Tag Archives: teenagers

When Your Baby Turns 12…

“There are two great days in a person’s life – the day we are born and the day we discover why.”

William Barclay

So what if it’s my daughter’s birthday? That’s hardly newsworthy. After all, she’s not Princess Charlotte, and the only paparazzi hanging around when she blew out her candles, was her Mum.

Yet, that doesn’t mean that her birthday didn’t mean anything beyond our four walls and her beaming grandparents.

Amelia Geoff Ro

Our daughter turned 12 yesterday. While she’s still not officially a teenager, she’s in her first year of high school. So, this birthday marked a definite transition from childhood into something else. Entré into a zone where it can be difficult for parents to find their way. Are we wanted, or unwanted? In the way, or ignoring them and giving them too much space? Are we expecting them to be kids and adults all in the same breath and setting all sorts of unrealistic expectations? Or, are we feeling like little more than a taxi driver? An ATM only good for more money?  I’ve heard a lot of parents lament that their teens only grunt, and shut them out. Lock themselves away in their rooms. There’s also the great electronics challenge. How do we tear our kids and teens away from Minecraft long enough to even look us in the eye and say “hello”?

Amelia baby

These are challenging times. After all, the teenage years come with the same kind of flashing neon signs as the terrible twos. Having been through that, I’m no idiot. I know it’s virtually impossible to come out unscathed, but I also feel empowered. I make things  better or worse.

However, none of that was at the forefront of my mind yesterday. That all came afterwards, as I reflected on how well everything went and how I’ve built connections with my daughter, her friends and their parents. Also, I’m pleased to say we passed muster. So, I’m feeling really stoked…content.

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Miss in Saphora Sporting Blue Lipstick.

The big birthday, began with a morning of dance rehearsals and classes for Miss, and I set about trying to find the carpet in her bedroom. Even though the girls would be sleeping in the tent in our backyard under the watchful eye of the dogs, kids always end up in the bedroom and hers needed major reconstruction. I’m still fighting off the sinus infection too so wasn’t 100%. Meanwhile, Geoff was salvaging the backyard from the pups. There isn’t a blade of grass out there, and there was all sorts of chewed up detritus. With only hours to go, we had a lot of work ahead. Fortunately, I did my baking on Friday, making Mars Bar Slice, Pavlova, cup cakes. Dinner would be pizzas.

However, before the party began, Miss wanted to go to makeup Mecca, Saphora, with her friend, so she could go crazy with her birthday money from her Godmother and earn double points and a birthday gift. We also spent awhile in Lush.

Saphora really is a kind of fantasyland and they let you play around with a kaleidoscope of eye shadows, lipsticks and highlighers so you can even glitter and sparkle in the dark. It was so much fun. After all, how often do we have the opportunity to colour ourselves in using the brightest of brights without any limitations and get away with it? At Saphora, our face is a blank canvas only limited by our imaginations and our arms are our palettes. Indeed, there’s even a word to describe trying out this multitude of product…”swatching”.“

Not unsurprisingly,  I don’t keep up with make up or fashion trends. I was chaperone. My daughter’s friend’s Mum likes the girls to be accompanied, and that makes the decision easy for me. I’m a slow walker. So, they’re always a metre or two in front and I probably look more like a stalker. However, this means they have their own space, can do their own thing and have an old head with them if required. You just don’t know what those unpredictables can be, and they’re not quite at the stage where they have the life experience to deal with all of that on their own. Also, my daughter is tiny and younger than many of her friends and I’m quite conscious that a stranger could pick her up and cart her off without any effort at all, aside from her resistance. In Australia, we had a young man called Daniel Morcombe who was abducted from a bus stop, violated and murdered. He was 12 years old. That puts things into perspective for me. While a 12 year old might be sensible, trustworthy and intelligent, they are still a child and need a backstop.

I don’t know how parenting a teen will look down the track. Her big brother turns 14 in a few weeks and hasn’t brought us the usual problems of teenagers yet. We tend to be late bloomers in the puberty stakes, so perhaps all of that is just around the corner. You sort of hope it is as a parent, as much as you want to keep pushing it off into the future. After all, they really can’t have a relationship with their electronics. Or, at least not one that’s going to produce any grandchildren (not that I’m wanting them any time soon).

