30 June 2015

When life is a country music song

We've just had a period of six weeks where nothing but nothing was in our control. We had no dog to leave us but when the silver lining in your life is your rent increase (much lower than we were expecting) you know that things aren't being as much fun as they could be.

But we're through it now.  My cousin once called me "bee's dick Al" meaning that I frequently come within a bee's dick of disaster but somehow it all works out.  At the time I was mightily indignant that he perceived of my life as so chaotic but to be honest, there is some truth in it.

Fools and my good self frequently rush in where angels fear to tread.


But while the chaos may be all mine, the avoidance of disaster has nothing to do with me, and rather a lot to do with good old fashioned luck and the fact that we are surrounded by an incredible community of people.

In the six weeks we were without a car (when we were only supposed to be without it for ten days), we had a friend loan us a car for two weeks, another friend loan us one for a week and were flooded with offers of loans from various neighbours and even the guy that owns the takeaway near our place. Parents from child care offered us lifts, friends came to us, and working out how to get obscure places on public transport become a competitive sport. 

During the period of no car when we had to take our daughter to emergency with a head injury, a friend dropped everything to take us and then we were surrounded by incredibly ace medical professionals who tested the four year old for all that was necessary and sent us home with the all clear, a hyper but healthy four year old with a black eye and most importantly, peace of mind. Turns out that four year olds should not generally pass out, but she had given herself a corker of a concussion. She takes the go hard or go home rule very seriously it seems.

When my husband's job  was unexpectedly made redundant we discovered that we know an awful lot of HR professionals who were incredibly generous with their knowledge of industrial relations, law, recruitment and best practice which made the process much easier. He received lots of messages of support and some incredibly thoughtful texts from friends and most importantly, has woken up with more verve, joy and bounce than he has had in a very long time. The plot twist was a good one for him.

And there was more. Lots going on emotionally, mentally and physically and I stopped wanting to answer the phone or open emails because the universe was really being an arse to both us and some people we care very much about. Those stories aren't ours to tell and some events aren't ours to share. But through all of it, through every twist and turn there was the growing realisation that we don't just have a good circle of friends, but we are surrounded by an incredibly empowering community.

Whether we see people face to face, chat over the phone or via the various social media platforms, our little team of four is incredibly blessed.

While we may come within a bee's dick of disaster far more than most are comfortable with, I am confident that we are living the right life and the evidence is in the people by which we are surrounded.

People that not only like us, but love us and so very preciously of all, believe in us, even when we are very clearly making it all up as we go along.

I'm not so foolish then it seems. #justsayin'

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19 June 2015

Three ways we set our kids up to fail

I was recently hanging out with a group of friends and our assortment of little people and I was struck by the fact that collectively - parents set their kids up to fail a lot more often than we care to admit.

I thought maybe it was just the assortment of people. But then I started listening to other circles of parents - at the shops, parks and on buses, and we all do it. And not only to our own children.

Basically, adults are contrary arseholes.

We are committed to this ideal of bringing up children who are kind and confident (and some parents want their kids smart as well - I clearly lack ambition) and we set up a framework that we think will make that happen. We fret about it. We read about it and Colin only knows, that if you have a blog - you write about it.

But yet, despite all best intentions at regular intervals every single day we ask them questions we know the answer to, but we ask them in such a way THAT SCREWS THEM OVER NO MATTER WHAT THEY SAY.

And by that I mean that while our words seem innocuous our body language and tone of voice clearly says to the child "DANGER DANGER - THE QUESTION COMING IS NOT ACTUALLY THE QUESTION BUT A TEST TO SEE HOW WELL YOU CAN GUESS WHAT THE PROBLEM ACTUALLY IS BASED ON YOUR UNDERSTANDING OF ADULT IRRATIONALITY".

The top three seemingly innocent questions are:

"Did you do this?"

You know they did it. They know they did it. They know that you know they did it.  If they answer no, we're pissed off they didn't tell us the truth BUT if they answer YES they are in trouble anyway.

We don't even think about it - it's so ingrained into "what parenting looks like", it's a seamless segue into a humph or a chastisement that changes absolutely nothing except that the kid feels like absolute rubbish and chances are you do as well.

We could say "Hey, this mess you made - please clean it up and let me know if you need help."? But we don't. We set the whole thing up as if we're trying to catch a criminal and far too frequently, we react as if we did.

"Did I/mum/dad/whoever say you can touch that?"

Well no. But they didn't say they couldn't touch it either. And the kid is getting a clear message that you don't think they should but they're really not sure why not? How the hell is a small person supposed to differentiate between things you consider an 'ask first' experience vs what they see as 'an opportunity for sensory play' when it's at their eye height, within reach and clearly coloured in a way to draw a child's attention?

