It was Friday night, and instead of my usual cup of tea, ugg boots and kindle I was invited out to a work function to catch up with the people I work with every day but never actually get the chance to sit down and catch up with! It was a great night. Fantastic company, gorgeous food and a tipple or two of a beautiful white. Got home a little later than my normal 9pm bedtime and went to bed content.
Skip forward to 6pm Saturday night and I was preening. Getting ready for that fun, and sometimes scary ritual…..a close friend’s hens night. I hadn’t been to a hens night in ages! The excitement was building, the eye makeup perfect and the Curl Secret was warming up, ready to transform my limp, dry locks into a Miranda Kerr worthy do!
The night was a perfect balance of plastic penis straws and class (can the two go together?!). Just enough tacky penis paraphernalia to remind us why we were there, yet again, fantastic company, gorgeous food and a tipple or two…...ok, 7 or 8 of a beautiful white!
We danced the night away to our own personal dj’s remix of Salt ‘n’ Pepa and Madonna (and I’m talking old school Madonna….pre Britney pash). We moved onto to the local Irish pub to find live music, a full dance floor and a mean cosmopolitan.
Finally, after one or two cosmos too many, I traipsed home, kicked my nude peep toes off at the door (ahhhhh the relief), and collapsed into bed. What a night!
Yes, what a night! But at around 4am, head spinning and unable to get back to sleep, the thoughts changed very rapidly from “I am the dancing queen!” to “I’m too old for this shit!” The hangover that now takes two days to recover from. The sore muscles from dancing in heels for hours on end. The blurred wine fuelled memory of running into 18 year old kids that you taught when they were 12…...IN THE BAR!
Remember the days, where you would stumble home from the uni bar in the early hours of the morning and sleep off the night before for the entire next day, only to rise and shine (at 4pm) and do it all again! Uni bar night was a Thursday, (Heaven help you if you had a Friday lecture, or even worse compulsory tutorial), but this allowed you to have three consecutive (if not four or five...I was living on campus….) big nights a week…..Sleep it off all day Sunday, and you were set!
Oh how times have changed!
My day long sleep after a big night (or god forbid, TWO nights out in a row!) has been replaced with a five year old softly poking me in the arm at 6am, whispering “Mum…...Mum…...Want to play Bop It?” (For future reference, Bop It is the most annoying children’s toy ever and if your angels tell you that they just have to have one, immediately direct them over to the playing cards, stuffed toys or colouring books that DO NOT make second rate MC Hammer style hip hop music.)
My bounce back body, has been replaced with that which, after a big night out, resembles a ninety year old woman hobbling around a nursing home because my muscles, ankles, head...you name it, takes at least 24 hours to recover.
My head….oh my head….throbs with an intensity that, with every pulse screams “THE NEXT PERSON TO SAY 'MUMMY' WILL BE BANISHED FROM THIS HOUSE FOREVER!”
I have hit that time in my life. That time where the 18 year old party girl seems so far gone into the distant past, that I look in the mirror, groan and realise I really am too old for all this shit!
And so it’s Friday again….....Put the kettle on love!
When I was six I did my first Six Years and Under Baby Dance Solo. No, this is not Toddler’s and Tiaras...not far off though! My dance was called, “Putting Dolly to Bed.” In my beautiful broderie anglaise bloomers and nightdress, long black hair brushed perfectly and bright red lips, I got up on stage ready to perform. My parents had paid for weeks of private lessons to learn my solo. I took my first elegant, well rehearsed steps out on the stage, did my first couple of spring points (ballet geeks, you know what I’m talking about).......promptly forgot the next minute and a half, froze and ran off the stage crying.
And we have it on video.
I have never watched it. 26 years on and I still cannot watch it. I walked in on my sister watching it once and I nearly started crying on the spot.
Which is why, when I watched Romy on The Voice Kids this week, I have ended up with mixed feelings. For those non reality TV addicts in the audience who have no idea what I am talking about, Romy is 12, sang her little heart out (Adele of all artists…..aim high!) but none of the judges turned their chair. And the poor little poppet, who strongly sang right up until the last note, dissolved into tears as soon as she finished.
