Father’s Day is only days away and this year the kids have decided to do something a little different. The old man has everything he needs and so this year they have come up with the novel idea that his special day is focused on self-improvement. They have identified several ways in which they believe he could improve his relationship and parenting skills with me them.
Don’t get me wrong, the old man is the best father in the world when it comes to getting them out of financial holes, rough and tumble, communicating and behaving with them at their age level, but there are certain key areas they believe, there is room for improvement.
So here are the KPIsthe kids have come up with for him to work on over the next year:
They have requested that he NOT put on his invisibility cloak the minute they walk in the door, when their friends come around or when the doorbell rings.
They have stated categorically that they don’t mind if he plays ‘bad cop’ once in a while, (instead of Mr Whiter Than White), when parenting shit needs to go down.
They have suggested that he could be a better role model in certain areas. That they wouldn’t mind if he backed me up occasionally in what he sees as my petty desire to eat like the Walton family at the dinner table, instead of making a childish beeline for the sofa the minute my back is turned; that he could turn the television off at a decent time on school nights and it wouldn’t kill him to eat all his vegetables rather than making that puking noise whenever I put anything green on his plate.
That he might even consider the consequences of wrinkling his nose at my cooking and the effect that immature behaviour has had on the attitude of our kids to my food.
He might consider using different demonstrative adjectives and verbs other than the F word in front of them.
That his habit of buying them off with presents and handouts on the rare occasions he is in charge could be seen as emotional blackmail by some…
And that McDonalds is not a suitable meal substitute for them when I am not there to cook.
That homework still needs to be completed even when I am not available…
And that, AS A PARENT, he might consider picking up the phone when Kurt’s school calls.
Finally, they have decided that after thirty years even he should know by now that the best way to get around me is with wine and chocolate and that as we are both parents, it might be fairer if he shares the role equally.
Just when you think there might be a measure of sympathy out there for parents who struggle day to day with ‘different’ kids, another ‘crazy’ in the US goes out on a killing spree, citing women as his problem.
And now everyone thinks that all kids on the Spectrum are psychopathic nutters who could easily go out and mercilessly kill in retribution because they felt a bit hard-done by.
And at a time when awareness for these kids was finally improving, in spite of Abbott’s cutbacks.
I’ve said it before (and I’ll bore you again), but I HATE the way the media twists and spins the news without knowing all the facts. I may be the only one out there who thinks this, but I’m pissed off that this kid cited misogyny as his reason to kill too.
Because now the focus of the story is on the misogyny aspect and so the feminists have got on their high horses and are overshadowing what may be the real, underlying reasons that led this boy to act in the heinous way he did. They are also taking the focus off the victims.
Surely this story has to run a little deeper than a guy with a problem with women. Not that misogyny isn’t a dangerous problem – because, yes, misogynists abuse and kill women. But I’m certain that this case can’t simply be about a privileged boy who suffered rejection from women or felt entitled.
People seem to need to rally behind a cause these days and this guy has riled everyone. There’s the gun lobbyists in one corner and the feminists in the other.
Could we just take some time to think about the victims first, who weren’t just women, and take the focus off the perpetrator?
Admittedly, I’m no different. Whenever I see some crazy act like this boy perpetrated or read about those kids who massacre their peers in high schools, I want to find an excuse for their evil, whether I look to mental health issues or nurture.
I don’t want to believe that the world is really that fucked up.
And sometimes I think I may be guilty of doing the same thing with my own son. Do I make excuses for him when what he really needs sometimes is a dose of Victorian parenting like the media suggests?
Because although I may joke about his behavior on this blog, often it’s not actually that funny.
And I’ve experienced those feelings of fear that all parents feel at times when their kid does something irresponsible, dangerous, highly anti-social even.
A little too often.
That fear that you may be raising a bit of a monster. Not on a par with the Elliott Rodgers or the Kevins of this world, but if you’re lucky enough to be the parent of a child without a mental condition or disorder you can’t understand the sadness at not being able to instil your basic human principles within your child, of empathy, integrity and morality.
It’s frightening when you can’t trust your own child to make the right moral decisions.
Elliott Rodger could have paid for sex if it was a problem. Let’s be honest – he had money, he had contacts and he lived in California. That kid was more likely to have remained a virgin because there was something odd about him, that worried women.
Because kids on the Spectrum don’t fit in with their peers – they are often verbally constrained, anti-social, un-empathetic and immature for their age.
But being on the Spectrum does not make you a killer and neither does owning a flash car or designer sunglasses. Life is not that simple. We are always trying to resolve these cases and fit them into a single pocket of blame, but they’re complicated. Invariably there are many factors at play.
So, the old man and I were supposed to be going on a mini-break this weekend, staying at friends over-night.
We were leaving NC in charge of ‘he who will not obey’.
Kurt is nearly seventeen. Sounds straightforward, doesn’t it?
‘Pissing my pants’ is not a strong enough description for how I felt at the thought of leaving my son ‘home alone’ on a Saturday night until NC got home from work at 11pm.
In spite of trying to rationalise with Kurt, he refused to make any promises about his behaviour and his argument was that we needed to chill out, trust him but let him ‘be a teenager.’
You’ve probably realised by now that there’s no REAL secret to the age-old problem of teen parties, and that your first line of defence as a parent lies with the traditional art of blackmail?
