My biggest lady is a treasure. She truly is. She is so caring, and compassionate, always there for others. She tries so hard to do the right thing by people, and is the first one in line to help. She’d give the dress off her back (just don’t ask her for her tutus…. Girl ain’t parting with no tutus) to make someone else feel better. It is heart-melting stuff.
With such compassion though, comes the other end of the spectrum: emotionality. In buckets. In fact, the buckets are overflowing with emotions and they’re leaking all over the floor, and filling up rooms and our feet are wading in all these feelings and I’m considering purchasing flippers and goggles to swim through the overflow.
Ah, parenthood. So many major moments. So many cherished memories. They develop so quickly, each time hitting a big milestone, and we cheer them along. You know, crawling, walking, the first word. Hashtag blessed.
Often I get asked about milestones. What is normal? When should my child be doing stuff by? If they don’t hit the milestone by a certain age are they DOOMED? (Spoiler alert: They all get there in the end).
While we focus on the general milestones as an indicator of development, there’s a whole bunch of other hidden ‘milestones’ that are going on at the same time. They’re the ones that don’t seem to get mentioned in the books, but are just as cherished, albeit perhaps not so Facebook worthy. These milestones leave you feeling a confused mixture of pride and horror, as you wonder just how the fuck they developed that ability, and where it came from (it’s never from us. NEVER….. *cough cough*).
Princesses, pirates, superheros and fairies. Hepped up on sugar and excitement and bouncing around like a mob of hyperactive kangaroos. No, it’s not a Liberal fundraiser; it’s the standard child birthday party; every parent’s dream and nightmare all at once. You want so desperately to create magical memories for your little cherub, while at the same time feeling a tad sick to your stomach wondering how to pull off a party for a group of little monkeys without resorting to drinking wine out of a brown paper bag. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. I endorse wine coming out of anything, truly.
With every party comes a series of stages that we go through, as we plan and prep to within an inch of our lives, the much anticipated celebration of our darling’s birth. Just like the Elizabeth Kubler-Ross’ five stages of loss and grief, so too do we have five stages of children’s birthday party prepping. IT IS REAL, YO.
It is an emotional journey, not often occurring in a straightforward manner. We can lurch from one emotion, backwards to another, get stuck on one and then shoot through to other emotions. While there may be a range of emotions involved, typically the following emotions can be exhibited at any given time.
We all like to do good, for the most part. It’s like this messed up evolutionary thing where we like to feel like we do ok at something at least. Or perhaps at the minimum not suck hardcore. We also like to feel like there’s something out there that’s for us, a thing that’s our thing, that we’re known to be good at, and then we try to turn that thing into our career.
Some of us are good communicators.
Some of us are good athletes.
Some of us are good creatively.
Some of us are good at figuring out things.
Some of us are good at nurturing.
Some of us are good at drinking wine.
I like to think I fall into the last category.
Finding what it is that you’re good at can be hard though. Or trying to become good at something and putting yourself at the mercy of other’s judgement can be even tougher. I’m currently trying my hand at a course to learn more about something and to possibly have another avenue for my career, but it’s opening me up to some criticism and comparison to others. I’d totally forgotten what that felt like.
FYI: It feels like shit.
Right about now, there’s a bunch of Year 12 students either eagerly awaiting results or just received results. Some will be feeling pretty pumped. Others will be left feeling distraught. It’s one of the main points in our life where we’re pitted against others, compared and ranked so blatantly, and that can be confronting for many.
I received feedback from this course and it left me feeling horrid. I immediately decided that I was shit at the course, what the hell was I thinking and I felt embarrassed for trying. And I’m a grown lady who is supposedly mature (I use that term very loosely). So to be a young 17 or 18 year old and receiving such huge results can be a lot to take on, and for some it might be too much.
It’s all well and good for us to support them by saying ‘you did the best you could’ or ‘it’ll be ok’, but let’s be real here- nobody likes to hear those words, especially not a teen. Such words will probably be met with a vacant stare, glazed eyes, a huff and a heel turn. Think five year old on steroids.
So what can we do for our kids when they’re given news/feedback/results that could impact them negatively? (And this isn’t just for our big kids, this is for little ones too!)