Anyway, my modus operandi for parenting teens at the moment, is to get to know my kids’ friends and their parents. Keep those lines of communication going. After all, what I’m finding so far, is that they’re all quite chatty and we’re all getting on really well and they trust me. This might not matter much at the moment, but it might down the track.

So, I’m now positioning myself as my kids’ parent and their friend. Trying to make the hard decisions and enforce boundaries and deadlines, while also being involved enough that they feel I know them,that they know I have their back and can see their point of view, even if I don’t agree with it. It can be very tempting to think that now our kids are growing older, that we can get more “me time”. Work more. Pull back. I’m not too sure.When they were younger, they could go to daycare or before & after school care but once at high school, they’re home alone…or not. Unfortunately, that doesn’t address the family finances or the need for both parents to work, sole parent families and the complexities of life. My complication is my disability and chronic health, which has ruled out paid work for the last 5 years, although I am now starting to set the wheels in motion. I’m currently looking into freelance writing opportunities.

I’ll write more about how the birthday went in my next post. In the meantime, I was wondering what your view are about parenting teens. What are your hot tips for parenting teens? What helped you? I have definitely found that we often have our best chats in the car or around the family dinner table. I’ve also been playing quite a lot of board and card games with our son lately at his request. That’s usually when the wifi gets turned off, but it’s him seeking me out, not vice versa. These games might be old-fashioned, but we’ve had a lot of laughs, the competition is fairly intense, and I can feel the bonds knitting together on the spot.

On that note, I’m off for slice of pavlova. Birthday party leftovers are the best.

xx Rowena

 

Why am I here?

Parenting isn’t a walk in the park and my kids are constantly keeping me on my toes. Lately, that’s even involved attempting pirouettes!

Well, to sharpen my toes even further, my son asked me this curly question today…“Why am I here?”

‘if your life is cloudy and you’re way off course,

you might have to go on faith for awhile,

but eventually you’ll learn that

every time you trust your internal navigation system,

you’ll end up closer to your right life.”

-Martha Beck.

He was in trouble and he mumbled something about dying being easier than living so why bother? It wasn’t a completely dark question at the time…more of an observation. He’s 12 years old and this kind of question goes with the turf. He’s not unique. Indeed, I remember feeling much the same and my Dad saying: “Life wasn’t meant to be easy”.

However, this was actually part of a longer quote:

“Life is not meant to be easy, my child; but take courage: it can be delightful.”

― George Bernard Shaw

Jonathon Climbing Tree

Mister in the Climbing Tree 2011, Aged 6.

Anyway, in response to my son’s question my immediate response (which I didn’t share with him at the time) was that he wasn’t here to melt Halloween lollies in my new waffle maker, leaving a layer of sticky tar glued to the non-stick base. That he and his sister were not put on this planet to destroy everything within a 365 degree radius. Indeed, they could keep their sticky fingers all to themselves!!

Yet, I said nothing. Rather, I stared scrawling  my frustrations down on paper the way we writers do. While I know that doesn’t achieve anything, at least venting on paper helps me feel better!

“You just can’t sit there and wait for people to give you that golden dream, you’ve got to get out there and make it happen for yourself”

-Diana Ross.

Anyway, when I asked my kids what possessed them to put lollies in my waffle machine, they told me that they’d seen a u tuber melt a Barbie doll in a waffle machine. While I’m no fan of Barbie, melting Barbie in a waffle machine for fun seemed rather sadistic. You also have to wonder what the world is coming to when a video of someone with bad language melting Barbie in a waffle machine gets 2,418,875 views with 94,220 likes. Moreover, unlike some of the crazy stunts your kids might see on TV, there’s no mention of: “kids don’t try this at home”. These U tubers have hero status,  yet no responsibility. No accountability.

So, I am grateful that I didn’t find Barbie stuck to my waffle machine instead of just the lollies. With a bit of boiling water and chipping away, the waffle machine is fine and the kids will need to be dead, before they’re allowed to stay home from school again.

Jonathon sunset

Why am I here?

Meanwhile, I still had to answer my son’s question: why am I here?

