Baby, You Must Drive Your Car, Beep, Beep Yeah

Which much thanks to the Beatles for allowing me to bastardise their lyrics for the title to this post, I once again turn the key to the engine to my blog and take her out for a spin.

butterflies emergingIt’s been an intriguing nine months or so since I last put fingers to keyboard. Enough time in which to create a human being or in fact move along the timeline of parenting stages. I’ve learned that I am no longer the mother of two teenagers, but rather one teenager and one emerging adult. This leaves me bemused, happy, sad and more than a little ill prepared. So in typical Curtain Raising fashion, I’ve been pulling at the curtain chords trying to work out exactly what is required to parent an emerging adult. This in introvert speak means ordering every book published on the topic.

Actually, is parenting even the right word? Is there, in fact, a statute of limitations on the use of the word parenting when referencing an emerging adult?

Talk about holy letting go, Batman!

None of it has been easy, hence the blog down time. Trying to be humorous whilst being barraged with a whole lot of uncertainty is a bit like trying to work an Iphone with a glove on. Sometimes you just have to put the damn thing down and finish what needed to be done with the glove first.

So here I am gloves off and back with another post, once again trying to make sense of the parenting journey.

About a month ago I received a lovely email from Donna L who wrote:

As a mother with two teenage daughters, I commonly find myself referencing the information on Raising the Curtain. I wanted to give you a quick shout and let you know all of the great information and tools you have provided me to acting as responsible parent to my children. I shared your website link with my group of Moms on my Facebook page, who I know will find value in your site

This is so cool, Donna L. Bless you and your Facebook page, mother’s group and your two teenage daughters.

It’s cool because we connected and I helped you and that makes me happy.

I had no expectation of ever doing that when I started this blog for I am no parenting expert. There have been many times over the last few months of hiatus where I have thought I’m not a particularly good parent, so to receive an email like this makes the doubts a little easier to bear.

As parent, I think we all have them. And just to know that I can provide some clarity that may  muffle those nasty voices in our parenting heads is a wonderful compliment. So thankyou Donna L.

Donna also kindly asked me to write about the topic of teenage texting and driving. So, Donna, I am happy to oblige you.

I think we have all been in circumstances where you look at the person in the car next to yours and think “What the…?” Not because they are doing anything racy, but because they are doing everything but driving. I mean where in the learner’s manual does it teach you how to drive and:

  • shave
  • apply makeup
  • write with a pen and paper
  • make breakfast
  • read a book
  • get dressed?????

And that’s possibly all at the same time!!

Photo courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

Photo courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

Is it any wonder then, that our teens are texting and driving? I mean look at all that’s been possible even in the pre digital era? Having driven in the US last year, on my Curtain Raising straw poll, the problem seems to be much more prevalent over there. It is scary what some  people will do whilst hurdling down the Interstate.

We live in a multi-tasking world and unfortunately that together with FOMO (fear of missing out) has entered our teens’ motor vehicles.

Mr Gottlieb here shares some good tips on how to talk to your teens about the issue. And talk we must, but we must also lead by example. That means when we drive we do not multitask. Otherwise when we talk to our kids, it’s just noise. Even talking on a mobile hands free whilst driving, listening to music through ear buds or so loud that it makes your doors rattle can be distracting.

So how do we teach our children to focus whilst they are in a vehicle filled with other teens? I am not a big fan of showing kids carnage to try and change behaviour. They get carnage on the nightly news, so much so they have become desensitised to it. To me the key is mateship and understanding that your actions can do lifelong damage to your mate. To do the right thing by said mate you have to deliver the cargo safely at the end of the night. Guilt is a poor substitute for friendship and no text in the world is worth that.

What’s the worst thing you have seen a driver do in a moving vehicle whilst driving?

Food Labelling Nonsense: How Intimate is Your Lunchbox?

I may be lunchbox friendly but am I label friendly?

I may be lunchbox friendly but am I label friendly?

Have you ever wondered what happens inside your lunchbox after you shut the lid? I know I have lost endless hours of sleep and sanity thinking about this very thing and more importantly as a mother thinking about how I may be affecting my kids by what I pack in their lunchbox.

