Wednesday, 26 July 2017

Tell me when I'm grown

Today something totally unexpected happened. My little guy text me after school and said something along the lines of 'mum I didn't get on the bus to come home. I decided to go to the park with my friend and her parent, I'll catch the later bus'.

He is 10 ... (nearly 11)

After a back and forth re details I spent a very long hour waiting for him to get home and while I waited I tried to figure out what to say.

I knew that a massive part of my response should be 'you little bugger don't you EVER do that again'

But I was torn, because a huge part of my internal response was, how cool is it that he feels so confident!

This is the stuff that isn't in books and it's impossible to know how to best respond or what you'll do until you're faced with it. It's stuff like this, that is parenting in a nutshell.

I could ask for advice, and get opinions but tonight as I sit here (with my child safely home FYI) I know with certainty if you had asked me for advice yesterday I would have said 'that is totally inappropriate' 'you need to make sure that doesn't happen again'

'what if ........ what if'

And I would have been right.

But that certainly of what you 'would' do is often so different than your response when you actually are doing it.

So now that I was in this weird space where my 10 year old felt like it was cool to just head off and do his own thing how much of my response should be in plan a. You little bugger, and how much should I balance that with the part of this that was him feeling confident and safe and independent, a part of him I don't want to squash but need him to regulate.

As he walked into the house there was this look on his face. He hadn't done this for any other reason than he knew he was safe and believed it was all ok.

So at that moment I knew what to say. It went something like;

'Hey babes, did you have fun? I'm glad, hey I need to let you know you aren't in trouble but I want to talk to you about what to do if an offer like this comes up in the future .... blah blah blah .... mostly next time because you are 10 I want you to ask me, not tell me!'

Was this the right thing to say? Honestly, fucked if I know! But this week seems to have been all about talking to both boys about their individuality, their and my freedom of self, the place they hold in our space, how I'm trying to grow the best, strongest, happiest men they can be. And mostly how as a unit of three we can make our lives work together so we all give each other that space to grow and be as happy as possible. Also cuddles ... lots and lots of cuddles.

Jesus parenting is intense....

In the end his response was filled with empathy for the worry that it caused and excitement for the adventure he had. So all I can hope is that somehow we manage to keep that balance through all of our mistakes and what comes out at the end is always cuddles.

Wednesday, 5 July 2017

Day 3 well 4 to be more accurate (The point is the trip not the destination)

I've got to be honest ... sleeping all cramped into the van with Hamish starfishing all night and Jack snoring doesn't work out to be the best nights sleep I've ever had. Luckily they are both happy as Larry but at one point last night I had a mini freak out as I was so squished into the door of the van that I felt claustrophobic and had to sit up so I could breath. Hamish of course then commandeered all of the space I left and I was left perching on the edge wondering if 'accidentally' kicking him in the head was ok.

I miss my bed....

But that's all I have to complain about. Well almost. The only other thing is how is it home time tomorrow? and why do days like these go so quickly? when there are so many boring days that go so slowly.

We woke up and hung out, letting everything dry after the nights mist. We decided that we would head 1/2 way home today to make tomorrow less hectic but we also didn't want to leave. The kids want to come back to Bellingen as soon as we can and as often as we can. And that suits me just fine. Surprisingly they both said they would choose to do this tiny camper thing again and that suits me fine as well. I can set up camp in about 15 minutes and pack it down almost as quickly. If I was designing it I can think of some mods that would make it better and I'd ditch the weird cumbersome fridge that keeps things sort of cool but not cold enough to wonder if you're risking salmonella. But it's been a good little portable home.

We headed into town for our first meal that someone else cooked and then drove back to the Never Never (with a takeaway coffee in hand, I'm just to inner west to not have a proper coffee if I can). We made our last rock sculptures and had our last swim in the icy water then packed our wet selves back into the van. By my figuring we would be fishing in Bulahdelah by 3 .... my figuring is so often wrong.

We got here after 4 and I sent the kids walking over the bridge to get bait and milk while I set up camp. They are currently fishing on the jetty while I enjoy a glass of red. It's not the most peaceful spot, so close to the main road into town. But it makes having lugged the fishing gear worthwhile and we are only a few hours from home.

