Bye for now

We're off on our annual pilgrimage to “England,” a green and pleasant land so they say, but not without it’s “hazards.”
There again, we have the opportunity to relish “family support” for a few weeks and take time to bask in those tiny huge “triumphs.”
I suspect we shall spend less time in the “car” with the petrol prices and exchange rate being as they are. It’s probably time to kick back, “relax” and let the “campaigns” slide.

1. “Chat, chat, chat – breaking news”
2. “Zero sum and the division of labour”
3. “I do not like green eggs or otherwise”
4.“The Humane Society”
5. “Slap on the head for the handmaiden”
6. “Puppy dogs tails indeed”
7. “The Seven Deadly Sins”
8. “I hear Thunder”
9. “Truthful Tuesday, the sin of Pride”
10. “To be or not to be, that is probably the answer”
11. “Look to the Future.”
12. “Occupational Therapy – no Flying!”
13. “A Labyrinth of Liars”
14. “Personal Learning Curves”

So here are a few bits and bobs in the interim.
Cheers dears

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May the force be with you too

In the salon I hand over the gift voucher with glee. An hour of frivolous indulgence should never be squandered. I leave with two parts of my scraggy anatomy spruced up to meet American standards of womanliness. I anticipate that the manicure should remain immaculate for the next twenty minutes during the drive home.

As I drive I calculate which mode to adopt on arrival? Guilty of the crime of 'absent without leave,' I shall be soundly punished one way or another. Maybe the sulky, silent treatment? Maybe mountainous meltdowns? It's the price to be paid for such selfish skullduggery at the weekend. Whilst many a parent returns home to be welcomed with open arms, other parents need to be a bit more savvy.

On previous occasions I made the mistake of bringing home treats, due to a combination of gratitude for the time off and a hefty dose of guilt for being so grateful in the first place. For some reason, I had temporarily forgotten that most treats are in fact torture, but I learned from my error. Whilst it's tempting to try for a hug, that too is subject to negotiation. There's nothing like unexpected physical contact to really ruin someone's day. I decide to play it by ear.

As I step through the door my ears are assaulted by a loud combination of someone playing the recorder, another one making rooster noises in protest, a third is buried head down in cushions and an aerated father has an air of exasperation.

“Oh good! You're home! How did you get on?” We ignore our children, exchange glances. I permit him to note my sparkly finger nails.
“Ooo very………clean.”
Whilst it wasn't the adjective I was looking for, it was a good try under the noisy circumstances. The rooster ceases to crow and gasps instead, open mouthed, a picture of awe struck, “you are be touch?”
“Pardon dear?”
“You are be touch me wiv your magic fingers!” I swear he’s as sharp eyed as an eagle.

Now there's an offer I can't refuse.

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Everyone is unique

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Alex Barton’s Lesson

All parents are teachers but many of us are mere amateurs.

I have long been an admirer of the teaching profession, their vocation and dedication, all of them. We entrust our children into their care, in loco parentis, secure in the knowledge that they will do their part in guiding them along the treacherous path to adulthood.

I was therefore a little alarmed to read that a young Kindergartener, “Alex Barton,” had been voted out of his class, a bit like one of those popular reality shows on the telly. This wasn't a case like “Lord of the Flies,” where the children had run amuck without adult supervision, but rather, his ousting was instigated by his teacher.

It made “me” wonder. It made lots of “people” wonder. It made his mum take “action.”

I wondered why a teacher might do such a thing? Five years old, seems a little young to be teaching Darwin's theory of “survival of the fittest,” but I'm obviously not up to date on the State curriculum.

How else might this have come about? Maybe this was merely a role playing exercise, helping the children learn “kinesthetically,” where we learn by doing. An early introduction to the power of the vote, elections and democracy?

Then there's public speaking or the debating aspect. There are any number of valuable lessons to be learned, to say nothing of voicing opinions and sharing.

Perhaps this was a carefully orchestrated plan, to teach inclusion by demonstrating exclusion, lesson one, with a follow up next week?

It could be that this was a litmus test to check the class' moral fibre, a bench mark and launch pad for a new campaign of social awareness.

Alternatively the teacher decided that her students were in need of a demonstration of the “bystander effect.” The bystander effect is when an incident occurs that requires action from the onlookers but few are able step up to the plate. Alex found that two of his classmates were able to act, but who would choose to test five year olds?

I expect it was something to do with the harsh lessons of reality, that life can be a “popularity contest.” When is the right time, developmentally and chronologically to learn that lesson?

I wonder what her plan was? I'm just curious. It seems a curious lesson plan to amateurs. I wonder if the rest of her profession concurs? I somehow doubt it. I suspect she is in the minority, singled out with a unique perspective. I wonder if she is a good sharer? I'd love to know her perspective? I'm sure we'd all like to understand.

My own behaviour as a parent would not hold up well under public scrutiny.

