Words of Wisdom

Youth is wasted on the young.

Monday, 27 May 2013

If You Love It Let It Go......

OK, so who was the smart a*****  d*** brain who said this then? Very good mate! Brilliant. Sounds great in theory.

I am having a hard time letting my butterfly go.
For one thing, I don't like the directions she flies in. Additionally, her wings are ever so fragile (though she is more from the 'My wings are like a shield of steel' school).

She rightly accuses me of hypocrisy (although I don't think I ever wore anything I had to be taped into) as I was a far from perfect teenager. Many have suggested that I may be reaping a severe case of karma, considering what I may or may not have put my own parents through.

All this is beside the point.

No. Actually. All this is exactly the point.

I am challenged by the  dichotomy of my own teenage (hell....let's face it...my 20s, 30s and even 40s) self and my feelings towards my daughter's developing identity.

It was all so much easier when she was a kid. Somewhere between here and here I was relieved of my Flaming Sword. It's still there mind you, in the background, hissing and spitting in a somewhat lacklustre manner. I can encourage you that, from time to time, I still reach for it.

Like last Sunday night when she came in and started to get ready to 'go out'.
Me: But it's Sunday....
Her: Oh Mum! I worked yesterday so I didn't get to go out.
Me: Ye-es. But...it's Sunday......
Her: Haha...yes Mum...don't worry, we'll have an early night...probably be home by 2 am
Me: (spluttering) 2 am??????? (This is obviously  some strange usage of the word "early" that I wasn't previously aware of).
Her: Haha...Mum you are so cute...
Me: No, you mistake me....don't you have work tomorrow?
Her: Yes but I don't start until 12pm...I can sleep in...
Me: But.....it's SUNDAY

So OK...that bit wasn't exactly me reaching for the sword.

Look, don't get me wrong, the BA is essentially a good kid. She volunteers at the Red Cross shop on Saturdays; she cleans up our kitchen (with a prompt); she gets to work on time; she is a loyal friend and enthusiastic employee. I just wish she didn't view the whole world through the lens of 'personal appearance/read: body image' and the motto 'I party therefore I am'.

I am hopeful that her overseas trip (when she gets to it) will sort out some of her priorities and help her settle to a more worthwhile purpose. It certainly had some effect on me in 1979 when I did my backpacking thing.

Of course her travel plans have been put somewhat on hold by the fact that this young man will be  back from Afghanistan in 2 weeks.

He has been away since March and he will have no doubt changed. I somehow feel that the BA will not commit fully to her overseas trip until she has run the course of things with this very nice, but inevitably 'not quite right for her', young man. Of course, I could be completely wrong and she may marry him and become an army wife.......

Now I wanted to finish with:
For those of you who visit this blog for wise insights into child rearing....could you please come back in about 5 years ad I'll give you the benefit of hindsight :-D;

but I suddenly realised I was thinking about this from completely the wrong angle.

The whole point of the Flaming Sword is that it 'sets things up'. What you do with these precious tiny souls throughout their formative years will have a major impact on their development at this end of the journey. Of course, you cannot really parent to totally avoid drugs and alcohol, you cannot parent to avoid stupid casual sex and you can rarely parent to avoid young men taking their motorbikes down the Norton Summit Rd at high speed (OMG I LOVE that you can just google that!) but you can know that underneath that veneer of testosterone or oestrogen, they are still the babies you nurtured.

Example in point: the other night the BA hopped into bed with me (in her onesie) to tell me she loved me. We discussed some of her friends and their choices, we reflected on her her various employments, we shared the excitement of Army Boy's early return date....

What she does on her 'nights out' is beyond my control. All that I can hope is that she has been imbued with sufficient sense of self to fend off the d*** br**ns and to conduct herself with dignity and self worth. There are definitely girls that age who do this. I know because I was always (sadly) bemused by them..........

Monday, 20 May 2013

Took Eighteen Years To Get This Far

It's been months, if not years,  in preparation. The event of the year! The highlight of the Adelaide social calendar! All singing, all dancing, it's  The Baby Angel's 18th Birthday Bash!

She selected the date some time late last year and started a facebook private event page. I suggested she send out invitations and she looked at me as if I were mad.

Building commenced in the backyard. There was a wall to be replaced, a pool to be refurbished, a pergola to be erected, a patio to create before the hordes of Adelaide youth descended upon us.

Life got busy. School started up again and things seemed more frantic than ever. My new role as the office girl at Himself's business took up the spare moments when I wasn't writing IEPs or Support Plans or supervising the integration of a little lad with cerebral palsy who started in Reception this year.

Building progressed. Ever. So. Slowly.
March arrived. Friends in the UK born around the same time as the BA began turning 18. I noticed their parents collecting photos and comments for their scrapbooks and celebrating with posh parties at sophisticated reception places. I looked out the back window at the dust and stacks of pavers and a creeping unease settled in.

I finally broached it with the BA.
"So what's happening about this party then? Should I be organising some invitations of something?"
"Oh Mu-um (rolls eyes) it's just a gathering."
"What about food? Drink (I presume we are expected to provide some)? Music? What did you have in mind?"
"Oh, just some nibbles and things and maybe a few dozen cans of beer and Cruisers...Oh! Ad you will make your usual cake for me won't you?"

