Search This Blog

Friday, October 29, 2010

Another milestone passed

So, last Tuesday evening my youngest son and I attended his Valedictory Dinner. As I sat there and listened to what sounded very much like the same speech delivered at my other two sons’ dinners, I realised this would be the last Valedictory Dinner I would attend as a parent.

Now the evening itself is not so spectacular that I’m going to miss it for its own sake, but to me it was significant that another milestone has passed on our journey to the end of my son’s school days and the end of me having any children at school. I almost felt sad. But perhaps it was the lack of alcohol that brought on the sadness? After all, a $70 dinner without a decent glass of wine is like dancing with your brother at the prom.

We did get to partake of one glass of bubbly at the end of the night, to toast the students with. By that time I was almost too tired to enjoy it, but I toasted away and clinked glasses with my son and the rest of our table.

The end of the Valedictory dinner marked the beginning of exams for Year 12 students across Victoria. It’s a period of time that has been known to tear families apart and send even the mildest of parents hurtling toward their first nervous breakdown. As thousands of 17-18 year olds hit the books in an effort to gain a coveted place in University, their parents pander to their every desire, running themselves ragged in the meantime.

Not this little black duck. Of course it helps to have a son who is, let us say, more than casual in his attitude to studying. The lack of pressure in this house is almost embarrassing. But my son has no intention of going to University and I’m not at all concerned with his decision.

I chose not to go to University when I left school. I only enrolled in my first University course when I was 37 and had three young children. I’m now halfway through my second University course. I enjoy what I’m studying so it is not a burden to me.

I work at a University and I’m well aware of the often low retention rates for first year University students. Many of them have been pressured into study by their parents who find it difficult to see the other pathways available to their children. I’ve seen first hand the misery these students go through, burdened not only by their parents’ expectations, but also by neither studies they like nor are good at.

Last weekend a student committed suicide on campus. I don’t know the reasons for his tragic act, but I know he wasn’t the first and he won’t be the last.

None of my boys have gone or want to go onto University studies. At times I have found this difficult to reconcile. However, I’m working on accepting their choices in life. I know I’d rather have my sons with no degrees but still with me than the other alternative.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Home Alone...

So there I was last night, a Friday night, home alone with no one to pick up or take anywhere, no one to cook for and a bottle of bubbly in the fridge! Heaven! I must admit it was fairly odd though, I waited for that text message asking me to come to some address or the other, but then realised it wouldn’t come, so set out to enjoy myself.

The bubbly went down really well. I got some Thai noodles to go with it and sat down to watch some of the shows I had taped from the week before. I was onto my second glass of bubbly when the cleaning craze hit me. Now I don’t second guess a cleaning craze when it comes on. I know that I have to grab the moment and go with the flow. I ran down the hallway and got out the vacuum cleaner.

It was a beautiful spring evening and my front door was open. As I walked past it with the vacuum I noticed the front porch needed sweeping. Down went the vacuum and I was off to get the broom. Front porch accomplished and I picked up the vacuum again. It didn’t seem to take too long before I’d finished the floors. I poured another glass of bubbly to celebrate before I tackled the bathroom.

A clean house always makes me feel fabulous. A clean house that was going to stay clean for at least the night and the next morning – until the boys came home – made me feel doubly fabulous. Or perhaps that was the bubbly!

I washed the floors just before I went to bed. What a wonderful evening. OK, I know I’m sounding a bit weird here and I wouldn’t have stayed home if I’d had a better invitation, but I got so much done in so short a time. Not to mention cleaning on a Friday night leaves me the whole weekend free of household chores - except the laundry of course. But that’s a whole different story.

Following up from my last blog – I must have jinxed myself by writing it. On Wednesday afternoon my youngest son dislocated his shoulder yet again (third time in seven months) and I had to leave work hurriedly to get to his school and take him to hospital. Why the school didn’t call an ambulance I don’t know. He is booked in for surgery in December and I just hope he takes it easy till then. I don’t want him to go through it all again!

So here I am, on a Saturday night, and things have returned to normal. My eldest son is visiting for the weekend and he and my youngest son are on the Playstation yelling and screaming at the game and each other. The third load of washing is in the machine. My middle son is at a friend’s place, where he usually is on the weekends. There are crumbs on the floor from the biscuits and cheese my son bought today. I’m out of bubbly. The sun is going down and all is well with the world.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Once a parent, always a parent

In conversation with a friend last night, over a particularly nice dinner complemented by a couple of glasses of very drinkable wine, the discussion turned to parenting. The two of us, both mothers of three boys each, wondered why our mothers hadn’t told us about the joys of sleepless nights, cracked nipples and fretful babies. In fact, not only had our mothers not told us, but there wasn’t a female we knew who had imparted these facts to us before we had our first child. Afterwards, plenty of them came out of the woodwork to regale us with their tales of sleep deprivation, knotted breasts, swollen nipples, babies unable to feed or sleep and husbands that wondered what they had been doing all day.