OK, given the ages of my kids I don’t really pack their lunch boxes anymore, but I did for years and found it an eternal struggle. Struggle in the sense of keeping the lunchbox interesting so that its contents actually ended up in the kids’ stomachs rather than as a science experiment two weeks after it was first packed. We parents have all witnessed that experiment at one time or another and have acknowledged how creative Mother Nature really is by coordinating so many pretty colours of mould. And like me, I am sure you were often in fact packing lunches for other people’s kids because lunchtime was just a big swap meet. To ensure your kid maintained playground status it was important to always pack swap worthy, interesting items. Your kids may not have appreciated the nutritious, smelly salami sandwiches that you lovingly packed every day, but little Johnny whose parents were vegetarians certainly enjoyed your daily efforts.

I’m glad those days and the lunchbox pressure is now over.

Roll the film forward to lunch time today and I was lucky enough to have been offered a  muesli bar by a friend. It hit the spot right in the middle of four hours of uni classes. As I was breaking open the packaging about to savour the delicious flavours of strawberry, yoghurt and oats, I noticed that the labelling on the packaging proclaimed this muesli bar to be LUNCHBOX FRIENDLY.

Since when did muesli bars become aggressive and mean? Mind you, I have had my suspicions. Every time I used to put a muesli bar into my son’s lunch box the apple core would come back bruised and the mandarin beaten to a pulp. Coincidence? I think not.

If I was putting together a lunch box today for my sons I would have to consider not only the nutritional and freshness retention value of the food together with the ever changing palettes of my offspring, but also whether the food played nice with other food when the lid came down. And if not for the food label how would I ever know if a particular food was friendly and compatible? I mean trying to catch unfriendly food in the act is a bit like trying to peek inside the fridge door without making the light come on.

Needless to say the expression LUNCHBOX FRIENDLY came with a little ^ after it, meaning there was more to this friendship story. After chasing the little thingy around the bottom of the packet and squinting so hard that I almost burst a blood vessel, I found this explanation:

We care about you and your family and are committed to helping Australian families make easier choices for the lunchbox. That’s why we now make all of our muesli bars with a no added nut recipe* ensuring the range is now lunchbox friendly.

*This product has been made on equipment that does not use or handle peanut or tree nuts. Whilst we have taken these nuts out of our recipes we cannot guarantee that the other ingredients in this product have not come into contact with tree nuts or peanuts.

So having chased a ^ and * around the packet, I found that this friendly muesli bar didn’t hang out with nuts, but some of its ingredients could have. It certainly is a sign of our times that 40 or so words have to be used on packaging to avoid potential litigation or bad press around nut allergies.

I sympathise with any parent who has a child with a food allergy. I am not sure though whether introducing the label of LUNCHBOX FRIENDLY is the clearest way to warn consumers. That expression can mean a host of things to a host of people, if it means anything at all. My first reaction was that lunchbox friendly meant less fat, less sugar.

My second reaction was lunch boxes must have gotten a whole lot tougher than when I was a kid. My third reaction was to check the pantry for other nonsense labels.

The message seems to have gotten lost in the attempt at clever marketing. How many people would pause long enough to chase the symbols around the packet? It seems preferable to simply state NOT MADE WITH NUTS given the caveat about other ingredients possibly having socialised with nuts.

Why use 4 words when you can use 40?

Have you ever come across nonsensical  labelling of foods?  Do you read the food labels on packets?

The L of Living Imperfectly: Losing Yourself In Fear #atozchallenge

OK, so I know I’m not perfect. The past week of commitments has meant that I had to let the Challenge slide. It’s the first time in 3 years I have done so and whilst I would have preferred to be putting up my “O” post today like the rest of you, I am content to be back at “L” and continuing my Challenge journey. I’m looking forward to catching up all around, on the reading on the writing and on the commenting.

All of this is just to prove that I don’t pre-bake my Challenge posts. If I was that perfect I would have written them for the week and programmed them to magically appear. Whilst that’s a great idea, I prefer my posts to reflect what I feel on the day.

