Camp cramps

There are all sort of parents in this world, and you see them at the school camp drop off.

Those who are whooping their way out of that bag drop, punching the air and screaming “Look out silence, HERE I COME!”  They wave enthusiastically at a tinted window their child could be behind (but who would know), knowing everyone is going to love this little break.  As they smile kindly at a tearful mother and feel they should place a gentle arm around her shoulder, they are trying really hard to think as quietly as they can – “YES! SLEEP IN’S, WINE FOR DINNER, NO WEE ON THE TOILET SEAT, BED AT 6PM, AND NO SOCCER PRACTICE WOOHOO!!!”

There are those who are late for the bus – and they are the ones who are never, ever late, apart from this day. Somehow in the lead up, whilst packing for an 11 year old on a commando course (because we do that all the time),

commando outfit
“I think this outfit is perfect for a commando course”

trying to think of how to combat travel sickness in absentia, trying to teach them about the importance of a shower – with soap, or teeth brushing – at all, packing 5 lots of thermals in case it’s cold in Coffs Harbour, and then implementing the crash course in karate should anyone be mean to them, school camp for these parents is the final tug of the lace bringing everything unravelling. Nerves – 1, Mum – none.  They are running to roll call, they are sitting three abreast on the bag to try squaaaaash it in on top of 100 other suitcases, sleeping bags, pillows, back packs and giant teddy’s. They reach up a hand with a kiss on it to a disappearing cheek up the bus steps, and they say “I love you darling!” to the closing doors.  

Then there is me. We have been packed for weeks, so I didn’t have any callouts for new trakkies at 10pm last night – or that’s what I’m telling you, anyway.  We have had conversations, trying to be casual and not frightening, about safety – of friendships, of personal stuff, of health, and of looking after the precious person that is you, my child. We have talked about whether, because “Undies” is not on the packing list it means they are not needed.  We have worn in the “old shoes” we had to buy. We have discussed what you can eat if the bus stops at McDonalds (as all our parental fear-mongering about the place comes back to bite us on the bum).  And we have planted spy’s in Coffs Harbour with fresh fruit, vitamin C tablets, his bedtime teddy’s, a nice fluffy doonah and perhaps, just maybe, a getaway car.

I don’t take lightly to my child being away from me. For a week (yes, four days is a week). On the other side of the country. You are very well taking my heart right out of my chest and driving it away on Forest Coachlines.  

You are very well taking my heart right out of my chest and driving it away on Forest Coachlines.

I do know he’s going to have an amazing time. I do know this year 6 camp is the “coming of age” camp.  But am I ready for him to come of age? No. He is just fine as a not-teenager. So, bring him back. I can just see his beautiful face as he goes into the indigenous preschool with all the gorgeous little kids – I know already this bit will touch his gentle, gentle heart and change him for the absolute better. But he is the BEST already, so, bring him back.  I can hear him, as he rock climbs, bushwalks and surfs, laughing confidently with friends – a place he has worked hard to get to. He is confident now, so, bring him back.

Because until you bring him back, I am half a person here.

But I know if you do, he will be the half a person. I have to let him grow up. Little by little, I have to let him go.

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An Ode to the Moon

My husband walks in, a deadly sombre look covering his face.“The astronomer, he’s….well, he’s pretty serious. Eccentric, maybe. The telescopes are worth over a million dollars each!”

He shakes his head. “The kids…. I don’t know….”

Now he looks sad, disappointed.

My heart folds for him.  He’d booked this trip for us as a big surprise. He’d been working away for the last two years, and striving to keep a closeness within our family had been all-consuming for that whole time.  Now he’s back we want to relax, be normal, not fret about making every moment count.   This trip is meant to be the fun stuff that normal families do – a holiday together.  But I can see that right now all his expectations are being slowly and silently squashed.

I couldn’t let that happen. “They’ll be fine,” I assure him, feeling less than certain, and bundle him out the door of our little wooden Blue Mountains cottage.

As he goes about unpacking a years’ worth of stuff for our three day trip, I call the troops into the bedroom. “Now you guys, Dr Hassan is a very serious man,” I tell my four rowdy children who are busting with excitement that we’re on holiday.

“Mum, it’s ha-sin.  As in, haha I sinned, as in sin, you know? D’ya geddit?” laughs my already smarter than me seven year old, jumping on the bed.  His sister joins him.