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Many have had their opinions aired in print and online articles, on A Current Affair….even Karl put in his two bobs worth on the Today Show. And I have to say I have ebbed and flowed through many different feelings about the whole situation.
My first reaction was heartbreak. As a parent you can’t help but watch that show and beg the judges to turn around, purely because you can see the bare vulnerability that is oozing out of both the contestant and the anxious parents back in the green room. With tears in our eyes, both Miss 11 and I have been known to look at each other exclaiming, “Oh, the poor thing!”
Then, as the comments started flying on social media, blogs, TV shows etc, the tough love started to manifest. One of my biggest concerns with kids these days (Oh my, did I just say ‘kids these days’), is their lack of resilience. And I thought, it’s a competition. She went into it knowing that she might not get through. Her parents knew she might not get through. She’ll get over it. She’ll learn from it. It will make her a stronger person.
And there she was, not two nights later, on A Current Affair. Bubbly, smiley, carefree…all the things a 12 year old should be. ‘Wow’, I thought, ‘What a little trooper!’
But then, something Karl Stefanovic (Don’t judge me) said struck a chord.
He spoke about how this played out in front of millions of people and how at twelve years old, Romy could not have any concept of the enormity of her situation. And now, I tend to agree. I’m a bit of a fence sitter really. I’m the Switzerland of reality tv.
On the one hand, I do believe that this was a lesson in resilience, the very thing that I try to teach my kids and the kids in my classroom everyday. It was a lesson in how to cope with disappointment and on how to pick themselves back up. It was a real life lesson for that twelve year old and all the other twelve year old watching her, that rejection is real. That the journey to success is littered with hurdles, problems and often, rejection. Do we hide that from our kids or do we teach them how to overcome it?
However, the teacher (and six year old ballerina) in me, is still not completely convinced. And I struggle with that, because lack of resilience is a big one for me.
I think back to the difficulty I have in watching the video (REAL video…you know VHS!) of my six year old self, forgetting my dance and running off the stage. And that was in front of maybe 100 people. I have the ONLY copy of that video. Within minutes, Romy’s 3 minute blind audition was on Youtube, being replayed on numerous breakfast TV shows, A Current Affair and will NEVER be completely forgotten. Kids can be cruel. Especially tween/teen girls. The poor girl may be coping beautifully with the fact that she didn’t get through to The Voice. She may have bounced back and be completely over it. But this is not a 26 year old VHS, that only she has a copy of. This is all over the net, ready to be replayed at the click of a button….by anyone. I think that is the enormity that Karl is talking about and I tend to agree with that side too.
I told you….Switzerland!
Is The Voice Kids a chance for young children to work hard at the chance of being that one child selected? Because only one will win. All but one will experience this high, exposed level of rejection and disappointment. Is it a good thing that they will learn these lessons?
Yes. But my niggling doubt is……
Is it a good thing that they will learn these lessons in front of millions and millions of people and over and over again?
There is something to be said for remaining completely un-committed during your school holidays. I am usually the mum that looks up holiday programs at Spotlight, enrols her kids in the holiday ballet workshop and organises play dates and sleep-overs all holidays. However, I made a point these holidays of leaving our calender wide open. People would ask, “What are your plans these holidays?” To which I would proudly reply…..”Nothing!”
School holidays can get so over crowded with play dates, camping (No, I don’t, but I know lots that do!), holiday workshops - ballet, art, tae kwon do, you name it! These holidays I just wanted two weeks of….nothing. Complete mystery! No plans, no trips to visit people, no feeling like I had to drag my kids away from the TV. If we felt like having a day watching ALL THREE Back to the Future DVDs (Yes, for your information, I am raising two little nerds!), then that was what we were going to do.