I told him that this was a question which philosophers, poets, sing writers, The Bible have all addressed for thousands of years. After all, it is the ultimate quest for each and every one of us to work out why we’re here. To find our purpose, our path, calling, direction…whatever you want to call it.

“There is no greater gift you can give or receive than to honor your calling. It’s why you were born. All how you become most truly alive.”

-Oprah Winfrey.

This needn’t be a selfish, navel-gazing process. It can also be about that person who really wants to make a difference, help others, change the world or has spiritual ideas but doesn’t know quite how or where to serve or give. After all, it’s particularly hard for the inspired visionary to live with their vision, without knowing how to execute it. Indeed, this anguish could cause these brightest of flames, to snuff themselves out.

Anyway, to humour myself, I entered: “Why am I here?” into Google. I didn’t expect much, if anything, but Google has surprised me before and has delivered.

That’s was when I was reminded of the power of the personality quiz. These are not only great fun but I swear these quizes know me better than I know myself. Of course, you have to sort the wheat from the chaff too. I found this quiz on Who Are You Mean to Be? from Oprah Magazine http://www.oprah.com/omagazine/Who-Are-You-Meant-to-Be-Self-Assessment-Quiz_1 It showed great insight and no surprises one of my top scores was Striving to Be Creative. I’ve pasted it down below because it really made sense to me.

Jonathon Christmas Tree 2

How creative! Mister turned himself into a Christmas Tree 2006 aged 2.

Striving to be Creative

You are an artist: You came out of the womb with a paintbrush in your hand. Or maybe it was a flute or a castanet or a fountain pen to go with your poet’s imagination. The point is, you’re an original, and you know it. Even if you don’t have a singular gift, you’re drawn to the arts—anything creative, for that matter— and you have a unique way of looking at the world. Your need for depth and authenticity in relationships can lead to both great joy and profound sorrow, depending on whether others reciprocate. You don’t care so much about adapting to group or societal expectations; your independence and sharp intuition propel you on your own path.

What to watch out for: When fear of conformity overrides your creativity, you can assume the role of “outsider” or “orphan” and end up feeling alienated. You may even go so far as refusing to vote or pay taxes. This lone-wolf stance might be a defense against feeling vulnerable. Try to be aware that blaming others for your banishment, or pushing away those who want to get close, only makes things worse. Also, dramatizing your emotions can interfere with your creativity.

Looking ahead: As long as you genuinely express yourself, you feel like the person you were meant to be. How you do it is irrelevant. A chef or architect can be as much of an artist as a painter or sculptor. Many advertising and public relations executives are also highly imaginative. Beyond work, there are opportunities everywhere you look to coax out your inner artist: Design your own jewelry line, create an innovative blog, dream up a comic strip. Relationships are another avenue for self-expression.

Google also linked me up with some great quotes, which I’ve scattered throughout.
There’s also this thought provoking post by Mark Manson  Seven Strange Questions to Establish Your Life’s Purpose. I highly recommend you read it!
Meanwhile, it’s time for me to think about fueling his physical body as well as his mind. Neither of my kids have ever been great eaters but we think he’s going through a growth spurt. Not only is he eating four Weetbix for breakfast, he turns up in the kitchen hunting for dinner with that same starved look our poor Border Collie had when he was on 50mg of prednisone. It really was quite cruel to the poor dog and leaving a starving teenager roaming around the kitchen, can be dangerous. You just ask Barbie!
xx Rowena

Letters To Dead Poets-AA Milne #atozchallenge

Hi Christopher Robin’s Dad,

This is J & A’s Mum.

Not sure whether you remember me. My Mum used to read Winnie the Pooh to me when I was very small and now that I’ve grown up, I’ve been reading your books and poems to my children. My favourite poems are: Vespers and Now I am Six.

When I was one,
I had just begun.
When I was two,
I was nearly new.
When I was three,
I was hardly me.
When I was four,
I was not much more.
When I was five,
I was just alive.
But now I am six,
I’m as clever as clever.
So I think I’ll be six
now and forever.

Now We Are Six, By A. A. Milne

 

By the way, in case you hadn’t noticed, my son looks quite a lot like your Christopher Robin. Indeed, he could’ve stepped straight out of the pages of your books.

Well, at least, that was: Once Upon A Time…

Christopher Robin Milne

Christopher Robin Milne & Winnie the Pooh.

