When Your Kids Think They Can Tell You How To Drive

The old man and I are going on a five-day mini break this week. He will drive, because he always drives when we are in the car together and I am having my lips surgically sewn together, temporarily, to avoid any mistimed comments about his driving.

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I gave up the driver’s seat a while ago because the old man’s constructive criticism in regard to my own abilities nearly caused our deaths, several times. Not that the odd comment in relation to his skills doesn’t escape my mouth, but these days I use other, less incendiary actions to demonstrate my fear, such as engaging my foot with the passenger seat carpet, grabbing at my seat belt like we’re going down in the Titanic or simply gasping dramatically each time he aims for a cyclist.

 

We tend to get a bit more anxious about safety when mortality is staring us in the face and the reality hits home that it’s all just a numbers game. I can’t stand being in the car with either of my kids when they drive, either – because one is a lunatic and the other is the best female example of road rage I’ve ever prayed to a god I don’t believe in, to spare me.

 

I hasten to add, that the feeling is mutual. And while I am proud that my children have developed intelligent, questioning minds and vociferous opinions, their right to comment about my driving remains questionable.

 

Neither of them passed their tests until recently, yet both believe they are better drivers than me. You see, I am a Steady Eddy behind the wheel – aka SAFE – a result of my last job where one of my responsibilities was to drive clients around, often with small children, their lives in my hands. So I don’t exceed the speed limit, I stop on the orange light, I welcome everyone in front of me in my lane – even the ass-hole who has snuck up the inside to avoid the queue – and I never cut anyone up. I am the driving version of Mother Theresa, and being typical Millennials with their burning need for instant gratification and to reach their destination asap, Mum’s scenic route and the enjoyment of sitting at traffic lights to watch the world go by is downright annoying to the kids.

 

Kurt can’t keep his commentary on my driving to himself. This is the boy who got his license less than a year ago, his first fine two hours after his test, as well as a suspension – not for dangerous driving, I hasten to add – yet he believes that he is a more natural driver than I am, with thirty years experience behind me.

 

‘Don’t go! Don’t go!’ he shouts sarcastically, pushing his foot down on his own invisible brake pad as I wait for the road to clear completely, like Jesus parting the sea, before I attempt to cross it.

 

Or…

 

‘Let’s just sit at these lights and watch the pretty colors change again, shall we, Mum?

 

And…

 

‘Steady on, Speedy, we’re in a sixty zone and you just hit forty.’

 

Ha…bloody…ha!

 

He seems to have forgotten that WE taught HIM to drive, at great cost to both our wallet and our sanity, and that even after our anxiety reached a level that only Diazapan could handle and the night sweats about roundabouts and right of way kicked in, we remained calm and carried on. He appears to have forgotten that I have been driving since before I picked his father, indeed a very long time before he was even a twinkle in the eye of that sperm on a mission that night. He doesn’t know that I have driven across Europe by myself, crossed borders and frontiers and that I passed my test first time. He doesn’t appreciate, that apart from an unexplainable draw to columns in car parks and a tendency to drive straight through drive-thrus without stopping,  I am a woman and an excellent driver. 

 

 

 

The Prodigal Daughter Is Not Coming Home For Australia Day, She’s Coming To See Us

The prodigal daughter returns this weekend for the first time since she left the nest. While she assures me that she won’t be celebrating Australia Day for political reasons, I’ll believe that when she turns down the special bottle of Champers I’ve bought for tomorrow. 

girl-2480361_1920Although I only saw her a few days ago, it will be good to get some girl power back in the house. I use the word ‘prodigal’, but obviously, we won’t be cooking up a fatted calf in celebration, NC being a strict vegetarian who only eats fish if it doesn’t have a face and when she’s pissed. Anyway, a few cans of cider and a whole Camembert is much more my daughter’s style, because she’s classy like her mother.

I’ve changed her bedsheets, filled the fridge with tofu and warned Kurt to curb his excitement about her imminent arrival, because when I reminded him, he asked me why she had to come, and an ill-disguised look of pain crossed his face.

Siblings, huh!

‘Because it’s her home and we’re her parents and she wants to see us,’ I replied, convincing myself at the same time, because we all know what trips back home are really about after you land your first job and you’re still living hand to mouth – they’re about the all-inclusive hotel perks of home cooking, hot water, unlimited booze and access to your parents’ wallet.

I remember when we used to visit my in-laws when NC was a baby, how we’d walk through the front door, dump her straight into Grandma’s arms and then like Vikings, raid their home, their fridge, their wine cask, and even their wallet so that we could eat out that night. I don’t remember feeling any sense of shame about our behavior – we’d done our part, carried on the family line, and now we needed someone to parent us again for a short time.

We only saw NC when we had to during those glorious weekends, and I encouraged that dangerous grandma/grandchild connection. Frankly, I sold my motherhood soul while I was there – I didn’t give a toss about how many lollies she blackmailed my child with as long as she got up to her in the night, and I ignored all her unsubtle hints about my parenting skills not being quite like hers for those two precious lay-ins; forty-eight hours when I could pretend to be me again, the person I used to be before birthing this tiny monster that had sucked the lifeblood out of me.

Secretly, I’m excited to have the chance to spoil my little girl (I would say ‘again’ but I know she’ll dispute that). I know we’ll be arguing about the glasses in her room, the foundation streaks in the bathroom sink and the endless cans of lentils she opens and never finishes, probably by tomorrow morning, but for the moment I’ve filed my daughter’s annoying habits to the back of my mind.

