and who they are and how they are behaving.

Watching my children is a favourite thing of mine.

Olive has a good friend. Her name is "A" and she is an adorable wee girl who can be shy, but when she is comfortable with you, she is hilariously funny. She has an infectious laugh, and her and Olive are always giggling about something together. They get along so well, and they play their little hearts out together.
Last night Olive went for her first sleepover at A's house. This mama was a bit nervous to be honest, which is silly because A's mum has become a really good friend of mine and I know Olive feels comfortable with her so there was nothing to worry about! I guess just because Olive still wakes at night (but she didn't at A's house!) and the fact she's my baby is why I worry. But she had a great night and Meisha went too, so she had her big sister had she gotten homesick.

Lately we have spent a bit of time with A's family and I have really enjoyed watching my kids getting on so great with another family. As I said, watching my children is a favourite thing of mine. I've been watching Olive and A playing. And I see two gorgeous young girls, laughing and being silly with abandon. I see two little blondies, dancing around in princess dresses and high heels, sparkly hand bags slung on their shoulders, baby dolls in prams in front of them. I see two friends, each with a love for the other that happens so easily with young children. I see happiness and fun. I see imaginations running wild and inhibitions running free.

Most of the time, this is what I see. I try hard not to think too far into the future with Olive, but being a Pisces with an imagination that takes over often, this isn't always an easy feat.

The other day I was watching the two girls play, and I smiled as I thought of them soon starting school together. My mind raced ahead to them being the same age as Meisha and her friends now, and just as quickly raced ahead to teenage years and high school. As swiftly as I thought fondly of the bond these girls might be forming now that would take them through school together, I had a sudden thought of Olive herself as a teenager.
I realised that although Eddie and I strive to encourage her self-confidence and to raise her and the other two kids as self-accepting and self-loving, it ultimately isn't up to us.

What if people ARE mean? What if, as with other children with CMN, Olive gets picked on and called names like gorilla or ape? Can you imagine being a young girl/woman and having to deal with that? In my teenage years, I was so self conscious and lost - I didn't know how to process emotions or situations. I didn't know WHO I was, I didn't know what I wanted, what I stood for and what I would not stand for. I didn't know how to be me.

The thought that my girl might be like me, and struggle like I did makes my heart skip. And not in a good way. In an anxiety inducing way. The thought that she might be like that AND have to deal with shit from others struggling in a similar way, and not yet having realised the detrimental effect they might be having on the person they are being nasty to, makes me want to cry.

I fear for all of my kids getting bullied. It is one of those things that makes me feel sick, and to think that maybe one day my child/ren might be on the receiving end actually makes me want to pack them up and home school them. Except I'd lose my shit homeschooling, and wouldn't be any good at it. Plus, I believe there are many valuable social lessons to be learnt from being in a mainstream schooling environment.

So Eddie got home late the other night from band practise. Olive was asleep in the centre of our bed, and Eddie and I lay on either side of her. Just before we turned out the light, I kissed her soft cheeks and stroked her wild hair out of her face. These worries had been playing on my mind all day so I told Eddie about them.

We ended up staying up late into the night, talking about it and about how sometimes we don't know if we have made the right decision to not remove. I think in my heart of hearts I truly feel we have, but part of me wonders if Olive will turn around one day when she is older and ask why we did nothing about it. I know I will be able to tell her that we believed we were doing the right thing, but that still wont determine her reaction or her feeling towards it.

When Oli was born, we pondered the idea of removing big satellite on her left arm (for those who haven't seen it, its about 4-5 cm's in diameter and very hairy). It is very big and is in full sun exposure if Olive is in a short sleeved top. The topic hasn't come up for discussion again until the other night. We discussed the pro's and con's, and our reasons for and against. We really talked it out and still came to the conclusion that no matter how we feel about it, it is still Olive's decision. And at four years old, we don't feel she has the logistical mind yet to make such a decision.

It is still on the cards. It is something I will discuss at our next check up appointment with her dermatologist.  This journey is such a process. You think you have reached a Rest Point, and then something new comes along and opens the way for more discussion. It must always be like this. Changing stages and phases.

In the meantime, I'll keep on watching my children - it's a favourite thing of mine.

Tuesday, 5 April 2016

Some conversations hit you right in the feels. One I had with Olive tonight at bedtime did just that. It was a lot like one I have had previously with her, and I can't help wonder if I am reacting the right way. It went a little something like this:

I kissed the big satellite on her arm and said, "I love kissing your nevus. It's so soft."
She pulled her arm away and said, "it is not. It's spiky!"
Me: "Well I like it, and I think it's soft."
Olive: "I don't like it and I want to take it off. All of them. I don't want to have nevus skin, I want to have just skin."

A little taken aback, I decided to just go with it as I could tell she was getting worked up, so I said, "sweetheart, it is always your choice whether to leave your nevus as it is or to have operations to remove it."

"What's operations?" she asked.

"Well, the doctors would put a bubble in your skin to help the regular skin grow so they can put that there instead of nevus skin. They would cut the nevus skin away and replace it with the new skin and then sew it up. Your nevus would be gone, but you would have scars."

Now, some might disagree with my tactic here of being completely upfront with a 4 year old. But I'll tell you why in that split second I decided to be honest. I have always told my children the truth about life - about sex and how babies are made; about Mum's cancer; about how I feel about things etc - anything they ask me, I have always told the truth. I believe it makes conversations easier, and their trust in me strong. I truly believe knowledge is power and I feel that by arming them with correct knowledge I am encouraging them to make good decisions in their lives.

