Random Ramblings from the Watsons

Tuesday, 28 February 2012

On doing it all....and doing it badly!

The events of this morning had never happened before, but they did have a familiar ring to them.

It went something like this.  We were in the car, on the way to Bakers delight, for lunch on the fly, as there was no fresh bread.  I parked right in front, flew inside, and bought two packs of mini rolls, one cheese and bacon and one Vegemite.  I felt a little happy buzz, when the assistant offered me some paper bags to separate them into for school lunches - clearly not to only flustered mum that shops for school lunch on the way to school!

We were on the way in plenty of time, and Dakota added the rolls to the other items in the lunch boxes, as I drove.  I smiled, content that everything was under control.

Then a small voice came from the back.  "Mummy, Mrs Andrews said I had to give you this note yesterday, but I forgot".

As she said the words, I knew.  Prep entrance testing, and I knew it was Wednesdays, and I knew this was the last one, and worst of all, I knew that I had booked Montana in for a 9am spot.  Crap.

Pull into the school carpark, and try to decide what is worse.  Ringing the school and saying that she can't come, knowing that I will mess up a really important schedule, or find a way to get her in there.  Miraculously she has dressed herself this morning (preps have Wednesdays off for the month of February, and Montana has been doing school runs in her pi's on those days), but she has not put on any shoes.  I put the other children on the job, and we scratch around frantically in the car for something she can wear in on her feet.  Finally come up with a pair of ill-fitting thongs, and I think we're on our way.

Then, disaster.  I realise that Georgia's stroller was in the front seat that morning, and Dakota needed to sit there, so instead of putting it in the boot, I chucked it under the carport.  I didn't have a stroller for her, and she is too heavy to carry, so there was no way I could go in.

I rang the office from my mobile, from the car.  Could I send her in with her sisters, and then drive home and get the pram, and come back and collect her after the testing?  They are so used to me flying by the seat of my pants, that this time they cheerily say, "sure, send her in", without the audible sigh that usually accompanies these exchanges.  I send her in, watching her struggle behind her sisters, as she doesn't do thongs that well yet, and thinking about how extremely fail I am.

Drive the 15 minutes home, put some clothes on Georgia and give her some weetbix.  She looks faintly alarmed at the quick turn around back into the car, but luckily she is an easygoing kid.  Drive 15 minutes back, and pick Tana up just as Mrs A is wrapping up.  Drive home, thinking that was really a power hour....and not my finest.

I'd like to say that the above is an isolated type of event - but it's not.  School excursion notices and permission sheets are nearly always signed on the last possible day, and usually with reminder notes sent home with the children, and, if they go unread, a phone call.  My house is a mess, as I clean one part of the kitchen, then wander off and put a load of washing on, then do a bit of the bathroom, then onto the computer to pay a bill, or trawl Facebook, never really finishing any tasks.  I am doing fine with my studies so far, but that is only because I have a good retentive memory for what I learn in class, and rarely need to refer back to my notes.  On the odd occasion I do, I find them all over the place, and take 10 minutes to find a paragraph that I know is there, and that I should have been able to find in 2.

I often wonder if I should have tried to do less, but do it better.  Would I be a better mother, if I had had less children?  I know there are neglectful mothers out there.  Even abusive mothers.  There are kids denied even the basic care.  My kids are well cared for, fed, clothed, generally provided for, and very, very loved. I just hope they don't think they could do better with a mother that was slightly less scatty, and all over the place.......

Has anyone else been this shockingly disorganised and managed to turn it around?

Thursday, 23 February 2012

Help your babies to accept mine

We were a bit late for kinder this morning, and all the littlies were playing outside.  As I pulled up, most of the kids stopped what they were doing, and ran towards the fence, yelling "Georgia!  Georgia's here!"  They waited patiently while I unpacked her stroller, and then surrounded her as we walked in, all chattering away at her.  Georgia gave her usual aloof turn of the head, though I could tell she was delighted, as a slight smile twitched on the corner of her lips, and her eyes twinkled.   Georgia doesn't like to give too much away, but I can see that she is finally realising what it feels like to be part of a group - to be ACCEPTED.  And as I drove away, I realised how desperately I don't want that to change.

The decision enrol Georgia in mainstream 4yo kinder was only made late last year.  I had sent her to a 3yo kinder program at the special school where I plan for to do her to be educated.  She was to do the 4yo program there too, before starting prep in 2013...but a little plan started forming in my mind about sending her to mainstream kinder, the same one all her sisters went to, and when I contacted them, I found that they would welcome her with open arms.  The deal was sealed after I chatted with Georgia's retired case worker from Vision Australia, Rob (who I am lucky enough to call a friend now).  He was delighted with the idea, and said that it would be as good for the other kids as it would be for Georgia.  As he said, "you can't fail sandpit!"  I relished the idea of being a "normal" kinder mum for one more year.  And I realised that this is the last mainstream thing that Georgia would ever do, where she is on a relatively level playing field.

