Tag Archives: mother

Miscellaneous Mutterings

Since I’ve been doing the Blogging A-Z April Challenge, I’ve developed some kind of additional neurosis…some kind of mutation, which has been completely overlooked by the DSM Manual, otherwise known as “the psychologists’ Bible”.

M is for Monkey

M is for Monkey

Every morning, no sooner than I’ve inhaled my kick-starting coffee, it all begins. I start jibber-jabbering away to myself and all sorts of words start cycling and recycling through my clunky head as I try to pick my word to go with the day’s letter. You see, I am now halfway through the Blogging A-Z April Challenge and with each passing day, the jibber-jabbering is only getting worse…the proverbial broken record.

Being a new recruit to the challenge, I didn’t realise until it all got underway that people generally write to a theme and turn it into quite a project. That’s right. This challenge goes way beyond simply reciting the alphabet and writing about “A is for apple”. My theme has ended up being “A few of my favourite things” and I’ve also been following the challenge on other blogs where I’ve been blown away by the amount of research involved and have learned so much!!

M is for Monster

M is for Monster

While I have written a list of topics for each letter, some days I’ve revisited it and changed my mind.

For some reason, trying to pick something for M today has had me muttering more than usual.

Mummy

Mummy

In a sense, M has to be Mummy, which I guess could also be M for Me. However, the trouble with writing about my journey as a Mum or about myself as “Mummy” is to come up with an angle that isn’t sickly sweet and sugar-coated or isn’t some never-ending whinge to end all whinges, leaving you all wondering why I ever had kids and thinking I don’t deserve them.

Next.

I did consider M for Manual, as in receiving a parenting manual when you give birth so you know what to do. After all, here in Australia, you have to sit a tough written test to get your Learner’s Permit before you can even start learning to drive a car Yet, when it comes to becoming a parent and leaving the hospital with your bundle of joy, there is no test. No licence required. You’re just left on your “pat malone” with what often turns out to be, quite a complex little bundle.

However, once I explored the manual concept further, I actually decided that I really didn’t want a manual or any kind of prescription telling me how to parent my kids. After all, being a bit of a free-thinking, creative type whose journey pretty much goes off road well beyond the road less traveled, I don’t want to create a pair of robots and I really don’t want to become a robot myself. I do try to have a routine during term time but come school holidays, I really do like to mix it up a bit, go away and explore something new but also just hang out. We all need to recharge a bit for another school term.

So, before I’d even written a word, I’d eliminated Mummy, motherhood, parenting manual and if you knew me in real time, you’d know that minimalist isn’t me. No, it’s definitely not me at all although I do appreciate those that fastidiously declutter their homes. They drop all sorts of fascinating treasures off at the op shop, which I snap and re-house. After all, treasure should never be homeless. We just need to get a bigger home or open a museum.

G'day Mate: a typical Aussie male greeting often used to disguise the fact they can't even remember their best friend's name.

G’day Mate: a typical Aussie male greeting often used to disguise the fact they can’t even remember their best friend’s name.

I had originally been intending to write about miracles, which ties into what became something of a life mission to “turn my mountain around”. You see, I have an auto-immune disease called dermatomyositis as well as a neurological condition, hydrocephalus, which both give me some mobility challenges. In 2012, our family went on our first trip to the snow and although the rest of the family was going skiing, I didn’t think I could do it. Instead, I bought a pair of snow boots and intended to photograph the snow instead. However, on arrival, we spotted the Paraolympic ski team, who were out zooming down the slopes on sit skis.  This sowed a seed of doubt and I started to wonder whether I, too, could ski. We had a chat with them and they introduced me to the Disabled Winter Sports Association. We couldn’t get organised in time for that trip but I set myself a goal for the following year to ski down the mountain and in effect, turn my mountain around. In what really was quite a miracle, although it also took a fairly large dose of courage and encouragement from the family and my ski instructor, I made it down the mountain and turned my mountain around going down instead of up the mountain.