You see, he’s no longer six and we now have to double that score. That’s right! He recently turned twelve and has just started high school, which as I’m sure you’d appreciate, was quite a shock! It doesn’t seem that long ago that he was very young…just like your Christopher! I have no issues about him growing up. Indeed, I’m rather relieved that he’s not out there chasing Heffalumps and Whoozles and looking for the East Pole. That’s enough to give even the most courageous parent a series of heart attacks!

Jonathon wharf alone

Our son looking rather Christopher Robinish.

Speaking of growing up, I was wondering why Christopher Robin never grew up? Why did you stop writing about him and telling him stories about all his toys? Why didn’t the story telling grow up with him?

It’s not that I mean to be rude but is the reader just meant to passively sit back and not share their opinions or respond to an author’s work in any way? Or, are we allowed to think? Have opinions and instead of just being written to, can we readers actually write back? Express our views?

Well, at least, I think so but perhaps I’ll disagree when I also become “an author”.

Well, being what Owl would call “impudent” and others might consider “thoughtful”, I decided to send you a poem I wrote about my son being 12. You could say that to get to this poem, we’ve doubled Now We Are Six…applying some simple calculation.

Poem: Somewhere In Between.

but somewhere in between…

my feet now touch the ground

though my thoughts are

somewhere in the clouds.

I look out my bedroom window

at the road which lies ahead

wondering how to get from A to B.

Do I really have to walk?

Why can’t I take a jumbo jet?

I don’t have all the answers.

Indeed, I don’t even know

which questions I should ask.

Yet, everywhere I seem to look,

all I find is rules.

Rules on rules on rules!

Be here!

Go there!

This is how to do your hair!

Living by this ringing bell,

has to be a form of hell!

Neither tall,

Nor small

but somewhere in between…

why can’t I just enjoy the view

before I grow too big?

.

I must say that the other thing that I’ve noticed now that my son is 12 and my daughter’s 10, is that I am also being forced to grow up. Just like Christopher Robin has in a sense been immortalised as a little boy, you have also been frozen in that same time warp. You will always be that father of a young boy, bringing the adventures of his toys to life through Winnie the Pooh, Eeyore, Piglet, Tigger, Kanga, Roo and Rabbit.

Most of us do not have that luxury.

It’s been wonderful experiencing my second childhood…building sandcastles, reading picture books and driving along with the likes of Eeyore in my car.That is, being able to do all these fun things without being considered “insane” or “different different”.

So, if you don’t mind me being so full of questions, I only have a couple more.

As my kids grow up, do I really have to grow up with them? Why can’t I just veer off on my own trajectory and keep on being a kid? Do my own thing?  Just asking!  After all, don’t you still feel like finger painting and making mud pies every now and then?

I thought you might have a plan. Or, perhaps I should be asking Pooh? Despite being a so-called “bear of little brain”, he really is quite a good problem solver.

Thank you very much, Mr Milne! You’re an excellent listener!

Warm regards,

Rowena

Born 18th January, 1882, Alan Alexander Milne died on 31st January, 1956 aged 74. While his ashes were scattered, there is a memorial plaque at Ashdown Forest, East Sussex, the setting for Winnie the Pooh which quotes:

“By and by they came to an enchanted place on the very top of the Forest called Galleon’s Leap.”

Which is your favourite poem by AA Milne? Or, perhaps you relate to one of the characters from Winnie The Pooh?

Personally, I feel like I am a combination of most of his characters…quite a “soup” you could say.

xx Rowena

 

Does Bullying Pay?

Today,  it’s National Day of Action Against Bullying and Violence in Australia. It’s also Troll Free Day, which focuses directly on cyberbullying.

While these are fantastic initiatives, there’s still so much more which needs to be done.

Questions which need to be asked.

By the way, when I mention bullying, I’m not just talking about kids either.

Indeed, bullies grow up.

While we publicly denounce bullying, for me the big elephant in the room still remains: does bullying pay? Do you need to be the bulldozer, wiping out everyone and everything in your path to get ahead? Or, is there still a place for respect? Teamwork? Being nice?

I don’t know.

Deny it though we might, what do our collective actions say?