After all, like us you’ve probably been honing your negotiation skills since the first day your toddler said ‘no’.
Well, this was our time to use those skills.
Serious negotiations began about two weeks ago.
I told Kurt the little white lie (because in parenting laws, little white lies are ok, right?) that NC’s boyfriend would be arriving at our house at 10pm to wait for NC; even though I knew that he was actually going to a Bucks night, would probably not be back until the early hours, and certainly would not be in any fit state to police my son.
I definitely mentioned that with Vivid Sydney happening close-by, the suburb would be teeming with angry police. I might have mentioned that I would probably end up driving home, anyway.
I also suggested he invite some friends over on Friday night when were at home, and to his surprise I actively encouraged as much debauchery as possible; my theory being that if he exhausted himself the night before, this might preclude him from hosting an event on Facebook.
Sure enough, his friends checked in on Friday night as is their want when free food is mentioned but they ended up watching back-to-back episodes of Puberty Blues and no amount of fizzy drink and sugar could drag them off my sofas; not even my suggestion that they hang out, delinquent-style, at the local park.
In fact they looked at me as though I’d finally lost the plot.
I promised Kurt everything I usually forbid – all those treats that when we aren’t blackmailing him, he is only allowed to fantasise about. I let him name his take-out, I promised him blue and red sugary drinks and I might have even promised to share the password to the Apple TV at one point, in desperation.
But even with a firm risk management policy in place, that innate parental fear niggled at me and killed any real possibility of sleep for nights before.
The teenage party is something most parents of teenagers fear and the old man and I have faced it many times before, and ultimately one of us always ends up giving into it and driving back at some ungodly hour.
Then Kurt sent me this Youtube video and we realised once again that we are still rookies when it comes to teenagers.
Something extraordinarily momentous is going to happen on my blog today. Something that doesn’t happen very often, so prepare yourselves.
This post is going to be a HAPPY post.
If Mr Benn can do it (Pom joke), so can I. So today I am choosing to be Pharell Williams and to ‘feel happy’, even though its taken all of my courage to post this piece because I am fully aware that I run the risk of losing those few loyal readers, who obviously share my antipathy towards life in general and get off on a good whinge.
And yes, I am fully aware of the potential repercussions. Anxiety says that if you find yourself in a happy place – Be FUCKING AWARE – no-one really gets away with that shit, and some hideous retribution will be lurking around the corner.
But I’ll ignore the voices for today, because guess what? Kurt is doing okay at school.
I SAID KURT IS DOING OKAY AT SCHOOL.
Cue: drum roll and god-awful trumpet sounds.
HALLELUJAH, Hallelujah, Hallelujah……
According to his teachers, (and I quote), ‘there have been no major behavior infringements this term, his key assignments have been completed and handed in on time (which makes his tutor the best $40 I’ve spent in a long time) and his teachers LIKE him.
‘I’m sorry, you must have made a mistake.’ I questioned. ‘My son’s Kurt Cobain.’
It turns out that my son is ‘trying’.
So this current state of euphoria must be what parents that don’t have ‘Kurts’ feel on parents evening? I keep humming ‘you are the wind beneath my wings’ playfully in his ear, but he swats me away angrily, like he would a fly.
But he has negotiated a Macca’s this weekend as the first recompense for ‘CONFORMING’.
It’s all my fault, apparently. So what’s new?
It was funny not walking away from the usual parent speed-dating night (thanks @meggsie62 for that wonderful analogy) without wanting to camouflage myself or hide and weep in the nearest dark corner with a bottle of Vodka. Strange not to feel deflated or fearful about my son’s future; I didn’t even HATE (WITH A WORRYING LEVEL OF VENGEANCE) every other parent in the hall and all their perfectly formed children.
I left that hall with my head held high, a very silly grin plastered on my face and a distinct spring to my step.
In fact what I really wanted to do was get on a soapbox and shout out to everyone there, ‘Yes, that’s my son, Kurt Cobain. Form an orderly queue, please, if you want to learn how to successfully parent a child with ADHD,’ and on the back of this I would obviously set up a financially successful parenting programme and cite wine and chocolate as my major influences.
But I was too worried that the old man might get to the wine drip I’d set up at home first.
In our development as parents, we pass through many stages of learning.
When the first baby arrives and we realise that everyone has pulled the wool over our eyes about parenting, our main purpose in life changes to survival. There’s no time to analyse what we are doing or how we are doing it.
We muddle through somehow, and hope that we will make it to the other side alive.
The very parenting manuals that are supposed to support us have a tendency to make us feel like shit most of the time, and guilt often culminates in self-blame.
But we justify to ourselves that as long as we’re doing a better job than our parents, it will all work out in the end.
As our children grow older and easier, we become more confident in our parenting abilities and we eventually find more time to evaluate our parenting skills, in comparison to those of our parents. We can appraise their job more objectively now, because we now understand those what those heavy-duty responsibilities of being a role model mean.
We become more empathetic towards the job our parents did in nurturing us.
So blaming our parents starts around the same time as we become teenagers and develop a greater awareness of self, and ends the day we realise two things:
That blaming our parents isn’t going to change anything.
That in most cases, our parents probably did their best.
But we only gain that knowledge through experience of the demands of parenting ourselves.
Teenagers haven’t gained the full package of wisdom yet, (even though in many cases they might think they have), which is why they blame their fucked-up-ness on us.
Hence, the circle of blame begins.
