Monthly Archives: February 2018

This week I BOUGHT THE CAKE …

When I was growing up in the 70s and 80s in Chapel Hill, Brisbane eggs on toast (or baked beans on toast) was a standard dinner at least one night a week.

As a child this seemed like a perfectly legitimate dinner offering. In fact during my mum’s crockpot phase of 1985 — it was my preferred dinner option.

It wasn’t until I was an adult with kids of my own that it clicked. “Ahhhh, so that’s what mum served up on those nights when the cupboards were bare or she was too exhausted to make anything else.” It had never occurred to me.

To say that realisation was freeing is an understatement. In my eyes my mum had always been AMAZING and so the ‘eggs-on-toast’ revelation subconsciously gave me permission to do the same now I have kids of my own.

This past week has been crazy in our household. The week featured in no particular order: a swimming carnival, a Prep Information Night, a family member in hospital and a sixth birthday (many of those on the SAME DAY) along with all the standard mayhem of three kids, a dog, homework, missing PE shorts, a dining table covered in photo frames and two exhausted working parents.

#Arewehavingfunyet?

But I realised that in this week where I lowered the bar even lower than usual (“It’s scrambled eggs for dinner! Again!”) … I hopefully embedded an important memory into my own kids’ childhood recollections of their mum.fin6cake

Every year I’ve always made my kids a birthday cake. I’ve made train cakes and handbag cakes, t-shirt cakes and dinosaur cakes. Look I’ll be honest — they’ve never been great but still, I’ve done it EVERY YEAR. Every year except this one. This week, inspired by my friend Mia who for years has waxed lyrical about the benefits of buying a chocolate slab cake from Woolies for birthdays — I followed her lead and did exactly that.

I went to Coles and bought a small round chocolate mud cake, tipped bags of lollies on it, whacked a candle on top and presented it to my son on the night of his sixth birthday.

And he bloody loved it.

When they think back to their childhoods and the type of mum I was, I want my kids to recall being loved and safe and accepted and a priority and I also want them to remember that sometimes I BOUGHT THE CAKE.

Kids? Mum is officially giving you permission to lower the bar.

The book of secrets …

Last night, my daughter wrote me a letter.

I found it on my bed.  Well, that’s no entirely true. I found a notebook with a handmade post-it note stuck to the cover saying “PLEASE CHECK” complete with three exclamation marks. Did I mention my daughter is eight?

When I sat on my bed and flipped the book open, I saw my darling girl’s beautiful, scrawly, pencilled handwriting and the word ‘Mum’ at the top. And then I could see all these sentences tumbling out of her head and onto that page. The things which I had no idea were – that night –  knotting her up inside.

Despite the fact I’d bought my daughter this mother-daughter journal a year ago for the exact purpose of her being able to write to me about her concerns, I still thought, “I can’t believe she’s using the journal! “ Followed by, “I’m six-metres away. Why didn’t she just come and tell me?”

And then I remembered.

I remembered when I was 13 and my closest friends were shaving their legs and I really, really wanted to start shaving my legs too. So I waited until my mum was in the shower and then quickly knocked on the bathroom door and blurted out, “MUMIWANTTOSHAVEMYLEGS!”

It was all very Judy Blume.

I remembered the need to speak to my mum about boys or periods or razors without, you know, looking at her. Without having to meet her gaze. Without having her look at me and see how awkward and embarrassed and clumsy I felt.

And timing is everything.

That’s the other thing I remember.

As a tween and teen I felt too exhausted to unpack what went down at school the moment I walked in the door home at 4pm.

“How was school?” mum would ask.

“Fine,” I’d mumble.

No mention of my worries about my upcoming science test. Or that Brendan Windsor has no idea I was even alive. Or that I think I’m possibly the only person not invited to Megan B’s birthday party.

How was school? Fine.

It wasn’t until much later into the evening I’d start to uncoil and feel ready to revisit the soap opera that had unfolded in Modern History or French or P.E.

