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Is this the conversation you need to have with your child before school goes back?

Have you taught your child how to recognise a good friend?

When you write a book about the importance of choosing the right friends in school, it goes with the territory that other parents come up and tell you their concerns. Or, you know, HORROR stories.  Horror stories from kids who are in primary school. Horror stories of kids behaving badly and I mean BADLY even in Prep or year one.

And what I’ve realised is that in the past week in between getting uniforms and school shoes and covering schoolbooks and finding lunchbox lids there’s a whole slew of kids and parents who are worrying about school staring next week.

And you know what the source of that anxiety is?

It’s been about friendships.

The kids were either anxious about starting a new school and making friends (totally understandable) OR they were anxious about going back into their current friendship group. A group that perhaps is not so great. A group that is perhaps making the child in question miserable.

And it made me think that perhaps we don’t talk enough to our kids about friendship. Are we actively teaching our kids how to recognise a good friend and a bad one? Are we explaining how to be a good friend yourself? How to handle the ups and downs of friendship? How to know when to leave a friendship and how to do it?

FIND YOUR TRIBE COVERObviously this is something I cover in detail in Find Your Tribe (and nine other thngs I wish I’d known in high school). The first chapter deals exclusively with what girls starting high school need to know about choosing the right friends. My theory being that at least 50% of whether or not you enjoy high school is based on WHO you choose to hang around.

So I thought I’d do an extract from that chapter here (see below). And I’d also include some conversation starters for parents who have children in primary school.

If you or your primary-school aged child are worried about friendships, here are some talking points. It’s worth remembering that making friends and being a good friend is a big learning curve for kids (and, er, some adults). Sometimes our kids will make bad choices. Sometimes our kids will behave badly themselves. But if we keep having these conversations, I think that’s the key to making the right decisions.

FOR PRIMARY SCHOOL KIDS:  What does a good friend look and feel like …  

  • A good friend is someone who you love to spend time with.
  • A good friend cheers you up when you’re feeling sad.
  • A good friend sticks up for you if someone else is being mean in the playground.
  • A good friend makes you laugh.
  • A good friend is someone who is happy to take turns when it comes to deciding what to play in the playground.
  • When you’re with a good friend, you feel happy and comfortable.
  • A good friend doesn’t tease you or make fun of you.
  • A good friend will tell you how they are feeling if they are upset.
  • A good friend doesn’t make you feel sad or embarrassed.
  • A good friend doesn’t lie about things or cheat at games or refuse to take turns.
  • A good friend doesn’t refuse to play with you or refuse to sit with you or talk to you some days at school for no reason.
  • A good friend doesn’t hit or kick or bite you.
  • A good friend apologises if they hurt your feelings.

How to be a good friend:

  • Smile and be friendly!
  • Try to be encouraging and helpful to your friends and other kids at school.
  • Be willing to take turns at games.
  • Stick to the rules of the game. And don’t cheat!
  • Don’t boast or tell lies.
  • Don’t tease your friends (or anyone at school).
  • Don’t say mean or hurtful things to your friends.
  • Be direct and if something upsets you or hurts your feelings – be up front and tell your friends.
  • Apologise if you hurt your friend’s feelings.
  • Be a good loser if you lose at a game. Don’t get upset or angry.
  • Be willing to forgive your friends if they do something that upsets you.
  • Understand that all friendships have ups and downs and just because you have one small fight it doesn’t mean the friendship should be over.

 

FOR HIGH SCHOOL KIDS:  An extract from Find Your Tribe (and 9 other things I wish I’d known in high school)

Happiness in high school, I believe, is determined by two things: having fabulous, inspiring teachers and having great friends. Now unfortunately the ‘fabulous, inspiring teachers’ thing isn’t something you can control. But if you’re lucky enough to have a few fab teachers in high school who challenge you and inspire you, who make you want to be in their classroom even on a Friday at two o’clock and who can still join in a conversation on your total addiction to the Twilight series, then count yourself extremely lucky.

The other major factor that will determine the quality of your time at high school is who you hang around. Your friends. And this is the bit you can control.

I’m going to cut to the chase: Life is too short to hang around with bitchy, negative people. So don’t. In high school you want to surround yourself with people who ‘get you’. You know, people who get your sense of humour and think you’re funny (well, most of the time – maybe not when you’re trying to see how many Tiny Teddies you can fit in your mouth). True friends are those who support your dreams, who cheer you on and who are prepared to do CPR on you when you start choking on those Tiny Teddies. They provide a soft place for you to fall and are there to comfort you (and eat cookies’n’cream ice-cream with you when you’re blue). Real friends don’t slag you off the moment your back is turned or routinely put you down or humiliate you in front of others. Real friends don’t leave you out. Instead real friends ‘have your back’ – in other words, they’re fiercely loyal and protective. My friend Franny describes finding real friends as finding your ‘tribe’ which I think is the perfect way to describe it. Your tribe are people you met who you immediately click with. People you can trust. People who see the world the way you see it. People who like the same things as you. So choose friends at school who are from your tribe and high school will be waaaaay more enjoyable.