My own teenagers, who are fundamentally good kids, often lob the finger of blame at me in the heat of a domestic crisis or try to use me as a scapegoat for their own mistakes. Like many mothers, I have lain in bed many a night, unable to sleep, blaming myself too.
But, are we really to blame?
Is it enough to do the best job we can, or do we have a badass responsibility (like the parenting magazines suggest), to be perfect and ultimately sacrifice our lives for the future of our children when we take on the mantle of becoming a parent?
It’s not like they’ll thank us when they become adults themselves.
One of my biggest battles with Kurt at the moment is to persuade him to give up smoking. No matter how hard I try to talk to him intelligently about the health implications of his habit and the number of lectures in PDHPE he has obviously chatted his way through, smoking is a crutch that helps his anxiety and makes him reluctant to give up. His last argument on the subject is always ‘Well, you smoked.’
Guilty as charged.
Yes, I was a smoker and at no time before my fortieth birthday did I attain the required maturity to face my own morbidity or to be a better role model to my kids.
I must have missed the clause about role modeling when I signed the parenting contract and it’s taken me a while to understand the small print.
And then there’s the minor detail that I’m not perfect. I probably could have read the kids more stories, not gone out and left them in the hands of babysitters I hardly knew, or fed them from jars as babies.
Like Kurt, I blamed my own mother for a long time – for dying and leaving me to cope on my own at such a young age. There were times when the kids were small that I despised her for not being there to support me, too – to tell me if the bath temperature was right or what a particular rash meant.
And my father didn’t get away scott free either. I blamed him for not being as paternal as the perfect role model image of a ‘dad’ looked like in my head.
The rapper, Eminem, blamed his mother for what was by all accounts a very dysfunctional upbringing, and only recently has he has been able to forgive her publicly, in his song Headlights.
It took me forty years to stop blaming my parents but I hope my kids find the wisdom not to judge earlier.
After extensive experience, I have come to the conclusion that much like oil and water, Kurt and school do not mix.
Much of my time this week has been spent brown-nosing to school officials, inventing new punishments for my son (that will never work), consulting every ADHD manual ever written and perfecting a withering look of disappointment that I lob in my son’s direction at every opportunity I get.
And drinking crying.
(And I get a lot of those opportunities to give him THAT look, now that the school has insisted that HIS school holidays are to commence earlier than those of the rest of the school).
I have found some solace, however, in the (some might call it ‘psychotic’) nocturnal pleasure of developing ways in which I can hatch my revenge, (lawfully), during the following eight weeks of school holiday hell.
So here are my tips on how you too can exact revenge on your teenagers, without actually averting them to your foul play.
Turn all the taps on in the house during their daily 30 minute shower ritual.
Remove all loose change from your purse.
Tag them on Facebook in those especially awkward family photos. Add photos of them as small children on the potty, naked, with braces and un-dyed hair.
Meet them at the school gates occasionally, saying ‘you just happened to be in the area.’
Alert the parents of their friends when your child sleeps over that your child may have a bedwetting problem.
Discuss with their friends the problems your child has with relationships, your concerns about their skin problems and that you suspect your child might be gay. Then tell them how your child still gets into bed with you in the morning and suffers from obvious attachment issues.
Get the family photo albums out with their friends.
Abandon your teenager just as the cashier is about to serve you at the supermarket while you run to find something you forgot and leave them there to fend for themselves.
Refuse to pick them up after 9pm in the evening so they have to walk up that hill or (GOD FORBID), suffer the indignity of public transport.
When they are grounded, tell their friends that it is because they have been naughty.
There has been a surprising amount of accusation levelled at me by both the old man and the teens about my mode of parenting recently.
The minute I am caught stalking, probing, over-organising, suffocating (NC’s words), or indeed ‘parenting’ (my words), NC starts making patronising whirring noises above my head.
She appears to have forgotten the benefits of such intensive care – the ferrying from late night parties and testing of her knowledge in daily, quick fire breakfast rounds, just prior to her entry exam to selective school.
What none of my family seem to understand is that I am actually quite proud to be known as a helicopter parent.
I realise that it might be seen as wrong by some that I check the messages on my kids phones when they are in the shower and vet their friends on Facebook, or call them a minimum of ten times per day, but it is because I care.
I admit that the phone tracker may be a step too far.
And I admit that when you have helicoptered your child, it can be quite difficult to then get them out of the nest when you are finally ready for them to leave assert some independence.
But while I may be over intrusive bearing at times and have earned my right to be called a ‘helicopter parent’, the old man is without doubt a ‘satellite’ parent.
I have discussed the old man’s parenting invisibility cloak on this blog many times.
He is of the opinion that my approach to parenting, whereby I support and ‘scaffold’ our children’s development, will ultimately lead them to run away from home as soon as they can reach the free zone outside my tracking zone. He believes that his laissez-faire, ‘satellite’ approach, allows them to make mistakes and occasionally fail, meaning they have to face consequences. Yet while he remains a distant parent, his justification is that he will still be there to offer a reassuring arm in times of real need….say, before they actually kill themselves.
He calls this ‘teaching them about independence’; I call it child abuse.
When you have a satellite partner, you are effectively a single parent, except in moments of crisis. In my cynical opinion, a satellite parent only interferes when:
It will make them look more popular with the kids.
They are called upon in desperation, whereupon, because they are not used to parenting, they generally lose the plot and make matters far worse.
