So, those of you that have been clicking on my blog since the beginning, know that my beautiful surprise package of a daughter is pretty much one of my biggest life achievements. In 3rd year uni, my now husband (then boyfriend) and I found out that we were pregnant. Long story cut short, the next 9 months were a roller coaster that ended in the birth of the most beautiful and amazing bub, who has blown us away since the day she was born.
Fast forward 13 years and all of sudden, that beautiful, amazing bub is a teenager, who is well on the way to becoming a beautiful and amazing young woman.
That’s right, my beautiful baby girl who, it feels like just yesterday, was a toddler reading Mem Fox and watching the Wiggles, is now a 13 year old thrust into the depths of Instagram and The Hunger Games.
What no one tells you about this age, is the grief that you will process as you watch your daughter go from a naive, innocent little girl into a young woman…...confident, independent and self assured. Becoming more and more her own person and less and less your little girl.
My girl and I have always been close. We shared a lot of the same interests….Drama, Dance, Reading…...I helped her with eisteddfods, we read the same books and then watched the movies together, I sewed her costumes, did her stage makeup and hair sprayed her hair within an inch of its life.
And then, 2 months ago, I took her into the local theatre for a dance performance, walked her down into the dressing rooms, she turned to me and said…..
“It’s ok Mum, I’ll see you after.”
And I turned, and walked up to the food court next door and ate Red Rooster chips on my own!
The two hours prior to every dance performance that I had spent with my girl, the quick changes that I was there to help whip her from one costume to the next, the bobby pins, hairspray, red lipstick and ballet ribbons that I was there for…...I was no longer needed for.
And I sat…..in the middle of a shopping centre food court and stared into space. If it wasn’t such a public place, I think I would have cried!!!! Those two hours that I would usually be in, amidst the chaos and hustle and bustle of a pre show preparation, was all happening….and my girl was coping…..on her own.
There are stages in your parenting life that no one ever tells you about. Some parts of the birth (thank God, or no one would ever procreate again!), the agonising pull that you feel in your heart as you watch them confidently skip into Kindergarten, barely looking back to even wave. And of course the first day of Year 7, when they want you to just drop them at the gate because they have already organised, via Instagram direct messages, when and where to meet their friends and begin their High School experience.
But for some reason, this stage, where I was no longer required backstage, was my moment. It was the moment when I realised that my little girl was no longer…..my little girl. She was a young lady…...and before I know it she will be a young woman.
And in the meantime, I am grieving. Grieving the time that I had with my little girl that now has progressed into me dropping her at the movies, to meet up with friends and looking at me with petrified eyes if I even mention taking her little brother to the same movie whilst we wait!
It’s one of those things. Those things that you never get told about. Everyone tells you about the first moments of walking, talking, first day of school, first day of dance classes…..but no one tells you about the moment, when they turn around and say, “It’s OK Mum, I got this. I’ll see you later.”
And you just have to walk away…..because your little girl has grown into a resilient, independent young lady….who really has got this. This is what you wanted. This is what you were working towards….but when the moment hits….It’s hard. Really hard.
But you know what?
I’ll be ok. It’s not about me. Me raising my daughter is not about me. It’s about raising a young woman who will go out into this world and take it by storm.
And at age 13, as a young, confident, creative and intelligent young lady, I have nothing to worry about…..
Now excuse me while I just go and grab some more tissues!
So, I am a Q&A geek. I have been told on numerous occasions (usually when I say, “Well, on Q&A last night….”) that this is not a normal TV show for the average 34 year old to watch, but I love it. I love watching the heated discussions, even when I don’t understand exactly what it is that they are discussing. Maybe it makes me feel smarter than I actually am! I feel like I am getting a bit more of an insight into our country and our world than I usually get from Big Brother or Offspring. (Although if we all lived a little more like Nina Proudman, the world would definitely be more entertaining!)
And then I was watching last night, I didn’t just feel smarter…..I knew, for a fact, that I was smarter than one male representative on the panel!
Steve Price. I actually felt for you at one point. You just kept digging….deeper and deeper and deeper. Until you hit rock bottom.