Olive's decision on whether to go through the removal process or not will always be hers. But I want her to know both ways what might be in store. So that's why I told her the truth about removal, and didn't 'baby' her during our conversation or assume she was too young to understand.

She gasped. "Cut me? I don't want anyone to cut me!"

"Well the doctors would give you medicine so you couldn't feel them do it, it just might be sore afterwards."

She started to cry. "I don't want anybody to cut me Mummy, but I want my nevus to not be there."

She threw her arms around my neck and cuddled into me.

I snuggled my baby back and told her, "Olive, you listen to me. You are beautiful and perfect exactly how you are. Your nevus is beautiful and it makes you special. It is just a part of who you are, and everyone has parts they don't like about themselves."

She had quietened down at this point and she pulled away and looked at me.

I said, "I don't like my toes. And I don't like my double chin. And I used to hide my potato finger."

(I have a funny little finger on my left hand that is almost a centimetre shorter than the one on the right. When I was growing up, I was so self conscious of it, I used to clench my hands all the time in an effort to hide it from view. A few months back, Meisha decided my finger looked like a potato and now calls it my potato finger. Every time the kids or I say it, it cracks me up!)

Olive giggled. I kissed her head and said, "don't you ever forget how beautiful you are my darling. You're just perfect."

She smiled and said, "Ok mama. Love you."

"Love you too bub."

She closed her eyes and I got to thinking. This is the second time now this has happened where she has said she doesn't like her nevus. And both times I have made the assumption that she is tired and in a silly mood. At what point do I stop assuming, and take it on board and really listen to what she is saying? I can't help automatically counteracting what she is saying with positive affirmations about her, but am I actually dismissing her real feelings? Or is it simply a case of a little girl saying something for a reaction? I feel she is far too little right now to make a decision such as this. And I want her to be totally secure in her decision as well.

My thoughts flickered to what might have instigated her comments. Maybe someone at kindy had said something?

"Is anyone mean about your nevus Olive?"

Her: "No mummy, they all love it. They think it's cool."

I smiled. "Because it is! It's part of what makes you special!"

She smiled as her eyes closed again and quietly said, "I love my nevus Mummy. Love you. Sweet dreams mama."

And off to sleep she went, with the knowledge that her Mummy thinks she is perfect exactly as she is.

Saturday, 2 April 2016

I love birthday's. Not just my own. In fact, I enjoy my children's birthday's more than my own. I love choosing them gifts I think they will love.
I let them choose whatever cake they want in the whole world and stay up till Stupid O'clock trying my very best to create it for them. I spend far too much money and time making decorations and food for their parties. I love letting them pick whatever they want for dinner on their birthday. This year Olive has impressed me by telling me, 'lets just have something healthy mummy, coz all the party food will be so sugary'.

Olive is having a Strawberry Shortcake party this year, with her favourite friends from kindy and the kids school. I have spent the past few weeks scouring the shops for Strawberry Shortcake themed decorations and toys and gifts. Which is damn near impossible by the way - it seems Frozen is the in thing these days and Strawberry is out. So I have been improvising and making my own instead. May not be perfect, but the love and intention is there!

There's an app on Facebook called 'On This Day' and it brings up your memories and posts from the same day in previous years. I love it. Most days there is something which makes me laugh all over again. Every now and then, a previous post of mine comes up and the feelings I felt come flooding back too. Especially when it comes to Olive.

When you're a parent, it's quite normal for each day to merge into the next with no definitive occurrence or event to mark it's place. Actually, I think it can be quite normal for that to happen even without kids. The monotony of work, children, housework etc - it can all be very darn boring and not very eventful.

So reading my past posts, in particular in Olives first year, makes the emotions surface again. Though a lot of them may be what people generally consider as negative emotions - fear, anguish, anxiety, sadness - I don't see them as that. I see our time with Olive as the most joyful and educational of my entire life.

The last week has resurfaced the posts from 2012 which lead up to Olive's birth. I talk a lot on here about Olive's birth. It was such a turmoil of emotions, that were incredibly hard to deal with. It took me a long time to mentally compartmentalise all the varying emotions and sometimes I still struggle with it now. It can be hard to know sometimes, if I worry because she is my daughter, or because she is my daughter with a nevus.

The lead up to Olive's birthday each year is a real reflection on how far we have all come. It can be real roller coaster - I get really excited for her, having fun at her party, the excitement of opening her presents and having a special day just for her, being proud of how much she has grown in the year since her last birthday. But there is also the overwhelming remembrance of the early days. Her birth, and her being born with CMN, was such a definitive experience in all of our lives, that not just the memories but the emotions are imprinted within me on a hugely deep level.

When she was a newborn, I couldn't envision her as a toddler, or a school kid, a teenager or an adult. She was just my sweet baby girl who I was fiercely protective of, and determined to make her life the best it could be,

None of that has changed. I still can't envision her as a teenager or an adult, but I am clearly seeing the darling little girl she has become. Not only is she beautiful in her looks, but also in her heart. She is a caring and compassionate person who notices things about people that other children her age would look straight past.

My Olive is daring, and determined. Her sense of humour outwits many adults - she is an old soul and I'm sure she has had coaching for her jokes from my Poppa (he passed away when I was 4).

This sweet baby girl, who at one time in her life used to shout, 'hi!' and 'hey bro!' to strangers in the mall, is shy and cautious around new people. She is confident in who SHE is, but not so much in who others are. Once she gets to know you, and learns you are worthy of her time, she will be a good little mate who will have great conversations with you and make you laugh genuinely.

This little girl, my daughter, my last baby, is a person who I am insanely proud of. She is the last piece to our family puzzle and we all adore her to the moon and back.

Happy fourth birthday for tomorrow, my sweet Olive.