Category Archives: Parenting

Stories about being a Parent.

Get to know your kid’s friends, and their Mum’s. Before schoolies week!

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girlsnightoutimageAs I am planning an end of year dinner with my “mum friends” from my daughters friendship group, I am thinking back over the last nearly four years, and have realised what a wonderful thing it has been to get to know these women. We have shared the journey of our beautiful daughters high school years with each other whilst our daughters are engaged in one of the most exciting and difficult times of their lives so far. As the 2013 schoolies head off for their biggest adventure yet I am forced to look toward 2014 and having my daughter in the same position. The most reassuring thing for me (beside the fact that I know I have a mature, responsible daughter, who I trust) is that I know I can rely on her friends to be there for her, look out for her and that they are like-minded and sensible.

With a change of school from primary to high school, the routine gathering of parents in and around the school at drop off and pick up time comes to an abrupt end. Even with my shift work and more and more mums increasing working hours, as the children get older, this had already started to decrease, but you still knew who was who in the zoo.
So the first year of high school is a bit strange as your child attempts to make new friends and looks for acceptance and happiness within a group that is right for them. None of which you know, so you just have to sit back and see.
My thoughts however, are not about the trials and tribulations of a thirteen year old making friends, but of how I, as her mother mingled, managed and meddled! All for a good cause.
By the end of grade eight my daughter was part of a group of very nice girls. But of course I didn’t know them and I didn’t know their parents. Not like primary school. So when the inevitable things like sleepovers, parties (birthday), trips to the movies, shopping excursions and school dances came along I was a bit unsure. She was wanting to go to these girls houses and be driven places by other parents it was sometimes worrying to not know who these people were. I took the opportunity to get to know the girls better by having a birthday party and having all of her friends over. I met all the mums or dads when they did drop off and pick up. I know that at age fourteen it might seem a bit silly to be having school birthday parties but it is worth the expense and effort to be a part of and witness all of the interactions. You get to observe who’s confident, who’s shy, who’s the funny one, the loud one, the one who is going to sit ON your kitchen table. You get to suss out who is able to interact openly and who might be sneaky or think this is all beneath them.
When I realised that this group of girls seemed to be fairly settled I arranged a mother’s dinner. I had ten out of twelve come along. For some it was the first time meeting any of their daughter’s friends mothers. We had a great night sharing a meal, a couple of bottles of wine and our contact details.  I then put a list together and emailed it around . It was a great start to some very nice friendships. We have been able to share a lot of good times together, with and without the girls. We have gotten to know each others standards and expectations. We have been able to come to know the people who are raising the most influential people in our daughters lives.

We were able to share the load with pick up’s and drop off’s to concerts, weekends away and other dinners and parties. We have shared each others company and our girls success’ at drama performances, musical concerts, international women’s day breakfast’s and at academic award morning teas. We always have a ready-made “table” when booking into school events.  We had a lovely night together seeing our girls looking very grown up and with “dates” on the night of their semi-formal. One of the other mums hosted the “all in” pre gathering and I hosted a little post gathering, this included about fifteen friends and their dates. Which went off very well considering the possibilities. I had a great  mum friend of mine supervise the evening with me. Again a credit to the fantastic group of girls they are.

We have used texts to convey things like, “Just letting all of you ladies know that ……. will not be going to the dance party in woop woop on friday night. Hope this helps. I’m being told everyone is going?”. “Thanks Bernie ……. is not going either”. Mischief managed! We have been an intricate network of information on what went on where. Just like growing up in a country town. I will know what you have done before you get home, just in case you needed an incentive to behave.

For schoolies next year some of the other mothers and I, in consultation with our daughters have gotten together (had another night out) and have planned for schoolies. We have booked and paid deposits and have a room that will only take 4 people. But at a resort where some more of the group of girls are also staying. It is close to everything, we have discussed food, alcohol, locking of balcony door by management (requested by the girls themselves) and daily contact, not allowing anyone else to stay in the unit etc. We have been through the rules of the accommodation provider and discussed all of the pertinent rules with the girls. We all feel as happy as we can that our girls will have a safe and enjoyable week. It has really helped ease my mind about the whole thing.