What’s a Challenge without a challenge, right?

L Challenge Letter In my K post I commented briefly about being held hostage to another’s fear. This is something that is always a possibility in a relationship. In our strive to love someone and make someone else happy, we can take on their fears.

When my kids were younger and invited their young play mates over to our house, it was always interesting talking to these children because  more often than not, at that age they are a reflection of their parents. A veritable transmitter of their parents’ fears. Now, everyone has the right to raise their kids the way they see fit so this is not about judging anyone’s parenting style. But it wasn’t long before you could see what grown up fears and ideas had been transplanted into these young minds.

The fear of catching a cold or of becoming messy were the real obvious ones. But there were others like fear around certain foods that were not for medical reasons or fears about activities that were perceived dangerous, something like walking on the sand at the beach near the water.  Of course, as the parent of the host child you listen, adjust and respect the visiting parent’s/child’s values.But how many of these kids were missing out because of their parents’ fears? How many of these kids would end up losing themselves because of these fears? And how many of them would transmit these fears across the generations to their own children?

In adult relationships the same thing can happen. Your partner has certain fears. For ease, let’s use dancing. How many of you have stopped dancing because your partner doesn’t like it? You go to weddings and other celebrations and you don’t dance because your partner fears looking like this and getting this reaction:

dancing

 

Dancing is a relatively straight forward fear and probably most of us can get by without dancing if we have to. But what about those more complex fears, the ones that go to your core, your passions, who you are? They can’t be sacrificed so easily without losing your sense of self.

The loss tends to come incrementally until one day the light goes on. So what do you do at that point? Do you keep losing yourself for the sake of the relationship or do you make changes in your own life to reclaim the lost parts of yourself?

The choice is not easy and there are a whole lot of complexities to sort through, particularly if the happiness of the other person is important to you. The bottom line though is that you are just as worthy and your happiness is just as important as that of your partner’s and no-one has the right to force their fears onto you. Acceptance does not mean total conformity and losing your identity. A true equal relationship is about both people being free to be able to be who they are.

Reclaiming who you are is not about being selfish. True selfishness comes from requiring someone else to live by our standards alone.

Dare to be imperfect, dare to be you.

The G of Living Imperfectly: Generations and Guilt #atozchallenge

Whether you’re working from home because your kid is sick, you freelance or you’re still looking for a job, there’s one thing you must do during a conference call: Get your kid to shut up.

Children hate anyone who takes your attention away from them. Like the animals that can sense an impending earth-quake, children can tell when you are about to say something very important to a client. They have a superpower and they use it for evil. You must prepare. – Sh*tty Mum: The Parenting Guide For The Rest Of Us by Laurie Kilmartin, Karen Moline, Alice Ybarbo and Mary Ann Zoellner, Abrams Image 2012

Letter GIf you are a parent who is always perfect in how you deal with your children and have no tolerance for those who are not then you are going to hate this post. I suggest you look away now to avoid the stress and anxiety not to mention beads of sweat that will form above your immaculately presented upper lip once you have delved into my imperfect world. For I am about to jump into that can of worms that is perfection and parenting or as I sometimes call it, perfecting the generations.

I have been a human being for 50 years. I have been a parent for almost 20 of those years. Little did I know that almost 20 years ago, I would be given my pass to the secret code. The Mo Code. Back in 2012, I wrote about the Mo Code in a blog about how to survive a road trips with teenagers. The Mo Code is my term for things that real mothers do and say, rather than what they should say. This is in sharp contrast to the utterances of Stepford mothers or the advice given by parenting manuals and advice columns, highlighting a kind of parenting credibility gap.

From the day I first gave birth, I was thrown into a vortex of expectation, both mine and others’. Everyone wants to be perceived to be the perfect parent, or if not perfect then at least a good one. And so the Mo Code comes into play. How dare we admit that parenting is hard or that little Johnny sometimes wears the same socks for three days straight? Or that we have allowed our children to watch TV for 15 minutes whilst taking a client call? Or that we sometimes feel overwhelmed, ill-equipped, tired and stressed, namely we are not perfect parents? Most of us admit these things only to the closest of confidants and definitely behind the curtain.

