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.

Walking on Egg Shells Without A Safety Net #NaBloPoMo

There are days when as a parent of two teens, I can’t turn a trick.

Thankfully, today was not one of those days. We had a rather pleasant afternoon over lunch celebrating my mother’s birthday as a family. My mother has the most amazing knack of bringing out the best in my children. Mind you, they also bring out the best in her and today was no exception. I suppose she’s a safe zone for them, a whole lot of love without any need for prodding them to do stuff. Gratitude thy name is mother and I love the fact that my children have grandparents they can and do turn to.

caution teenagersThis last year or so of parenting has left me sitting here feeling very ineffective. Forget the fiscal cliff, what I’m talking about is the parental cliff and I’ve sailed right over. On my way through the free fall, I find myself latching on to any small branch of commonality with others similarly in free fall, swapping stories in an attempt to gain any insight into how to cushion this landing. Then there’s the  desperate clutching onto anything resembling something remotely positive or connective from said teens.

Every parent strives towards producing independent adults who will contribute positively to the human race. And by contribution, I don’t mean splitting the atom, creating the next big Internet phenomenon or brokering world peace. Whilst, all of these are wonderful objectives and worth striving towards, really all I want for my children is to happy and independent in whatever lawful path they choose.

And there’s the rub. To get to that point, our children have to make their own declaration of independence. And the process can be brutal. Deep down inside I applaud this final snip of the umbilical cord. In fact I would be more concerned if it didn’t come. The issue really is that whilst it’s happening, the family still has to function and we all need to still take care of business. Except that now their business is no longer my business except when I should have known it was my business from the subliminal messages that now pass for parent/teen communications.

Which is why I feel like I’m currently walking on egg shells without a safety net.

The approach to a teen requesting them to do the most basic of things involves the strategy of Sun Tzu, the diplomacy skills of Age gridHenry Kissenger and the timing skills of Warren Buffett. The slightest miscalculation can have lingering repercussions and usually someone me ends up losing a finger, or even worse, credibility. And all of this happening at a time which certainly feels like my parental report card is being handed down showing a series of Fs.

I wish I had some witty wisdom to impart on how to get through this. However, it has suddenly left me, no doubt buried under the piles of clothes in my teens’ bedrooms.

Perhaps I really should follow my teens’ advice to “Not take it so personally, mum” and instead go searching for my recently departed sense of humour. I think I’m going to need it for what’s still ahead.

 

 

 

 

CEO Is Not An Acronym For Character Entirely Optional

I read a wonderful post today by my fellow blogger, BTG, about an American football coach who suspended his entire high school football team for demonstrating poor behaviour to others and showing a lack of accountability. You can read the post here.

It started me thinking about the great character paradox. As parents we all want our children to grow up being men and women of character and our messaging of the importance of character starts at an early age. Toddlers are taught not to hit, push or scream and to share and play nice with others. Later, we teach our children to be sociable, inclusive and respectful. As their journey through life continues we reinforce the “treat others as you would be treated” rule and the value of compassion, caring and helpfulness.

And then something happens. Some where along the way, the messaging that reaches our children’s ears seems to change, at least for those children that are destined for the corporate/business world. Whether it’s from peers, educators or society the volume control on the following increases:

  • nice guys finish last
  • the squeaky wheel gets the most oil
  • who you know is more important than who you are
  • you eat what you kill
  • it’s all about the results and not the journey.

So, we teach our children to be adults of character and society and business rewards them for being anything but.

What if our business leaders were prepared to do exactly what this coach did to his team? What if our CEOs and senior managers were spilled for showing lack of character and had to earn their way back into the bonus pool?

Sadly, this Nirvana will never be reached in my life time, at least not in my industry. In business we continually confuse confidence with competence and build reward structures to promote narcissistic behaviour and traits. And what’s more, our company’s mission statements and internal policies do nothing more than add to the we value character rhetoric. Our children inevitably learn what is really rewarded and set out to play the game.