He feigns not to be, but it is obvious that the old man is even more excited than me. He hasn’t seen NC for a month – because that would involve leaving the safety zone and embarking upon a treacherous, high-risk journey to the big smoke, an hour away. However, he has been suspiciously quieter than usual this week; no doubt sharpening his wit and revising his views on feminism, climate change and vegetarianism, to ensure an evening of typically light-hearted debate with his eldest child. He has also filled the fridge with cider.

Not Exactly Leaving The Nest…But Close

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I drove NC to the airport at stupid o’clock this morning. They might not have flown the nest quite yet, but it turns out we have two budding explorers in the family, and from the perspective of two parents that rarely leave the house these days, I see their recent adventures as a reaffirmation that not only have we done something right as parents, but that we also haven’t passed on our anxiety about passing on our anxieties about flying, leaving our suburb, or indeed our house, onto our children. It is rather a lovely surprise to find out that your kids have some talents after all.

 

Lucky NC! She is about to embark on a two-week science trip via ship from Perth to Tasmania. The focus of the trip is …I’ll pretend I care …is for this fine group of young academics to take ocean samples and readings, review currents and then analyze all of their exciting data for entertainment in the evenings. Ie. Nerdy stuff that I suppose someone’s got to do to educate us about how to best protect our dying planet.

 

As long as she doesn’t take us through her photos when she gets back, I can deal.

 

As you can possibly imagine, personally I would prefer to give birth naturally whilst having my wisdom teeth removed than sail through what is renowned to be a treacherous channel of water, and as a fussy vegetarian with no alcohol on board for the whole two weeks with which to sustain her bird-like frame, I fear I may miss her if she accidentally stands sideways in the baggage hall when I go to collect her.

 

Meanwhile, Kurt, not to be outdone by his sister, has displayed some similarly impressive home-pigeon skills this week.

 

Understandably, since our move out of the city and into the sticks, it has taken the boy a few weeks to accept his fate of living in Woop Woop to get his bearings and adjust to the slower, less reliable public transport system on offer here. And, needless to say, he has faced a few challenges getting home.

 

Fortunately, however, one of the positives about the ADHD brain is the sheer will and determination to follow through to the end with stupid decisions once you make them, and never before has he demonstrated this as clearly as last week’s return journey home from a mid-week party, approximately eighty kilometers away.

 

What you have to understand is, I can probably count on one hand the number of times Kurt has actually stayed over at a friend’s house or party. His intention is always to sleep on the couch, but as a full paid-up, middle-class Millennial with anxiety and OCD issues, couch-surfing is never really gonna happen.

 

I did remind him of this problem as he left for the party. ‘Well, I’ll have to stay,’ he grunted. ‘How else am I going to get back?’

 

How else indeed? I remember thinking.

 

He phoned me just after midnight to ask if I would transfer the money for an Uber because he couldn’t stay at the party. ‘Why?’ I asked. ‘It’s complicated,’ he replied by way of an explanation. There followed half an hour of wrangling about the financials – my reasons of why he had to stay versus his reasons why he wouldn’t.

 

Any parent will know that sleep is much more important than instigating sound parenting policy at 1am and so by 1.30am I cracked, living up to my Weak McWeak nickname – kindly given to me by the old man – and I transferred a loan, upon which my son’s phone died and the old man threatened divorce again.

 

The money got Kurt about twenty kilometres from home – a fact I was ignorant of as I lay in bed worrying – after which he decided to walk the remainder of the journey until he found an old bike on the side of the road (regular readers of my blog will know that this is becoming a familiar story) and then proceeded to cycle what is predominantly an uphill journey over the sandstone rock landscape that much of Sydney is built upon.

 

Stopped by the police a few kilometers from home and asked the usual question – ‘Got any Cannabis on you, son?’ – Kurt suggested that their inquiry wreaked of harassment, and they let him go. Kurt has a psychopathic distrust of the police due to a humiliating and highly unorthodox body search in the back of a police van a year or so ago.

 

My son walked in the door at 4.30am, straight into the shitstorm caused by being such a selfish twat the arms of his loving, very understanding mum.

Fairly Standard Share House Behavior

We suspected that the old-fashioned water tank in the new house might prove a problem. With two twenty-somethings that think that fifteen-minute long showers are normal because they are used to a water-on-demand system, it was never going to be an easy task to educate them in the consideration of others. 

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You’re welcome!

 

 

I’ve decided not to think about what they do in there.

 

Hence, the first world luxury of continuous hot water has had had to be scrutinized and reworked and the old man spent last weekend working out the exacting calculations (he divided 250L by 4) for how much showertime each of us is entitled to when you have an archaic tank of hot water.

 

A MAXIMUM of five-minutes, apparently. Easy for him to say when he has no hair to wash but since then he has taken up sentry duty outside the kids’ bathroom with a timer.

 

‘What if I need to do a complete body shave between Winter and Spring?’ NC asked.

 

‘That should be plenty of time,’ he replied smugly, confirming all our suspicions that he knows nothing about women.

 

My shower this morning was three minutes, fifty seconds, so I’m allowed to continue to reside here. Kurt’s was seven minutes, ten seconds, which puts him in the “under warning” category.

 

It is amazing how petty you become when you become middle-aged live in what is effectively a share house. With this new house came another new set of rules, or should I say, ANOTHER set of rules that we impose and hope that Kurt will adhere to.