And then there’s the guilt. Guilt, parenting and perfection is the great triumvirate of birthing. Those clever ad executives with their baby product clients know this and peddle all three. Everyone’s a winner, right? Well everyone except us parents. Because any satisfaction or that we may have gained from buying into this consumer perfection, quickly evaporates when the next product comes onto the market.

Really, at the end of the day the only legitimate judges of our parenting are our children and ourselves, and even then how success in parenting is defined is highly subjective.

The important thing is that we keep parenting real. We need to talk about the hardships, the pitfalls, the wins and the losses and what really works for us. And we need to do it without guilt and with humour and authenticity. In this way we will be doing a huge service notimagesFEOCU3NX only to ourselves but to future generations of parents who will carry the weight of expectation well beyond the time their baby bump has disappeared.

For this reason, a book such as Sh*tty Mum: The Parenting Guide For The Rest Of Us  is to be welcomed. Not everyone will applaud or understand as the Amazon reviews will attest. However, it brings the real covert behaviour of the Mo Code out into the open and creates a new dialogue from a most refreshing angle. As this post from Essential Kids tells us:

In fact, a recent survey by parenting website BabyCentre in the UK found that lying is widespread among mothers. The pressure on them to be ‘perfect’ led to more than half of those questioned saying they felt the need to lie about their parenting skills to make them seem like better parents to others. Nine out of ten mothers confessed to using television to keep their children quiet, while 71 per cent admitted to lying to their child to make their day easier and a fifth of those questioned said they occasionally replaced a healthy dinner with chocolate and sweets.

These statistics don’t surprise me and I suspect they would be closely replicated in Australia.

It’s a real shame that we feel the need to be pressured by perception. Parenting is a unique journey for all of us and we should be supporting each other rather than treating it and our kids as the trophies of our perfection.

I really hope that one day we can let our parenting authenticity shine though so that we can enjoy it 100% guilt free like these authors.

Cheerio and Welcome to my Modern Day Cereal Drama

I have just finished my sixty ninth consecutive Cheerios breakfast.

Well, almost. I did break up the series one day a couple of weeks ago when I luxuriated in a breakfast of home-made fig jam. I can assure you that the maker of said fig jam did not come from this home for I wouldn’t want my image of the undomestic Goddess to be tarnished. If people know you can cook, it only creates pesky expectations even if you can only sort of cook, so better not to go there.

calm breakfast

This less than cheerful Cheeriofest started some months ago when youngest (Geekchild) proclaimed that he absolutely loves Cheerios and could I please round up some in my weekly hunting and gathering trip to the supermarket. Geekchild obtains all of his gourmet tastes from American cartoons such as the Family Guy, American Dad and the Simpsons. Thanks to Homer, Peter Griffin and whatever name the American Dad group go by we have had to try banana cream pie, buffalo wings and corn dogs.

None of these wonder foods figure on the Australian menu. And to think mindless, satirical cartoons were non-educational – ha! Judge my parenting if you must, but I’m always up for feeding (pun intended) my children’s desire to learn about other cultures and expand their taste bud horizon. And no, I don’t indulge their sweet tooth, their takeaway food tooth or give into their every whim and desire. It just so happens that I, too, have always wanted to know what in the world was banana cream pie.

Needless to say, a couple of bites in and both Geekchild’s and my curiosity and palate were satisfied. We can now tick banana cream pie off our bucket (pun intended) lists and can appreciate why it does not figure on the Australian menu.

What is this thing called breakfast?

What is this thing called breakfast?

But back to the Cheerios. It just so happens that the Cheerios request happily coincided with a visit to Costco. And there it was the beacon of Cheerios down the end of the aisle beckoning and seducing me with its corn, wheat, oats and rice, 10 vitamins and minerals and no artificial flavours. All 650 gram giant double packs of it.