When their interference will serve themselves in some way eg. Refusing to allow the child do something because it will cost more money or mean that ‘the satellite’ will have to give up their own time ‘to parent.’
Don’t get me wrong, the typical ‘satellite’ loves their children, but they don’t want or like the responsibility of parenting.
And there are benefits to this style of parenting.
The ‘satellite’ parent rarely receives the ‘I hate you and when I’m older I will kill you slowly’ depth of communication with their offspring, because they are rarely involved in the minutiae of their child’s existence.
I imagine that most helicopter parents, like myself, are control freaks. Part of the reason parents like myself cannot let our children take responsibility for themselves or let go is because we want the best for them, in terms of their safety and reaching their full potential. We are over-protective because watching our children fail feels like a personal failure.
Of course, when they do fail, (because even a helicopter cannot hover and be there to pick up the pieces all the time), the satellite will then jump in quickly and blame the helicopter for not doing their job properly.
The house of our dreams doesn’t actually exist, of course, because we all have different priorities and expectations. The old man wants to be back at the beach and has an innate fear of the city, I want edginess, NC wants to be as close as possible to the library at Sydney Uni and Kurt wants somewhere with dark spaces, loud music and a liberal attitude to recreational drugs.
What we actually want is Versailles in Mosman with en suite bathrooms in every bedroom, the council to dig out a train line, a dog park on the water and a VERY separate parental retreat – as in, each parent’s retreat separate from the other’s.
The problem with our current house is that the floor plan doesn’t work anymore with only one square metre of floor that doesn’t vibrate with Kurt’s drumming.
The drums seemed like a good negotiating tool at the time – the sort of negotiation that all good parents are forced to do in moments of crisis – the ‘if you don’t get expelled, I’ll buy you a drum kit’ kind of negotiation. But with hindsight, I maybe didn’t think the whole acoustics issue through properly.
So, needless to say, the drums, along with the Princess, make finding a rental property more difficult, because most properties don’t offer soundproofed studios and I am certain that the landlord will recognise that the Princess isn’t in fact human, even though she might believe that she is.
The Sydney property market has gone crazy again, it seems. Of course it would – after all, we sold our property LAST year, in a severely depressed market, and for a crap price. Mind you, the old man hasn’t had to moan about sweeping leaves for twelve months, so there has been one benefit of losing half our retirement investment.
I’m so glad I listened to his obviously informed words about how ‘property will never go up again, Lou,’ as I watch the mini housing boom in Sydney explode in front of my eyes.
There’s also a shortage of good rental property.
Which means that when I put in our application for a mini-palace with soundproofed room, en suites in all the bedrooms (because the kids won’t share), permission for a dog and enough wardrobe space to cope with my overspending habits, and for the rent the old man THINKS WE SHOULD PAY, I’m probably being unrealistic.
Mentally the old man and I are ready to be empty-nesters, but physically our kids are still VERY OBVIOUSLY here – indefinitely, apparently. And the Princess certainly doesn’t look like vacating her position in our bed anytime soon.
And as I said, we all have very different ideas about what we need in our next home.
But I’m still not sure when exactly we began to prioritize our kids needs over ours. When did we start to accept their ridiculous demands of queen beds, walk-in wardrobes and en suites in each of their bedrooms?
Our lifestyle expectations have increased over the last few years, as have those of our children, obviously. Far be it for me to point the finger of blame at them directly or to accuse them of being spoilt (God Forbid!) but as our standards improve in Australia each decade, it’s inevitable that our kids take ‘their lot’ and ‘a lot’ for granted.
When I was growing up in the UK with my single mother, myself and my two sisters shared a bedroom, while my mother slept on the sofa in the living room; and we shared a bathroom with four other families.
That might sound very Monty Python-esque, although I assure you, it wasn’t quite a shoe box; nevertheless, it’s true. And I am aware that there are still a lot of families in Australia living on the poverty line, but generally our children want for very little other than the latest Apple gadget or free alcohol under-age.
But should we be guilted into basing our retirement decisions around the kids staying at home indefinitely? What’s wrong with giving them a gentle kick out of the nest once they finish their education? Have we become soft? My parents left home at eighteen and rented. And if our kids cannot support themselves, shouldn’t they be lucky to get what they’re given, which, God forbid, may mean ‘sharing’ the bathroom with their sibling?
I know that I am a ‘weak’ parent – it’s too late to change that now. And frankly, I wouldn’t want to share the bathroom with NC’s make-up and discarded knickers, just as I wouldn’t want my bedroom next to Kurt’s, which most days sounds like Nirvana night in a club in Kings Cross.
But I fear that we may be creating monsters, albeit independent, free-thinking, bright young adults who are not afraid to have an opinion and express it. Perhaps the media is right about Generation Y, about them being narcissistic and spoilt – dare I suggest ‘selfish’, even?’
I muscled in on a discussion between some irate mums about homework on Twitter yesterday.
Apparently it is a universal issue of monumental proportions and I am not the only parent with the grey hair and eye twitch to prove that my child refuses to do his homework.
There are a lot of us out there who struggle nightly and at weekends to get the homework completed, and feel bullied by schools to make sure it gets done. It’s obviously harder these days when a lot of us women work, to find the time to monitor the kids homework as well as nurture them in other ways.
Homework sometimes feels like yet another way the government has of subtly leveraging parental guilt.
