Sunday, 7 September 2014

A fractured fairytale...

It was never my intention to hurt anyone. You don't wake up one morning and choose to be unhappily married.

The cracks begin to show over a period of time and regardless of who chooses to go, there is hurt.

I chose to leave my marriage two years ago and we've all suffered as a consequence. However, despite the turmoil and adjustments that have ensued, I don't regret my decision. 

This will no doubt sound selfish to many people.

Why didn't I fight harder to retain the family unit? Because I was empty. I had become a shell of myself and I could no longer function. I was simply going through the motions in what felt like a parallel universe. It wasn't fair on my kids. It wasn't fair on my husband. And it wasn't fair on me.

We all deserved better than that.

Two years on and I'm more than functioning. Single parenting is hard work, but I do the best I can. I have downsized a lot of things in my life and it feels good.

My kids are brilliant, resilient little humans. Yes, they will always be affected by my decision and that will never sit entirely comfortably with me, but I hope they are getting a better mother as a result.

Saturday, 4 February 2012

Some advice for my daughter

·         Despite the occasional crucifixion from peers, there’s nothing wrong with being the ‘good girl’. Good girls might finish last initially, but eventually they win.
·         However, don’t be so good that you never have fun. Revel in life! Push a few boundaries, take some calculated risks and try not to fear failure. You might discover something (or someone) amazing!
·         Intelligence is not something to be ashamed of. Don’t dumb yourself down to gain approval from others, but try to use it wisely and humbly.
·         If you dress like trash, you will attract trash. Embrace your body and adopt your own style, but always leave something to the imagination.
·         Always remember you are beautiful. Don’t ever let anyone make you feel otherwise.
·         Be resilient in the face of adversity. I will always walk by your side but I won’t fight your battles.
·         Don’t begrudge anyone their success or money. If you want something, work hard and earn it! You will be eternally dissatisfied if everything is handed to you.
·         Be gracious. Manners are the most important lesson you will learn and they are the attribute people will remember.
·         Appreciate what you have. So many people have so much less. Try to give something back.
·         Try not to form preconceived notions about others. Everyone has a past.
·         Take responsibility for your actions and own your mistakes. It takes greater courage to admit fault and apologise than blame someone else.
·         Food is one of life’s greatest pleasures. Never make it your enemy!
·         Surround yourself with music. It will move you, inspire you, heal you and take you to places you could only dream of.
·         You will meet many people throughout your life, but will end up with about a handful of friends who you will trust enough to share your innermost thoughts, desires and fears.
·         There is no shame in seeking help. Suffering in silence will only hinder you.
·         Never be afraid to love deeply and passionately, but don’t be blind sighted! Ensure the person you love has common core values, treats you with respect and loves you with as much depth and passion.
·         Don’t underestimate the power of laughter. It will regenerate you.
·         One day your eyebrows are going to look like mine and despite the fact my mother told me mine were beautiful like Brooke Shields’ circa 1984 – they weren’t. They needed to be waxed. And so will yours…every few weeks for the rest of your life. Believe me, you won’t regret it!

Sunday, 18 September 2011

Let’s get physical…to a point.