 

One of them is that their friends are only allowed to visit for up to an hour, then they must go out – our attempt to thwart past “friends dropping by” sessions that have turned into full-blown parties in which our deck has begun to resemble an LA crackhouse. Harsh I know, but needs must if we are not to alienate our new set of neighbors, although the old man was somewhat perturbed this morning when he learned that his meeting with a business associate had been allotted a similar time limit.

 

His project next weekend is to create some sort of alarm system – Walter White-style – for those activities that have to be time-limited. Unfortunately, he is not Walter White so he may simply buy an alarm clock.

 

Other pettinesses that I am confident will fall as quickly to the wayside once we lose the will to live, include:

 

No consumption of food in the bedrooms

Empty water bottles to be refilled and replaced in the fridge

Wet towels to be hung up to dry ie. You do NOT take a clean one each time you take a twenty-minute shower

Dirty plates to be put IN the dishwater

No use of heaters after 1st October

 

We can dream, can’t we?

 

There are also certain custom-made rules, designed specifically for Kurt and his particular brand of foibles and special needs.

 

Inevitably, such tight security has reduced the atmosphere in the house to a war bunker. There are lots of furtive glances, hiding around corners, crumb searches of bedrooms and dobbing in and the Princess has become a carrier Spoodle for messages. Each of us has been forced to employ their own survival tactics. Alliances are yet to be formed.

 

Fairly standard share house behavior, I’d say.

 

 

And On The Topic Of Self-love And Acceptance…

And while I’m on the topic of self-love and acceptance…

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Cue kaftan, joss sticks and Hare Krishna chanting…

 

That trip to the movies symbolized the start of a new chapter for me this week – a chapter I like to call “thinking about myself for a fucking change” – not to be confused with the old man’s version when he leaves the toilet seat up or only makes a coffee for himself. No, this chapter is about self-love. “Loving yourself” is something many of us lose sight of when things don’t turn out as planned or as we get sucked into the vortex of responsibilities that go with parenting or the demands of life and its disappointments.

 

As I mentioned in my previous post, one of the ways to initiate self-love is to get back to the stuff you used to enjoy and made time for, before you became an obsessive worry wort that forgot how to compartmentalize problems. And there are lots of ways to do that. As you are probably aware, I’m not hugely spiritual, so the whole happy place/yoga/taking up religion isn’t really my thang, but going to the movies – albeit by myself – was one step, “painting” will be another and “reading” is a huge priority.

 

I read my first book this week. Baby steps, I thought, so I chose something really light to break myself in gently – a book about the dangers of taking responsibility for the challenging behaviors of our children!  This, as you know, is a topic close to my heart and a conduct I have been guilty of for some time but never found the clarity needed to put it right. You see, I confused the responsibilities of being a mother and its requirement of unconditional love and sacrificed my own happiness for that of my child’s – which is no good for either of us.

 

It’s time to stop punishing myself.

 

(However, a return to self-love doesn’t have to emanate from parenting issues, it can come from any adversity that has knocked you sideways and tested your priorities and purpose, not just the stress that comes with the territory of raising challenging kids or kids with addictions).

 

What I loved about this idea is how the author rams home the importance of reaching an acceptance of who your child is, and ultimately the need, (as a parent), to put away the picture we expected of them when we saw that thin blue line.  We don’t all get the happy, smiling baby on the front of the parenting manuals and that’s okay because it takes all sorts of people to create a society.  

 

In the same way that our children have the right to live their own lives, so do we. Wallowing in anger, disappointment, and guilt means we miss out on living, and that ultimately helps no-one, least of all the child who senses that negativity.  Self-love is just as important as the support we continue to offer our offspring.

 

It is also important to remember two things: 1) we don’t know how much time we have in this world and 2)  in most cases, “change” only comes from people when they are ready to commit to that change – and it’s generally not something we can coerce them to do successfully. While in the author’s opinion, it is fine to remain in a consultant capacity to these children, we do need to step back at some point and take back our own lives.

 

I also have to stop punishing my son for how he has chosen to live his life. The book is about recognizing mental illness and addiction as a sickness rather than a weakness or a faulty gene and treating that person with the same respect you would treat someone with a physical illness. Which is fucking hard, to be honest, and for a while now my halo has been slipping as the lines of unconditional love began to blur.

 

We are human, after all.

 

Everyone deserves to be loved and second and third chances, no matter where their journey leads them. From the kid that can’t walk a straight line and the toothless, homeless man on the street, to the lottery winner who wastes all his winnings on drugs or the sex offender who was abused as a child, acceptance, love, and forgiveness are the sign of true strength.

 

Now I just have to practise what I preach.

Celebrating Your Millennial’s Birthday In Style

In spite of Kim Jong-un’s very obvious intention to spoil all our fun, Saturday marked the end of the last birthday “event” in our house for this year, as well as the end of winter and its excuse for visible leg hair. girl-438133_1920

 

It was NC’s 23rd birthday “event” and she chose to mark its Grand Finale with an intimate gathering of close friends at our place. You see, we don’t celebrate a birth “day” in our house, we have full-on festivals that usually last a minimum of two weeks or until the old man puts the birthday cards in the bin. It is a tradition passed down by my mum, who, even when the Bailiffs were knocking at the door, celebrated birthdays and Christmas in style. Once I got my head beyond the other tradition in our family – which is dying under forty – I decided it made sense to fully embrace her wisdom of making every year count.