I was lucky with NC. I’m not saying that she always did her homework but she always took responsibility for it – she was far too proud to pass that baton of responsibility onto me.
I even remember scoring a few Head Teacher awards when she was in primary school, for projects that she was initially apathetic about – King Henry V111 was particularly odorous, I seem to remember – but man, if only you’d seen my wicked advent calendar-inspired front cover. The other mothers were spitting.
HEAD TEACHER’S AWARD – I should have been knighted!
Of course Kurt has been a very different story. Not only has Kurt never read a book, but he has also never completed a piece of homework voluntarily or in full.
Homework to kids with ADHD (and their parents) seems like a personal punishment from the Devil.
Persuading Kurt to do homework has been as hard as I imagine persuading Miley to be a good role model to kids is.
I’ve tried everything. I’ve used Smarties as math’s counters, guitar stickers as rewards, MacDonald’s as an incentive, timers, time out and mnemonics to help him remember things in what I thought were fun ways.
But I can assure you that it has been far from fun, and I threw in the towel a while ago. There’s only so much abuse a mother can take from her own spawn.
I still nag remind him about outstanding assignments and I am in secret communications with the school so that I am aware of every assignment he is given. But for the sake of my sanity and his mortality, there has to be a limit to my involvement now.
What I have done, and I realize that not every parent can afford to do this, is to hire a tutor to remove some of the pain. What she does is to brainstorm and organise him with those truly hideous assignments, those white knuckle ones with page upon page of description and educational jargon that make every parent want to hide in a small dark room and rock.
It is easily the best $40 I spend each week.
There are many kids who hate homework and there are an increasing number of teaching professionals (backed by research) who are questioning the benefits of it.
When you look at the pressure it puts on home life and the kids themselves, (who I am sure do far more extracurricular activities than they used to), it’s a wonder that it still enforced.
Home should be a safe haven for kids, not a battleground. Due to Kurt’s ADHD I have had to pick my battles, and in the scheme of things homework is of minor importance in terms of his overall development.
As Fathers Day looms the old man has taken to dropping hints at every opportunity.
But what can you really buy for the man who doesn’t believe in spending money?
To further complicate things, he has also imposed stringent rules about what we can and cannot buy him.
Apparently we are not allowed to buy him clothes, for example, as he sees me choosing his attire as a further example of ‘disempowerment’ – funny that he still asks me if he needs a jumper every time we leave the house, though. He assures me that he is more comfortable in his own style, which Kurt describes as his ‘pile of sh*t’ look – an effortless (as in ‘no effort’) layered style of toning brown-on-brown.
We are also not allowed to buy him alcohol, as the family is being forced to endure yet another of his ‘fitness’ fads, and he is currently at the halfway point between giving up and having a heart attack, somewhere midway across the Harbour bridge. He is determined to add to the statistics of men in their forties who try exercise for the first time and think it is easy, then suddenly drop dead.
Luckily, I have a direct line to his insurance company.
But I have come up with a few ideas of my own to thank the old man for his role as father to our children:
1. Chocolate is an obvious choice – I mean who doesn’t like chocolate? The problem is, that the old man likes it a little too much for his own good, and so werealised that in buying him his usual family-sized bar, we would be guilty of supplying him his drug. The old man with a bar of Cadburys is like watching a pig at a trough. Fortunately, he is fully aware that he has a problem and has recently banned all chocolate from the house, so we have to hide it in places he won’t find it, like the laundry and his wallet.
2. Although stylish clothes have been banned, he has suggested he might like to try some of those shorter, more retro board shorts that seem all the rage now. I agree that they may make his legs look a normal length longer, giving the sharks more to latch on to, but as his waist size changes from week to week, (depending on how much chocolate he finds), I don’t know whether to opt for his ‘fat’ size or his ‘kidding himself’ size – as us women know, neither will make him happy.
3. A new wallet would be a good choice for any normal man, but the old man has had the same wallet for the past twenty years and there’s barely a scratch on it.
4. I have also considered buying some Apple shares for the dividends we would get back from the old man keeping the company in business.
5. I’ve already ordered several new remote controls to provide us with some respite from the nightly ‘where is the f..cking remote control, now.’
6. I have privately thought about surprising him with Miley’s rubber two piece outfit that she wore so elegantly to the VMAs, but at the moment I can’t seem to get the tongue extension required to pull it off. This present is a work in progress and I have earmarked some All Black videos to watch this week for training purposes.
7. NC and I both thought that the old man might enjoy a back, crack and sack in readiness for his Summer body, especially if he is to wear those new shorter shorts. That idea seemed particularly appealing as I cleaned the stray urine from the base of the toilet again this morning.
8. Any form of tool is especially appropriate good for the old man, and these are particularly useful for re-gifting at Christmas as they are usually never unwrapped.
9. As a thoughtful treat, I thought I would prepare a special meal and try out a new recipe. Nothing too easy – I thought I’d go all out. Kurt has even offered to invite some of his ADHD friends to make the evening a truly memorable occasion.
10. Finally, I thought I might truly surprise him with that new car upgrade I have nagged him about until I’m blue in the face we have discussed for those rare occasions when he gets to drive, now that he is God’s answer to Hussein Bolt. I’ve He’s had his eye on a new Lexus for a while now and I think it’s time to pay him back for his wonderful contribution to fatherhood and parenting. Fortunately for him, Lexus are having a sale at the moment so I figure that if I can get the GPS thrown in for free so that I can find him when he collapses on the bridge and he realises that I’ve saved him money, he’ll be really happy, right?
