Sibling Shaping

Sibling Shaping

A strange phenomenon has taken place in our home since Kurt returned from his ‘finding himself’ tour.

Sadly, I’m not here to tell you that a miracle took place and our boy found God, turned to sobriety, become a believer in no sex before marriage and hard work being the key to happiness.

But… some signs of maturity have surprised us.

My children are sort of getting on at the moment, even talking to one another on rare occasions.

So, ‘talk’ might be a bit of an over-excited, ever-hopeful mummy exaggeration, but they spar now, which is the start of interaction in my book.

Theirs has never been an easy relationship. Three years apart in age – yet in reality at least six years apart in maturity – that gap has felt enormous at times. Add Kurt’s life choices, general craziness and misadventures to the equation, (which have impacted the whole family and put NC’s protective defences on alert) and the outcome that theirs is a forced, distrusting relationship.

You can’t choose your family.

When one child has special needs, their siblings become unwilling witnesses to the effect that those needs have on their parents’ relationship, on their health and happiness, and although we see positive signs of improvement in Kurt’s behaviours, NC’s wounds in particular may take a while to heal yet.

Of course, Kurt being Kurt, our son has already forgotten what went on in the past, so he approaches their relationship like everything in life, impulsively, head first, ‘bull in a china shop’ style, desperate to seek her approval but going about it the completely wrong way by battering her ego, knocking her confidence, and prodding at her open sores for attention.

Then he gets hurt when like a Funnel Web spider she rears up and retaliates.

Verbally, there is no contest between them. Few possess the razor sharpness of NC when riled. Even the old man and I quake in our boots when she has been activated.

But that is how siblings are supposed to behave, isn’t it? Part of their growth is to battle, to compete and challenge each other. It’s how they mould and shape each other. It’s how kids learn much of their life skills – how their skin thickens, how they learn the techniques of verbal sparring, negotiation and how to compromise.

So I’m grateful for this breakthrough. For a while there, I couldn’t see beyond Kurt and NC being adversaries, imagined some day them being reunited on some cheesy reality tv program, twenty years after we’ve gone.

Actually, that would never happen. NC would never go.

Last night we had a family discussion about politics over dinner. Neither stormed out.

Do I dare to hope?

How do your kids get on?

Fear of Disappointment As A Parent

Kurt turns eighteen tomorrow and I have no idea how we made it this far or any concept of how I should have parented him. That’s not ‘parent guilt’ talking, just a reflection on how challenging parenting is, because every child is custom-made with different needs and the chances are we may never get it right.

English: Fork in the road at Brill
English: Fork in the road at Brill (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’ve learned so much from the ‘bad parenting’ group I’ve been attending recently. I’ve learned that however complicated your journey with your child, maintaining a good relationship with them must remain the priority. It’s made me think hard about the roller coaster of emotions I’ve experienced during Kurt’s teenage years, since the rot first set in. The disappointment, the blame and the shame. I realize that fear of disappointment has driven me to parent my son is a way that was unsuited to his personality.

With the pressures of life, it’s easy for us to fall into the trap of expectation, of nagging, trying to force our own desires onto our children, but I now understand that no amount of nagging will repair Kurt’s selective hearing. He has always chosen to be the master of his own destiny and if that destiny is not quite what we envisaged when we cooed at him in the crib – so be it.

What I want most of all now is to be able to communicate with him again, to make him understand that in spite of all those cross words, rash accusations and his very different attitude to life to mine, that I’m not disappointed in him.

I’d like to reassure him that not all parents have a narrow, tunneled vision about their kids’ futures or need a golden child as the end product; whatever that is. Not all of us see a university education, white-collar office job and the girl-next-door as the perfect daughter-in-law, as the ultimate goal or mark of success.

But being a typical teenager, Kurt bolts the minute he sniffs the first sign of a ‘serious conversation’ evolving. Sometimes it feels as though the only time we exchange dialogue now is when he asks me what’s for dinner – usually around lunchtime.

I sense that many of Kurt’s recent, controversial life decisions have come about because he considers himself a disappointment to us. He believes that he constantly lets us down and then poor self-esteem exacerbates that notion leading to an unbreakable cycle.

He seems to forget that we were teenagers once; that once upon a time we too had to learn to control our emotions, learn to manage our anger and frustration at what we considered to be our parents’ ridiculous demands, and ultimately had to learn from the mistakes we made, too. One of the main benefits of being a teenager living at home is having the freedom to make those mistakes with the safety-net of parents.

The irony is, that Kurt, like so many teenagers who bury themselves away in a self-imposed exile of isolation, isn’t a failure or a disappointment to us. We know exactly how much our boy has to offer, if he’d only believe it himself. That’s the most frustrating part. He can’t see the warm, vibrant personality that people gravitate towards; the huge warmth in his smile and self-effacing wit; his natural musical talent, or even that his impulsiveness can be strangely infectious.

