Showing posts with label Parenting. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Parenting. Show all posts

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Are birds smarter than humans?


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Are birds smarter than humans?

It’s possible.  In fact, the brain to body ratio in some birds equals that of dolphins and is almost the same as humans.

Why the focus on birds?  Am I about to “come out” of the bird watching closet?

Not quite.

I’ve been thinking a lot about parenting lately and I’ve come to the conclusion that birds make pretty good parents.  

They look after their eggs carefully, incubating them at the right temperature until they hatch.  They stay with their babies, feeding them and keeping them safe until they are old enough to venture from the nest.   They teach them to fly and teach them skills to keep them safe in the world.  Once they have done all that, they push them out of their nests and send them off to live their own lives.

I’m tired.  I’ve had enough of parenting.  It’s time to push my birds out of the nest.

There, I said it.

Are you shocked?   Disappointed in my attitude?

I didn’t say I don’t love my kids … I love them to bits.  More than I can ever express in words.
I’m just tired of parenting.  

Birds have got it right.  They equip their young with the skills they need to make it in the world then they push them out to fend for themselves.

This used to be the same for us humans.  If you go back a couple of generations most had left home by eighteen and were making their own way in the world.

Somewhere in between the previous generation and this one, things changed.  The game posts were moved.   All of a sudden our children didn’t move out of home.  Why would they?  Home was no longer a place they couldn’t wait to leave.   In fact, most of us have set our homes up so that our teenage children never want to go.   We build or buy homes that have plenty of room so the teenagers have their own space.  They can invite their friends over, there are less rules, their space is filled with every possible luxury – why on earth would they leave?

I am guilty as charged.  

However, there has been a shift.  It was subtle to start with, but now the subtlety has gone and the shift is more like a sledgehammer to my forehead.

My work is done here.  There is nothing more I can teach them.  They need to live their own lives and make their own mistakes to learn new lessons.

I’m tired of being responsible for my children.  They are now almost 21 and 19.  Their “stuff” is so much bigger now and I feel like I carry the worries of three adults.   They don’t ask me to do this, I just do it because I am a mother.  Their mother.  I love that they talk to me and tell me things, but on the flipside I don’t want to know everything they are doing because I worry too much.  I don’t want to know when they are out so I lay awake wondering when they are going to get home.  I don’t want to know if they get up and go to work or if they don’t.  I don’t want to be responsible for making sure they do the right thing anymore.  They need to be in charge of this now.   They want to be in charge of it.

I want to wake up in the morning and know my kitchen is exactly how I left it last night.  I don’t want to find remnants of late night toasted sandwich making.     

I want to wander through my home in my nightie and not have to worry that a twenty something man child, who is not my offspring, may also be wandering through my home.

I want to go to bed at night without sleeping lightly as I wait to hear them come home from their Friday and Saturday nights out.

I don't want to fight with them over the minutia of everyday life as we do now.  I want to have conversations with them, adult conversations and we can't do this while I am still mothering them. 

For the last twelve months I’ve wrestled with these thoughts and felt incredibly guilty.   At times I’ve felt like there was something wrong with me.  However after talking to other mothers with similar aged children I’ve found most of us feel the same.   We are all ready to start the next phase of our lives, unencumbered by children.  Free for the first time in over twenty years. 

Where does this leave our children?  Unloved?  Orphans?  Unwanted? Disposable?

Absolutely not … my boys couldn’t be more loved by me.  I will love them and care about them until the day I die.  

I just don’t want to care for them anymore and I know they don’t want me looking after them.  They are sick of my nagging and fussing and interfering.  We fight a lot at the moment.   I’m still trying to mother them and they are trying to be independent.   We are trying to live together but we all have different priorities.  The family unit has shifted, just as it should.  They are ready to start their own lives with their own boundaries – not mine. 