Me: “Great, they’ve got it, Geekchild is really going to be impressed”

The Committee: “Two packs of 650 gram cereal is too much. Geekchild will be eating Cheerios for 120 consecutive days”

Me: “But it’s here, now. Soooooo convenient”

The Committee: “You can always get a smaller pack back at your local supermarket”

Me: “Listen Committee, when you start having to cope with the strangeness of teens eating habits, you will know that having them eat breakfast before lunchtime is a major achievement. Decision overruled”.

And so here I am some months later eating my sixty ninth consecutive bowl of semi stale Cheerios. Geekchild has had box of cheeriostwo. There’s only about 25 more to go for in one of my more particularly grey moments I bought an additional smaller box from my local supermarket thinking that Geekchild would benefit only to find that the level in the open box had not fallen in a month. You see teenagers don’t tend to tell you when their food passions wane, you are meant to pick up these vibes through subliminal mind transfer and your abilities as a parental oracle.

Uncle Tobys or Nestle if you are reading this please DON’T send me any more Cheerios. I’m grateful that my modern day cereal drama is almost at an end, the finishing line is in sight.

Things I have learned from this experience: everything in moderation and there’s no use crying over stale Cheerios.

Last night, Geekchild came to me and said “this V8 juice is great mum, can you buy another five bottles?” At which point 25 bowls of Cheerios bathed in fruit/vegetable juice flashed before my eyes and I escaped to take refuge in my pantry.

The sacrifices we make for our children…

Have you ever been the victim of your child’s food fads? Are you ever concerned about their eating habits? Would you like a bowl of stale Cheerios?

10 Last Thoughts In The Dying Hours of My Fifth Decade

So, it is done and it is true what that say, life really does go on.

vintage birthdayAs the day loomed and time in its relentless pursuit marched on, the smell of my fear became more pungent. Whilst my determination to make middle age an era of opportunity and adventure is absolute there was just something about actually crossing over the great divide that I could not wrap my mind around. A moment in time, a mere second and here I am on the other side of fifty.

Whilst the great event occurred a couple of days ago, I have only now plucked up the courage to recount my thoughts during the dying moments of what has undoubtedly been my best decade. For my fourth decade was when I asked:

Hello, is it me you’re looking for?

and my forty something year old self echoed back a resounding

 

YES!!

In line with the great “one day I’ll look back on this and laugh” tradition, I penned the following in the dying hours of my forty-ninth year :

  1. Sometime overnight I’m going to cross the great abyss. Logically, I know I’ll awaken in the same bed, in the same body, but sometime during the night when the moon steals the light from the sun, time will steal from me another decade.
  2. Politicians really do write to you on your 50th birthday, on rather posh looking stationary containing a signature that was actually penned by a human. This is not to infer that politicians are human, but apparently reaching 50 is seen by some as a great achievement. I understand at 75 there will be a telegram from HRH. Chances are by that stage HRH will be a him and I suspect that the birthday greeting may come in the form of a tweet. I mean, who sends telegrams anymore?
  3. I have no need to lament the loss of perky boobs or a thin waist. I never had them during what most people would consider my heyday. My confidence and body have now finally crossed paths and whilst there’s a few things I would tweak, I’m certainly not crying over the loss of my 20’s body. In fact, I’d be crying if I still had it.50 years of awesome
  4. Is there something pre-ordained at birth about being chosen to live a counter-cyclical life? Sure, my life has proceeded down along the conventional route of birth, school, university, marriage, career, motherhood and mortgage. However, emotionally I have never felt better or more adventurous. With the boys getting older, it is now all ahead of me.
  5. Sometimes I look at people the same age as me and am overcome with the sensation that I am surrounded by old people. Not that age has anything to do it with per se, but I wonder if they look at me and feel the same. I sincerely hope not. Particularly as I’m just regaining some relevance and credibility to my teenaged progeny. Surely it’s about outlook and energy levels, people!
  6. I seem to be entering the age when it is fashionable to engage in “unwellness” contests. This shits me to tears. I can’t understand why anyone would want to compete to have the most complex health problems or the most famous specialist treating them. Since when did having a health problem become a social status symbol? Don’t get me wrong, when people talk about their health problems I will listen patiently, but I don’t see the need to raise the stakes by out “bad healthing” them. It takes me back to the days of playgroup and new mothers competing over who had the worst labour stories. Ick!
  7. Patience really is a virtue and I’m getting more virtuous as the years roll on. Another counter-cyclical trait?
  8. One of the best decisions I made was not to have a big birthday bash, but to make this a jubilee year and have lots of little jazz agecelebrations over the length of it. From celebrating with friends on different continents to high tea in the mountains, the celebrations will focus on our shared milestone of friendship not about my individual milestone of reaching 50.
  9. I’m actually younger than Michelle Obama – go figure.
  10. Zzzzzzzzzzzzz well, by then it was 10.45 pm.