And you know what…...it was the best holidays we have had. It took Miss 11 a few days to get used to ‘going with the flow.’ She is a planner and wakes up every morning of every school holidays asking, “What are we doing today?” After three mornings of what was quickly becoming my standard reply, “Not sure,” she caught on that, for most of these holidays it was going to be up to her to entertain herself. Mr 5 is and always has been, the complete opposite of a planner. He could quite happily float through a whole day talking to himself, re-telling Possum Magic to himself with his Trash Packs or dressing up as an elf (that’s what he wants to be when he grows up) and pretending it’s Christmas! So he was fine. Miss 11, on the other hand, struggled…..at first.
What did come from this new “Mummy is having a holiday too” approach, was an amazing collection of memories that I am proud to say my kids created all on their own! I’m not saying that I lay on the lounge for 14 days. We went to the park, went on walks, watched a couple of movies, but for the most part, I did my thing, they did theirs and we met up for meals!
One thing that my kids did discover these holidays is Monopoly. Now for those like me, who have not played (and probably never played a whole game anyway) since they were kids, there is a new version. Still the same old classics...Pall Mall, Park Lane, Old Kent Road etc etc, but now there is three dice! There are two normal ones, plus one speed play dice which has different pictures on each side representing different plays…..that all have the same objective of speeding up the game. (I know, how did it take them so long to come up with that brilliant idea) So instead of it taking 4 days to play, it now takes about 4 hours. My kids, joined forces with the girls next door and collaboratively made their way through at least, 5 full games of Monopoly! And then…..
They played in the street, they made iMovies, they did loom bands, they cooked. Once with me and once independently, at their own insistence….you can guess which one worked out better...that’s right, the one where I kept my domestically cursed hands to myself.
And I watched.
I watched my kids play, discuss, fight, resolve, compromise, share, laugh and pretend.
And it was fantastic.
I have been sucked in by mother guilt for the final time!
OK, no I haven’t. We all know that tomorrow morning when I get asked to take them to Flip Out (Don’t even ask…..some sort of trampoline amusement park?) because they are the ONLY children at their school who haven’t been, or I tell them that we have to go into Mummy’s work for an hour or two, the guilt will be back. Glaring me in the face, making me feel like I’m not the perfect mother.
And you know what…..I’m beginning to feel ok about that!
I have had to come to many realisations over the last 11 years to avoid throwing myself off a bridge because of that incessant nagging mother guilt that plagues us all.
1. I like my job and I’m allowed to work. My kids have actually always been fine about this. It has never occurred to them that their mum could choose to work or not work. They know I love my job, they know that I’m good at it and Miss 11 also knows that it means that she can do the countless hours of ballet that she does! And you know what, no one has ever directly made me feel like being a working mum is a bad thing. I got a few comments when I went back to work when Mr 5 was four months (it was only one day and my mum looked after him…….see I even feel I need to justify it to you and I don’t even know you!), but they were never judgmental or condemning. If anything, they were more concerned about me. Truth was I needed to work. I’ve mentioned before that the powers above did not make me to be a stay at home mum and after four months, I was going mad! So I can’t even tell you what it was…..just this underlying sense of mother guilt over the fact that, somehow, holding onto that little bit of me and doing what I needed to keep me sane, was selfish. Looking back now, I’m fine with it. I’m a big believer, when it comes to mothering, that mums should do whatever they need to to look after themselves, in order to look after their kids. In my case, that was go back to work, even just for that day. It kept me sane, made for a much happier mummy on my days at home and wouldn’t you know it, my kids didn’t turn out to be emotionally scarred! In fact they treasure the memories of their Nanny days and have a fantastic, loving relationship with her (who I personally think struggles now they are both at school. ;)
2. When my children tell me that they are the ONLY children on the earth that don’t have Instagram, haven’t seen How to Train Your Dragon 2, or have to go to bed by 8pm…..THEY ARE LYING!
I still have to remind myself of this one sometimes. Just because one girl in your grade sends you an imessage telling you to join Instagram, does not mean that EVERY other girl in Year 5 has it! I am not the meanest mother in the world because you haven’t seen every movie that gets mentioned during Show and Tell. And I am not the, and I quote “most infuriating mother on Earth,” because I take your ipod off you at bedtime. If I hadn’t caught you watching old episodes of Sabrina, the Teenage Witch (Harmless, I know...but it’s the principle!) under your doona at 10pm on numerous occasions, I wouldn’t have to!