I am a relatively fit person. Not Jennifer Beals fit, but not too bad for 34. I run around after children. I run around the office. I generate a hefty dose of adrenalin just, well…existing, which is the main reason I recently joined a gym – to harness some of the adrenalin coursing through me and to release some endorphins. Anyone else would opt for some kind of illicit substance to quell a head full of circling thoughts.
My only experience with public exercising thus far (apart from the time I decided I would ‘go for runs’ on our local bike track, which translated to ‘running to the bike track and walking the rest of the way’) was the ladies’ gym I joined a year after The Ranga was born. This supportive, 80s-music- playing, female-only environment lulled me into a false sense of security. It provided me with the confidence to publically exercise again - this time in a co-ed gym - with people who take exercising VERY seriously.
I eased myself in to my new gym with a couple of low impact classes and a few brisk walks on the treadmill. And despite the fact I lost both of my legs on the treadmill and gained two leaves of recently soaked gelatine in their place, it wasn’t enough to get the endorphins going.
In a momentary lapse of judgment I organised my free assessment with one of the gym’s personal trainers. I honestly believed that ‘assessment’ meant sitting down for an hour to have a ‘nice chat’ with the personal trainer, to the point where I asked him if I would need to bring anything with me.
It was like the time the police chased me at age 18 for speeding. When I finally pulled over and was questioned by the officer as to why I didn’t stop, I responded with, “Because I didn’t think you were after me.” Because I really didn’t think they were after me. And I really didn’t think Personal Trainer was going to make me do anything at all.
If naiveté was a sport I could represent Australia.  
Personal Trainer started by asking me what my goals were, to which I replied (with the words I would live to regret), “I wouldn’t mind a bit of toning in the thigh, butt and tummy areas.”
He then proceeded to drive his finger into the side of my thigh. “Does that hurt?” he enquired as I yelped like a Kelpie. He grabbed my hips and thrust my pelvis out to correct my posture and then started to formulate ‘a personalised program’.
It started with a cross trainer and a pen shoved just above my butt to keep me upright and continued with outrageous bursts of public skipping (I hadn’t skipped since 1988) - in front of a mirror - whilst wearing tights, which were interspersed with stepping machines and more pen poking, followed by public lunging - in front of a mirror – whilst wearing tights, and finally legs apart on the floor crunching some abdominals (did I mention the mirror and tights???)
He seemed pleased with my ability to handle the ‘beginner’s program’. I couldn’t walk for a week.
I have done some pretty undignified things in my time - slipping over on a beer soaked floor whilst dancing at a local cougar haunt springs to mind. As does lying on a bed stark naked trying to push a baby out, whilst a rotating door of medical staff filed in and out of my room to check on the status of my vagina.
However, for some reason I can’t exercise publically without thinking of Richard Simmons or “Jazzercise” or people wearing leg warmers and g-string leotards. All of which trump my previous examples.
 When I decided to ditch the humiliating solo workouts for a circuit class, I expected it to be like “Flashdance” where we would all run really fast on the spot to “Maniac”, but when I arrived for the class I discovered my teacher was Personal Trainer who gave me a conspiratorial “Never Say Die” look and proceeded to play music with the kind of frequency that induces vomiting.
Smug Girl next to me asked if I’d been before and served the pitying “You Haven’t Got a Hope” look. I hit back from the baseline with the “I’ve Had Two Kids, Lady. Don’t Talk to Me about Endurance!” look.  
And then it was on!
Personal Trainer started firing instructions from everywhere. Yelling out things like “RUNNING MAN” which translated to ’jump around using your limbs like a pair of scissors’. Then “DOUBLE GRAPEVINE TO THE LEFT WITH A LUNGE”, which sounded more like a coffee order than an exercise. 
Just when I started to coordinate myself he shouted, “GO TO THE OUTSIDE” and everyone scattered like lemmings and jumped on miscellaneous pieces of equipment around the outside of the floor. Smug Girl, sensing my horror, leant across and started pushing buttons and adjusting weights for me while Personal Trainer yelled “30 SECONDS. MAKE IT WOOOOOORRK!” And then I heard “BOXING ROOM, BOXING ROOM. GO.GO.GO.” and everyone was running everywhere.
I, along with around ten other people, burst in to the shoebox sized boxing room, which looked and smelled like an abattoir. My style, I decided, was more bovine than butterfly, and as I lumbered through the rest of the boxing session I saw Personal Trainer coming at me yelling “UPSTAIRS, UPSTAIRS, UPSTAIRS. GO.GO.GO.”
And everyone was running and switching rooms and I was running up and down and up and down and up and down a staircase with a 65-year-old man - drenched in sweat - coming up the rear shouting, “C’MON GIRL!”
Jesus Christ!!!
Then I heard “BACK TO THE FLOOR, BACK TO THE FLOOR” and I was suddenly playing tug of war with the 65-year-old man and a medicine ball. Who uses medicine balls anymore? I thought they were only used to take out the ankles of your classmates in Year 7 PE classes.  I then found myself doing Jennifer-Beals- style-running on an aerobics step and it was back to the floor for an obstacle course around the medicine balls, and then down on the ground for push ups and bizarre jump in the air and punch the floor manoeuvres, then God forbid…some public skipping!! Personal Trainer shouted, “CARDIO, CARDIO, CARDIO. GO.GO.GO.” And I ran on the spot shouting, “WHERE’S CARDIO? I AM SO CONFUSED!!”
I was directed to a rowing machine by Personal Trainer (next to man who hadn’t left the machine for a week and a half) and was told to “DO IT LIKE TONY. HE’S A MACHINE!”
My rowing with Tony was interrupted by, “BACK TO THE BOXING ROOM, BACK TO THE BOXING ROOM. GO.GO.GO”. Then it was downstairs running and medicine balls and army-esque obstacle courses and Jennifer-Beals-stepping  and Godforsaken skipping and outside machines and “Maniac”-running- on-the-spot moments and more rowing with Tony and people running EVERYWHERE.
And then it ended.
I felt like I had left my body and was hovering above myself.
I had a sudden urge to groan and vomit but unlike my birthing experiences, resisted the urge to do either.
As I hung my head between my legs – in front of the mirror – in tights, I had a moment of reflection.  This never happened to Jennifer Beals. She exercised happily in 1983. What did she do differently? Perhaps if I donned a pair of leg warmers or a g-string leotard and threw a bucket of water over my head it might be more enjoyable next time? If, of course, there is a next time. 