“Ok ok, I geddit, thank you for clarifying – are you two kangaroo’s? No, sit down.  So, Dr Ha-sin, he is a very serious man. He’s a very, very clever man.  In fact, he is so clever, that that doesn’t leave much room for being funny and joking around.  His brain is full of clever, but no room left for joking. So we have to be serious too.  Do you understand?”  They all look at me, smiles and giggling gone, nodding their heads, eyes sombre.

The eldest, standing tall and serious, hands clasped behind his back like a mini soldier, is nodding. Whilst invisibly grabbing a pillow which he thwacks over his brother’s head, and it’s on.

Maybe my husband’s right.

“Guys!  Dr Hassan is waiting to meet you.  Can you be serious?  Because if you can’t you miss out on the moon.  And icecream for desert.”

Suddenly they sit still. Like the perfect children.

I herd them outside, corralling them in between my arms.

His old jeans and flannel shirt are cinched in with a tan belt, half way between his nipples and belly button.  He is twitching a bit. Later he will tell us he is 53 years old.  His skin looks smoothed by an expensive face cream.

Our children dutifully shake his hand and stand quietly. After a suitable amount of time they melt away.  I breathe a sigh of relief.

“Oh no,” says Hassan, eyes wide, hand over his mouth. “Did…I don’t know…Did Julian tell you….what ages are the children? The telescopes, they’re very expensive….sensitive, very sensitive….  children, they just want to touch it…”

“OLIVER DONT THROW THE BALL NEAR THE CAR IT’S BRAND NEW!!!” yells my husband as he catches the rugby ball millimetres before it smashes full pelt into Hassan’s front windscreen.

I scoop them swiftly back inside mumbling apology.  

They sit silently inside on the lounge, looking at the ground, Molly looking worriedly at the freezer and icecream inside. 

I return back outside to my husband to make a new plan.

“…My mother, she just had a stroke,” Hassan is telling my husband. “Such a proud woman. Dementia…. I think it is the worst way to go. She used to be impeccably made up every day, now…”

“Oh I’m sorry,” I say. “You didn’t have to come…”

He waves it off. “I’m very unorganised because of it,” he stutters, looking nervously around at the ground and buildings. “Just driven three hours…”

“Would you like a cup of tea?” automatically comes out of my mouth.

“Do we have any?” asks my logical husband.  Of course we don’t.  We’ve just come out of the car for three hours ourselves and I’d brought all the food the kids would need and forgotten the tea and coffee for us.

“Yes, yes I would. I will get my coffee,” he says suddenly clearly and assuredly.

I race inside ahead of him, picking up bras, hiding the wine bottles and closing the doors of rooms where the beds have been dismantled already by children.  I stand in front of my meek children and glare at them, my finger to my lips as I hear Hassan enter.

He helps himself, seeming to know the kitchen better than we do. “I’m not allowed in here unless I’m invited which you did of course,” he says.

“What’s that?” says Molly, sticking her nose almost in his cafetier as 4 year-old curiosity gets the better of her.

“It’s Arab coffee, you can’t have it,” he says, whipping it away. “It’s not good for children.”

She goes back to her spot next to her brothers on the lounge.

“Children,” says Dr Hassan standing next to the bench.  “Tonight we are going to look into some big telescopes to see the moon, and we might even see Saturn…”

“Saturn, wow!” says Oliver, who has just been learning about it in year three at school.

“But, children, the telescopes cost more than a house – more than a million dollars,” he says, his eyes twitching about everywhere but on the children.

“Make a toilet roll holder with your hands,” says, demonstrating.   They all copy obediently. 

I watch as they take him very seriously, while he describes to them how to place one eye into the toilet roll without using your hands. He describes how the toilet roll will show them something that is many light years away. “If I stood on the giant star Eta Carina and clapped, you wouldn’t see it for another 50 years.”  It is the beginning of my own understanding, which will grow as the weekend passes, of many things that school could never make sink in.

I wonder if he has his own children, now I see this new side to him. No wedding ring.

“Are those glasses multifocal?” he says suddenly, squinting in close to Molly. “Oh no, uh oh, umm, yes, that’s not going to work…” he stutters again, looking at Molly’s feet.

“We’ll put different shoes on her,” says Phil, mouthing at me “the flashing lights on her shoes”.

“Umm, we don’t have any others,” I say, feeling like the dud mother. “She can go in her socks.”

