Since I was a child, my favourite sound in the world has always been the sound of cicadas. I have two siblings and when we were little, we would have ‘daysleeps’ on the weekends and mum would seperate us into different bedrooms so that we would sleep rather than play. We would rotate each weekend. On the days when it was my turn to sleep in mum and dad’s room, I would lie in their bed and smell the mown grass and listen to the cicadas and think about what games we could play when we were allowed to get back up. That sound brings back those memories of endless childhood summers. I love it.
Our cats are doing their best to rid me of that love.
They have a new game. Rather than catching birds or mice, they have started catching cicadas and bringing them into the house. It was pretty entertaining at first. We’d be sitting in the lounge and suddenly we’d hear that chirrupping sound getting louder and louder, then the catdoor would open and in would come Chico with a cicada in his mouth. Hilarious.
What isn’t so hilarious is that he then lets them go to fly around the house whilst in hot pursuit. He runs up curtains, leaps onto cupboards and claws his way up furniture and walls in an attempt to recatch the bloody things. All hell breaks loose.
This new game takes place 4 or 5 times a day. Every now and then, he brings in a cicada that is slightly more clever than the others. These smart guys find somewhere cunning to hide. Like up the extractor fan vent in the kitchen. Or behind the wall heater. Or on a chandalier. The cats team up and spend hours trying to lure it out. And then they give up.
The cicada remains in hiding for several hours before it gets the courage back up to start singing. But eventually they all do.
So now we have a house full of singing cicadas all in impossible to reach places.
It was pretty funny.
For a while.
There is no doubt that as a parent, my priorities have changed. That was inevitable. What I am surprised about is how accepting I am of those changes. I was most scared before becoming pregnant of resenting my children for the constraints that they put on me. While there is a very small part of me that occasionally feels frustrated about not having any freedom, the rest of me has no trouble reminding that part of me that it is in the minority.
Next weekend we have a wedding to go too. I am nearly jumping out of my skin with excitement. Over excitement. I can’t wait to let loose and have a bender. But I know that it won’t be like the old days. I have responsiblities now, so staying out until sunrise probably isn’t practical. Being a mother just won’t work with a hangover.
But somehow I’m going off on tangents. I was meaning to write about values. Due to my non-religious views, we are not having the babies christened, but I do want to do something to celebrate their lives with other people. So we are having a naming ceremony. I have been writing the formal part of the ceremony for the celebrant, and as part of it I am naming the values that I want to teach my children and that I want reinforced by their godparents (or sponsors – but godparents sounds cooler).
So I’ve been thinking about what I most respect in those people that I hold in high esteem. I have been picturing the future and the things that will make me the most proud of my children. And I’ve come up with five.
More than anything else in the world, I want my children to demonstrate integrity, honesty, fairness, concern and loyalty.
There are two things that I find myself repeating a lot. One is that Hunter is a girl. When you have two tiny babies that look almost identical and they both have seemingly masculine names, people make the automatic assumption that they are both boys – even when I dress Hunter in pink. On the days when she is wearing a dress, when people ask her name and I tell them, they often get me to repeat is several times. It’s funny – names are so generational. Hunter stands out amongst the throngs of Olivias and Ellas and Sophies. People my age tend to say “great names”. People my mothers age tend to say *long pause* “oh”.
On other occasions when I introduce my twins as Israel and Hunter, people just assume that Israel is the girl. That one surprises me. I only know men named Israel. So now I say “This is my son Israel and my daughter Hunter”. It saves any confusion.
Which brings me to the second thing I find myself saying a lot, which is “I just like them”. That is in response to the “Wow, interesting names, they must have a story behind them” comment. I sometimes explain that I have known for over 15 years that I was going to call my first child Hunter. Turns out that Israel was first by 1 minute, but I like Hunter better for a girl.
Then last weekend I was asked a refreshingly new question. Unfortunately it was one that I couldn’t answer at the time. Rather than the boring old jokes about Israel bombing the left bank, someone at a party asked me if I knew what his name meant. I was embarassed to admit that I didn’t. She told me, and it’s beautiful, even for a non-believer like myself.
I learned that Israel means “Prince of God”.
And Hunter means “Hunter”.
A couple of things over the last few days have made me realise just how valuable life is and how important it is not to take it for granted when the going is good.
The first thing isn’t personal but the scale of it’s devastation is almost beyond comprehension. The Australian state of Victoria is currently being razed by bush fires. So far around 100 people have been killed, mostly trying to escape the fire in their cars. Thousands of people have lost homes and there is no end in site. The most sickening thing is that some of these fires are the work of arsonists. I have spent the morning watching the news show person after person break down as they try to describe how they are feeling and what they have lost. While this kind of situation is terrible anywhere, it seems somehow worse because it is so close to home. Australia is our neighbour and to watch it burning is heartbreaking. My heart goes out to the people that have lost their homes, and more importantly, their loved ones.
The second thing is much more personal. We spent the weekend at Starship Childrens’ Hospital because Israel has just undergone emergency surgery for an inguinal hernia. It is a common and straight forward operation, but to watch your 7 week old infant go through any kind of pain, not to mention a general anaesthetic, is heartbreaking. The scariest part was post-op when he had some breathing issues. For 3 hours I sat with him in my lap, hooked up to monitors, and 20 odd times the alarm went off because he had stopped breathing. I had to nudge him to remind him to start again.
Israel, Hunter and I spent the night on a ward full of very sick children. All night I could hear them wailing in pain. Nothing can prepare you for that. I looked down at my perfect children more times than I can count and reminded myself just how incredibly fortunate I am to live the life that I do.
Sometimes it takes something bad to put things into perspective and that’s a shame.
It’s a good question. It’s one that my sister asked me a few weeks back and it really hit the nail on the head. I think all new mothers, definitely all new twin mothers, dread the night to a certain degree. It’s a very strange feeling to be in a room with two other people that you love and to still feel lonely.
During the day we go for walks in the park and enjoy the sunny summer days and I breathe in the fresh air and thank the god that I don’t believe in for how fortunate I am that my life has worked out this way and that I have these two perfect children.
But when the sun goes down and you find yourself sitting there in the dark for hours on end and it can be a very lonely experience. To listen to your husband snoring down the hallway only serves to heighten that feeling. The majority of the time I don’t mind it, but every now and then I’m hit with the relentless reality of it all and that can feel quite overwhelming.
It reminds me of when I was a student and I would come home during the holidays and work several mindless jobs, one of which was in a screw factory. I have to point out that this was not a knock shop, rather it was a factory that made screws. My job was to count the screws into tiny boxes. It was absolutely mind numbingly boring, which unfortunately left me with too much time to think, and that is a very dangerous thing.
Even the most banal subject has the propensity to become something almost insurmountable if you give it too much thought. You question your own judgement and that isn’t such a good thing.
I think the most difficult thing about the nights is that you are not supposed to engage the babies in any way. You get them up, feed them, change them and put them back to bed. To turn on a light or talk to them only serves to wake them, which in turn makes putting them back down difficult. Hence the lonliness.
But I suppose I should point out that these feelings are passing ones. I’m not getting bogged down in them – more making observations about the things that pass through my mind. I can see that if you had the propensity towards depression that new motherhood would be a very difficult thing.
Once again I’m grateful for my sound state of mind.