All friendships have ups and downs and, for whatever reason, girls can be incredibly bitchy to one another for no apparent reason. But when you’ve got great friends these little spats will last for maybe a day. Not weeks. Not months. And then you’ll make up and want to get together again to plot a way for that hottie who catches your bus to finally notice you.

You know what else? You don’t need to be in the cool group to enjoy high school. Aim to be someone who is friends with all different kinds of people at school. Rosalind Wiseman, author of Queen Bees and Wannabes calls this being a ‘floater’. Floaters do their own thing, have high self-esteem and they definitely don’t pay attention to peer pressure. Be authentic in your tastes. In other words, be who you are. Don’t change your personality or your interests or your taste just to hang around with girls who spend all their time bitching and making fun of other people.

All this sounds obvious, right? And yet many adults will tell you it took them years (and some painful friendship experiences) to finally get this lesson. For some reason, many of us spend our spare time with snarky, negative people who make us feel worthless.

And don’t think for a second that hanging around with the cool group will make you seem more attractive. There’s nothing attractive about someone who behaves like a sheep and follows a leader. You’re way better off hanging around with your tribe. After all, what’s attractive is a girl who is confident, who can laugh at herself, who smiles a lot and who exudes a generous spirit.

While we’re talking about friendship let me just say that part of having good friends is being a good friend. (Stop rolling your eyes). It’s true. Don’t bitch. Don’t be the big mouth spreading rumours. Defend your tribe when others are trying to tear them down.

 Two Tribes Are Better Than One …

If possible, try and have a second group of friends or even just one great friend outside of school. Maybe you do a drama class on weekends, play a sport, are President of the People Who Hate People Who Can’t Differentiate Between You’re And Your Society, are part of a youth group, Girl Guides, yodelling. Whatever. The point is sometimes when your school friends are driving you up the wall with their Robert Pattinson obsession, it’s good to have another friend or friends outside of school that you can turn to and hang out with.

In short: Hang with your tribe.

The key is to keep company with people who uplift you, whose presence calls forth your best. Epictetus, Greek philosopher

Join me on Sunday 8th June to launch a wonderful new blog …

bec-sparrow-Meet Emma.  She’s my babysitter.

She’s 22. Loves a laugh. Loves to travel. And last year was diagnosed with stage 4 melanoma.

Stage 4 melanoma is terminal.

Rather than sit at home all day watching Dr Phil and eating Milo out of the tin (which is possibly what I’d do), Emma’s decided to start writing about her experiences and fundraise for the Melanoma Institute of Australia. This is because Emma is a rolled-gold legend.

Now this is where you all come in.

On Sunday 8th June, Emma is officially launching her brand spanking new blog ‘Dear Melanoma’ and she’ll be joined by me and a few of Brisbane’s favourite writers and radio stars – The Sunday Mail’s Frances Whiting (that’s me and Fran together in that photo on the left), radio host and B Magazine columnist IMG_1706Emily-Jade O’Keeffe, 97.3FM’s Robin Bailey and Pearls of Willsdom blogger Sarah Wills.  Together we plan to  offer Emma some unsolicited advice about writing online and being in the public eye. And just for kicks we’ll share some of our best ever hate mail.

There’ll be a scrumptious morning tea before the festivities kick off … so join us for the morning as we celebrate Emma’s blog and help raise funds for the Melanoma Institute.

Now hands up who’s coming?

 

 

****  THIS EVENT HAS SOLD OUT!  *******

Official Launch of  ‘Dear Melanoma’

Where: The Auditorium, St Aidan’s School, 11 Ruthven St, Corinda

When: 10am- midday,  Sunday 8th June 2014

Tickets: $45 per person includes a scrumptious morning tea

To Book:  To reserve your place, email the number of tickets you want and the names of your guests to Bec@rebeccasparrow.com, then do a direct deposit to the following bank account:

BSB:   124028

ACCOUNT NUMBER:   22171470

ACCOUNT NAME:  Emma Kate betts Supporting Melanoma Institute Australia

All proceeds from the event (which will be nearly every penny) will go to the Melanoma Institute.

I still choose you.

photo 3Sometimes I look at my wedding photo and I don’t recognise the bride smiling back at me.

And I suspect she wouldn’t recognise me either.

She’s 34. I’m 42.

That woman in the photo? She gets eight hours of sleep per night.

I average 5.

She goes to the gym every day.  Casually strolls around Asian grocery stores looking for things like Shaoxing Rice Wine and Gai Lan.   She goes to the movies A LOT. And out to dinner on a whim.  And RSVPS ‘yes’ to book launches and housewarmings. That woman in the photo with the shining, happy eyes and the pretty beaded dress? She’s never really experienced heartbreak or loss. She reads books and meditates and just ten days before this photo was taken was drinking martinis in a bar on 31st Street in New York.  I can see in her face the hopefulness for her future with her new husband. She’s carefree and happy and hold the phone:  I don’t think she even knows what Spanx are. WHAT. THE. HELL?