 

With so little blood family here with whom to celebrate, the onus is on our little band of warriors to make our birthday “events” really special – difficult when you’re married to Scrooge – and those that have stood out in the past include NC’s seventeenth when she was too hungover to turn up to her own birthday lunch, and her twenty-first – which had a Marvel theme rather than the Cinderella theme I had anticipated, much to my private disappointment. It was relatively easy to return the pink ball gown back to Myer, but the cancellation of her dowry of two-for-one Simmonds to her Prince Charming – something Kurt seemed up for – was awkward.

 

Warm-up celebrations began two weeks ago and kicked off with a Bachie marathon, for which we fully intended to dress up in our cocktail dresses and sup on Champagne until we remembered that we don’t own cocktail dresses. Anyway, PJs are so much more comfortable than dresses especially as it was still winter here and as my brainiac daughter pointed out – Matty J couldn’t actually see us! Wine replaced Champagne because I suspect Kurt drank the only bottle of Champagne to last longer than a few hours in our house, that I thought was in the cupboard – a bottle the old man must have bought in a rare moment of madness prior to The Great Depression of 2015.

 

Then came the family celebration on the day itself – a meal out together where all our best intentions to be civil to one another for one night of the year ended in tears before the arrival of the chicken wings, negating one of NC’s best opportunities to moan about animal cruelty while we pretended to care. Kurt is usually the surprise guest at these meals because not even the promise of free nosh can tempt our son away from his bedroom and Breaking Bad these days.

 

Which led us to Saturday’s Millennial gathering – an intimate soiree of close friends, all twenty-something and gorgeous, for which the old man knocked up his now infamous Sangria and spent the remainder of the evening averting his eyes to breast spillage and feigning deafness during talk of penis size. Even Kurt was on form, breaking the family record for Sangria consumption without projectile vomiting.

 

Obviously, we have to conceal the full list of birthday events from the old man when all our birthdays coincide with the end of the financial year and it is a time of family mourning in our house. But between you and us, they included:

 

  • FULL access to the tv for once, for our marathon session of Bachie. This package included the predictability of hourly snipes from the old man about how we are supposed to be feminists – yawn! – while he pretended not to watch it. His refusal to get out ‘his guns’ so that we could pretend he was Matty J and objectify him was a disappointment – and frankly very un-British
  • A girls’ lunch of oysters and Sparkly prior to the birthday dinner
  • A shopping trip to buy an impulsive party outfit that neither of us will ever wear again
  • Pres, before the party pres
  • A full body makeover for each of us to include our leaving the house/end-of-winter leg shave. All hair will be donated to either the costume department of GOT for John Snow’s cape for Season 8, or my preference, a charity that turns it into hair extensions for those menstruating women or ones that have recently come out of a relationship, chopped all their hair off on impulse and look nothing like Charlene Theron in Mad Max: Fury Road
  • Cake-testing session
  • A visit to the hairdressers to become Daenerys Targaryen, because blondes definitely seem to have more fun
  • Hourly readings of the temperature of the Sangria for NC to record the impact of climate change on Spanish alcoholic beverages

 

 

 

 

 

The Continuing Saga Of Co-Habiting With Young Adults

feet-684682_1920I would like to be able to blame Menopause for my recent bouts of insomnia but it is becoming increasingly obvious that my lack of sleep has more to do with the nightly comings and goings in our frat house and the entitlement of our young adults than my hormones. 

 

I get it. I know how hard it must be to budget for rent when you have Ubers, eating out and full body waxing to pay for, but surely there is a limit to what you should have to put up with as parents, who by rights, should be empty-nesting by now?

 

They don’t even take us for granted in the obvious way we used to take our parents for granted when we came back home under the pretense of a visit to get our washing done, be fed or for that sneaky twenty from Mum’s purse. But at least when we were their age, we were respectful when we snuck into the house after a skinful after midnight, and as quiet as proverbial mice until we were safely tucked under the doona. We also didn’t bring back the city’s homeless to raid our fridge, terrorize the dog and use up all the loo roll.

 

Friday night began with a call from Kurt at 1.30am to remind me that I owed him $20 and could I transfer RIGHT NOW before he finally returned home to Hotel Simmonds at 4.30am and morphed into Pete Evans to knock up a batch of Barramundi to feed the five thousand.

 

Meanwhile, NC, who in spite of years of education and some understanding (I assume) of biology, must have missed the lesson on how to whisper. Most nights when she comes home in the early hours, she marches into our room and throws herself between our sleeping bodies with a ‘let me tell you about my night.’ Other nights, she brings home friends who regale loudly over Vegemite and toast sessions about how awful men are before they switch on the tv to catch up on The Bachelor.

 

The icing on the cake is the recent behavior of our one perfect child, The Princess, who since she discovered the barefaced cheek of the cat we call The Tormentor from next door, (who prowls our front garden, goading her into what would be a highly ill-matched fight over territory), has started to growl throughout the night. I realize she is trying to protect her parents from the perils of living in such a high-risk suburb (!), but surely she must realize by now that she is no competition for her blue-eyed feline counterpart? Not the sharpest Spoodle in the box, she tries to scare the cat off with some crazy territorial dance that includes zigzagging around the garden and barking loudly while the cat sits on the fence, inhaling on a joint, a knowing smile of superiority plastered over her face.