M is for mountain From Alphabet by Paul Thurlby Published by Templar Publishing

M is for mountain From Alphabet by Paul Thurlby
Published by Templar Publishing

I was so excited and on such a high, that I forgot all about the laws of physics and that what goes up, must come down.

Before we’d even left the skifields, I developed the first signs of a chest infection, which despite preventative measures, turned into a life-threatening bout of pneumonia and my auto-immune disease flared up and was attacking my lungs. Before I knew it, my life was flashing before my eyes and instead of being on top of the world, I was having chemo and fighting for my life.

Of course, this totally flipped my mountain back around and in the process it turned dark, stormy and very foreboding.

This wasn’t how my story, the motivational book I was working towards, was supposed to end up. This wasn’t the plot I’d worked out. No, it was anything but. I put the book writing plans on hold. Indeed, I was so sick that I didn’t have a choice.

You can read about my ski challenge here: https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2013/09/11/turning-my-mountain-around/

However, if you know anything about Joseph Campbell and the hero’s journey, you’ll know that any journey has it’s complications or challenges but that doesn’t mean that’s where the journey ends. No, instead, we’re supposed to tackle those complications and work them  out and ultimately reach that perfect happy ending. We just need to make sure we don’t give up half way before things start turning around and starting to work out. Moreover, once we reach that happy state we need to end that journey before another journey begins, taking us to a completely new destination with a whole new set of complications, challenges and rewards.

While at first thought, it might seem desirable to get rid of all the mountains in our way to make the road smooth, without these mountains, we would never be stretched and grow to take on tougher challenges. We’d never find out what we are made of. This would be a serious loss because, through my own journey, I’ve truly come to appreciate that each of us is truly capable of doing and being way more than we ever thought possible.

Indeed, each of us is a living, breathing human miracle.

We just need to believe.

It seems that I should have had a bit more faith in my miscellaneous mutterings. It’s been quite an interesting journey and I actually found a destination after all.

Indeed, it could even be motivational.

xx Rowena

PS Geoff was doing a few miscellaneous mutterings of his own today after driving the kids all the way to their Scout Camp and finding out our daughter;’s daypack had been left behind. Unfortunately, she’d put most of her essentials inside and so a very loving Dad is driving all the way back to Nelson Bay to drop it off again tomorrow. Mutter…mutter…mutter!

PPS: Bilbo, our Border Collie, has added his howls to the mutterings tonight. Somehow, he managed to fall in the swimming pool. I had a friend over for dinner and we heard a splash follow by a few more splashes and the poor boy was desperately trying to pull himself out. I am so relieved I was within ear shot. Poor Bilbo. He doesn’t even like to get his paws wet so this was really quite an ordeal!!

Diagnosis: A Rough Week!

Just because things could always be worse, that doesn’t mean they couldn’t be better! Or, that you haven’t been through some kind of traumatic “Beam me up Scotty” experience where only bits of you have returned back down to earth. You’re feeling strangely fragmented and more than a little bit shell-shocked.

You should never have to apologise for these less than spectacular moments just because they don’t turn out to be something major. You are still having to go through the same hoops and they aren’t usually much fun in themselves either.

At the same time, these stresses can create post-traumatic growth because even though you might feel dreadful at the time, you are actually becoming “Tonka tough”. Through building up resilience, hardship adds new whiz bang state-of-the-art equipment to your personal tool box so you can fly and literally soar beyond all the crap and off into the blue yonder. That is, once you’ve cleared the ground.

“The heaviest of burdens crushes us, we sink beneath it, it pins us to the ground. But in love poetry of every age, the woman longs to be weighed down by the man’s body.The heaviest of burdens is therefore simultaneously an image of life’s most intense fulfillment. The heavier the burden, the closer our lives come to the earth, the more real and truthful they become. Conversely, the absolute absence of burden causes man to be lighter than air, to soar into heights, take leave of the earth and his earthly being, and become only half real, his movements as free as they are insignificant. What then shall we choose? Weight or lightness?”
― Milan Kundera, The Unbearable Lightness of Being (somewhat chauvinistic but still a good quote.)