Having survived the fall over the abyss, I’m moving forward smug in the knowledge that there’s another 10 years to go before I have to worry about another milestone birthday and that it won’t involve correspondence from a politician.

Have you ever received birthday greetings from a politician? Do you stress about milestone birthdays?

Masculinity and Women of Hard Headed Repute #zerotohero

The [lazy?] days of Summer and the Zero to Hero assignments seem to be whizzing by.

Time to don the cape, the super hero boots and the golden lasso and practice leaping off a few blog posts in a single bound.

Most of the assignments since I last checked in have involved blog tinkering including adding some widgets, Spring cleaning of the blog’s about page and side bar and honing commenting skills. However, there are a couple of assignments that require a blog post

Day 12:  write a post that builds on one of the comments you left yesterday. Don’t forget to link to the other blog!

Day 16: publish a post based on your own, personalized take on today’s Daily Prompt. The Prompt on the day being:

Do you have a reputation? What is it, and where did it come from? Is it accurate? What do you think about it?

In the interests of energy conservation, I am going to combine the two assignments in this one post.

On day 12, I commented on a wonderful post by BTG who blogs at musingsofanoldfart. The post entitled, I Am Looking for a Hard Headed Woman discussed the lyrics of the Cat Stevens’ song of the same name and gave BTG’s take on what a “hard headed woman” means to him, drawing particularly on two lines of the song:

  • one who will take me for myself
  • one who will make me do my best

and finally counting his blessings in having married a hard headed woman. It was a heartfelt post from a blogger who uses his vast knowledge of music and lyrics to shine a spotlight on the more meaningful events of a human life.

touch womanIt is extremely refreshing to see a male acknowledge his love and appreciation for a hard headed woman. I firmly believe that most men love a hard headed woman, but there is something in the ‘How Men Should Act Code” that prevents them from publicly making this admission. But have a think about it, how many families do you know where the wife/woman leads the way? She may not do it openly for a clever woman knows never to make her mate feel emasculated, but how many times is she truly the family brains trust? How many times is she the resilient one, how many times is she the one that pushes the family beyond its collective comfort zone and introduces it to novel experiences? How many times does she credit her mate with spearheading the charge?

So what does being heard headed woman mean to me?

A hard headed woman is one who is willing to make decisions – tough, easy, makes no difference, there is no inertia with a hard headed woman. She is one who is less worried about chipping a nail and more about rolling up her sleeves, one who owns the consequences of her actions and omissions, one who will defend her family no matter what, one who moves the family forward with due thought and care but who does not feel the need for ask for permission and one who knows where she is going.

She makes her mate feel central to her processes and tries to cloak her sterner stuff in feminine warmth and softness.

As the song says one who makes her mate do his best.

If I could choose to have a reputation it would be as a hard headed woman in the manner I have described. Have I achieved it? UnderestimatingThat’s impossible to answer as it is akin to asking someone to answer their own “Does my bum look big in this?” question. Just like it is difficult to see how one’s own backside looks, it is very difficult to judge one’s own reputation. To do so would necessitate holding up a mirror to one’s interactions with others and interpreting what is reflected back. A rather inaccurate process.

Thank you BTG for making the admission about hard headed women. It is hoped that more men take your lead and publicly confess to their secret appreciation for us. A hard headed woman is a perfect complement to a strong, soft hearted man. A note to you men, strong and soft heartedness are not mutually exclusive. In a woman’s eyes you can be both and perhaps the collective male psych will evolve one day to also reach that happy place.