As a society, I don’t believe our report card is good. Scratch through the veneer and I’m afraid the verdict doesn’t require much deliberation at all.

Guilty as charged.

However, declaring a National Day of Action Against Bullying and Violence is an important step. It not only raises awareness but it reinforces that bullying is not okay. Likewise, Troll Free Day, does the same with cyberbullying.

This a huge step forward from when I was a kid and bullies were boys.Girls supposedly smiled sweetly, slipping right under the radar, despite those incredibly long fingernails which could do incredible damage.

Stop-Bullying-Girls-with-words-written-all-over-bodies-Jan-12-p112-e1368813265789

Indeed, attending an all girls’ school, there was no such thing as bullying. There were the “popular girls” and the “losers” and it might even depend on the direction of the wind as to where you “belonged” at any given time.

When I was at high school, I endured years of brutal put downs and attacks due to my poor coordination. More than just a duck and not a swan, I had undiagnosed hydrocephalus or fluid on the brain which produced a swag of symptoms which were simply deemed “Rowena”.

People, even friends, emulated and made fun of how I walked not just behind my back but to my very face. There was a level of mean cruelty that I can’t even begin to explain. I just swallowed it and kept swallowing it. I had no choice. There was no escape. At least, that’s what I thought. Fortunately, not everybody was like this and there was kindness. People who didn’t just take pity on me but valued me as a person. Were my friend.

I can’t recall anyone ever getting in trouble for this bullying or the school taking any action whatsoever and my parents were never contacted. Even when I zoned out for a year and a half, I was left to my own devices because I wasn’t bothering anyone. I cut up magazines in class, decorating my school diary and wrote lengthy letters in class to friends at other schools but it took a long time for anyone to step in. I eventually got a new maths teacher who instantly confiscated my diary and scissors. I was in shock. Somewhere around this point, Mum, who was used to glowing reports, heard quite a different story. No doubt she heard I was “zoned out” or “distracted”…not that I was being bullied. That I was showing very evident signs of depression, which might have been a serious concern. But, as I said, we didn’t have bullying at our school…just beautiful people.

I never said a word about what was going on. What could I say? How could I possibly put all that hurt and cruelty into words? I did end up seeing the school counsellor but I’m not sure if I ever mentioned that in particular.Remember “bullying” wasn’t a term I could use back then.

What I went through was bad enough. Yet, it is comparatively minor.

Fortunately, once I left school and started university, I never looked back. I was the same person and yet, I had loads of friends and things were radically different. Go figure. I was still me.

Others never escape. Indeed, bullying and suicide are inextricably linked.

I do wonder what those girls who bullied me are doing now that they’ve grown up? I certainly haven’t received any apologies in the mail. No confessions either. Don’t you ever wonder how bullies sleep at night? Or, perhaps school was just a stepping stone to greater heights? That they’re still knocking other people down to get what they want, be it popularity, status, money, that promotion? Doing whatever it takes!

Speaking of bigger arenas, dare I mention anyone in particular?

No! I’ll leave that up to you.

Meanwhile, click  Here if you like to find out more about Troll Free Day. I recently also wrote a fictional poem about bullying… Hopscotched.

xx Rowena

Haiku…Roses Aren’t Blue.

As I mentioned in my previous post, last night we had Haiku & Mash for dinner….a little something to inspire our son with his latest school poetry writing assignment…Write A Haiku. As I explained, the rest of the family all made great fun of my first, embryonic efforts and I clearly struggled counting syllables. I’m much too laissez-faire. In other words: “She’ll be right, mate.”

Anyway, with all this playful mucking around with words, our son reworked the old “roses are red” theme, developing quite a philosophical interpretation.

Roses can’t be blue.

Violets come in all colours.

But then there is you.

Anyway, despite being his mother and naturally thrilled by his poetic efforts, I sensed something quite profound in these words…a deep celebration of the individual perhaps, even something incredible intangible which I still can’t really explain.

As you may appreciate, a blue rose does not exist in nature. I don’t know if he consciously knew that or not. However, scientists have been struggling to develop a blue rose. They might have got there by now but the last I heard, they were still working on it. So, basically if you’re wanting a blue rose, you need a can of spray paint. This means that no matter how hard a rose tries, pushes itself, prays or even how much it pays, it will never be naturally blue. It just isn’t possible.