I might be mildly excited about Mother’s Day if I was getting a real treat this year – just for me – TIME OUT from my kids, say?
Does that make me bitter? A Mother’s Day Grinch?
Don’t get me wrong, I love my kids, but I spend the other 364 days of the year worrying about them, so ONEday to myself would be a real treat for me.
As you know, my two aren’t cute little knee-highs still innocently and naively worshipping their Mum.
They’re big, scary teenagers, resistant to parental demonstrations of love.
And if Mother’s Day is indeed ‘a celebration honoring mothers and motherhood, maternal bonds, and the influence of mothers in society’, (Wikipedia), I can think of no better way for my ‘orrible teens to ‘honour’ me, than by orchestrating a day off for me.
It’s been an interesting week month at Dysfunctionality House, as you are probably aware. So it’s hard not to be a tad cynical about the circus of Mothers Day.
Mothers Day is in danger of metamorphosing into the commercial carnival of Halloween (Halloween Humbug) and Valentine’s Day and it’s getting harder to avoid being sucked into it. Tried booking lunch in a decent restaurant on Mother’s Day? Think again. There are now special Mothers day menus created especially for us, althoughI have yet to discover the perfect restaurant that serves three courses of Chardonnay, cholesterol and chocolate.
As I said, my attitude might be a little less misanthropic if Mother’s Day hadn’t fallen during this particular month.
Sometimes it’s hard for us paragons of motherhood virtue to celebrate the joys of parenting with offspring who consistently cross every parenting boundary, or your endurance for door banging, and who rip apart the fabric of the moral code you’ve spent fifteen years painstakingly trying to teach them.
Does that sound bitter?
Of course I DO realise that in the very wise words of Chris Martin, ‘no-one said it would be easy’.
But did you know that turtle and snake mothers abandon their young at birth? That fact used to sadden me in the days when I had babies, was still lactating, still believed my children to be the most beautiful things ever created and even found pride in watching them pee in the toilet as opposed to on the floor.
Before they reached the age of 13.
Human mothers, like us, and Wolf Spiders (go figure!), protect and nurture their young for much longer. Our kids can remain in the fold as late as their mid-twenties before we turf them out, (or are forced to buy a one-bedroom unit).
I’m beginning to understand some of the logic behind the ‘abandonment at birth’ method of ante-mothering now, although I have no doubt that Kurt will be residing in the local correctional centre before next Mother’s Day anyway.
Typically I have begun questioning my own parenting skills, like all mothers do daily occasionally. Should I have been tougher with him? Should I have said ‘no’ more?
Perhaps our generation is guilty of mollycoddling Generation Y as has been suggested.
I blame those new-wave paediatricians that told us to educate our children through love, encouragement and play; they were obviously misleading us.
Our family is lying wounded in the trenches after Kurt’s recent ventures into ‘spreading his wings’. The Urban Dictionary’s definition of a teenager as ‘someone who has everything but appreciates nothing’ is particularly apt at the moment. Not that I don’t remember that feeling – of being young, invincible, self-important and able to conquer the world single-handedly (before responsibility and empathy finally kick in).
As you know if you follow my blog, this month he has managed to violate any deep-seated hope that he is not some mass murderer in the developmental stage.
Lest I forget, I am a mother, not a saint.
And hormones obviously have a huge amount to answer for. His, and mine. Teenagers and menopause are about as compatible as oil and water. God screwed up his timing there.
Teenage angst or mental unhingement, I have yet to decide which my son is suffering from?
So back to the point of how exactly I’m expected to sit through a pleasant Mother’s Day lunch without growling threateningly at Kurt over my Prawn Cocktail? Especially after his forage into the ‘mean’ dictionary this week, where he has sourced every hurtful adjective to sling back at me.
At least I know I’m not alone. There are as many mothers of teenagers out there suffering in silence as there are mothers of toddlers revelling in mummy worship. Feral teenagers are on trend at the moment – it’s almost becoming a contagion.
It’s a phase we have to go through on their journey to adulthood.
Admittedly retaliation was immature, I realise that now. Sometimes I have to remind myself that I am the adult. I never said I was perfect mother and ‘little git’ just popped out of my mouth in the heat of the moment. To be honest, far worst adjectives were queuing up in my vocal chords in that moment of intensified frustration. But of course he hasn’t let me forget those words. Especially when that lovely advertisement for Mother’s Day comes on the radio with those angelic little children recounting the virtues of their own mothers with, ‘I love my mum because….’ – Kurt finishes it with, ‘she calls me a little git.’
‘Unconditional love’ says, that I have to love him no matter how badass he is towards me. And of course I will; wearily.
All I’m saying is that sometimes it’s brutal.
So, for just one day, I’m closing the door on good parenting, unconditional love and spreading the love on Mother’s Day. I am celebrating being a Mum, a good mother (given the respect I deserve), who will be back, fully committed to the role on Monday.
The Mother’s Day Grinch can be found in Pitt Street Mall on Mother’s Day. Her friend, ‘mother’s guilt’ has enforced that she will be watching the new Star Trek movie with aforementioned ‘ferals’ in the evening.
