To nag or not to nag, that is the question

As a parent of four, I find it very hard to keep track of what is going on day to day with each of the kids. Their schooling requirements around activity days, tests, assignments, excursions etc. are all very different as they are all in different stages of their school life. As such, the older two have a bit more trust placed in them to manage their work, and call out anything that is coming up. For example, I will ask if they have any assessments coming up in the next couple of weeks, and I hope to hear the truth. Many times we will be talking about their day and they will just say they have something coming up, without prompting. Then there are times like this week.. 

Our eldest daughter was with her mother, and it turned out she had a history assignment due. She was off school sick the day it was talked about in class, but they have this all in their diaries, and as we all know, teachers must remind us about this stuff in class 100 times before its due. She got to the night before it was due, and told her mother she hadn’t done it, which is like handing someone who hates you a loaded gun and telling him you killed their parents and ate their dog – bad idea!

 

Her mother’s reaction was to leave her to face the consequences of not handing it in. This is where we differ in approaches, which can make co-parenting so much more difficult. It also puts me in the position of being bad cop (as usual). Once I heard about this, I contacted my daughter and made it clear she was to spend her morning, recess and lunch working on the assignment so she could hand something in at the end of the day. I fully acknowledge there may not be a right or wrong with either approach, but for me, I think sending her the message this is never acceptable, and she can’t get out of it no matter what, is a better message than her receiving a fail from the teacher without further consequence. She is only year 7, and one missed assignment isn’t going to create a fuss or affect her school life, however, I think it can set a dangerous precedent of it being ok to miss deadlines.

 

I know I need to try harder again now to track their various work, and step up the nagging and checking. It’s always difficult, because we are trying to teach them trust, honesty, and to manage themselves, but it’s also our job as parents to keep them on the right path (in my opinionated opinion).

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You spin me right round

What is it with all the negative fuss over fidget spinners? In fact, what is it with all the negative fuss over anything kids get into en-masse nowadays? Every time a fad or trend comes, areas of society start posting horror stories, or articles about why the thing of the moment is bad or hazardous. Why can’t we just let the kids enjoy these fads, and ride it out quietly? Loom bands came and went, slime is still around but not as crazy as it was, and now the kids are all spinning. Let them enjoy it! It’s not like they are asbestos filled, jagged glass edged, devices of death. Yes, some kids are being smart and preying on other dumb kids, passing off cheap spinners as expensive ones and ripping them off. Yes, some Darwin award winning kids are choking on the inner workings of the spinners. It doesn’t mean the toy is evil! 

It’s not like parents were panicking when parachute pants were all the rage. You didn’t hear parents getting on the news, or sending school newsletters requesting the pants be banned because a child might catch the saggy crotch on their bikes and have an accident (which many did!). When yo-yo’s were all the rage, they didn’t get banned because kids smashed windows trying to do “around the world” or clocked some other poor kid in the face trying to be tricky. Shit happens, ESPECIALLY to kids. It’s part of life’s experiences, and our failures are every bit as important as our successes. This bubble wrapping must end. Get a grip parents. You are ALIVE, and you survived to become parents yourselves. Now you are trying to take away all the choices, and lessons, that you had. What for? So the first time the kids have to stand on their own in life, they fail because they have no clue, and no resiliency? Back of, bitches (and bastards, if you wanna claim sexist).

 

My kids have already grown bored of them, and they lived to tell the tale. I am actually the one still spinning. When I kept reading all the articles about the spinners, there were of course articles from both sides of the fence. The positive articles talked about helping kids concentrate, focus etc. To be honest I thought its all bollocks. The kids focus is on the spinner. Kids are very single minded. Me, I can sit at work, reading a document or email, whilst spinning away. I can split that focus successfully. Kids don’t do that.

 

Why am I using a fidget spinner you ask? Reading all this stuff about them I thought to myself, it simply seems like something to keep fidgety people occupied. I have been a nail biter my whole life. Since giving a fidget spinner a go, my nails are finally growing. Whenever I find myself doing tasks where I am concentrating but have a hand free, like watching TV, reading on a computer, sitting in meetings at work etc., I spin instead of chomping on my nails. I actually catch myself going to bite my nails if I forget my spinner. I don’t doubt, at some point, that reflex reaction to bite will go, and I can stop spinning. So there you have it, a real life application for fidget spinners that doesn’t involve some wanky psychologist trying to convince you it will help children with autism, or turn stupid kids into good students, or water into wine.

 

Regardless of me actually finding purpose in one, I still maintain my position – let kids be kids, enjoy the fad and grow out of it. Back the hell off them!