For further reference, read The New Manhood by Steve Biddulph. Also, a must read for mothers with sons.

Mother of Sons? You Might Just Be A Ladybromum

Weekends are for blowing away the weekday cobwebs and what better way to start the process than by reading the weekend papers?

Weekend papers contain all sorts of intriguing nuggets and tidbits that are wonderfully self contained. One of these nuggets is a little feature called “Dictionary For The Modern World” which introduces readers to modern day linguistics by describing words and their meaning. Today’s word was ladybro:

A ladybro is a man’s female friend (or girlfriend) who is cool enough to hang with the boys. She must share their appreciation of beer, sport and all forms of humour involving bodily secretions. Princesses need not apply.

This little snippet caught my eye for several reasons. Firstly, I have always regarded myself as a bit of a ladybro (although in my day the term was probably “tomboy”) without the liking for beer. I have played wingman for my guy friends, attended many a sporting event with them,  laughed at their fart jokes and judged burping contests. If that grosses you out, then maybe you should take your kitten heels and jump off this post here. Don’t get me wrong, I can do ladylike. It’s just that it’s way too much work, so its reserved for special or mandatory occasions.

I’m also the mother of sons, not daughters, so naturally found this definition highly relevant to my adult parenting life.

And being the punster and blog writer that I am, I naturally concluded after seeing this definition that there should be a parental variant, ladybromum:

A mother of sons who is cool enough to hang with them. She must share their appreciation for cereal at all hours of the day and night, sport, computers and all forms of humour involving bodily secretions (and never admit to that in polite company). She must give as good as she gets and never wear pink, but must enjoy a good wrestle and endure being tickled. Princesses will be eaten.

So are you or would you want to be a ladybromum?

son quoteFor me the answer is a resounding yes. The state of ladybromumness is about fun and connection and some parenting messages are best delivered in ladybromum mode. The stuff about cleaning rooms, folding laundry, rinsing dishes are far more effective delivered in ladybromum mode. The alternative is seen as nagging and is eminently forgettable. And of course some of the most poignant moments of parenting involve bodily secretion humour. It’s the great leveler. No one is immune as much as polite society may think otherwise.

And as a ladybromum you really know you have made it to the top when your sons invite their friends over and don’t immediately shoo you out of the room or when you are invited to share a big bowl of Cheerios at 3am in the morning.

So ladybromums unite. One day your sons will thank you for your fortitude, authenticity and relaxed attitudes by introducing you to their very own ladybro. By which time all that play wrestling with your sons will have well and truly payed off.

Ladybromum solidarity forever!

Relevance Deprivation, Politics and Parenting #NaBloPoMo

Australia is buzzing with the news today that former prime minister (x2), Kevin Rudd has resigned from both the parliament and politics.

Kevin Rudd, who was deposed as Prime Minister in 2010 from within his own party by Julia Gillard, recently lead the Labor party to an election loss. Essentially, Kevin Rudd was reinstalled as Labor leader and Prime Minister six weeks before the election to mitigate the election carnage that was a sure thing if the party was led by Julia Gillard.  Labor came out of the election with the inevitable loss, but surprisingly performed better than most expected in Western Sydney and Queensland. And they attribute this success to Mr Rudd’s campaigning and leadership.

Mr Rudd, had quite the reputation of being a controlling narcissistic perfectionist. Whilst he could turn on the charm when he had to, the Government was often paralysed by Mr Rudd’s inability to make a decision and his cabinet members often surprised by Mr Rudd’s failure to consult them. Certainly, Mr Rudd’s concession speech on election night looked more like a victory speech and contained not an ounce of humility. I will say no more other than I am glad he is going.

There is some great commentary coming out of the Australian press on his leaving. This morning I heard a reporter ask a Labor strategist whether Mr Rudd was going to suffer relevance deprivation now that he was stepping out of the lime light. Relevance deprivation for a reputed narcissist should truly be a fate worse than losing an election. The strategist replied that this was unlikely given that the international stage loved Mr Rudd and no doubt he would find a gig somewhere which put him back on the international stage.