I'll be sorry to pack up tomorrow. It feels like we could have at least another few days and maybe settled a little more into one space or another. I noticed today that I caught myself moving the kids on and stopped. I guess normal life require a lot of moving them and myself on and it was so refreshing to have a few days where we could just be and do as we pleased without having anywhere in particular to be. I think that's what I liked best. And what I'd like to try and find ways of feeling more in our day to day.

Tuesday, 4 July 2017

Day 2 (You know it's a good day when your van starts)

The kids wake up WAY to early. At home this isn't an issue, they wake, feed themselves and settle down into some TV. Here it's a family affair that consists of me pulling the covers over my head while trying to convince them that reading should send them back to sleep.

It doesn't ...

So we get up while the dew is still on the ground and open the van as the windows are so fogged up it needs drying out and start cooking bacon and banana rolls, which in my mind is the perfect camping breakfast.

The kids are both being blissful and annoying as hell in equal doses and in in that way I guess they are being perfect. They are helping sometimes, and fighting sometimes but they are never complaining so I'm a happy woman.

After breakfast we have a luxurious 5 minute shower, first one for the trip and pack up the van.

Driving further afield in this place reminds me of why I love it so much that we almost moved here. It's all rolling hills, tie-dye and rivers .... so many beautiful rivers. It's like the other half of me. There is the one that loves the vibrant place we call home and then the other that feels a longing for spaces this green and open.

We drive passing over wooden bridges and cattle grates until I see it. The place I've been thinking of. (And didn't realise how scared I was until then that I wouldn't find it)

We pull over and explore further up river and we find the perfect spot. Big granite boulders in the middle of a crisp stream with a 20 metre escarpment on the other side. Perfect for mum.

Over the years I have thought about what it would be like spreading mums ashes. In my mind it was all revenant and calm and serene. In the end we did it my way, a little hectic with the kids 1/2 naked and me trying to prise my way into the container with a rotten stick because I had underestimated how hard that thing was going to be to open.

We had waded across the river to a hard to reach space that looked over a pebble beach we had been sitting on on the other side. No one would have a reason to come across here. But the view from this side is of the beauty of the other. Just what mum would have liked. Where she can look but doesn't have to swim.

Jack came to the rescue finding a sharp stone to pry the top of the container just moments before I started pounding on it with a rock and we took handfuls and threw it all over the escarpment. There was nothing somber about it. We played Dave Brubecks 'Take Five' mums favourite song, which clashed horrendously with the space. One handful I threw headed straight into Jack and then we realised a bunch of it had landed on our thongs that we had left a few levels down. I stood for a second and looked at the chaos and laughed and cuddled the boys and thought just how mum would have thought it was all such a perfect mess. All felt like it was as it should be. No movie moment. Just us doing it our way.

We slipped back down the bank waded across the river and sat in the sun looking back at the spot. The kids made rock sculptures, I cried a little and laughed a lot and then we all jumped into the frigid water that was so clear you could see the bottom even though it was deeper than I am tall and made sure we had washed all of mum off of us.

And that was it .... I thought I would feel something mountainous. I don't ... just a calm and sense of right.

After drying ourselves on the rocks we drove back to the same spot we stayed last night. We walked into town decided to buy each other gifts to remember this trip. Jack wanted a beautiful set of pencils. Hamish a crystal necklace and me a ball of hand dyed wool to make a pompom.

And as I sat here making a start on my pompom the kids ran on the grass in the dark with sparklers, drew on rocks we had found and we ate sausages as the mist rolled in. They both talked about how they think they will always remember this trip. And how thankful they are to my mum for teaching me how to be a mum because apparently she did a pretty awesome job. And suddenly my crazy 'lets hire a campervan in winter and just drive' idea feels like the best decision I've made in many years.

Monday, 3 July 2017

Day 1 (Adventure are you sure?)

What happens when you start dreaming about owning a campervan and have school holidays come up in the same month. Apparently if you're me you book a rental van and plan an escape. And by plan I mean book a rental van and think 'WINTER BE DAMNED I'll drive north'.

That's pretty much how this whole thing started.

As I was talking about maybe doing this I mentioned to a friend that the one location I was feeling pulled to was Bellingen. It's a place I've loved for years and the only place I've ever seen a spot that I could imagine putting mums ashes. 'Do it' she said 'take your mum and go' and so we did.