Show me a CEO who reprimands his top salesman for treating the office staff with disrespect and I will show you a man of character. Show me a managing partner who rewards and encourages team contribution over individual billings and I will show you a woman of character. I will also show you a more engaged and productive workforce.

photo courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

photo courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

The best managers I have worked for have all been people of character. These are the few who show us that we can still achieve by treating superiors and subordinates respectfully, by valuing human beings and by being accountable for our decisions and actions. They share and play nice with others, lessons learned in kindergarten. They don’t toot their own horn or spend their time brown-nosing.

It’s not complicated. Even a toddler can understand it.

Coincidentally, I received a flyer from my old high school today advertising an alumni lunch event around the topic “What Defines Success”. The speakers are all high profile individuals either alumni or parents of present students. By assembling these speakers they have already presumed a certain defintion of success. To me its just more of the same old.

Imagine if we could spill the corporate team and only rebuild it with those who demonstrate real character?

Imagine if character was not entirely optional for our CEOs and senior managers?

Kudos to the coach for spilling his team and taking the time to teach his young charges an important lesson. It’s a huge step in the right direction.

 

Being Accosted Never Smelt So Sweet

Where does time go? I’ve turned around and its been a whole month since I last blogged.

In all fairness I have been thinking about blogs to write, flirting with poignant topics relevant to all of us battling a life crisis sandwich. For the uninitiated (and that would be most of you because I just made

picture from vaboomer.com

picture from vaboomer.com

this up), a life crisis sandwich is the meal that comes from that special place where mid-life crisis meets teenage angst. And this past month has been spent dealing with that special place.  I am not sure whether in this house, the adults have regressed or the teens have progressed, but whatever the case we are all dealing with change and questions. I think God must truly have a wicked sense of humour to coincide my offspring’s teenage years when they are questioning the meaning of life and their own existence with the very point at which their parents are doing the same. Two thumbs up there. May we all survive this test to reach what comes after the life crisis sandwich, namely the post apocalyptic fudge brownie.

At this stage, the fudge brownie remains just off into the distance. I can see it, sort of, if I squint long and hard enough and can almost smell it. Only a few more bites of the life crisis sandwich to go. My commiseration to all of you also experiencing the joys of the life crisis sandwich. I hope you now know you are not alone.

This gives you an idea of what I have been up to in the last month and why I haven’t blogged. Also good manners, because I would never blog with my mouth full, even if it’s just a no calorie life crisis sandwich.

All of this is a long-winded way of saying I really wanted my first post back to be poignant, but instead, dear readers, you are going to get this.

Over the past few months I have been accosted in my own home on several occasions. Not only me, but other members of my family have been similarly accosted. Every time it happens we reinforce that we need to be wary, keep our guard up and not let it take us by surprise. And we fail every time.

I see it perched up high on the picture rail or sometimes, just to keep us guessing, sitting on the side board. Watching, waiting, ready to pounce. Light blinking, nozzle pointed, waiting to expel its deadly gas. The minute a body comes into view, nay even before that, the minute the air pressure changes to indicate a moving being, it aims, shoots and scores. A menace to all unsuspecting wanderers, its activities are not confined to nocturnal maneuvers. Night or day, it is on high alert waiting for its next victim. With a pfft and a click you know you have been hit even before the odour reaches you. Its stated aim is to release air freshener, but this is just propaganda. Its real objective is to startle the living daylights out of you, especially at night.

This little device is the SWAT team of odour prevention. There is no shield thick enough, no night vision strong enough to defeat it. You would think it would be a fair fight, six feet of human vs one foot of motion sensor air freshener, but this fight is neither fair nor foul. In fact it takes place in a haze of Lilly of the Valley and with an innocent demeanor. Flying below the radar, it infiltrated my home without my permission, having snuck into the Itallian Stallion’s bag.

Lilly of the valleyBut I’m now onto this trespasser. After being accosted at 3.30am the other night, I have decided to deactivate the little bastard. Indeed, at 3.30am with a stuffy nose and a throbbing head to have a useless invention for the “genteel” accost me on a headache tablet mercy dash is entirely beyond the pale.  Clearly, there is much use for a fine spray of Lilly of the Valley with a head cold (not).

And lest you think my stealth skills are substandard, my strapping sons have also been accosted from on high. Like a swooping magpie protecting its nest in Spring, the air freshener rains on their heads at the first hint of movement. Perhaps this is not a bad thing with teenage boys, but I’d hate to have them invite their friends over only to be sprayed. That would make them feel real welcome.

