Crap Parent Therapy: ‘Consulting’ Rather Than ‘Enabling’

I had to go back for a session of ‘crap parent therapy’ last week, tail between my legs, following another situation with Kurt where the parenting shit hit the fan and the old man and I found ourselves sucked into another potential vacuum of despair. urban-1002149_1280

 

Patiently, the therapist reminded me for the umpteenth time about the distinction between ‘loving’ kids like Kurt rather than ‘enabling’ them, something that is a complicated and fine line in my relationship with my son, due to the allowances I make for his mental health issues.

 

I returned pumped and ready to tow the party line, feeling secure once again in the knowledge that a bit of tough love is what all children need, and that I have to be a “consultant” to my son now rather than a “helicopter;” a “supporter” rather than a “pushover”.

 

The problem with ‘enabling’ is that our kids never learn about responsibility. Because when you help your child out of every mess they land themselves in, they avoid the consequences of their actions and ultimately that reduces their confidence and self-esteem – something many middle-class families are guilty of. Then, when these children reach their twenties without the ability to problem-solve, or seem apathetic or unfocused, we accuse them of being ‘entitled.’

 

It’s not necessarily their fault, or ours for that matter; the problem has developed from the way society has evolved with the move away from close family and its support and to both parents working.

 

‘We used to learn from tribes, or large extended families and communities. Now we have small, geographically scattered families, often with parents who work long hours. Some transfer skills they learned over years in a goal-oriented job to raising their children in the hope this will give them the resources to withstand unpredictable futures.’ (The Kids Are Alright – If You Leave Them Alone by By Shaoni Bhattacharya)

 

I was given my first test sooner than I expected last night, when Kurt messaged me on FB with the message ‘I’m in trouble’ just after midnight – frankly, the stuff of nightmares.

 

Still groggy from sleep, I called him back immediately, imagining the worst, and felt my blades begin to rotate.

 

He was drunk and had been thrown out of a club for disorderly conduct somewhere in Metropolitan Sydney – he had no idea where. As much as the old man tried to reassure me that this was fairly average teenage behavior…not so much when you’re as anxious AF.

 

As calmly as I could, I reminded our son about the Google App on his phone so that he could determine his location, cursing once again that he hadn’t let me add him to ‘Find My Friends.’

 

When he told me he was in Redfern, I almost lost control of my bodily functions. Redfern is hardly downtown LA, but it’s not where you want your son to be non compos mentis late on a Saturday night.

 

After several vain attempts to get some sense out of Kurt, I told the old man I was going to call a cab, and tried to ignore the way he rolled his eyes in despair.

 

Tell him to walk home, he said helpfully, before reminding me about the times he had been forced to sleep under cars or walk miles to get home. Then, with a shrug of his shoulders that I know to be disappointment he pissed off to sleep in NC’s room, putting on his invisibility cloak at the same time.

 

The voice of the therapist in my head tried to remind me that I shouldn’t be problem-solving for our son, who at nineteen has to take responsibility for his choices, but those two words that haunt all mothers – ‘what if?’ – wouldn’t shut up.

 

I ruminated for a minute or two then decided that I would never live with myself if something happened to him in the four hours that he had to wait for the trains to start up again. Even if the old man never talked to me again, I knew I had to follow my gut instinct.

 

Get yourself a cab‘, I told Kurt, knowing it wasn’t the right resolution but needing confirmation that my son would be safe.

 

He was unable to. He hadn’t taken his bankcard out with him, in case he lost it like he had the other ten bankcards over the past twelve months. He told me he would start to walk, while I began to get heart palpitations.

 

Unable to sleep, I called him back ten minutes later, the helicopter blades above my head roaring now. I was ready to take off. Anxiety had stepped in and in a final desperate attempt to ensure the safe journey of my son back to my bosom I offered to get up and pay for the cab at the door when he arrived.

 

It’s okay, he shouted excitedly, ‘I’ve found a bike and I’m cycling back‘.

 

Problem solved.

 

I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. I decided not to question him about the bike.

The Fashion Mistakes Teenagers Need To Make

We’ve been through a lot of stuff with our son Kurt, as many of you know, and I can’t deny that there have been occasions when I’ve felt a tad wistful as I’ve walked down the street and spotted groups of clean-shaven, preppy-looking boys in their Polo shirts and boating shoes. musician-664432_1280

 

The weight of loss at my son’s refusal to conform was brought home to me the other day when I took Kurt shopping for some new clothes. Well, I say ‘new clothes’…however Kurt’s shopping destination of choice is an inner city suburb in Sydney called Newtown, a hip, trendy neighbourhood that you’d hate to find yourself in alone after 7pm unless you’re between the ages of 17 and 23, (hence stupid enough), armed, a drug addict or an impoverished student.

 

Kurt has always had an individual style. I remember that we went through his Dalmation phase when he was four or five, when he insisted on wearing a dog costume everywhere he went for at least two years; then there was the phase when he refused to wear anything other than NC’s summer school dress, (until the day the old man decided that enough was enough after Kurt paraded it in front of all our friends at a dinner party), and finally there was his Michael Jackson year with that much crotch-grabbing I wondered at one point if he’d ever be able to have children.

 

We have recently reached his ‘impoverished student’ phase, even though it must be hard for him to carry it off when he lodges with us in one of Sydney’s more exclusive suburbs.