We’ve had a pretty grueling week taking our 9 year old daughter to have a Barium Meal and an endoscopy to test for things like coeliac’s disease and other gastric nasties  So, it’s no wonder I’m feeling awful and I’m left wishing I’d snatched the anaethesetic mask off her face and breathed deep, so deep that I’d still be asleep. Not that I want to make it permanent. It’s just that after all this stress,  a good dose of anaethesetic is just what the patient’s mother has ordered.

“Name…Date of Birth…” Asks the nurse.

Damn! It’s pretty obvious I’m not a 9 year old girl.

Neither of these tests were nice or something you put your child through unless you’re pretty sure there’s  a problem. After all, they’re not an ice cream taste test challenge. In the case of the Barium Meal, it involves feeding a little person who is quite the non-eater  yucky, chalky tasting stuff. In the case of the endoscopy, they’ll be shoving a camera down into her stomach on a long tube. On top of that, there’s also the scariness of going into hospital and her terror that if she’s coeliac, that she’ll have to be gluten free and “never be able to eat party food ever again”. I don’t think the whole thing of having a camera fed done into her stomach had even sunk in and we certainly weren’t pressing the point. She was being so brave and courageous but she did want it over and done with.

As I said, you don’t put your child through all of that without very good reason. Our Miss is quite underweight and has trouble eating more than just a sparrow-sized meal. I have written sagas about sandwiches returning home untouched. That’s annoying and wasteful. However, the real gripe with all of this, is the shocking bad moods as her blood sugar plummets and Miss Jekyl returns home. These mood swings alone justify a swag of medical tests as they can be very draining.

By the  way, I should also mentioned that I’ve been through these tests myself. I can’t really remember the Barium Meal and I just remember the post-anaethesetic haze when I woke up from the endoscopy. I’ve been through much worse and they really are relatively minor tests but it’s very different watching your 9 year old daughter going through it than doing  it yourself. Indeed, so much worse that I really could have used that anaethesetic.

“for there is nothing heavier than compassion. Not even one’s own pain weighs so heavy as the pain one feels with someone, for someone, a pain intensified by the imagination and prolonged by a hundred echoes.”
Milan Kundera, The Unbearable Lightness of Being

Anyway, the tests began with the Barium Meal swallow on Monday. Needless to say, I worked myself up into quite a frenzy, wondering if she’d actually swallow the stuff or stubbornly refuse or even throw it up? I expected tears, protests and the biggest tantrum ever recorded and was truly bracing myself for the worst.Consequently, Geoff took the day off work and came with us and I’m sure that helped to maintain the peace because she was fine and handled it all like her mother.

Then, we had to wait for the results..

Stick any sort of probe into your body’s dark and mysterious innards and you have to be prepared that they’ll find something you might not want to be found. Now, I’m not talking about that secret pot of gold you buried in there years ago or other forms of hidden treasure. I’m talking about all those potential nasties which could be lurking in your body that you don’t want to know about. You have to be prepared that one of these has moved into your body and may not be willing to leave. Of course, Google fuels all these fears better than kerosene hurled on an open fire, lading to all cyberchondria is all it’s numerous mutations.

For our daughter,  the Barium Meal test was looking for structural anomalies such as a twist in the oesophagus. I quickly decided that we didn’t want this…especially when I read that the appendix can also be in the wrong place and need to come out as well. All of a sudden, I pictured our precious baby girl being carved up like a lamb roast as they seemingly rearranged and extracted her insides. My goodness. I quickly exited that diagnosis. Yes, we were definitely not having that…not that you can pick and choice your diagnosis or its severity but we all like to think illness is like a shopping list and we can have some degree of choice about which diagnosis we put in the trolley. Ha!

