Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Stick with judging

Sitting in between a mum reading a book called 'Jane learns about colds and other viral infections' to her one year old and a nice community midwife I waited at the regional vaccination drop in centre for my daughter to have her six month shots. I enjoyed seeing the other parents, I also found the lack of interaction a little sad.

A young mum sat on a chair juggling her two sons, both of whom seemed intent on causing a ruckus. Climbing on things, throwing things, pulling pamphlets off the stand, running around madly. The mum tried, unsuccessfully, to settle them, while everyone else avoided eye contact. She needed help but she may not ask and we may not offer. Those are the rules.

A few minutes later a new mum arrived with her eight week old daughter. We chatted. She was clearly an educated woman, and she was clearly frazzled. Eight weeks without sleep had left her strung out. I did not want to be the one to tell her that it might get harder before it gets easier. I did want to give her my phone number and offer to come around and help, but I knew that being that presumptuous would seem odd.

I saw an older couple with a four month old boy. He was crying a little for a feed while she firmly told him to stop it. I do not know if she believed a four month old can be trained or if she was just embarrassed. She laid him across her lap and vigorously patted his back. The husband became unsure of what all the other people would think and chastised her for 'bashing' him too hard. I cannot vouch for the others in the room but all I was thinking was how much I would enjoy a massage like that and wondering if I had been way too gentle when trying that technique with our bubby.

I loved the very young couple that came in pushing a big pram,carrying a sports bag and a massive back pack. There was a moment when she asked him, with an amused shake of the head, why they needed so much stuff. They both looked a bit embarrassed. I wanted to laugh with them, not at them, and tell them I did the same thing only a few months ago.

I saw a Muslim woman whom I remembered seeing at our two month appointment. We never spoke though we did smile. I wanted to ask her about breastfeeding in her culture.

I had been chatting to the mum of an eighteen month old boy. We had commented on the cuteness of our respective children and chatted about the types of things that mums chat about. When she sat her son on a chair between us so he could read a book without thinking I moved closer so that my own daughter could watch the boy and his book. When I did you could feel the uncertainty of the mother, so much so that I felt the need to apologise. I broke the rules by entering her personal space.

I really enjoyed watching the people come and go today. I did find it surprising how little interaction there was between us all. We were all mums yet there was some unspoken social rules that prevented us from interacting. A mum needed help managing her boys, but the rest of us could only sit back and judge her. Why are we not interacting with each other? Are we that different?

Friday, May 21, 2010

A sense of community

My next door neighbour knocked on my door yesterday to tell me it was starting to rain. My neighbour is eighty-three, he sat undercover keeping bubby amused while I took my washing off the line. This is my new home, it is actually my grandfather’s home, and his community is very well established. I am taking lessons from him.

His morning begins with phone calls while he is lying in bed. Around 7am I hear him telling somebody on the of the line that “She hasn’t come in yet”. He is waiting for me to bring my daughter in to him. I have a shower while she lays beside him. He always puts the phone on speaker and makes everybody talk to her.

When he does get out of bed he checks whether the neighbour has puts his blinds up. He worries when it is almost lunch time before they are raised. The neighbour came over the other day. He had locked his keys in his ute and needed help calling NRMA (road-side assistance). My grandfather called them first but after declaring “we are both in our eighty-fives” to the operator he passed the phone to me.

The next door neighbour on the other side is younger. My grandfather has organised him to come and paint his roof, and that of the other neighbour. He brings his daughter over and we chat about school (what else do you talk to a seven year old about?) for a little while.

Sometime after lunch the postman arrives. He rides his postie bike up to the back door and yells out. My grandfather comes out to collect his mail and they both have a good talk. The postie does this for the two old neighbours and an old lady down the street. My grandfather explains all of this to me. He tells me that they grow a choko vine along the fence line so the postie can help himself from either side. He tells me they give him a six-pack at Christmas time and also that my Nanna used to give him a glass of wine on cold winter days. He tells me about the time my Nanna was smoothing out the concrete when he road up, he parked the postie bike and helped her finish the job.

The other night my husband, working out of town, called and asked me to urgently email his resume to him. Our Internet service was not yet connected, my Aunt and cousins had just left for a holiday in Thailand. I was stumped about what to do. My grandfather pulled out the phone book and called the neighbour across the road. Three minutes later I was standing in my ugg boots knocking at the door of someone I had never met. Five minutes later I had emailed the resume, met another neighbour and discussed the mouse problem being caused by the construction happening two doors up.

There is such a sense of community surrounding this place. The neighbours care about each other. They stand around talking as they watch the ground being broken where a new house is to be built. They keep an eye of the things going on around the place, They still have gates going between there houses. I look forward to becoming a part of this community, this is something special that should continue.

On a personal note: I am settled enough to begin blogging again. I have a few half-written (iPhone) entries which I may backdate at a later time.