Now as the girls are about to embark on year twelve I am looking forward to seeing them all be successful in their school life, having a great formal and loving and supporting each other through what I know to them seems like a very daunting year. I am happy that I have a fantastic group of “mum friends” to be sharing the ups and downs of this last year with the girls together. And I know that just like our girls, some of our friendship will also remain life long.

So my advice to anyone about to embark on a high school journey is “Get to know your kid’s friends, and their mum’s. Before schoolies week”

Stay safe, be happy.

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The Guilty Mother

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Monday morning and the usual chaos ensues. Only this morning it is my responsibility, with my husband heading out early for a morning meeting. He has just spent all of last week single handedly managing the mornings while I worked six early shifts straight. Even though I had to get out of bed at five fifteen a.m, six cold mornings in a row, I definitely know who had the best mornings.

So today it is my turn and it starts with the usual, the middle child attempting to fake something that might get him out of school. Hey it’s always worth a try, right? They still don’t get how hard core their mother is. Typical emergency nurse, they barely get to the doctor, let alone a day off, and they know my criteria. If it’s running it needs to be green, if it’s bleeding it needs to be spurting and if they are crying, then at least they are still breathing. So as usual the thermometer decides if he gets a day off school. Anything over 37.6 they stay at home, anything less they are going. You can’t argue with the facts. The 36.2 reading this morning ended that argument.

Then the middle child again, “Can I have tuckshop?”. Me, “No, I have already made your lunch”. You would think that would be the end of that, but no. He then spent some time searching all the spots that loose change might be placed and eventually came up with ten dollars in coins. What the hell, I was never going to go scrounging for that anyway. It wasn’t worth an argument but I made him take his lunch box too, saying only buy big lunch. Because everything else in there can be used for tomorrow. My eldest daughter is looking for her uniform, that is in the same place every day. Youngest child needed his sports gear packed for the day and he then spent some time practicing an oral presentation in which he is a politician running for office and his catch phrase is “I’m Bob and I’m not a slob”. What the hell, I’ll listen to it ONE more time, at least he’s practicing it. Unlike middle boy who you would never know even had one due.

Whilst in the middle of making breakfast the cat has jumped up and vomited on the cork heat mat in the middle of the table, causing the eldest and youngest to begin dry heaving. I could see the middle child’s mind ticking over that option to get out of school. But it wouldn’t have worked, I sent him to school Friday after a fake vomiting episode.

Just then hubby walked back through the kitchen door to give me a quick kiss goodbye before he left, at the same time I had just picked up the cork mat and turned towards the door to remove the cat vomit. Luckily collision averted as he drew back in horror and went around to the side for a goodbye kiss. As we walked out through the garage he was giving me some tips on how to get the vomit off as I dumped the whole lot into the bin. There was a look of questioning on his face which disappeared as I said “did you really want to eat with that on the table ever again?”. Good point.

So as we get into the car twenty minutes behind schedule eldest daughter is complaining about the rubbish on the radio stating “When I get a car iPod connectivity will be a prerequisite”. Youngest child realises he doesn’t have his art book and needs to go back and get it whilst middle child yelling at youngest saying we are too late already and we don’t have time to go back. Eldest daughter has now “googled” cars and is trying to give me spec’s on a cute little red one and youngest is near to tears because this will be his third strike and it will mean a Friday after school detention for him. Meanwhile middle child giving youngest child lecture on same, as eldest wanting to know where Boondal is and is it too far to go and look at a car (that we are not buying for another eighteen months!). I try to explain to youngest boy that he needs to be more responsible and that the school doesn’t like mums to bring things to school when you forget them, because they are trying to teach you how to be responsible.

Luckily we arrive at the boy’s school. As I drive off I realise we never really confirmed if I would be bringing the art book back. I think he has gotten out of the car thinking I will. Then on to my daughters school where she is dropped off late. It doesn’t take long for the tranquility of only peak hour morning traffic to be broken by a phone call, through the hands free of course, but I can also see my phone screen light up with a little red car! Confusion ensues as I am trying to comprehend how from looking at a car web site the owner has now got my phone number? And is calling me. I tentatively answer only to find that it is my son calling from the school office to say he has forgotten his diary and I need to bring it up to school for him when I bring up his brother’s art book. Earlier lecture forgotten apparently.

And as it turns out, I also have a new wallpaper of a little red car, on the front screen of my phone!