3. I don’t know what I am doing! Seriously kiddies, I am making this up as I go along. There is no manual to tell you what to do when your 11 year old is being a madam, or when your 5 year old thinks he is Harry Potter and won’t leave the house unless you first find Lord Voldemort and destroy all 7 horcruxes (Thank you, J.K. Rowling)...even when you were late for work ten minutes ago. No one tells you what to do when your kid is three and still scared to do a poo on the loo! There is no special How to book that tells you what to say when there are mean kids at school, or when they come last in every running race at the athletics carnival or they are sad because their best friend won’t talk to them and they don’t know why. I’m making it up as I go along. And you know what, I’m doing an ok job.
I don’t know why it is that we, as mothers have this constant niggling that maybe we aren’t doing it well enough. It’s like my favourite quote says, “The reason we struggle with insecurity is because we compare our behind the scenes with everyone else’s highlights reel.”
So Mother Guilt…...Tonight, after a shocker of a day that was complete and utter shit, but I did my best….it is you that can go and jump off a bridge!
Last week, whilst traipsing around Target I ran into an old friend from school who I hadn't seen for a number of years. We did the usual polite cheek kiss and awkward hug, followed by the introduction of my kids, one of whom was sulking because I wouldn't buy her a pair of those hideous new tights that have the cartoon characters all over them and the other….well who knew where he was….probably sitting in the middle of a clothes rack somewhere pretending to be Harry Potter in a magic cave ;)
I then asked my old class-mate, “So, Are you living back here now?”
”Oh God No!” laughing as if the idea was completely ludicrous!
Her response caught me off guard slightly, as I had just told her that I was living back here, and was loving raising my family back in my home town.
You see, I'm a homebody. I love the small country town that I grew up in and have been known to defend it to many. And having many friends living in Sydney and Melbourne, I have found myself defending my little town and the lifestyle it brings with it on many occasions. I love visiting the city and completely understand that there are those that feel the same way about their city lifestyle, as I do about my country one…..but it’s not for me.
I love the fact that I walk down the street and run into people that have known me since I was a baby.
I love that the same ladies have been working in the local department store (which is so much like an old country department story that it is considered one of the town’s major attractions and actually has a visitors book!) for as long as I remember.
I love that I caught up with my two oldest friends today, who I have known since before Kindergarten and our children played in the same park that we played in together at their age.
I love that my kids are going to grow up in the country, on a HUGE block, watching the sun go down behind the mountain every night.
I love that each Christmas, the kids I grew up with come back to their parent’s houses in the same street that we all rode our bikes in as ten year olds, and we sit on the front lawn and reminisce over a few drinks.
There is something special about moving back and raising your family where you grew up. Something special about them living 5 minutes drive from their grandparents and something special about them playing with the kids of the people you grew up with.
I don’t scoff at the fact that after moving away, going to uni and meeting my husband, I have decided to move my family back home. I treasure it.
I was so proud of my little Miss 11 today.
We were walking past Supre, when she looked in the window, pointed at a pair of leggings and said, “I would never wear those. They are so tacky!” And you know what….she was right. These were those leggings that you see on teenage girls at the moment with the series of black slits down the sides. I’m not sure what the purpose of the slits are but I know one thing for sure….Miss 11 was right, they are the definition of tacky! And the pride that swelled in my heart when I realised that instead of wanting to look like the girls in those tights, my little girl referred to them as tacky was overwhelming!
I know, I know. I am sounding very superficial but herein lies the problem. I am an Audrey girl. Have been since I saw My Fair Lady when I was 10. And from then on I was in awe. My mum bought me books, I had a Breakfast at Tiffany’s poster on my bedroom wall when everyone else’s was plastered with Hanson or The Backstreet Boys and I even got a VHS box set of Audrey movies and documentaries for Christmas one year. I'm not saying that I was the epitome of class and elegance throughout my teen years. I went through my stages of rebellion like all normal teen drama queens.