“No, I’m not doing socks again, no, no socks,” says Dr Hassan, shaking his head as if I said she was going to take her cask wine up with her to look at his giant star.  “No.  Don’t worry, we’ll work it out.  It’s just the light, your eyes won’t work with that flashing blue light, we can only have red light. Yes, red light. Oh,” he says flinching violently as they flash again, as if he’s been struck by a sword. “Oh dear, silly me, I’m going to have a fit… I have epilepsy…”

Again, I quickly sheppard my daughter away.

After while I hear Phil saying goodbye and the door close. “He said we might be able to see Saturn!” he says excitedly as he comes back in. “We have to be ready just after sunset.” His eyes are glowing with expectation. “I can’t wait for the boys to see it with us.  It’s very small up there so we’ll probably need to go up a couple at a time.” 

We busy ourselves with getting the kids down for a nap so they will be fine to stay up late. I squeeze in a glass of wine, looking out at the bushscape, trying to relax into our holiday as the warm sun seeps into my bones.

Half an hour later I’m racing us through dinner, and just as I plop the fourth child into the bath water there is a knock at the door.

“Come now, Saturn is visible.”

Molly and I wait, for twenty minutes. My leg is doing that nervous bouncing thing as I wonder how my boys are behaving. Is seven year old Benjamin being cheeky? I wonder if they can see Saturn, if it is everything Phil hoped it would be for us. If Dr Hassan is surviving.

Then, the door bursts open.

“We saw Saturn, we saw the rings, we saw the MOON! You should see the telescopes mum! I saw the lunar lander from the Apollo 11! It’s so awesome!” the three of them yell excitedly over one another, my husband suddenly 7 and 9 years old like his sons in his enthusiasm.

“Go, quick, I don’t want you to miss a thing!” he says, bundling Molly and I out the door.

We pick our way up the little path between the cottage and the observatory under the red light.  We enter quiet as thieves through the observatory door and up the narrow, steep wooden staircase onto the rooftop.  In the shadows I can see four enormous telescopes.  They don’t even look like telescopes.

Dr Hassan covers Molly’s shoes with electrical tape to try and stop the flashing.  And despite his flinching every time she flashes, he is a different person up here. Confident. Explaining things clearly to us, with passion – such passion!

Molly goes first.

“Wow! It’s so pretty! Wow!” she says, over and over again. Oh my heart, my little girl is seeing real magic.

Dr Hassan mumbles something, looking at her. I glance at him questioningly, intent that my daughter do nothing wrong so she can continue her experience.

“It means bless her, in Omani,” he says, smiling at her as I am.

Then it’s my turn.  “No, you’re toilet rolling,” Dr Hassan says to me. “Can I help you?” I nod, and he ever-so gently adjusts my head into position.  My eye focuses down the black tube, through the long tunnel of light years, and onto a small oval of the most brilliant light I’ve ever seen. No man could make such light.  It has red and pink glinting around the outer edges, and I see the rings – I can see the rings of Saturn!  This is unbelievable.  I want to look at it forever, I try and come away a few times to give my little girl another go, but am drawn back to look at this magic again and again. “Wow!” I can hear repeatedly coming out of my mouth. There seems to be no other word for it.

“Ok, let’s see the moon now,” says Dr Hassan assuredly, finally managing to unglue me from the enchantment.

He flinches and grasps his back, as he moves the telescope eye piece into focus. “Oh, I have MS – a result of an accident when I was a Naval medical officer – big metal hatchet came down on my back,” he says, working away at the complex machinery in front of him. “Urgh, I need to up my pain relief.”  He fiddles around at his waist in the dark.

“Can you lift…” he asks.

“Of course, please, don’t hurt yourself,” I implore.  He seems so vulnerable.

I place Molly gently on the chair, trying not to make her shoes flash. She puts her eye perfectly up to the eye piece, and says again, “Wow! Mum, is this the moon?”

“Yes darling.  What does it look like?”

“Mum, it’s so pretty, it’s got big holes in it, but it’s still so pretty.  It doesn’t twinkle like the Satty.  Wow.”

I’m itching to look too.

“Wow, mum,” she says, completely awestruck.

Finally, she gives me a turn.