The eloquent and brave questioner, Tarang Chawla politely asked about what was currently being done about Violence against Women……
What he received back is an example of exactly what needs to change.
I don’t hate Steve Price, in fact I sometimes even agree with his no nonense, practical approach to the world and the chaos that surrounds it, but last night was just embarrassing.
“If you listen to that broadcast in context, it was a bunch of blokes laughing about things they shouldn’t have laughed about.”
Yep, exactly right. It was a bunch of blokes laughing about things they shouldn’t have laughed about…..or said, and this is exactly the culture that we are trying to change.
This is exactly what I want my 7 year old son to know if wrong.
That we don’t want blokes to be making light of being violent against a woman. That we don’t want blokes rolling their eyes because the bloody woman is going on again. That we don’t want blokes to joke around about the little woman and what they would do to keep her quiet. The fact that the joke was even made, means that that bunch of blokes are doing all of those things.
The problem is not that it was taken out of context. Or that it was made too big a deal of.
The problem is that, in context, it was a bunch of blokes laughing about things that should NEVER have been said.
And the fact that your defence against what was said and done was that ‘it was just a bunch of blokes laughing about something that they shouldn’t have laughed about,” is just further proof that you don’t get it.
The Aussie stereotype….something that every proud Australian can recite on demand. It comes up in classroom discussions all the time and, as if on cue, kids from as young as five can list off those traits that we are all so proud of. Laid back, relaxed, easy going, good sportsmanship…...What? Sportsmanship? Really?
I’ll be completely honest and say that I am an outsider when it comes to sport. Heavily involved in the Arts but never played sport as a kid. Hubby does, my kids do and, as a family, we love to watch Wimbledon, the AFL or a Premier League football match as much as the next Aussie family. What I am struggling with at the moment….is how we can say that as a nation, good sportsmanship is one of our stereotypical traits.
Before you shoot me down, or yell abuse at me, or give me the finger…..I will let you know that I have already been told that I’m wrong. That, as an outsider, I ‘just don’t get it.’ At the end of most AFL matches, as the crowd is hurling abuse at the umpires as they leave through the tunnel, when I am sitting there in disbelief that people could be so UNsportsmanlike, I have been met with rolled eyes and then told that ‘it’s just part of the game.’
Well, you know what? If that’s just part of the game, then I really don’t understand how we can say that we are good sports. Yelling at the refs, the umpires, the officials, and usually not just yelling, actually hurling abuse at these men and women……
Hmmmmm, great sports. And it’s just part of the game.
It’s become just so much a part of the game, that our local soccer clubs are introducing the concept of ‘silent sideline weeks,’ where spectators have to be…..well, silent. They aren’t introducing this because of the fantastic sportsmanship being shown on the sidelines. These weeks are being introduced because of the ongoing verbal abuse that is being served up to the volunteer, and often under 18, referees, week after week.
Hmmmmm….great sportsmanship.And then there is our lovable local hero, Kyrgios. Calling his close supporters ‘retards,’ hurling abuse at the umpire during pretty much every game and then behaving like a sulky two year old during his press conferences afterwards. Only one guy, I know. But an international elite sportsman, who, like it or not, is (or should be) a role model for the next generation of sportsmen and women.
Am I saying that the stereotype is wrong? No.
Am I saying that all Aussies are bad sports? No.
Am I saying that Aussies shouldn’t be passionate about their sport? Their team? Their code? No.
What I am saying is this……
We are losing that stereotype. We keep claiming it as a national trait. That Aussies are known for their fairness, their willingness to give everyone a go and...their good sportsmanship. And yet, when you turn on the footy (no matter what the code), or go to your kid’s soccer match, or watch our young up and coming tennis stars, there is a lot of evidence to the contrary.
What I am saying is this….
That if we are going to continue to claim this as part of the good old Aussie stereotype, then we actually need to live up to it.
We need to earn it.
So it’s school holidays…..
Yes, I hear the collective sigh of relief from my fellow teachers….(combined with the pouring of a glass or two of your best celebratory vino!)