However now, as a mother, I live in hope that I will successfully raise a Hepburn in a Hilton world.
I am sounding very judgmental and that is not my purpose at all. But as a teacher, and a parent of a tween (her words, not mine), I can see that this task is getting harder and harder.
The purpose of my blog is not to get all preachy, but indulge me for just a minute.
The music, the artists, the clothing, even the toys. They just all seem to be getting more and more….what’s the word, tarty?! Within the space of a year Miley went from young, innocent country girl to…..I don’t even know what to call her now. And my daughter watched that transformation. She went from wearing her Hannah Montana jeans to not even being allowed to watch Miley Cyrus on Video Hits. (Video Hits? I don’t even know if that's what they call it now!) We went to buy pyjamas in Big W for heaven’s sake and they were hanging next to the size 8 padded bras. Kids size 8!!! So I do steer her away from the black leggings with the slits up the sides and the padded kiddie bras, over towards the cute little collared shirt and jeans ensemble, and I'm not ashamed to say so.
When discussing this with a friend recently, she told me that I was being superficial. That I was teaching Miss 11 that clothes, looks and being cute and pretty are important. And you know what…..if that’s the case, then yep, I am. And proud of it!
Because I don’t think that by telling her that, “Yes, those leggings are tacky,” or “No, that girl shouldn't have her backside hanging out of the bottom of her denim shorts,” I am making her superficial. What I am doing is encouraging her to take pride in how she looks, to dress so that people respect her and to be a Hepburn when the world is trying to make her into a Hilton.
School Holidays *sigh!
Words cannot express how much I love thee. The sleeping in (my children have finally reached the age where they can get their own breakfast….Alleluia!!”), the coffee catch ups with friends who I only ever get to see when the chaos of the term has subsided and, of course, the chance to finish my morning cup of tea. As opposed to leaving it half full on the kitchen bench as I rush out the door to work.
But do you know what I love the absolute most?
I don’t know what it is, but I HATE making school lunches. I have tried any number of ways to make it easier and more bearable. Doing them the night before, getting up earlier (Don’t know what I was thinking with this one….I don’t get up earlier for anything),even freezing sandwiches on the weekend (Take note - thawed out cheese sandwiches are GROSS!)….and I can’t even put into words what it is about this mundane task that makes me loathe it so! But I do.
And then the school holidays come. And it’s not even the fact that I am a teacher and don’t have to go to work that I look forward to the most….it’s the absence of school lunchboxes.
Maybe it’s the half smooshed Vegemite sandwich that I have to pick out of the lunchbox at the end of the day. Or the fact that, no matter how many routines we try and put into place, my kids find getting their lunch boxes out of their bags when we walk through the door at the end of the day impossible to remember to do. Or maybe it’s just the stress of getting out of the house in the morning that my psyche sub consciously links to the dreaded lunchbox.
Whatever it is, the school holidays to me is not just a fortnight to spend some well deserved rest time with my kiddies. It is not just a time to sit on my front verandah and finish a WHOLE cup of tea. It is a time of No School Lunches…...bliss!
So step away from the normal stuff….Think deep….Besides the cliches, what is it that you really love about holidays?
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As one of the few people in Australia who have never ever played a sport in their life (it’s true, just ask my sister in law who is currently under the delusion that I am going to join her mixed touch football team…..HA!), I had no idea that Wimbledon was even on, let alone that an Aussie was playing the other night. And not just that...playing the world #1! I don’t feel overly guilty, as my husband hadn’t even mentioned it, which I assume means that the majority of the Australian population didn’t think it was worth watching as it was most than likely a foregone conclusion. I had never even heard of Nick Kyrgios, which I know, means little when you are as sports illiterate as I am. But I get the impression that most Aussies had written this poor (and might I add, extremely good looking ;) young lad off as Wimbledon road kill, and it made me ponder the whole concept of “judging a book by it’s cover,”or in this case it’s world tennis ranking.