The kids all accept her so readily, so unconditionally.  She doesn't really understand how to play with other kids in any sort of exchange yet, but they don't mind.  The teachers say that during free play, other kids bring toys etc and just sit near her to play, just wanting to be around her, and when they are around the table, there is quite a competition to sit with her.  I think as kids, they can feel her gentle aura, something that has touched all of us at home, and pretty much everyone who has ever met her.

Sadly, I know it won't always be this way.  Most of the kids at my 3 older girls primary school know Georgia now, from seeing her at school pick up's etc.  My blood ran cold when my eldest child (now 8) came home last year from school, and asked me what a "retard" was, as someone had told her her sister was one.  I knew it was coming, but it was pretty hard to explain to such a small child that people were sometimes unkind because her sister was different to them.  That she was going to have to learn to stand her ground, and stand up for herself, and her sister, because there was going to be more of it.

At the same time though, I taught her how to educate.  To always be ready to answer questions about her sister.  Initially kids are matter of fact - they just want to know.  And the way we tell them is very important.  But the real responsibility lies with parents, and the attitudes that we pass onto our children.

So, if your kids go to kinder with Georgia, or any other child with special needs, and they ask you questions, take the time to sit down and answer them.  You can do that in any way you think is suitable for your child at their age level, as long as it comes from a place of kindness, not ignorance, or fear.  Kids learn to fear what they don't understand, and once that happens, it might already be too late.  Teach them how to be kind, how to tolerate, how it is never ok to use words such as spastic, and retard, and how to tell your mates it's not ok if you hear them saying it.  And honestly, don't use these words yourself.  Just don't.

Until this morning I couldn't have known what it would mean to me to see Georgia embraced as part of a group, to see her start to recognise it...and to wear my heart pinned on the outside of my chest, exposed...realising how easily that can be taken away from her, and that probably, one day it will.

It's a big call, but maybe with your help, that won't happen.

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Indicating...a love story.

The fella has always had something of an "issue" with my need to compulsively indicate.  I can, and have been known to indicate coming out of my own driveway...at which time, if the fella is in the car (and I would have to say this is rare, if the fella is in the car, he is usually in the drivers seat, unless there is no other way), he makes some comment (complete with raised eyebrows), along the lines of "who do you think is behind you?  One of the ant's in an MG?"  The fella can be a bit of a smart arse.

The fella is a good driver, a PROFESSIONAL driver, as he likes to tell me, and therefore, he can clearly do no wrong.  He'll chuck a look in his rear-vision mirror, and if there is no one within cooee, he won't bother to flick that little lever on the right.  Waste of energy, clearly.

So, it was with much dismay that I recently had to phone the fella on a Monday morning, and let him know that, while distracted (read: borderline insane) by the cries of my children about something unrelated, I placed my foot on the accelerator, instead of the brake, flew out of the bottom of our impossibly steep driveway, and smashed into something in my very own court, which contains all of four houses.  The hit'ee (is that a word...the thing that was hit...?) came out of the altercation intact, but the hitter (my lovely Landcruiser) did not.

The conversation went something like this:

Me:  "Gaz, I crashed the car"

Fella:  "you're joking?"

Me: "is this a laughing matter?"

Fella:  "are the children ok?  Are you ok?"

Me: yes.....

Fella:  What about the people in the other car, are they ok?

Me:  Well....here's the thing...I was coming out of our driveway...the other vehicle was un-occupied.

Fella:  What?  You're *expletive* joking, aren't you?

Me:  didn't we already establish that this is not a laughing matter?

Fella:  If I didn't laugh, I'd cry.  So, have you taken the children to school, now?

Me:  No (starts crying).

Fella (takes pity):  Is the car driveable baby?  I can't come now, I am on the other side of town, but I'll be there soon....

Me:  It's driveable...the kids are inside...(more whimpering).

Fella:  So, put them in the car and drive them to school.  It's like getting back on a horse. (Of COURSE it is, how had that escaped me?)

Me:  (whimpers....)...."But, the indicator is broken, I can't INDICATE".

Fella:  Who cares?  Is your front indicator working?

Me:  Yes, but what about if someone else is behind me, and I stop suddenly to make a turn...they'll be mad at me?!

Fella:  Just stick your hand out the window if there is someone behind you, so they know what you are doing.  Take the children to school.

So, I agree, and hang up, but have no intentions of it.  Children are all inside, installed in front of ABC kids on a weekday, unpacking their school lunches picnic style on the lounge room floor, and they're in for the long haul. Pity for them that the neighbour, summoned by all the commotion, knocked on the door soon after, and upon hearing the story, insisted on driving the kids to school in her car.

Off they go, and I am left with Georgia, who needs to get to daycare.  I am kind of agreeing with the fella, about getting back on the horse, so I mentally calculate how I can get to the child care centre, making almost exclusively left hand turns.  Even in my not so built up area, I don't want to hang a righty, in case someone comes flying out of a house, roaring at me about the non-use of the right indicator.  There are people everywhere with nothing better to do, surely?

