Monthly Archives: May 2012

No backing out now

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It’s the moment when I actually sign up and pay that I know I can’t back out. I have officially signed up for my second half marathon. On the 1st of July, I’ll run 21k for a few reasons.

1. I can. I have legs that work and good healthy lungs. So why not?

2. Last year I was stunned that my friends supported me to the tune of $1000 for the Smith Family, an Australian charity that helps disadvantaged kids access education. If I can do this and raise some money along the way, I should. This year, it’s Mummy’s Wish. A group who support mothers diagnosed with cancer who have children to care for. They do lovely work. There’s a Mum I know who would rather be able to get up and about with her kids, but can’t. At the moment. For the love of all Mummies who wish they could, but can’t, please help me raise some money that will be used with true heart. Here’s my fund raising web site address [click here ad give me some money!!!] Yes, $2000 is ambitious, but I think I can!

3. ummm….that’s pretty much all I’ve got. It hurts, it’s cold to get out and train and 21k is a freakin’ long way, but it’s so worth it in the end! Bit like parenting really!

Ten things I love about you

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1. I pick you up at night when you have woken from a bad dream. I hold you close and your breathing slows until it is a rhythmic, soft piece of music in my ear.

2. Your face lights up with pure joy and you run across the room to me, throwing yourself with force and complete abandon into my arms.

3. You tell stories, remember details, draw fantasies and create a kind of magic that I could never begin to even think of.

4. You are very angry with me, stormy eyes, pouty lips, mean words. But still you willingly come to my lap and your arms coil tightly around my neck as we cuddle and rock our way back to being friends.

5. You point with joy and a squeal at a car, a flower, a dog. Just the simple things.

6. You cannot settle until you have teddy snuggled in your arms.

7. You love to line things up, and your brother loves to throw things around.

8. Your body feels warm and living next to mine, if I didn’t feel that little body every day I would die.

9. You are growing up to be so kind, so helpful, such a lovely brother.

10. You are mine, all mine.

Brutal or Bust!

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Well, I said to myself when I started this blog that it was going to be brutally honest or nothing. I can’t write polished up half truths about parenting. I won’t insult the other parents out there who struggle by pretending it’s all sunshine and light. It is with a chuckle and a mild blush of embarrassment that I read last night’s post this morning. Whoa. That was honest. Sorry kids, still love ya.

I write to get it out and not hold it in. I write in the hope that someone else will read it and feel a little better about themselves. I write because it feels good. I write because it’s hard and I want to get better at it. I write because I like to read what others write too. The best thing to come out of the blog is that I have connected with other twin mummies from around the world and couple of friends, who have become keen readers, have kept encouraging me to write:

The lovely Stephanie, writer of the equally lovely Twodaloo, mother of twins, Texan and supportive commenter on my most brutal posts.

The wise and pragmatic Aussie Gnu, going through hell, but still there to say I hear you, sometimes it sucks, and keep on truckin. Also not afraid to throw in a bit of brutal truth himself.

The thoughtful Musedemuzz, himself a blogger (Musedemuzz) and constant champion of my parenting skills.

The inspiring Travel with Twins, a family who don’t let a little thing like twins stop them from travelling the world. I love their attitude to life!

The super cool Look Around You Now, who’s mantra, “I am here and this is now”, is the best advice anyone can give. Check out the shirt she is wearing in the ‘Me’ link on her blog. I want one! Her twins are 10 days older than mine!

Is it supposed to be this hard?

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I’m in a different headspace to the one I was 3 or 4 months ago. One of the main reasons I know is because of the questionnaires the GP gets you to do when you get a mental health care plan. A couple of the questions ask if you look forward to things or have hope for the future. There was a period where I would have answered nope but now, despite staring down the barrel of a possible 18 month custodial sentence of toddler-two-year-old-kinda-crazy, I very much look forward to the future. I think it’s because I have the best 4.5 year old in the universe to guide me. His very presence reminds me that the twins will not always scream as their preferred mode of communication. They will not always poo in their pants, the bath and once on the lounge room floor. They will not always plank when I need them to bend in order to get into the car seat. They will one day put food into their mouths, not the dump truck, the sand pit, the bookshelf, the window sill or my handbag. One day, as modelled by Mr 4.5, they will play without cracking each other’s skulls with die cast cars or playing tug of war with whatever the other one has. Mr 4.5 reminds me that one day I’ll actually be able to take them out. Maybe even without a pram. The possibilities are endless. I really, really look forward to it. And yes, I know I’m not supposed to wish it away. I just want to wish away the next little bit. The bit with no emotional regulation, no logic, no continence, no patience and no impulse control.