Why did all these sorry tales only come out after we had already taken that step too far? I don’t have the answer. If a younger woman was ever to ask me what it’s like being a parent, I would certainly tell her warts and all. There will be no sugar coating from me. However, I’ll make it clear that all my children have been vastly different, from when they started in the womb, to their births, to their stages in life, not one of the three has progressed along the same route as his brothers.

What I have realised over time is that parenting never ends. My youngest might have turned 18 and is now recognised as an adult, but he still needs me at times. My eldest might have moved out of home, but he still asks me for advice and help, which I freely give. My middle son is very independent, but even he needs me now and again. As others have commented before on this blog, once a parent, always a parent.

It doesn’t matter how old you are, it’s a comforting thought that you can still turn to your parents for help and advice. I discovered this the other day when I reluctantly called my father and asked for his financial help. My youngest son has to have shoulder surgery and it is going to cost more than I can afford. Now my father and I haven’t had the most congenial relationship, although the past few years have seen both of us mellow, but he had no hesitation in helping me out. In fact his words were “what are fathers for?”

It’s the other thing no one told me before becoming pregnant. Once you have children they are yours for life. You can never finish giving them your help or advice, a shoulder to cry on or an ear to listen with. The sleepless nights and cracked nipples might disappear, but the claims on you never will. I kind of like it that way.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Writer's block

Yes, it has hit me with a vengeance. Writer’s block.

That’s why I haven’t been here for awhile. I couldn’t think of anything to write about. So I spent my evenings lying on the sofa watching bad television and trying to think of what to write.

After all my days are fairly monotonous and bordering on being boring. I get up; I wake up my boys, make coffee, make lunches, get dressed and go to work. The bulk of my day is spent at a computer, I then leave for home, usually stopping at the supermarket on the way. I get home, get changed, make dinner, and put some laundry on and end up lying on the sofa watching bad television.

Oh – and this past week I varied the routine slightly. I added in helping my youngest son revise for his exams. Mind you I don’t think I helped at all because his responses weren’t as enthusiastic as I’d like them to be. After all I kind of liked “A Streetcar Named Desire” and the film he had to watch was pretty good. Then again, I like English.

I took my son to the surgeon too and he definitely needs surgery on his shoulder. It will be rather expensive, but we will cope. I find that the only way to face these situations is head on with determination. Well, it’s the only way I know anyway. Head on like a bull at a gate.

So there you go. And here I go, back to the sofa to watch some more bad television. Isn’t life wonderful!

Monday, October 4, 2010

Women who have influenced me - Florence Scovel Shinn

I can’t remember how I first found the writings of Florence Scovel Shinn, but I’m so glad I did. It was during one of the blackest times in my life that I found her and she has helped me through many a time since.

Florence was born in 1871 in New Jersey. She was educated in Philadelphia and studied to be an artist at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, where she met her husband who was also an artist. They moved to New York City where she practised her art and was also an actress and, after fourteen years of marriage, her husband asked for a divorce. It was after this that Florence “got” religion and became a teacher in metaphysics. She wrote four books – “The Game of Life and How to Play it”, “Your Word is Your Wand”, “The Secret Door to Success” and “The Power of the Spoken Word”. I have them all in one book – The Complete Writings of Florence Scovel Shinn”.

Florence wrote specifically for women – her first book has the following on its first page:

“All power is given to each woman to bring ‘her heaven’ upon ‘her earth’ through right thinking. This is the goal of the Game of Life.”

Florence was a Christian and her writings reflect this. She uses quotes from the Old and New Testaments to illustrate her beliefs. But she mainly believes that what you think is what you get, or as she puts it “this means that what a woman images, sooner or later externalizes in her affairs.”

I’ve always believed in the power of one’s mind. I believe one can think oneself into certain illnesses and certain situations. Florence’s books provide many examples of this happening. I’ve read her books several times and often use her affirmations, but I also use them when I’m feeling down. I pick up my copy of her complete writings, turn to a random page and read what is there. It always helps.

These last couple of weeks I’ve been feeling very worried about my financial situation, to the point where all I felt was fear. Fear of not having any savings. Fear of not being able to afford the next bill. Fear of failure. I picked up Florence’s book, opened it randomly and found this affirmation: “The unexpected happens. My seemingly impossible good now comes to pass.” It felt right. I began to say it over and over and over to myself.

The next morning I stripped the beds to wash the sheets and, quite out of the blue, decided to turn my mattress. I usually don’t do this unless one of the boys is around to help, but I felt like doing something physical so attacked it on my own. Imagine my surprise when I found $150 under the mattress!

Now, for all you doubters out there, yes, I did put some money under my mattress a few months ago, it was about $400 that I can’t remember now where I got it. But I had spent it and a few weeks ago when I went looking to see if there was any left, there wasn’t.

Last night I was in the middle of my weekly chat to my father, who lives on the other side of the country. My father is very mindful of money and likes to keep his close to him, but out of the blue – and quite unexpectedly – he offered to pay for my next semester’s fees. Put the $150 and my father’s offer together and my faith in metaphysics and the power of the mind has been restored and I will try not to be fearful any more. In Florence’s words “Fear is a woman’s only adversary.”