 

Looking back, we all went through this stage. I remember wearing sexless, baggy tee-shirts and ripped jeans at university, in fact anything to disguise the fact that I was a middle-class girl with breasts and hips and not the working class heroine who could talk about the unfairness of life with some authority that I aspired to be. However, in those days we shopped in charity shops to earn our badge of poverty, unlike Kurt, who shops in vintage stores. And we all know that whenever you add the ‘vintage’ label to clothing, it doubles in price.

 

What this means is that I am effectively paying the same money for second-hand clothes as I would pay for the equivalent new clothes in a high street store.

 

I wouldn’t mind so much if his choice of ‘vintage’ wasn’t always the most deplorable, kitsch, eighties-style, insult to fashion you can imagine – the sort of shite you beg, steal and borrow for an Abba party. Yes, I’m talking shell suits, headbands, patterned knitted jumpers and cardigans and button-fly Levi jeans.

 

It hurt me physically to part with the cash on the day and I sensed that even the heavily pierced assistant with the purple hair and tattoo sleeve felt some empathy for me when I moaned about it, sounding every inch as middle-aged as I felt while Kurt writhed with embarrassment beside me.

 

Just another stage, I reassured myself as we left. I know I need to encourage my son’s freedom of expression but it did hurt to watch him leave the shop looking like he needed new clothes.

When Your Child Has Mental Health Issues and You Want To Use The Get Out Of Jail Card

I’m tired of this particular journey.

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Self-absorbed I know, but there I said it. No “parent of the year” award for me; I’m the parent who loves her child but is tired of this arduous journey at his side.

 

I’m tired of not sleeping, the stomach pains, the disagreements about the best way to raise him, giving everything I have to someone who doesn’t want to receive it. I’m tired of trying to work and remain professional when on the inside I’m hurting. If I was married to my son I could leave him if I felt this way, but parenting is unconditional.

 

And it must be, because I still love him.

 

Or is it? Should we really be expected to put our children before everything? Before our partner, before the needs of our other children and before our dreams, when they refuse to play the family game?

 

Everyone has their problems and he’s had a rougher ride than some, nevertheless he is luckier than many. Just as are we.

 

He has a family who loves him.

 

Unless you’ve been there, you have no idea how destructive a child with mental health issues who has no realistic grasp of responsibility, dependency issues and a trajectory hell-bent on self-destruction can be.

 

If only it was as simple as helping them. It would be easy if they were receptive to help, like the crazy kids depicted in films; if they accepted your support with a few tears of remorse and a big feel-good hug. But kids like this don’t behave like that in the real world. Trauma changes people. They kick out at support and pity. They know best. They live for the moment and have no fear of consequences until they happen.

 

Then, out of nowhere they let you walk forward a few steps for a few precious days and you breathe more freely again. You dare to believe. They allow you to think for that short gift of time that you’ve made it, walked out of the woods; that they’ve grown up, moved beyond that phase, matured.

 

And suddenly you see a normal future together, like the families on Facebook and in the movies – one big, happy Walton family. You can’t stop yourself picturing Mediterranean-style family lunches in the sun, laughter and hugs and brightly-coloured lanterns and for that short moment of denial, you forget about how often they’ve refused to commit to the last few rules of respect that you’ve asked of them, time and time again, and deserve.

 

They can’t. Not even for you, even though they insist that they love you. And in your heart, you know that they do.

 

Then, like in a board game, you throw the wrong number again, pick up the wrong card and are forced back several spaces or sent straight to jail.

The Curse Of Anxiety, Dogs and Teenage Commitment

The dog has decided to upstage the rest of the family in the anxiety stakes. I am reliably informed that part of her condition can be blamed on her Poodle heritage, in which separation anxiety is a common issue, but the other part is either a question of osmosis ie. living with us, or a result of the shocking level of pampering she receives. We’ve created a pathetic city dog, vulnerable and basically unable to exist on her own. 

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The Curse of Anxiety, Dogs and Teenage Commitment

 

As a psychotic nail-biting worrier myself, I would never trivialise anxiety, but it comes to something when you can’t leave the two kilometre safety zone around your apartment to take your dog for what is meant to be a treat to Centennial Park. The wailing that ensued in the car was tantamount to a two year old tantrumming about screen time on her parent’s iPad and at several points during the fifteen minute journey, the old man and I questioned our choice to have another one.

 

Part of the problem is that The Princess doesn’t visualise herself as a dog and so she was appalled to find that our walk coincided with the weekly social gathering of our Eastern Suburbs canine cousins – posh neighbours – one of whom was unfortunate enough to be named Boris and who had so much unspent energy and tenacity he took a liking to her at the dog park. Our refusal to carry her to protect her virtue was rewarded by an hour-long sulk.

 

Kurt experienced a similar bout of anxiety when he had his birthday ‘gathering’ last weekend. We’ve all suffered that horrible predicament, or party remorse, before our guests arrive when we wish we’d never organised the event in the first place, rather than expose ourselves to the horror associated with public rejection. Unfortunately, it’s only once you open the cage door do you understand what a prison fear can be.

 

At one point he admitted that he would prefer to phone up all fifteen of his friends and cancel. I understand that feeling only too well, although it is something that gets easier with age, mainly because you’ve ticked off that part of growing up where you learn to respect other people and finally have a secure enough band of friends to rely on, who understand the value of loyalty. Most importantly, they understand how miserable it feels to be let down at the last minute. 

 

It’s something Generation Y could learn a thing or two about.