Yet, I would be lying if I didn’t admit that I have grieved at times, as his parent. Some of his choices have bought us scarily close to every parent’s worst nightmare of potentially serious consequences. How many times have the old man and I dared to utter to one another that things can’t possibly get any worse, for our son to then ram his behavior up another notch?

Sadly, Kurt seems incapable of discerning anything positive about himself, and because we aren’t saints, just human parents, with the standard moral codes that most people adhere to, we probably haven’t encouraged him to. We’ve been too busy putting out his fires, praying secretly that one day we will change him to be more like us.

Society heaps so many impossible expectations on our teenagers these days and it would be hard for them not to absorb some of the intensity of that pressure. The ones who scale the teenage phase unharmed are the ones who develop good coping skills along the way; but there are other kids who require more scaffolding. Accusing teenagers of being ‘entitled’ reeks of disappointment, but if that term does hold any truth, perhaps we need to ask why, and take some responsibility for it. This generation of young adults are the guinea pigs of social media and have spent their short lives constantly comparing themselves to their peers and celebrities and seek unattainable perfection in everything they do.

Such mounting expectation inevitably detonates an implosion in the weaker ones.

I’d like to tell Kurt that we changed our expectations for him a long time ago – because we grew up, too. We didn’t lower our expectations for him; rather, we customized them to him when we realized that traditional expectations weren’t the right fit; we adapted them to his skill base.

I wish that during all the recent dysfunctionality in our relationship, when we were wading through that torrent of swirling water that is now thankfully under the bridge, I wish I hadn’t lost sight of who Kurt was, hadn’t allowed myself to forget the beautiful qualities about our son. We’ve wasted a lot of time worrying about being disappointed, been blindfolded by what he should be, at times, rather than embracing who he is. We were fearful of how people would judge us for raising this wild child who refused to conform to society’s ‘normal’ codes of behavior. We should have given him the benefit of the doubt, allowed him the time to mature properly and work out for himself which direction to take next.

Tomorrow Kurt turns eighteen and commences the next stage of his life, and then on Monday he takes a new direction. I hope it takes him where he wants to go. Kurt has never taken the obvious side of the fork in the road, but from this point on I am going to change my outlook and consider his choices as ‘surprising’; never ‘disappointing.’

Road Trip Dysfunctional Family-Style Part 1

‘I’ve never been so fucking hot!’ Kurt shouts, as his toes touch hot sand for the first time in twelve months.

“I’ve never been so fucking cold!” he squeals like a girl, five minutes later, as his white body braces itself against the first wave in the ocean.

The old man and I must have patted ourselves at least twelve times on the back for our good fortune – part of our joint resolution to remain positive since NYE – since we commenced our family holiday with our son, Kevin the teenager.

Anyone would think that we had dragged Mr Entitled from the middle-class lower north shore of Sydney into some dangerous war zone or ghetto such has been his disgust at being dragged away from his highly-achieving and distinctly dodgy peers on a road trip up to Byron Bay with his parents.

THE SHAME OF HOLIDAYING WITH YOUR FAMILY! Stuff doesn’t get more ‘fuckin shit’ than being seen by someone you know when you’re on holiday with your parents, if you’re a seventeen year old with street cred to think about.

Yes, I did say we have come to Byron Bay. Not the obvious choice of holiday destination (as our therapist reminded us) for a dysfunctional family trying to steer clear their free-spirited and permanently troubled teenager from the wilder temptations of the city.

Byron Bay, for those of you not from Australia, is one of the dope havens of Australia – a paradise known for the happiness of its heyday and modern-day hippies, complete with tie-dye tee-shirts, dodgy cookies, floral headpieces and sweet-smelling free love with a contemporary vibe of healthy eating, blues music and beach culture.

Every time I dare utter the word ‘road trip’ encouragingly, my son snarls at me like some vengeful caged animal. I had foolishly thought a road trip would appeal to the boy, but I am also aware that my new definition of mother is to always be wrong these days.

I’m trying to keep a smile on my face as Kurt and the old man bicker about EVERYTHING, and at how (and in spite of a decent education) my son can use the F word as a verb, noun and adjective in every sentence.

He has also managed to tell us at least twenty-five times how much he hates us and this holiday and even called us ‘Nazi Parents’ the other day, at which the old man and I hugged each other gleefully with the knowledge that perhaps we’re not the bad parents that our therapists likes to paint us as.

This trip is obviously parental penance in its most evil form, yet there have been a couple of blink-and-you-miss-it ‘moments’ where Kurt forgets his alter-ego of Kevin The Teenager and actually enjoys himself, that have made the holiday almost worthwhile.

The discovery of Sapphire Beach, where there was not another soul in sight, warm water to calm the nerves and the sight of my usually sun-resistant son frolicking in and out of the waves was the first. And I can only recall two minor moans, relating to his inability to wear ‘stupid, f…cking thongs’ and his ‘sore fucking sunburn’.