Since that photo was taken I’ve had four children. I’ve moved house six times. I’ve cooked more fish fingers than I care to think about.  I’ve been blindsided by a tragedy that brought me to my knees.  I’ve fallen deeply, madly in love with my children and yet fantasised about escaping to a hotel alone.  I don’t run anymore or walk  – I rush.  I wear flat shoes and maxi dresses and loose flowing tops to hide my stomach. And I write down the names of reliable babysitters the way I used to scribble down the titles of new books to read.

Our lives are so different.  And sometimes I look at that girl in the frame and I miss her.  And really it’s not her life that I miss (well, okay yeah sometimes I do really, really miss that old life).  But what I really miss is who I was back then, on that day. How I felt. So if I could go back and recreate that day when that photo was taken – my wedding day – I would. I SO would. In a heartbeat.weddingroof

And it’s not about the dress (which was not even a wedding dress. It was a pretty cream beaded dress I bough off the rack in a little clothing shop). It’s not about being a princess for a day as I’m not the princess type. It’s not about the hair and the makeup and the attention.

It’s because on that day I gave myself over to joy. One hundred percent.  I wasn’t thinking about mortgage payments or worrying about who was going to pick Ava up from drama or whether or not Quincy or Fin has a cold. I didn’t know about Facebook status updates and Twitter trolls didn’t exist.

It was a day that was just about Brad and me – the two of us. It was about how we felt about each other and how in love – how full of hope – we were.  It was a time when we were each the centre of the other’s world. When we were excited about the adventure that lay ahead.

Our wedding day was the most marvellous, magical day.  And THAT’S what I want to recapture.

There were lanterns swinging in the breeze. And sixty of our favourite people were with us on that rooftop under a beautiful piercing blue sky. Stevie Wonder’s feel-good tunes filled the air. My childhood friends Katie and Nic stood by my side.  Cocktails and champagne flowed. My dad gave me away. My mum looked the most beautiful she had ever been.

And I swirled around that rooftop like a spinning top talking and laughing and dancing with Brad and our friends.

We were giddy with joy.

I know you can’t go back in time. Nor would I want to.

But I would like to go back to that rooftop, with the lanterns and the music and all our family and friends and I would like to look at Brad and say, “I still choose you. Despite everything. Because of everything. I still choose you.  Let’s dance.”

“I didn’t know Charlotte Dawson but this is why I cried for her today.”

CharlotteI had a hot and cold relationship with Charlotte Dawson.

 

Don’t get me wrong, we never met. But when she first came to my attention on Australia’s Next Top Model (ANTM)– I wasn’t a fan.

 

I had vague memories of Charlotte being married to troubled Olympic swimmer Scott Miller at some point and I was aware she’d been a sometimes panellist on Beauty and The Beast with the late Stan Zemaneck years earlier but I’d never given her a passing thought (other than thinking she was extraordinarily beautiful). But  when she came to my attention on ANTM?  If I’m going to be honest, she irritated me.

 

Who is this woman? Why is she so mean to the teenage entrants?

 

That’s what I thought of Charlotte Dawson. In a nutshell: not much.

 

But my opinion changed. And I can tell you the exact date it changed: 28th August 2011.

 

Charlotte sat down with Mia to do a one-on-one interview for this very website and that’s when I saw the real Charlotte Dawson – a fragile, seeringly honest, loving, self-deprecating soul with a generous laugh. A woman who just like the rest of us was out there, doing her best and trying hard to be a contributor rather than a critic.

 

 

 

I sat at home that day, ready to roll my eyes and instead was mesmerised by her.  Instead I wanted to be her friend.  There she was, sitting on the floor of the Mamamia office, make-up free, hair pulled back and wearing simple – if not daggy – clothes. She talked openly and honestly – sometimes uncomfortably – about her history of failed relationships and her inability to choose the right partner, her reconciliation with the fact she would never be a mother, her feelings about aging in an industry that values only the very young and the paper thin. I watched her talk freely about her use of Botox, her experiences with online bullying, her fierce support of gay right and the mothering and nurturing (clearly rarely caught on camera) that she gave the ANTM entrants. I would never have guessed it was Charlotte who was the mother hen to those girls, dishing out the tough love and reality checks along with big doses of love to the young entrants.

 

So on 28th August 2011, I became a fan. And from then on I went out of my way to read interviews Charlotte gave in the media to learn more about her. That’s where I read about the fact she was sexually abused as a child at the hands of an elderly neighbour.  About her teenage birth mother who gave her up for adoption. About her difficult relationship with her stepfather. And her pattern for choosing (according to her therapist) narccisistic men

 

This morning I heard the news that Charlotte Dawson was found dead. And I cried at my desk.

 

Why? I don’t even know how to explain it.

 

We weren’t friends by any means. We exchanged a few messages on Twitter over the years – most frequently a message of support from one to the other when things had turned ugly and abuse was flying at either of us for one reason or another. But truth be told she wouldn’t have known me in a line-up.  I could have walked past her on the street and she’d have been oblivious to my presence.

 

So why the tears?