At last something I could relate to. I started to play around with ideas until out of the blue my Middle Sis posted a pic on facebook which was perfectly appropriate for a girl about to spread her wings and take off. So, cake sorted. Sort of.

About this time her dad started texting and phoning with questions about the big party. The big party happening at my house. The big party which occasionally gnawed away at the edge of my brain with annoying questions like "Have you thought this through?" Of course the answer was no so I managed to completely avoid the question for quite some time as the building was delayed, started, stopped and continued to coat the inside of my house with a fine layer of soil. Her dad booked his plane and asked if there was anything he could help with. "Oh probably," I stalled,"but that would require me thinking about it..."

At some point I decided that this occasion required more serious marking than simply a random collection of 18 year old sometime friends, doof doof dancing on my back patio and vomiting into the building rubble. I put it to the BA. "Oh all right!" she announced with exasperation,"we'll ask the oldies early on and then they can all go and my friends can come."
This child has a lot to learn about the art of being a gracious hostess.

With Grandma, Grandad, the two Aunties and all our Baby Group friends 12,000 miles away across the globe, I felt a need to identify dear friends here who had had an impact on the BA through her early years in Australia. I made a number of calls and texts and felt honoured to have around 20 folks agree to come and help me 'cut the proverbial cord'. "Come around 6pm for a BBQ," I blithely quipped," we'll cut some cake, drink a toast and then you guys can beat a retreat if you don't want to have to deal with the mass of irreverent youth descending on the place around 8.30pm."

So the big day drew nearer and nearer. The paving went exponentially slower and slower. Storm water drains needed to be dug; I had big deadlines at school; Himself's business entered a crisis period......I contracted the ugliest case of rhinovirus I had experienced in some time and was laid low for the best part of a week. When I resurfaced we were two weeks out from the party and  the BA suggested we supply bottles of spirits for a 'cocktail bar'. "Dream on baby!" was my response.
Himself had organised to borrow a PA and suddenly the very casual 'ipod playlist' became an item by which the party could be made or broken.

Suspense and anxiety levels started to ramp up. What would I feed them? Would I be able to make a fair stab at this cake I had planned? How would we decorate the back area? What would we put the food on? etc etc etc

Himself suddenly needed to go to Sydney for the week before the party. Great.

The pergola was finished and the paving recommenced. It would be finished by Thursday... Friday.......

I hired cake tins on the Monday before the party and baked the two layers of the cake, finishing at 1am; then I wrapped the lot and popped them into the freezer. "What can we bring?" people asked. What a good question, I thought. I had enough presence of mind to ask one family for a salad and another for some stuffed eggs and yet a third for a potato salad. Beyond that I had nuttin'. I had submissions to complete.

On the Friday before the party, the boys finished laying the pavers.

There were still piles of sand lying around and wheel barrows and all their other attendant tools and mess.

Himself got back from Sydney and commenced decorating the garden with over 50m of coloured flashing lights.

He bought a patio heater as the weather changed, set up the PA and made sure the spa was working properly.

I thawed the cake and started the icing process.

Saturday dawned. In a frenzy of activity Himself went to buy meat for the BBQ, I went to buy food and the BA went to have her hair done >:-(. The boys turned up to remove their tools and the rest of the sand and rubble. They also picked up some trestles from the church for me. I went shopping. I threw random items of 'party food' into the basket: 3kg of cheese and 12 packets of corn chips to make nachos; 4 big partypacks of frozen pies, sausage rolls, spring rolls and money bags, 20 x bulk buy packs of lollies. I sent Himself to buy 'kid drinks' for that part of the evening (I totally forgot to tell him to get any adult drinks so when people arrived at 6.15pm I was without a glass of wine to offer them! Plenty of hideous blue Cruiser things though). But I had finished the last touches on the cake at 5.45pm, so we were roughly ready to go.

I've got to say the baby Angel looked stunning.

Here she is with her dad. Gotta love a fake tan eh?

Her dad, actually, was another story. He texted me earlier in the week to say he'd been having chest pains and had seen the doc to find he had raised cardiac enzymes and had had to go in for an MRI.  On the Thursday he called to say he needed a stent and was booked for the op on the Monday after the party! He always did time these things well. He had root canal work on the morning of our wedding.....

And so the guests arrived (I was in the shower of course). All the most wonderful, generous people who have supported us in our lives here in Oz: Kindergarten Friend who took the BA kayaking on her first camping trip; Dear Friend, daughter of the Quilting Doyenne who babysat for her over more than a year as I went to my regular karate class to take out my life frustrations; Brother of Dear Friend, who partnered her to the second formal of 2012; the Quilting Doyenne who took them both to swimming lessons every Thursday evening for two years; The Bestie and her lovely Mum and Dad; many of her wonderful mentors from our church community; her earliest girlfriends in Aus; two of her teachers who are great friends of mine and have watched her grow and of course A Free Man and his fab family whom we love.