Those naughty Byron men who run the Internet, however, must have been smoking too much of the funny stuff, unfortunately, because it is no way near as fast as the speed with which Kurt exits the ocean the minute a single grain of salt gets in his eyes, so I will sign off here before I throw this ‘fucking shite’ computer out of the window.

Sometimes, The Only Thing Left Is Hope

The Frangipanis are finally blooming and the Christmas Tree has gone up today. Michael Buble has been crooning his version of Christmas on Spotify all day, in spite of the old man’s retching motion, and there is a veiled excitement in the apartment, fuelled by the excitement of the Princess Spoodle who thinks that every bauble on the tree is a ball for her to play with. Sometimes, The Only Thing Left Is Hope


We’re a little premature, I know, but this year we need the hope, symbolised by Christmas, to keep us from drowning. I’m always amazed at how, even in your lowest moment, a bit of tinsel and a few crass, white fairy lights can help lift your spirits.


Christmas is MY time of the year. I’ve loved Christmas festivities since I was a child and my mum would squeeze every last drop of Christmas-ness out of the few English pounds she had in her purse. We were the only house on our housing commission estate to have a Santa’s Grotto in our living area. And this year I’ve tried to reinvent our own private grotto in the block – in spite of being more than a little peeved that one of the wrinklies (on level 2 – you know who you are, bitch!) beat me to it by putting up her tree first.


Sometimes, The Only Thing Left Is Hope


We are in lock-down here, in another attempt to straighten out our son, but for once the old man and I are united in what needs to be done. Christmas is about unity, so it seems appropriate that finally we know where we’re going on our journey with Kurt, and we’ve even managed to laugh about the awfulness of our situation once or twice – although Scrooge couldn’t find it in himself to stretch to some Christmas spirit as I busied myself around the tree, pretending for a precious couple of hours that our life is normal and perfect.


We’re not faking happiness, but life goes on, even in your most dire moments.


English: Franipani (Plumeria) flowers in Perth...
English: Franipani (Plumeria) flowers in Perth, Western Australia (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Yesterday, I was sobbing in the car, (sending the old man into panic mode because after thirty years together he still hasn’t developed the tool kit to deal with emotional females); today, I was singing along with Buble as I hung all my favourite decorations on the tree and tried to ignore Kurt’s scathing comments, as he tried to intersperse my affected happiness with low-level comments about my decorating prowess.


I ignored him and focused on the positives. With Kurt not talking to me, sadly he has been unable to contribute to the design of the tree. So none of those nasty kindy decorations have made the final cut, nor the red tinsel or that hideous lantern that I’ve had to pretend I like for the past fifteen years, made out of a cereal box.


He’s angry, we’re angry, but I refuse to let him undo my determination. I won’t let anyone or anything burst my bubble when I’m decorating the tree, not even the most determined, antagonistic teenager.


We may have lost the battles, but we will win the war.


We still have hope…and wine. Lots of wine.

The Birth Of Besta: Because NOTHING brings a family closer together than Ikea

Nothing brings a family closer together than Ikea

English: Logo of Ikea.
English: Logo of Ikea. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


I’ve written about the influence of the Ikea family culture and their methodology on our dysfunctional family before.


And in the grand scheme of life and other shit, I DO REALISE that a small cupboard with doors that don’t close properly is not one of life’s major catastrophes.


But actually it is.


Because having gestated in the uterus of Ikea, Tempe, (yet another marvellous creation from the almighty Scandinavian Ikea God), I gave birth and bred this particular little bitch of a Besta cupboard – introduced it into the world, so to speak. And hate me for it if you will, but I wanted it to be perfect, or at least to function for the task it was fucking designed for.


I’m not really anal – I just wanted the fucking doors to close.


The Birth Of Besta

Admittedly, I was already tired when I cut my finger on the knife as I sheared my way through the endless layers of cardboard, after a stressful day of combining work with school holidays.

So it wasn’t the best time to contemplate giving birth to Besta.

Although I had taken some pain medication in the form of a glass of wine. But only enough to take off the edge; not enough to machete my way through hours of frustration. 

Added to which, the lighting was poor and the teens were watching The Incredibles for the umpteenth time, way too loudly – and if I hear another joke about the name Donna, I may slit my wrists.


I realize that you may be judging me and thinking ‘bad workmen….’ and all that.


And what I probably should mention is that we have this not-so-subtle underlying family competition that surrounds ‘erecting’ Ikea furniture.


This is Kurt and I racing to put together bedside tables last week. I won by a screw – now that sounds bad….


The Birth Of Besta
What competition?


(Yeah, I said the word ‘erect’ again, kids, because I know you hate it and I’m immature enough to get my own back where I can. Unload the fucking dishwasher next time!)