 

As a loyal Leo, (and much to the old man’s chagrin), once I commit to something I always turn up. We always turn up. I don’t know who was more relieved by the ring on the doorbell that evening when it finally came, myself or Kurt; needless to say it caused the Princess to rock noisily in the corner only to be enticed out of her cell by the promise of pizza.

Parenting, Anxiety and Leaving Your Kids Home Alone For The First Time

Digest for a while this great little article about Helicopter versus Hands Off Parenting and deduce where you think I sit in this conversation. Watch the video below at the end of the post.

 

 

This question has become a bit more sensitive recently because I’m trying to keep the fact that we’re leaving our kids home alone while we swan off on holiday under wraps from the local delinquent grapevine at the moment. So not because I’m concerned about a visit from social services, because our two are legally adults, (physically, if not mentally), but just in case any of Kurt’s friends catch wind of our imminent absence and try to coerce him into the sort of feral antics he is attracted to.

 

If I over-think what could happen, (and I do, daily,  the physical result being a visceral pain in my stomach), while we leave the boy at home as we gallivant across to the other side of the world, I’d never sleep. But that might be just symptomatic of an over zealous, over-anxious, sleep-deprived brain.

 

Even though I know in my heart that it’s time to do this.

 

I hope that some of you may sympathize with my concern at not being able to whirr full-time over the top of our apartment, or track the little bugger on my iPhone for a whole twelve days.

 

It’s not like we haven’t instilled some good, responsible stuff in our kids, leading us to fear they won’t survive without us for two weeks. They can both cook a pizza and know where the Spray N’Wipe is – although they may need a refresher course in recycling and a reminder of how many times in real time the dog needs a wee.

 

And there were three very good modes of thought when we eventually came to this brave and interesting decision, which as many of you will know comes on the back of three years of hell with a teenage, ADHD son, hell-bent on self-destruction and taking his family down with him.

  1. To offer him the chance to prove himself to us – to set him the challenge of independence, for him to meet and prove to us that we can trust him.
  2. To give the two of our offspring the chance to bond and strengthen their sibling relationship.
  3. To validate the idea in our own minds that at some point we have to trust him.

 

There has been a lot of criticism leveled at the over-protectionism of our parenting generation and in my case it is not unfounded. Had I birthed two NCs (eldest, almost model of perfection), I’m certain that things would have been different, because I’m fundamentally a selfish person that loves her own company and the idea of swanning off on child-free holidays without a care in the world would have been very appealing.

 

However, a child like Kurt both strengthens and weakens the core of every assumption you made before you had kids.

 

Not that wild, defiant kids like Kurt haven’t been around since time immemorial, and previous generations of parents managed to cope with them; although admittedly most would have left home by now, been kicked out or fathered three children by three different mothers by the age of eighteen.

 

And look at how we were raised, in comparison to my helicoptering approach. Only the other night we shared quasi-funny, therapy-inducing stories with friends about our own parents’ skills, with me recounting how my mum used to only get out of bed once one of us had lit her first cigarette of the morning; how one night my teenage parents were forced to snip the end of the teet on my bottle so the coagulated milk (left in the airing cupboard to keep warm) would flow more easily; and how all our parents always left us babies in the car in the street while they partied.

 

Meanwhile, here am I, fretting about the safety of the dog and writing up a mental risk assessment of what my son can possibly do (that he hasn’t already done) while we’re away, even though I’ve got a posse of father-heavies lined up to come and read the riot act, friends booked in to stay during the middle weekend and NC on the promise of a visit to Uluru to study the rock formation if she does her job of chief-minder, sibling-intimidator well.

 

It’s that old ad for Yellow Pages that I’ve added above that haunts me. Anyone remember it? The aftermath of the teenage party that happened when the parents were away, where the damage is being hastily repaired by the son the next day, just before their flight lands and the French polisher has just saved the day by touching up the scratch on the coffee table, when suddenly the son notices the black texta face drawn on a painting…

 

Now tell me I’m being over-anxious.

 

 

 

The Best 28 Reasons To Leave Town When Teenage Boys Are On School Holidays

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1.It will rain.

2.Because it will rain, the lingering smell of boy germs will be impossible to eradicate because teenage boys don’t process the word ‘deodorant’. Occasionally, this odour is diluted by what you swear is the smell of illicit smoking from out of their bedroom window.

3.First trip to the ER – when son’s nose piercing gets caught on the shower door.

4.The local pool is littered with loitering, feral boys with too much testosterone fucking up their decision-making skills and their physical coordination.They have no intention of swimming and obviously cannot read and their idea of fun is to torment the ‘serious’, local swimmers by purposefully misjudging the lane speed and diving between the lanes very slowly.

5.Movie theatres are full of the monsters spraying popcorn and exercising their newly broken voices to maximum effect.

6.But at least there is an in-house IT specialist at home, for when the ‘computer says no’. Sadly, his sense of entitlement is so great it makes him tut every time you ask for assistance with anything ‘Apple’, and he expects to be rewarded when he does. When you remind him about the unpaid hours of parental sacrifice you have given him, you are met with that cynical eye roll, the one that is code for ‘speak my language or don’t speak to me at all’.

7.The presence of coinage in your purse is as unusual as wet towels being hung back on hooks in the bathroom

8.The living room turns into a free hostel, full of foreign boy germs by night, picked up from clubs in the city; the fridge is always empty by midday.

9.Your second trip to the ER occurs after your son’s friend, (who you suspect has been illegally drinking and probably at your house, so obviously you can’t tell the nurse), falls off the trampoline with suspected broken entitlement issues leg.