I’m not asking my boys to leave, nor am I kicking them out – I would never do that.  The changes occurring in our home are happening organically.  They are both talking about moving out as soon as they can afford to and I’m not feeling saddened by this.    It’s funny how things just happen and we are ready for them.  I remember when my boys were younger – the very thought of them moving away from home split my heart in two.  It wasn’t time then.  Now it is.

This is why birds push their offspring from the nest.  There isn’t enough room in the nest for a family of all adults and they know exactly when the time is right to send them off.  

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Thursday, May 24, 2012

I'm PUBLISHED!!


I am really proud to be a part of this wonderful project - Things They Didn't Tell You About Parenting - the eBook.



In a nutshell it is:
  • heartfelt stories by 32 of Australia’s most eloquent parenting bloggers, (I do believe I am one of these 32)
  • a foreword by Wendy Harmer, one of Australia’s best loved comedians,
  • an incredibly good cause at its heart; Foundation 18, sustainably supporting orphaned and underprivileged children in Indonesia (Bali),
  • the bargain price of AUD$4.99
When I was asked by Alison Tait late last year to be a part of this project I jumped at the opportunity.  Not only is it for a great cause, but this parenting gig is so very hard and at the same time so very precious.  The stories and anecdotes that fill this book will warm your heart, move you to tears and possibly have you cowering in the corner as you get a glimpse of the future as a parent!

Things They Didn't Tell You About Parenting is a must read for all parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles and those who are contemplating parenthood.    It is real, it is true and the stories are straight out of the homes and hearts of everyday people.

To be included in a book with these 31 parents and writers is beyond exciting for me.   It is an absolute honour.

For less than the price of coffee and cake in a cafe, you can buy this book, make yourself a cuppa and sit on the verandah or by the heater and read some amazing parenting stories.  You will also be helping 12 beautiful orphaned Indonesian girls enjoy some of things our children will never be without - food, shelter and education.  I couldn't think of anything nicer.



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Monday, May 14, 2012

Am I mum enough? I dare you to judge me.

So much judgement in the air at the moment.  Aimed squarely at the jaws of parents.  Mothers in particular.  Breastfeeding or not?  How long is too long?  Smacking, not smacking?  Body image for children.  Schooling private or state?  Early learning or not?  Stay at home or working mum?  The list of things we can judge other mums on seems to be endless.  Will it ever end?

My boys are 20 and 18 and I couldn't be happier.  I don't think I could stand the criticism if they were little right now.  I would not stack up and I am almost certain I wouldn't be mum enough in the eyes of many.

I was not and am not a perfect parent.  I didn't give it my best shot at all times.  Sometimes life was too hard and I was too focussed on myself.  Sometimes I couldn't be bothered cooking dinner and I gave my kids weetbix.  Sometimes I couldn't be bothered getting them ready for school so we all had doona days.  Sometimes they wore dirty socks to school.  Sometimes I wrote notes to say they didn't do their homework because of a family emergency - I was just too tired.   When I left my husband it was hard work.  I only had them 50% of the time I totally underestimated how difficult that would be.  To even begin to explain the difficulties of this will take a whole other blog post.

I was judged for leaving a seemingly perfectly good marriage for my own selfish reasons.  Do I regret that?  No way.  Did it alter the course of my children's lives?  Absolutely.  For the better?  I hope so, but I can never be sure.   Does this make me less of a mum?  Not in my eyes, but I'm sure in the eyes of the judgers it does.

I breast fed both my boys.  They both stopped at 6 months.  Does this make me a good mum or a bad mum?  They both went straight to cows milk at 6 months.  I hear the purists screaming now.  My boys are okay.  They always have been.  Their stomachs are healthy.  If they didn't wean themselves at 6 months I may have fed them for as long as they wanted.  I don't know this.  It didn't happen to me.  Whether I breastfeed for 1 day, 1 month, 3 years or 5 years, does it really matter?  Does it make us bad mothers because we do what suits us, our children and our lives?