Have I also mentioned that I had thought that I’d be beyond Ikea at this stage in my life. I rather saw myself in the Coco Republic stage by now, but alas the old man sees things on a spectacularly different plane to me and has become an impassioned Ikea fan, no doubt driven by its functionality, design and…..price.


So at the end of our extended stay at Ikea this week, (since we moved into Dysfunctionality Box and realised just how short of furniture we were after my over-excitement on Gumtree), I’m feeling despondent. Because in an apartment the size of a dolls house, storage is key – and you can knock Ikea all you like, but NO-ONE does storage quite like Ikea.


Where in my education was the bit about hinges and aligning doors? Surely that would have been more useful than Algebra?











How Would You Score In Your Performance Review As A Mother?

What would your performance review be like as a mother?
Picture found on

It seemed appropriate on Mothers Day for me to agree to a performance review done by the teens. 


I admit that I felt quietly confident. The hastily scribbled Mother’s Day note, the late and drooping petrol station flowers and the child who didn’t turn up until mid-afternoon on my special day had all proved that they obviously love me a lot!


And I know that as mothers we beat ourselves up about not doing a good job with the spawn but, ultimately, we can only do our best. Sometimes a thinking-on-your-feet approach to parenting can have benefits to our kids …like backbone development.


So here are my results:


Current Responsibilities:


Cook, cleaner, taxi service, counsellor, referee, dog-walker, therapist, smoothie-maker, mediator…..(shall I go on?)


New Responsibilities Since Last Review:


Drug sniffer, HSC tutor, surrogate mother to boyfriend, wannabe Masterchef to all the stragglers and travellers that come to the hostel, towel retriever, school advocate, teenage doormat.


Performance Assessment


  1. Evaluation of Your Performance – There has been some improvement in you ‘not losing the plot irrationally every time we breathe’ and the day-to-day running of the hostel. The board has noticed a laxness in certain areas of cleaning, cooking and domestic chores, though, due to your prioritisation of your personal interests, like writing and eating chocolate. The board had reached the decision that new recipes should not be attempted for the foreseeable future.


  1. Areas of Exceptional Performance – Your Chocolate Refrigerator cake and peanut butter smoothie, extermination of cockroaches and moths (without squealing), calling the decision on the maximum time-lapse between bed linen changes for health and safety reasons, reading English texts in appropriately stupid accents, as a secondary source of wardrobe, make-up and tampons and boyfriend/friend advice.


  1. Areas of Performance needing improvement – The board would like to see an acknowledgement from the employee that she is now too old to shop in surf shops now, ogle men under the age of thirty, write to Chris Hemsworth’s fan club and dance awkwardly at live music gigs.
    English: Chris Hemsworth at the 2010 San Deigo...
    English: Chris Hemsworth at the 2010 San Deigo Comic-Con International. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

    The washing turnaround could be improved and if the employee could make a different meal for each employer (without throwing a hissy fit) every night, the board would be appreciative. The employee should make a renewed effort to be out of her dressing gown by 10am or when the employer’s friends visit. On this point, the employee needs to understand that the employer’s friends are not the HER friends.


Professional Development Plan for 2014:

Expectations and Goals for Upcoming Review Period as part of your professional development:

The employee should dress appropriately for her age and her role.

The employee should stop at two glasses of wine per evening so that the highly successful 24hr taxi service can be reinstated.

The employee should walk at least ten steps behind her employer in public and if the employer sees someone they know, the employee should disappear.

The employee should know intuitively when it is the right time to leave the employer’s parties.

The employee should be aware of her employer’s policy regarding sexual harassment of young, attractive men and should stop objectifying them and feeding them up.

The employee is to finish her project of writing her book (FINALLY!) so that the employer can be cared for properly.

The use of social media in the workplace is frowned upon and should certainly not be prioritised above responsibilities to the employer.

The employee should refrain from commenting on the Facebook pages of the employer and stop reading their phone texts.

Presentation is important to the employer and the employee should present correctly and stop wearing sports clothes to the office when a) it is not dress-down Friday or b) she is not doing any sport.


Overall Rating: 3.5


Employee Comment: Meh!



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Family Holidays and Wounded Male Pride

What I particularly love about the holiday season is that it brings out the best traits in a truly dysfunctional family.

Pussy ParkerI am so enjoying reading the wondrous family holiday stories of my fellow bloggers at the moment, who are at one with their families, secreted away in idyllic holiday oases with their perfect children, in sickeningly harmonious environments.

Not exactly what’s going down at Dysfunctionality House.

This holiday has been a strange one, where the old man and I have found ourselves on the cusp of empty-nesting, yet not quite there yet.

The house has felt very empty without the smell of burnt toast to wake us, the sight of the back of NB’s head permanently in our fridge and giggling teenage girls ringing on the doorbell at 4am, while NC rock-collects in Thailand.