All the way home I struggle with the “Will I or won’t I” decision. I really don’t want to take these books to school because they need to learn the consequences of their actions and that when I am telling them to pack their bags the night before that it is a good idea. When I return home to the debris of “morning” and see these required items sitting beside where their bags had been, and frustration wins the day. I decide to txt both boys to say I’m not bringing their books up to them. I feel sick with the guilt of not making the effort. I believe in the long run it will be a good tough lesson but I feel terrible that they will be in trouble. Then I think, it will be his third time so he deserves it. A boss in the future won’t give him three chances.

So as I send the txt’s I here a phone “beep” coming from the kitchen. At that point I need someone to “beep” me out”!!!!

So I decide to call the school office and tell them that my boy’s will be coming in asking for these books. The lady in the office completely gets it and agrees with me and she will tell them I’m not bringing them up. Unfortunately I still feel like the worst mother in the world right now. Let’s hope that tomorrow morning, today’s lesson is in effect.

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Stay safe, be happy,

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The mother lie detector test.

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My children cannot lie to me. Pinocchio_LyingThey can try. But I can always tell a lie. For years now if I don’t believe something or I am trying to get to the bottom of who’s telling the truth, when they are both standing there saying “he did it”, I always ask them to look me in the eye and tell me they didn’t do it. Or what ever statement would be appropriate for each situation. Only the child telling the truth passes the test. I have always instilled in them the honesty involved in having them look me in the eye and tell me the truth. Equally when they are trying to convince me of the truth they will say to me “Mum look me in the eye while I tell you so you know I’m telling the truth”. I amaze even myself that I have manipulated them so perfectly that there is nothing that they can get by me, if I only ask. The give away is that they cannot keep a straight face and after several attempts at “I did not push him over” etc. each with a smirk or a giggle they finally confess.

Recently whilst I was driving, there was the usual bantering argument going on and then one boy yells “Aaaah, mum he pulled my hair!”. Now to me that cry of outrage sounded over the top and put on, and this child had tried this several times recently. I didn’t know which one to believe, one saying he did it the other one saying I didn’t do anything. When I finally parked I turned in my seat and got them one at a time to say to me “He pulled my hair” and “I did not pull his hair”. As it turns out hair had been pulled and the offender was in trouble. My perpetrator son then made me suffer his lies about five times as he attempted to beat the lie detecter test. When he finally realised his attempts were futile he threw his hands in the air and said to me, “Mum you should go and work at the courts and the judge could just say to the criminal “look Bernie in the eye and tell her you didn’t kill your wife. It would save them a fortune”. I had to laugh, he was so exasperated.
Now the next stage of this experiment will be to test how this works on the teenager. So far it is still a fool proof method. Of course it will only work if I know what I need to ask, I will never detect a lie if it isn’t spoken out loud. As yet it has never been truly put to the test in a serious situation. I don’t think there has been the need for her to lie yet. Only time will tell. At this stage she  is still telling me all sorts of interesting information that most 15 year olds would not be sharing with mum. However as I live in the real world, and was once a teenager myself, I know the time will come, I think the key will be to ask questions. Lots of questions!!
Stay safe, be happy,
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Secret Santa.

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What age is too old to still believe in Santa?

With Christmas fast approaching I worked out how many child free shopping day’s I had left before the end of the school year and this got me thinking about how old my children are now and how much easier it would be if my boys would just work it out for themselves about Santa’s true identity.
When this happens I plan on having a budget and they can have a say in what they get and can even help pick something out and try things on too.
Of course I won’t be able to resist having some surprises under the tree also.
But it will definitely be easier and give me more time to shop instead of having to have it all done by the end of november.
So I have realised that I still have two believers and it is probably too close to Christmas to break the news/their little hearts now.
So my plan is to sit them down and tell them both in about March next year.
Or maybe get their sister to tell them. She is a big driver in telling them as she thinks they will be teased.
The issue of how old has risen as I have some friends and fellow mothers who think that it is terrible that my boys still believe in Santa at age 12 and 11.  And this is what has prompted this blog.
I do realise that it is probably time but I do think it is lovely that they have lasted for so long as kids today seem to grow up so quickly.
When my son was in grade 5 and was 10 years old he changed to a school that goes from grade 5 to grade 12, and I knew that still believing in Santa would be a problem. But my reason for not revealing it at that stage was that he had a younger brother that would find out also, I knew he wouldn’t be able to keep the secret.
So to avoid being bullied, I told my son that when the other boys said Santa wasn’t real that he should just agree with them, but that “we knew he actually was real.”
I remember my son reaching out to me, touching my arm looking, into my eyes and saying to me, “Mum. You wanna know how I know Santa must be real because, I know you would never lie to me.” Aaawww.
How can I be the one to break the news to him now?
That was when I knew I was in trouble.
So this year is my last Christmas with “believers.”
I have mixed feelings as I think it will change the feel of Christmas when they know but on the other hand they are growing up so much. Oh bugger, then that makes me realise how old I am…..As usual in the end it’s all about me!
So let me know. How old is too old to still believe in Santa?
I would love to hear from you.
Merry Christmas,
Stay safe, be happy,