And I find I got it wrong.  There is a light more brilliant than Saturn, and that is our moon. It’s solidly luminous, the brightest, most radiant clear white you can imagine, more incandescent than the best quality diamond. I will never think of moonlight in the same way again. Now, it is super natural, a most amazing gift. I understand it is healing to this man who appears in so much pain; I know why his stutter and nervousness leaves when he is close with it like this.452196-moon-flickr

After what feels like hours of looking at stars and nebula and globular clusters and learning so much about this amazing universe we reside minutely in, my Molly gets tired as she’s been up many hours past her normal bedtime.  So I have to hand this experience of magic back over to my husband and older boys.

They are up there so long that I fall asleep myself waiting for them. It is a deep, peaceful sleep, unlike which I’ve had in a long time, my worries insignificant under the magnificence I’ve just experienced.

The next morning we all sit around our holiday croissant breakfast chattering over the top of each other excitedly about what we saw.  And it continues for the rest of the day as we traipse all over the Blue Mountains.

But by the end of the day we have four miserably tired children on our hands.

“Hello, can I come and work on the television so we can do the live vision?” Dr Hassan has landed on our doorstep before we’re even out of the car.

Oh doom, I think, as I survey my grissling, fighting children. I’ll keep them trapped in the car til he’s gone.

“I’ll wait til you get the children out,” he says.

With gritted teeth we all go inside.

I placate the kids with milk and any other treats and promises I could dream up while my husband offers Dr Hassan a drink. “How is your mum today?” I ask.

He looks at me, still. Not saying anything.  He shakes his head, tears welling in his eyes, then turns away.

I feel terrible I have asked and upset him.

But I will soon feel worse.

“What is he doing here anyway?” says Molly, looking at him grumpily, while Oliver lets off one of the loudest farts I’ve ever heard and Benjamin loses it because it was on his leg.

“She’s a wild one that one,” he says, looking at Molly.

He settles into the lounge to chat.  I think he’s lonely. Phil asks him about who owns the telescopes. And he starts to talk. He explains that Nasa, the Sultan of Oman, and Julian, a cosmetic dentist who owns the cottage, own them.  He tells us he travels all over the world, but he hates going back to Oman.  He doesn’t agree with the treatment of women, and he feels very uncomfortable with all the attention he gets in Oman. “I don’t like being called Prince,” he mouths to us adults. Hi dying mother is a queen. She married an Englishman from Devon, and they lived in Australia. I make my own connection about his ideas on the treatment of women.

An hour passes and he has stopped stuttering, even though its daylight and we are nowhere near his confidence giving work.  I start to relax myself, seeing that our kids seemed to have settled down after the earlier squawking.

He says he doesn’t like working with the Arabs who can afford telescopes. “It becomes all about P E N I S size, you know, mine is 16 inches, well mine is 27…” All the adults laugh together.

“I have to commend you on your children,” he says, suddenly serious again. “I never give as much of my time and experience usually. And your reaction,” he looks at my husband, “when you saw the Apollo 11… that has to be one of the highlights of my career,” he smiles at us, warmly, like an old friend. “But your children are just lovely.”  He looks at each of them fondly. “I will remember them.”

I smile with love at my husband.  Our first foray back into normal family life has been a resounding success. 

Suddenly our 7 year old jumps bolt upright on the lounge, pointing at Dr Hassan:  “PENIS!!  He’s a PRINCE and he said PENIS!!!” he screams at the top of his voice.

Staging a #Fexit

I’ve staged a #Fexit.

That’s a Facebook exit.  Unlike the #Brexit I did not consult a whole country. I did however let my ‘friends’ know I was outta there, lest I miss something vital, like a baby, engagement, or self-tan gone hilariously wrong.  I asked them to pick up the good old dog and bone.

And I had several calls from my beautiful friends, God bless ‘em. All to see if I was alright. Staging a #Fexit has become a major concern, you see.

But there was no need for worry.  It was just time to be gone from the old FaceAche (wish I could claim this one but put your hands together for the ultimate wordsburger Ms Mari Budgewoi), for a little hiatus, a wee holiday.

Probably like everyone, there is a lot of my life that is mundane and boring. It is in those moments, whilst cutting the 65000th apple into a creative dodecahedron for lunchboxes, that I’d drop into FaceAche to look at other people’s non-boringness. But after a while I’d stopped seeing what I was scrolling through and was whizzing past a whole load of who knows what.