Kurt, meanwhile, has taken to only venturing out of his bedroom when he needs food, money or smokes.

My son’s complexion is turning a worrying shade of beyond-sallow from too little sun and I worry that he may develop Rickets soon if he doesn’t get outside. Even more concerning was when I did manage to bribe him down to the public pool the other day and he was physically tired within 50m of our house and then sunk to the bottom of the pool to contemplate life like Dustin Hoffman in The Graduate.

Typical teenager angst, or worrying reclusive tendencies, I’m not sure?

Which has left the old man and myself in the disconcerting position of having to entertain each other, without the freedom to completely do what we want because we still have to be responsible for the white hermit that resides in our attic.

More worryingly, given the choice I think we would both secretly be happy to do our own thing. It seems that we have reached that point in our marriage of comfortably taking each other for granted, so far without regret. I could quite happily tap away at the computer most of the day, eat chocolate, drink wine, read magazines and go for the occasional dip at the local pool; the old man could happily tap away at the computer, watch the cricket and nap.

But because this is our family holiday, an innate sense of duty to do things together has guilted us into making some effort.

Which puts the pressure on.

And nowhere is that pressure more apparent than when we are in the car together, en route to some exotic destination we feel we should visit.

It is in this very situation that I have borne witness to, several times at least this holiday, a demonstration of male pride at its finest.

Perhaps men are feeling a little less secure these days after Julia’s misogyny speech and Miley’s twerking session and feel the need to regroup and exert some authority again?

Because normally in our relationship, male pride only really comes to the fore in challenges of physical strength or getting technology to work – which I obviously allow. Opening jars, biting the tops off beer bottles, taking charge of the remote control or getting the Internet to work are all valid reasons for allowing a demonstration of male pride.

Where male pride is abused is when the old man is behind the wheel of the car. As was proven the other day when like a lion needing to remind his lioness of who is King of the jungle, the old man ended up making a fool of himself while trying to park the car at the beach.

Like many couples, there is an unspoken rule in our relationship that when we go anywhere together in the car, the old man drives.

Which used to work up until recently when our lifestyle and work roles changed with our move to the city. The old man now straggles runs to work and so rarely drives these days, whereas I do a lot of driving with my job.

And the old man’s limited experience on the roads this year shows has rendered his driving skills a little questionable, whereas I have become more anally anxious confident about driving.

And I admit that sometimes, when we are together in the car these days and he takes the wheel, I can become somewhat over-critical; some might even call it ‘cocky’.

Yet the old man still refuses to admit that I am now the better driver even though the evidence is stacked up against him, since I have only recently repaired, at great expense, several dents to the rear end of my car that were caused by his poor judgment and penchant for reversing into columns in car parks.

As you are all no doubt aware, parking within walking distance of any beach in Sydney over the Christmas vacation is impossible, but when you have a pussy for a parker, it is a no-go – (just saying, but I could have parked a bus in that space).

After only the first attempt to reverse into the space, the old man ordered me to get out of the car and direct him in. I offered to park the car instead…then very quickly got out of the car. Back out he went again and started reversing back in at completely the wrong angle again (unless his aim was indeed to run me down on the pavement).

I offered to park the car a second time.

By this time we were attracting an impressive array of cars behind us, all secretly hoping that the old man wouldn’t get in the space so that they could nab it for themselves. Under pressure now, he pulled out a third time and began hurriedly trying to reverse again and then stopped. This time I walked up to the passenger window to receive a succession of expletives – apparently he couldn’t see me through the rear window – my fault, of course. Back to the rear of the car I went again and attempted to direct him into the space but the car was now aiming directly for the tree next to me and the tension really began to mount. So I walked around to his door and signalled for him to (maybe) get out of the driver’s seat. His pride would have been less wounded if I’d shot an arrow straight through his heart. His impulsive reaction was to roar something incoherently yobbish at me that included lots of F words, slam the gearstick into ‘drive’ and speed off up the hill, leaving me stranded on the road.

Family holidays.

The Award for Worst Person In a Family Crisis Goes To….

NO VOMITING! (Photo credit: weirdpercent)

I’m still not sure what was worse on Friday night.

It might have been the old man tumbling down the courtyard steps like a human slinky, and ending up looking like he’d only just survived ten rounds with Mike Tyson. Or it may have been my embarrassing reaction to the sight of his wounds.

I am definitely the favourite for this year’s award for Worst person in a Family Crisis.

Why can’t my life ever be textbook?

Friday was a bad night, even by Dysfunctional Family standards.

What was supposed to be a quiet night at home culminated in five torturous hours spent in Emergency after the old man’s stumble (been meaning to get those steps fixed for a while now) and serious face-planting.

You shouldn’t laugh, he actually hurt himself.

(As in, removed half the side of his face off –  the customised Phantom of the Opera mask is on its way as we speak – so the public can face him).

He obviously forgot the main physiological function of arms when in mid-flight.