 

Because I feel we let her down.  As a society. As human beings, quite frankly.  She was so frequently pummelled on social media – the target of the most hateful, vicious messages.  And having been the target myself on some occasions – let me tell you, it’s hard for the abuse not to swirl in your head long after you’ve read it.  It’s hard for your spirit not to be irrevocably punctured; for your self-esteem not to permanently fractured when people are cajoling you to hang yourself. Or calling you a whore.  (And on that subject can I just say how the hell do we expect teenagers to brush off this type of abuse when we, as adults, can’t?)  Anyway.  So Charlotte was frequently attacked online and we tut-tutted and agreed that social media is awful and said, ‘Oh my God, poor Charlotte’ but then more often than not we followed it with, ‘Well what is she DOING on Twitter? She needs to stop responding”. That’s right, we told CHARLOTTE DAWSON to get off social media rather than the parasites and miscreants who have turned platforms like Twitter and Facebook into the cowardly bully’s paradise.

 

So why the tears?

 

Because we are so bloody pathetic when it comes to understanding mental illness in this country which is RIDICULOUS. You know why? Because we’re surrounded by it. At least HALF the people in my friendship group are on some form of anti-depression or anti-anxiety medication.  You’d never know, of course. Because still now it’s this big, shameful secret.  But it’s not rare. It’s not an affliction of the weak. Or the fragile. It’s one in five Australians. You with me?  According to the Black Dog Institute “One in five (20%) Australians aged 16-85 experience a mental illness in any year. The most common mental illnesses are depressive, anxiety and substance use disorder.”

 

dawson1 I didnt know Charlotte Dawson but this is why I cried for her today.

Charlotte, after last years Twitter saga on Sixty Minutes

 

So we don’t need all these hushed tones when we talk about depression or people with depression. Most of us have it, have had it or will have it at some point.  Of course we will. Life is bloody tough at times.  And at some point we will each be brought to our knees. I’ve had a bout of depression in my life.  Charlotte battled depression for years. Is that any surprise given her childhood?  She talked openly and honestly about her struggle with the black dog and I think many of us responded by making her feel less than when instead she should have been applauded for her honesty. We should have responded not just with open minds but with open hearts and arms.

 

So why the tears?

 

You know what? I don’t know. I guess I worry that this morning her heart ached with pain and loneliness and maybe life looked impossibly bleak. I’m sad because I worry that she felt like she was of no use or not wanted or had nothing to offer. I’m sad because whether her death was deliberate or accidental – the result is the same: we lost her.

 

I believe Charlotte Dawson was a  woman with a big heart who was in fact incredibly gracious and loving. And I worry she died without knowing that she was greatly valued and respected and wanted.

 

I wish I had a clever way to wrap up this column.  A wise message.  A moral to the story. But I don’t. I’m just sad because today Charlotte Dawson is gone.

This post first appeared on Mamamia.

In 2014 I’m going to stop lying on Facebook

Out of all the worthy resolutions floating around in my head, there’s only one I really plan to stick to.

In 2014 I’m going to stop lying on Facebook.

Don’t get me wrong. I haven’t navigated my way through 2013 fabricating events for the sake of social media. I haven’t, oh I don’t know, say, pretended to know sign language and made shit up during the funeral of one of the greatest men that ever lived.  What. The. What?

But what I have done plenty of times – in fact more often than not – is lied by omission. I’ve habitually curated my life on social media so that it played more like a Greatest Hits album, a highlights reel chock full of ponies and rainbows and Brady Bunch moments.

So my status updates have been like this:

Look at us out to dinner!

Here I am with my children baking!

Here’s a great review of my book!

Here I am with my children baking!

Martini, anyone?

Best husband in the world!

Baking! With children!  Still super happy!

Happy!  Happy!  Happy!

And while all those moments were bonafide, they don’t tell the full story.  Because like you and every other SINGLE PERSON ON THIS PLANET (except maybe Beyonce) I’ve also had down days. I’ve stuffed up. Screwed up. Been fed up. I’ve had disappointments and blah moments and had things blow up in my face big time.

But you wouldn’t know it.

Because here I am baking!!!  Ahem…

1343922338057 3682088 Resolution: In 2014 I’m going to stop lying on Facebook.

Because we all know that ain’t the case.

So the Facebook status updates you never saw this year should have included:

My work colleagues are in Melbourne shooting a video and I’m at home feeling envious, picking spaghetti off the dog’s head and watching my toddler have a meltdown because I offered him a second slice of apple.

Went out to dinner with Brad. Had enormous argument about “Who is the most tired?” Didn’t speak a word for the rest of the evening except to ask for the WORLD’S LARGEST GIN.

I just found and ate chocolate freckles for breakfast. #fail

Four-year-old just said: “You never spend time with me.”  Part of me wants to cry. The other part wants to go to my union with photographic evidence of 1000 hours spent playing HAIR SALON.

I’m having one of those days when I don’t know what the hell I’m doing with my life.

But who wants to mention that real stuff? I mean, it’s boring and depressing, right? RIGHT?