Mistaa Grinch by Alexa Fades Away courtesy of Flickr.com.
I’ve been demoted in my role as Mum by my teenage son now. Steve Biddulph warned me it would happen in his books, Raising Boys and The New Manhood, but I thought I would be the mother to prove him wrong.
Steve obviously knows what he’s talking about.
“Most men today live behind masks. They put them on in the morning and keep them on until they fall asleep at night, adopting the clichés of what they perceive a real man to be. The problem is, it’s all pretend.” (Steve Biddulph)
My son is creating his mask.
The rules have suddenly changed in our relationship. Where I was once a figure my son looked up to, his support, his role model, it feels as though I have become little more than a serf in his life these days, with about as much social standing as the servants in Downton Abbey. Actually less, because they are paid for their work.
My new status was made perfectly clear to me today when we went clothes shopping together in George Street. I had envisaged our trip as a potential bonding moment, but as I watched him plug in his earphones, I realised that I was little more than a cash enabler, and that communication would not be involved.
I traipsed behind him like Tiger Woods’ caddy, at least three metres behind at all times, while he sauntered off ahead and in control. Topman was full of weary mums like me, stalking outside the changing rooms, accepting this new place in their teenage boys’ lives, credit cards at the ready, newly aware that these last links are so tenuous and precious.
The only time he acquiesced to share the same square metre of space with me in public was when we met briefly at the paydesk. He did mumble a ‘thanks Mum’ as I handed over the dosh, but it was only coherent to those with either canine hearing or desperately holding on to the last morsel of what might still be considered a relationship.
I get it. I remember being embarrassed to have to shop with my parents. I get it; I’m just not really ready for it yet.
I’m worried he won’t ever come back to me again. That once he’s mature enough to reconsider our tie, some evil girl will steal him from under my nose. I remember my brother retreating to his bedroom at the age of twelve and not reappearing until he was eighteen. The only time we saw him during those six years was during flying visits on Christmas Day to inhale twenty-four roast potatoes and bid goodbye for another twelve months.
My boy is creating his man-shed, part of his transition from boy to man. He needs to be mentally strong in this new man-world and he is busy creating the emotional tools to face the challenge, while I scramble around pathetically, trying desperately to retain our old relationship. The more I try to stop the building process, the more determinedly he hammers in the nails.
I used to consider myself a strong, opinionated woman, yet in the presence of my teenage son these days I feel like a piece of putty at the mercy of his manipulation. I am Edward Cullen, helpless in the path of the evil powers of his alter-ego Jane, from Twilight. He holds the emotional power and I am a sad and powerless pawn, and I while I recognise and detest this feeling of subservience, I am powerless to prevent it. It is the power of love.
I am emotionally strung out at being ousted from his life so mercilessly. I try to please him all the time, to appease him, and I can see the disdain on his face as I compromise my own strength. I don’t know whether to accept the painful transition, grieve and move on, or fight it. Whatever happened to that gorgeous blonde vision of innocent chubbiness who used to worship me and tell me he loved me ‘this much’?
My love for him has always been unconditional; I thought that his would be the same for me.
He tolerates me now. I am his cook, bank and a sounding board when things get too hard, but he knows and I know that I can’t be his friend or pretend to understand anything that is going on in his life.
‘You don’t understand, Mum,’ is the common accusation when I try to carry on parenting the way I used to, before the bumfluff and baritone voice signalled the change.
We have to let them go. Our boys have to make the transition from boy to man and I have to continue to support and nourish him during his transition, no matter how painful I find his rejection.
In the hope that he will come back to me when he is ready.
It was an innocent time. Up until then I had been locked away in an all girls’ boarding school, he in the boys equivalent. He had only thought about sport; I was like a bitch on heat.
The stars must have aligned..
I spotted him in my French class one day as he was conjugating the verb avoir. He had a beautiful French accent, stunning green eyes…. and hair, back then.
Our very first ‘date’ was in the coffee shop down the road from the school – some of his friends orchestrated it, because he was obviously incapable. As ‘Zoom’ played on the radio, we shyly tucked into our hot chocolates and gazed awkwardly into each other’s eyes. He looked terrified; I felt like the cat that got the cream.
The seal was broken. We fell in love. We couldn’t get enough of each other.
‘Need’ took on a whole new meaning.
We spent every weekend of the next two years at his house. We would arrive, make the necessary polite words of conversation with his parents, (about the weather, the school or the garden), share a polite cup of tea and head straight up to his bedroom. Shamelessly. I remember how his mother always looked suspicious and slightly worried.
And we would explore……..his collection of music cassettes, among other things.
We took it slowly. Things were different back then – we weren’t in any particular rush.
And at the end of those halcyon days, just before I went home, my future mother-in-law would call us down from the old man’s den of iniquity and calmly make us pizza and salad; but with questioning eyes. And we would sit in the kitchen, and talk politely to her again, as we munched on our pizza, rosy cheeked, lips swollen, blissfully unaware of how transparent we were. Oblivious to the fact that she knew.
That we were falling in love.
The ADHDer has been spending a lot of time in his bedroom recently with his new girlfriend. Playing her the Arctic Monkeys on his Ipod, I think. She looks a sweet girl, like I did.
I probably always appear suspicious and worried to her, though.
Because I know.