So the time has come to reclaim my corridors. No more Lilly of the Valley, not more pfft that goes bump in the night. I’m reclaiming my right of peaceful passage without a treaty of surrender.

One last pfft for man, one giant leap for mankind (at least those in this house).

Have you ever been accosted by a device in your own home? Is there any device that you would really like to banish?

air freshener

Deactivated!

A Letter to My Son On Entering University: The Journey Continues

By far and away my most popular post has been about the letter I wrote to my son on his final school year retreat.

Titled, A Letter To My Son: Reflections On A Journey it contained my thoughts and messages to my 17-year-old son as he was about to face the toughest academic year of his young life. Each day the post is read many times. It seems many of us parents are looking for inspiration about what to say to our teenage children, particularly on reaching high school graduation. My readers for this post come from all over the world and the issue seems to transcend geographic borders.

So in keeping with this theme, I am posting my next letter to my son who thankfully survived his last year of high school and just this week started university.

Uni grads

As parents, we often feel that the wisdom we try to impart goes unheeded. But I have a small, sneaking suspicion that when we turn our backs and when the going gets a little tough it is our voice that our offspring recalls, our words that are headed and our example that he follows. So in that vein, here is some of my Curtain Raising Wisdom. You never know, when my children are in their thirties and are parents themselves they might even acknowledge that I made some sense.

And so to the letter:

Dear J,

Without preamble or fanfare, let me say I am proud of you. You are now a high school graduate and a university freshman and at the start of what truly is a great adventure.

You will have heard a lot of people say that the university years are the best of your life. And they are right… to a point.

Much awaits you at university, it now all lies at your feet and ahead of you. Step carefully, son of mine as there will be many a siren call to tempt you from your path. You are now an adult of drinking age [note to US readers, the legal drinking age here in Australia is 18], and you will, for the first time, be surrounded in your academic endeavours by members of the opposite sex. Enjoy their presence and learn from them. Learn from their organisation, enterprise and their studiousness. Learn the subtle interplay between male and female, but always remember to practice respect and equality and above all, safe pleasure.

Image courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

Image courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

Mix with the rest of the university population as this is your chance to make life long friendships from a wide circle. Trust me, friendships don’t get deeper than if you have sweated together at 3.00am the night before an assignment is due and neither of you has a clue what the question means. Make friends with people who are studying towards degrees other than your own, pick their brains, let them pick yours, ask questions, think broadly and enjoy the quest to find the answers.

At university no-one takes attendance. Whether you attend lectures and tutorials is up to you. However, as usual with freedom comes responsibility and your own destiny now lies more in your hands. Remember when your high school teachers told you what to read, how to answer a question, where to find resources and reminded you that assessments were due? All that has now stopped and it is up to you to work out what needs to happen and how to get to the end goal. It may be hard at first, but persevere, because this is where you will learn the essential life skills of initiative, self-reliance and resilience.

Enjoy the freedom of having time to work whilst studying, but do not be lured by the false promise of immediate and easy cash. Working is great and offers you a lot of freedom, but do not be lured by the instant gratification of what appears to be easy independence. You will earn more money than you have ever had, but keep your eye on the bigger goal.

Image courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

Image courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

You are laying foundations and foundations need to be strong and solid. They take time to build and time to settle. It really is true when they say nothing worthwhile ever comes easy. Perhaps if my words don’t resonate then the words of 50 Cent from the 50th Law might:

THE FOOLS IN LIFE WANT THINGS FAST AND EASY—MONEY, SUCCESS, ATTENTION. BOREDOM IS THEIR GREAT ENEMY AND FEAR. WHATEVER THEY MANAGE TO GET SLIPS THROUGH THEIR HANDS AS FAST AS IT COMES IN. YOU, ON THE OTHER HAND, WANT TO OUTLAST YOUR RIVALS. YOU ARE BUILDING THE FOUNDATION FOR SOMETHING THAT CAN CONTINUE TO EXPAND. TO MAKE THIS HAPPEN, YOU WILL HAVE TO SERVE AN APPRENTICESHIP. YOU MUST LEARN EARLY ON TO ENDURE THE HOURS OF PRACTICE AND DRUDGERY, KNOWING THAT IN THE END ALL OF THAT TIME WILL TRANSLATE INTO A HIGHER PLEASURE—MASTERY OF A CRAFT AND OF YOURSELF. YOUR GOAL IS TO REACH THE ULTIMATE SKILL LEVEL—AN INTUITIVE FEEL FOR WHAT MUST COME NEXT.

