29 December 2016

Stupidity fatigue

2016 has taken heaps of our favourite celebrities. It's not even an age thing because they've been aged everything from 27 to 99, and I don't mind admitting that I really hope that somebody is sitting next to Betty White ready to punch the Grim Reaper in the face if he even glances in her direction.

It's also taken a bunch of really clever people like the guy who invented the Heimlich manoeuvre which is a very effective way of stopping somebody from choking and a whole bunch of scientists that invented things I take for granted. A lot of them were really old and they had had, as we say, 'a good innings'. Which is probably true but I suspect the cricketer still feels a bit bummed when he gets out. 

And we've had the whole rise of facism thing going on. And politicians accusing the elderly and the differently abled of being leaners, when they get a quarter of a million dollars a year for life just for doing their jobs. We have people saying things or people or ideas are un-Australian with no irony at all despite our failure to recognise the first Australians in our constitution.

We have people saying that Muslims hate women as they send obscenity laden emails to women suggesting they needed to be raped or violated to teach them a lesson. And they don't even see how moronic they are. We have women heaping hatred upon other women for their views, views they can only have come across because they are too ugly to fuck. Those women don't need feminism clearly because they are as good as the men at using sexual violence or innuendo to silence other women. 

And we are protecting our borders and keeping people from dying at sea, by killing people in our government sanctioned concentration camps and we still think somehow this is good politics, good for the country and good for our souls. 

Now everybody doesn't obviously think as I do because Trump, Brexit, Hanson, Bernardi. But the conundrum I have been struggling with is why do people have so much hatred for others?

I hear the answers. I listen as hard as I can but there is nothing that people are saying that makes any
sense to me. 

They say we can't have Muslims 'imposing' their way of life on us? But firstly, we did that to the First Australians and it was okay? Secondly, they aren't. 

They say refugees are violent, disrespectful of women and don't follow our laws. Yet they don't contribute to our statistics of one women dead a week. They're not the footballers or politicans being jailed for rape. They aren't the Obeids or Oliver Curtis or any of the other entitled going to jail for breaking the law. 

We can't have marriage equality because Beazley and Howard put that in place. If we want all our citizens to be equal we need to spend millions of dollars. We can't provide foreign aid even though we are the third wealthiest nation per capita in the world. We can't be feminists because Julie Bishop doesn't want to be one. We don't know why our children are racists when we refer to 'bloody Chink tradies' or say 'It's our bloody country' as we stand with our foot on the neck of First Australians. 

We spit bile and quote the Telegraph. We forget the IRA - the non-Muslim terrorists, we forget the Crusades, we forget that some of our favourite footballers and celebrities came here as refugees. We suck on the tit of xenophobic media and blame somebody, anybody for our misfortunes. We don't blame the people we are electing to look after us and build us a better country. We blame the poor folk who have had to leave their countries because it's been annihilated, bombed into nothing.

I am listening. I promise you. But there is so much evidence. Scientific evidence. Government evidence. Expert evidence that points out that a harmonious society, one focussed on people not power, means that everybody is wealthier. Happier. 

And it's possible to change your views. I used to be the person that could explain away racism and sexism and all the other 'isms' by citing political correctness, it was just a joke and so on. But I don't anymore and that's because I started to read. And listen. And learn.

And I learned that I was wrong. That I needed to change what I had absorbed, what I had been taught and what I took for granted. It didn't happen over night. I'm still a work in progress, I still get it wrong sometimes.  I'm all for doing things like growing the economy and having a great political system and having a laugh - but not if it means we're shitting on the most vulnerable whether they be our elderly, our very young, our refugees, our most fragile. 

I haven't written about this for a while because I haven't been able to articulate the fatigue of having to constantly counteract people's stupidity. It is draining to stand up and call people out on bigotry but if I don't, I'm part of the problem and not part of the solution.

I don't exactly know exactly what the solution is. But I do know this tendency to be proud of our stupidity, determined in our ignorance, and actively hateful, is not it.


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15 December 2016

Goodbye to childcare

Today is my baby girl's last day at childcare. Over the last six years, between the two of them they have spent just over one thousand days in childcare and just over $250,000 has been spent on that care.
They said to label anything we didn't want to lose
Butter wouldn't melt right?
That would pay for four years of high school for Prince William.  Before extracurricular activities obviously but still, it practically makes the girls princesses right?

And it's worth it. I wrote a love letter to childcare in January 2014 and despite moving childcare centres shortly after nothing has changed for us. We remain strong advocates for the role of childcare in the lives of young children.

