It's Instinct September 29 2015

I cannot tell you how many times I have accused my three of carrying on like animals. And there have been times I have caught myself carrying on and think ‘golly, I am just an animal too!’ And not in a good way. In labour for starters, I sounded like a whole pile of hippos slowly dying in a muddy mess (possibly looked like that too).

I don’t know a whole lot about biology, genetics or even my own family history. But it seems the more I try to ‘make’ my small people into people I want them to be, the more their innate ‘peopleness’ comes out and sets them apart as who they are. I don’t know types, but I can recognise traits, things they have picked up from us as their parents, and things that are totally their own.

Neither my husband or I are wallflowers and yet I am constantly surprised how ballsy our kids can be. Campbell recently took $20 off our bedside table and spent just $1 of it at canteen to buy an ice cream. I was cranky thinking he had been sly and just a little bit sneaky, but we had never told him not to take the money I suppose... and I certainly remember ‘borrowing’ a few coins off my parents… although I reckon I was more 16 than six.

Honesty, gentility and compassion is something I would like to buy in bulk, and stuff all our Christmas stockings with until they spill over with cheer. Gentility especially. Sometimes I feel like I am raising three bucking bulls in boots, not cherubic children. I know a bit of rough and tumble is part of growing up, yet there is constant wrestling, pillow fighting, and harmless rumbling, that occasionally leads to the occasional slap, bite and kick. It is animalistic. They are like lion cubs practicing to hunt and catch their prey. But it hurts me when they hurt each other, and asking for apologies is often like pulling hen’s teeth. Although no sooner are the tears dried, than the incident forgotten and they return to play as if the war never happened.

Living on a farm we are surrounded by animals of all types. Native and farm stock, those coming and those going. Some are solitary. Some are in herds. The children are accustomed to furry friends in all shapes and sizes. Elsie has no fear shooshing a one tonne bullock out of the garden or chasing a pig six times her size around the vegetable patch. She has had no reason to fear and I hope despite being really, really accident prone, it remains this way.

We watch calves and foals stagger to their feet to feed after minutes on the planet, and others that are totally self-reliant within months - their mother’s move on to the next offspring. Job done. It always makes me ponder how rearing and being responsible for a human being can take the best part of 20 something years (and then some) … and then I realise I am not even a third of the way on that journey (reaches for wine).

Recently nine little kelpies were born at the farm. Trying to teach toddlers to cradle and cherish these mewing little mounds of fur has not been easy. The pups have been dropped, stood on, and mercilessly carried by their necks until their little tails stop wagging as they gasp for air. Yet they have all survived. And time and time again they bound up to the kids desperate to play and be held. They swarm around small legs, chew shoes in bulk and cry when we go inside at night and leave them on the doormat in a pile of paws and little noses. I am not sure who has benefitted the most from the experience: the kids who could bond and learn to be careful with another soul? The pups who are thoroughly loved and humanised? Or maybe me who had something small and baby-like to rock and cuddle in my arms for a few weeks… clucky much?!?!? *Yes I actually caught myself rocking the runt off to sleep one day – please send help.

Speaking of runts, it is our baby, Elsie who is currently the most Tassie devil of our mob. She thinks nothing of grabbing a pudgy handful of hair from her brothers’ mops. She delights in bopping them over the head with a toy car, just for a giggle. Last week she called a Doctor a ‘bum face’. I nearly needed resuscitating myself. Obviously ‘ladylike’ is not an instinct she has inherited. Whether it is something that will come with time (or training) I am eager to see. She certainly has the ‘smallest fights the toughest’ bit down pat though.

I have been cracking down on my own instincts to rant and rave like a pack of hyenas over the last month or so. Sometimes the calm breathing or leaving the room works, other times I still go off like cracker night in the 1970s. My short temper is something my kids all seem to have inherited and I hope that more ‘leading by example’ by me may lead to them reigning in their own inner brumby at times. If not, at least I can say I tried, and just possibly the house may be a little more peaceful and my voice last a little longer in the meantime.

As the mother duck, or goose, I tend to wear a fair bit of guilt and responsibility for how these ducklings are turning out. Mostly I reckon I have cracked a few good eggs. For every punch up there is an unprovoked moment of compassion amongst the three. For every argument over dinner, outfits or mess, there is an impromptu offer to make each other snacks, swap dress-ups or make their own beds. As long as we continue to harbour those compassionate and kind instincts and tolerate the lesser loving ones, then hopefully we will be sitting happy in our little nest for a long time to come. And if not I guess there are always PUPPIES for a fun and fluffy distraction!