I'm sure there are some saintly types around who never lose their cool. Sadly, I'm not one of them. All to often, every day in fact, I'm pushed to the point of “exasperation.” I lack the patience and temperament for “teaching,” and more importantly, a vocation. My retaliation is usually in the form of sarcasm. Luckily no-one around here understands sarcasm. Unluckily my tone makes the underlying message unmistakable = Mum is mad. I make many mistakes and more than a few hideous blunders. I've learned to forgive myself the errors and vow to do a better job tomorrow, every day, but that's the nature of human frailty.

Fortunately, no-one's going to call me to account for my misdeeds.

I get away Scott free.

It's only all the “children” that will pay.

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Junk food

I am a woman of strong convictions, so I waste no time, take out my pen and write to the local school district about their disgraceful policy on school lunches.

Not a mung bean in sight, nor in storage. How can young minds learn anything when they are starved of good, nutritionally well balanced meals. Where is the tofu may I ask? Whole-wheat is a good start but wheat-free options should be a priority. Fresh fruit and yoghourt is all very well but what about the lactose intolerant. Haven't you people heard of soy? Don't you know there's more to a salad bar than lettuce and tomatoes? Whilst the new recyclable lunch container policy is commendable, shouldn't there be a complete ban on paper towels too? We parents have high standards that are inviolate.

I pause as I hear the garage door open.

Children tumble into the house.

Spouse brings up the rear mounded high with sacks of groceries.
“You'll never guess what?”
“Tell her. Hey! Tell your mum what we bought.”
“Come on! Tell her! No words? O.k. just show her then. He chose it all by himself, just like that!”

If that's the 18th food then I'm a beansprout.

I toss the letter in the bin.


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A one size fits all

As the time for the play date approaches I have a growing sense of dread. I have my own mother's words circulating through my skull, variations on 'don't be such a wimp.'

It's one thing to discipline my own children in my own home, but it's quite another to tackle someone else's child. It would be so easy to do irreparable harm, however unwittingly. I just don't know the child well enough.

In theory, I have decided on my approach, the one that I generally use. I practice in my head and anticipate reactions, but it's all just theory. The practice rarely turns out as planned.

When the first demand is bellowed I ignore it, or rather I pretend to ignore it. After a couple of repeated demands she comes to seek me out in the kitchen, “hey! I said I want a snack. Didn't ya hear me?” She turns on her heel and stomps back into the family room to continue playing. I swallow hard and ignore the yellow stripe down my back. Am I the only one afraid of ten year olds? I tiptoe into the family room to survey a relatively calm scene of play. I am cautious of the firecracker child. She glances up at me, or rather my empty hands, bristling. Her mouth drops open, presumably with outrage or disbelief, as I sit down next to her on the carpet. “You know “Rebecca,” in our house we try and use our indoor voices.”
“We try and use quiet voices so that we don't hurt our ears.” She looks at me as if I am a thing from another planet, which I probably am. Will she spontaneously combust?
“O.k. so can I have my snack now? Is that what ya want?”
“That is sooo much better, much easier to listen to.” She looks at me again. Is she checking for sarcasm?
“I'm going to get everyone a snack.”
“I'm going to start now and I should be ready in about five minutes. Here. Do you see this timer. The red bit shows five minutes. It would be great if you could wait those five minutes because there's six of you and only one of me.”
She looks at me. She looks at the timer.
“Is that o.k. with you?”
“Shall I tell you something else about our house?”
“When people say please and thank you, I work sooo much faster.” I attempt a smile to the unknowable child, the stun gun in the arsenal of sophisticated pre-teen population.

Save me from the typical types.

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Hand luggage and Teflon

It takes up a disproportionate amount of time in my working memory:- how to minimize luggage but maximize options?

It's quite selfish really.

I have three sets of clothes that I wear all the time, the on, the off and the in the wash. It's perfect. It's perfect until we set off for our annual holiday to England.

Wear one and pack the other two in a suitcase?


Wear one and pack the other two in the hand luggage. My suitcase in the hold will be full of other essential items, none of which will be clothes, least of all my own clothes.

This is o.k. because I will need all three sets of clothes for the journey. I shall be up and dressed in set number one at about 5 in the morning. I shall then remain immaculate throughout the day until we fly at 7 in the evening. It is essential that I remain in set number one come what may. During the first hour of the flight, my eldest son will have a technicolour accident, a combination of fear of flying and air sickness. At this point, I shall abandon set number one, wrap them in several bags and shove them at the bottom of the backpack.

Once I have donned set two, I shall remain inviolate during the remaining 9 hours of the flight, apart from other little accidents. Those lap tray tables are so tricky to manage. During the 9 hours I shall be speckled with three meals from several people, and possibly my own. I shall be sprinkled, doused and drenched in every available beverage. I shall reluctantly shun the offer of a free glass of wine. Befuddlement in confined spaces is a mistake.