And it was making me feel far busier than I in fact was.  FaceAche sucks up nearly an hour of the average person’s day according to a recent New York Times article. “That’s more than any other leisure activity surveyed by the Bureau of Labour Statistics, with the exception of watching television programs and movies (an average per day of 2.8 hours). It’s more time than people spend reading (19 minutes); participating in sports or exercise (17 minutes); or social events (four minutes). It’s almost as much time as people spend eating and drinking (1.07 hours).”

More time than reading or exercising?  Well that’s not good.

If it adds up to that much time, don’t I have a better way to spend it?

But, like a smoker, I needed something to fill the space and occupy my hands where my habit once was.

So I looked up: “Is crochet or knitting easier for beginner?” Google told me crochet.

Google was wrong. crochet

Avoiding the temptation to inform the world of this momentous new knowledge on the FaceAche, I decided to defy the internet and try knitting. This is how that one ended up: 

knitting
Guess what you’re getting for Christmas

Much better.

Not only did I learn to knit, but I learnt that it’s reeeeally relaxing. Meditative, creative, and something you can do together – which face in phone is most definitely not. Yes, even the 11 and 9 year old boys wanted to do it and enjoyed it.

On my ##Fexit I found my brain space was a little clearer – which is fantastic for when you’re trying to be a creative type. It’s also fantastic when you have a lot of stuff in your head which needs to be organised or achieved – you do all this organising while you’re knitting and the achieving while you’re on your #Fexit, rather than when your head hits the pillow and should NOT be organising and achieving and keeping you awake.

On my #Fexit I feel like I’m on a holiday, not being connected all the time – you can put your feet up and stare at the view. I look at my children and husband rather than my phone – they look pretty good in fact. I now need to actually speak to my friends to find out exactly how closely their fake tan resembles Dictator Trump’s, or that their child got the Superstar Award this week. And I can hug someone in genuine congratulations in person, instead of clicking a Like button. I can choose what I want to investigate on the internet, not what’s fed to me.

Admittedly I’ve only been on my #Fexit for a couple of weeks. And in all honesty I haven’t staged a full #Fexit, I just took it off my phone. Because I still have a host of lovelies who live in other time zones that I need to check in on, and it would also mean having to ditch my blog page which I can never do!  However, just that little measure has given me back a real life, rather than the FaceAche one I seemed to be living.  I can highly recommend staging a #Fexit.

 

 

 

Notice

Ah, holidays, they’re so good for the soul aren’t they?  Warmth in your bones, cocktails in your belly and pictures of your red toenails against a blue sea on your Facebook account.

Or not – as was the case for our most recent holiday.

Yes, we did have warmth – but only for a few hours in the middle of the days, for a couple of days.  We also had rain for much of a day, clouds, and the chill of early morning and evening which comes with mid-autumn. It was invigorating and restful weather.

No cocktails. (There was wine though – let’s not get too hippy here).

But we did have some chairs and a wee porch, which was situated upon – literally – the sand of an almost deserted beach.  One day, the kids played on the sand, watched a movie, played a board game, played some more on the sand, walked on the rocks and swam, and for about three hours my husband and I sat.  We have many kids, aged 3 to 10 (our fault).  Sitting was an activity we had to relearn.

My red toenail picture I took. IMG_1181However, sadly, and gladly, Facebook was nowhere near us.  Nor phone contact, nor email, nor ANYTHING!  Plenty of chip eating kangaroo’s, pretty finches and fisherman at dawn.  But I couldn’t tell anyone about them.

To begin with I found myself looking for things to do, with no quick fixes of social media enjoyment, or snooping into other people’s enjoyment,  available.  I found that actually, it doesn’t have to be quick fix, because in fact there is nothing quick at all about FaceAche (as my funny friend calls it). Once you’re in there it’s like quicksand – nothing quick about it and you’re not getting out any time soon.  I think I grabbed back hours – in fact I know it was at least three hours that one day on the balcony.

I began by filling the time with my book. Which I finished. Then I read another and I was all outta books.  Because anyone with a 3 year old knows there’s no such thing as finishing a book within the library’s designated 6 month return policy (what? It’s not 6 months?).  The kids didn’t need organised activities – they organised their own.  Yes, the 10 year old boy got a bit sick of being the “horsey” on the beach, but hey, that’s your job when you’re number 1.  They were safe and free.  Doesn’t happen often in the burbs nowadays.