Your father and I believe in you and trust that you have the right tools to see you through the next four years. Go after some of the shiny, shiny distractions, but never forget why you are at University and never forget your dream. Shiny looks even better once you have taken care of business.

Enjoy this time and enjoy all that is to come. It is a parent’s biggest joy to see their offspring fly.

Did you have some great memories of Univserity/College? Do you remember your University/College days? Did you divert from the acadmeic path only to come back to it again in later life?

When Graduation Feels Right: Congratulations Class Of 2012

The parenting journey is littered with stages and milestones that mark the passage of time and the getting of wisdom. Some of these milestones also represent significant gateways that irrevocably empower the individual and change the family dynamic. Our little family passed through one such gateway earlier this week, the one called high school graduation.

Two days ago we celebrated the Valedictorian Day of my eldest son, Future Baseball Star. It was a day filled with school tradition, of saying farewell to youth and a clearly defined path and embracing seniority and the responsibility that comes with empowerment for making decisions about the future. A day of hope and laughter, filled with promise and belonging.

The decision of where to send your child to high school is a weighty one. In this town it is usually decided and acted on at birth at which time your child becomes a name on a waiting list. We didn’t go down that road, largely because I wanted to choose a school that would match my child’s needs and personality and to make that call I needed something more to guide me than a bunch of foetal cells. In this town, the choice of high school is a favourite dinner party conversation topic and securing a place in a good high school is a competitive business.

We chose the boys’ high school because it felt right. Not because it was close, not because there was a family connection but because it’s student body comprised boys from all over Sydney and from diverse socio-economic backgrounds and nationalities. It felt right.

The traditions in which we participated on Valedictorian Day felt right.

The farewell song sung by the graduating year 12 class to the rest of the school at the Valedictorian assembly felt right. The engaging farewell speech given by the Head Prefect felt right. The announcement by the year 12 leadership of their year 11 successors and the symbolic handing over of their seats to the newly elected leaders felt right.

The farewell tunnel formed by the student body down which the boys of the graduating class marched to the beat of drums felt right. Watching the year 12 boys making their way through the tunnel whilst they embraced those teachers and mentors that impacted positively on their lives and shook the hands of the boys whose memories they wished to preserve felt right. Seeing little brother playfully punch his big graduating brother in the stomach at the start of the tunnel walk felt right.

Attending the boys’ final school chapel service at which the year 12 Head Prefect passed on a symbolic candle to a year 7 boy felt right. Certain year 12 boys each presenting to the school a symbol representing the areas of academic learning, pastoral care, community giving and co-curricular activities felt right. Hearing the year 12 boys shouting and clapping their way through their final war cry felt right. Sharing a valedictory lunch with our sons and watching them make the passing from “New Boy” to “New Old Boy” felt right.

Being forever part of the “New Boy” community and cheering on the black and white feels right. Being the mother of a high school graduate feels right. Delighting in the fact that I will have 50% less grey socks to fold and white shirts to iron feels right. Watching my child blossom and grow feels right. Handing my child the keys to controlling his destiny feels right. Supporting my son in the lead up to his final exams starting in three short weeks feels right.

Future Baseball Star reaching this milestone has created a new family dynamic. We now have a child with one foot firmly in the adult world and this is cause for celebration. Our stewardship as parents now enters a new phase and it feels right.

Congratulations to all of the boys who are part of the class of 2012, we honour your graduating achievement. It is now time for that last sprint to the final exams and to the destiny that you have worked towards for the past seventeen years, but more particularly during the last thirteen of them. You were the starting class of 2000 and reaching year 12 in 2012 is only fitting and feels right.

Good luck in the exams ahead!

Image courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

Do you have any graduating day memories? If you have children who have graduated how did you feel about them passing that milestone? Please share.

