words by nerissa

…observations, thoughts and questions

Archive for the category “Family life”

How to avoid feeling old

IMG_3836Why is it that a five minutes of running on a treadmill can seem like an eternity, but 10 years can pass in a flash?

Or that 30 minute appointment at the dentist seems like hours, but a night out with friends is over before you know it.

Why is it, that your child’s first day at school seemed to last longer than the many years they actually spend at school?

It truly is one of life’s great mysteries to me. That time can go by at different speeds even though it is a finite entity.

Time is something that continues to tick on, one minute after the next, slowly adding up until a substantial amount of time has passed. It doesn’t slow down or speed up as many of us think it does. In fact, the speed of time passing seems to be relative to its significance or enjoyment.

Albert Einstein (the clever man that he was), summed it up perfectly:

“Put your hand on a hot stove for a minute, and it seems like an hour. Sit with a pretty girl for an hour, and it seems like a minute. That’s relativity.”

Last week, two things happened made me realise just how quickly time can pass.

The first was when my son lost his last baby tooth. The last visit from the Tooth Fairy left me wondering where did that time go? How did we get here all of a sudden? It wasn’t that long ago we were waiting for his first tooth to come through. It seemed like yesterday when he lost his very first tooth (at his Nana Jude’s house!) Yet here he was, with none of his original teeth left.

The second was the form we received from school for my son to apply to attend high school next year. Hang on! Haven’t we just settled him in primary school? Why is it time for him to think about heading off to high school?

However, the series of school photos on my desk tells me that it is time for us to fill in this form. That he is indeed in his final year of primary school, and time is not playing a trick on us.

Psychologists call this tendency to think past events have happened more recently than they actually have, ‘forward telescoping’. It happens to us all. Often, we are surprised that significant events happened so long ago. Case in point — my son starting primary school and losing his first tooth.

There seem to be a few theories as to why time speeds up as we get older, which are interesting to read. However, the existence of these theories doesn’t change the fact that time marches on.

If the speed at which the last ten years has gone by is anything to go by, I’d say that I will be nearing retirement age before I know it! In fact, while having dinner with friends a few weeks ago, one of them ‘kindly’ pointed out that it is only 15 years until some of us would be in our 60s…. That was truly shocking.

It made me realise that time isn’t an endless commodity that can be squandered. I also realised that thinking about all the things that had already passed, made me feel a little old.

Many of us fail to realise that getting older is a privilege. I know I am guilty of that sometimes. A part of me can’t help wishing my kids would stay little. Sometimes I feel sad that the things we did together when they were small are all in the past, never to happen again. However, the fact that time has disappeared so quickly is surely an indication that we have all had a great time along the way.

While it’s great to look back and relive memories, spending most of our time looking back and wishing things were different is not great. It means we miss a new lot of experiences — things that are happening now, and things that will happen in the future, new friends and new opportunities.

don't regret growing olderMy son is not upset that his last tooth has gone. In fact, it means that he is now a step closer to getting his braces on (which is kind of a cool thing these days). As for going to high school, well he can’t wait to meet a whole lot of new friends and learn new things. He’s more than willing to embrace the next phase of his life.

The challenge for me is to embrace the next phase too — in particular, accepting that my children are getting older. Instead of wondering where my ‘little kids’ have gone, I should be engaged in the new experiences that await them, eagerly anticipating the future alongside them, rather than feeling sad (and old) for what has passed.

And maybe, just maybe, I will be so busy having a ball with them (like I have for the last 10 years), that I won’t have time to realise that I am getting older as well.

cropped-twitterpic.jpgNerissa Bentley is a Melbourne-based freelance writer at Write to the Point Communications. This blog is just one of the things she writes in her spare time.

 She also specialises in writing for the health and well-being market. As well as writing thoroughly researched articles, she can provide assistance with press releases, copy writing, editing, proofreading and communication strategies.

So if you would like her to help you, contact her at writetothepoint@hotmail.com

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Those you love are never far away

Pa and Nerissa

My grandfather and I … 16 years ago.

This past weekend, our family enjoyed a quick trip to QLD for my in-laws’ 50th wedding anniversary. It had been a long-time in the planning, which meant that family from around the globe could come.

Firstly, my husband’s oldest brother and his family from Cairns. The last time we saw them was over six years ago. My husband’s other brother and his family live in QLD, but we hadn’t seen them for almost two years. Then there was an uncle who came from Scotland who we hadn’t seen in a few years and another aunt and uncle from New Zealand who we hadn’t seen since our honeymoon, 16 ½ years ago.

Needless to say it was a houseful of people, brought together because we were celebrating a special milestone. And while it was a very busy time (we were organising and catering for the celebratory lunch), it was also a great time of catching up, swapping stories and lots of laughter.

Our kids were particularly excited to see their cousins. Their oldest ones from Cairns are now adults (18 and 19), so they were keen to see ‘how big they really were’ as last time they were together my daughter was 2 ½ and the older cousins were about to enter their teenage years.

They were also excited about seeing their other cousins whom they hadn’t seen for about 18mths. Closer in age, they always get along like a house on fire.

I expected the weekend to be busy (after all, we were flying in on Friday morning and out again on Sunday morning and in-between we were catering for and organising a lunch for 42 people). I expected the weekend to be fun. I expected that there would be a lot of celebrating and I expected to see some familiar faces at the celebration lunch.