I work out that I can do it with only 2 right hand turns....one of which is a u'turn from a right lane, so people are going to go with the law of averages, and realise that I am almost certainly going to go in a right hand direction...right?  Well, not necessarily, but that is another vent altogether).

The fella rings back, seeking further re-assurance of our well-being.  I tell him that the children are safely at school, and I am just about to jump in the saddle for the daycare run.  He tells me that I only have to put up with it for one day, as when he gets home, he will move all the child seats over to his Holden SS, and we can, as he calls it "swan about in that".  After all, from what I have told him about the extent of the damage, Blind Freddy would know I fucked the car, and no indication was possible.  Thanks babe.

So, I strapped Georgia in, and set out for daycare.  I flicked on my useless indicator for my right turn out of our 4 house court...content that I had one out of the way.  I think travelled about 2 kilometres out of my way in order to execute a U-turn from  a dedicated right turn lane.  When entering the lane, I stuck a companionable hand out the window, so the people behind me knew that I was braking to enter the right hand turn lane.  I could literally see the confusion, the 'what the hell is this woman doing with her hand?", on the face of the gent behind me.  I think the fella has spent too much time on a pushie, if he thinks this primitive indicating system will work.

Execute the U'ey, precede on for another kilometre or so, and make a left hand turn onto the street the daycare is located.  Briefly consider going on another 500 metres and making a u-turn at a not too busy roundabout.  Do two things concurrently.....look in rear-vision mirror and see car travelling about .5 of a metre from the busted arse of my car...and decide to do a big, brave, PROFESSIONAL driver manoeuvre, and stick my hand in an exaggerated fashion out of the window, as he was so close to my tail he SURELY wouldn't see it unless I was making a really big deal out of it.

And lets just say that he coped fine, but as he was passing me on the left, I hear the unmistakable roar of a trucks horn, coming towards me.  I brought my outstretched arm inside the car about a millisecond before his truck removed it.

I've decided that I'm just not all that renegade.  The carseats were in the driveway waiting when he got home, and I await the return of my beloved right indicator.

Thursday, 9 February 2012


You know the term "you are only as old as you feel?"

Well, I feel a great deal older than I did before this past week kicked off.

Let me set the scene for you.  For the last 8 years, I have been a mum.  I have often used the term "only a mum"...because somewhere over those years of bearing four children, and doing everything that went with raising them (I can't say raising the fella, can I?  That would be rude...but you get the drift....) I quite forgot how to be anything else.

This year, I decided that it was time to change all that.  I saw my third child off to school last week, and Georgia is well looked after in daycare and kinder, so I took a big deep breath, and traipsed off to the local TAFE, to enrol in a Certificate 3 in Community Services.

I would like to think of myself as a bit of a youngster.  I certainly don't feel any different than I did when I last studied, and I won't say how long ago that was, but just quietly, it is soon to number in the decades...(and that is more than one decade...., is there anyway to make the type smaller for that bit...holy shit...)

Or do I?

When I went to the information session, and completed my enrolment, there were no students on campus.  There were lots of "mature" people like me at the information sessions..and that was very good.  The faculty staff were "mature", too - tick!  I had convinced myself that the years would slip away and my world would be awash with new social opportunities with adults.

Well, that did happen...and it didn't.

Life experience lends itself well to the field of community work.  I know I have something to offer, I just need to learn, and grow, and get out there amongst it.  I have been leaning towards wanting to be a Youth Worker for some years now, but what I didn't realise is that I had totally forgotten what it is like to be young.

This week, I have started getting to know the other members of my class.  There are at least half around my age and older, but there are also many that are young enough to be my own children.

Community Services is a very broad area, which is why a lot of people are doing this course, - as a foundation to build upon.  A lot of them want to be Youth Workers.  Over the last few days, I have learned that the youths of today have a lot to offer the young.

I have gravitated towards the older members of the class..especially the mums...what is with that?  You don't have to answer that, it's only natural, I'm sure.  However today, we were put into random groups to "brainstorm", and I ended up with many of the youngest members of the class in with me.

We started discussing the topic at hand, and I was briefly left wondering how they would fare in this course (which I am already finding quite challenging), and life in general.  One girl said, "like, you know what I mean?" about 30 times in the space of 2 minutes, and I'm afraid a lot of the time I didn't know what she meant.

As we got further in though, and I started to decipher the new language they were speaking, I learned a great deal.  Early days in the info sessions, the co-ordinator was at pains to weed out everyone who might just be there to satisfy Centrelink training requirements, or anyone who thought this course was a "soft option", and just about helping people.

In my group there were kids that had been in care, removed from their own homes, with stories to tell too terrible to mention.  Kids that had slept in parks and cars, and streets, and eaten out of garbage cans.   And they weren't there with some airy fairy notion of being able to help their fellow young people, but there because they were sure they could.  And they had to.

I am sure that somewhere along the line I will have something to teach them about life, but for now I am more open to what they have to teach ME.

But they're still, like....whippersnappers....know what I mean?