10.But…there will be blissfully little traffic on the roads, although public transport now has the fear factor of the transport system in downtown LA. You begin to understand the US leniency in their gun laws.

11.More wine will be consumed per capita of mums, to help wash down the Valium.

12.If you live in an area with a proliferation of private schools and only one barber, you will need at least three hours of new music on your phone to endure the wait.

13.The usually civil atmosphere in McDonalds has all the appeal of eating in a cockroach nest.

14.The third trip to the ER is when your teenager learns the life lesson that attaching a skateboard to the back of a friend’s bike and riding through the city tunnels is not a good idea.

15.McDonalds reassess their decision to introduce self-order machines after a group of bored teenagers hack the machines to pour ice-cream instead of bbq sauce.

16.It is the busiest time for undercover store detectives.

17.The household food bill triples and yet miraculously you are losing weight.

18.The monthly iTunes bill triples in a week.

19.You now have Stan and Presto membership, as well as Netflix, and no idea how.

20.You go directly to your teenager each time you forget the pin to any of your bankcards.

21.The local hospital forces you to increase your private health insurance

22. You cry uncontrollably when you cross out each day on the calendar and realize there’s still another week to go. You book yourself an appointment with your GP about anxiety issues and how to find the closest AA group.

23. Your son refuses to help you download music on your phone for the trip to the barber in spite of the fact you pay his phone bill and the iTunes account.

24.The dog enjoys the increase in left-over junk food fermenting under son’s bed.

25.You enter the Guinness Book of Records for number of boxes of cereal consumed per day

26.The dog begs you not to let your teenager and his friends walk her.

27.Alcohol strangely disappears from the house, and what is left, tastes suspiciously weak.

28.The dog has slept in her own bed rather than on the sofa since the holidays started, and looks depressed.

 

 

 

 

 

Do You Ever Stop Worrying About Your Children?

In the week that NC has achieved another milestone by passing her driving test, Kurt’s dangerous enthusiasm for life has escalated to a new hair-greying level.

 

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A text with ‘I’m all G’ doesn’t quite cut it at ten o’clock the morning after a sleepless work night spent waiting for the reassuring sound of your teenager’s key in the lock of the front door sometime before midnight.

 

Especially when you have to work the next day, refreshed and invigorated, professional to a degree – still, with no idea where your child is – and the only thing you can think about is which bush they’re lying dead beneath or which drug squat they’re holed up in.

 

Anxious or not, rational thought doesn’t enter the parent’s mind from 1am in the morning when you’re sleep-deprived and hallucinate about all the terrible things that have obviously befallen your irresponsible, yet much-loved child, each time you close your eyes. The knowledge that Sydney is on the whole a pretty safe city to live in, that your child is most likely couch-surfing at a mate’s, or that statistically is highly unlikely to have been murdered, abducted or kidnapped doesn’t come into play.

 

Every parent goes though this phase with their teenagers at some point in the morphing-into-adulthood process, not just the highly fortunate ones among us with kids with ADHD; the difference being that most non-ADHD kids don’t have the over-impulsive, thrill-seeking tendencies of our son Kurt, nor his talent for losing vital home-tracking/homing-pigeon aids such as wallets, keys and phones due to his poor executive functioning skills – especially under the influence.

 

Can it only be last weekend that we were telephoned at three in the morning to be asked to collect him from the city centre, because he had found a bike in council clear up, come off it at speed and taken off the side of his face in the process?

 

Sadly, the seizure he had on a bus recently (that the doctor put down to ‘burning the candle at both ends’) doesn’t appear to have dulled his enthusiasm for embracing life to the full, nor had any marked effect on his approach to responsibility.

 

Meanwhile the grey hairs become thicker, the lines around my eyes more ingrained, the need to reach for wine more habitual.

 

My boy is eighteen now – an adult in the eyes of the law. I remember how we breathed a huge sigh of relief when we celebrated his milestone birthday last year, although still ever mindful that his  ADHD age is closer to sixteen, thus his emotional intelligence and decision-making skills are not up there with his desire and legal ability to exert his independence and experiment to the full.

 

And while is not uncommon for eighteen-year olds to behave in such an altruistic way, those without the ADHD curse tend to learn from their mistakes more quickly, understand consequences and put the life pieces together as they become increasingly aware of their mortality.

 

It was all true. You never stop worrying about your children.

Entitled Gen Y And ‘No Dinner For Me, Thanks!’

It’s such a relief to reach Friday night and know that it’s take-out tonight.

 

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We’re going through this stage with Kurt and NC at the moment, as they transition between wanting to live at home and us wanting them to fly the nest, where we’re never quite sure how many we’re cooking for. All we can hope, is that their decision not to partake of the family meal symbolises the next step in their journey to full independence, which will ultimately push them out of the free parenting vessel.

 

I’m not insinuating that our offspring are thoughtless, selfish or ENTITLED, it’s just that they’ve never had to think about anyone but themselves.

 

Some days the whole family appears at the dinner table – (Who am I kidding? Collect their meals from the kitchen to eat off trays in their rooms) – typically when there is fuck all in the fridge to get anyone’s digestive juices flowing, and only a Happy Potter spell could conjure up a Masterchef masterpiece – Other days it’s just the two of us.

 

On more days than we’d like, the kids decide to eat at home along with every starving, waif and stray student from Newtown, all desperate for a taste of home cooking, and we’re supposed to become the parenting version of Jesus and turn some tiny bowl of out-of-date leftovers into a feast.