However, there were two guests I didn’t expect to see — and the fact that I saw them both on the same day, out of the blue was quite amazing to me.

The first was my grandfather who passed away just over 10 years ago.

No, it wasn’t a ghostly apparition. My mother-in-law had a photo she had taken of Pa and I, 16 years ago — shortly after Nan had passed away. She said she thought I would appreciate it more than she would. She was right. What a special photograph.

My grandmother, mother and aunty are all in this photo.

My grandmother, mother and aunty are all in this photo.

The second person I didn’t expect to see came along with a guest of the party. A lady called Judy, came up to me with a photocopy of an old photograph and asked me if I recognised anyone in it. To my astonishment, there was my Nan smiling out from the picture. It was a much younger version of her, as the photo was taken in 1962. On closer inspection, my mother and my aunty were also in the photo!

Talk about being gob-smacked!

Two guests from my past, but two very important people in my life, who had influenced me greatly as I was growing up. Two people who I miss most days were there with me unexpectedly. And it brought a smile to my face.

Since they have both passed away, my grandparents ‘pop up’ unexpectedly every now and then. Sometimes their ‘visit’ coincides with a significant event or date and other times, they appear out of the blue.

Just to remind me that those you love are never really far away.

 

 

Nerissa Bentley is a Melbourne-based freelance writer at Write to the Point Communications. This blog is just one of the things she writes in her spare time.

 She also specialises in writing for the health and well-being market. As well as writing thoroughly researched articles, she can provide assistance with press releases, copywriting, editing, proofreading and communication strategies.

So if you would like her to help you, contact her at writetothepoint@hotmail.com

 

Things I learned at primary school

Prep - Grade 6. How much they change

Prep – Grade 6. How much they change

This year heralds the last year of primary school for my son. Despite my reluctance, I have been forced to acknowledge this in a recent trip down memory lane.

Like most schools, our Grade 6 students have a graduation event at the end of the year. Already a group of us are beginning to organise it. Part of that organisation involves putting together a memory book for the kids of their time at primary school. Our job as parents was to go through all of our photos and pick out some that may be suitable.

What I thought would be a relatively quick exercise, took nearly a whole day. There was lots of laughter, some moments of sadness and a realisation that my son has done a whole lot of growing since being at school. And while searching through my archives and CDs full of pictures, I realised that even though I haven’t been an enrolled student in primary school for quite a number of years, I have actually learned some new lessons during my ‘second time around’ at primary school.

So if you have recently begun the primary school journey, or will do so in the next couple of years, I hope that my lessons may help you make the most of this incredibly special time.

Get involved: It can seem like a thankless task to be involved at school. And sometimes it is. But it’s important to be involved. By being involved you show your children that their schooling is important. It shows them that you value the school. By being involved (whether it be on a committee, helping out with excursions, school discos, stalls or being a class rep), you are taking an active interest in your child’s educational experience. And it’s one that they will value and remember forever.

Encourage your kids to be involved: Encourage your kids to play for a school sporting team, or join the environmental group, or go to the school disco. When your child is involved, they develop friendships and a sense of belonging. They feel connected to the school and it becomes a happy and safe place to be.

Help out: Teachers always appreciate help when needed (particularly in the younger grades). While going up to listen to kids reading every week wasn’t always my first choice of activity, I am so glad I did it. Not only does it help your children feel like you are interested in what they do, it helps you get to the know the children in their grade. One of my friends and I have some fond (and funny) memories of helping out during Grade 1 reading or with the Christmas craft. So there will be something in it for you too.

Get to know the teachers: I am really surprised at the number of parents who don’t get to know their child’s teacher. You don’t have to be best friends, but you should take the time to introduce yourself, particularly at the beginning of the year. When you see them in the playground, stop and say hello. After all, these people are spending most of the day with your child, so why wouldn’t you want to get to know them? They’re not intimidating and some of them are actually very nice people!

Support the teachers: On the subject of teachers, you really should support them. If you want them to give the best of themselves to the education and care of your child, then show them you’re on their side. If they are doing a good job, tell them — and the principal. Positive feedback goes a very long way. If you have a problem with them or their methods, then speak to them privately, rather than holding court in the playground and whingeing about everything you don’t like. If you don’t support and respect the person teaching your child, chances are your child won’t either — and that is only going to hurt your child in the end.

Make an effort when it’s time to dress up: Looking back, there were many ‘dress-up’ days throughout my son’s primary school life — all of which hold fond memories. I remember searching high and low for a green and gold shirt so my son could dress up as an “Australian Athlete” for the Prep alphabet concert. Letting him wear his pyjamas to school for the annual Teddy Bear’s Picnic for the Prep and Grade 5 buddies. There were days of running around looking for supplies so I could make a “Jack in the Beanstalk” costume for the Grade 1 Fairy Tale Ball. Off to the shops again to find some red pants so he could dress up as “Mr Strong” for Grade 1 Book Week or a red sheet for “Captain Underpants” for Grade 5 Book Week. And of course the annual Footy Day! Some days it was exhausting and my creativity ran dry at times. But the look on his face as he proudly displayed his costume was priceless. And it makes for some great photos!