Then I looked.  What I saw when my head was up and out into the open was clearest, magic-coloured water… my two big boys just sitting on a rock gazing, in companionable silence…IMG_1298 a national park of our quite amazing Australian trees swaying and framing the expanse of sky.  I saw dolphins, incredible colours on the rock shelves, and a stingray surfing with my kids (till it ran away from their squeals).  I saw fresh air.  Can you tell me what fresh air looks like? How it feels coursing through you when you’re still?

I saw my husband again. I saw that we need to switch off phones more often.  I saw how I see things when I stop.

Noticing. It’s important.

When we returned I heard of a tragic accident which resulted in the loss of a little boy, just like my own. I cried for them. I wondered if the parent was too busy, too pushed with too many things to do, and in that split second it happened. It could happen to me – I can feel it hovering too close to my heart.  I appreciated my opportunity to notice all the more.

Why not switch FaceAche off for a day and count the hours you grab back?  Look up.  Breathe out.  Listen carefully. Touch the hands of the ones you love.

Understand though, I am not suggesting you give up cocktails…

 

Back from the brink

“If left, the bacteria Molly has, can kill in a matter of hours.”

I remembered, through a haze, that when we first arrived at Sydney Children’s Hospital at 1am that night which was to change us forever, they’d bumped a head trauma in order to operate on the pneumococcal infection in our tiny six month old baby’s hip.  Although we didn’t know exactly what evil it was at that point in time. In the depths of that night, the medico’s voices had a practised ‘let’s not panic, but…’ pace to it. Yet still, these words did not shock me into a state of clarity, or panic, or any other emotion.  It was just another thing to swallow, then keep going, breath by breath, sleep by baby’s sleep, missed meal by missed meal, day by day by week by month. It was the only way I knew to get through.

 

Then later…

“Miss Molly is one lucky little girl that you got her in there so quickly,” said our lovely doctor.  The saviour of our lives so far.  “There is not much time for error with this type of bacteria. But I think we’ve done well, and hopefully there will be minimal damage.”  Then he came over all Doctor’s Rules, and I knew I would get no more on the situation.  Not that they knew much more on the situation:  We were currently, after a month in hospital and two operations, still holding onto the cliff with just a few weak fingers, too find out if that bacteria would yet still take her, or if she would never walk.  

We moved to bed number ten of our stay. The moving around was getting to me. Pushed on by bossy mothers who wanted our window bed, or by the Noro virus sweeping through the ward  and closing it down, sending us off to Isolation.

It was in Isolation I hit what I know was the lowest point I’ve been at in my life thus far. I was so emptied, tested, tired and worried that I had the completely ridiculous thought I wanted to leave the hospital, which meant leaving my baby. onthebrink I asked my husband to come in, but he couldn’t breastfeed, so it was all just me.  Me and this enormous confusing thing. Me and a whole little person whose life might just depend on me.  I cried for 24 hours. I never knew I had that much crying in me.

When I wiped my last tear from that particular flood, my phone beeped.  It was my oldest friend, texting to say she’d just heard about Molly.  I’d resisted all conversation outside of nurses, doctors, and my husband.  I couldn’t talk about this.  I didn’t really know what was going on myself.  I didn’t know how I’d react if I talked about it.  I didn’t know if I could comfort someone else who was upset for me. 

Perhaps I didn’t want to really face up to that fact that all this was happening.  As it turns out, it took years for me to achieve such a thing. Maybe I even haven’t yet.

We texted back and forth for hours.  Her sympathy and friendship flooded into me.  Her ability to see the possible positives started working on me. 

Then another friend started texting.  She asked how I was going.  I mused, how was I going?  It suddenly struck me that my back was pretty sore from sleeping on a lopsided plastic chair for a month.   As I stood back and looked at what I’d just written, I actually found it pretty funny – so absurd that it was humorous.  I started to talk about whether it was better to have slept on one of the hospital’s fold-out beds which sported only half a mattress leaving my bum hanging off the end, or the lopsided plastic chair. It reminded me of our toilet rating system when I travelled Africa; where in some parts they didn’t really know what to do with Western sit-down toilets in terms of cleaning or plumbing, so we’d decided the long drop toilets won highest ratings.  I deemed the lopsided plastic chair a winner. A game of relativity.