Does that mean it’s not beautiful? Of course not! However, there is that line in the sand. That “You shall not pass”.

It’s the same with people.

To a certain extent, you are who you are. While you might be able to stretch the envelope, I’m no longer convinced that “making it happen” is always such a good thing. More than likely, you’ll just end up doing something or being someone you’re not. Rather, than being success, this really can only ever be a form of failure and could well explain why so many people are desperately unhappy. They’re completely estranged from themselves.

This is not to say that we’re set in stone or shouldn’t pursue our dreams. Just that having a good sense of direction and a bit of insight might be a good idea.

I’m not sure that violets can be all colours but he’s certainly suggested more flexibility, wider opportunities there.

However, it was his last line, which really captured my attention:”But then there’s you!”

I’m a bit concerned that this “you” could well be me. What is he saying? That I don’t fit into or belong to any category and am completely out there? Impossible to classify? An absolute individual?!! Me??? Dare I say, that he even thinks I might be “beyond the flow”?!!

Surely not?!!

Or, perhaps, I’m just being egocentric. Casting myself as the star and the centre of his universe?

After all, why should I assume that he’s writing about me? Isn’t that being a bit paranoid? He could very well be writing about himself!

No! Definitely not! That last line definitely had “my weird and wacky mother” written all over it.

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Mister & Mum.

You know, I’ve been expecting it. Now that our kids are almost teens, I know I’m on a steady downward spiral to becoming “an absolute idiot” where I know nothing! You should have seen my son’s eyes roll just because I wasn’t used to a laptop with a touch screen! Who does he think he is? Bill Gates? Steve Jobs? A little humility wouldn’t go astray. Not at all!

Since then, I’ve been thinking of starting a: “Parents Of Teens Mutual Admiration Society”. It’s sole mission would be to prop up and even salvage our shattered self-esteems. We can share cups of tea and whisper sweet nothings to each other and undo all that dreadful psychological trauma inflicted by our kids! I can’t wait!

You’re welcome to join me!

So, given my total perceived lack of brainpower, perhaps I should  just leave my poetic efforts  at this:

Roses are red.

violets are blue.

Some poems rhyme

but this one doesn’t.

By the way, the young poet has subsequently returned from school. He’s been thoroughly interviewed, investigated and even interrogated about the intended meaning of his Haiku.What it’s all about. After all, why leave it open to interpretation when I can ask the poet himself?!!

Well, you might as well hit me over the head with a baseball bat and put me out of my misery. All my interpretations were “incorrect”. He was just wanting to write something funny, playing around with words. As far as the identity of the “you” is concerned, I was partially “correct”. He was referring to “you” as in the reader, holding up a bit of a mirror to bounce back our own reflections. So, it was actually me thinking I was a one-off weirdo, not him!

However, just because he intended it to be funny, that doesn’t mean he didn’t stumble across a profound truth. What do you think? I’m sure there’s something hidden between those lines.

Or, perhaps it’s only me.

Anyway, we’ll be having a night off from Haiku and Mash tonight. He’s off to Scouts and will be of paddling or sailing on the high seas.

Perhaps, he’ll find some further inspiration out there!

xx Rowena

 

Refrigerated Australian!

It was so hot today that my son sought relief from the heat by cooling off inside the refrigerator! It made a comic alternative to the usual scenario of the teenager raiding the fridge, fueling what seems like one continuous growth spurt.

The forecast tomorrow is for 42 degrees celsius. That’s the sort of heat which surely must fry an egg on the footpath. Indeed, tomorrow we might just give it a go…all in the name of “investigative journalism” ie blogging.

How’s the weather going over your way? Seems we’re mostly either frying and burnt or starting to freeze. I’ve seen a few snow scenes starting to appear. Would love to see some links to all sorts of landscapes in the comments. This could be quite a laugh.

Of course, Paris is still on my mind and I’m sort of following the updates, I don’t like having the news on a lot around the kids and they’ve each had a day off this week. I am also concerned about hearing about more attacks and I treading a bit carefully at the moment. How about you?

Anyway, had a laugh finding my son and in the fridge, Seems like a good idea!

Take care!

xx Rowena