If they aren't allowed to touch it, it's up to their responsible adult to do something about it before it becomes a problem. Boundaries are supposed to be defined, not something the kid has to guess at every time they encounter something new or want to try something different.

This is unless of course whatever the kids is going to touch or try is going to cause PAIN, DISMEMBERMENT OR DEATH in which case, stop asking stupid questions and get the kid out of harm's way.

"Did you say please/thank you?"

Manners are important. I'm big on manners. BIG. But I notice that when a group of adults gets together with our children we all of a sudden start insisting on kids using please and thank you as if it's the only way we can prove we're good parents.

As adults we don't say PLEASE every single time we ask for something.  We just don't. We say "would you mind?", we say "Dankeschon", we say "Grab that for me darling", we say "Aren't you a dote for doing that?".

When we are just parenting on our own children and teaching them something we take into account their moods, the environment, their intent and our understanding that "YUM YUM MUM. I LOVE WEETBIX" is the equivalent of a big fat "THANKS FOR THAT".

But get us in group situations and then all of us act as if the only two words that matter in the whole wide world are PLEASE and THANK YOU.  If we're hanging with people that are that judgemental we should be reconsidering our friendships not yelling "WHAT DO YOU SAY?" every 2.76 seconds.

Children spend most of their time just getting on with life, doing stuff that interests them and hanging out with people they like. Very, very, very few children are going about life intent on doing the wrong thing and yet, once you start noticing how contrary adults are to children, you will realise we spend a ridiculous amount of energy being cross at children for situations that adults manifest. And it by no means stops with the three scenarios above.

The time we could be spending delighting in our offspring and all their glorious eccentricities and innocence is spent moulding them into what we imagine 'well behaved' looks like and imposing ways of doing things without even truly understanding why we ask it of them.

And it has to be said, we don't play fair.

It is not what we do consciously which disables our children, but that which we do without thought.

I challenge you to second or even third guess your own responses and motivations for a week or two and see how easily we slide into parenting habits which are at best, negative and at worst, destructive.

We don't have to be perfect parents, but we do need to be conscious, aware and evolving parents. 

At least some of the time.

 Do as I do and all that jazz. Y'know?

 What do you think? 

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11 June 2015

It's not always easy being... an extrovert

"It's fine for you Al, you're an extrovert!"

"It's fine for you Al, you love meeting people!"

"It's fine for you Al, you never shut up!"

Talk about damning with faint praise. It happens a lot.  Like every single time I say something will be "fun" because I have never got the memo advising me to stop with the endless enthusiasm for things that are new or different.  I am, at every level, a dork.

I don't mind generally.  Being an extrovert is essentially a community service and I'm big on giving back.  We all have our own small ways of contributing to the universe and being an ESFP is sometimes mine.

This week the gorgeous Kelly Exeter wrote a really useful article called 7 ways to kick ass at conferences when you're an introvert.  Useful in that I'm not an introvert and it's always great to see something from somebody else's perspective and it was delightfully written like all that she pens.

Kelly shared it in the ProBlogger event group and this is where things got daunting.  Judging by the comments, it turns out that every single person attending the event this year is an introvert.

Except me.*

You KNOW the definition of an extrovert is an outgoing, gregarious person; primarily concerned with physical and social environments; fond of directing our attention, interest and minds outwards to things or people outside the self.

Basically, we like people. And we genuinely enjoy the company of other people without needing a reason. An irritating trait I'm told but none-the-less highly sought after at parties.

The thing is my friends - extroversion is not necessarily about bucket loads of confidence, charisma or self esteem.  99%** of extroverts are just as f**ked up, insecure and chronically unsure as the next person.

It's just that we can't admit to it.  There are HORDES of introverts out there waiting for us to start conversations, or ask the dumb questions (an uncanny knack we have) or start the whooping at the back of the room.  Our duty is clear and there is no 'i' in extrovert.

Successful events rely TOTALLY on the chutzpah of extroverts to get the ball rolling.

And that can be terrifying.

Extroverts are not immune to the flushed cheeks of mortification or the happenstance of saying really dumb things to people.

Example 1: Mrs Woog now has a security team purely to deflect any future contact with me after she gave me a second chance and I was even more embarrassing than the first time. When I come within 50 metres of her good self they throw a blanket over her head, link hands around her in a protective circle and sing 'Kumbaya' until I get the hint and walk away.

Example 2: The first time I ever spoke to Darren Rowse I sounded like the Fonz trying to pick up one of the ladies. In fact, I think I even primped my collar and I was in a cami-top.  Thankfully he just smiled kindly, albeit warily, at me while I morphed my nervous tics into an interpretive dance and fled to the toilets to pat cold water on my burning cheeks.