My youngest had a dummy until he was 3.  People looked and judged.  I didn't care.  Okay I did care, but I shouldn't have.  His dummy was his security, something he needed.  Something I needed to ensure he settled at night.  Could I have done it differently?  Maybe.  But I didn't.  Doesn't make me a bad mother.

My children didn't have regular 6 monthly dental appointments.  They only went 3 times during their growing up years.  I have a dentist phobia.  Friends and family are horrified when I tell them this.  As you are reading this you are probably horrified too.  I took my kids when they were quite young and they were never going to need braces.  I took them again when they became teenagers, their teeth were all good.  I took them again in their later teens.  The older one needed some fillings and the younger one didn't.  The older one doesn't clean his teeth.  He doesn't like toothpaste.  I don't make him clean his teeth.  He is 20.  This is his problem.  He always had a toothbrush and toothpaste to use. The fact he doesn't has nothing to do with whether I am mum enough.

My boys were not academic.  They are both extremely smart.  They could be anything they want.  For the most part they have just chosen to cruise along, not really trying too hard.   I never pushed them to be anything different.  Should I have?  Would it have made me a better mother?  Maybe, but when you only have your children 50% of the time it is very difficult to keep up any form of consistency.  They will hit their straps at some point.  They see their parents and step parents work hard.  They understand working hard and the rewards it brings.  I'm seeing my youngest start to hit his straps now, despite the fact he dropped out of school in grade 11.  In fact he just walked in from work at 7.30 pm and said "I'm psyched.  I'm loving work.  I'm excited."  He's not a doctor, he's not an engineer, he's a salesman and I couldn't be prouder.  Does this make me mum enough?

Throughout all of this, over the past 20 years, the hard times, the good times and all the times in between, we all loved each other and everyone had a soft place to land.

My boys have both been in trouble.  They have messed up.  They have made some big mistakes. I have despaired for their futures.  There were times I worried they were actually going to survive the teenage years.  They have, and so have I.

The point I am making is there is so much I could be judged poorly on as a mother.  I am not even close to the "perfect model mother".  I don't care about this.  My boys are healthy, loving, good people.  They know how to love.  They know what is right and what is wrong.  They know how to be compassionate and they have empathy for others. 

A month ago I asked my youngest if he liked his childhood.  He said "mum I had the best childhood ever. I miss it so much now that I'm an adult."    That right there is all the judgement I need.

So many parents out there don't have perfect lives - in fact most of us don't.  Our circumstances are not always conducive to playing happy families.  There are a million different variables.  How about we all stop judging each other and start accepting that this parenting gig is tough.   When we meet in mother's groups instead of boasting about how good little Jemima is and how she can count to ten before she can say daddy, why not ask the mum who looks tired and sad if she's okay?  Maybe tell her about something that you are finding difficult so she doesn't feel like she is failing and alone. .

As mums we are all doing the same thing, we all have the same fears, the same concerns and most of all we want the same outcome for our children.  We want them to grow up to be happy.  

It's time to start playing nice and stop judging.


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Monday, April 2, 2012

Naked and Fifteen

A news story today about naked teenagers reminded me of my youngest's 15th birthday party.

My youngest's fifteenth birthday party still makes me shudder when I think about it.   This boy has never been one to toe the line.  Anyway, he wanted to have a 'sleep over' party for his fifteenth.   He had one for his fourteenth and it went off without a hitch and without the hint of alcohol.  They were warned (read threatened) that parents would be called immediately if there was.   They all slept in the garage and we didn't hear a thing.  Unfortunately our neighbour, who's bedroom was right near the garage ... well she didn't get too much sleep ... thankfully she was okay about it.