 

Long gone are the days when the family used to squish side by side, dubiously content on the sofa, hot food burning our laps, to catch up on the latest episode of The Project together. The traditional event of eating as a family has long been replaced by this new system more fitting to our entitled progeny, that we call, ‘no dinner for me, thanks,’ or what I like to call, ‘taking the fucking piss’, that usually manifests itself about five minutes before we dish up.

 

It’s the old man I feel sorry for, because since he took on the very important role of primary cook – except for those scary days after his latest drama queen kitchen meltdown (he finds cooking stressful, apparently) when I have to step in and rescue the situation – he’s the one that gets fucked over.

 

Having said that, I have to micro-manage any new recipe so thoroughly, I may as well cook the damn thing myself.

 

With more cash in their pockets these days (because what’s the point in saving for a deposit for a unit, derr?), a mature taste for international cuisine and a fine selection of affordable take-out on offer in the hood, Gen Y now weigh up their options after a hard day grafting at further education, and it’s dependent on the appeal of the food on the menu at home.

 

Kurt would prefer to eat toast and Marmite any day rather than salmon (wild or not), and NC needs her daily five portions of vegetables to maintain her brain power, so the old man’s staple meal of meat and rice just doesn’t cut it, and is more often than not replaced by some lavish veggie stir fry from the local Thai.

 

Which is fine, when our bundles of joy are thoughtful enough to give us some notice. Not so fine when we roast a chook big enough to feed the suburb and it turns out that there are only two of us eating, plus one rather over-nourished dog who no longer complies with her ‘small breed’ categorisation.

 

Even more frustratingly painful for the old man, (and something that could lead to his fifth mid-life crisis in as many years), is that this system is not budget-conscious, something he has been working hard to perfect since he took over the role of house bitch.

 

And lest we dare forget the saying: Happy husband, happy shopping

The True Test Of Parenting Is Unconditional Love

 

We had an impromptu visit last night from one of Kurt’s friends. This boy’s last impromptu visit was on Christmas Day, and this impromptu visit was to apologise for it.

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This friend of Kurt’s is a bird with broken wings who makes my heart bleed at an haemophiliac rate. He bought with him a bottle of my favourite wine, upon Kurt’s direction -(Scarborough, for those of you that still don’t know). He told us it was to serve as a belated apology for his behavior on Christmas Day, when he got shit-faced with people that weren’t his immediate family, because his immediate family didn’t want to be with him.

 

He is eighteen.

 

He is a damaged soul who admits that he has done some ‘bad stuff’ in the past, and although his presence can be emotionally exhausting and certainly damaging to the liver, you know that being there with him, providing an ear to listen to him, is so important that even missing I’m A Celebrity and drinking copiously on a Wednesday night becomes insignificant.

 

I’ve always had a vulnerability, some in-built empathy for damaged goods and although I have yet to meet this boy when he is sober, what I really want to do is give him a massive bear hug and tell him that everything will be all right – even though I don’t know if it will – if we were at that position in our friendship where he fully trusted us and saw us as some kind of surrogate family.

 

We’re working on it. He appears more and more frequently at our apartment, and usually out of the blue.

 

His enforced maturity has meant that he has become a mentor of sorts to Kurt. Although they are the same age, this kid has been through the proverbial mill, unlike our son. Rejected by his parents for what I assume must be far worse behaviours than we’ve ever experienced with our son, it appears that his parents could no longer cope. Gave up on him. I pass no judgment, for there have been several times over the past few years that we have come a hair-width away from asking Kurt to leave, even though we never believed we would ever reach that point as parents when he first came into our world.

 

And after all, we’ve only heard this boy’s side of his story. And I know what it’s like to raise a troubled teenager like Kurt, whose personality demands challenge every parental idealism you had in place since their birth, shred your emotions and make you question every facet of your integrity on a daily basis.

 

And you often step so close to that line of ‘have I had enough?’, ‘is this the point where I have to disregard unconditional love for my sanity, or my relationship, or their sibling’s life?’

 

And it can be really scary…

 

And I’m sure none of you will ever reach this point with your kids, thank God.

 

Because when you witness the fucked up end-result of the kid whose parents reached rock bottom and had to make that terrible decision to give up – and in truth I can’t blame them – all your natural instincts scream to parent that kid, mend his wings, build him up and help him fly again. When you witness the searing pain, the damage and the mistrust in the man-child that rejection has caused, it reminds you that parenting is unconditional, and sometimes we have to adapt our expectations to the needs of our children, because we are family, and family sticks together.