Eventually, I gathered the crowd under the new pergola and thanked them all and told them about the time 18 years ago when I had welcomed the BA into the world in one of those weird anachronistic moments where she was born on one day in the UK and the next day in Aus. I thanked her dad and his wife; I got choked up by thoughts of my mum and dad who would have loved to have been there.... and that was when I realised I was unprepared. I had not written a speech. I totally forgot to talk about my beautiful, feisty, independent daughter. And I forgot to cut the cake. This fact was brought home to me some 30min later as the young 'uns had started to arrived. Not Max grabbed my leg in passing and in perfect 4 year old speak asked "CAKE! When are we having the CAKE??????"

Of course, by then I was preoccupied with: ensuring that the 'arrivals' were genuine guests and not gatecrashers; providing hot food for the starving masses and collecting up the precious champagne glasses from the toast.
Me: (carrying a tray of champagne flutes) Hello, and who would you be?
Boy: Hi Mrs A, I'm G, remember me?
Me: Oh yes, I've met you before at the .*..crash crash crash.....* (as I tilted the tray ever so lightly G-wards in greeting him).

Champagne flutes are notoriously unstable and behave remarkably like dominoes in these situations (that's my story and I'm sticking to it!!!)

I got very few photos of the actual 'revels'.

There was a great deal of dancing around the speakers and a very serious game of 'beer pong' going on. My determined efforts to keep the rabble out of the house failed miserably as they congregated in the laundry, end bedroom and bathroom. We served up nachos and frankfurters (called 'little boys' over here) and my sentinels on the front balcony reported the young lady fertilizing our garden rather early on in the evening (Amazingly, having got rid of all those nasty stomach contents she went on to thoroughly enjoy the party and left at 1am, bright eyed and bushy tailed).

I've got to say, the young people were delightful. They were well mannered, articulate (mostly....) and genuinely just having a good time. The 78 attendees (as per facebook) came and went in dribs and drabs meaning that we had no more than 50 there, all up, at any one time.

There were the occasional downers. The police came at 11.30pm to ask us to 'turn it down'. They were delightful and apologised profusely but we did have to take the doof doof out of the equation, much to everyone's chagrin. There was 'Spew Boy' whom I found collapsed on the BA's bed just after the police visit. Keen to keep the bedrooms alcohol (indeed-people) free, I got him up and supported him down the corridor towards the kitchen where we hoped to get him to drink some water and sober up. Unfortunately, as we passed the bathroom he spied the basin and, I've got to say, he almost made it. Shame about the make-up bag some foolish girl had left on the bench top.
We eventually bedded him down on a fold up mattress on the kitchen floor (no carpet in case of further accidents) with a bucket.  No one seemed to want to take responsibility for him, which I thought was sad. I tried to drive him home later that night but he was unable to coherently give me an address and I was not able to lift him without a crane. We left him snoring on the floor and in the morning he had gone. Apparently he texted the BA to apologise.

Most of the crowd left around 1am, thanking us for having them and leaving responsibly in cabs. Himself wanted to party on and kicked up the spa so 7 of them (4 were staying over) ended up in the spa at 2am. That was me finished and I told Himself that since he was having such a good time, he could see them all off the premises or into bed, cos I had had enough.

At 3.30am my slumbers were disturbed when the BA burst in to show me her birthday present...

 (photo taken the following morning)

Speaking of the following morning.....

And a little visitor, just to remind us that we do live in Australia....

So, I think we can say it was a success, despite my total lack of planning and leaving everything to the last moment as usual. I'm not too sure I'd do it again in a big hurry but I suppose I don't have to.....

Alice Cooper: Eighteen

Friday, 10 May 2013

Turning 18: Cutting The Cord

The first time  we severed the tie was moments after she was born. My sweet, sweet mother, who had no such support when she brought me into the world, took the pair of stainless steel pincers proffered by our wonderful midwife and made the cut as directed:

"Cut here," she said,"you can do it!"

And my mother cut. And my baby was free from me and yet with me.

My father once said to me that nothing altered your life as much as your child telling you they didn't need you any more.
"when you're having a child," he explained,"you do a fair bit of prep, and everyone tells you whats in store...so you have some idea. But nothing prepares you for the moment they tell you they don't need you."

Of course, I know it's not that straight forward. Heavens above, I went back to the bosom of my family at 34, when I was about to give birth to the BA! If you are blessed, as we are, as a family, you will always be connected to the people who grew you, loved you and turned you out into the world. But let's face it, we do have to turn these babies out into the world. And mostly they're champing at the bit to get there....

If you haven't guessed, we're about to celebrate a milestone birthday.

In Australia, the 18th birthday signifies a coming of age.
Driving in SA: 16-17 (recently you can't get your full licence until 18...but only recently)
Voting: 18

When I was a gal, the 21st birthday was the big event. But this was obviously a persistent hangover (pardon the Freudian slip)  from the days when you qualified for drinking and voting at 21. I'm not actually sure when the 18th took over from the 21st as the milestone birthday, but take over it did.....

And so I am faced with the second cutting of the cord, with all its attendant stresses:
Where is she? What time will she be home? How many of her clothes will she have left behind her in a trail from the nightclub to the taxi...........

Happy Birthday my wild Baby Angel as you flutter into your nineteenth year.