Teenagers,Technology and Trust.

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Teenagers,Technology and Trust.

I recently had a friend of mine ask my advice about what we do regarding our daughters laptop use. Her daughter will be getting one next school year.
All of the advice given to parents says, keep computers out of kids bedrooms. Then they get to grade nine, aged fourteen and the school laptop program kicks in. Provided by the school, paid for by parents, each child is given their own laptop. This is to be used in class, used for assignments and used for homework. It has Internet access and school based programs and filters. You really can’t say no thank you, we won’t have one. The school then has several guest speakers visit and talk to the kids and the parents about Internet safety. Most of which is quite frightening.
Our daughter up to this point had been doing homework at her desk in her bedroom. Driven there mostly due to two little brothers and the household’s evening noise and chaos at the dining table and lounge room. So her bedroom is where the laptop was being used. One of her first assignments after being given the laptop was done as a pair and this required our daughter to be talking to her friend over the internet whilst doing the assignment together. Back in my day we would have needed to be driven to our friends place to do the assignment together. It would have been a combination of chatter and work. Which was exactly what was going on online during this assignment too.
My husband and I discussed this computer being in our daughters room, neither of us was very happy about the position we were in. To follow the advice of the experts we needed to remove her and the laptop from her room to the dining room table, have no television, and keep two boys settled and quiet until 8:30pm every night. She would also spend many nights studying and working on assignments until very late and that would mean one of us should stay up and supervise what she was doing. Technically we should have been able to see her screen and be able to see her working. Imagine  for a moment changing your evenings in your household to this extent. Possible but not desirable.
Our daughter has always had our trust, she is mature, smart, sensible and reliable, she understands that she has our trust and she realizes that if anything happens to change that then the activities she does and the freedom she enjoys will stop. She also gets good grades at school and in the end what we decided to do in our household is to allow our daughter to have the laptop in her room. We reiterated all the safety information we could and let her know that if her grades dropped or anything happened that was inappropriate then she would be removed to the kitchen table.
Two years later she has continued to get mostly A’s and she continues to have our trust too. With so many things in our children’s lives once they are out of our sight and supervision we leave them open to all the same risks we worry about online so I believe that it is important to teach your children appropriate strategies and actions, keep an open line of commutation and talk regularly with your children about what is happening in their lives and what’s happening with their friendships. I have also been the instigator of dinners and contact lists with her friends mum’s, we are becoming good friends and we are able to share information with each other and we have all seen first hand what a great group of girls they are. We are all very lucky.
I trust my daughter to go to the movies and spend time with her friends, knowing that her behaviour will be appropriate and responsible. I know she is not going to engage in behaviour that she knows I won’t approve of because she also knows that those things are either stupid, risky or unsafe. When out with her friends, just like when using her laptop in her room, she has the potential to be approached by a stranger, or someone who is not who they say they are. What I have to do is trust her to respond appropriately in either case. As hard as it is to let them go we cannot keep then locked in the house all their lives. And I know that this will probably be a controversial opinion but we allow our daughter to use her lap top in her room because we trust her to respond appropriately and know that she will speak to us if she ever has a problem online.
What strategies do you use in your household to monitor your children’s use of technology?
I would love to hear what you do!
Stay safe, be happy,

Technology in the Bedroom???

Fathers Day.