The future is now, you can’t spend your life chasing it

When the media, financial “experts”, or the government are discussing items like ‘cost of living’, ‘housing affordability’, and retirement, I find they tend to categorise society into very neat boxes. You have your younger generation, who apparently blow all their money on coffee and smashed avocado (because apparently buying a coffee every day is akin to having an expensive cocaine habit and should be considered a luxury), and who should have plenty of income to save for retirement. These kids apparently need help to get into the housing market, whether it be first home buyer grants, use of super, or somehow addressing affordability. Then there is the older generation, who apparently should be just fine. They own houses, get pensions or have enough super. Then there is everyone else left out in the cold, because they sure as hell pretend the rest of us don’t exist. 

Given the divorce rates, I can only imagine how many people out there like me, are no longer “first home buyers”, yet don’t have any cash or assets to show from a divorce. Therefore we are ineligible for any of these potential schemes to assist getting into the housing market. Also, apparently we have bundles of cash we could just invest in the share market or into super. This would supposedly make up for us not owning property. Sure, invest your cash and when you stop working, move to Mt Isa, or the back end of Cooper Pedy, because you sure as hell won’t have enough retirement funds for capital city rent!

 

Again, I think the government is oblivious to what it costs to give children a basic home life. I’m not talking the ‘go skiing every year, and have an international holiday every couple of years’ life. I’m talking ‘decent food on the table, eat out once in a while, allow limited out of school paid activities, live in something other than a shoe box’ lifestyle. If we did what was necessary to scrimp and save for a house deposit, the kids would have to go without most everything, and live in uncomfortable conditions, for many years. You can’t whip up 10 or 20% of a deposit in a year or two by not buying a coffee, and I sure as shit won’t feed my kids budget fatty mince or chicken wings with limited frozen veg every day to save money. The kids DESERVE a childhood of reasonable standards. If we turn around and take on every saving mechanism we can, it will take years to save up what is required for a deposit *now*, let alone accounting for the increase of housing prices in those years. Which means, the kids spend their childhood paying the price for my other half and I to own something later. Not acceptable. They derive no benefit, and don’t get to enjoy their childhood as much. Personally, I will deal with what I have to, when the kids are grown and making it on their own. I won’t sacrifice their childhood for my future.

 

Just yesterday, my daughter re-organised her room and when she proudly showed it to me, I complimented her on how awesome it felt to be in her room. The room felt like an extension of her personality. It was fun, and warm, and colourful and smart. Why would I want to take that away from her and have her share a room with one, two, or three other kids of various ages? It would mean constant fighting, no sense of ‘space’ and removal of her haven from everyone.

 

This rant highlights how us ‘regular’ families are left behind in government thinking. The obvious housing scheme tossed around for years is letting families access their super for a deposit. Regardless of the risks, we *should* be given that chance. The greatest expense for Sydney residents is rent or mortgage. The only way to truly make retirement work is by outright owning a property, which will greatly reduce your daily drain on your pension/super. If we weren’t so overlooked for being ‘ordinary’, the government might understand and let us do what we need to do. It’s not like it would even be hard to plug the risk to people rorting the system. If someone used their super, then sold the property, the government could put a stop gap in place which intercepts the funds and ensure their super account is ‘paid back (with interest)’, as effectively the agreed purpose of accessing your super for a deposit for you to have somewhere to live, has now been broken.

 

Kids don’t deserve to pay the price because of a shitty economy where property prices are out of the reach of your ordinary person. They deserve at least a basic ‘play in the street, ride your bike, play in the back yard’ type childhood that Australia has always prided itself on. Those basics of Aussie life are far removed if you try to meet the modern day Australian dream.

Own the Wallow.

I’ve been reading a lot of articles recently about mothers coping with life (single or married), and general “here’s how I survive the week” or “focus on the essentials to get by” type articles. I do like them, often there are good types but on the whole they are generally self congratulatory and I’m sure in reality only are working for the authors some times. And of course, don’t get me started on how dads are the sidekick or help make things worse in these.

Personally, I can say with honesty I’m failing at keeping my shit together at the moment. As you may know from reading my posts, I do a lot of prep work, and try to organise my time and household in smart ways. That doesn’t change the fact that there is only so many straws that poor camels back can take before it breaks. It IS ok to not cope, and I think it’s important to be able to express it, because the first step to fixing something is acknowledging there is a problem. 

I am lucky enough my fiancé loves me as much as she does, and deals with my kaleidoscope of moods as I struggle to cope with everything, as I lose it because the tyre pressure light came on in the car – because too many goddamn things have gone wrong lately and no matter how hard we try it feels like when you put on cheap ass bandaids and then wash your hands and they come right off. You just want to swear – a lot.