When it comes to medical test results, there’s the good news, the bad news and the inevitable inconclusive question mark. Obviously, we all want the good news but if everything was fine why was there a need for the tests in the first place? As long as there’s effective treatment, the bad news may not be quite so bad as it first seems if the problem can either be fixed or managed. However, the more I think about it, the inconclusive question mark might just be the worst result of all. Being neither good nor bad, this can easily fall into the rare disease category where you start hearing phrases like: “we don’t really know” and “I’ve never seen this before.”

Trust me! I know all about that!!

Anyway, the Barium Meal test went well and was relatively uneventful, although she did complain about the taste.On the other hand, she said that the x-ray equipment was great fun because it twirled her around. That was an unexpected joy so you can’t predict how these things are going to pan out!

The results were great and came back without a glitch!!

With Thursday being the endoscopy down in Sydney and a hospital admission and all, I just wanted Wednesday to go smoothly without any complications and for everything and everyone to leave us alone so we could be prepared. Of course, this is almost like an invitation for all those nasties concealed in Pandora’s Box to suddenly fly free and attack and that’s exactly what happened.

Our daughter was feeling sick and so she stayed home from school. Our son, who is notorious for being unable to find his shoes, was missing one shoe and saying he couldn’t go to school. What’s more, he was really starting to rev up with something of an Oscar- winning drama performance  and was refusing to look for the absent shoe  and was leaving me to do all the hard work, while throwing out incendiary devices such as: “You hate me!” Did I mention that he was still playing Minecraft through all of this? I was fuming!!! I was pulling out every trick in the book to get him to budge and eventually he moved. Found his shoe in a completely different room to where I’d found the other shoe and he was off to school. That drama was frustratingly stressful and very, very draining.

After a recharging cup of tea, the day was proceeding well and we were mentally psyching ourselves up for the big day.

That was until the phone rang. It was the school. I don’t like it when the school rings because they obviously never just call up for a social chit chat. There’s always a drama involved and while sometimes it’s simply a one Act play. More often than not, we’re talking the full four acts and an encore performance.

Mister had been hit on the head with a didgeridoo and wasn’t feeling well. Could I come and pick him up. What the @#$%?!!!! What were the chances?

It could only happen in Australia! Moreover, it could only happen to our son and at the most inconvenient moment. We specialise in statistically rare disasters in this house.

When you think about your child’s head doing battle with a didgeridoo,  being a hollowed out lump of wood, you don’t need much imagination to start seeing stars, concussion, a fractured skull, emergency brain surgery and,,,and…and…Oh yes! There’s also missing the signs of all of the above and we all know what that means.

I didn’t need to be thinking about taking our son of to Emergency with a suspected skull fracture not to mention bleeding on the brain the night before we’re taking our daughter off to hospital. I understand that parenting often involves a lot of multitasking but seriously this is all a bit much for even us to handle at once. We’re only human. Dear Lord, please remember that. We’re only made of flesh and blood and we can only take so much.

However, he refused to go to the doctor and perked up and went off to the cafe with my mum and Miss, while I went and had my blood test in preparation for my specialist appointment. Then I was off to my violin lesson and a talk at the high school. It was a very busy night…especially when, as I said, we just wanted peace..peace almost at any price!!

But this is my life we’re talking about and it is heavily influenced by Mrs Murphy’s Law. That’s right. Mrs Murphy says Murphy was an optimist.

Staying up way too late again writing on the blog, I was just getting out of my chair to go to bed when my good ankle crunched and I was in agony. Not as bad as when I broke my foot but certainly up there. I started to wonder what the chances were of breaking the 5th metatarsal on the left foot while the right foot was still healing? Then again, there’s odds and statistics and then there’s me.

My mother often says we were born underneath an unlucky star and as much as I try to prove her wrong, sometimes I succumb. Putting my good foot out of action the night before Miss goes to hospital…this was no conspiracy theory. Bad luck not only follows me. It eats me on toast. Not that I’m complaining or whingeing. The situation is what it is but as much as I have rotten luck, I’ve had so much experience fighting back and overcoming all this crap now, that I’ve developed a fight back routine which not only puts me back in the box seat. It also makes me better prepared for the next round.