Take pictures — lots of pictures: Speaking of photos, take them. Lots of them. Don’t just leave it for the ‘first day of school’ or them displaying a ribbon after winning the 100m dash. Take photos of them participating in sports. (I have a very funny one of my son in Grade 1 diving over the high jump rope. Yes, diving with this arms together and his hands pointing forward). The more photos you take the more memories you have. Take photos of them with their friends. Getting on the bus to go to camp. Getting off the bus to come home from camp. Sports days, Christmas concert, School production. Take photos at any opportunity. You don’t realise how much they change and grow during these seven years at school. When their primary school years are over, these photos will be among the few memories you have left.

On the subject of photos, take comparative pictures. Amongst my favourites are the First day of Prep and First day of Grade 6  photos. This year, we took the time to recreate the photos that we took all those years ago when my son started school. Same poses, same positions in the yard. And it is such a great way to see how much they really grow and change.

Go to sports days: It’s not always the most exciting of days. Standing around in the hot sun, waiting for your child to run or jump. And yes, there were many a time when I would have rather have stayed home. But I am proud to say I have made the effort to go to every single one. Sports days, Cross Country, District sports, Hoop Time — all of it. The same goes for other special events. ‘Open Day’ at school where you have an opportunity to look through your child’s class. Information nights, the multitude of concerts and performances throughout their young years. They will love you for supporting them, and you will love it simply because you are watching them shine.

Which brings me to the next point –

Cheer them on!: Sure, you child may not be the fastest runner, or the best reader, or the most creative when it comes to art. They may not even be very attentive when they need to be. But you have an opportunity to build them up, or pull them down. Always praise them. Don’t lie about them being the best. Instead, a simple “I love the way you tried your best and never gave up” or “I’m so proud of you for being part of the team” or “Your reading is getting better and better”, really does go a long way. That said, if they do win a race, or an award, then be proud. Don’t play down their achievements because others may be jealous. Congratulating a person on achieving something is an important part of life, particularly for a child.

Enjoy the experience: I’m the first to admit that primary school is not all roses. There are so many issues to contend with — concentrating in class, making friendships, learning to be organised, getting homework done, etc. But the time really does fly. One day you’re sending them off to the big world of school, and the next you’re prepping them to say goodbye to that familiar place. Primary school is such a huge part of your child’s life and your own. It’s precious learning and growing time, and time when your child will begin to exhibit natural gifts and talents. Make sure you take the time to enjoy it, rather than rushing from one thing to another.

Show an interest: Show an interest in your child’s school life. Ask them about their day. Sit with them while they do homework. Read some of their books with them. When they think you value school, then they will too. Not only will you have a handle on where your child is at, you will also open up the doors to a whole lot of different conversations and opportunities for learning.

And finally…

Don’t cry when it’s over: I can’t guarantee that I will achieve this one. In fact, I know I won’t. My son’s primary school years have been so much fun. The school has been such a wonderful community and has provided so many opportunities for my son to grow and learn. He has achieved success in many things, and learned hard lessons in other areas. He has brought tears of laughter to my face with his various performances, both on the sporting ground and on the stage. Did I say it was fun?

What fun we had dressing up!

What fun we had dressing up!

I think it’s ok to be emotional about a phase of their life being over, but it’s not okay to let that overshadow their excitement and enthusiasm to enter the world of high school. We shouldn’t make them feel guilty for growing up or wanting to move to the next phase of life.

I know that it’s still early on in the year. We still have close to 10 months of primary school left. But if the rate at which time has already disappeared is anything to go by, the remaining year will be over in a blink of an eye. So with the lessons above in mind, my son and I are set to make Grade 6 the best and most fun year of primary school ever.

And the way it’s going so far, I’d say we are well on track.

Nerissa Bentley is a Melbourne-based freelance writer at Write to the Point Communications. This blog is just one of the things she writes in her spare time.

 She also specialises in writing for the health and well-being market. As well as writing thoroughly researched articles, she can provide assistance with press releases, copywriting, editing, proofreading and communication strategies.

 So if you would like her to help you, contact her at writetothepoint@hotmail.com

“I only belong in your heart”

Laura at 6 (with no front teeth)

One of my favourite pics of me and my precious girl on a Prep Excursion to the Zoo. I love it because her smile is so big (and gappy!).

I looked at my daughter’s face as tears welled up in her eyes. I asked her what was wrong.

“I don’t want to go to school because I don’t feel like I belong there anymore,” she cried as tears rolled down her face.

“Of course you belong,” I said. “You’re an important member of your class and the whole school.”

“No, I only belong in your heart.”

Then she sobbed.

My beautiful 8 year old daughter, then told me that a group of girls at her school wouldn’t let her play with them. According to her, they were being rude and telling lies about her. And so, she felt like she didn’t belong there anymore.

After we had talked a few things through, I asked her what she meant when she told me she belonged in my heart.

She replied: “Because we are connected, heart to heart.”

Now to explain to you what that means, I have to take you into a world of Barbie movies. I know, I know — Barbie movies are not award-winning material. But my daughter loves them and one particular movie is very dear to her heart — and mine.

It’s called “Barbie and the Diamond Castle”. Basically, it’s a story of two best friends who grow flowers for a living. They both love music. One day they find two heart-shaped stones which they turn into necklaces to symbolise their friendship. One of the songs they sing during the movie is about their friendship and the chorus goes like this:

I feel connected (connected), protected (protected), it’s like you’re standing right with me all the time.
You hear me (you hear me), you’re near me (you’re near me),
and everything else is gonna be alright.
‘Cause nothing can break this, nothing can break this, nothing can break this tie.
Connected…

This song is one of ‘our songs’, and my daughter still loves to sing it to me, in full.