I am finishing this post 24 hours later, and it is funny the difference  day makes. Yesterday, full of optimism, today, everything hurts. Did someone say parenting was a roller coaster? I know this is not something mothers are supposed to say but what the hell do we do this for?? I mean, really? Today, what a nightmare. I had two heading for meltdown before I even got in the car at day care. One sat in the middle of the car park for crying out loud and refused to get in the car. Getting them home and heading into my usual high octane dinner prep was made worse by the fact that I had screaming from downstairs, something about to burn on the stove and a full on 4.5 year old tanty in the bedroom. And I failed, failed, failed. Yelled, again. Said sorry, again. Felt awful, again. I feel like a boxer, ducking and weaving, dancing on my toes and defending myself twenty four seven. It’s exhausting, and on days like this, it is all give, no take. It’s a day when I don’t have a good answer to the question why did I have children? This is a day when parenting isn’t worth it, is not fun, not rewarding and that’s the blunt truth. Too harsh?

How do we survive?

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I’m well into my second glass of wine at the end of a difficult week. At home, it’s been a week of screaming, stuff being thrown and assault by flying Fisher Price. At work, it’s been a week of screaming, stuff being thrown and assault by tree branch. I wonder how we will get through what I think will be at least a year of total toddler nonsense. I am recalling with greater clarity now, the period between 18 months and 3 years with our first boy, and how difficult I found that time. I am utterly loving the 4 and a half age, but really struggle with toddlers. I have posted before about the noise, the cacophony that these boys together can create when they want something. But despite the challenges, my life is not hard. My work makes me keenly aware of what I have to be thankful for in these times.

Firstly, my boys sleep. They go to bed, secure in the knowledge that when they wake up in the morning, their world will not have changed. Secure, peaceful, trustful sleep. You don’t know what a blessing it is until you don’t have it. Many of my ‘clients’ have no sleep pattern, poor sleep initiation, night waking, bed wetting, not even being able to sleep in their own beds. It is a recurring issue and it causes no end of trouble. No sleep = no peace = no growth = wired all the time. It must be exhausting, and terrifying.

My boys have a loving, interested, funny, devoted father. I can count on one hand the number of fathers I have come across in my work over the past year and a half. Not ever minimising the role of Mummy, or devaluing single Mummies ever in any way, but I have said to my husband many times that I can’t begin to try to put into words how much he is building up our little men by simply loving them and being physically and emotionally there. As a kid from divorce myself, I have always thought that they are ahead of the eight ball just by having not experienced family disfunction and divorce. Just being able to say mum and dad in the same sentence, which I never could.

I keep trying to limit myself when I feel like I’ve had a hard week. My kids are healthy, developmentally on track, really, what do I have to feel stressed about? But I think it is important for us all to feel our own stories and experiences are valid and important regardless of how we might compare to others. I’ve got friends right now who are going through the worst of times. But I know they’d still sit and listen to my silly sob story, and value it regardless.

Introducing the broken kid

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I’ve been working on a new blog in the past week or so, my first foray into fictional writing. I have so many stories stewing away that are painfuly inspired by my experiences working with broken children in the past 18 months. I do have a responsibility to completely remove anything I write about from any real person or situation. What I write about in my new blog, Diary of a Broken Kid, is very much inspired by real people and real experiences, but you won’t find any story that really happened or person who really exists. The stories are totally plausible; the life of the Broken Kid is a life that many kids lead every day. And although I am no expert in these things, the stories are also inspired by my readings and professional development experiences into disordered attachment, trauma, mental illness and poverty.

So many of these kids I have worked with face not only a life of confusion, pain and brokenness, but they are judged and sidelined by a world that doesn’t know how to deal with them. They are difficult kids, that’s for sure, many headed for an intimate relationship with the justice system. Through this new project, I wanted to express a plea from the Broken Kid to please try and understand him a little, please think before you call him a delinquent. I also wanted to celebrate the heart and back breaking work of those who foster, teach, case manage or work with the broken kids in many different ways. Some of these kids get labelled the million dollar kids. That is, the ones who are so complex they require one on one 24 hour supervision in residential homes, they have Child Safety Officers, psychologists, respite carers, foster carers, lawyers, youth workers, school based case managers, senior education representatives and so on. I have been to ‘stakeholder’ meetings where there are as many as 15 people round the table just for one child.

It’s amazing the heart and soul that goes into trying desperately and sometimes in vain to bring these kids back from the brink. The story of the boy with no name is just a little mirror, held up to the face of hope. Yes it’s depressing at times (very) but there’s got to be some hope, otherwise what’s the point?

Long weekends are for suckers

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Once upon a time, there lived a woman who loved long weekends. Long weekends meant heading to the beach with my boyfriend for a few days of fun. It might sometimes have meant a camping trip, or even just a lazy weekend at home seeing friends, bands or movies. These times are no longer.

