think of the child

A Life More Ordinary

I love the day-to-day sameness of life. I wake up at about the same time each morning, because my six-year-old wakes up at about the same time each morning and I am greeted by his beautiful toothless grin as he wishes me good morning. I shower, washing my hair, then face, then body. I get out and dry myself in the same order every day – face, arms, legs, front, back. Teeth cleaned, deodorant on, skin moisturised and then into bra and undies while that soaks in, make-up on, hair tamed. Iron my clothes, get dressed, downstairs to make Hugh’s lunch and my lunch and have a quick bite of breakfast before I’m out the door just before 8am. In the afternoons I’m home around 5, I cook dinner while Dave supervises homework, piano practice and footy kicking. We eat, Dave cleans up, we loll about for a while watching dodgy television and then I put Hugh to bed, always with a story first. Dave and I then watch whatever tv series we are currently obsessed with – last week it was season three of House of Cards, this week it’s season two of The Fall. Every weekday, lots of sameness. Very ordinary.

Saturdays we get up a tiny bit later, do multiple loads of washing – darks, coloureds, whites (always in that order) and then Dave and I attack the housework – he does bathrooms and toilets; I do kitchen and floors. After that I pick up my mum and we go grocery shopping. The afternoons are a bit more fluid – maybe a playdate, maybe lunch out, maybe some fun shopping, maybe a nap. Saturday night is wine or cider, sometimes takeaway, sometimes a night out with friends. Sunday is sleep-in, more washing, park time, play time, then cooking a few meals ahead for the week, and making something remotely healthy for lunch boxes. Sunday is the day banana bread for morning teas seems like a good idea, until Monday comes around and nobody likes banana bread. Weekends are relaxing in their ordinariness.

The thing is, there is so much joy in my ordinary life. So much pleasure in the sameness. In 2012 and 2013, my life was punctuated by scans, diagnoses, surgeries, treatments, illness and despair. There was no ordinary; life was upside down and inside out. I craved normalcy, but there was none to be had. Christmas 2012 my present was a gorgeous pair of earrings that the jeweller told my husband would suit someone with short hair (I guess no hair is the shortest kind of hair), New Year’s Day 2012 was spent having a cytotoxic infusion, later that January my son started school for the first time as I again went off to chemotherapy, and then we celebrated his 5th birthday the day I finished radiation, with third degree burns weeping through three layers of bandages and clothing. So little ordinary, so much fucking horrible.

But, thanks to a mix of the wonders of medical science and plain and simple good luck, I got a second chance at ordinary. I’m now 2 years, five months and five days into a remission that I was only given a 50% chance of having. I look like an ordinary person; I have hair, I can walk more than 100 metres without needing to sit down, my skin isn’t grey, my face isn’t bloated, and I don’t have a catheter sticking out of my chest. I am an ordinary person; I make my son the same school lunch every day, I sleep in my mismatched pyjamas in bed next to my husband every night, and I absolutely fucking revel in all of the ordinary, the normal, the same.

There is, however, one neither normal nor ordinary thing that cancer has given me that I plan to hold onto, and tightly. Just under a year ago, inspired by the tales my prosthetic right breast had to share, I started this blog. In those 11 months, I’ve had a small but dedicated group of readers who’ve encouraged me to keep telling my stories and who’ve inspired me to think and write, to put into words (and dodgy memes) my pain and happiness, and joys and fears. Then, last week I wrote a post about children and friendship – or maybe it was about bigotry and intolerance – or maybe it was just about love – and it’s safe to say that it went absolutely fucking nuts. More than 250,000 – yes, TWO HUNDRED AND FIFTY THOUSAND, people viewed my post via Facebook shares. A quarter of a million people read my words, heard my voice, felt my anger and my sadness, and expressed their own.  The resulting conversations, via comments here on the blog, on Facebook, Twitter and via email have had the most incredible impact on me, and I am abuzz with the power of words and the possibilities they bring.

A little bit of extraordinary in a life more ordinary.

Think of the Child

My six-year-old son’s best friend is an amazing girl called Pascal. They have been solid buddies for almost three years now. They don’t attend the same school, but have regular play dates and sleepovers, where they play outside in the dirt with items pilfered from my kitchen concocting ‘ant stew’ (which doesn’t actually involve any ants), make indoor tents out of sheets strung over dining chairs, and put on puppet shows using old fridge boxes as the stage. They have tennis lessons together on a Friday, joyfully running to meet each other at the courts and racing around in circles like a pair of excited puppies.

Their beautiful, innocent meeting of hearts and minds has given rise to a broader friendship at the family level, which has been cemented through trips to the theatre, lunches and dinners out, birthday parties, and camping trips. The camping trips have been a real revelation, as anyone who’s ever slept on an air mattress for three nights whilst not showering for three days whilst managing diminishing ice in the esky would know – if you can camp happily with another family, you’ll be friends for life.

Hugh and Pas

Pascal is the sort of child that parents dream of their kid becoming friends with. She is whip-smart, loyal, kind, insightful, happy, well-mannered and incredibly aware of the world around her. She is naturally-gifted at sport, and likes art and cooking and flower-arranging. The last time she visited our house, she made a pink collar out of paper for one of our dogs, and told my son that although she no longer sleeps with a stuffed toy, it was ‘pretty cool’ that he still does. She has the most beautiful blonde curls, and a smile that lights up her whole face, and usually the whole room. She may only be seven years old, but the love and care she shows for my son is something truly special, and he feels the same way about her. When they are due to see each other, he will count down the hours, alive with anticipation at the thought of being with someone he adores. Hugh, and Dave and I as his parents, have been blessed by this friendship. We hope that they will be in each other’s lives for a very long time.

It’s largely because of this friendship that I felt absolutely white-hot with rage when I read this article in our local paper. As I read the story of this hateful, small-minded group and what they stand for, my skin started to prickle and I could feel the blood start to pump in my temples. You see the one thing about Pascal that I didn’t feel relevant in my description of her, is that her parents are a same-sex couple. It’s not relevant because it doesn’t change anything about her. It certainly doesn’t make her less smart or less caring or less capable or less blonde. The only thing I think that having same-sex parents does change, is perhaps make her more likely to be the target of bigotry and ignorance from people who claim to be Christians but whose actions are the very antithesis of the central tenets of Christianity. And the thought of that simultaneously makes me furious and breaks my heart.

The slogan of this nasty little group is ‘Think of the child’. Well I am sitting here, thinking of the child. Actually, I’m thinking of several children. I’m thinking of Pascal, and how blessed she is to have two smart, capable, caring and wonderful parents who love her and cherish her, and who are dedicating their lives to raising her (and her gorgeous little brother) to be the absolute best people they can be. I am thinking of Hugh, and how much he loves his friend, how proud he is of her and how much he has benefited from being involved with another family, just like ours, where love and happiness abound.

And most of all, I am thinking about the children of people like David van Gend and the other members of the Australian Marriage Forum, and how they are growing up in the shadow of bigotry, ignorance and fear. I’m wondering who’s thinking about those children, the ones who are clearly the most at risk.