I spent a lot of time today thinking about if I should or need to seek professional help, perhaps use my employee assistance program at work, or even get some anger management counselling. But shit, is it so wrong that I’m not coping that great? Am I not allowed to feel bad because things are tough all round? I don’t think I need my feelings validated or explained away. I need solutions and that means to keep on truckin’ (or in this case – keep working on solutions for each and every issue as they come).

Can I do less around the house and with the kids like a lot of these articles suggest? Sure. Will I? Probably not. In a very popeye way – I am who I am. I need to have a clean house, for the kids to have what they need in terms of an involved and attentive parent, for good healthy food to make it to the table at night. These are my core basics I need to feel like I’m winning at life in some way. Yep, I need to find some things to back off of, and I’m trying. That being said, I need to allow myself to feel shitty, overwhelmed and hard done by, without wallowing in it. Live it, acknowledge it and try to fix shit.

Most of all I can’t lose sight of the wonderful idiot woman who loves me for some stupid reason, and those amazing kids who forgive me my hulk smash (not literally) moments. Forgetting all the bad crap at the moment I am one blessed DAD.

Multi-family Dynamics

I’ve found it really hard to write anything for the past few weeks. Life since the accident has been difficult to say the least. My fiancé has a constant barrage of continuing health issues, recovery, doctors and specialist visits, and then all of the associated dealings in regards to insurance, licensing etc. On top of that is normal life – financial concerns with her out of work for a while, and now back working part time, the stresses of my job, and then of course – the kids. 

The last couple of weeks has opened my eyes up to the fact that the kids are dealing with so much of their own. It breaks my heart whilst also making me proud for the way they deal with life. Very conflicting emotions. Our youngest is dealing with the dynamics of her father’s family vs our family. For such a young girl, it’s obviously difficult for her to realise her place in each family. Especially of course, because in her fathers – she is the eldest, and in ours, she is the youngest. She also has four parents with their own mannerisms, and ways of doing things to deal with. What she might take for example, as anger, because I might have a frown on my face (and perhaps when she sees that on her dad’s face it means anger), is actually me running the household, getting kids to put away their clothes while I make dinner and clean up the kitchen, or try to get us all organised and out of the house on time. She’s so young, and I know all we can do is keep talking to her, reassuring her, and know that in the long run she will realise where she fits in and the dynamics of each household and parenting teams.

 

She also unfortunately, is seeing relationship cracks for her dad. He doesn’t seem to do a good job of keeping their relationship issues away from the kids. From what we can tell (and yep, I admit we only have a 5 year olds feedback here), it seems her father and his partner tend to have fairly public fights in which she disappears with the other kids for a couple of days to get away from it. That has to have her wondering why her siblings are being taken away from her and why her effective “step-mum” doesn’t want to be around her. She hasn’t expressed those feeling yet, so hoping she’s not at that point. It’s a tough one, because without the full story we can really only try to assure her they will work things out and everyone fights but it’s about being able to sort it out and move on.

 

Our youngest boy is dealing with his new school like a trooper, forming new relationships with friends and teachers. On that side of things, he couldn’t be happier. But, as does happen, he seems to be having issues with separation from his mother now. Given it’s been so many years, I find this weird and he doesn’t seem to want to, or doesn’t seem able to talk about it. I just have to give him time I think, and keep reminding him we are here to talk and we love him.

 

For our eldest girl, she has moved to the extension classes in her school. We couldn’t be prouder, she has achieved so much in the last couple of years. Her academic improvement is astounding. On the whole she is dealing with high school like a champion. She is making new friends, being invited to houses and parties, and handling increased responsibility at home really well. I am just cautious because she’s so emotional like me, and I know it hurts her when things go bad, especially if she has bad experiences with other kids at school. I am trying so hard to teach her to be resilient. Fingers crossed there.

 

Then comes our eldest boy, or, if you think of him how he sees himself, our young man. He’s a frustrating beast. He shows such maturity in some areas, for example, he seems very able to cope with life and change, and is brilliant at school and forming personal relationships. In other areas, like responsibility (sometimes), or with his relationships with his siblings, he can act like a 5 year old boy. Very frustrating 🙂 All in all, I think he’s doing an amazing job with life, and with coping!

 

All of the above being said, the older three are all dealing with the ever changing and unsure dynamic they have with their mother. Our eldest is on very rocky ground and finding her way of life to be hard to deal with. They all have some serious expectations placed on them by their mother, and consequence of not meeting those (as in, punishments or being told off) weighs heavily on them. I feel so bad because one of the big issues for me in the marriage was that feeling of “treading on egg shells” with her – constantly. Living that way makes you very anxious, and the kids are expressing the same type of feelings to me, about their relationship with her. I try to offer advice, but I feel like if I couldn’t ever figure it out, how can I advise them? I’m just hoping that I’ve learnt enough from my experiences that some of my advice makes it easier for them.