 

Hotel Simmonds feels like Faulty Towers at the moment. It’s like we’re living in some black comedy when what we should be doing is going to bed each night with a cup of steaming cocoa ahead of a solid eight hours of sleep. Nighttime activities have changed somewhat since the early years of our marriage and now involve moving the dog from room to room, the fire prevention tactics of checking the oven is turned off several times a night, body counts and concealing alcohol. Home has become part frat house, part asylum, where not even the sight of Kurt shaving a Mohican on his head in OUR en suite in the middle of the night, surprises me anymore.

 

When Your Millennial Wants A Birthday “Gathering”

Kurt is having a birthday “gathering” this evening, to celebrate his exit from the second decade of his life, and as we hurtle into his third with unbridled excitement and anticipation. This has been a particularly long stage in (our lives) his development and you might sense the resignation/fear, or hope in my voice when I say the word “gathering”, which is what we have agreed after lengthy Brexit-style negotiations, which historically are disbanded around 9 pm. 

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My idea of Kurt’s party.

 

 

I’m not sure why we have agreed to this “event” – he has promised me, IT IS NOT A “PARTY”  – and Kurt’s ‘chill, Mum,’ each time I freak the fuck out, has done little to assuage my innate terror.

 

If I look up the parenting strategy of “consequences” in any of the thousands of parenting manuals that adorn my bookshelves gathering dust, the cancellation of this “gathering” should have been a triumphant “win” moment for us. But it’s never that clear cut with kids with ADHD, and the thought of his one childhood memory being that time his bitch mum canceled his party, is something even the bitter old menopausal witch inside me refuses to contemplate.

 

Not that he’s really a kid anymore, as he glides into his third decade with all the panache of a bull in a china shop. It is recognized that there is an ADHD age, usually three to four years below the norm, and that makes much more sense.

 

His mates are a good bunch of kids, really, and they’ve stuck with him. They all hate me because (they’ve only heard Kurt’s side of the story) of the years they’ve endured my wrath and frustration at not being able to mold my child into what I expected and each abortive attempt to teach him right from wrong that failed. They have been pawns in our wars – banned from our place at times, kicked out onto the streets at unseemly hours of the morning. I like to think that I’ve helped make them streetwise.

 

None of them have a great respect for rules; they’re not the Polo shirt and loafer crowd I used to yearn for, more the stick n poke tattoo crowd who prefer to pierce each other, “hang” out together, talk about music; way too cool for clubs and looking up girls skirts, thank God.

 

He has told me there will be six of them, maybe seven, which means up to twenty, and he is going to warn our neighbors that his mum will march out in her dressing gown and bed hair ranting and raving (like she did last year) to shut the gathering down at 11.30pm. And then they’ll carry on – quietly, they think – until they decide I really mean it.

 

Meanwhile, the old man and I will hold a private celebration, for endurance, for the prematurely grey hair I’ve earned (and he would have earned), for the fact that our son continues to tell us he loves us (usually when he needs fags), and in spite of the tornados that have pushed us against the walls of our home so many times, that have nothing to do with climate change. And because, very occasionally, he does what is asked of him… and there is only one dent on the car. We may also make a toast to this, our last house party for our young adults… until next year.

When The Education Of Your Kids Finally Pays Off

sKurt and NC move out of the family home in a few months time, when the old man and I move back up north, about an hour away, to an area they refer to as the hinterland of Sydney. It’s not quite the Outback, but it’s far enough away from them to help us get some semblance of our “lives before children” back, before we die. stork-838424_1920

 

Their imminent move out of the nest has unleashed a spectrum of emotions. While the old man has hung up the bunting, ordered the balloons and written his speech, my emotions veer between despair and embarrassing displays of unfettered joy at the prospect of sleeping through the night again, depending on what part of the month I’m in.

 

Although Kurt is ready in some respects for his first grab at independence, I know that he is far from competent in others areas. So even though I am heeding the advice of my therapist – who has reminded me time and time again that he will only reach the level of maturity required to fly, through trial and error – I have formulated some contingency plans.

 

I know I mustn’t enable him, but these safety nets may help him get through those early wobbles in his transition, at the first signs of the wind leaving his sails. I know from experience that homesickness can catch you unawares and most of us have experienced it to some degree at some time or another, with the reality checks that cleaning fairies don’t exist and that money only stretches so far.

 

My biggest fear is how he will cope when he finds out that the Money Tree doesn’t really exist. This vulnerability to want to believe in the impossible is a trait he inherited from his maternal side, and I know that it means he will have a distinct disadvantage in terms of survival, and there is a very real chance that he may starve.

 

We can’t bail him out with cash because we learned a long time ago that Kurt’s ideas of priorities do not match ours. So I have come up with the idea of an emergency food drop that I can organize online. That way, he won’t be able to convert food money for cigarettes… or anything similar… like the system he set up at school with his lunch money, that contributed to his second expulsion.

 

The old man and were discussing this plan the other night, when NC’s ears pricked up.

 

‘Will I get food drops as well?’ she asked, to which the old man replied that he believed it highly unlikely that she, like her mother, would ever allow herself to starve.

 

‘What about wine drops instead?’ she asked. ‘You could get a bottle of wine delivered to me each day…or maybe one in the morning and one in the evening?’ she said, thinking aloud.

 

There are very few times in parenting when you feel overwhelmingly proud of your offspring, but as I looked at my daughter I felt my eyes well up in a similar way to the day of her graduation a few months ago.

