Archive for November, 2012

There. I’ve said it

November 28, 2012

It took fewer years than I was expecting. I thought it might happen at 12, 13, maybe 14. But no. 8 seems to be the Big Year for Rebellion these days, and so I heard myself say the ultimate parental reprimand:

“That attitude might be cool with your friends young man but it’s not cool with me. Capiche?”

What is this, 1950? Argh.

Reading rules, ok

November 22, 2012

Rediscovering books from my childhood as an adult parent has been a magic, if slightly surreal, experience. The first time I saw The Very Hungry Caterpillar as a grown-up was a psychedelic experience. The book’s vivid imagery had been so deeply embedded in my psyche and then subsequently buried that its re-emergence dislodged some neural networks.
Similarly The Magic Faraway Tree. Silky, Moonface, Saucepan man et al carved out a niche of neurons from an early age and then lay quietly dormant for decades. Revisiting the Tree and reliving the magic has brought a calming sense of familiarity and home to my nightly reads to the boys. We have now visited and revisited the Tree and the Woods and the lands of the mystical moving cloud so many times that I feel certain I have facilitated the embedding of Blyton for another generation. Carle will be there too, as Boy 3 counts the fruit and pokes the holes as I did over 30 years ago. Soon I will be sharing my favourite of favourites,  Dahl’s Danny the Champion of the World. But not yet. I don’t want it spoiled by cries of “boring” or “too slow”. For now the boys can create their own literary links with the comedic fun of the Horrid Henry stories and Andy Griffiths.
Reading – and being read to – as a child is clearly important for healthy, broad, imaginative mental development. The memories of the books may lie dormant, inactive, for decades but when uncovered and reinvigorated and enjoyed you realise what they are there for. They are a special space. A mental capture of a time of simplicity and wonder, so nice to revisit as an adult living in chaos and cynicism.  
Plus now I know where all the countless unfinished conversations I’ve had are continued: in the Land of Conversation. There may well be a Land of Odd Socks up there too.

Popular culture 1 – Parents nil

November 14, 2012

I could be wrong, but I’m fairly certain I didn’t know the word “sexy” when I was 6.

I do distinctly remember sniggering nervously with my best friend as she shared with me her new found knowledge, courtesy of two older sisters, of what something called a “head job” involved, but this was in grade 6, at the ripe old age of 10: long after that evening in the darkened library where we learnt the facts of life with our parents present and scattered copies of Where did I come from?

I’m not sure I’m totally comfortable with 3,4,5 and 6 year olds singing “sexy girls” and “sexy and I know it” and saying things randomly, naively, like “he wants to sex her” before they have learnt about the birds and the bees. Clearly I’ve been caught on the back foot on this one.

Popular culture has infiltrated the lives of my children, as I knew it would, but I fear its content has changed so radically from 30 years ago that I’m starting to feel as the parents of young people in the 1950s listening to Elvis Presley must have felt. Is what we’re experiencing now really worse than the influences of our youth? Or has popular culture – particularly music – actually changed very little but we are now faced with it in greater, more accessible, abundance? I decided to trawl the Top 40 for evidence, and I was quite surprised.

Amongst the Orinoco Flow and froth and pap and downright horror of the ARIA charts between 1988 – 2012 I found countless controversial, raunchy and risque tunes which would cause a stir within the modern parenting community had they been on high rotation today. Titles such as: “All I wanna do is make love to you” (relatively harmless, sure); “I need your body” (what for Mummy?); “I’m too sexy”; “I touch myself” (thanks Christina); “I wanna sex you up”; “Pump it (nice an’ hard)” (charming); “Let’s talk about sex” (I do love Salt n’ Pepa); “Freak me” (check out the lyrics to this 1993 gem if you think we’ve got problems now); “Asshole”; “Do ya think I’m sexy?”; “Bitch”; “Sexy eyes”; “You sexy things” (these last four were all from 1997 – quite a year); “Horny” (can’t *wait* to have to explain that word to the boys); “Sex and candy”… The list, literally, goes on and on. So I genuinely don’t think popular culture, musically at least, is any more explicit or risque in general. Perhaps it is down to the fact that it is so much more present, so much more accessible today than it was decades ago, that our kids are absorbing it earlier, more rapidly, and more thoroughly. So long as we parent them sensibly through the quagmire, they should hopefully emerged unscathed.