Saturday, 5 February 2011

Empty Nest

This week Miss C started school.  She began the journey all shiny and new, open to endless possibilities with a wide smile and little blue bows in her hair. I knew (or at least hoped) she would be okay. She’s always been a stoic little thing. But being that she was somewhat anxious in the lead-up and with all of the hype surrounding the first day of school, I wasn’t sure if this time she might crack. But she didn’t. And the relief on her face at the end of her first day was a relief to me.
What I didn’t expect was my reaction. I thought perhaps I’d cry. But I didn’t. I felt a surge of emotion when I said goodbye but swallowed it back down. What I have been feeling all week is agitated, irritable and anxious in the hours when she is not at home. I normally work three days a week but have spent this week at home because I wanted her to feel settled and unhurried.
I have sort of stalked around the house like a lioness, feeling edgy and overprotective. This is different to pre-school and daycare. More days, more hours, more influences, more independence. And I’m not averse to independence per se. It’s just that she is shiny and new with her pink Disney Princess lunchbox and her pigtails.
At the moment she is amenable, very Snow White-esque. But one day, in the not too distant future, she’ll be skanking around here like Lindsay or Paris, wanting to wear inappropriate clothing and prefacing every sentence with “like”. One day her little heart is going to be crushed because her best friend hates her or because she loves someone unrequitedly.  And I won’t be able to control it and suddenly she will be tarnished.
I understand these experiences must happen eventually (everything except for the use of the word “like” out of context) for her to learn coping mechanisms. I understand that I must continue to relinquish some control for her to grow and realise her potential.
But I wish she could just stay shiny.

Friday, 28 January 2011

So apparently I dropped all the balls…

It probably wasn’t the best time for me to start reading a book entitled, “How Not to F*** Them up” (by British psychologist, Oliver James) in my very fragile pre-menstrual state, but as I walked around the library with Miss C & The Ranga in tow - it literally leapt off the shelf and into my hand.
I thought perhaps it might have mystical properties – that by simply touching it, it would give me the power to create well adjusted children or at least help me to fix some of my monumental stuff-ups, but as I opened the cover I realised it was directed at those with children under three – those who still had time to correct their mistakes before everything went to hell in a handbasket and said child/ren reached the magic age of three and spontaneously combusted.
Despite the fact my children are five and three-and-a-half, I devoured the first 45 pages of the book with an insatiable appetite – hoping like hell that I got something right, but quickly came to the realisation that I need to seriously reconsider my nomination for Mother of the Year.
According to the book, mothers can generally be split into three categories – Organisers (routine based mothers, full-time paid workers, baby works around them) Huggers (earth mothers, co-sleepers, stay-at-home mothers, works around baby) & Fleximums (a combination of Organisers and Huggers, part-time paid workers).
Apparently there are positive and negative attributes to all groups and some mothers will not necessarily fit the exact mould of a particular category. However, what James makes quite clear so far in the book is that genetics play little (if any) role in the personality traits of a child and that nurture is everything.
He points out that the under-threes require a responsive, attentive adult to help them develop into a secure person. On a positive note he explains that it doesn’t have to be the mother, it could be a father/partner, a grandparent, a relative or an attentive nanny or carer, and that if a mother is depressed or unresponsive, or if she is unhappy staying at home full-time, that a suitable caring alternative is preferable for the child. However, he then goes on to deliver the old day care centre chestnut citing studies which show increases in cortisol levels and behavioural problems in regards to under-threes in centre based care.
So basically for the general population whose alternative care option is a day care centre you are damned if you do and damned if you don’t.
I am the first to admit that I found mothering under-threes to be occasionally rewarding, but mostly relentless. I had two children 18.5 months apart and after the birth of The Ranga, stayed at home full-time for the next two years. I am almost positive I was suffering from depression a lot of the time. I tried my best to entertain and engage with my children, but know for a fact that personally I would have felt better if I’d been working part-time at that stage.  
I painted a façade of happy families and sought therapy along the way, but I was so afraid of the propaganda and ‘studies’ that told me that day care was an ‘evil’ place where children suffered at the mercy of their ‘selfish’ mothers, that my children may have inadvertently suffered as a result.
Certainly there were times of enormous fulfilment in my early mothering career, but mostly it was hard yakka. Those who take to early mothering with aplomb will be aghast at my confession, I’m sure.
I may not have been the archetypal earth mother, but for what it’s worth I tried very, very hard.
When I finally allowed myself to send The Ranga to day care for two days per week at 2 years, 8 months, it was like a friggin’ epiphany. The staff was warm and caring. The environment was stimulating. Hell, he could do Mister Maker craft until the cows came home and I could go to work without burdening anyone, and safe in the knowledge that he was well taken care of.
For my situation, part-time freedom meant better mental health, which in turn made me a better mother.
So yes – perhaps I fucked up (although no one has spontaneously combusted lately) - not because I sent my son to a day care centre but because I didn’t do it earlier.