The reason this song is so special for my daughter and I is we first saw this movie when she started school. That was a very emotionally draining year for the whole family, as my daughter cried every day for three months. Every day. Some days the teacher had to prise her from me, which was not pleasant for any of us.

But through it all, we used to remind each other that we were connected like the two girls in the Barbie movie — even when we were apart. We even bought one of those ‘best-friend’ necklaces in the shape of a heart that you split in two and give to your best friend. She would go to school wearing her half under her uniform and I would wear my half for the day. It was our way of ‘being connected, heart to heart’.

Three years later, she was standing before me, with tears rolling down her face, telling me she belonged in my heart because we were connected.

She knew that no matter what happened at school, or anywhere else, that she would always have a place in my heart.

I wasn’t happy to hear that she was feeling so upset. But I was happy to know that she feels like she ‘belongs in my heart’, regardless of whatever else is taking place around her.

Happily, that day in the playground was a ‘one-off’ and she is back to playing with her friends and going to school with a smile on her face.

But it was a valuable experience for her, to not just ‘know’ that she was important to us at home, but to really feel and believe that she can always count on us to make her feel special, loved and cherished.

Forever connected, heart to heart.

My daughter found this rock a few months ago. When she picked it up, it broke in her hands into two pieces. She gave one half to me and kept one half for her to remind me that we 'are connected'.

My daughter found this rock a few months ago. When she picked it up, it broke in her hands into two pieces. She gave one half to me and kept one half for her to remind me that we ‘are connected’.

Side note: For those of you interested in the rest of the Barbie movie plot, the two girls stumble across a girl called Melody who is trapped in a mirror. She tells them a story about how she lived with three muses in the Diamond Castle until one day, one of the muses turned evil because she wanted the music to herself. The other two muses hid the Diamond Castle before they were turned into stone. So of course the two girls head off to stop the evil muse, before she finds the Diamond Castle and destroys music (and the world). And of course, everything works out in the end.

cropped-twitterpic.jpgNerissa Bentley is a Melbourne-based freelance writer at Write to the Point Communications. This blog is just one of the things she writes in her spare time.

She also specialises in writing for the health and well-being market. As well as writing thoroughly researched articles, she can provide assistance with press releases, copywriting, editing, proofreading and communication strategies.

So if you would like her to help you, contact her at writetothepoint@hotmail.com

 

Lessons from a wooden spoon

bakeGuilt caused me to take action this week.

I’ve been feeling guilty for a number of weeks now and over the past week, my kids have been making me feel even more guilty.

You see, I haven’t baked anything for weeks.

Yes, I have cooked meals, and made lunches, and organised breakfast. But I haven’t baked. You know, like cakes, or biscuits or muffins, or slices. That kind of baking.

For someone like me (who is known among my friends as an “amazing cook” and a “great baker” — even a “Brownie Queen”), that’s quite an admission. In fact, one of our friends we had dinner with on the weekend was shocked at my lack of activity in the kitchen.

Even my kids have been asking me why I haven’t baked anything.

Over the past week, they have been coming home from school and asking with hopeful little eyes, “Did you bake anything today?”

And the answer has been “No”.

Why?

Firstly, I was totally over it by Christmas. That time of year always means extra time in the kitchen, particularly as we have many family birthdays at the end of the year. By the time I had baked for birthdays, break-ups and Christmas itself, I’d had enough.

Then we went away for a week on holidays.

The week we got back we had a record heatwave with five days of temperatures over 40 degrees Celsius. I don’t turn an oven on when it’s over 35.

Then we went camping. Followed by some more hot weather.

However, it is now week 3 of the school year and I can tell my children are desperate for something home-baked.

I could no longer ignore the guilt, so I switched on the oven and got to work.

Within no time, I had made a carrot cake, blueberry pancakes and one of their favourite chocolate slices.

And during that time a kind of peace and contentment settled upon me. Out of the kitchen window I saw a young mum and her toddler playing in the park, and I thought about how good it is to do things for your kids —  with no timelines or agendas, other than the fact that they would like you to.

What started out as an act to relieve my guilt turned out to be something more therapeutic. I was reminded again, how much I love to bake.

I also learned a few lessons:

  • It’s good to take your time with things — sometimes, taking time with things is what you need to do, in order for them to turn out properly.
  • Sometimes, hazarding a guess is not conducive to the outcome you desire. Sometimes you need accuracy, precision and a set, proven formula.
  • There is a natural order to things — including the part where you wait for the end result, with a cup of coffee in hand.
  • There is joy and contentment to be found by focusing on one task at a time, rather than multi-tasking in your head and thinking about the next thing that needs to be done.
  • Sometimes you need to do something simply because it will bring pleasure to others. More often than not, you will get pleasure out of it too.
One of my favourite pics of my two kids in the kitchen. This was taken a number of years ago now, though.

One of my favourite pics of my two kids in the kitchen. This was taken a number of years ago now, before they were old enough to go to school. However, it still brings a smile to my face.