Sunday we went to grab the van at 930am but instead of the original plan of leaving as early as possible, my deciding to take it easy the day before (mistake #1) meant we finally got on the road by 12. It took me about 4 hours to realise that we needed to figure out where we were going to stay on the first night. We travelled off the motorway towards the coast to no avail. We even looked at staying in a caravan park but being Sunday they were all closed.

Cut to another 45 minute drive with the sun chasing us finally pulling up just after dusk in Wingham.

We pulled up next to a sign that said overnight camping, and jumped out of the car.

It was freezing and smelled weird. As we turned everything off we realised why. 1000s of bats were barrelling through the air. And that smell was bat poo.

We weren't the only people staying there. There was two caravan setups and one very loud obnoxious drunk couple in a car that started fighting so horrendously that we wondered if we should call the police. And then they passed out.

Hamish cooked our sausages while Jack and I set up the van for sleep. Once we had eaten we jumped into bed for warmth and read our books. We then fell into as good a sleep as three people crammed into a double bed inside a van on a freezing night can.

When we woke we realised we had parked in the only muddy shaded part of the ground so I moved the van to the other side and cooked breakfast made coffee and charged our phones (mistake #2).

I accidentally left the battery running after the move and it had run it flat.

Cut to two hours later 5 phone calls, one walk through a nature reserve to the local NRMA only to be told we should have called another number....

We were on the road.

We made it to Bellingen by 3 and parked in the showground. We wandered into town to grab some supplies and the kids had a paddle in the pristine river.

I really love it here. I'm wearing a light jumper, the sounds and smells are of people playing guitar and horses. I can't wait to wake up in the morning.

I hope our travels tomorrow find the spot I'm looking for and I get to let go of mums ashes. I hope we either find a better place to stay or we come back here and explore this little town again. I hope the car starts in the morning.

Tuesday, 13 December 2016

The Big Unknown

It's all over social media at the moment. Parents talking and showing photos of the milestones that happen with their children at this time of the year. Photos of their graduations, their farewell dinners, their parties, Christmas trees and celebration preparations.

I have been terrible at capturing any of these moments this time. Usually I am all over that stuff but this year it's so damn hectic that mostly I'm watching 1/2 beside myself and 1/2 just soaking it in.

But this time of year does deserve a bit of reflection if only for one thing, Jack is finishing primary school.

These last few weeks have been all about this process, dinners, assemblies, big days out and extra catch ups with friends. Our world more than normal is about trying to make sure whatever Jack needs to say goodbye he has.

Tonight as the annual 'bring all the crap from school home and let your parents deal with it' started, there was one thing that he brought home that made me swell with pride. A certificate of appreciation from his teachers with the things they loved about that student this year.

'Certificate of appreciation for Jack:
For your beautiful artworks, for consistently thinking outside the square and for being mature, kind and thoughtful.'

It's made me realize that my job of capturing these moments isn't nearly as important as him capturing these moments. Maybe those photos if I had taken them would help jog his memory but actually those moments and all of the stuff he does is what he has captured to make him him. And that is going to last a lot longer than any photo.

Saying that, a photo of him playing this bubbles is something even I couldn't miss.

Wednesday, 14 September 2016

To Sleep Perchance to Dream.

This is my little girl. She is 14 and today her dad and I planned the day she is going to die.

We have been on this rollercoaster with both of my dogs health being under a huge amount of question. And today was D-Day.

It started with Oscar.

We found out that my old man has bum cancer. It's a particular type of bum cancer that apparently neither the vet or oncologist have actually ever seen (although it has been documented). We had one of the tumors removed surgically but the results of the biopsy came back as malignant, aggressive and more than likely, to have spread. There are options but they are not great options and we decided today to let it be and watch and wait for signs. Making sure he never gets to a point where he is in pain.

Little girl has a fissure. A hole between her mouth and her sinuses. To fix it she would need all of her teeth out and massive palate surgery. They also suspect (as I have for a few years) that she has either had a stroke or a brain tumor. This causes her to have issues eating and because of these and the fissure combined she has what we call 'super sneezes' where her food and water go into a cavity and she sneezes it out. She can sneeze as often as every 30 minutes when she is awake. She is uncomfortable and she is past the place where fixing it is an option.

So today as we sat in the vets we talked about what the next few months will look like for Oscar. How to monitor his progression and what our options are.

For little girl, it was clearer. She is in pain. She is tired. And she deserves better.