This reminded me of my other friend who’d sent in nibblies and books to pass the time for my stay.  Others had sent in toys and little books for Molly, and even one very ugly snugly blanket, like a back to front dressing gown, to go with my plastic chair bed. It made me laugh like a madwoman.  Who laughs in a children’s hospital?  Not many – only me that day.  It made me think of the outside world, of a life other than the one I was so completely ensconced in at the moment. God bless my girlfriends.

And I began to fill back up with the wholesomeness of friendship.

Two Funerals and a Brain Scan 

Last year was one of those years – I couldn’t go to Coles without catching pneumonia. At one point I just took my sick-after-sick-after-sick kids out of school and we ran away up the coast to a big wide open space with no snot in it.  Add to this a brain scan for me, two family funerals and an evil piece of a skin cancer chopped out of me, and I was about to give up and go and live with the hippies. Then I remembered those filthy dreadlocks….

Before you feel as sorry for me as I was, all remains well.  The funerals were the finale to two well-lived lives, they found a brain in my noggin, the kids got their Gloria Gaynor on and “I will survived” and 2016 is a brand spanker of a new year.

However, in the thick of it all, one asks oneself: What is the dent I want to leave in this life?

What was very clear to me at the time was that my greatest work will be – sorry Book World – my kids. 

Part of this, of course, is Book World, or becoming la Fabulous Authoress. It’s leading by that good brave, ‘go-get-‘em’ example, showing them that they too can do absolutely anything they want.  Getting up when you face plant in the publisher’s office, faceokantshowing them what having a passion means and that hard work pays dividends.  I hope and try my hardest to show them a balance – to do both mum and work in the proportions that matter to our family, and hopefully not too frenetically (although I know this last part is my biggest failing).

A funeral brings up how you might be remembered.  You think of the person you’re saying goodbye to in the best and fondest of terms – will people think such things about you? At my 99 and a half year-old Nan’s funeral, these words were in my head: She was consistently kind and strong. 

This was the answer to my question.   

When it comes down to it, when my children have to stand on their own two feet, which thankfully God-willing is not right now, what I want them to be is kind and strong. 

Rather shockingly, a Harvard study a couple of years ago gained a lot of attention when it found 80 per cent of teenage participants chose success as their top priority, over caring for others, which was chosen by a measly 20 per cent. Apparently the kids said that these priorities mirrored their parent’s priorities. Parents – what would you think of this if your child was the one who needed the care shown to them?  I want my kids to be kind.

And strong – to know right from wrong, to be able to stand up for themselves – to everyone, not just to the usual issues parents nag about like drugs and bad behaviour.  I want my fairly timid kids to be certain about their beliefs and what feels right or wrong.  I want them to have strong instincts. And good perspective and balance in life.  But not a bland life – no way! Find your passion, my darlings. 

Feels like a huge job when you write it all down. Best I get to it.   

Lock down of love

I put on my uniform and mum ties my shoe

Dad kisses my head and says use the loo

I’m starting at big school, finally today

I’m going to put up my hand and have my good say

 

We get to the school gate, it’s enormous and strong

“That’s safe,” says my mum, “Nothing here will go wrong”

She kisses me again, the millionth time on this day

And waves me goodbye from the drop and kiss bay

 

I look all about me as I trot up the playground

And I enter my class at the big singing bell sound.

My teacher is friendly, she looks fun and so cool

She says, “Welcome my poppets to Mona Vale School”

 

I’m doing so well – haven’t cried one small bit

I even had recess with a friend called Brigitte

But just when we settle back down to a book

I notice sharp breath and I notice a look –

 

From my teacher, the lady I trust most right now,

She seems scared and has a bad look on her brow

“Children, it is now time, to leave our classroom

And find a new spot – and we must get there soon.”

 

And suddenly this school thing is no longer such fun

I know something is wrong and I just want my mum

I can’t have her, they say, we must wait in our spot

And now I am crying, so are others – a lot

 

But I hear a sweet voice, breaking through the melee

It is singing a song meant for children like me

“Who are beautiful children?” sang the voice to my heart

“We are beautiful children” we sang back our part.

 

My teacher came over and hugged me so tight

It was just like my dad’s hug and I felt alright

Whatever it was that was scary inside

Out here we were safe because love did provide.

 

I knew from now on, that this school place was kind

And that big scary thing, here no fear it would find

Because children are beautiful, strong little people

And Mona Vale School is their loving safe steeple.

Felicity Lenehan ©2016