The first I knew of the disaster was when I was rudely awoken midway through the REM stage of sleep to the sight of what looked like a Tarantino victim staring at me crazily in the eyes.

‘I n.e.e.d h.e.l.p,’ it said.

And there stood my husband, his face plastered in blood (and even more worrying, the blood was dripping all over the rental carpet, so all I could actually envisage were the dollar signs of our rental bond slipping through our fingers).

Obviously, I jumped out of bed full of good intentions, being the perfect wife-let that I can be (when I want to), yet still unsure at that stage of the unfolding horror. Did I need to grab my nail scissors to finish off the mass murderer who was obvioulsy still lurking downstairs, for example?

I tried to calm my hysterical husband the f*ck down, who was a mess mentally as well as physically.

I like to think that his agitated state was the shock; it’s more likely that he’s just a bit of a pussy.

Unfortunately, my chance to prove myself as the North Shore Florence Nightingale was not to be that night. As I investigated the old man’s wounds, I began to feel ominous signs that all was not well.  First, the telltale sign of cold moisture began to seep onto my forehead, then I felt the color drain from my face and finally the familiar tugging began to grab at my stomach and bowels. I realised in horror that I was actually going to throw up in my husband’s hour of need.

I never could let him steal the limelight from me.

Life is all about choices in moments of crisis. Sophie had them, Jonny Wilkinson had one, and this was mine. Could I actually ditch the wounded husband for the safety of the toilet bowl? This was, after all, my moment to prove my love and our sacred vows of ‘in sickness and in health’. I blew it. I f*cked up majorly.

I will never live this down in Dysfunctional family history. There will be (‘puker in a crisis’) in brackets next to my name on the family tree.

In fairness I did try to swallow it back down stoically, while trying to restrain the madman in my bedroom (who used to be my husband), who was still tearing around the bedroom like a man possessed, staining all my favourite cushions with his O Neg. But I had to make a call.

The decision finally came as I watched him smear blood all over my new latte headboard – and as any good woman knows, blood (like chocolate) is a b*tch to get out.

It was too much for my stomach. It was time to call God on the big white telephone.

So I pushed my delirious husband firmly back down onto the bed and ordered him not to move, which gave me just enough time to grab Nerd Child out of her slumber to babysit her father, while I focused on hurling the contents of my stomach into the bog.

That’s serious multi-tasking.

And the whole time my head was hanging over the basin I could hear the pitiful voice of the old man tearing at my heart asking NC over and over again, ‘but where’s mum gone?’

But do you think I could lift my head out of that f*cking basin in his time of need?

Finally, and to the obvious unspoken recriminations of ‘worst wife in history’ I managed to pull myself together and look after my man. Nerd Child had managed to calm him down – something to do with her intimate examination of his head wounds and her exclamation about being able to see his skull. I think that when she went to get her scalpel from her bedroom, the old man decided it was best not to move until the ambulance came.

The Emergency room brings back haunting memories for me. The last two times I was there, interestingly,  I was up for ‘worst mother’ awards. The first time was for not realising that my daughter had actually ‘broken’ her leg 24 hours previously (rather than just ‘spraining’ it which had been my expert diagnosis – I should have known when the frozen peas didn’t cut it), and the second was for treating her nasty little case of pneumonia with Panadol.

But as I reminded the old man later, this payback had been long overdue. I wasn’t truly the worst person in a family crisis. He received a lifetime achievement for that honour.

For real women never forget. I had always warned him that there would be retribution for him being too sh*tfaced to drive me to the hospital when I went into labour with NC.

But that’s another story.

Allergies, Man Tears and Family Sickness

"Cover Coughs, Cover Sneezes" - NARA...
“Cover Coughs, Cover Sneezes” – NARA – 514081 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’ve alluded to my reputation as ‘worst mother’ and ‘bitch wife’ in the dysfunctional family in previous posts.

Empathy doesn’t come naturally to me so sickness in the family fills me with abject horror.

I had a mother who worked full-time and we were brought up to believe that unless you needed hospitalizing, you went to school. If you did manage to wag a day off school, the guilt for causing Mum to have a day off work far outweighed the pain of any illness.

For while I admit to being the biggest hypochondriac in the world, (the type that moans about an ailment for weeks, gets all anxious about it only for the symptoms to miraculously disappear the minute I book a doctor’s appointment), I am intolerant to other people’s sickness and pain.

It unnerves me. Psychologically, I cope much better if I can convince myself that there’s absolutely nothing wrong with those I love.

Kurt has been coughing, sneezing and wheezing, (quite irritatingly so), on and off for the past six to eight weeks. He also consistently loses his voice, which is obviously quite problematic for a potential rock star while providing some relief for the rest of the family.

And Kurt is anxious like me. He is convinced he has cancer, while I have been trying to reassure him that it is a minor cold and that if he just replaced some of his Coco Pops meals with fruit and vegetables, he might actually get rid of it.