Orinoco Flow hasn’t affected me TOO badly.

Intense parents of the world unite

November 12, 2012

You know you’re a tad temperamentally intense for this parenting lark when you have a tendency to agonize over the minutia of the task.

Parenting as an intense person is like a scientist examining something simple and beautiful under a microscope looking for signs of complexity and ugliness. Layers are added and depth is dug to a surface which should be appreciated as is. To raise children through an intense lens conflicts with their comprehension of the world. It lies at odds with the simple, beautiful immediacy of their lives.

With intensity comes anxiety. Worry dampens and detracts from enjoyment. It corrupts intuition and stifles innovation. It is difficult to hear your inner voice and trust its judgement when you analyse and agonize over decisions, preempting their long term impact. How will your choices as a parent affect the development of your child into adulthood? Are all your mistakes and omissions and foibles imprinted on their developing minds like permanent ink?

Of course not.

It is here that perspective is needed. Stepping back from the microscope. Intense people recognise this as they find themselves hunched over, intent and consumed, examining the petri dish. But what is there is something simple and beautiful and doing just fine. It fairs better without critical analysis. We intense parents need to – have to – lighten up. So I extend an invitation to join my Lighten up Intense Parents Support group (LIPS). Formed to make a smile.

Do what you gotta do

November 6, 2012

It’s a familiar refrain. A parent’s stock in trade when things go pear shaped: “We do the best we can”.
Is it a cop out? What if your “best” is bollocks?
We are only human. Perhaps in an ideal world parents would be blank slates or at least cleansed units, robots armed only with the best parenting intelligence. Throw at them the behaviour, the backchat, the teasing, the tantrums and all is neutralised to nothing.
If only.
We are imperfect. Around here is an endless string of broken things and a three year old who says “fuck”. Months of unsuccessful toilet training and cereal for tea, again. That they got themselves. I cooked tea but no one ate it. So help yourselves to the pantry because I’m done. Right from wrong, good versus bad, respect, care and safety. At least I don’t budge on these. The rest? My best may be another’s worst but it’s what I am capable of. As parents – as people – we can only lift so much, run so fast, climb so high.
You have to be realistic.

Happy Halloween…?

November 1, 2012

Lately I’ve been grappling with conformity. Conformity and what it means to be “mainstream”.

I have so many questions.

Living in comfortable suburbia, with children attending a large local primary school, “mainstream” prevails. It is in the yard, on the streets, in the houses. But what exactly is it?

A philosophy? A world view? A way of life? Is it the chip-packet lunch boxes, the after school sports, the Friday night bbq, the 2 pac kitchen renos, the new SUV, the BEST birthday party, the BEST camping trip, the BEST football game, the BEST gym work out, the all-smiles-I’m-just-like-you connection I wonder if people have? Is it a series of boxes to tick to assure belonging? Is “mainstream” a euphemism for easy living? Do those belonging to “mainstream” know of their membership and is it a conscious integration?

If “mainstream” represents the common aspirations of a certain social strata, what happens if you question these aspirations, or even reject them? Will you face ridicule and ostracism?

 

Like I said, I have questions.

Children are a strong motivating force of “mainstream”. I experienced this with Halloween, a never before feature on our family calendar. With so many families adopting the largely North American custom of trick-or-treating, it seemed almost cruel to preclude my kids from following the trend. So $10 and a visit to the local cheap shop later, and there we were. Reluctant conformists, reconciled by somber explanation of why we were adopting this hitherto foreign custom.

But it’s not just Halloween. If “mainstream” were a tree bearing fruits of conformity I admit I have selectively grazed. So am I “mainstream”? Can you pick and choose when to conform or are you forever bound to being one or the other: a non-conformist outsider or a common bourgeois? The line tends to get blurry when you have children, because nobody wants their child to be ostracised.

I suppose the best answer is you pick the palatable fruit that helps you get along. If that’s conformity, then so be it. I’m doing it for the kids.