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

‘Tis the season for… chaos

When I was a kid every day on the road to Christmas Day felt like an eternity. It was always stinking hot and my little sister (Sister Sledge) and I used to amuse ourselves with activities such as riding our bikes past the neighbours' house on the corner (the only one with the pool in the street) and shouting to each other, “OH, IT’S SOOOOOOO HOT!” in the hope that our passive aggressiveness would yield us a swim in the pool. It usually did! 
And on one particularly long and languid pre-Christmas December Day in the 80s, Sister Sledge and I took the bikes for a spin down to the corner shop to buy craft materials – to cut into miniscule pieces – to create a Mr. Squiggle board game.  Yep, the days were very, very long!
What I don’t remember is when the days switched from being long, hot and languid to frantic, air-conditioned and chaotic? When did I stop lying on my stomach, creating a board game, in the middle of the lounge room for an entire day, and start trying to cram multiple events on every given day in the lead up to Christmas?
I only have one husband and two children and yet I feel like I am project managing a large corporation. Between my work and Pineman’s work and day care and pre-school and school orientations and birthday parties and Christmas parties and more Christmas parties and Christmas shopping, I am starting to feel like I’m on a conveyor belt which is creeping toward some dark and ominous pit and inside the pit are metres and metres of tinsel and an inflatable Santa.
 I am quite debilitated by the chaos this year. And my coping mechanism seems to be: inane shopping expeditions and popping ibuprofen (in no particular order).
I used to be quite a productive Christmas shopper, but this year, in the small amount of time I have had to shop, I have been faffing about, coming home with random items and forgetting things like the milk.
The other day it took me at least 45 minutes to walk from the bike section of Toys R Us to the end of ONE car aisle. It was not a great distance, but this is what I achieved in the process: I bumped into someone I knew and had a chat. Waited whilst The Ranga drove a large plastic car around. Idly threatened said child out of large plastic car. Waited whilst The Ranga AND Miss C drove large plastic cars around. Idly threatened said children out of large plastic cars. Was accosted by woman wanting to know all about electronic guinea pigs. Delivered winning sales pitch to not one but THREE women regarding electronic guinea pigs and up-sold matching accessories. Witnessed a little boy piss himself all over his bewildered father and the floor. Offered all spare wipes, pull-ups and shorts to bewildered father who had a little boy, a baby, a pram and NO nappy bag! Dictated the makes and models of the entire range of Matchbox cars to the eager Ranga, then promptly forgot why I was there and walked out with nothing!    
 I have also found myself getting all antsy when I can’t find particular items, begging shop assistants to just check one more time please, trying to materialise a Jessie and Bullseye (from Toy Story 3) double pack when I know full well that Jessie on her own would be quite adequate. And having loud conversations on my mobile in aisles that sound like this, “DO YOU THINK THE RANGA WOULD LIKE A STAR WARS DOUBLE PACK WITH R2D2 and C3PO WITH A BATTLE DROID HEAD? NO, IT HAS AN INTERCHANGEABLE C3PO HEAD. NO, IT’S NOT FROM THE ORIGINAL TRILOGY, BUT DO YOU THINK HE WOULD LIKE IT??”
If I have achieved nothing else this Christmas, I’m pretty sure I gave the poindexter father in the aisle next to me an erection.
But it’s not really the kids’ presents that pose the greatest problems, it’s all the tricky gifts like those for pre-school teachers and day care teachers and ballet teachers and even when they have been carefully selected, Miss C wants to value add with some homemade craft. I commend her for her thoughtfulness, I really do (season of giving and all). But her idea this year is to make individual paper doily people for her pre-school teachers, which involves glue and pom poms and large paddle pop sticks and cutting and pipe cleaners and oh my GOD, between that and the writing of Christmas cards when she cannot yet write, is causing me to reach for the ibuprofen quicker than Frosty the friggin’ Snowman can meet his demise in the Australian sun.  
We are eight days into December and we haven’t even put up the tree!! This never would’ve happened when I was a kid. The tree went up on the first day of December, and Mum would’ve patiently encouraged the Mr Squiggle board game craft. Hell, she would’ve even cracked open the glue! I don’t remember my parents being this harried around Christmas (although my mother did line up at a shop at midnight on Christmas Eve 1984 to secure a Cabbage Patch Kid for me – I’m sure that was relaxing). Maybe they were and I just didn’t notice? Maybe my kids won’t notice?