This afternoon my kids came home from school. They didn’t ask if I’d baked them anything. Perhaps they had given up on the whole idea.

However, when they walked into the kitchen and saw the containers on the kitchen bench their faces lit up.

Cries of “Ooooh, what’s this?” and “You’ve been cooking!” echoed around the family room.

So this afternoon, after they had washed their hands and unpacked their bags, they joyously sat down to some home-made goodness.

And there were three of us with smiles on our faces.

Nerissa Bentley is a Melbourne-based freelance writer at Write to the Point Communications. This blog is just one of the things she writes in her spare time.

She also specialises in writing for the health and well-being market. As well as writing thoroughly researched articles, she can provide assistance with press releases, copywriting, editing, proofreading and communication strategies.

So if you would like her to help you, contact her at writetothepoint@hotmail.com

How a library broke my heart

No one warned me that a milestone could break my heart. 

By definition, milestones seem to indicate something positive — “an important event”, or “turning point” in one’s life.

Many of us seem to measure our lives in milestones.

First job, first car, first love.

Then you get married and have children. And once you have children there seem to be an endless road of milestones.

The first smile and laugh. The first word. Their first step.

These are some of the things you look for and celebrate. Closely followed by ‘sleeping through the night’, ‘getting rid of nappies’, ‘doing up their own seat belt’ and ‘tying their own shoelaces’.

These milestones involved a ‘happy dance’ for us.

But there have been others that have crept up on me, caught me unawares and tugged at my heart.

Like the first day of school. All of a sudden, they look too little to be out of your care all day long.

Like discussing the dreaded ‘Santa’ question (which we dealt with last month).

And the end of primary school — which is looming before me at the end of this year.

But there has been one milestone that I didn’t expect would break my heart.

The cleaning out of my son’s room.

Don’t get me wrong. I love a good, clean bedroom. And we have cleaned out my son’s room many, many times. But my son is now 11, and entering the pre-teen years. Which meant that many things had to go into storage, simply because he had outgrown them, and we needed the space for other things.

And that meant clearing out a lot of his books.

My son has always been surrounded by books. I read to him the first day he came home from hospital as a baby. I read to him in the morning and in the afternoon. It became a routine which he loved. Snuggled up on the couch, touching pages, repeating words — it was a very special time together.

In the early days of motherhood, when most things would bamboozle me, and I was feeling like a terrible failure, I would take solace in the bookshop. My son would sit or lie in his pram and soak up the atmosphere. We both became calmer versions of ourselves in a place where there were other worlds to discover, new people to meet, new adventures to be had.

By the time we’d bought a book (or a few books), and had a coffee, the world would be a happy place again.

I always wanted to build my own library, rather than borrow from an existing one. So it’s safe to say that we have accumulated many, many books over the years.

As my son grew older, I would ask him to choose several stories. He would excitedly run into his room, search through his books and pull out five or six stories. Some of them would feature every day. But sometimes we would be treated to something different, like the story about “The Little Yellow Digger”, or “The Ocean Star Express”.

Classics like “Guess How Much I Love You”, “Possum Magic” and a variety of “Hairy Maclary” were read over and over. As were books on dinosaurs, dogs and birds.

But this week, they were all moved out and packed away. Sniff sniff.

To be fair, an 11-year old boy really doesn’t have much use for many picture books, particularly now his shelf is bursting with the books most pre-teen boys are reading. And he very rarely picked them up any more.

However I found the whole exercise quite sad.

Sad for the little boy who is gone.

Sad that I will never again, watch my son run down the hallway and emerge triumphantly with a pile of books almost as big as himself.

Sad for the days where a new book and a cappuccino (or bottle in my son’s case) would make the world a better place.

Sad for the warm snuggles and soft pyjamas of our evening reading sessions.

And sad for all the dogs, dinosaurs, possums, birds and other characters that have been shut away for a little while.

As I packed them away, I took the time to remember them and say goodbye — for now. I remember when most of them came to live with us. Some were given as gifts, some bought for the sake of having a new book. All of them had their own special place in my heart.

With each book that went into the box, my heart grew heavier. Finally, it was done.

My husband wanted to move the box into the shed. But I have stored it under my desk, with the excuse that our daughter may want to read some of them.

And while that may be the case, I know deep down, that it was more likely myself who needed to read them and keep them close.

As I survey my son’s bookshelf now, it is a bookshelf of a typical 11-year old boy. Books by Andy Griffiths and Roald Dahl; “The Captain Underpants” series, “Tom Gates”; and “The Famous Five” books now feature in prominent position.

But as I look more closely, I see that some of the childhood favourites are still there, including all the Dr Seuss books, “Mr McGee” stories, and two of my favourites from when I was a little girl — “Harry the Dirty Dog” and “Corduroy”.

Perhaps there is a part of my little boy still living in our house after all.

Joy to the world?

It’s that time of the year again. And depending upon who you are and what you have on your plate, you may use any number of terms (some of them none too complementary), to describe the week leading up to Christmas.joy

The picture on the right seems to sum it up beautifully.

Christmas is supposed to be a season of joy and happiness, celebrations and festivities. There is an enormous amount of pressure to appear happy, relaxed and joyful. But in reality, most of us are running on empty, and scrambling to keep on top of it all.

A bit like a duck on water, really. On the surface, everything is gliding along smoothly, but behind closed doors, in the crowded shopping centres, or in the car as we ferry people from one event to another, the mad paddling to stay afloat is happening.