As a young mum (We were 21 year old uni students when we had our gorgeous but complete surprise package little girl), I have experienced first hand this cliche in full swing. So sit back, with your cup of tea (or wine…...it is only 1pm, but whatever floats your boat), and I will tell you the highly entertaining and disgustingly judgemental story!
As I said, hubby (then boyfriend) and I were 21 and at university when our life took an unexpected, yet as it turns out completely meant to be, left turn and we went from party hard, campus dwelling uni kids to two grown ups with a bub. Anyway, that is a whole blog article in itself and as its a huge part of what has made me the woman I am, I’m sure it will come up again regularly in my posts. What I am leading to is that when Miss11 was about 6 months old I was going through the checkout at Big W, when the middle aged checkout chick leans over to me and says, (and I kid you not) “You should take your sister back to your mum or people might think that you are one of those young mums.” I wish, with everything inside me, that I had been confident enough, witty enough and self assured enough to come back with some highly intelligent, yet equally insulting come back. But I wasn’t and I smiled politely as if I completely agreed with what she had said and went on my way. The anger that seethed inside me was beyond words, although hubby would argue that I found very strong words when relaying the incident to him! In this woman’s mind I had been too well dressed (in my polo shirt…...I did mention I was a Canberra uni student, didn’t I?) to actually be a young mum. I know she wasn’t thinking badly of me but the fact that she believed so strongly in this negative stereotype made me so angry. I hated the fact that, according to her I couldn’t possibly be a young mum because I didn’t fit her narrow minded, boxed in view of what a young mum was.
Looking back now, I am more understanding. We all do it. We constantly judge people by what they look like. We make ill informed assumptions about people we don’t even know. And in Nick Kyrgios’ case, write him off because we have already judged him. Its never going to happen. None of us are ever going to be able to completely eradicate that human nature to categorise and judge people, both negatively and positively. But perhaps if we are all that bit more aware...well who knows! So good on you Hot Nick for teaching us all that not only should we not judge books by their covers, but also that horribly permed, over made up middle aged check-out chicks should keep their uneducated, ill informed opinions to themselves.
This is my son, about to head out. That’s right, leaving the house dressed head to toe as Spiderman.
I will admit that first time around with Miss 11, we never had this predicament. She was a very level headed little thing, who spent her toddler days with her nose in a book and writing us pretend letters. She was the 3 year old version of an academic. She would play pretend, but it would be pretending real things. She would serve me a “cup of tea” in her cafe, or “teach” me in her school. She blew us away with her ability to converse with adults and we were often told what an ‘old soul’ she was.
Well, Mr 5 is a completely different kettle of fish! He creates worlds, loves anything to do with magic or wizards and spends most of his spare time talking to himself, making up stories or pretending he is someone or something else! When we are at the shops, you will often find him in the middle of the rack of clothes pretending it is his secret cave, although he has also been found pretending to be one of the mannequins in the window of Portmans as well! Once I had calmed down from the two minutes of frantic panic when I couldn’t find him and saw the group of Asian tourists laughing at him through the window, I too could see the funny side. This child has been known to sleep with a soup ladle in hand because “you never know what you will want to eat when you get hungry in your dreams!”
Don’t you wish you were still a kid? The lack of inhibitions, the unlimited creativity. I sit in awe a lot of the time and just think, “What is going on in that little head?!”
When I was little, I always wanted to be an adult. I couldn’t wait to be able to do all the things adults did and have complete control over my life. Ha! Who was I kidding?! If I could do one thing now, it would be to reclaim some of that childhood essence. To not constantly be thinking about whether or not something is a good decision and to just do it! To not be worrying about how everything looks to the outside world. I have gotten better at this as I’ve gotten older. I think my 30’s is going to be the decade of finding that true comfort in who I am, but I would love to be able to really go back to that spontaneity, of feeling like doing something and so then just doing it, and not thinking about what people will think. Sure, I’m not going to go posing as a Portman’s mannequin, but would love to be so comfortable in who I am that if I wanted to, I would!