 

Family dynamics, and different rules/lifestyles have to be some of the biggest confusing factors for children of separated/blended families. As parents, we have to remember how hard it has to be for those little humans to reconcile the differences and feel at home in both environments. As long as they feel safe, comfortable and loved in both environments, I like to think they can deal with the differences.

Brain me damage-amage-amage.

I unfortunately have not been in a mindset to write for the past few days. Since my fiance’s car accident I have been working from home, looking after her 24×7, and it is our week where we have all the kids together. I can say categorically, I am exhausted. I am very glad it’s Friday, and I’m hoping Sunday we can have a pajama day. It’s due to be wet and rainy anyway, so hopefully board games, video games and movies will be on the cards for Sunday.

We have a family BBQ planned for Saturday for some time now. The kids are being very supportive and are going to help me be ready for it. My fiance is doing a lot better every day, but still very limited with her motion and has no energy. Recovering from such a serious accident takes a lot out of a person. It’s like her body has gone into power save mode, trying to redirect all her energy to healing.

I do have to admit, this has been one of the more trying weeks of our lives. The stress of managing ourselves, our emotions, finances, the kids, work and the future – it’s a hell of a lot. Thankfully the insurance company has been great and we know we will not be slugged with property repair bills from the power company or anyone else.

It’s times like this when you see the true side of a lot of people. We have had people reaching out constantly, offering support, understanding (e.g: a lot of people at my work), and general well wishing and following up to make sure my fiance is OK. It has been very sweet and definitely helps you feel less alone.

Our biggest worry this week has been the kids. We’ve had some of the kids not seem to understand the seriousness of the accident and injuries, which has resulted in some pain in the ass behavior, which of course is the last thing you need in a time like this. Our eldest daughter got overly worried, and I get the feeling she is maybe overly concerned still but I will keep tabs on her to make sure she’s OK. In a week or two, hopefully my fiance’s progress will ease her mind.

The kids of course, also don’t get the impact to our lives. The financial hit is massive, stress of dealing with recovery and all the admin relating to the accident, whilst managing our lives. It’s so hard to articulate to them without making them feel like they need to do something, or feel guilty for some reason. I’m also having to say no to some requests for time with me because I’m stressed, busy, or exhausted. Other times I’m killing myself putting a smile on my face and playing Basketball with them so they feel everything is normal.

I’m just trying to ride that fine line where I want them to understand, and try to be a little more helpful. I know we’re going to have to make it up to them once everything IS back to normal – find a way to say thanks for being such great kids through a hard time. We are so lucky, firstly that she survived without permanent injury, and secondly that we have such wonderful kids to help us get through this tough time.

Kill Your Idols

Ok so this posts topic is actually an awesome song by the band Static-X (RIP Wayne),  but it jumped to mind with how I’ve seen people act these last two days.

As you may or may not know (if you don’t, then follow me and read my other posts – go on, do it now!) I’ve spent the last day and a half in hospital with my fiancé who had a serious car accident. From the emergency room, through to the wards, I’ve had to bear witness to countless people denigrating nurses and doctors almost constantly.

It ranges from paranoid people with serious mental health issues who seem to think the staff are trying to kill them, to angry morons who feel like the staff are their punching bags and slaves, to just ordinary chumps who don’t get nurses aren’t the cause of their issues and are trying to help them.

It has made me feel frustrated and angry watching these disgraceful displays of self centred, entitled, rude behaviour almost constantly. The nurses are complete angels for how they put up with it, even when I can see they are pulling long shifts, getting bugger all sleep and coming back to do it again.

I know people take their problems out on those we love, but as a society people seriously seem to have the mentality that if someone is in employment which sees them helping or serving people, that the person is automatically beneath them and deserves contempt. I cannot stand this attitude. You see it with waiters, checkout staff, charity collectors etc. People with no right, feel they DO have the right to treat these workers like they are beneath them.

Of course nurses are human beings with feelings and no matter how well they hide it, you can see after every interaction with one of these people they are less inclined to pay attention the next time, which makes the aggressors even worse because they start feeling justified that they aren’t getting the attention they fed they warrant (with their Queen of England complexes). This sends them on a spiral where it just gets worse for everyone involved and everyone around them.

All in all, it takes a special person to be a nurse, and to not be an asshole. To be honest I don’t think I’ve encountered a nurse to date who may have even been gruff to me, but didn’t end up being nice when they realised I was giving them the courtesy and respect they are due.

So, the next time you want to take out your problems on someone, maybe think about why you are where you are and take some responsibility to behave like you would want to be treated. Remember their jobs are tough, they are often understaffed and over worked – and they are your mothers, fathers, sisters and brothers – they are humans with feelings who try damned hard to help the ungrateful all day every day. Gotta love em.