What food do we need to take to this event? What time are the kids likely to get into bed tonight? How will I get them up tomorrow? What is on tomorrow? What day is it today? How will I find time to get groceries? What are we having for brunch with our friends? When will I buy food for Christmas Day? What are we eating on Christmas Day? How much is on the credit card this month? What time do we have to leave? Have the kids got clothes to wear to school tomorrow? Did I really promise to take the kids to the city to look at Christmassy things? Can I get out of it? WHERE THE HELL ARE ALL THE CAR PARKS?

These are just a few of the things that have been going through my mind lately.

It’s a bit like having an internet browser with 86 tabs open — ALL THE TIME!

It’s exhausting.

And I know I’m not the only one feeling like this.

In a season when wine flows freely, it seems tears are flowing just as freely.

Tears of frustration, tears of tiredness, tears of worrying about the financial pressures, tears as children leave pre-school, primary school or high school, and farewell their friends. Tears from parents and teachers. Tears from students who didn’t get the result they need to get into the tertiary course they wanted. Tears from children, totally overwhelmed and exhausted by it all. Tears from people who are missing loved ones — either separated by distance or death.

There is no doubt that there is an immense amount of pressure put on most of us this time of year, and what is supposed to be the Season of Joy is totally the opposite.

Sure, I could tell you to count your blessings and be grateful of how good your life really is, but I know you probably don’t have time to down a mince pie, let alone make a list of all the ‘positives’. And even if you did, I think indulging in a glass of bubbly and that mince pie you can’t seem to find time for, is a little more appealing at this time of year.

So, if you would rather poke yourself in the eye with candy cane, than attend one more crazy, frenzied event, the good news is we are almost there. And the serious business of relaxing can begin.

But in the meantime, I would like to leave you with the following video.

Over the past week or so, it has become my new favourite song. In a time when we are busy hurtling through time and space, getting ever so closer to the pinnacle of bedlam, this song provides four minutes of escape. It leaves me feeling less-stressed and feeling warm and fuzzy. It makes my kids smile. It gets us dancing around the house feeling happy. Even if it is only for four minutes.

I hope it does the same for you.

Wishing you PEACE and HAPPINESS this Christmas

xx

Why you can’t judge a book by its cover (or a Christmas tree for that matter)

What does your Christmas tree look like? Does it look like one fit for a designer store? Is it a real tree or an artificial one? Is it colour-themed, or is it a hotchpotch of different decorations?

Yesterday was the 1st of December so according to our family tradition, it was the day to put up the Christmas tree. As part of our tradition, we put on some Christmas music, break out a few Christmas treats and get to work.

My husband assembles the tree, puts on the lights and the kids and I decorate it — along with the mantelpiece. Yes, we are blessed with a mantelpiece, which is lovely for Christmas time.

Each year in the lead-up to Christmas, when the shops are filled with fancy decorations and themed Christmas trees, I think, “I must buy some new decorations for the tree”. But, as I pull out all of the decorations we have when it’s time to set it up, I can’t bring myself to throw any of them away. So really, what is the point of new stuff?

On first glance, our tree is a bit haphazard. There is no obvious theme. It is not colour co-ordinated and there are decorations on it (and on the mantelpiece) that have seen better days.

So why don’t I just throw them away?

Because they mean something to our family.

Some of them are lovely, quality decorations given to me over the years by some very dear friends. Each year, as I hang them up, I think of them.

Some of them are the first decorations my husband and I bought as a married couple, which we bought for our tiny, little (live) tree. Sadly the tree has died, but the golden bells and little apples are still going strong and always bring a smile to our face.

We also have baubles with our names on them and a decoration that represents each of us. Trev — the bearer of gifts; Nerissa — baker extraordinaire; Josh — always our little boy; and Laura — our dancing princess. We even hang the decoration we bought for our dog when she was alive. Just another way to remember her.

Our family - in Christmas decorations

Our family – in Christmas decorations

But by far the most precious decorations (and also the most shabby), are the ones made by the kids. Our kids are (almost) 11 and 8 now, so their decoration-making skills have improved over the years. However, we still have decorations they made when they were toddlers. These consist of simple Christmas shapes, which they ‘coloured’, or pipe cleaners fashioned into some weird shapes.

We have decorations from their playgroup years, which include a nativity scene that Laura made (okay, it was me) complete with animals and a baby Jesus. (Don’t look too closely at the baby, as I had such a difficult time with him!)

We have umpteen Christmas wreaths ranging from the gold-painted, macaroni on a plate-variety, through to one with patty pans glued around the outside of it. One of the macaroni ones has hardly any macaroni left, but I still can’t throw it away. And needless to say, those patty pans have seen better days. We also have angels that hang on the tree, their wings being the hands of each of my children at the age of 3 or 4.

Most of our decorations are handmade by the kids

Most of our decorations are handmade by the kids

Once they were old enough for school, my kids became better at making decorations. We have half a dozen or so ‘Christmas trees’ that the kids made at their Christmas clubs. Some more ‘loved’ (tatty) than others. We have a multitude of Santas, several reindeer and a sleigh! In fact, there is a section of our mantelpiece that is dedicated to ‘school Christmas craft’. And in another week or so, we will have more in our collection.