Better to treat Facebook like a never-ending sales conference where the job is to convince everyone else we’re dizzy with happiness and success.

At least that’s clearly what I was telling myself until TWO dear friends of mine separately opened up to me about the year they’ve had.

Each admitted they were struggling with bouts of depression and had been in a black hole.  To say I was shocked is an understatement.

“But you seemed so happy on Facebook!”  I said to each of them.

And you know what they both said?

instagram facebook Resolution: In 2014 I’m going to stop lying on Facebook.

Why do we treat social media as an enormous PR campaign for our lives?

They each looked at me as though I had rocks in my head and said, “Oh come on, you can’t believe what’s on Facebook”.

How did we get to this point, people?  When did we all think we needed to treat Facebook like an enormous PR campaign for our lives?

You see that’s the thing with social media … by curating our lives like a resume – by editing out the dud moments, the stuff ups, the pear-shaped days – we’re creating a two-fold problem:

1. By pretending our lives are PERFECT we paint ourselves into a corner.  It becomes harder and harder to admit that the version of our lives we’re ‘promoting’ is not the one we’re living and it can stop us from reaching out for help – to our friends, family or even to take the steps we need for professional help. So we just feel like big ol’ frauds but feel like we can’t reach out to anyone and say our lives are total crappola at the moment.

2. The other problem of course is that if so many of us are just continually fake smiling our way through Facebook, it can lead other people to thinking they are alone – alone in having a bad parenting day (or month, or, er, year). Alone in sometimes hating their job, or feeling blah about what they’re studying or being single or married or whatever.

Telling the truth is scary, I get that. But it’s liberating too … and it’s often when we admit to a screw up or a bad day that deeper connections are made with our family and friends.

So this year I intend to tell the truth on Facebook. To remind everyone who knows me that I’m not superwoman, that I don’t live a perfect life or get things right all the time. After all, a highlights reel is always so much better when the bloopers are thrown in.

So in 2014, I’m keepin’ it real. Who’s with me?

THIS POST ORIGINALLY APPEARED ON MAMAMIA.COM.AU

So this week I screwed up. BIG TIME.

So this week I screwed up in a fairly big way.

I wrote a rather controversial piece about a European fitness blogger (Caroline Berg Eriksen) who posted a selfie of herself in lingerie four days after having a baby.

To say the image and her caption irritated me is an understatement and so  STUPIDLY I bashed out a post articulating my irritation.

Wrong. Wrong. Wrongity-wrong.  Could I have been more of an idiot?

The post was poorly written (I at one point questioned where Caroline’s new baby was. Hello and welcome to 1956, Rebecca Sparrow!) but the biggest mistake I made was focusing the entire post on one person. Really, I should have broadened the post out to talk about society’s obsession with  “post baby body” stories. Singling out Caroline Eriksen Berg was just mean-spirited and unnecessary.

But while I handled the post badly, I stand by many of the sentiments I expressed. I think this trend is obscene and I feel like new celebrity mothers are being forced to publicly compete for the title of “Who Bounced Back Fastest”.  What I didn’t acknowledge is that when that pressure is there from the media, it’s hardly surprising women feel pressured to participate.

A wise friend said to me last night that “Of course feminism is about individual choice. But it’s absurd and naive and just wrong to believe that every choice exists in a vacuum.
If there wasn’t a currency for women to have to be hot ALL THE TIME even immediately after giving birth…….then that selfie wouldn’t exist. It’s not just one woman’s choice. It’s about a society and culture that sets the scene for that choice.”

I think that’s spot on. But that’s just my opinion.

And it bugs me that when a celebrity has a baby, the first thing everyone wants to see is a photo of the new mother to see how much post-baby weight she’s carrying.

Anyway.

I’ve been called many things this week:  a woman hater, a skinny-basher, a jealous fat bit#h … and I have to take all that on the chin. When you write angry – you get angry back!  (Lord, do you get angry back).  But I think to reduce this debate to “jealousy” is simplistic and naive.

But again that’s just my opinion.  And one I should have expressed better this week without piling on more hate to a fitness blogger in Europe.

And finally I want to thank Dannielle Miller from Enlighten Education who is dedicated to empowering young women across the country. In life it’s easy to talk the talk but not quite so easy to walk the walk. Dannielle Miller conducts amazing in-school workshops on bullying — highlighting the need for by-standers to not just stand-by and watch bullying happen. This week Danni saw me being attacked online and stood up and said something.

I’d say Danni is like Glinda the Good Witch from the Wizard of Oz but the truth is we all have that strength within. .. we just need the courage to take a stand when we see bullying happening in front of us. (And – NOTE TO SELF –  we also need to know when to shut the hell up and not write angry blog posts  ….).

I’m not going to approve any comments on this post today. I didn’t write it so that my friends would say “Good on you, Bec!” or for my critics to continue telling me they think I’m stupid.  I wrote it because I think it’s important to admit when you got something wrong. And I got it wrong this week.

I’m fed up with Australian politics. Here’s why … (June 2013)

 

Screen shot 2012 08 24 at 12.23.49 PM BLOG: Im fed up with Australian politics, and heres why.