And Yes, I also hear the collective groan from those parents that have to take the two weeks off work, spend two weeks worth of pay on holiday child care or have to stretch the friendship with grandparents, aunties, uncles or neighbours while they beg them to have the kids for a day here or there….(also coupled with the pouring of your best, or stongest, but most likely not celebratory vino!)
The last week of school for me basically revolved around the bi annual Parent/Teacher Interview. And you know what, although it means a week of staying back at school until well after dark, as well as getting there ridiculously early for those before work parent interviews, I have to say that I really enjoyed this year’s interviews.
It’s always hard….it’s a week of difficult conversations. A week of awkward moments when parents realise that their pride and joy, who up until now (at the age of 5) they were sure was a rocket scientist in the making, has spent most of the year licking the glue sticks and staring off into space. It’s when you have to discuss the behaviour issues that have been occurring daily and often have to strongly convince parents that their child’s behaviour is not the fault, influence or bad choices of another child, but in fact, of the child themselves.
This year however, I thoroughly enjoyed my interviews….and here’s why.
Often in Kindergarten, that first interview can revolve around the topic of resilience. It’s a skill that we hone in on early in Kindergarten, as these gorgeous pre schoolers transition into the school setting and, both the parent and the student, realise that there are a lot of things that this kid can actually do for themselves. And as a single teacher, in a classroom of 5 year olds, doing things for themselves is actually not always a choice, but a necessity. The sheep are quickly sorted from the lambs, as those that can cope with the unexpected and can problem solve are left staring blankly at the child who doesn’t know what to do when they can’t find a pink crayon….(For those non teachers in the room, the solution is to pick another colour…..cause Mum is not here to go and buy you another pink one the minute you demand it and Mrs Not Another Supermum has 23 other children who also are trying to pick a colour.)
As teachers, the topic is often raised about when we were kids…..and when we did something wrong at school our parents would whack us on the backside with the wooden spoon and tell us to behave ourselves….or else! The current reality is, that in many similar situations in 2016, when the child goes home with the story or the teacher rings the parent to discuss an issue, we are often greeted with how it is another child’s fault or how the story that their child is telling them is so different from what they are hearing from us (ie, I am lying and their 5 year old is telling the truth) or, always my favourite, the child’s behaviour is actually my fault because I just don’t understand them.
This year seemed to be the return of the practical parent!
My interviews were filled with awesome discussions about the child, their behaviour, their learning and a practical approach to where to from here. And as their teacher, who believe it or not, is as passionate about your child’s development both academically and emotionally as you are, this is a breath of fresh air.
As a society, perhaps we are becoming more aware of the ‘cotton wool’ generation and genuinely want our kids to grow up to be resilient, problem solving and confident human beings. I was met with parents who, mostly, were completely aware of their child’s strengths and opportunities for growth (note the politically correct teacher talk ). And as teacher, I can tell you that this is hugely refreshing.
I am on your side. We teachers want your child to grow academically, we want your child to be compassionate, caring and aware of others. You and I want the same things and if we are both real about this, then the journey is going to be, not just productive, but exciting!
My job as a teacher, is not just to teach your child the curriculum. My job as a teacher, is to help your child become a better human being. I am hoping that by the end of their 12 months with me (or with all of my amazing colleagues, both past and present), they are a better learner, friend and human being. Part of that journey is a joint commitment from the both of us. You trusting me to, not only teach your child to read and write, but also teach them to negotiate, to walk away, to problem solve and to use their initiative. And I am trusting you to back me. To trust that I have the whole picture. That, academically, socially and emotionally, I know what the end goal is.
In recent years, the ‘cotton wool’ generation has become more and more evident, and it hasn’t just been the teachers of the world that have noticed. I am a parent and I am a teacher. And I want both my own children, as well as those that I teach, to be resilient, to be problem solvers and to be strong, confident and well rounded little humans.
This is a journey that we are walking together, you and I, and the last week has me thinking that maybe, just maybe, we are all on the way back up.