Archive for May, 2014

5 things my kids have taught me

May 11th, 2014 | no comments

1338360Yesterday, while we were doing our 6th Mother’s Day Classic together, I started thinking about the lessons that my children have taught me. We tend to focus on what we teach them—the advice we need to pass on. The skills they need to acquire to navigate life. But what of the wisdom that flows upwards from these unique young people and their particular take on life?

Here’s mine, and it would be wonderful if you shared the ways the children in your life, whether they’re your own or someone else’s, are teaching you too.

Sebastian, three …

You have shown me the stars. You’ve made me stop rushing and take a pillow and a blanket and lie on the lawn and look at the night sky. While we’ve been lying there, you’ve helped me see how insignificant our little lives really are—and then I’ve turned and watched the wonder in your eyes and thought how very significant we all are, too. How important we are. How much we bring to the world.

Sophie, thirteen …

You’ve taught me about passion. You’ve shown me what it looks like to love something whole-heartedly and joyously, without regard to what other people think. You weave your wit and humour and the ‘bright side’ through everything you do, with the smile that’s almost always lighting up your face. You know how to let the sunshine in, and share it.

Hannah, fifteen …

Right now, you’re impressing the socks off me. You’re teaching me what ‘strong’ looks like. You’re showing me how to love someone in pain both deeply and lightly at once, to hit the right note, to instinctively know what to do, and when and how. And you’re rising above what doesn’t matter. That’s something I’m still learning. You’re teaching me grace and maturity and love.

My step-son, twenty one …

I love the way you just get on with things, even the things you don’t want to do. I admire the way you let drama wash over you (and I know you’ve seen a bit of drama here over the years). When I see you with your sister and brother, you show me what loyalty looks like. You and my son look so similar. What you don’t know is that I quietly hope he grows up to be just like you in so many other ways as well.

My step-daughter, twenty four …

You’ve taught me how to do inter-generational friendship as adults. You wear your heart on your sleeve and you embrace the things you love with so much spirit it’s infectious. We’ve sat up crying til 3am, and binged on ‘just one more episode’ of Mad Men until I could barely see the television. You got me through night-time feeds in our private Facebook messages—in fact, that’s when we first really ‘fell in love’ with each other. You show me how to do life, like nobody’s watching.

Parenting isn’t all ‘sunshine and lollipops’. Sometimes the slog is so hard you can barely put the next foot forward. (Listen to our free telecast “Parenting is boring and six other taboo topics”  and you’ll see what I mean.)

But to stand back every so often and see the big picture is priceless. It’s nourishing. It’s essential.

This article is inspired by one of the tasks in the 30-day My 15 Minutes For Parents program.

Last Tuesday night …

May 4th, 2014 | no comments

shutterstock_81017695My fifteen-year-old’s best friend’s father arrived unexpectedly on our doorstep to drop her home. This was odd. For a start, he was supposed to be working interstate. Secondly, he never comes in—usually just drops off, picks up etc.

He stood there and told me that his daughter—my daughter’s BFF (my term, not theirs, they are way too cool for such an abbreviation)—had been diagnosed that day with acute leukaemia.

There are no words …

I gave him a hug, completely in shock, and then turned to look at my sunny, happy-go-lucky, positive, beautiful daughter, standing beside us, already ‘in the know’. In my mind, she was still that little baby in the quadruple zero jumpsuit, only caring about warmth, cleanliness and her next feed.

I found it hard to reconcile the mental image with the brave-looking teen who wouldn’t cry until her friend’s dad left, and who I desperately want to shield from something we can’t ‘unsee’. We can’t undo this. We can’t fix it, even though with all our hearts we want to because we all ADORE THIS GIRL.

Over the next few days, we were plunged into a world of hurt and uncertainty. We’re still in that world, and will be for an indefinite period. Our world of hurt is eons more bearable than the world of hurt her parents are in.

And while I deal with how heart-wrenching it is to watch, my ‘baby’ is organising a fundraiser for the Leukaemia Foundation at school. She’s rostering friend visits to the hospital (and learning about over-visiting herself). She’s buying funny disguises in the $2 shop to wear as a laugh in the hope of entertaining her friend. She’s crying her eyes out over the decision about whether or not to go to the 5 Seconds of Summer concert as planned tonight, without her friend. She wants to cut her hair and donate it to the wig manufacturers … and on, and on, and on.

She is blowing my mind at the same time as she’s worrying me sick. You raise your kids, step-by-step. Each little knock along the way, each failure, each sad situation takes a chip out of the ‘pristine’ blank page of their lives. We agonise over these things, wishing things could be easier/better/perfect, but when something like this completely sideswipes your child, trust me, you’re thankful for the earlier knocks. You’re glad they suffered other things. You want them to have some resilience.

Here’s what I’ve learnt so far:

  • As a parent, and indeed in life in general, we’re plunged into myriad situations for which we have no frame of reference.
  • In dealing with these situations, we resort to trial and error.
  • We’re going to make some mistakes.
  • We’re going to feel helpless.
  • We’re going to say and do things that we later regret, because when you’re preserving one aspect of your life, another tends to suffer.

Sometimes ‘gut instinct’ is best. I looked at my daughter on Saturday night and her ‘fraught-ness’ was palpable. I said, ‘let’s get in the car’. We drove for two hours, until the fuel light came on and she’d stopped crying to the music and started singing to it instead. Did it help much? Only fleetingly. But that’s something.

I don’t know what’s going to happen next. Isn’t that one of the scariest sentences in the English language?

What I do know is that my daughter needs to learn that she can’t take it all on her shoulders. I am supporting her. I’m crying writing this newsletter. I need someone to support me. (And I have wonderful people doing that.) The people who support me need people supporting them. And so it goes on …

This isn’t just now, with this particular challenge—this is all the time. We have to take care of ourselves while we take care of others. Carers need carers.

It’s about creating a daisy chain of people in our lives—every strand of which may feel vulnerable in itself, but together it makes a gorgeous necklace. It all hangs together. It all fits.

I don’t know how to end this post. I’ll end it like this. xo

Visit the Leukaemia Foundation website.