Australian politics has become all about mud slinging.

 

 

 

Yesterday a menu made my head explode.

For those who missed it because you were perhaps LIVING YOUR LIFE, a photo of a menu taken from a Liberal party fundraiser in March was leaked to the media.

The issue? On the menu Prime Minister Gillard’s body was likened to cooked quail and referred to in the most utterly crass terms. The description of her breasts, thighs and vagina left me sick to my stomach. And I wasn’t alone.

Social media went into meltdown with claims that this latest low act by the Libs was precisely what Prime Minister Gillard was raging against. And so, in the wake of the vile menu being made public, the Prime Minister called for the disendorsement of Mal Brough for whom the fundraiser was held. And I, for one, whole-heartedly agreed with her. My feeling is we need zero tolerance for this type of sexist filth whichever side of politics it comes from.

And then.

And then the truth came out.

Mal Brough BLOG: Im fed up with Australian politics, and heres why.

Mal Brough

The menu and those remarks were not written or sanctioned by Mal Brough or his Liberal National Party cohorts. It was a mock menu created by the restaurant owner Joe Richards and his son as an in-joke for the kitchen staff and was never distributed. The menu in turn was photographed and Facebooked by a restaurant staff member (sigh) and subsequently seen by a gleeful ALP member.

Apparently.

Because while I’m inclined to believe this is true (it was all a bit convenient for that March menu to surface yesterday as the perfect “I told you so” from the PM) … I can’t be 100% sure.  How could I?

Both sides of politics have about as much integrity and credibility at the moment as those ads for Sea Monkeys I used to stare at wistfully in Archie comics. (But mum, they have crowns!  We could have an underwater Royal family! And did I mention the crowns!).

In 2013 truth and policies mean nothing.  Australian politics is now entirely about mud-slinging and gotcha moments.

Political commentators will tell us that this frenzied hatred from both sides stems from the fact Gillard is leading a hung parliament. Compromises are made. Policies watered down. Deals broken.

Tension is high between both parties. Disillusionment and disappointment – whether justified or not –  is even higher amongst the voting public.

But my malcontent with the current state of politics is about more than the vulgar and childish mud-slinging from both sides. It’s about the fact politics has been completely reduced to half-truths and spin and lies. I mean it’s always been a part of politics but now, well we’ve reached a new low.

My Direct Action Plan will be cheaper and more effective than the carbon tax! says Abbott.

Oh really?

The NDIS will be fully funded by a Medicare levy increase, says Gillard.

Sure it will.

Abbott will banish women from the political landscape, scream the ALP.

Gillard and her government have screwed our economy, screech the Libs.

When comedian and former Obama speech writer Jon Lovett gave the recent graduation address to the Class of 2013 at Pitzer College, he said something that has stayed with me ever since: One of the greatest threats we face today is bullshit.

 BLOG: Im fed up with Australian politics, and heres why.

Jon Lovett speaking at Pitzer College.

“We are drowning in it,” said Lovett. “We are drowning in partisan rhetoric that is just true enough not to be a lie; in industry-sponsored research; in social media’s imitation of human connection; in legalese and corporate double-speak.

“It infects every facet of public life, corrupting our discourse, wrecking our trust in major institutions, lowering our standards for the truth, making it harder to achieve anything.”

Lowering our standards for the truth.

Nail. On. Head.

When was the last time you really cared if what you were posting on Facebook or Twitter (and I’m talking mostly about political rants) was actually true? Credible?

We, you see, are the problem.

We buy it.  We run with it. We Facebook and tweet and email the screaming headlines and one-liners that fit neatly with what we want to believe about ‘the other side’.

My ALP voting friends post the most vile, demeaning and blatantly untrue crap about the Liberal party without a second thought.

My Coalition voting friends do EXACTLY the same thing about the ALP.

Screen shot 2013 06 13 at 4.02.30 PM BLOG: Im fed up with Australian politics, and heres why.

Mud slinging. That’s all there is.

Why let truth get in the way of a good whipping, right? It’s more fun to sink the boot in.

We’ve stopped being critical thinkers. We’ve stopped taking the time to investigate the claims we so desperately want to believe.  We can no longer be bothered to find out the truth for ourselves underneath the layers of highly skewed facts and dodgy research. And the political parties know that.

We are the ones who want the 10-second sound bites.  Entire policies or rebuttals reduced to mere grabs. Why? Because we care about the issues, we’re just, er,  busy. Too busy to actually, you know, research the issues for ourselves. To find out if we’re being played.

Newsflash: we’re being played.

I’m fed up with Abbott and Gillard, make no mistake about that.

But I’m also fed up with us – the public – for taking over the mud-slinging where our political leaders leave off.

We want better behaviour from our pollies? Then maybe, just maybe, we need to start with ourselves.

* This post first appeared on Mamamia.com.au

Motherhood is amazing.

Me (blissfully happy) with Ava in 2009.

Me (blissfully happy) with Ava in 2009.