7 Blue Ribbon Events of the Parenteen Olympics

Here’s the first post from the she shed. I haven’t actually found a she shed, but if I had, this is the post I would write.

We are almost at the start of the closing ceremony of the 2012 London Olympic Games and what a two weeks it has been. Such skill, stamina and athleticism – and that’s just from the spectators – what time is it again? Australia has now managed to scrape together five six gold medals as our swim team went MIA. Hard lesson learned for said swim team, namely that social media, hubris and swimming don’t mix. Ouch!

The Olympics have however inspired me to look around and recognise skill, stamina and athleticism in my everyday life. So, let’s light the cauldron, release the peace doves, sing “Hey Jude” and celebrate the 7 blue ribbon events of the Parenteen Olympics!

Event 1 – Synchronised Finding: parents compete to find their teen’s missing items whilst tackling various obstacle courses such as teen rooms, drawers and wardrobes, dirty clothes piles and pockets. Five points for each item found. Bonus points are awarded for really small items and those which have not seen the light of day for at least two weeks. Triple bonus points are awarded for essential items that are required to be found in the five minutes before the teen rushes out the door.

Event 2 – Rhythmic Gum Snapping: teens compete to scare the living crap out of their parents by loudly popping gum at random times. Bonus points are awarded for pops  sounding like cars backfiring made at critical times during television shows their parents are watching in the same room.

Event 3 – Pantry/Fridge Hockey: teens compete to rearrange their parent’s pantry/fridge in the usually useless quest to find something to eat and in the hope that by staring at the items long enough they might change into something inspiring. Each of the  panel of five international judges gives a score out of 10 for the following categories:

    • most vacant stare and bored stance
    • most number of trips to the pantry/fridge in a sixty minute time span
    • most number of items moved each trip
    • loudest whine of “there is nothing to eat”

Points are awarded for each item of food actually removed from the fridge or pantry and there is an increased degree of difficulty for foods that have to be heated, peeled or spread.

Event 4 – Laundry Hamper Basketball: teens compete to throw dirty laundry into the hamper much like conventional basketball. There is a three-point line and points are deducted if any item from a flying bundle lands next to the hamper or if the laundry hamper is broken after a particularly forceful slam dunk.

Event 5 – Teenage Habitat Hurdles: parents compete to retrieve selected items  such as used drinking glasses and gum wrappers from their teen’s room battling obstacle courses made of piles clothes, paper and general “stuff”. This is a timed event and the quickest out the door wins. Points are deducted for touching any of the piles, cleaning up or for failing to make it out of the room altogether.

Event 6 – Bathroom Use Marathon: teens compete to spend as much time in the bathroom as possible during peak times with the object of causing maximum inconvenience to other family members. Teens will be judged on the length of their shower (the longer the better), the amount of product applied to their body (shampoo deodorant, gel or makeup or preferably all four for maximum degree of difficulty points) and poses/stances made before the mirror. Scores are awarded out of ten by a panel of judges much like gymnastics.

Event 7 – Electronic Gadget Decathlon: teens compete for the ultimate Parenteen Olympics event in which the winner is the athlete who uses  the highest number of electronic gadgets at the same time. Permitted gadgets include televisions, laptops, I-Pads, smart phones and gaming consoles. Simultaneous use must be sustained for at least one continuous minute. Hernia prevention belts  may be worn.

Let’s celebrate our inner athlete and enjoy our pride of place on the winner’s podium. Medals are awarded on the earlier of the teen turning 21 or moving out of home.

Have you been in training for the Parenteen Olympics? Do you have a favourite event? Are you or do you know a champion of any of the events?

Award ribbon image and image of sporting figures courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net.

Avoid Losing The Most Precious of Things – You

In my last post I advocated for the practice of ethical hedonism and noted that mothers owed it to themselves and those around them to indulge just a little. Preferably, they should do this without guilt. You can read about my views on hedonism here.

In that post I referred to the “intense stage of mothering young dependant children” and how emerging from it was one of the factors that lead me to my current views on hedonism. In their comments to my post, my blogging buddies at Grown and Flown, also reinforced the importance of that emergence and by doing so gave me the idea for this blog post. Thank you ladies!

There is no doubt that emerging from that phase (which I will call the Emergence in this post) was a game changer for me, although I never realised it at the time.