So she will be on some meds for a bit so she can start feeling a bit more herself. We will treat her like the princess she is. And then, in just on two weeks, the vet will come home and we will smother her in kisses for the last time as she goes to sleep.

I do not really know how to process all of this. After 16/14 years of being a dog owner, by Christmas it looks like I won't be.

But let's be honest, I was never really a dog owner because they own me as much as I own them. They are my family, my fur babies, my first babies. And I will cry buckets and be proud they got to call me their mumma and try my best to do the best I can for them in spite of how hard it's all going to be.

Tuesday, 30 August 2016

Dress for Success

This morning I got dressed in a rush.

I had to take the boys to school then go to the shops to do some bits and get home in time so as to not feel like I'd spent my whole day off doing chores.

These are not times that you have to 'think' about your outfit, I just grabbed my favorites and rushed to the car.

The entrance to the shops has a long mirrored travellator and as I was fussing trying to get my head phones untangled, which by the way is the only way to survive the shops, I caught a glimpse of myself.

- Boy jeans with the cuffs rolled up.
- Biker type boots
- Beanie
- Small men's T-shirt
- Long slouchy cardigan

I must admit I looked at myself for longer than normal as I tried to figure outwhen, exactly, did these clothes become my favourites.

I have done the mad rush to drop the kids off and then go to the shops about 100 times in my life and as I've looked at myself in the travellator mirrors, now that I think of it, I have seen a lot of different looking women.

I started to think about a conversation Jack and I had had a year or so ago where he asked me about the way I dressed. He brought to my attention that I had changed from floaty skirts and hair in buns, to what he called 'derby' style with tights and leg warmers. And now this; which Hamish recently called Urban (I have no idea where he got that from, but in the same conversation he also asked me if I was 'actually' going out in those shorts, and didn't I think they were maybe a little too short)

But Jack is right (Hamish may also be a teeny bit right but my response was, who are you? Your father or mine) my style has changed multiple times over the last 10 years. And seeing as I'm not a fashion forward person how and why does this keep happening?

The epiphany came to me this afternoon.

I almost never buy my clothes from the shops.

Today's outfit was

- Boy jeans with the cuff rolled up (given to me by a friend)
- Biker type boots (found secondhand)
- Beanie (given to me as a gift)
- Small men's T-shirt (found secondhand)
- Long slouchy cardigan (given to me by a friend)

And when I think of it, realistically my style hasn't changed at all. It's exactly the same as it's always been. My style is pretty much just Clean Hobo .....

So it's not my style that's changing its the random items in my wardrobe that change and I just work with what I'm given.

It has made me wonder .... Is it just me who defines their style by random clothes that happen to find their way into their stash? Or is this just something I've never thought of before? And everyone's style in one way or another could be considered clean hobo.

But mostly it's made me thankful. I have no idea about shopping, I have no idea what suits me. To the degree that if you gave me $1000 and said go and revamp your wardrobe I'd sit there and look at the money and wonder who I could give it to to go and get me clothes. So I'm so happy that I'm the kind of girl that has the kind of friends (you know who you are) that actually DO revamp their wardrobe and think of me before they chuck their hand-me-downs to vinnies.

Almost feel like I now need to cut to that song 'Thrift Shop'.

Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Better than a Letter

A few months ago while looking at high schools this guy decided he wanted to try and get into a selective part of a high school that focuses on art and design. He is actually in area to get into this school but this streamed part was what he said he wanted. His dad and I talked a lot with him about it. We were nervous, he isn't the most dedicated of students and to get in he had to write an application, produce a portfolio and have an interview with a panel. But we saw and heard his passion for it knowing all of this and so we said 'alright, you want to go for it, we will give you what you feel you need to get in'.

Cut to weeks of paint, plaster, wire and pastels, talking about ideas for his works and how he felt about the interview. Hours of sitting quietly in the house while he worked, music requests, homework be damned while he ruined clothes and sat drawing, painting, cutting until I had to force him to take a break. Trip after trip to bunnings, places for paper, places for anything he felt he needed to do the next thing.

I was already so proud of his dedication. He would sit for hours and hours while he played with ideas. Scrapped them and starting again. And I knew that whether he got in or not this was an amazing journey I got to watch him on.

Occasionally he would loose motivation. And I would talk to him about how if this was something he really wanted he needed to find ways of working through those times, but also letting him know that is he felt he had changed his mind it was ok.