It’s that simple.
We listen to them, when they’re ready. We listen to the anger, the sadness, the confusion, the fears, the despair. Let them get it all out.
When they’re ready, we can try and help problem solve. But they need to be the problem solvers, we’re just the sounding board. We can’t be the ones telling them what to do anymore.
We might know just what needs to happen, but we can’t just spit that out at them. We can offer suggestions or ideas, but they have to be the ones to take them up.
One of the biggest things we can do is let them know that it’s not the end of things for them. Because it’s truly not. For every door that closes, there’s three more that open up. Those open doors might just be down a longer corridor though, or there might be another corner to turn to get to that door. But it’s open.
Problem is when we can’t see those doors open right in front of us, it can feel like we’re stuck in the dark, with nowhere to go. We need to be able to let them know that it might be dark right now, but there are open doors waiting. And the next door they walk through could be even better than they anticipated.
Actually, that advice is pretty good for us all really, isn’t it?
We also need to help them reflect on all the things that HAVE been achieved/done well/completed to date, and get a grasp of the bigger picture. Doors have been opened, sometimes doors have been kicked down. And more doors will be opened again in the future too.
While everyone can’t always be the winner, and sometimes things don’t go to plan, it doesn’t mean the end, or it wasn’t enough. Because the effort was there. And when there’s effort, there’s always an open door.
They did well. We did well. We’re all doing ok.
How do you cope when you get an outcome that isn’t what you hoped for? Do you remember getting your Year 12 results? Did you freak out about it?
Are you prone to an eye twitch when you hear carols in the shopping centre?
Do you wake up feeling exhausted at the mere mention of ‘last minute shopping’?
Then you, my friend, are suffering from what those in the biz term ‘chroverwhelm’. Well, I’m not sure who those in the biz are, nor that the term is actually legit, but it sounds like it should be a thing.
It’ll be a formal diagnosis in the next decade. I’m sure of it.
Do you remember that feeling you got as a child when you lost yourself in your own world? Got caught up in a make-believe game? You were the ruler of your universe, the fastest runner in the world, the discoverer of new lands, the nicest teacher out (because we all played schools right? Even though we were subjected to it every day, we wanted to pretend to be the teacher when we weren’t. Weirdos).
It’s an all-too familiar pattern. The girls, having asked me for something, then ignore my response and go straight to Dad. Cuddles and kisses and ‘we love you Daddy’ ensues and suddenly they triumphantly walk away with the response they were after. I swear they also flip me the bird as they walk by. Well not really, but I can see they want to do it in their eyes. If they knew what flipping the bird was. Which they don’t. They only know swear words, not gestures. THANK GOODNESS FOR THAT.
We used to joke about it pre-kids, that he would be the pushover doting Dad, and I’d have to lay the smackdown. And like a bad horoscope it’s all come to fruition. He doesn’t bat an eyelid when they go traipsing around with a fistful of sultanas they stole from the cupboard (OK…. fistful of chocolate. Who even am I trying to be all wholesome and stuff?) , he’ll agree to whatever they ask….. when they’ve come directly from No-town via cranky-Mumville, and when they’ve gotten in trouble from me, they’ll run to him for a cuddle. I swear he’s got a glint in his eye when they come over too. A glint of glory, from someone who has secured their spot as favourite parent. It’s like his eyes are flipping the bird.
So after yesterday’s debacle, where I bared my soul and my chubby sequin-clad thighs by re-telling the horrendous memory that I’ve been tortured by for nearly 30 years… only to find out that something entirely different happened to what my brain told me, I figured maybe we could use it to our advantage and look at how we can mess with support our kid’s brains and get some more factual memories cracking.
My inner nerd is coming out here when I say the whole memory storage and retrieval stuff is pretty fascinating. The brain is this big mushy blob that does some freaky shit. The way it can encode information, chunk it, store it away for eons and then pop it back out when we’re triggered- it’s amazing when you think about it.
For a long time we had this assumption that kids don’t remember much. I mean heck, I’m lucky to remember my name most days, so recalling stuff when I was a little kid? Well that’s like asking me to go 9 months without wine. Oh wait…. I think I’ve repressed the last 9 months. That’s my brain trying to cope with another harrowing memory.