As we move forwards through the night, we shall arrive yesterday. As we hit the ground in England, de-plane, charm customs, salute passport checkers, locate buses, hire a car and pile ourselves into it, I shall then have been in set number two for 12 hours, together with enough foodstuffs to make a severe dent in the world food shortage.

I shall resist the urge to change into set number three.

We will drive to our rental, de-car, relocate ourselves and our baggage into the flat. I shall make up four beds in the hope that someone will sleep sometime soon. Only when sleep is imminent shall I remove set two, leaving set three available, ready for the next shift, although not necessarily the next day. Otherwise, waking time will arrive and I shall be threadbare and threadless.

This annual problem weighs heavily upon my mind.

Whilst the English are more open to nud.ity, the weather tends to be inclement.

I need an alternative solution.

And here it is.

There again, I may just have to grit my teeth and go shopping for an entirely new outfit altogether.

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Don't do that. What?

Sometimes I just yearn for a scientific mind.

You see it most commonly in toddlers and those under the age of 5 when social awareness has yet to eradicate it. It always strikes me as being half way between a yawn and a stretch. It's a gesture that intrigues me as I watch a three year old girl twist and pull her skirt up towards her face, to reveal a pair of pink leggings. It does not appear purposeful, more like the shudder of cat coming awake. It's the same as another child that appears to half pull off his T-shirt. They remained clothed and decent, as they don't complete the motion. Somehow it is not the same as someone undressing. It's more like slow motion followed by a pause.

It should have a name.  Where should I start in the dictionary?

It appears that most children grow out of this phase but others do not. I suspect that whatever prompts the behaviour is outstripped by the stronger motivation to fit in with the social mores. Some others are both stuck in this phase and usually manage to complete the motion unless prompted to do otherwise. Because it is slow and lazy there's enough time to step in. If I could figure out the why, then I might be able to tackle the habit more effectively. It's all well and good to say 'no,' to be watchful and intervene, but it would be so much better to determine the cause.

This is so often the case with so many of their habits. If someone is not aware that they're doing something, it seems pointless to ban it outright without further investigation. If the social awareness and peer pressure element is missing, or not a priority, it is still wise to prompt and guide, but it's not ideal. If the tactile defensiveness component is eliminated, what else is left?

It is not the same as undressing. Undressing is purposeful and fast, over in the blink of an eye. This gesture is a distracted movement, common in youngsters that I never see with adults. If they are both kinesthetic learners, learn by their bodies going through the motions, I wonder if once they start the gesture, their bodies just follow through, as the 'pause' at the apex of the movement for most people, is over-ridden?

It is these kinds of thoughts that make life so unproductive.

Where are all the boffins when you need one?

Come along villagers, out of the lab, it’s time for some fieldwork.

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How was your day?

It's the same exchange that parents have all over the world, when it's dark and the kids are asleep.

Ours takes place in the wee small hours of the night, morning really, when he comes home from work. Together, we put the nocturnal child back into his bed, again, tuck him in and put the door to, ajar.

“Well at least he's really cheerful.”
“I'm glad someone is.”
“So how did it go?”
“He pulled down the shower curtain. I nearly brained myself trying to get it back up on the wall.”
“You should have left it. It helps if you're taller.”
“Couldn't. He was trampling all over it to get to the top shelf.”
“Ah the soap collection.”
“Indeed. He's going to break his neck clambouring up that wall. He uses the soap dish as a foot hold.”
“Well that's a positive thing.”
“Is it? Which bit? The climbing or the collection.”
“Er…..well…..both. I admit I wouldn't have expected a soap fetish from the filthiest child on the planet but that's all to the good surely?”
“I'll remind you of that the next time you want to wash your hands.”
“Hmm……..maybe it's a cunning plan to foil the hand washing campaign?”
“He's not that devious.”
“Are you sure? I certainly wouldn't bank on it.”
“So…..if he's graduated to 'devious' do we chastise or celebrate?”
“Passed with flying colours!”

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Bi-lingual, it's no excuse

The trouble with being a foreigner is that so much of what we say is incomprehensible.

Because the life of a foreigner is normal to the foreigner, the foreigner forgets that other people live different lives.

Take these two fairly ordinary statements, excuses in this particular instance.

For some reason everyone understands the first one but the second one causes no end of confusion. They are of equal weight around here. Both are common enough experiences in the great scheme of things. The statements are simple enough, but they convey a whole panoply of commonly shared human experience.


1. Sorry I'm late but she broke her finger.
2. Sorry I'm late but he's gone all nocturnal.

And sometimes not!

In the interests of scientific impartiality, I shall have to try them out again in England, when we nip home for a holiday. A good scientist never predicts outcomes prior to the test.

Verily, I shall be a foreigner on either shore.

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