Childcare has been a brilliant investment in our daughters and in our family.  Childcare has been the place where they developed their first friendships. Friendships which have taught them about acceptance, negotiation, humour, fun and love. Childcare has given our daughters their first tribes and these support networks exist for them outside of childcare as much as they do inside.

Childcare has given them a love of learning. It has taught them that everybody can learn but that people learn differently. It has given them an insight into topics they might not have come up otherwise. They head off to big school with a smattering of paleontology, astronomy, engineering, mechanics, musical theory, musical application, geography, literacy, numeracy, humanities, creative expression, nursing, teaching, archeology, acrobatics, horticulture, domestic sciences, anatomy, magic, indigenous culture, languages, and 27 different ways to describe a fart. To name but a few.

Childcare has taught them resilience. Real life is not for the faint hearted. Sometimes people can be unkind. Sometimes you can be unkind. How you move on from the knocks and acknowledge your role in making somebody else's moment less than perfect is an important life skill. A room full of small, determined people means you have to learn how to process the things that happen around you and bounce back or you miss out on the fun. You also need to learn how to respond when you get bumped, kicked, pinched, bitten or broken. And as parents, you learn you need to stick to the speed limit on the odd trip to the hospital.

Childcare has taught them the negotiation skills required for a hostage situation. It has also taught them to remember anything any adult has ever said so they can contradict your lame excuses or white lies. It has taught them that Chef Clair is a much better cook than Mum or Dad and perhaps there is life beyond beige food.  Childcare has taught them to put on sunblock and hats whenever they go outside. It has taught them how to grow vegetables. Raise chickens. It has taught them hygiene. And that boys can have long hair. It has taught them about different family structures. Private parts being private. That piranhas love bananas and that sailors go to sea sea sea. It taught them how to make didgeridoos out of cardboard and a solar system out of balloons.

Childcare has given us community. It has given us a support network. It's given us the owner of a cupcake factory. A hairdresser. HR consultants. Lawyers. Tennis coaches. Caterers. Business owners. Clients. Suppliers. A place to live. Most importantly, friends.

So many many friends. Beautiful, funny, lifelong friends.

Even if working had not been a financial necessity for both of us, I like to think we would have had the good sense to invest in childcare. It has been an investment which has repaid itself in millions of tiny ways. We have been abundantly blessed with carers and teachers who have given so much love to our children. Carers and teachers that we now call friends.

Each time I dropped my girls for the first time at daycare, I cried. When my Tully finished last year, I cried.

I will cry again today. It is a milestone. An ending and a beginning.

My gorgeous feisty Cassidy is going to big school in six short weeks. She's ready. So very ready.


Farewell childcare. And thanks for the memories.


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6 December 2016

You can never take too many photographs

I came across a photo album this week that featured a snapshot of my life from 1993. It was the year I moved out of home, the year I broke up with the long legged truck driver and started dating the curly haired uni student. It was a year where I attended parties, went to the coast, went to the snow, went hiking, went caving went to the first of my friend's engagement parties, studied, lived.

It was the year I was 18. I would turn 19 in the December.


The photo album features faces that I will never see again. Not long after this year one of the faces in the album commits suicide. This year two more of the faces in the album have died - one from cancer and one from a heart attack. 

There are faces in that album who were the friends that I couldn't live without who I know only see on Facebook and faces in that album of friends that I couldn't live without and don't. There are the faces of my younger siblings snapped when I used to visit mum and dad's house and the face of my older brother with his then girlfriend, now wife of fourteen years. 

There are faces in that album of people who had already at a young age lived through the death of a child and who are yet to marry. Faces in that album of friends who had lived through unspeakable child abuse who never said a word until years later. There are faces in that album of friends who were just friends back then but are now married and parents. There are faces in that album of best friends that no longer speak to each other.

There are faces in that album of people who lived so close but now live so far. There are faces in that album that dreamed of a life that never materialised and there are faces in that album of people whose lives have been so much more than they ever dreamed.

There are faces in that album eating Big Macs who are now vegetarians. There are faces in that album that thought they were fat but weren't. There were faces in that album who were desperately in love and still are and faces in that album that were desperately in love and now aren't. There are faces in that album that never thought they were enough but they were. 

There are faces in that album that are carefree and laughing. There are faces in that album that are asleep. There are faces in that album who have never since touched Wild Turkey and there are faces in that album who were wild and reckless and now drive their children nuts with their rules.

I look at all the faces in that album and I think how it all seems like just a moment ago. Memory is such a slippery beast, sometimes tender and evocative and sometimes viciously demoralising. Photo albums provide such a powerful link to the people that we were. The gloriously imperfect versions of ourselves. 