The cubicles were full and after Kelly's article I now know why.

The point is - it's not always easy being the extrovert because people make assumptions that are versions of incorrect, very wrong and not right. We extroverts, like everybody else at the same event as you, are just trying to find a tribe.

However we are more likely to say HASHTAG tribe because it's cray cray and hilaire.  And unerringly annoying.

It is no less difficult to front up to an event like ProBlogger, with extroversion on your side. Our sole advantage is that we like social environments because we get to bounce off the energy of all the amazing people we meet.

But first, we need to find somebody that will talk to us and I can tell you from our side there is NOTHING more intimidating than the cool reserve of a seasoned introvert.  Do you know how much introversion just looks like A PERSON THAT HAS ALL THEIR SHIT TOGETHER?

Imagine several hundred of you.  Exactly.  No wonder I'm in therapy.

So my earnest plea to all you dear dear introverts is this. That noise you hear when you enter a room full of people? That thrum of conversation and white noise that sounds like connection and bonhomie? Tis naught but a cacophony of extroverts using bravado and bullshit to make their way around the room hoping that somebody, anybody will reply.

We love people.  It doesn't mean you don't terrify us.  For the love of Colin, be kind.

Talk back. Please.

  ****
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*   No, I never exaggerate. Except when I do.
** Never quote my stats.  I make them up.

9 June 2015

Marriage equality: Five reasons not to write that comment

Versions of the following five comments are frequently made in the discussion about marriage equality. And with the topic being back in the media at the moment, they are popping up in badly constructed and mis-spelled sentences with the kind of gay* abandon we haven't seen since the Biggles books. 

Before writing any of the following five comments - check here to find out why you shouldn't. 

You're welcome.

*as in 'merry' 
  1. There are more important things for the government to be discussing than marriage equality.

    No there is not.  Want to know why? Because when the national legislation enshrines discrimination against somebody based on gender, sexual orientation, race, religion, disability, language or anything else I might not have remembered to mention, we are undermining the human rights of um, humans.

    Human rights are more important than any other issue. Full stop.

    If this is something you find hard to grasp, repeat after me - IF WE ARE ALL HUMAN, WE ARE ALL EQUAL.  Yes. Even the gays.

  2.  I am gay and I don't give a shit about getting married.

    Well bully for you.  The point is - a just and democratic society shouldn't legislate on the basis of one individual's preferences. Because that would be a dictatorship and they generally end badly.

    It's great that you don't WANT to get married.  I have heaps of straight friends that don't want to get married either.  But they can if they want to.

    And so should you be able to if you change your mind.  Though with that kind of incredibly selfish approach to the world around you I suspect you'd be a fairly high maintenance kind of partner.

  3. It's a Christian country, so marriage should be between a man and a woman.

    It's so awkward when we have to point out that while we generally exist around a Christian premise as does most of the Western world, "Christians" have only been here in Australia for about 227 years and since "Christians" just turned up and just took what they wanted without asking. (Which is incredibly un-Christian and makes this kind of argument hypocritical as well as uninformed)

    In addition, we're talking about the legislation which represents all Australians - not just those that still attend church on a Sunday.  Which of course is a steadily declining part of the population.  Feel free to fact check this one by speaking to the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

    Your faith, my faith or Abbott's faith has jack shit to do with it.

  4. Won't somebody think of the children?

    This is a tough one because it involves me pointing out something you seem to have failed to notice.

    Straight people can be crap parents.

    I KNOW. I KNOW. I KNOW.  Who'd have thunked it eh?

    There are thousands of examples here unfortunately, but I think it's fair to say that Christianity hasn't worked out so well for the children over the last century, nor has traditional boy/girl marriage if the divorce rates and domestic violence statistics are anything to go by.

    Sure, gay people can be crap parents too, but if you're using children as a reason to deny two people who love each other the right to marry, I think you're clutching at straws.  And no, not the drink ones.

  5. I don't like gay people.

    I don't like stupid people, bigoted people, mean people, Scott Morrison, Miranda Devine or anybody that drives without their lights on in the pouring rain, but I still think they should be able to do all the things I can do. And you must know by now how much that pains me to say that.

    Saying you don't think somebody should be able to marry because you don't like them is without a doubt the stupidest reason of all to object to marriage equality.

    Not liking somebody because they love somebody of the same gender is an ignorant and fearful response . The fact that you honestly think what you do and don't like should impact the human rights of other people is so breathtakingly arrogant that it boggles the mind.  Please stop commenting on articles using your own name and picture.  People are judging you and not very nicely at that. 
I know there are many more nuances to these five objections but they all boil down to the same thing. It's not about you.  

So for the love of Colin - Shut. The. F**k. Up. 

Please. 

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