It’s the stuff of legends. Heavily made up cherubs, being preened by even more heavily made up Mothers, sequins, feathers, lycra. Sweaty shoes and jazz hands.
I am now there. Hold me.
Once I’ve sussed out the types of dance Moms on offer, I’ll gladly note them down in a post. For now, everyone seems relatively sane and glitter free. For now…..
Miss DP has her first dance concert on the weekend. And it’s an all hands on deck affair. Rehearsals at the crack of dawn, costume try outs, hair being sorted, bloody skin coloured tights needing to be sourced (truly, a pain in the ass to find).
A bunch of five year olds, whipped into a frenzied excitement, all in a contained space. Dancing to “Let it Go”. I’ll let you sit with that thought…..
Here, I’ll share my wine with you. It’s scary, isn’t it?
In between all the excitement and sweaty feet smell (my god, it’s horrend), the reality can be a bit scary. Stage fright is real.
I remember when I was a wee lass, dancing in the state championships (oh yes. Yes I did. Just call me twinkle toes). My dance routine had been changed at the last minute and I was madly backstage practicing again and again, riiiiiight up until my turn on stage.
I jumped up there, beaming smile (well actually I had no idea how to smile at 6. I kind of just bared my teeth. It was awks) and got myself into position. Sequins were a-glowin’. Taffeta was a-flowin’. The music began. I started dancing, taking steps across the stage… and then?
BLANK. TOTAL FUCKING BLANK.
I’d forgotten the steps. I’d practiced it so much, that when I was up there, I completely blanked out on the new part of the routine. All I can remember is staring out into the crowd, seeing a crowd of hushed faces, all staring up at me. I was doing a lame step-tap from side to side while my brain packed its bags and left the building. You would’ve seen tumbleweeds blowing through my head.
Honestly I can’t remember what else happened. My brain froze to that part and then the next thing I know the music stopped, people were pity clapping me, I bared my teeth once more, my chubby little sequined frame skipped off stage and I proceeded to heave tears. Red hot tapper tears streaming down my heavily made-up face. This is the stuff therapy is made of. I still cringe now at the thought of it.
Apparently though it wasn’t as horrendous as I remember. According to my Mum, during the great blank out of ’88 I actually reverted back to an old routine almost seamlessly, and barely a person noticed me falter. What the hell, brain?! What.the.hell. Why would you torture a kid like that? And why did it take my mum like nearly 30 years to tell me that?? She’s in on the stitch up with my brain.
Isn’t the brain amazingly f’ed up?? Here in my memory, I blanked and stood there step-tapping like a dick. Humiliating. Soul crushing. It’s haunted me for years and years. But I’d actually continued on dancing, and finished well. Why would my brain not remember that shit?? I’m now convinced my brain is designed to send me insane. The kids are just the icing on the already messed up cake really.
So when it comes to our cherubs, that stage fright or mind blanking is real, and can last a loooong time if they let it. Something we think isn’t a big deal, can be a huge deal to them. And with my sensitive little petal, no doubt she’ll hold onto something really minute and it will become a mountain for her.
I’m going to whip up a post on memories and how to help kids deal with particularly shitty ones, but one thing to remember is that we aren’t fully responsible for messing our kids memories up. Their own brains are pretty good at doing that by themselves. Isn’t that a relief?! Finally, one less thing to feel guilty about (which will surely be replaced by a million other things. But still. One less thing!). We can at least support them and help fill in the blanks when they need us to. And then also fill in our own blanks about shitty parenting moments that we beat ourselves up about.
Have you had any particularly horrend memories from childhood that have stuck? How accurate were they from what really happened? Is your brain as messed up as mine? Actually, don’t answer that.
…… helps Mummy’s medicine (aka wine) go down at breakneck speeds. That’s how the song goes, right?
So you might remember a little ditty I penned last year about the FF’s? Yeah. That. I’ve been naively under the assumption that with the passing of four and venturing into the land of five that we’d leave all that guffaw behind. Well, we have in a way.
Only to be replaced with Sasstitude.
What is this Sasstitude you speak of, doc? I’m glad you asked. Or not really glad, more a shared pity with you. Walk with me, while we learn of this affliction.