On a Monday my youngest usually gets a stomach ache. Is his stomach really aching? I think so. Is he sick? This, I’m not so sure on. He could be but he’s not running a temperature. He could be getting sick. Or he could just be anxious about going back to school for another week. Whatever it is, his tummy hurts and he doesn’t want to go.
But he has to go.
Cue the tears.
There’s nothing quite like leaving you crying child in the care of others to make you feel like a monster. What’s more, even if you assuage your guilt by reminding yourself the he is A. Not actually sick B. Safe in the care of highly trained professionals and C. Probably stopped crying within thirty seconds of you turning the corner, a general feeling of unease settles on you for the rest of the day. Because, in effect, you’ve gone against every natural instinct you’ve got and are not there to defend and protect your distressed child.
Parenting. The gift that just keeps giving.
Today B1 started school. In Victoria we call in Prep and so now, instead of saying that I’m the mother of two pre-schoolers, I’m the mother of a prep and a pre-schooler.
When I was teaching, and bare in mind I was a high school teacher, I found parents somewhat strange – like exotic animals whose behaviour I didn’t really understand. To be fair I was in my early 20s and closer in age to their children then I was to them. I found their expectations (voiced or otherwise) overwhelming. Some of them were protective to the point of bubble wrapping their house, others wouldn’t have known where their children were five nights out of seven. Some of them were dumbfounded by the change in their children following the onset of puberty and were looking for answers – answers I had neither the training nor the life experience to give them.
Now my child has started school. I spent the first six months of his life wishing the time would pass quicker – please sleep, please feed less, please smile, please laugh – and now I don’t know where the time has gone. How did it pass so quickly?
And boy do I have some high standards for my son’s teachers 😉
If your little cherub has started school for the first time this year and you’re feeling a little lost (and maybe a little cheated by Father Time) then know you’re not alone. Like me, you might find it helps to remember what a big, exciting, adventure your child is beginning and that education is a gift and a privilege that not all children in the world are lucky enough to be given.
And it’s okay to cry…in private.
Today is my mum’s birthday (happy birthday Mum!) and I suspect Mum has had a wide range of birthdays. This year she is celebrating in England with my dad (who is also her husband, so that’s handy) and her twin sister (hi Aunty Trudy), but she’s spent plenty of birthdays without Dad, who works away, and plenty of birthdays with her kids – which I suspect was not always the gift you’d think. After all, even on your birthday, children
demand need attention and care. Not just love, which is fairly easy to dish out any day of the year, but they need to be clothed, fed, woken up (if they’re teenagers), sent to bed (if they’re little ones), bathed, played with, refereed. The list goes on. So while I’m sure she would love to have us all with her (especially now we’re adults and can more or less feed, dress and bathe ourselves) I’m also sure she’s enjoying having a day that really is all about her (and Aunty Trudy of course).
But the thing is, because my mum was the sort of mum who gave me (and my siblings) time and energy and attention and affection and love, every single day of the year, I really miss her. Today especially because I would love to give her a present and have a meal with her. It’s something I’m really looking forward to when she and Dad are finally in the same time zone as I am. Which makes me wonder, will I ever stop needing my mum? If I need her now, when I’m thirty and have children of my own, is there ever a time when I’ll have outgrown my mum’s hugs and chats and advice?
I hope not.
And I hope B1 and B2 never do either.
So happy birthday Mum. Have a wonderful day. You deserve it.
And Dad, I miss you as well.
When I was a kid, probably about ten or eleven, my mum sat on the hard wooden floor in my bedroom and read The Lord of the Rings to me and my younger brother. For much of the book I sobbed my little eyes out. From the moment Sam has to leave the pony, through each harrowing description of death and deceit, I balled. Gandalf falling into the Abyss? Almost. Broke. Me.
And that’s why I love the Lord of the Rings. Because it had me by the heart.
Little Woman is my favourite book of all time (that may say something about me) and when Beth dies…I can’t talk about it.
The Animals of Farthing Wood…a group of animals making their way across England to a wildlife sanctuary. What could go wrong?
The point is, getting emotionally involved in a story is what makes it worth reading. In many of the books and programs that my own children now enjoy conflict of any kind is kept to a minimum. Races always end in a tie. Arguments always end in an apology. Naughty, rude, little
piggies characters always end up gently reprimanded and then jump in muddy puddles
But I’m looking forward to the day when we can enjoy a good book together…and cry over it.
p.s. Thanks Mum, by the way.
Today my sons and I watched the Disney classic, ‘Cinderella’. Cinderella was a favourite mine as a little girl – I was definitely a Disney girl – and it’s lovely to share these movies with my own children.
Obviously the Disney version of the story is different to the original, recorded by the brother’s Grimm. In the original story the stepmother and her two daughters are forced to dance to their death in iron shoes…yikes! Revenge isn’t something I would encourage my children to embrace. But today, watching the far more sugary Disney version, I was also forced to wonder whether the ideas and values playing out on the screen were ones I wanted my children to subscribe to.
Now, maybe I’m over thinking. People have accused me of that before. And I certainly wouldn’t scratch Cinderella or her ilk from my watch list. But, as a mother and a writer, I’m aware that children’s books and movies all have a message within them – intentionally or not. They have to, because their audience is highly impressionable.
Cinderella claimed that all you needed was belief in your dream and, eventually, that dream would come true. She didn’t pack up her bags and creep out of the house in the dead of night. She didn’t go to the ball dressed in her tattered clothes and take the risk that the prince might fall in love with her regardless. She didn’t start-up her own cleaning business, make her fortune, and buy the chalet next door (ok, I know they didn’t have cleaning businesses back then). She did as she was told, she hoped and dreamed and relied on fate and luck to change her life.
I’m all for dreams and hope and faith. These are some of the most precious of all human emotions and they are certainly ones I would want my children to experience. But, in my experience, dreams also require hard work and perseverance and commitment to come true.
I still love Cinderella. I love her for the way she shows us that dreams do come true, that love is for everyone and that magic is worth believing in. All these things are true and worthwhile…
I’ll just be backing it up by showing my kids that they have to bring other things to the table too.
What do you think? Am I over thinking things?
Check out my creative non-fiction story published this month in the online magazine Parenting Express.
An email popped up in my inbox a few days ago from Ann-marie Tapplin who publishes the online magazine Parenting Express. I had entered a writing competition she ran earlier in the year and, having not won, I didn’t think much more about it (other than to read the entries that did win).
So you can imagine how excited I was to get her email telling me that my story will be published in the December issue of Parenting Express. While it’s not for children or young adults it is for their parents and I’m very proud to have it published for others to read.
Check it out next month at http://www.parentingexpress.com/
As always, happy reading!