Motherhood, Togetherness, Warts and All

I’m not proud of the fact that I was so hung-over on Mothers Day that I was on diet soda for my celebratory lunch with my kids. 

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I could blame the friends we had lunch with the day before – a lunch that turned into dinner – although, in our defense, the whole idea of lunch was so we would be able to function the next day. And I might have got away with it if we hadn’t walked into the latest family crisis as soon as we opened the front door – a crisis that required instant love, cuddles and more wine to help us put the pieces back together.

 

It’s called being a mom. It’s not about being perfect and waiting around for the balls to drop, it’s about doing your best when the shit hits the fan. It’s about when your Mother’s Day lunch – meticulously planned by your daughter – goes pear-shaped because everyone’s tired and emotional and one child still hasn’t got over his crisis, turns up an hour late and eyeballs you with genuine hatred throughout the meal. And you feel his pain viscerally – almost as intensely as when you gave birth to him – and want to help him even if he is an adult and has hijacked the one day of the year that should rightfully be yours. Again.

 

But you also know that there is only so much you can do, and your head still hurts from those countless bottles of Rose you succumbed to the day before because kind ears wanted to listen, and although the steak pie is hot and steaming and should be a comfort, there are more mushrooms than steak and it is still not as appealing as your bed.

 

And you look at those two beings opposite you at the table that you made and remember that they are yours, and even if you aren’t that perfect family in the soap powder ads, and those pink balloons above your table are likely to burst at any minute, a rush of emotion and gratitude comes over you, because you are together, warts and all.

The Perils Of Letting Your Kids Go

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Life definitely gets easier as your children grow up. You get to sleep again, go out again, enjoy free time again, but letting them go also has its drawbacks. When you release them from the nest and the clutches of your taloned feet, it means that they are free to make their own decisions, and sadly, sometimes those decisions are misguided.

 

I will hold up my hand and admit to you that I am that parent that sends links to Kurt of stories of kids that have overdosed on drugs. Worse, I attach subtle comments, like ‘Don’t make me this mum.’

 

And that’s why I feel so devastated for the parents of the young girl who was involved in a scooter accident and died in Bali this week. Because as parents of adult kids, we’ve all had sleepless nights and those ‘what if’ moments when our children don’t come home on time or don’t call when they say they will, and in the end you realise that the only way you move forward is to take the fatalist’s view of ‘what will be, will be.’

 

Anyone who has visited Bali will know that the scooter is the main form of transport over there. Until you’ve witnessed the horror of whole families, (as well as extended family members with groceries),  perched on the back of ONE scooter, you’ve never really experienced Asia. Safety helmets don’t seem to rate highly, either.

 

It’s the same in other poor Asian countries because the scooter is one of the cheapest modes of transport and add in infrastructure limitations and over-population problems, it makes sense for the locals. Less so for tourists. Certain statistics suggest that one Australian tourist dies on a scooter in Bali every nine days, which is f..cked up when all they are trying to do is embrace the culture.

 

For the over-anxious, among whom I am a master, ‘never get on a motorbike’ is up there with ‘don’t ever wear dirty undies’ (in case you get in an accident), ‘don’t lie on your CV’ and ‘never take pills at festivals’ on my ‘Non-Negotiable Things I Have Taught My Kids Not To Do’ list, something I have rammed down their throats since I first allowed them to leave the house by themselves at sixteen.

 

I’m not naive to think that they will adhere to these recommendations, of course, but I hope that the threatening sound of my voice in their head at that ‘shall I or shan’t I’ moment might make them think twice.  

 

The point is, when we’re not fully informed about the culture of a country, as much as it might be tempting to embrace all facets of its identity, sometimes it’s best to leave TF alone – like you do in countries where they serve delicacies such as fried tarantulas and cockroaches. And I know that goes against the grain of just about everything I said in my recent post here, about overriding fear and doing what you love – so sue me – I’m a woman and can be fickle whenever the fuck I want.

 

Coincidentally, I’m currently experiencing those early, nail-biting days of Kurt’s first month on the streets on his P plates. Unlike when NC first passed her driving test – when I’ve no doubt she was nudged at the lights a few times for slow starts, perhaps even pulled over for driving under the speed limit – I’ve noticed that the male approach to driving is very different. Their testosterone levels seem to put them back in the Land That Time Forgot and they become the hunter on the road and any brain development that should have taken place over the last however many centuries is temporarily lost.

 

I suspect that a decade worth of indoctrination from Jeremy Clarkson and his arrogant machismo has not helped either and that Kurt secretly believes he is the Stig.

 

Each time he takes the car and it is not returned to the front of the house within minutes of his anticipated arrival, I pace the hallway, imagining the worst. Last night, as I waited behind the front door for what I believed would be an inevitable knock from the police bringing bad news, in desperation, I texted his friend to see if he was with him – one of the most shaming acts the helicopter parent can resort to.

 

‘MOMMMMMM!’ Kurt said when he called me back immediately afterwards, and I could almost feel the heat from his cheeks down the phone line.

 

‘Well, answer your bloody phone next time!’ I responded, ‘AND NOT WHEN YOU’RE DRIVING!’