So, after somehow getting through Wednesday, it was Thursday and we were off to Sydney to take Miss to hospital for the endoscopy.

By this stage, I’d all but decided our daughter has coeliac disease and I’ve been trying to get my head around becoming gluten-free. She has been very upset about the possibility of having to be gluten free and had a complete meltdown over never being able to eat party food again. These are big things for a kid and not easily dismissed with the usual Australian cop out: “she’ll be right, mate” and I didn’t try either.

Rather, I suggested that she try not to think about it too much and get busy doing something else and if she’s gluten free, we’ll deal with it then. I also reminded her that other people we know are gluten free and they still have yummy foods. It’s not the end of the world. Actually, coeliac’s disease can be quite serious but I didn’t want to stress that. From my experience, coming to terms with bad news is a bit like trying to eat an elephant. You’re best digesting it one mouthful at a time and not in one, painfully large gulp. This, of course, is the danger of Googling your symptoms and doing a selfie diagnosis. You can read the very worst cases and swallow too much information at once and even make yourself terminally ill!!

We are still waiting for the final results. So far they haven’t found signs of coeliac’s  but it seems her stomach may have delayed emptying. We’ll just have to wait and see, which I hope means whatever it is, it isn’t too severe.

Meanwhile, although I’m not superstitious but it’s Friday 13th today and of course the bad luck didn’t leave me alone. I might not have seen that wretched black cat cross my path but I know it was there. Otherwise, how would you account for yet another nasty fall this week and my right  foot back in the boot?

That’s right. The boot is back on the right foot.

Yes, I am feeling annoyed about it all and just because these falls are frequent, it doesn’t mean they don’t hurt even if I’m smiling. That I don’t need a hug or a bit of TLC. I might be strong but I’m still human and I bleed.

Do you have any experiences you would like  to share? Living with ongoing, resistant adversity isn’t easy though we triumph and inspire. If you are also traveling in this boat along with us, we send you our love, compassion and understanding. Take care!!

Love & Blessings,

Rowena

PS: BY the way, I just found out that it is ironically National Coeliac Awareness Week in Australia 13=20th March. See here for more information:

http://www.coeliac.org.au/

Getting Unstuck…the Greenhouse We Built.

Forget The House that Jack Built. The house our daughter built was stuck together with bits of sticky tape…an absolute engineering marvel! With its flimsy walls teetering precariously, it was one of the great wonders of the modern world before it was condemned and rebuilt.

Although our daughter is only 8, Miss usually shows more of an aptitude for engineering than this. She enjoys things like mechanics and working on the car with her Dad and usually asks me how things work and likes to put things together properly, unlike her “creative” mother. The sticky tape is my bad influence. I’m the sort of person who cuts corners and used to have staples or safety pins holding my school uniform together…even at a “posh” school. I couldn’t give a damn about how something works. Near enough is good enough. I am more interested in people and what makes them tick.

Although I am usually the sticky tape queen, as the greenhouse was designed for kids, I thought we should be able to put it together properly and give the thing at least a reasonable chance of survival. As it stood, or should I say leaned, it would fly over the fence in pieces with the first gust of wind

The house my daughter built was actually Jamie’s Greenhouse, part of Woolworth’s Jamie Oliver’s Garden  promotion. This promotion is based around an informative sticker book for the kids which is literally bursting with all sorts of facts about fruit and veg, games, recipes and is super educational. You pay for $4.00 for the book and then get a pack of stickers for every $20.00 you spend, luring hapless parents and grandparents back into Woollies for fresh supplies. At $4.00 each, this book was an absolute gift and has kept the kids busy for hours doing something other than playing on some electronic life form. These books have spread like wildfire through the schools and the kids are all trading stickers, even if they’re still overlooking the healthy fruit and veg in their lunchboxes.