Thirty-five years later and nothing has changed.  After school my daughter’s main focus is changing out of her uniform and finding out what’s for afternoon tea.  The stories don’t start to spill out of her until those minutes after I’ve turned out her bedroom light.  We sit in the dark together – me perched on the side of her bed – and we talk. Or she talks and I listen. Or I talk and she listens (every night she badgers me into telling her a story from my 70s and 80s childhood. “You rollerskated? What’s a Pool Pony?  Who’s Kirk Cameron? Did you ever get in trouble in class? )

But in those moments in the dark she feels both loved and known and safe.  But sometimes I think even saying your worries out loud feels too hard.

So, the letter.

What was she writing about? Well that would be telling.  First rule of Fight Club: What’s discussed in the notebook stays in the notebook.

I re-read her question a few times, picked up a pen and wrote back to that eight-year-old sleeping down the hallway. I signed it off by saying, “I love that you wrote to me. Write to me again anytime.” And I placed the notebook on her bedside table to read when she woke in the morning.

At breakfast she said nothing but flashed me a knowing smile.

I love that she wrote me a letter.

I love that it gave me the chance to sit and really think about my answer as I wrote back to her.

And I love that for the rest of her life; she’ll have this notebook filled with my handwriting. My voice and hers. And our connection.

Last night my daughter wrote me a letter. The first of many, I can only hope.

 

FYI: The mother-daughter journal I bought my daughter can be found here. https://www.booktopia.com.au/stationery/just-between-us-meredith-jacobs/prod9780811868952.html?source=pla&gclid=EAIaIQobChMIsc-b8Pf-1QIV3AMqCh3e2wDKEAQYAyABEgJEuPD_BwE

Or you can make your own for the tween or teen in your life

 

My 10 yo daughter wants Instagram. What do I say to her?

Yesterday the 10-year-old daughter of a friend of mine asked me when I thought her mum should allow her to have Instagram.

The first thing I did was ask her why she wanted to be on it. She said that all her friends were already on it and that when they talked about things they saw and shared, she felt left out.

Don’t you remember that feeling? I so utterly get that. It’s that feeling of being out of the loop. Not part of the conversation. Not in on the joke.

But here’s what I said to her about Instagram (and every other social media platform).

I said that what we know is that Instagram (and most other social media platforms) are not great for our brains. And that they are highly, highly addictive. I said that just like every adult I know who still smokes and is trying desperately to give up, (nearly) every adult I know is trying desperately to spend less time on their phones and on social media.

I said that while I TOTALLY understood that desire to stay in the loop that she needed to think about how joining Instagram she’d be trading one set of problems for another set of problems. Suddenly every time she logs on she’ll be confronted with every party, every outing, every get-together she wasn’t invited to. And she’ll have to constantly remind herself when she’s looking at her friends’ photos that it’s their highlights reel — even on those days when she feels her most fragile or lonely or blah.

I said that she’ll have the rules her mum and dad set her about who she can follow or friend and when she can log on. But there’ll be a whole other set of often unspoken rules that her friends make. You can’t look “up yourself’, can’t look like you’re bragging or showing off or trying too hard. All that type of thing.

And of course, she’ll have to have really good judgement about what she posts and what she LIKES and how she responds to all manner of things in her feed. Every like, every share, every mean-spirited off-hand comment become part of your online legacy. Your behavior online (and your history of behavior online) is on the list of what future employers look at. Your choices online tell the world what you stand for which is a lot to ask of a tween or teen.

But most of all I said that as she goes into high school I would like to see her living her life with both hands. Swimming. Bike riding. Rock climbing. Knitting. Sewing. Baking. Playing netball or basketball or hockey or rugby or soccer. Building. Sculpting. Painting, Singing. Dancing. Writing. Composing. Playing guitar or piano or violin.

You can spend your days creating and doing OR you can spend your days looking down at your phone, obsessing over likes and viewing every moment, every interaction as to how it can best be curated for Instagram.

Social media is highly addictive. It has a habit of white-anting our lives when we don’t have strong boundaries in place.

And it has a tendency to leave us feeling miserable.

Wait, I said. Wait. Trust me.