 

 

When It’s Time To Motivate Your ADHD Child, No Matter What The Psychs Say

One of the reasons I gave up my day job recently was to motivate Kurt to get back on track with his life. He’s had a difficult transition over the past two years since he left school and has suffered periods of depression and self-doubt at times, countered at other times by the ADHDer’s insatiable desire to experience the most of life by being irresponsible, drunk and fancy-free. adventure-1807524_1920

 

Which means that to the outside world, I guess, it looks like he’s functioning. Sadly, though, things are never that clear-cut and the rules are simply not the same when it comes to ADHD kids. You can do everything by the book, and it is still impossible to get them to learn from their mistakes, even with consequences. And oh, how I wish that “tough love” had worked, but it doesn’t or hasn’t so far with our son and when you really think about it, rehabilitation programs for depression and other disorders are about giving those people love, time and compassion through therapy. 

 

I read a wonderful post recently written by the mother of two children whose first child was “parent manual perfect” and whose second was a “monster”, and how it feels to be the parent of “that child.” For the most part, kids are comparable to each other once you leave the poisonous environment of “mothers’ group” competition and can accept that they develop in different areas at different stages. The author had a friend called Jenni at the stage that she was in the throes of preening over the perfection of her first child and Jenni was struggling with the child hell, and she admits now to privately maligning her friend for bad parenting. That was until she produced her own little bundle of horror.

 

I can identify with Jenni – although now that Kurt is older and I no longer have to deal with the daily condemnatory attacks from school or too many direct comparisons with the children of friends, I am more at peace with it. And anyway, I don’t feel as responsible for his choices and differences now because ultimately he has to take responsibility for himself.

 

If it were that easy. The problem is, he doesn’t and each time we put that on him, the result is a crisis of confidence leading to emotional breakdown. Medical professionals such as psychs and pediatricians and your GP understand mental illness, but they don’t know your child the way you do. And I’m sorry, but when you witness your adult son in genuine distress, you have to make a call and question if tough love is the only solution. Any parent would do the same thing.

 

A few weeks ago, after almost two years of the tough love strategy, imposed in the main to combat addiction issues rather than mental health issues, and with no tangible results to show for it, the old man and I decided to try another approach, as we watched Kurt hurtling towards his next crisis. We decided that instead of berating him for his lack of focus and achievements and nagging him daily to make steps towards progress/being normal – (even though you know those steps will be small, because your expectations change when you have kids like these, even though you need ear muffs to block out to the judgements of others who continue to accuse your ADHD kid of being naughty or lazy) – we decided to cut him some slack.

 

Yes, ultimately he does have to manage independently in the real world, but perhaps, we decided, we need to accept that journey is going to take him a few more years. And we are tired, and surely daily combat in your own home is no good for anyone’s health.

 

Anyhow, we decided to focus on what steps we could help him with to get him back on track, and decided to start with his driver’s license, in an effort to build his self-esteem and give him a taste of the independence he so desperately craves.

 

Attaining your driving license is a grueling process here in Australia – rightly so, after the loss of so many young lives before recent regulations were changed – and kids have to do 120 hours under supervision before they can take the test. Fortunately, after ten years of back-to-back viewing of every season of Top Gear, Kurt has always had an enthusiasm for the concept of driving and is, in fact, a natural driver, so we knew it would make him feel good about himself to pass his test. This, in spite of my knowledge of the appalling statistics of accidents of kids with ADHD.  

 

And after three weeks of intense arguments instruction, he passed his test. First time.

 

The old man and I teared up the center, he out of pride, and me out of abject fear for what this achievement meant. But within a couple of hours, Kurt was on the road, solo, so I did what any proud parent does and put out a warning with his number plates to all my friends and followers on social media.

 

It was a small shot in a long game.

 

Fortunately, we’re mature enough not to let the fine for driving in a bus lane ($285) that happened TWO HOURS AFTER HIS TEST and the parking fine ($285) the next day demotivate us. I hasten to add, though, that in the spirit of recently reinstated tough love, he will be paying for both.

 

 

Graduation Photo Smugness and The Sacrifice of Parenting

graduation-2038864_1920The big day came and went last Friday when NC graduated from her university with her degree in Advanced Science. Three years of hard work for her and eighteen years of hard work for us culminated in an hour-long ceremony. The Dean reminded his graduates to go and do what they feel passionate about – as he had, (he turned out to be a Doctor of lizards or something similar) – then he sent them on their merry way with a reminder to thank their parents for the support through their umpteen years of education. A nice touch, I thought.

I’m reading an excellent book called “Beautiful Failures” at the moment, which is an examination of why our school system does not suit every child. Although it may be “a narrow vision of success”, as the writer Lucy Clark describes it – and I more than most can appreciate that description – it was wonderful to take pride for a few moments in an example of its success. NC will now continue to sate her thirst for learning for altruistic reasons rather than financial gain, and that makes me all the more proud.

All those mornings of frantic searches for sports kit, cold toast and tea, tantrums about ponytails and shoes that hurt, as well as early starts for practice paled into insignificance as I watched my girl stand proudly amongst her fellow alumni, resplendent in her Harry Potter Gown and Trencher.

The piss-yellow color of the Science Faculty hood was unfortunate, (and quite draining on some), but it did give us plenty to discuss as we waited for the ceremony to start. Because imagine if the fabric of the hood in some way symbolized the subject studied, we asked each other? Eg. Green could represent environmental studies, blood red for biology, a thick fur for Antarctic Studies, (faux,  of course), and pink sequins or velvet for drama or social media?