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Colouring outside the lines

I thought it was only my husband who was cultivating a household full of nerds - prepping them for a lifetime of geeky pursuits and school yard crucifixion.
And admittedly he has played a major role.
Case in point:
1.       The Ranga’s OBSESSION with Star Wars. He has only ever seen snippets of the movie, but can still re-enact pivotal scenes using Mega Bloks, plastic golf sticks as lightsabers, and a fake pumpkin as an explosion (flip one over and believe it or not it actually looks like one). He can name all of the characters, and can be found meandering around the house dressed as Darth Vader, draped in a quilt and wearing a bucket on his head.

2.       Miss C’s anal artistic endeavours. Pineman and I both have creative backgrounds. However, I am not the one who paints armies of miniature figurines and teaches the kids bizarre colour names.  Miss C dropped a pencil from our back deck the other day and when I asked her which colour it was so I could go and look for it, she responded with, “snake leather bite”. 
“What the hell is snake leather bite??” I demanded of Pineman who nearly collapsed with laughter (obviously some nerdy in-joke) and replied with, “I think she means ‘snake bite leather’”. Because that sounded far more reasonable!
Anyway, The Ranga banging on about how he can only be addressed as Han Solo, coupled with Miss C’s eternal meltdowns about people using the WRONG colour for faces and everyone colouring outside the lines, got me thinking.
If my children are this anal/nerdy/obsessive then perhaps there is more than one gene pool to blame. So I took a good hard look at myself and this is what I discovered…
I was not cool at school – maybe not the lowest common denominator - but certainly not far off. I played in the school band and sang in the choir. I took part in school musicals (anyone who has seen Glee will understand what that did for my reputation). I represented the school in debating for the annual interschool ‘sports’ visit (yes, in my mind it was a sport). I lived across the road from my high school and my dad was one of my teachers!
Amongst other achievements, I used to have to get up in front of the whole school to accept an ‘attendance award’ each year. Yay for me, fellow students – I have been to school Every. Single. Day. This. Year. Oh, and in case you hadn’t noticed, that’s my dad who just kicked someone out of the assembly.
Any wonder I never had a boyfriend?
And while everyone at university was wrestling in a jelly pit or sculling beer from a communal yard glass, I was in the library conducting research for my assignments. Need I say more?
But what I have found is that years of achievement in my youth has lead to years and years of underachievement in adulthood.
I have hopped from job to job to job, never knowing what to do next, never staying long enough to climb any ladders, terrified of failure, terrified of success.
I have realised that the types of people who truly succeed in life are the ones who are not afraid to push boundaries, take risks and dream big. The types of people who truly succeed in life wear thick raincoats to weather all manner of storms.
I am not that type of person.  My raincoat tears very, very easily, and I’ve never been a big fan of drowning.
I continued to ponder all of these things recently whilst attending Miss C’s school orientation session.
What do I want for my daughter as she embarks on this new and formative part of her life? We are so painfully similar in some respects that it’s excruciating to watch.
I keep telling her that it’s okay to make mistakes and there are different versions of ‘right’. But I’m not sure I truly believe half the stuff I tell her.
I want to let her know that there are so many pathways to achievement. That she has so many options. That failure is not a catastrophic event.
I want her to find something she is passionate about – anything at all – and not be afraid to pursue it.
I want her to feel like she can colour outside the lines, jump in the jelly pit and scull from the communal yard glass (or maybe not the latter – it just sounds naff!)
I want to send her to school armed with a bulletproof vest and the world’s thickest raincoat, to weather all the storms.
I’m not sure what ticks away in that little mind of hers - but when the previously anal artist presented me with a picture of a rainbow coloured mouse recently and said, “I’m going to start doing my art differently because it’s art” – I thought: perhaps the raincoat I’m sending her with is thick enough?