I didn't want to lead his journey. This needed to be his want, not ours. And every time he pulled something together and started working again.

Today we received a letter. And on the top line it said:

CONGRATULATIONS

And my heart melted for him ...

He did this, he worked and worked and he did this thing all by himself. And it's amazing.

Tonight as we went to bed I gushed at him about how proud I was at exactly that. How his hard work had given him something he really wanted and what an amazing lesson that is.

And he said 'you helped'
'I didn't do any of it for you'
'No but you helped me stay motivated, and you were my inspiration, you knew I could do it so I knew I could as well'

And that ... Well that is better than any any congratulations letter.

Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Who's the Man?

I am an extremely lucky woman. I am raising two hilarious, confident, aware and brave boys.

I'd love to take all of the credit for them. But I can't. I can't even take 1/2. Because of course even though their dad is absolutely as responsible for how wonderful they are as I am, we are only part of it. The thing we have probably done best, is pick the village that is around these kids.

They are surrounded by hilarious, confident, aware, brave people. People that inspire them, people that show them how being yourself is one of the best things you can hope to achieve.

And they soak it up ... It's fantastic to watch.

But something occurred to me this week. The vast majority of these amazing people are women.

Now I believe as much as the next woman that strong women role models in a boy's life are absolutely vital. And I can see that with what they are learning from the women in their lives they will become amazing men.

But men they will be, and they also need strong, independent, hilarious, confident, aware, brave men to learn from. And the older they get the more this will be something they need.

Their affinity with women became a topic of conversation when we were talking about Mother's Day. Hamish asked if they should get Andrews partner a Mother's Day present. He said that she wasn't his mum but she was like a 'kinda' mum and he was thinking it would be nice to get her a Mother's Day gift to celebrate who she is in their lives. I of course said if it feels like something he wants to do he should absolutely get her a Mother's Day present.

He then moved on and asked if I was planning on falling in love again. I answered honestly and said that at the moment I was very happy just loving them but yes one day in the future it would be nice to fall in love again.

He then said somethings that made me pause.

'Well mum when you fall in love can you make sure it's with a woman, I think I'd feel funny if it was a man'

Now a few months ago I had a similar conversation with his brother. Hamish wasn't around for it so this is either something they have talked about between themselves, which is doubtful or it's just one hell of a coincidence.

Jacks reasoning was that he likes being the man of the house and he can't imagine having another man in his home with me. Hamish's reasoning was that women are nicer and he likes having more than one mum figure but can't imagine another dad figure.

My reasoning for both of these conversations is that they don't have a heck of a lot of men around them. They have had so many women figures in their lives that are regular and loving but really only one man figure that does the same.

It's a funny thing being a woman raised by strong women and one strong feminist man, trying to figure out how to give these boys who will one day be men the male role models they need. I guess this is where things like Kung Fu, male teachers and friends fathers come in. Maybe instead of always asking my female friends to be the ones that hang out with the kids I should start seeing if some of my male friends want to do some child minding.

I'm sure that even if they were raised 100% by women they will still work out to be amazing men. But I can't help but think that in the same way as I try to make sure they have balance in other aspects of their development, maybe finding some better balance in this would be a great way of giving them a well rounded perception of not only men, but of the kind of men they want to be.

Wednesday, 17 February 2016

Baby Bear v Big Bear

I noticed the other week that most during my night time cuddles with Jack most of the time he has adopted a new position. I am no longer the one with my arms around him and his head on my chest. He now slides his arm under my neck and my head winds up on his chest.

When I noticed this role reversal a surge went through me. I wanted to reposition us so the we were the 'right' way round. I am the mother after all and shouldn't I be curling him up in my arms, not the other way around. But I left it because as I thought about it, this was something that had been going on for a while and I had only just noticed. It seemed silly to think about, as cuddles are cuddles and as long as we chatted and giggled nighttime cuddles should be able to be anything.

Tonight as we had our nighttime cuddles Jack could get comfortable and I asked him "well do you want to be the big bear or the baby bear" he very quickly replied "the baby bear" so we readjusted ourselves so I was cuddling him versus the other way round but after a few minutes he readjusted himself to be cuddling me again.

I looked up and him and smiled and said "So you do want to be the big bear?" and he replied "not yet mum, not yet"
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