For some of the Ph.D. studies, you needed a translator to fully understand what the fuck they’d been doing, (other than drinking subsidized beer), for three years. One was entitled “The ecology and behavior of ecalypt-feeding caterpillars in response to predation risk,” which did give the old man and I a giggle and provoked us to come up with our own potential studies.

His might entail: “The duration of time man can hold a remote control without feeling any sense of shame about the survival of his family, particularly during The Masters weekend.”

And mine: “A quantitive analysis of the nagging habits of a female when she shares the same environment of a man with selective hearing.”

The granny knickers were on a mission that morning, after the best-laid plans to buy myself something new were foiled and I ended up with the disastrous impulse-buy of a “mutton” bomber jacket. In the end, I settled on a Metalicus dress that has sat in my wardrobe for yonks that I’ve never had the balls to wear due to its inability to disguise absolutely any content in my stomach, least of all a full-blown time-of-the-month muffin top that is approaching winter and the next few months of “layering” with relish. Suffice it to say, all I could squeeze into my belly over our celebratory lunch was one bottle of Champers and a meager Salade Nicoise.

But the main mission/achievement of the day was to get the photo to splash over Facebook with smugness at our friends, and that was accomplished when the old man donned the trencher thirty years later than the day he was supposed to, because he was too hungover.

I’m joking. This was NC’s day, so here it is. I like to call it “Sacrifice.”

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I Can’t Do It All

shouting-1719492_1920It was with a heavy heart that I closed the final chapter on my day job today, in pursuit of fulfilling some dreams and kicking some goals before it’s too late.

 

I’ve loved my job and at the end of my last ever face-to-face meeting with a client today, for a brief moment “doubt” stepped in. I was fortunate to meet so many interesting people in my role that helped me evolve into the open-minded/hearted woman that I’m proud to have turned into over the past few years. It also opened my eyes even wider to what the world can possibly think it is going to achieve by closing its doors to immigrants and denying all of us those precious opportunities to embrace, share and learn from different cultures.

 

I told my employer I was off to chase some dreams when I resigned because there is some truth to that story. But I’m also aware of how unprofessional it would sound if I admitted to her that in reality the balance between my work and home life has become too tricky to navigate, and something has to give. So I’ll admit it to you, my readers. I’ve been angry for a long time. I’ve sought medication and therapy to control my stress levels and calm the internal storms that keep raging, but they haven’t worked, so changes need to be made – for the sake of just about everyone who knows me. I’ve had to accept that I can’t do what we women are meant to strive for; I can’t do it all.

 

I’ll say it again, I can’t do it all, and I refuse to feel ashamed of that. It won’t be me who changes the world, and that’s ok. More specifically, I can’t support my son and his needs and loss of direction and hold down a demanding job at the same time.

 

I’m not superwoman or Gwyneth.

 

What I am, though, is bloody lucky, because I’m fortunate to have choices as a woman – they call it “privilege” these days – and I am aware that my choices are ones that many women will never have. The shame attached to that admission kept me at work for longer than I should have stayed, to the detriment of both my son and my health. But as they tell you at the gym – apparently – you need to listen to your body and your heart, so that is what I’m doing. The final justification I needed to make this momentous leap into the scary vortex of the unknown came from the old man when we were on holiday and I admitted to not coping – like he didn’t know – and he reminded me as I sat in the corner of the room rocking, that we only have one life, and that we are in the fortunate position to have choices.

 

I know. I bagged a good’un. 

 

Anyway, here’s what I’m going to do: for the remainder of this year I’m going to get my son back on track, in a consultant capacity only, (as per my therapist’s recommendations), and as opposed to the way I used to try to help him as a meddling, helicopter parent. In the two weeks since my workload has lightened up a little, I’ve already seen the difference some quality time with him has made. For the past year, I have allowed his age and social presumptions dictate my own expectations for him, and I forgot that he is Kurt and he is his own person, and it has never been a good idea to compare him to his peers. His stepping stones to adulthood will happen when he’s ready, and they won’t be defined because someone has written in some parenting manual that he should be doing things at the same time as other kids his age. That never happened during his education, so it’s unlikely to happen now.

 

Over the past few weeks, I’ve had the time to talk to him and more importantly, to listen to him. We’ve laughed together again, I’ve taken him to the doctors and for coffee and driving, and amazingly he passed his test first time – a massive boost to his confidence. And that success has infected all the complex facets of his personality and where he sees his place in the world in the best way, and on a practical level, it has meant that finally, he has some means of independence from us – a freedom he has yearned for but not quite been able to reach by himself.

 

He is already talking about travel and going back into education – without pressure from us. (Honest). More importantly, he is talking to me again, probably because I’m not barking or sniping at him at the same time as writing my endless “to-do lists” and deciding which parts of my life to prioritize.

 

So I will be here for him for a while longer, and in between the challenge of getting my son back into the realms of loving life again, (and I will join him in that challenge), I’ll also submit my book for publication and see if there’s any damned way to make the paltry sum of money I need to keep the old man off my back, from writing.

 

Concessions will need to be made, of course, so that I can chase my writing/perfect mother dreams – financial mainly, much to the old man’s delight. Because unless I sell my book (and the following twenty with film rights), we will continue to have the ugliest house in the street. The big car is already up for sale and I will have to return to the role of “house bitch” for a while as the old man works extra hours to formulate a plan of how to bridge the shortfall in our earnings. But as long as he doesn’t cut my weekly wine allowance, I will be stoic.

 

And every cloud has a silver lining – at least there will be food in the fridge again.