Almost five years into it, and I still grieve for the loss of freedom, spontaneity, and a small handbag. As my work colleagues eagerly gear up for a long weekend, I find my stress levels creeping up, thinking what the hell are we going to do to contain this lot for three whole days? It wouldn’t be so bad if it weren’t that every waking moment (and there are a lot of them) revolves around kids kids kids. Sometimes yes, it is actually really fun. Most of the time it is repetitive, exhausting and frankly, boring. I adore my little guys. But 72 hours of them in a row without a break is simply more than any man or woman, can take.

We have barely made it through two days and we’re knackered. We’ve had four trips to the park, church and sunday school, hours in the backyard and very extended bath time. Hey if they’re happy, leave them in there I say. Another whole day to go. Oh and the kicker is, I work 4 days and guess which day is my day off with all three kids at home? You guessed it, Tuesday. So that would be 4 days in a row for me, ending in a 12 hour stint all by myself.

The new phases that we have entered are bringing us to a new level of crazy. We’ve decided to drop our formerly 2 hour day naps down to one hour or less. Hey who needs rest? We’ve decided that whatever twin 1 has, twin 2 wants (and vice versa) and will get it whether or not blood needs to be shed. We’ve decided that food is no longer a necessity and is to be thrown and wasted whenever possible. The only time that food might be deemed of benefit is when Mum hasn’t got it ready yet, at which time we will scream bloody murder until it appears, at which time we’ll throw it. And finally, we’ve decided that the only way to communicate is with ear busting screaming at a level never before tolerated by normal human ears.

To smack and destroy

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I was at the park today and saw a man wallop his child. A warning. This post is going to get opinionated. If you’re easily offended, or thingy about hands on discipline, then look away, there’s nothing to see here.

A crowded park on a sunny Saturday. I hear the scream of a younger sister wronged. Very quickly after that I hear the smack of a hand on the offender’s bottom. At least, I think it was a bottom. It didn’t sound like a face. All eyes turn to see Alpha Dad, right up in his own Mr 4 or 5’s face, in all his finger pointing glory. DON’T mutter mutter DON’T mutter AGAIN! Finger in the face. What happened next made my guts drop to my feet. Alpha Dad was holding a football. He fullstopped his tirade with a good hard push to the chest, using the football. Such a hard push, that the child flew backward into the bushes. Alpha swaggered away to return to his coffee and saturday morning paper. The child cowered, head in knees, sobbing in the bushes. Nobody to help him make sense of what had happened, and all eyes in the park on him and his Dad. After a few minutes he stood, wiped his tears with his shirt and rejoined his sister, wary eyes on Dad.

I will begin my own tirade by again saying I’m not perfect. I’ve yelled and smacked a little too. I’m going to leave the whole to smack or not to smack debate alone, but I am going to vent about publicly humiliating your child.

First of all, it’s very poor problem solving. You are the adult Alpha Dad. You should have a better way of getting what you want than hitting (and yelling). Is that how you behave at work? My Twin Trouble is a little hitter. Am I to teach him that we don’t hit, and do that by hitting? There is research out there that shows children who are parented with excessive punishment grow up with a greater tendency to oppositional and defiant behaviours. It doesn’t matter what this kid did, he didn’t deserve what he got.

Nobody explained anything to this child after the event. He was left to sort through a confusing set of heightened emotions all on his own. This boy, at 4 or 5, is past the critical years of attachment forming, however, the impact of disintegrative shame on a child should never be underestimated. The moment of shame, the you have done something you shouldn’t have done moment, always needs to be followed by a moment of restoration of the parent-child relationship. Shame is actually good for emotional development. It’s how kids learn which behaviour is OK and which is not. But if the shame is linked with person and not behaviour, the results can be profound. This is disintegrative shame. What happens just after a child gets in trouble is critical. They need to know that yes, I just did something wrong, but I’m still OK and my Mum/Dad still wants me here and close to them. Nobody is going to leave me because I’m unpleasant, unlikeable or unworthy. That’s not to say you can flail your child’s backside with a cat-0-nine followed by a lolly and a cuddle.

The real motivation of the discipline is really the critical thing here. If your intention, Alpha Dad, was to teach him something. Then for God’s sake teach. And FYI, teaching happens with the use of words, pictures, examples, non-examples, trial and error and encouragement to try again. But your little Mr 4 or 5, he learnt alright. He learnt that he is not really OK in his Dad’s eyes, the most important male eyes in his little world. The man who, in his mind, makes the sun come up in the morning. He learnt he has to earn your love by being good. And nobody explained to him what ‘good’ is or how to do it. You embarrassed your child Alpha, humiliated him. And you broke him a little, broke your relationship with him, just a little. But keep it up and the job will be done by the time he’s a teenager and by then, he won’t want you around anymore.

My husband and I wondered, if this is what happens in public, what happens at home? At what point would you, or should you, step in? I really wanted to go over and cuddle this boy, but I know that wouldn’t have helped. But I thought, what if the smack and the push were a bruising punch in the face? What would I do? What would you do? Is it ever OK to intervene in a situation like that, in public?