Swap Your Stickers

You can check out the campaign by clicking through here:http://www2.woolworthsonline.com.au/Shop/Seasonal/Jamie-Oliver?hubID=11#url=/Shop/Seasonal/Jamie-Oliver-Jamies-Garden

 

Well, we were frolicking around in fruit and veg sticker heaven until…

Our daughter asked me to buy Jamie’s Greenhouse, a seemingly innocuous sidekick to the whole campaign. I love gardening and when I saw the package, I was reminded of my previous intentions to start a veggie patch with the kids. This is more of a herb garden but it’s certainly a step in the right direction and preferable to buying yet another soft toy. You see, the campaign also includes a range of stuffed toy fruit and veg and yes I know I could have said no and bought our daughter nothing at all but we all know that’s not how it works.

Anyway, while Jamie’s Greenhouse came disguised in cute cardboard packaging covered with child-like drawings, it is what it is. It’s an Ikea flatpack in kiddies’ clothing…only this time it is your child who is supposed to do battle with the bits and pieces building an entire house…not just a bookshelf or a desk.

That’s right. They get to build an entire house out of a few flimsy bits of plastic.

Yeah…right!!

Actually, constructing this Greenhouse is making an Ikea project look very Simple Simon . After all, when you go to Ikea, you don’t buy an entire house in their trademark flat packs and have to put it together before you can get a good night’s sleep. Of course not! You just buy “bits”.

The only piece of furniture which I’ve ever been game enough to buy from Ikea was a humble desk. In other words, a single piece of furniture. My Dad was much more adventurous. He actually bought a table and 6 chairs and almost gave up his day job to put them all together. So much for running his business!

Ikea’s approach is so win-win. They reduce production costs and increase profits while we get to prove ourselves. Show that we mere mortals can slay the Ikea beast and actually build something. There’s real kudos in being able to put a few bits of wood together and turn an Allen key. It’s almost as good as being able to boast: “I made it myself!”

Of course, no one ever expects us to be a linguist and actually pronounce all those luxurious Swedish product names, which is where my skill set naturally lies. I find it much easier to speak convoluted Swedish than work out how A slots into B. I have no spacial skills or engineering capabilities whatsoever and still can’t find A or B when I bought that desk back in high school.

While Jamie Oliver’s Greenhouse doesn’t come with an Allen key or any other kind of doobywacker tool, as I said, it does come in a flatpack. There are plastic sheets, an instruction booklet, dirt and seeds and stickers to cover up your mistakes. While I did mention something about constructing a “house”, I must confess that we’re talking about a small greenhouse. Indeed, you could say it is the doll’s house of greenhouses. Indeed, it reminds me of the Fisher Price Doll’s house my daughter had as a two year old before her dolls moved into their grand 2 storey mansion along with a considerable amount of accumulated flotsam and jetsam. Those dolls can barely breathe in there, let alone stretch their legs.

Well, my daughter has never been to Ikea and she certainly knows nothing about Allen keys or impressing your friends with your impressive DIY prowess. She was being pragmatic and stuck it together with sticky tape instead of putting the slots together. It was now up to me, or should I say Geoff to save the day. I did have a go but I’m more of a sower than a builder. He had it knocked up in no time. This greenhouse was going to weather life’s storms.

Now, it was time to sow the seeds and once again our daughter took charge of HER project.

This was where Jamie’s Greenhouse really impressed me. It had this special dirt. She added water and the dirt swelled up to double, even quadruple its size. There were little packets of seeds with all those garden herbs we’ve always intended to plant but had always put off. Everything we needed to start a garden was in the box. We planted the seeds. Added water. Remembered to water them and experienced almost instant gratification.

Cress

Cress

Two days later, we have cress. Cress is the perfect seed to plant for kids who need instant gratification.

I’m impressed!

Cress

Cress

Last night we had some very strong winds and although the roof blew off, the house is still standing and it has made it through today’s winds unscathed. I’ve got to say that Jamie Oliver has more than just a pretty face and when he’s finished at Woollies, he should give Ikea a call. I’d love to get a real live chef thrown in with my next desk.