Like most new mothers I really had no idea going in just how intense mothering young children would be. Up until the point of the birth of my first child, I never had the opportunity to be around young children and certainly didn’t seek them out. However,  the motion picture of my life in my head always included children and so it came to pass. Within a month of deciding to fall pregnant I fell well and truly down the mothering rabbit hole and came across all manner of interesting tea party guests and situations that I had never before encountered.

I remember the very early days, sleep deprived and racked with guilt about not breast-feeding, feeling totally inadequate amongst the mess that was my house. I remember how I latched onto every progressive variation to baby routine like a starving woman and recounted to the Italian Stallion how the high point in my day was baby graduating from 60 mls of formula for every feed to 90 mls. Then there were the toddler years, when baby was all ability, no common sense and when one’s watching and listening skills are honed to perfection. Then it was onto the daycare and school years where your life became a dance to the starting and finishing times of these fine institutions.

Don’t get me wrong, there were plenty of great times too and the rewards of parenting are some of the finest in life. I wouldn’t change the rhythm of my life for anything. However the above is the reality of mothering young children and it’s more than permissible to admit that it is hard work and that some days are just about survival.

“What did you do today, dear?”

“We survived with all body parts intact. World peace will just have to wait until tomorrow”

However, little did I know that the focus I put into parenting my young children, whilst pursuing a high-powered career and being a wife and daughter came with a cost. After all, everything you do is worth doing to the best of your abilities, right?  Naturally, you want the very best for your children, and you think that the very best is giving yourself completely and utterly over to the task. At least I did.

At the point of Emergence I felt rather pleased about some of the time I had regained. Time back for myself to do the little things I had put on the back burner for the past fifteen years. A few months after Emergence I was still trying to remember what those little things were and finally discovered the cost of all my “doing”. In putting my needs last and feeling guilty about indulging in a little daily hedonism during those years I had unknowingly eroded my most important relationship, namely with myself.

The human race is fond of labelling. We tend to spend a lot of time and effort pursuing high status labels. I knew I was a wife, mother, career woman and daughter. But beyond that? Who was I and who did I want to be? It’s only by answering these questions, that we are to find the path forward.

This is not to say I lay the blame solely at the feet of mothering. My Emergence was a real point of convergence – where Emergence meets middle age, meets searching for a more meaningful existence, meets career questioning. Everyone’s life path is different and points of convergence will vary.

I have a sense that finding the answers will take some time. Much like weight loss –  most of us gain weight through years of bad habits and then expect overnight miracles from our diets. It just isn’t going to happen. And there will be interruptions and glitches along the way.

So that’s why I advocate balance and a little measured pleasure. It helps you remain connected with who you are and your aspirations. I really hope that anyone involved with the concerns of others can take something away from today’s post. Giving yourself over to the cause is important, but remember YOU are a worthy cause as well.

So hello world, I’m just Judy and I like exploring but dislike labels. I also happen to be a mother, wife and daughter, an occasional humourist and blogger.

I’d love to hear how you describe yourself by taking it back to the most basic, without labels in the comment section below. Help us to get to know you.

Elephant and rock man images courtesy freedigitalphotos.net

Herding Teenagers? Unlocking The Secrets Of The Mo Code

School holidays.

Two seemingly innocuous words. School is a means of delivering education and education means empowerment. Holidays are fun, free, relaxed and something to look forward to.  School holidays are therefore an opportunity for fun, free, relaxed empowerment, right?

image from freedigitalphotos.net

If you are a mother of teenagers, like me, you’re now reading this sporting an all knowing grin. That grin that says you know otherwise, that years of experience has taught you that all the relaxing, fun and empowerment are on the kids’ side of the ledger and that you will be secretly applauding the day school resumes and your life returns to the track called S-A-N-I-T-Y. We never speak of this publicly of course, except to our closest confidants lest we be judged as anything less than wonderful parents. But tap into the roots of maternal realism and you will discover a world of secret code, secret handshakes and stories you won’t find in What To Expect When You Are Expecting.  This is called the Mo Code.