You can never take too many pictures. I look back at the 300 pictures from that year and I know they don't even come close to capturing all that happened this year. The dizzy heights, the painful lows. They don't display the pain of breaking up with your first love. They don't show you the arguments with your first housemates about the washing up. They don't show you the bellyaching laughs around the campfire or the mud you vomited after a mud fight went rogue and you ended up swallowing more mud than you threw. 

They don't show you the peaceful moments where you hung out with your friends listening to movies or the crazy nights where you moshed at the ANU bar. They don't show the nights you lay on the ground and watched the stars or the boring days where all you seemed to do was work and study. They don't show you the moments that were inexorably making up the future you. 

But in the gaps all the moments are there. The photos conjure up the moments and memories not captured on film. The album is full of my history. It's full of a shared history. There are formative moments captured in that album even when they are not captured on film. 

You can never take too many photographs. You don't know when those photographs are going to have a relevance to you or somebody outside the moment you took it. Every time you take a photo you capturing not only that moment but the experience. The year. The relationships. Daily life. 

You can never take too many photographs. Trust me on this. 

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1 December 2016

I know stuff

Most mornings I walk my girls to school. Sometimes we have grand old chats and sometimes it's just 15 minutes of me bellowing -
"MOVE IT MOVE IT C'MON WE'RE GOING TO BE LATE OH MY GOD ARE YOU A FREAKIN' TURTLE MOVE IT GIRLS C'MON PLEASE MOVE STOP THAT IS A ROAD OKAY LET'S GO GREAT YOU GUYS ARE THE BEST NO NO NO KEEP MOVING DID I MENTION I LOVE YOU BOTH WHAT DO YOU MEAN WHY I AM YELLING I AM NOT YELLING YOU ARE KILLING ME GUYS SPEED IT UP OH FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT IS HOLY OF COURSE YOUR LEG HURTS WHAT IT REALLY DOES OH SORRY OKAY LET'S GO MOVE IT MOVE IT"
The days we have grand old chats we cover off some pretty important stuff. You know like how does water know which way to go in a pipe? What is a blue room? What is a green room? What does superimposed mean? Why do some people have no grandparents and why do some have eight? Why can't you marry your cousin? What is genetics? Why do people litter when they know it will make the world stop turning and we'll all die? Why doesn't swimming Barbie come with a hat and sunscreen?* How many sleeps until Christmas?

I enjoy these chats. I love how random my daughters' minds are. I love the reminder that so much of my knowledge had to be acquired at some time. I love the evidence that they are learning things from other people and by just watching the world around them. I love it when they explain something they learned that day to me or tell me why Pluto isn't a planet anymore even though it was in the olden days. Ahem.

In their eyes, because I'm their mum, I know stuff.

And sure I do. I mean you totally want me on your quiz team when they ask you to name all six of Brangelina's children. And I'm a dab hand at saying something authoritatively even if I don't have a clue. But on the other hand never ask me about geography unless it's Australia.  And even then, don't ask me to do more than name the states and territories.

As a parent I'm relatively lucky. I very sensibly didn't have children until Google had been invented and become a verb in it's own right. If I don't know something I can look it up on my phone. I also have a fair amount of common sense and I'm fairly easy going. Which means I say things like "Yes you can go barefoot to the shops" and "no you can't not wear a seatbelt because if we crash you'll die and make a mess of the car."  Which is why they keep asking me things. I don't always say "No" and I talk to them like functioning human beings and not numpties.

Despite my example my kids have never profaned - woohoo!
I like talking to my children. I find most of what they say interesting and quite often, funny. Even when they don't mean to be. I love how they make statements to demonstrate their understanding. Always at top volume and always somewhere entirely inappropriate in most cases, particularly if it's about private parts.

I know that this period of them thinking I know everything will pass. I know that there will come a time that I say I don't know something will be seen as a parental failing rather than the truth. I know there will come a time when they don't come to me for information but talk about things with close girlfriends or google it for themselves.

But in the meantime, I'm going to delight in their quirky thinking and their lush imaginations. I am going to enjoy being 'knowledgable'. I'm going to enjoy all the things in their brainboxes in the hope that it will outweigh me tuning them out when they talk non-stop for fifteen minutes about Shopkins, or making excuses not to push them on a swing endlessly because quite simply it's as boring as.

I'm going to enjoy knowing stuff. Because Colin only knows, it aint gonna last.


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*  I tweeted Mattel with this question and they are going to pass the suggestion on to their design team!