The fifteenth, well that was a whole new ball game.  This was the year that we found the bottle of scotch with black things floating around it it.  Turns out the scotch was now tea.  Mr 14 and his friend thought a bottle of scotch might be a nice afternoon tipple whilst at the skate park.  At the time, before I knew about the scotch, Mr 14 told me he had sun stroke which was why he was throwing up at 4pm in the afternoon.  The explanation for smelling like a brewery was that the older boys at the skate bowl threw goon on him.  I knew he was lying but there was no point pursuing it at the time.  In our house things always get found out one way or another.  At some point the piper gets paid :)    It all clicked when I found the scotch.  He fessed up and has not lived this down.

Anyway, back to the party.  I said he could have 5 boys over and NO alcohol.  He agreed.   They set up a little area around the side, I made finger food, one parent called to find out if there would be alcohol.  I said NO, but I couldn't guarantee that they wouldn't smuggle any in.  I would try my best, but if you know 15 year old boys, this is not easy.   She was okay with this.  Little did I know how easy it would be for them to smuggle it in.

They all seemed pretty good and I kept checking up on them every 30 minutes or so by taking out new food and clearing up mess.  My older son had invited two older friends over who were keeping an eye on things.  One of them was looking decidedly green and when I enquired as to how he was, he ran off to throw up.  I was concerned I was poisoning them with my finger food.  No, not quite.   Billy, bless him, was drinking Jaeger Bombs and happily sharing them with the other boys. I didn't think to check up on Billy, he was almost 18 and well, there was my big parenting fail that night.  Never, ever trust fellow teenagers who are almost 18 to supervise fifteen year old boys. Lock this tip away in your parenting toolbox!

Turns out I had a drunk group of boys on my hands.  I smelt the bottles of soft drink on the table and they were all full of alcohol.  I gathered them up and tipped them out.  By now it was 11.30 pm and I gave them the option of me calling their mothers to pick them up or they all had to come in and go to bed so I knew they were all safe.  I grilled them all and they weren't terribly drunk - not like Billy who was passed out upstairs on the bed.   They all came in.  Of course they did!

We had beds made up in the lounge room and I didn't go to bed until they were all in bed and looking like sleep wasn't far off.

I went to bed, exhausted.  Wondering what I might tell their mothers, if anything.  Only one mother seemed interested in no alcohol so perhaps I'd just tell her.

Next morning I get up and find 2 additional bodies sleeping downstairs.  .

When Mr 15 is up and his friends have all gone home - no mothers picked them up so I felt no obligation to tell them of the night's events.  If they called I would tell them.

I asked Mr 15 how the two additional boys got there.  He said, "um mum you might not really want to know".

I reassured him I did want to know!

It seems they met the two interlopers down the end of the street.  "And just when might you have been down the end of the street?" I asked.

"Well we thought it might be funny if we all went down to Hilder Road to do some naked running."

I am serious.  This really happened.

"And, did you all do this?" I asked, not really wanting to know the answer.

"Um yes we all did".

So picture this.  We have six 15 year old boys, running around one of the streets of our suburb at 12.30 am, NAKED  Plus another two who thought it might be fun to join in.

There is a part of me that finds this hysterical and wished I had an insight into how their strange little minds worked.  But the other part of me was horrified and panicked about what would have happened if one of them had been hit by a car.  Drunk.  Naked.  And in my care!!!

He was lectured for days to come about how when his friends stayed here I was responsible for them.

Needless to say this was the last sleepover birthday party held at our place.

Teenagers and alcohol presents such a dilemma.  I never, ever bought my boys alcohol when they were under age because I do think this is fundamentally wrong.  I know their friends bought it for them and I knew from age 16 both my boys used to drink at parties.   I took the path of accepting that they did drink.  It doesn't mean I liked it or encouraged it.  But I accepted it.  This way, if they ever got into any trouble, they could call me without worry of me flipping out because they had been drinking.  On a couple of occasions they did call me and I was glad.

Some mothers I know had no idea their children drank and had no idea when their son or daughter was passed out from too much alcohol, being cared for by friends.   I did not want to be these mothers.