I have a habit of comparing my four-year-old to foreign megalomaniac dictators.

I have, in conversation and online, likened my daughter Ava to Stalin, Idi Amin and, yeah okay, Pol Pot but that was only because she had a particularly severe haircut at the time and was stamping her foot at me a lot.

I fully acknowledge that I’ve written many a post about my reluctance to play ‘shops’.  About how at the end of some looooong days with a 12-month-old and a four-year-old I want to sit under the dining room table with a bottle of gin and have a cry.  Last week I may or may not have said I’d be willing to try to the new camouflage fashion trend if it meant Ava couldn’t find me without the aid of night-vision goggles.

Am I joking when I make all these statement? Of course.

Is there truth to all of it? Well yes (am expecting camo flak jacket to arrive in the mail any day now)

But today, for once, I don’t want to write about the harder aspects of ‘motherhood’ and I won’t list them because lets face it – we all know what they are.

Nope, today I want to park the jokes and I simply want to write a love letter to motherhood.  I want to scribble some words to my dear friend Nicola who this week is giving birth to her very first baby. A baby that has been talked about and dreamt about and longed for since she and I were, well, 15-year-old girls sitting together and not paying attention during Madame Luttrell’s French class.

And what I want to say to you Nic is this: Motherhood is amazing.

The moment that little cub, YOUR little cub, is placed in your arms, the moment your eyes connect, a planet of emotion, of love and fear and joy and terror is about to spin inside your heart.

You may be flooded with joy in those early days, weeks and months.  Feeling as though you have just embarked upon the single greatest love affair of your life.

Or you may feel nothing but scared and overwhelmed and a whole heap of freaked out (if you do feel that way, it’s TOTALLY normal but always, always talk to someone about how you’re feeling).

But what I want you to know is that in the big picture, the scheme of things, those early feelings matter little so don’t beat yourself up if you’re not on Cloud Nine – there’s no right or wrong way to feel, other than tired. 😉

Instead know that what lays ahead  – being someone’s mum – is (to quote my friend Chrissie) like the best song you’ve ever heard. The best party you’ve ever been to.

You see your heart is about to split open in only the best way possible.

It’s that moment when a fractious baby is immediately soothed at 2am because you – mama – have picked him up and he is now snuggled and snuffling and comforted safe in your arms.

It’s the beaming smile, the lit up eyes, the utter joy your 18-month-old baby has when you walk into her room first thing in the morning.

It’s the lying together in the dark having a cuddle in bed with your four-year-old whispering about tomorrow and whether Madeline McKenzie is really going to bring a lizard to kindy.

It’s the puppet shows and the dance concerts, the soccer matches and the stories. It’s the crayon pictures – where you’ve been depicted with pink hair and your head is strangely 18 sizes too big for your body – that will crowd out your fridge door.

It’s the cuddles and hugs and kisses. The “you look so beautiful mama” comments when you know – actually – you’re so tired you look like your passport photo.

It’s the rituals and the traditions that you get to create or continue for your own little tribe.

It’s the fact that this little person trusts you implicitly, loves you unconditionally and BELIEVES in you more than you would ever believe in yourself.

It’s the continual moments and chances to show Who You Really Are.

It’s all of that. And then some.

Is motherhood easy?  Not always. But nothing worthwhile ever is.

But it is amazing.  And I can’t wait for you, my friend, who has always been the greatest and most generous, endlessly patient and loving aunt and godmother, to experience motherhood for yourself. To finally hold your own baby in your arms and not have to give them back.

Motherhood is amazing.  The song, my dearest friend, is about to begin.

Dear 12, your final grade won’t make or break your life …

Me in year 12 in 1989. Nice perm …

Photos are deceiving.   That photo of me (and my perm) was taken on my last day of high school in 1989.   And I look deliriously happy.

I was, of course. For starters, I didn’t have to wear that uniform anymore. High-5 to that.  Homework was over.  No more having to sit through another minute of Biol or the textbook that haunted my dreams: The Web of Life. Hey Highschool, don’t let the door hit you on the way out, is what my eyes seem to be saying.

Of course what you can’t see is that I’m also completely terrified. Terrified at what did – or didn’t – lay ahead. Terrified at whether or not I would cope at university. That’s assuming I even got a high enough score to get into the Communications course I wanted to do. (Guess what? I didn’t). I remember being terrified knowing the group of people I’d spent the past five years with were all heading off in different directions. And that I’d kinda taken it for granted that all those faces – some loved and some loathed – were no longer going to be a part of my daily life.

So yeah – I remember that last term. And I’m reminded of it now as the media rolls out its annual “The HSC has begun” stories. Also because I’m putting the final touches on a book of advice I’m currently writing for year 12 students of all the things I wish I’d known before I left high school and went out into the real world. Advice like, “Never date a man who has Cher tunes on his iPod.”

Joking.

But think about it. Before you left school and went out into the big, wide world, what do you wish you’d known? For what it’s worth, here’s what I wish I’d known back then:

You will not be a success or a failure in life based on your year 12 final grades.