Some of our decorations incorporate a photo of the kids at a certain age, which is really cute, yet also serves to remind us just how many years have gone by!

Some of the decorations I remember making with the kids, and some of them I remember ooohing and aaahing over when they brought them home from school.

One of the most beautiful things about our collection of decorations is how they trigger conversations and memories.

“Remember when we made this?”

“Look how small your hands were!”

I can’t believe I thought that was a good job.”

“Look how cute you were.”

While many of them are old, and fit only for the scrap heap, I cannot bring myself to throw them away. Discarding them for something shinier and newer would be akin to discarding my children, their memories and their creativity. Every decoration on our tree has a special meaning and a special memory tied to it. It’s almost like a time capsule.

A time capsule of our family (including the gold painted macaroni wreaths!)

A time capsule of our family (including the gold painted macaroni wreaths!)

So if you are at our place this Christmas, don’t judge my tree by looks alone.

Yes, to the naked eye, our Christmas tree and surrounding decorations are a mish-mash of everything — nothing tying them together and no real theme.

But the truth is, the theme at our place each Christmas is family — something that is never out of fashion.

Merry Christmas xx

The day I farewelled my little boy

2 year old Josh with the Christmas stocking I made for him.

2 year old Josh with the Christmas stocking I made for him.

A lump formed in my throat as I handed him the letter. I watched as he took it outside and sat down to read it in the garden. A tear rolled down my cheek. This was the end of something special.

 Dear Josh

You have asked a really good question – “Is Santa real?” 

I know that you want to know the answer, so I have given it some careful thought to know just what to say.

The answer is yes — and no.

There is no one, single Santa.

Dad and I fill your stocking and choose and wrap the presents under the tree — just as our parents did for us, their parents did for them, and you will do for your kids one day.

This could never make any of us Santa though. Santa is lots and lots of people who keep the spirit of Christmas alive.

He lives in our hearts — not at the North Pole.

Santa is the magic and love and spirit of giving to others. What he does is teach children to believe in something they can’t see or touch.

Throughout your life, you will need this capacity to believe in yourself, in your family, in your friends and in God.

You’ll need to be able to believe in things you can’t measure or hold in your hands.

Now you know the secret of how he gets to visit every house on Christmas Eve — he has help from all of those people whose hearts he has filled with joy.

With hearts full of love, people like Dad and I take our turns helping Santa do a job that would otherwise be impossible.

So there is no Santa who lives at the North Pole. Santa is love and magic, and hope and happiness.

We are on his team and now you are too!

But part of that important job is to keep the magic alive for people who think that Santa is one person who lives at the North Pole — like Laura.

It’s very important that you do not spoil it for her. Let her believe and have the same magic and wonder that you did — until she is ready to know the secret.

We are very proud of you and love you oh, so much. And we know you are going to make a great member of Santa’s team.

Love Mum xoxoxo

(Disclaimer: The above letter is a version of one that I saw posted on Facebook last year, which I kept and modified for my son. I thought it a lovely way to answer the tricky question of Santa, so thank you to whoever posted that last year!)

My son came in soon after with a knowing look and a smile.

“Right,” he said, with a wink.

“So what do you think?” I asked him, sure that he would be a little sad. He is quite a sensitive soul after all. “Are you okay?”

“Yep,” he said with a big grin.

Oh, so it was only me who was having difficulty with it all.

So while his sister was playing with her Barbies, I took him outside so we could talk more freely and not give the secret away.

“Do you have any questions?” I asked

“Well, the Tooth Fairy? What about her?”

“Same kind of concept.”

“I thought so,” he said.

“And all the letters that Santa left us, you just wrote those in different writing, didn’t you?”’

“Yep.”

“And the crunched up carrot and reindeer food. Did you eat those carrots and spit them around the back patio?”

“Dad and I did.”

He laughed.

“That would have been hilarious,” he said. “Can I help this year, seeing as I am on the team now?”

The 'hilarious' remnants of carrot and reindeer food.

The ‘hilarious’ remnants of carrot and reindeer food.

So we sat for a while and he asked all kinds of questions ranging from how much we paid for the bike that Santa brought him, how does Santa bring back their Christmas letters every year (seeing as they have been posted in a letter box), and who eats the food we leave out for Santa.

After we had talked, as perceptive as always, he said to me: “I’m not sad about it, but I know you are, aren’t you?”

And yes, part of me was feeling sad because I had just farewelled my innocent, little boy who had been living with us for nearly 11 years. One of the last remnants of his ‘littleness’ was now gone.

There would be no more letters to Santa (except to keep the pretence up for his younger sister). There was no more ‘tricking him into bed’ because Santa was coming. No more gazing at the sky to look for a sleigh, and definitely no more entertaining theories on how Santa does what he does.

However, in front of me was a grown-up version of my son. He was wiser, stronger and happier for the knowing. Taking it all in his stride and already thinking about what he can do to make Christmas special for his 8-year old sister.

Since he has learned “Santa’s secret”, we have had many secret conversations about Christmas and Santa (often behind closed doors or while his sister is otherwise occupied), which has delighted him. He feels very grown up and is chuffed to be ‘in on it’. He even told me that I did “a pretty good job at being Santa” and that I “thought of everything!”

Thank you my darling. I tried to make it as magical as I could.