I could have conversations with my boys about drinking knowing they were sharing experiences that either they or their friends had been through.  We could really dissect some dangerous situations and they learnt a lot  through this.  They still did some really dumb things and there were some times I didn't think they'd ever make it to 18 - but they both have.

I'm absolutely certain the dumb things aren't behind us yet, but I do know that all the way through, I've always known exactly who my kids are and they've always known they can come to me when they are in trouble.   I just wasn't expecting it to be so often!

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How I Measure My Parenting Success

If someone was to ask me which stage of raising children was the hardest my answer would always be the same ... "whatever age they are right now" I would say.   I look back and remember thinking how I couldn't wait for each stage to be over.  Now that they are almost 20 and 18 I have finally realised that each stage is designed to ease you into the next harder stage.

I think the last year has by far been the hardest stage for me and my boys.  I say this even after some stages have included drugs, wagging school, alcohol, shoplifting, bad tempers, stitches, broken arms x 4 and various other "interesting" moments!  We won't even talk about sex.  Nope let's leave the sex for another day!

It sounds a lot like my boys have been left to run feral without any discipline or supervision.   To be totally honest, on some days they were.   Some days it was just too hard to be the boss.  It was too hard to deal with the fights.  It was too hard to be tough.

A popular saying is "small children ... small problems; bigger children ... bigger problems".  This has never rang truer for me than now.  When your children are younger their problems are easier to fix.   You have more control over their actions and how to direct them in the future.  As they get older, not so.   They are full of hormones and attitude and are trying to find their own space in the world.  They don't want to be controlled ... they want to be in charge of their own destiny.  This is normal.  This is meant to happen.  As a parent, I found this part difficult to deal with.  The time when your child, the one who thinks you are way cooler than anyone, suddenly realises you aren't that perfect.  This is a moment of truth for parents.   This is a defining moment in your ongoing relationship with your child.

When I look back over 20 years of parenting,  I initially think there would be some things I'd change, but then when I delve deeper I know that I wouldn't have been able to.  When you bring up teenagers in a home where they don't live with both their mum and dad and they have "step others" involved in the parenting process, it opens up a whole new world of parenting pain.  Everyone involved has the best of intentions, but they do not always translate.

We faced all kinds of difficulties, clashes of personalities, battles of will and anything else in between.  The way I parented was different to how I would have parented had our family remained in tact, I had no choice in that.  Rather than being a strict parent and making rules and ensuring they are followed, I was more like a boundary rider.  Keeping everything calm, ignoring things that should have been addressed for the sake of keeping the peace.  

Despite the rocky road, I'm now watching my boys grow into men who I am proud of.  They are kind, loving, decent and both have hearts of gold - that said they still have not so nice teenage traits, which I'm led to believe hang around until they are at least 25!

Both my boys still kiss me morning and night, as well as their step father, and they still tell me they love me every single day.  They talk to me about their problems and they tell me about things that happen in their life.   This is my true measure of whether or not I've done a good job.     What's yours?

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Thursday, March 1, 2012

An EXTRA SEVEN Years!!

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Many of my friends have children much younger than mine.  They are only just embarking on the scary journey that is "teenagerhood".  Me?  I'm  nearing the end of it with an almost 20 year old and an 18 year old.  Hang on a minute.   Nearing the end?  I should already be at the end.   Why do I still have a twenty year old at home?   My original parenting plans had calculated that eighteen was the end date.  At eighteen, I would be cutting the apron strings, pushing them out the door and putting my feet up with a huge sigh.  Right?  Nope.  Not so.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Taking a Break

I am currently smack bang in the middle of my end of year break.  Every December M & I go away, just the two  of us (and the doggie).  We don't take my teenage boys, this is our time.  We are a blended family and believe it is extremely important to take some time out, sans children.

We stay just outside of Kingscliff  in Northern NSW at Casuarina.  It is quiet, peaceful, and so relaxing.   We always go before the Christmas Holiday rush to ensure we experience it at its most peaceful time.

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