For senior students, it feels like their whole future is resting on these year 12 exams. But it’s not.  Let’s be really, really honest. Your final grade is just one little moment in time.  The truth is the people who are living big, exciting lives; the people who are living their dreams, who are making a mark are not necessarily the people who got straight A’s or did fabulously well in the HSC or SACE or OP or whatever it is in your state. They are the people who are resilient. And persistent. They are the people who had faith in themselves and kept going.

Now don’t get me wrong – high grades are valuable.  The better your grades the greater the options when you leave school. And that’s what you want: options.  But in the long term, success in life is about your ability to bounce-back. So if you don’t do so well with these exams or if you don’t get the score you want – just remember that it’s not the end of the world.  If you REALLY want to study something, you’ll find a way to do it.  As my friend Pam always says, when one door closes, try squeezing through the cat flap.

And then there are life’s late bloomers. For a whole range of reasons some people just don’t do well in high school. Maybe because of stuff that’s going on at home. Maybe because they’re not a great fit for the school they attend. Maybe because their head just isn’t in the right place. But that doesn’t mean you can’t go on to great things.  A fabulous example is my friend (and fellow author) Kim Wilkins. On her blog, Kim wrote this about her disasterous high school years:

“I was a late bloomer in every sense of the word. I still played with my dollhouse in the first year of high school, until one of the other girls told me that it was lame. I was puzzled and sometimes horrified by the things my teenage peers talked about and did. I gained a reputation for being the biggest “dag” in my grade. I flunked almost everything at high school and spent a very long time working in fast food jobs and typing jobs.  In fact, I’d say that I didn’t really blossom until my mid-twenties. I went back to school and finished my senior, got into uni, started writing books, and haven’t looked back. “

Let me tell you, Kim’s being modest. Today she’s an internationally acclaimed author of twenty books. She’s a university lecturer.  She won a University Medal for pete’s sake.  She’s living the life of her dreams. And she flunked out at high school.

So to the graduating class of 2012, know this:  whatever happens over the coming months, have faith that you’ll be just fine. Why?  Because whatever happens you have it in you to bounce back.

How have your high school grades affected your life?

My chance encounter with Offspring …

Parents-to-be Patrick and Nina

Monday nights are usually pretty blah for me.

With the kids in bed, I’m often working.  Half-watching Q&A. Making myself cups of tea. Forgetting to drink them. Making myself more cups of tea.

You know.

But last Monday night was rather extraordinary.  I spent an hour talking on the phone to Debra Oswald who is the creator and head writer of Offspring.

I know.

No, seriously. I KNOW.

It was awesome. Even if the topic of our conversation was unbearably sad.

Deb and her writers are in the process of plotting out the storylines for season four of the show. A season that sees Nina and Patrick grappling with parenthood.

Offspring fans will know that such a pregnancy isn’t necessarily going to be all rainbows and ponies for Patrick whose first baby – a little boy named Gus – was stillborn.

And so it was that Debra Oswald (DEBRA OSWALD!!) wanted to talk to me to about Brad and my experiences losing Georgie. And then being pregnant with Fin. You see my husband Brad is an obstetrician.  And there’s a whole other layer of trauma involved with experiencing a stillbirth when delivering babies (or in Patrick’s case being the anaesthetist in an obstetrics unit) is your job. Every day.

Part of the reason why Offspring is just so, so good is that the writers (led by Debra) work hard to get their storylines  right.

And so Debra and I talked. About how I lost Georgie. About getting pregnant with Fin. About the waves of anxiety that washed over both Brad and me throughout that pregnancy.  The feelings of guilt (it felt strangely disloyal at times to be excited about a new baby).  The attempts to be brave.  The loss of control Brad felt. All of it.

I don’t know how much Deb will use of what I gave her. I’m not even sure if they’ve decided if Nina’s pregnancy will stick. On top of that, Patrick is not Brad.  And we all handle trauma differently. But what I do know in my heart is that a little bit of Georgie’s life – somehow – is going to make it into that series.  And that floods my heart simultaneously with joy and tears.

Two weeks after Georgie died, I had the strangest, strongest feeling that she was going to turn the light in my life UP. Not down. That she may be gone but that somehow she planned to stick close to her mama. Like a muse. Or a guardian angel.  A lucky charm. While I don’t ‘feel’ her around me, I feel her in my life.  No question.  As though she has a torch and continually shines it down on new paths for me to take. New experiences for me to have. New people for me to meet. It’s like she has taken me by the hand and is leading me to my destiny.

And even though I would give anything, do anything, to have her back – here – for her to just be alive long enough to open her eyes and see me, and see how much I miss her and want her and love her … I’m happy.  I am. I’m happy.  My heart is fractured. Permanently. That’s just my new reality.  But that girl of mine is in my life and I am doing things, experiencing things,  I never thought possible.

Like having a tiny, little part in the making of Offspring. And helping to bring truth to the storylines next season.

And for that I am so grateful to my daughter, Georgia Grace. And to Debra Oswald for caring enough to get that pregnancy-after-stillbirth storyline just right.