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I wore this about my dad on Father’s Day 2012.
Times change and so has the role of the father in our society.
Dad was a farmer, a tough country bloke.   After being born on a dairy farm and living for five years on a sheep station, my two brothers and I grew up on a five thousand acre property in central Queensland, farming sunflower, safflower, sorghum and wheat.  Our childhood was a summer haze.  I don’t remember Dad showing much emotion when we were kids, and looking back his main role was that of a provider.   Mum seemed to do all of the rest.   Dad did spend all of his time working.   As a farmer that seemed to be twenty-four hours a day seven day’s a week, if it was dry he was in a paddock, if it was raining he was in the shed.  If there was a bush fire he was fighting it, a flood he was helping neighbours.   We certainly never felt like he wasn’t there for us.   We saw him every night at dinner when he would come in eat and watch the weather report on our tiny black and white TV that only got the ABC.   Dad was also the final word on discipline.   We could nag mum all day but as soon as dad said no we knew it was over.   We always had great family holidays, camping, fishing, hiking and four-wheel driving.   We often went to the “big smoke” too, and visited nearly all of the islands in the Whitsunday’s.   I remember once begging mum and dad for us not to go away so we could do things with our friends on the school holidays instead.
We didn’t have a lot of money but we never felt we needed any more than what we were provided with.   When I was twelve dad built a house in the local town, population nine hundred.   This was so we could have better educational choices.   We spent our first years of education in a one teacher school that went from grade one to seven and had about twenty-four kids on a good year.   Dad then continued to spend most of his time on the farm and only came to town when he had a machinery breakdown or it was raining.  It was at that age that my younger brothers and I started swimming club in summer and little athletics in winter.  Very different to the busy schedules of the kids today and the time that parents spend driving them to it all.   As kids we usually rode our bikes to all the sport we did, to school and to our friends houses.   We did rely on mum, and sometimes dad to take us all over the country side on weekends in summer to go to swimming carnivals.
Dad eventually sold his farm and bought a motel.   Our lives changed completely, mostly for the better, a bigger town of ten thousand, bigger schools again and every sport that you could dream of at our finger tips.   The motel business was twenty-four hours a day seven day’s a week, which mum and dad were used too but we were all much closer, living in the little house that contained the motel reception, and we got to spend so much more time with dad.    It was an interesting childhood living in a motel, we thought it was pretty cool.   I left home at seventeen to start my hospital nursing training.   Mum and dad had a couple more moves and when the first batch of grand kids were little they ended up in the same capital city I lived in.   All of our family are now here, with seven grand children.  I’m sure thirty, forty or even fifty years ago dad never would have imagined he would live in the big smoke.  Surprisingly he has adapted well.  I remember coming from the country for expo ’88.  Dad drove to Toowoomba, the roads were too busy to drive any further, caught the bus to Ipswich and then the train into Expo.  A few years later driving us to a specialist doctor’s appointment in the city he managed to drive all the way to about Oxley where he pulled over, swinging the car into a motel saying that was it he wasn’t driving any further.  Now he cruises around the city in his Lexus like he was born to it.
Dad and I are closer than ever in our adult relationship.  I remember him dropping me off at the hospital nurses quarters on my first day and having to “go and park the car”, but we all knew it was because he was in tears.  We have never had an argument that I can remember, he is a great support to me and I know he is very proud of me.  We live close by and he enjoys teasing and harassing the grand kids, AKA, “the turkeys”.   Mum and dad in their early sixties are really in the prime of their lives, financially sound, traveling overseas, mum work’s if she wants to, they can spend time with the grand kids and then give them back, they are completely free to do as they choose.  Dad should probably never retire, he will need to keep busy, he doesn’t know how to do nothing, sure he could take it easy but he would go stir crazy with nothing to do.  I am very lucky to still have him in my life, and I hope to have him around for a long time to come.
With this in mind, I have recently banned him from getting on the roof.  No more Christmas lights to go on the roof.  What is it with men and getting on the roof?  I told him all the things that could happen to him and what we would do to him in the emergency department if he fell off the roof.  Including the finger up the bot!  His response to that was he would just wait until “the old girl” goes out so if he did fall he might be dead before she got home!!!! Typical Aussie country bloke.
Love ya dad!
Stay safe, be happy,

My Family, 1977