After three weeks of mid year break, my teens are back at school. This three-week break was a little different to past holiday breaks for several reasons. My 17 year old, Future Baseball Star, was eight short weeks away from “Trials” which is the last big exam event/ practice run before the real deal starting in late October. My 13 year old, Geek God in Training, just entered “manhood”, a significant event which we have celebrated in the past by embarking on a coming-of-age trip. As a family, we needed time together before the Teens scatter to the wind of their own lives. So, it was with much hope and determination that I herded the Teens and the Italian Stallion together for a five day road trip.

After you have attempted to herd cats teenagers a few times, you begin to learn the anatomy of the herding experience and as a community service to all of you would be mothers or mothers of teenage boys  in training, I present to you the following extract from the Mo Code. Please treat this with the reverence and confidentiality deserving of a rare glimpse into the secrets of the Code. For all you experienced mothers of teens or adults, treat this as reinforcement and part of the duty to support each other in this most arduous part of the parenting journey.

Herding Teens 101

    1. Once you have decided on the activity for which herding is required, give your teens the two weeks to go early warning signal. This allows time for your teens to process the information (this will take about four days) and for them to feel that they have issued you with the required number of complaints about said activity.
    2. Ignore said complaints or only deal with them by way of witty rejoinder. Never try to reason with your teens or state that contrary to their beliefs, your chosen activity will be fun, entertaining and memorable. Never show doubt or fear. Teens can sniff both a mile away.

    3.  During the lead up to the activity, eat and sleep well. You will need your strength.

    4. Invite your teens to research the place or activity beforehand and to suggest any things they might like to do. They will ignore this opportunity, but it is important that you issue the invitation.

    5. Subtly remind your teens to arrange or rearrange their schedules so that you have the required time available for the chosen activity. The key here is subtlety – you wouldn’t want them to miss anything really important to them, would you?

    6. Sporadically drop into conversation some of the detail of the activity you plan, but do not respond to the complaints or if you do, use only the strategy in B above. Teens do not like complete surprises.

    7. Issue the one week to go early warning signal. For details, see A above.

    8. Reassure your teens that any hotel or place where you will stay has electricity and a WIFI connection. Trust me, you can’t fight this one. It’s better to go with it and make sure you spend time away from the hotel or place.

    9. Have your teens pack their clothes etc. But do a quick check before you leave or you might end up with two T-shirts, three gadget chargers and one pair of boxers for a five day stay in winter! Have said teen take any necessary remedial packing action.

    10. Keep up the good cheer, positivity and unflinching witty rejoinders… you’re almost there!

    11. Pack any personal provisions you need to see you through the “Cacophony Of Complaints”. This is the first hour after you embark on your chosen activity where your teens will escalate their complaints to a crescendo and eventually come to realise there is no turning back. It is critical at this point you adhere to point B  above and also that you drop a few fart jokes (as opposed to actual farts) here and there. Deflection/distraction –  works for teens as well as it does for toddlers, only the level of (non) sophistication changes.  As for provisions, I suggest, as a minimum, an I-Pod, chocolate, chewing gum, reviews and info on the latest teen movies, games and bands and a water pistol.

    12. Playfully engage with your teenagers for the next couple of hours, humorously lamenting with them about how much being away from their usual routine does actually suck. Reminding them about world poverty at this point is not a good tactic, although reminding them about similar suckiness their mates had to endure at the hands of their parents seems to work.

    13. Herding completed. You are now free to go about the business of making happy family memories.

Image from freedigitalphotos.net

There it is, the thirteen steps to herding success from the Mo Code.  Successful herding will give you immense satisfaction and wonderful anecdotes.  Trust me, I know…I’m a professional.

Have you ever had to convince a less than supportive group to come along with you somewhere? Do you have any great herding stories? Any refinements to my extract from the Mo Code?

A Letter To My Son: Reflections On A Journey

When Steve Jobs passed away I, along with millions of others, watched his Stamford 2005 Commencement Address on YouTube. Whatever else you may think of Steve Jobs, his words in that speech were profound and the message strong and important. I have always wondered what I would say to a graduating class if asked. I know the request is in the mail and one day the postman will discover my mail box. I’m right here, see… waiving at you!