30 Fascinating Things I Realised In 2015

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  1. Whenever I think I’ve finally reached rock bottom, I can always rely on my teenagers to up the ante.
  2. The word ‘meringue’ springs to mind whenever I wear a cream dress.
  3. I need stop at one whisky.
  4. All diets are lies.
  5. The upside to being ‘invisible’ is not giving a shit about what I look like in public.
  6. Yoga pants and leggings get a bad rap these days; personally, I think they’re underrated.
  7. Men CAN change – don’t let them tell you any different.
  8. Skiing is like glamping – an endurance test dressed up by men to look like something fun.
  9. ‘Loose change’ will never be a problem in a house with teenagers.
  10. If a size 12 equates to a size ‘large’ in Zara, I don’t need that level of shit.
  11. Sexy ‘big knickers’ are still to be invented.
  12. The most-used word in my vocabulary last year was ‘thing.’
  13. Mad Men is the finest historical documentary about sexism and John Hamm’s developing sexiness.
  14. I want Jon Hamm’s babies.
  15. Albeit horribly undignified, the process of home poo testing is now a reality.
  16. I still have no idea what the difference is between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ cholesterol and continue to stare blankly at the doctor when she explains my results.
  17. 10,000 steps is way more than a fucking walk.
  18. I made a mistake – men cannot be conditioned to wipe down bench tops, replace toilet rolls or answer when spoken to the first time.
  19. Teenagers have a gap in the synapses of their brain vis a vis hanging up wet towels, walking the dog and emptying the dishwasher.
  20. It’s impossible not to get wee all over yourself when you use the ‘pull to the side’ method for a full piece swimming costume.
  21. Netflix is the welcome third wheel to a long marriage.
  22. You can use the camera on your iPhone from that little camera icon at the bottom right of your screen.
  23. NEVER ride a motor bike or climb a ladder (thank you 24Hrs In Emergency)
  24. My most over-used phrase last year was: ‘why did I start telling you that?’
  25. Bacon is still worth the cancer risk.
  26. Colouring-in is still boring.
  27. I could be a really good swimmer if swimming goggles existed that didn’t leak.
  28. Although my ovaries no longer function in the role they were designed for, they do however, become highly activated these days at the sight and smell of babies.
  29. From my limited experience so far, Dementia is gonna really suck.
  30. You must never accept that you’re too old or too cuddly to rock a bikini.

 

Living Each Day And Surviving Every Parent’s Worst Nightmare

The most annoying thing about being the mother of a rebellious eighteen-year old is that you can’t always ensure they go out in their best underwear. ambulance-148747_1280

 

That was one of the things that went through my mind on Thursday as we wove our way through city traffic to every parent’s worst nightmare…

 

After the call…to say that our child had been involved in an accident.

 

First of all, Kurt is okay – shaken, not stirred; nor deterred unfortunately from future trouble. By my estimation he has about four lives left. Three days down the line, I can now think about that day without wanting to vomit.

 

As long as there’s no blood, I’m actually very good in a crisis; surprising when you consider what an emotional wreck I am the rest of the time. If fact I’m eerily calm, so when we received the call to tell us that Kurt had experienced some sort of fit on a bus and that they had called an ambulance, I remember steadily relaying the information to the old man like I was discussing the weather. Somehow, magically, we got our legs to walk to the car.

 

So many ‘what ifs’ go through your head in these situations. What if I hadn’t shouted at Kurt that morning? What if I hadn’t been short with him on the phone only a few minutes before that call because I was working? What if I’d bought him some new boxers for Christmas? What if he was…?

 

The ER was as crazy a space full of madness as I had hoped it would be, having been an avid fan of 24 hours in Emergency for the past year. No Dr Ross, though, and you get a different, much more unnerving perspective when you’re on the other side of the fence.

 

And there were far too many middle-aged people in there, not much older than the old man and myself, experiencing chest pain, for our liking.

 

The surprising fact about those interminable waits in the ER is how you cope with whatever bad news is thrown at you because you have to. ‘Oh, he needs a brain scan,’ I remember responding calmly to the doctor, when inside my body my heart was doing a triple somersault and quivering in my rib cage. At least by that stage Kurt was conscious and moaning about the wait with us, nevertheless we still had to go through the process of getting him thoroughly checked out.

 

As our very tired-looking doctor informed us, ‘emergency medicine is about excluding any risk that might kill you immediately,’ which for some reason was vaguely reassuring at the time.

 

A kid with ADHD and anxiety disorder, no emotional control and prone to angry outbursts, is not the kid you want to be when you have to wait six hours for results. Of course Kurt had assumed the worst about his diagnosis. His body shuts down to emotion when he’s scared and can’t go out for a smoke to calm down – ‘No you can’t go out because you’re waiting for a brain scan’ – I reminded him at least ten times. But nothing I said was going to be right. When he asked me if I thought he had brain cancer and I answered with an emphatic ‘no’, he rationalized that I was only saying that to make him feel better; when they took us onto a ward and I started to look worried, he told me I should do a better job of hiding my fears.

 

The old man’s dad jokes about the neurologist discovering what we’d known all along – that Kurt doesn’t actually have a brain – went down really well, as you can imagine, but pretty soon he found his invisibility cloak on the ward and turfed some patients out of the best seats in front of the television, which meant I didn’t have to worry about him as well.

 

Long story short, it was a mild seizure, cause unknown but hopefully nothing serious, and my prodigal son remains in an interim period of forgiveness, milking it for all its worth.

 

I have a renewed respect for the kind people of this world, particularly the bus driver who allayed Kurt’s fears as he regained consciousness and called us with an update every few minutes until the ambulance arrived.

 

I shall be buying Kurt some new underwear this week, along with some new trousers. When the doctor said that it must have been a seizure rather than a faint because his trousers were all torn, Kurt informed him that they were ripped because I refuse to buy him any new ones.

 

Kids!

 

Live each day, peeps.

Mental Illness: Crazy, Bad or Misunderstood

How did you spend your Sunday afternoon? I spent mine mine devouring a riveting series that I missed on the ABC last year about a mental health hospital in Sydney.

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That’s just the kind fun person I am.

 

But what’s interesting, is where once the subject of mental illness was a taboo one, locked firmly away in the closet – rather like Cancer and homosexuality – at last, the public are now embracing it with all its complexities.