XX Rowena

Hair Wars

When it comes to gripping action and explosive conflict, The Hair Wars way out performs Star Wars. While The Hair Wars might be more of a localised conflict, what it lacks in scale, it more than compensates for in intensity. There is also plenty of “personality”, although It doesn’t have a celebrity cast. The Hair Wars can also get pretty brutal and usually results in some form of hand-to-hand combat, usually between mother and daughter.

The Hair Wars opens with an all too familiar scene:

“You’re not going anywhere looking like that!”

Of course, I’m running late juggling kids, bags, hats and possibly even the family dog, when I finally spot my daughter’s hair. Somewhere in the midst of the morning’s madness, I’d forgotten all about the hair. While I’d had pictured something of a Cindy Brady with perfect pigtails with matching bows, she’s appeared with a bird’s nest perched on top of her head. Moreover, she’s stubbornly refusing to let me brush or even touch it.

My heart’s racing and I’m struggling to breathe. It’s a heart attack. I know I am having a heart attack. This is neither my imagination nor a false alarm either. This is the real thing!

“Who is this girl? I have absolutely no idea which planet she came from! She’s certainly not my daughter. This sapling has most definitely sprouted from someone else’s seed! My daughter would have to be neat and tidy…a miniature version of my taller self.”

Ha! Please don’t split your side laughing!

If your daughter has one of those delicate, very sensitive “princess” scalps and can’t stand brushing her hair or perhaps has very fine hair which knots easily, you’ll know exactly what I am talking about. Just getting a brush through that hair is the proverbial “Mission Impossible”.

Last year, we had tears, screams and I even tried peeling her hands off the top of her head in my futile attempts to get the brush through it and make my daughter “respectable”. Most of the time, I lost every round of these hair wars. I can’t tell you how many times Miss wore that disgusting “bird’s nest” to school. We’d try detangler…the works. She was in tears. It really hurt. Moreover, the more she resisted, the more tangled, difficult and totally impenetrable her hair became. It was rapidly becoming the enchanted forest!

Now, I can just hear you saying that I should have cut it off. Told her that if she didn’t brush her hair and look after it, that it would go. I did try but I knew myself too well. It’s ultimately counter-productive to make threats you know that not going to carry out. I’ve always been a long hair person. My mother kept my hair short when I was her age and I resented it. How I longed for Rapunzel locks! My own childhood deprivations are, of course, what’s stopped me from dealing with Madam for far too long and shaving it all off with Geoff’s beard trimmer.

Yes, the beard trimmer was tempting especially when the nits invaded the nest. You could just imagine trying to get the nit comb through. She was infested. That battle, for better or worse, resulted in chemical warfare and thank goodness we finally disposed of those blighters. I swear the nits always arrive at the very worst possible time. Fighting nits is never easy but when my muscle disease is playing up, I can barely brush my own hair. The nit comb is out of the question and of course, there’s an absolute population explosion.

Anyway, just when I was at my wits end, a friend of mine shared a very simple solution….a $2.00 plastic blokey hair brush. She also recommended plaiting her hair before bed so it wouldn’t scruff up. I did that a couple of times but now the brush is enough. Success built up on success and she started to get the oils through her hair and for the first time possibly ever, her hair actually looks shiny and healthy. We had a miraculous breakthrough and peace almost echoed through the house.

That was round one of the hair wars resolved with a win for Mum and a win for the girl! However, like all block buster movies, there’s always a sequel.

Our sequel: “I can do it myself!”

Of course, fostering independence in your children is critical. Only last weekend, I expanded my efforts in teaching the kids how to cook to a broader effort to help them stand on their own two feet. This means doing as much as they can for themselves and stretching their abilities so they can be independent. I am not their servant and I am certainly not their slave. That said, I also need to back off and stop taking over as well. I need to let them do it. They need to have enough room to make mistakes and learn from them. It is my job to maintain some kind of portable safety barrier around the edge to prevent serious injury. Remember, we all learn best through the bumps and knocks of hardship, not through smooth sailing. Everybody needs to be challenged (Yes, that is a need NOT a want).