An opportunity arose recently for me to write a letter to my 17 year old son, reflecting on the impending conclusion of his formal school education and journey through the books…. and stationery. Let’s not forget the stationery, you’re looking at a HUGE fan of stationary. Stationery porn is so evil and so, so goooood! But I digress.

My son is in his last year of high school and facing the biggest academic test of his young life in November. Unlike the US, entry into university here is usually totally based on the score in this particular exam (called the HSC), which takes place at the end of year 12. There are no individually tailored university entry applications, no essays and no interviews. You are a score, that’s it.

The school took the boys away on a 3 days retreat to reflect. As part of that retreat parents were asked to write a letter to their sons which was to be given to them on the last day as a surprise. This folks, is my kind of homework. At last I had the opportunity to articulate in the written word, my thoughts, hopes, aspirations and gratitude to my offspring.

Let me share a version of what I wrote. The letter is from both the Italian Stallion and I:

We were so glad when the school gave us an opportunity to write this letter to you. By the time you read this your retreat will be almost over and the next phase of your road to the HSC will begin. We hope you have had time to relax after the effort you put in for the “minis” and to think about not only the future, but how far you have come since starting Kindergarten in 2000.

We know that this is both an exciting and scary time for you.  Exciting because the end of your school years draws ever closer and come late November you will be able to ditch the uniforms and structure that has been with you for over twelve years. But with the excitement, there must also be a degree of trepidation about having to take responsibility for your academic future, about stepping into the adult world and all the inherent responsibility that those steps bring. You have every right to these emotions – they are a natural part of this phase of your life.

As you contemplate your future, we want you to know that we are proud of you. Whilst the journey has not always been easy, the strides that you have made towards maturity and taking ownership of your decisions over the last 18 months or so have been wondrous to watch. You are becoming quite the young man, a witty, intelligent, sensitive (that’s ok, you don’t need to admit that last one) guy who understands the meaning of family and team. We know that no matter how hard Mum [me] tries, her cooking will never match your grandmothers’, but we truly appreciate how you act towards and deal with your grandparents. Then there is the relationship with your brother, a quirky little brother who looks up to you and for whom you look out for, even it if it is on the sly.

We hope you take with you in life the skills you have learned in baseball. One of Mum’s best memories of recent times has been on the drive with you to [XXXX]. Mum will never forget that you discovered live baseball streamed radio together and that she was with you when Albert Pujols made his debut for the Angels. Your baseball talents are many and whilst it has taken a back seat this year because of study, we know that if you want to pour your energies into it, you will succeed. Whether it is as an outfielder or a pitcher the baseball world is yours for the taking. But above all, we hope that you keep having fun with baseball.  Remember, no matter what T-shirts or baseball caps Mum wears, it’s Red Sox forever and we WILL get back to Fenway one day in the not too distant future.

So, as you approach the HSC and the culmination of 13 years of schooling, all we ask of you is that you approach these next six months with a view to doing your best and being the best you can possibly be. The final result doesn’t matter as long as you have done your very best. We say this because whilst the HSC is important, life will throw you bigger tests. The mark of a true man is how he faces these tests – results are always secondary. You should obviously aim to achieve the mark you need in the HSC for your chosen field of university study and put all your energy into that aim. However, the HSC is not the only gateway to achieving your academic goals, there are other less direct ways. The HSC gateway though is the one where you play centre stage, where you receive the maximum support and mentorship and takes the least amount of time. J, the HSC is both a test and an opportunity and we hope you see it as such.

Whatever you decide to do after school, we want you to be happy. Look inside yourself and identify your passions, the things that make your soul sing and follow the path where these shall lead. Live YOUR dreams and no-one else’s. For this, J is THE secret to happiness and fulfilment.

For the journey over the next six months, take with you our (and your brother’s) support, cheering from the sidelines and most of all, our love. Think big and dream large, your options are many. Thank you for being our son, for adding your uniqueness to our family. Thank you for making us laugh and keeping us on our toes. Thank you for being responsible and for (the most part) being a good example to your brother. Thank you for texting your Mum at 12.06am on new year’s eve to wish us happy new year on our first new year’s eve apart. These are the fundamentals that will make you the good man you are destined to be. You rock (even if your music sucks!).

We love you always

And the response? “It was good”. Three little words with such power that had me soaring.

What message would you send in similar circumstances?