 

Although in spite of the support (soon to be substantiated by Turnbull’s government in some much-needed dosh), there is still far too much misinformed speculation and stigma about it.

 

And what makes a topic such as this even more pertinent is when we hear about the daily and shocking examples of domestic violence and tragedy, so often at the hands of ‘disturbed’ perpetrators.

 

At the end of the day, no-one really knows why people do the crazy stuff they do. We don’t know what makes a man kill himself along with his two children, or beat up and murder his wife. But the question in everyone’s mind these days, whenever we hear of another such tragedy, is whether the assailant was mentally ill? And the words ‘depression’ and ‘bi-polar’ are much more common words now, bandied almost freely about in these situations as we witness the indirect association most people create between mental illness and violence.

 

Which is bad… although the awareness is good.

 

The biggest pain and frustration when someone close to you suffers from a mental illness is not being able to understand, control and change them into what society expects of them.

 

To not be able to help them and take their pain away.

 

Because sadly, when the mentally ill aren’t supported and understood, and are left to fend for themselves against the demons that torment them, sometimes shit does happen when their own frustration is unleashed before they receive the help they need. And the cycle of violence begins all over again.

 

That’s not an excuse, it’s a fact.

 

It should be seen as progress that we are finally in a place where we embrace the complexities of ‘difference’, although only quite recently have we truly come to celebrate the successes of ‘nerds’ such as Mark Zuckerberg, Aspergians such as Charles Darwin, the physically-disabled such as Stephen Hawking, and well-known ADHD entrepreneurs such as Richard Branson. In bygone days the physically disabled would be ridiculed in freak shows and the mentally ill hidden away in hospitals.

 

We are far more accepting of different minds and bodies now.

 

And while we should celebrate ‘difference’, we need to be careful that we don’t celebrate mental illness. ‘Increased creativity’ may be a positive symptom of mania, but there are many symptoms of the illness that are not so palatable. We mustn’t romanticise these disorders or associate them with ‘cool’ rock stars or artists, many of whom have lost their lives to their mood disorders and alcohol and drug abuse when used as self-medication.

 

Sensationalising the lives of the many famous musicians and artists who have died as a result of depression or Bi-Polar Disorder does nothing to help the common man and his family who are trying to cope with the pain and stigma associated with mental illness. A small percentage of sufferers may experience more highly stimulated creative periods during the highs and lows of their mood disorders, but they also cannot control and balance their emotions, are usually highly unpredictable, impulsive, anxious to the point of anti-social, and have problems functioning normally in the world.

 

Because these are people who live life close to, (if not over the edge of) life’s boundaries, they may be attractive, superficially energised, stimulating people to be in the company of for the short term, but they can be impossible to live with.

 

We struggle with this see-saw of mood swings on a weekly basis with our son, and although he spouts the wisdom of anarchy at me in his moments of oppositional defiance and I can see that he believes in it, I know that his words won’t mean anything in front of a court.

 

Last night (and out of frustration) I asked him if he thought he was a bad person – not my finest parenting moment – so desperate was I to see if he understood the consequences of some of the behaviours he engages in. He doesn’t, and laughed at my question. So all I can hold onto is that he has never hurt anyone intentionally, and for the most part he is grateful and kind. Nevertheless, it’s hard to forget that many of his actions have humiliated, saddened and disappointed us, and are not what we expected when we signed up for parenting.

 

Perhaps we’re just over-sensitive, over-caring, old-fashioned farts, or simply not Bohemian enough to understand his particular choices and his values.

 

But the truth is, that no matter how many talks we have with him or how much advice we give him, he has chosen a non-conformist path, and nothing we say will make him adhere to the rules of our house or society.

 

He is a rebel in the eyes of the romantic; a nightmare in the eyes of most parents.

 

He doesn’t have a dysfunctional upbringing to blame, neither is he the product of an abusive home; what he has is a confusion of chemicals, a cross-wiring in his brain to  explain his anti-social behaviors.

 

And that won’t help him on judgment day.

 

Many of our closest friends who have watched our journey with a distant sympathy still don’t really believe that he is mentally ill, because he looks as normal as their own kids.

 

Just like that dad did, who shot and then drove his children to their death in the water.

 

I imagine that in their minds our friends have categorised our son as either a ‘wild child’, a ‘bad seed’, or they secretly believe that he will ‘grow out of it’. But he won’t. This is not a phase. The best we can hope for is that he learns to manage his symptoms and keep taking his medication.

 

I secretly hold onto the hope that he is just a ‘wild child’, and that he will eventually find some self-acceptance through something he is good at, and will mature while he is still a young man. I hope that one day we will be able to look back on these years and celebrate that we got through them, because once these kids get older, if they still can’t function in society, they can end up homeless, suicidal or living on the state – lows that are hard to recover from.

 

In the meantime we face a waiting game. We wait for our ‘wild child’ to reach crisis point, because there is no real support until he hits rock bottom. All society can afford is to wait for these kids to seriously fail, and when they do it attempts to pick up the pieces.

 

Even though, sadly, by that point it is often too late.

 

So although the discourse about mental illness is more lively these days  – and there is, (finally), empathy replacing the historical disdain – we need an increase in support at the root of the problem; before the seeds turn bad. As parents, we still find it difficult to discuss some of the behaviours of our son with our peers, such is our middle-class shame. It hurts too much; the shame is too great; the disappointment too painful.

 

That needs to change.