Of course, all these ideas are just brilliant at the inspirational, conception phase. Like many good ideas, however, implementation is the real battleground…converting “talk” into “walk”. When it comes to teaching kids a new skill, there’s a lot of planning, trying to see a task from the kid’s point of view and endless deep breathing to cope with whatever happens. I’m just saying you need to be prepared for mistakes and then going into some kind of damage control to manage the consequences. We’re talking potential catastrophes…veritable tsunamis. The sort of stuff that feels like scratching fingernails down a chalk board and you can feel every single cell in your body reacting badly. Of course, you’re no Carol Brady of any persuasion. You are trying to smile and be encouraging and yet the most inhuman of screeches passes out of your lips and your child bursts into tears: “Mummy?????!!!”

Parents aren’t perfect either.

Getting back to the hair…

I’m not that fussy and I’ve never been a girly girl. I can’t French plait or doing anything fancy. I would just like my daughter’s hair to be neat…somewhat neat. No huge bumpy bits at the back sticking out like speed humps.

You can pick when a kid does their own hair. They can see the front okay but the back is tricky. As they put the ponytail together, the top seems to buckle and goes quite bumpy. I’m sure you know what I mean. It’s like some of those home sewers when they burst with pride at their less than perfect creations: “I made it myself” and you half-smile in reply: “I know”.

It’s the same when little kids do their own hair. You just know!

All I’m trying to pull off is a simple ponytail or other acceptable up style with perhaps a few basic clips to hold down all those renegade wispy bits and infuriating growing out fringes, which only I’m sure only ever grow out in time to be cut off again.

Surely, it couldn’t be that hard?!!!!  But…

There are too many bumps. Her hair is caught in the elastic. It’s a shambles. I can’t let her go to school looking like this.

Once again, I remind myself to breathe deeply. Inhale…1,2,3,4…exhale.

As tempting as it is to grab the brush and do her hair myself, if I want her to stand on her own two feet and be independent, that means leaving that hair brush in her less than capable hand. Moreover, I’ll need to gently guide to develop eyes on the back of her head or at least find a mirror to see what they can’t see instead of snatching the brush and simply taking over. Snatching the brush might be a battle and taking over might feel like the answer but you’re actually telling your child that they aren’t good enough. That they can’t do it and they are in fact useless…all over a simple thing like doing their hair. Is this really what you’re intending to do?

For me this morning, as I was about to snatch the brush, a moment of insight suddenly hit. She can’t see the back of her head. She looks at the front and thinks she’s done a great job and she can’t actually see all those infuriating bumps and ripples that drive me mad. So I didn’t actually need to snatch away the brush and take over. She just needed her to feel the back of her head, look in the mirror and she could fix it herself. She is quite capable of doing her own hair. It just needed some refinement.

I must also point out that she is too small to see into our bathroom mirror so when it comes to getting her hair neat and tidy, she really is rather challenged. We’ve been intending to set up a low-flying mirror and we really must get around to it. Give Miss a chance.

Of course, we are only at the very beginning of the hair wars. We are still a few blissful years away from the teenage years. That said, when Miss was only six years old, I had to contend with her infatuation with blond hair. Apparently, she thought she was ugly because she doesn’t have blond hair.

This was obviously a time for a serious life lesson on the importance of acceptance if ever there was one. I thought I might as well shatter all her aspirations. It would take a bucket-load of bleach because like me, her hair really is too dark to go blond without destroying it completely…another lesson in acceptance!

A cousin of mine expanded on this theme with her teenaged daughter. Dying your hair becomes very expensive and blond hair is very high maintenance. As a young person on a young person’s wage, she had to be able to “afford herself”. I noted and filed this advice. This was a keeper.