While it is sad for me to let my little boy go, it is also a wonderful privilege to be there with him as he grows into a gorgeous young man.

I would like to officially welcome him, as the newest member of Santa’s team.

Christmas 2012 - the last one when "The man from the North Pole" came to visit Josh. While the boy has changed a bit, he still has the same Christmas stocking I made him all those years ago.

Christmas 2012 – the last one when “the man from the North Pole” came to visit Josh. While my son has changed a bit over the years, he still has the same Christmas stocking I made him all those years ago. Oh and we still wear our PJs when opening Santa’s presents!

 

Why kids deserve respect

Respect is a tricky thing.respect

Yet it seems to be twisted into a definition that suits anyone.

We need to respect their decisions

We need to respect their beliefs

We need to respect their right to express themselves

We need to respect the way they live their life.

What does it really mean?

Respect can be defined as:

  • A feeling of deep admiration for someone or something elicited by their abilities, qualities, or achievements.

OR

  • Due regard for the feelings, wishes or rights of others.

While a lot of people talk about the need for respect, I don’t believe many people practice it anymore.

Instead there seems to be too much focus on ‘doing what makes you happy’, ‘living for the moment’ and forgetting about how that impacts on other people.

I’m not saying that you need to do what others want you to, or go and become a ‘people pleaser’.

What I am saying, is that we need to think about the impact our actions may have on other people — especially our kids.

Think about those ‘high profile celebrities’ who have been in the news lately, for their questionable actions. I am not going to name them, simply because I believe the reason they are engaging in their questionable behaviour is to gain publicity and get people talking about them.

However, if I used the words, ‘twerking’ and ‘joint-smoking’, I’m sure you know one of whom I am referring to.

Yet she is one of many. Listen to the lyrics of many popular songs, or watch the video that accompanies them, and there is often very little respect to be found.

Half-naked men and women, dancing around (often gyrating), singing about strip clubs, alcohol, and drugs. All the while objectifying women (and men), and passing it off as entertainment.

Think about some of our ‘sports stars’. Yes, they may be great at their sport, but are they really role models we want for our kids? Footy players getting drunk, or on charges of rape; a tennis star in trouble for hooning; a prominent golfer caught cheating on his wife a few years back. Yet these are the very people who are held up to be ‘heroes’.

TV shows are now being made from footage of drunken, foul-mouthed, disrespectful thugs having brushes with the law. While they may be televised after prime-time, they are still advertised when children watch TV. Do they really need to see that? Besides, are we really that desperate that we have to resort to that kind of stuff? Surely our combined level of intelligence isn’t that low.

What is going on?

Our kids are looking up to these people. What kind of qualities are these people exhibiting, that results in a feeling of deep admiration for them? Where is the regard for the rights and feelings of our children?

When we ‘normalise’ cheating, getting drunk or engaging in anti-social behaviour, our children learn to do the same. When film clips objectify women (and men) as objects, our kids learn to do the same.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want my son growing up to only see value in a woman for what she looks like and how sexually attractive she is.

I certainly don’t want my daughter growing up to believe that the only worth she has is to be found in men ogling her, or being sexually available.

When we show footage of people doing drugs and making it look cool, then our kids want to do the same thing and be ‘cool’ too. It’s quite confusing for them to be told about the dangers of drugs on one hand, but then be shown footage of a celebrity lighting up a joint.

Parenting is not easy. Forget about the sleepless nights and toilet training — that’s a piece of cake.

The harder stuff is trying to teach a child right from wrong and to guide their moral compass. We are trying to equip our kids to negotiate the minefield of drugs, alcohol, promiscuity, anti-social behaviour, cheating, lying, and selfish behaviour. Yet in one foul swoop, another person’s actions can call into question everything we have taught.

As children get older, the outside world has more influence on them. Yet people wonder ‘what is going on with kids these days?’ Well, kids model what they see, and ‘respectful’ is not how I would describe our current society.

Many forget that the children of today will grow up to be adults. What we teach them about the world, and their place in it, is a very big deal.

If our kids grow up believing that it’s ok to disrespect others, then they will grow up to be disrespectful.

If our children see their role models have no self-respect, then how will they grow up to respect themselves?

If our kids think it’s ok to yell, and scream and swear and carry on when things don’t go their way, then what kind of adults will they make?

If we show our kids that it’s cool to be on drugs and okay to get drunk, then what kind of society are we creating?

If today’s celebrities are all about self-promotion, self-gratification, making money at the expense of others and not interested in the welfare of the people who have made them celebrities, then what hope do our kids have?

So, to all of you out there who thinks that it’s none of my business how you live your life — think again.

Most of the time it is not. However, it is my business if the way you act and behave is disrespectful to my children. It is my business if your actions have a negative impact upon my children. And it is my business if what you are modelling is against what I am teaching my children.

It most certainly is my business, if I have to explain adult-concepts to my children, well before they need to know about them.

Remember, most children don’t ask to see scantily clad women gyrating about. They shouldn’t have to see sex-shops in every suburb advertising their sleazy wares. Most children don’t usually ask to see footage of people doing drugs. And they certainly don’t deserve to be told that their only value in life is to be an ‘object’ for someone else’s gain.

Children are vulnerable. Children are innocent. Children are impressionable. Children are special. Most importantly, they are the future of this country.

Let’s treat them with the respect they deserve.

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Allison Tait

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