 

 

A New Year Of Parenting

And so another year of parenting has come around to challenge and age us prematurely. For those with ickle children, I hate to burst your bubble but nothing changes in the worrying stakes as your children get older. Just another reason it felt so fucking awesome to see that even Madonna can’t get parenting right. greek-mythological-vector-element_G1cnz5I__L

 

Most of us shells of our former selves, with older, entitled teenagers have experienced a similar ungrateful repugnance from our children at some stage, after years of selfless servitude.

 

I’m not sure I have the strength to survive another year of verbal abuse, wet towels on the floor and looks as terrifying as Medusa’s at the hands of my particular brand of teenager, who is still certain he knows everything.

 

Sometimes I think that it must be truly exhausting for him being such a threat to Google. Whereas I, of course, am never right about anything.

 

Except when I am.

 

The most depressing result of our daily battles is that I have turned into my mother with my war strategy. Recognise any of these little gems that seem to projectile vomit from my mouth with the slightest provocation, just about every day?

 

‘Money doesn’t grow on trees…’

 

‘Don’t pick that scab or it will get infected’…

 

‘How many times do I have to tell you…?’

 

‘How do you know you don’t like it if you haven’t tasted it?’

 

‘Life isn’t fair…’

 

You can find the rest here:

 

Famous Mom Sayings 

 

I suppose the good news is that if all us mothers know all these sayings, then we must have been little shits, too. Which means we can’t have been the worst, weakest generation of parents to ever inhabit the planet, can we?

 

Roll on the end of the uni holidays, I say. This little apartment is way too small for a man suffering his third mid-life crisis, a menopausal woman and two overly-dramatic teens who, if there was any justice in the world, should have left home by now.

 

I am metamorphosing into a green-eyed monster whenever I meet empty-nester mums, whose kids left home straight after school. And even when they warn me not to wish that level of peace, tranquility and free use of the washing machine upon myself, when you’re still cooking four different meals a night, a ready-made meal for two in front of the tv is very appealing.

 

‘I don’t eat carbs after 3pm,’ NC informed us last night after she’d watched me slave over a bacon pasta.

 

Another grey hair.

Everyone Needs A Token Baby Jesus At Christmas

I’ve got earache.

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The Princess was too mature to adorn the silly moustache. Obviously, mine is real!

It’s either payback for jumping into the pool for that revitalising swim on Christmas Day, (sometime between dessert and cheese), to celebrate the end of a glorious lunch that finally made it to the table in spite of my oven’s best attempts at sabotage when it decided to switch off halfway through cooking the turkey.

 

Needless to say, I remained calm, if ‘calm’ can be defined as drowning in a bottle of Moet. You can only imagine the military operation to get it going again – thank you God, Google and the Bosch forum.

 

Or it might have been caused by the swim on Boxing Day morning to help clear the Whisky cobwebs and give the locals a good laugh at my first attempt to glide gracefuly through the water with my new flippers.

 

It was a memorable Christmas Day.

 

If I’m honest, I’ve never understood those people who get super-stressed about cooking what is essentially a posh roast. It’s not the food that maketh the day, it’s the people you share it with. And we were lucky there. Good friends, who have become surrogate family here in Australia, with their new addition this year of the cutest token baby Jesus ever to grace our table and Instagram.

 

You need small children around you at Christmas, especially when your own children have grown up and disappoint you horrbily by sleeping straight through the morning, which left the old man and I twiddling our thumbs, wondering how to start Christmas without them. 

 

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NC tolerating our token Baby Jesus, the closest she will get to a baby, or so she tells me.

NC engaged Santa to deliver the old man and I both a stocking this year – my first since I was fourteen – and I might have shed a tear. The old man surprised me (hmmm) with the best handbag EVAR…as well as some new kitchen scissors (!), and Kurt bought me a mystery book, whose clues to its genre included the keywords ‘humor’, ‘perversion’, ‘sex’ and ‘women.’

 

If ever a son knew his mother….

 

Not everything went perfectly according to plan, OBVIOUSLY. The custard on my trifle never set and had to be sucked up with a straw; there was mild panic when the ‘pigs in blankets’ were still pink inside; Kurt scared the fuck out of our token baby with his impression of Mr Napkin Head, and no-one apart from me touched the Brussel sprouts or red cabbage and so avoided the obligatory flatulence afterwards.

 

Even the fact that the next generation thrashed us at Trivial Pursuit (who the fuck knows the names of the Transformers) couldn’t spoil the day, and nor could Kurt and one of his ‘in between sofas’ mates who turned up at 11pm and drank my entire bottle of Vodka between them. 

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The trifle might have been a tad runny…

 

The old man spent the day clearing away wrapping paper, tutting as he emptied the bottle bin, humming ‘Christmas Is Nearly Over’, and intermittently yelling at Kurt to PUT THE VODKA BOTTLE DOWN. But I’m sure I caught a couple of smiles of near-contentment when he thought I wasn’t looking and he hasn’t started counting the receipts from Myer yet.

 

And new BFFs for this one day of the year, NC and Kurt entertained us towards the end of the evening with their annual drunken dance off; the only time they truly bond, with their joint ‘garden sprinkler’ and ‘filling the shopping trolley’ moves.

 

To crown the day, a moment as pure as ‘Silent Night’ when drunk as a skunk NC moved us all to tears and reminded us of the true meaning of Christmas with her beautiful rendition of Phoebe’s ‘Smelly Cat’.

 

How was your day?