(When exactly do we become our mothers?)

Initially, I did try the ‘good parent’ approach of reassuring him with loving reassurances of ‘toughen up’ ‘you’re fine,’ then I succumbed to buying him Strepsils which I thought might give him some sort of psychological boost and finally I showed him where the Neurofen was kept.

Eventually I caved in and took him to the doctor.

After a lengthy discussion with Kurt about his lifestyle (hmmmm!), the doctor diagnosed him with a possible allergy to our house.


Apparently, a lot of teenagers (especially those who were asthmatic or suffered from eczema as an infant) develop allergies in their teens and our teenager (whose middle name is ‘trouble’) appears to have developed one from the multitude of microbes that inhabit our new ‘old’ house. Nothing to do with my lack of housekeeping, it’s simply that the house is old. The doctor discharged us with thousands of dollars worth of drugs that included an interesting selection of nasal sprays and a Penicillin. I assumed that the problem would be sorted.

I think Kurt managed two snot-free days and then the allergy/cancer came back with a vengeance.

Along with that annoying sniffle.

As it is Glee School’s ‘I want to live forever’ show next week and he needs some voice, the atmosphere in the house has been tense.

So when the old man began demonstrating similar symptoms later in the week, any traces of empathy on my part were shot.

As we watched Friends with Kids on Friday night, the old man began sniveling in the same irritating way as his son. Admittedly it was the third time I’d seen the film so I could have been more patient, but I love the cynical humour in the film about relationships and I didn’t want to miss it. (It reminds me of our own thirty-something decade when the initial joy of becoming parents was jolted into a massive reality check of how life and fate irreversibly changes with that one decision to have kids).

Let’s face it, parenting can be f*cking fraught at times. Not least when there is man flu in the house.

The old man didn’t want to watch the film at first because there were no guns or car chases in it, so during the last ten minutes when this sniffling noise began to rev up beside me, (not dissimilar to the noise Kurt had been perfecting for the last six weeks) and even my best ‘stop that ridiculous noise or I’ll make you stop right now’ look didn’t stop him, I thought he was trying to rile me. But when I shot him my best death stare, I suddenly realised that the old man was actually sniveling from emotion.

This is not a man who is particularly emotional at any time except during sport on tv. This is the man who told Nerd Child not to let her team down and get back on the pitch when she broke her collar bone playing soccer; the man who ridiculed me when I needed to be sedated after sobbing through the whole ninety minutes of ‘My Sister’s Keeper’.

‘Why didn’t you tell me this film was so sad,’ he sniffed pathetically as the main couple finally got it together at the end of the film, wiping away his streaming eyes.

Which just goes to prove that you never really know a person, no matter how long you are forced to live with them.

It’s City Living, Innit…

English: North Sydney, Australia: CBD from the...
English: North Sydney, Australia: CBD from the air. Taken in 2000 by Sonia Boddi-Kyle The image (taken in 2000) shows North Sydney’s high-rise commercial district from the centre facing south to Sydney CBD in the background. Sydney Opera House can be seen left of the Optus tower. Category:Images of Sydney (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So we’ve moved.

A mere bridge separates us from the city now and we’ve had to change our mindset accordingly . I’ve had to throw out almost my entire collection of co-ordinating Havaianas and replace them with sensible flats, and the teens have been forced into wearing shoes again.

Apparently the stress of moving house is up there with divorce, or gaining a kilo whilst dieting or having a Brazilian (as in being waxed downstairs, not shagging Ronaldo). And I can now concur with that.

The good news, (notice that as we are still in the early stages of the new year so my January positivity remains undiminished), is that we seem to have arrived in Spoodle Central so the (anxious) dog is walking around, tail permanently in a vertical position of spiritual happiness; like she already owns the joint. She’s so damn happy in her own ginger caramel fur that she still hasn’t realized that a) there are two yappers next door vying for ownership of her courtyard and b) we have managed to condition her (without her knowledge) to wee in the one square foot of planted border available in the courtyard.


The other good news is that the new house is bigger than I remembered from that fraught house-hunting period just prior to Christmas (when everyone else was relaxing on the beach while my brain was imploding from the stress of moving, finding schools and packing for the family trip to Europe), and so we did manage to squeeze the hire sofas and fridge through the doors. We have also discovered an eclectic choice of restaurants on our doorstep, including four Thai ones so the old man’s bowels are still protesting from the cumulative shock of three Jungle Curries in five days.

The not-so-good news is that we still have no internet connection, no functioning television (hence no Downton or Masterchef, shock, horror), nowhere to house the drier and without air conditioning, it felt like we were being baked in Pizza Hut’s hottest oven on Friday afternoon when Sydney chose to host its hottest day on record as we were unpacking and cleaning.