I pace and cough a lot outside his bedroom. I often need to put his washing away in his bedroom or vacuum, when she’s there. I spend a lot of time listening at the bottom of the stairs, shouting up to see if they need anything; I sometimes have to telephone when I don’t get an immediate response.
The old man passes me on the stairs and makes the L (loser) sign on his forehead, or simply tuts in disgust, making whirring noises.
It was a seminal moment. I did mean to celebrate the event in my blog, but to be honest I was too busy worrying about the more serious implications; the bigger picture of how old her birthday made me.
I may as well have just stuck a sign on my forehead saying ‘old bird.’
But it did make me stop and think about the evolution of our mother/daughter relationship over that eighteen years.
You see there were many times during that eighteen years when I didn’t think we’d ever reach this point in our relationship; alive and still liking each other.
I mean, she wasn’t to know when she arrived into our world, that we were complete newbies at parenting, and that she was a sort of experiment; our ‘guinea pig’, for want of a better word.
I learned my parenting ropes on my daughter; then I completely screwed them up with my son. But that’s another story.
We are polar opposites, Nerd Child and I. She is the old man in a female shell. While she is super-intelligent, analytical, doesn’t suffer fools, frustratingly untidy and has a horror of crowds, I, on the other hand, pretend to know what I’m talking about all the time, am energized in the company of people, love fools and am made anxious by mess. Yet somehow we have found a common ground.
What I have discovered through this rearing experience is that parenting is not something you inherit a talent for; it’s a role that you adapt to over time. And Nerd Child and I have adapted to each other, in spite of our differences, although I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t made any mistakes in the process.
‘Regrets….I’ve had a few’.
Here are some of the more memorable ones:
1. The old man and I both regret that we do not have the perfect birth story to recount to our first born. I so wish I could reminisce about a more organic, sugar and spice and all things nice event with pink balloons, a birthing pool and no need for any pain relief other than a water spray; but it wasn’t quite like that.
If there is one thing we have successfully passed on to our daughter, it is that hindsight is a wonderful thing. I freely admit now that it was a poor judgment call to go to that nightclub and for the old man to drink that irresponsible quantity of alcohol so close to my due date. I regret that I had to drive myself to the hospital twice (the second time to pick up the baby bag which I forgot the first time) because the old man was so shitfaced tired. I also know that he regrets not being able to give her a blow by blow account of what actually happened during my labour, any video footage or even a photo of her until she was three days old.
I also regret exposing her innocent little body to every form of pain relief known to man (even when it was at the expense of her own health) and to a dictionary of the most obscene swear words that even the most experienced midwives had heard screamed at them.
2. I regret that she began life as ‘Florence’ and was the laughing stock of my entire antenatal group. Thankfully, we noticed.
3. When she landed badly on that trampoline when she was three and did in fact break her leg in two places, I regret now not consulting a doctor for the first twenty-four hours, and believing that frozen peas would dull the pain.
4. I regret that her pinkie is permanently crooked because I naively believed that there was nothing you could do about broken fingers.
5. When she had pneumonia, I regret sending her to school on a sports day.
6. When she put all that weight on when she was fourteen (and she really was quite porky), I still deny that I used the ‘f’ word, but I do admit to introducing her to the idea of exercise quite forcibly.
7. When her boob tube fell down during that dance performance, I admit that it was in fact me cackling like a hyena at the back if the audience.
8. I know that when my eyes glaze over when she tries to discuss geophysics and quantum physics with me, she is really disappointed in me. I am interested in what she is learning; it’s just that sometimes older people need to rest their eyes to think, like I have to often in Q and A.
9. I admit that it was me who borrowed her black suede platform shoes and scuffed the toes really badly when I face-planted in the driveway as I was leaving the party.
10. I regret hoarding that bag of ‘herbs’ in the cake section of my kitchen cupboards and getting angry when she showed it to her grandparents on Australia Day; because it wasn’t in fact a bag of ‘herbs’.
11. I regret that I have ridiculed all the boys that she has dared bring home to introduce to the family, (especially the red-haired boy). But none of them have been good enough for her and I am merely trying to save her the pain of finding that out.
12. I love the fact that our relationship is strong enough now for her to want to share my passion for clothes shopping but I’m not sure how much longer my self-esteem can handle sharing a changing room with her.
13. I am sorry for mocking her singing since her solo as the angel Gabriel at the kindy Christmas play, and how we have continued to ridicule her every time she sings. Luckily she has a lot of other talents to rely on and a very thick skin.
14. I regret not being able to sit through, rather than sleep through, her choices of ‘fantasy’ films at the movies.
15. I realize that it is selfish of me to resent her drinking my rations of ‘good’ wine, but I couldn’t afford to drink $20 plus bottles until I was over forty.
16. I admit that it was was me who replied to that letter she wrote to the fairies, and ate the biscuit she left out for them. There was no advice on handling ‘fairy situations’ in my parenting manuals and I panicked, but I truly didn’t expect a child of her maturity and intelligence to continue the communication, and so I continued to feed the lie. Eventually, that fairy had to stop replying to her (incredibly gullible) daughter because there’s only so much neediness she can cope with and the biscuits were converting to kilos.
17. I so regret embarrassing her recently at her university open day when I responded to the Sydney University media question of, ‘what do you hope your daughter will gain from her time at university?’ with the off-the-cuff comment ‘a tolerance to alcohol.’ (Got My Degree In Alcoholic Tolerance) She was right – it just wasn’t funny or clever.