I love this expression “relevance deprivation” and it is the first time I have heard it.

It got me to thinking that relevance deprivation is the perfect expression to also describe what we are going through as parents of keep calm and regain relevanceteenagers. Now that “separation” has begun, our opinions and advice no longer have the same gravitas to our teens. On many days it feels we are fighting for relevance beyond the provision of a roof, internet connection and home cooked meals. We have been voted out and our views automatically discounted simply because of where they are sourced.

In short, I very much feel relevance challenged.

I have absolutely no issue with my children seeking opinions and advice from others. In fact, I think its vital that they have trusted confidants beyond their parents they can turn to discuss things and gain different perspectives. I also don’t believe that as parents and in the absence of a critical situation we are automatically entitled to give our teens unsolicited opinions on their lives.

But it sure would be nice to be asked every now and again.

I sincerely believe that some of what we discuss does get though even though the teens would rather not show or acknowledge this. The situation will right itself eventually, provided that we retain respect for each other during the process. It is up to us parents to lead the way on this and make sure we don’t deprive ourselves of a place of relevance in our teens’ life. We need to let go and not fight it and embrace the future and our teens for all they are worth.

In other words, keep calm and regain relevance.

How Much Is A Child’s Year Really Worth? #NaBloPoMo

More on the parenting teens theme today given this is what is taking up most of my head space at the moment.

At this time of life when asked my age, I often jokingly answer in dog years. This not only paves the way for further discussion, but also serves as an ice breaker and a youth elixir of sorts. My recent parenting teens experiences leads me to question whether 18 years of a child’s life today has the same equivalency as 18 years of a child’ life, say growing up in the 50s, 70s or 80s. Or is it like dog years and equivalent to something less so that ageing in the new millennium like the value of money is decreasing in effectiveness over time?

I met a wonderful woman today in my Zumba class who also happens to be the mother of two boys. Her boys are older than mine, adult clockaged 19 and 22. We were of course sweatily comparing parenting experiences, have just shaken our wobbly bits on the dance floor for the last hour during class. She was exclaiming how both of her boys were now just starting down the tertiary education road after having travelled for a while and taken bridging courses to gain entry into university in this country. She was very proud of her boys going down this road, as she herself had not done so and wished that she had. Anecdotally she advised that most of her sons’ cohorts had also not started university straight after finishing school, but had chosen to travel, work or taken a gap year.

In the ehemm…three decades (or 4 or so dog years) since I was 18, there seems to have been a shift in how an 18 year old sees the world. We often hear that life for children is more complicated today – faster paced, more competitive and just more. There is no doubt the information age has brought with it an array of options for an 18 year old that were not available to us at that age, or not as easily accessible. For example, many 18 year olds place a premium on seeing the world and are more well travelled than most adults. Through those travelling experiences, the world of living, working and loving in a foreign land is now a reality for our 18 year olds.

But does having all these options mean that the timeline for 18 year olds have been pushed out? Is 23 the new 18 and is 18 the new 15, but with drinking, voting and driving rights thrown in (note in Australia the legal drinking age is 18)? At what point should a person get down and get serious about their life path instead of behaving like human flotsam and jetsam? And is this really necessary now anyway given that home affordability no longer seems a reality for most 18 year olds and there is no guarantee of employment after university graduation?

Am I creating a rod for my own back by insisting that my children study ahead of playing computer games and that they strive towards something other than just living for today?

life path signageI certainly don’t believe that the life path I chose is necessarily the best one for my children. We are all unique and each person should be free to choose their own path. But I can’t help thinking that perhaps we are asking our children to make their choice before they are properly equipped to do so. Are these decisions that should be postponed until my children are 21 or 22 after they have acquired a bit of life experience? Life experience that had they grown up in the 50s, 70s or 80s they would more likely have had by now?

I still have more questions than answers at this point, but I can’t help thinking that it just a different world with different challenges to when I was 18.

They say you can’t put an old head on young shoulders, but maybe it’s possible to put some old shoulders under a young head to offer support and guidance pending launch time.

Any feedback you wish to provide on these issues will be most gratefully received.