I am, of course, still grieving the loss of my beautiful (and long-awaited) Miele dishwasher (that sits alone, like some white elephant in our old house), which had taken me twenty years of sexual favours to attain and which has been replaced by a very sub-standard, vintage offering with a trundling rather than gliding lower rack and no lid on the tablet dispenser, (which means you just throw it in and hope for the best). Primitive. A very friendly cockroach welcomed me when I first prised opened its old food-congealed door.

Nevertheless, the family does seem to be adjusting.

Nerd Queen, still high on her results and offer from university to study Advanced Science (WTF!) is almost as ‘high’ as the spoodle now that we are living in such close proximity to the city with its abundance of libraries (who stock Jane Austen), cool shops and ‘life’, although she has somehow acquired the notion that our house is to become some sort of ‘dossing-house central’ for all her mates who still live on the Beaches.

The ADHDer has been surprisingly calm considering the fact that the world that he knew (and was only barely comfortable in) has been turned upside down within a week; even though it was primarily his needs that provoked the move.

We had a few minor tanties over the heat in his bedroom (or what he excitedly calls his ‘music studio’, the furthest humanly habitable area from our bedroom by at least 3 metres), and the fact that neither the internet and tv were working, and that it took me four hours to locate the nearest Coco Pops supplier.

But thank God for XBOX which saved the day and became the most cost-effective babysitter AGAIN, keeping him entertained and out of my hair for hours on end, whilst I spent hours offering my body (for no return so far) to both Optus and Jim’s Antenna in a bid to get SOME technology functioning before the old man hangs himself from the Harbour Bridge. Apparently, the bargaining potential of my near fifty-year-old body is nowhere near as compelling as the younger model, but Nerd Queen has quite unfairly refused to play ball, in spite of missing at least four episodes of Bones.

The old man has been the most affected by the change. Not only has he had to resort to communicating with the family due to the constraints of no accessible sport on the tv or  internet, but he also received the disappointing news that we are not entitled to a parking permit due to our double garage (which would only fit a Smart car and Mini if you didn’t have to open the doors), which has caused him to practically melt down; several times. I have obviously been forced to reserve the garage space for my car, because as the ADHDer pointed out, we do have a disabled child (his words) AND I have the responsibility of carrying the vats of wine food shopping into the house.

So the old man has spent the past few days trawling the streets looking longingly for a parking space within walking distance of his very expensive city pad.

What can I say? No-one said that city living doesn’t come at a price.

Any Other Dysfunctional Families Miss The Coldplay Encore?

There was a strained whiff of excitement and dare I say ‘hope’ in our house last Sunday. It was to be one of those rare occasions when the dysfunctional family attempts to throw caution to the wind, forge a connection and trial doing something ‘together’ like normal families apparently do.

Around midday the old man excitedly assembled his characteristically inoperative brood around the computer, just prior to us launching our dysfunctionality on the unsuspecting city folk who were also going to see ColdPlay at the Allianz Stadium (unarguably the most disappointing venue in Sydney for womens’ toilets).

‘Look at this guys, it’s amazing,’ he gabbled excitedly, a rare smile illuminating his craggy face as he pointed to a bounding Chris Martin on the computer screen; (some of that cragginess around the eyes the direct result of a Coldplay fleecing in the combined ticket value of $600).

We knew he was up to something, due to the rarity of this type of familial interaction, (or indeed any social discourse with a person outside of the inner circle, which basically comprises of him and the dog). Nevertheless, we were naturally inquisitive. The teens dragged their respective Doc Martens sluggishly towards the computer, disdain plastered over their ‘WTF’ faces.

Ignoring our reticence, the old man turned up the volume full blast and we recognised ‘Every Teardrop Is A Waterfall’, while he awaited our reaction with visible anticipation.

The teens rolled their eyes in predictable fashion, whilst I shot him my best ‘like I have time for this’ face.

‘That’s great Dad,’ testypopped the ADHDer, ‘but we’re actually going to be seeing them in, like, four hours, so what exactly is your point?’

‘Well, son,’ he began, (unsuccessfully attempting to conceal his excitement), ‘this is the Coldplay song that you will be missing this evening when we leave the concert a little earlier than everyone else to avoid the traffic, and I just didn’t want you to miss out,’ he declared jubilantly, beaming, visibly celebrating both his perceived wisdom and perceived parenting skills.

We all looked at him in appalled silence. The dog slunk to her ‘I’m anxious’ position under the desk, her ‘safe place’ usually just prior to her urinating on the floor.

So if anyone spotted an obviously reluctant family of three being dragged away from Block 30 by a balding man hell-bent on a mission to get onto the Bridge before the rest of the world and their wives late on Sunday night, you know who it was.

Here’s what we missed.


Apparently there was a 45 minute queue just to get out of the car park.

Does that count as ‘winning?’

Coldplay Photo courtesy of Emma-Rockfoto at