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Tuesday, April 26, 2011

How do you handle PARENTS?

I started writing this blog because my friends kept emailing me and asking for advice about their kids.  I'd spend a lot of time compiling the best answer I could, and then wish I could share my thoughts with other parents who might be asking the same question.

The last request, posted at the end of my entry on my pregnancy by Nisaba, was a difficult one, and it touches on something that affects us all at one time or another unless we're living in complete isolation from the rest of the world. We've all felt the helplessness of seeing other people's children suffer due to some behaviour by the parent which could (or, in your opinion SHOULD) have been avoided.

The answer I wanted to give was complex enough to warrant a separate column; Nisaba was asking me what to do when you see poor parenting happening in front of your eyes and that parent is a friend of yours- what to do when you want to help that friend to do better, but without offending them.

Here's an abridged version of Nisaba's question, to save you flicking back and forth between pages.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Stop the pregnancy, I want to get off!

Parenting forums are a hotbed of emotion, and divided along party lines.  There are the SAHMs (stay at home mums), the working mums, the desperately TTC (trying to conceive), and so forth.  But these mums do share one attitude: they are almost exclusively pro-baby.

Heaven help the poor woman who falls pregnant and then gets stage fright. The forums don't offer a lot of comfort and companionship. God forbid that you should post such a thing and have it read by a TTC mum.

But really, is resenting one's pregnancy so rare? Or is it just that talking about it has become taboo, in this age of increasing fertility problems?

I'll fess up. I'm one of those mums who got cold feet.  Here's my pregnancy story... because maybe you're hating being pregnant, and shocked by the thought of the changes it will bring, and you think you're the only person in the world who's ever felt like that. And that maybe you're some sort of monster.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Teaching your children life skills

A few weeks ago, my next door neighbour 'John' had a massive heart attack.  He's now at home recovering from major heart surgery and is completely unable to do the basic things that are required when you live in the bush as we do- chopping firewood, mowing the large lawns, starting the generator to top up the solar system batteries in overcast weather, and so on.

His 19-year-old son 'Danny' still lives at home, and we assumed that Danny would be able to pick up the slack and support his father while he recuperates.  But John admitted to us that he has always done these things himself.  It was easier and quicker that way.  Now he sorely regrets not teaching Danny the life skills for the way of life they've chosen, and is relying on my partner to show Danny the basics of operating a chain saw safely.

What life skills have you taught your children? Or, like John, have you always done everything yourself because it was quicker, safer, easier?

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

An insight into a mother-daughter relationship

As I've mentioned before in this blog, I feel very privileged to have had great mothering myself.  I was going through the files on some old CD ROMs today and I came across the eulogy I wrote for my mother many years after she died.  (Yes, I know- eulogies are usually written for the funeral; that's another story, and a story which is much more about my very strange relationship with my father, who I suspect was never quite the same after World War II.  I had to wait 16 years after her death to farewell my mother in my own way.) 

As I read the eulogy through, I thought it was a pretty fine portrait of what good mothering can look like.  And so it occurred to me that other mothers might like to read it. 

Apart from the many insights into her mothering technique- what she worried about, what she laughed off, how she approached day-to-day life, how she dealt with frustration and marital blues- the story of my mother through her child's eyes is a fascinating glimpse of lower middle class children's lives in the 50's and 60's. There was never enough money, but somehow she made it work. We certainly didn't get given every new gadget on the market at whim. That seems to have been an advantage when it comes to the richness of our inner lives as children and as adults. And she was a working mother from the time I went to school, at a time when it was something of an oddity.

So I suspect there's much to be learnt from this short history of my mother's life.  Here it is, slightly edited to protect others' privacy.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Teacher-bashers: the dangers of over-supporting your children

On the very last day that I taught as a full-time secondary teacher, a Year 7 boy waited till everyone else except his two best buddies had left the room, walked up to me and slapped me in the face.  I had given him absolutely no reason to do so; he did it because he could, no doubt to build up his profile to his mates. 

He had no fear of retribution whatsoever.  He knew that if I complained to the principal, he would at worst be sent to the school counsellor- who would then, in the ultimate example of teacher-bashing, call me in and tell me that it was somehow 'my fault' for not understanding this child's motivation and needs.  The child knew it, and I knew it. 

I put that incident down to the universe confirming my decision to leave the secondary system, and walked away.  Ultimately, this school was so afraid of telling parents the truth about their children's faults and problems that it was prepared to allow the children to get away with assault, disguising the truth of the situation in a thick cloak of 'support and understanding'.

I'm not alone in having this sort of experience, as recent statistics on teacher stress (as detailed in today's Sydney Morning Herald) show.  Teachers crushed by expectations  I'm not the only passionate, enthusiastic teacher who has been lost to teaching due to the system's failure to balance the equation of teachers' and students' rights, to protect staff from abuse.

Sadly, blaming the teacher for everything that goes wrong in a classroom is not confined to the school administration; it's become a blood sport amongst parents seeking easy, comfortable answers to their child's problems.  I have been insulted, ridiculed and verbally attacked, both face-to-face and online, by everyone from acquaintances to total strangers- sometimes for merely being a teacher, and sometimes for suggesting uncomfortable answers which are, in my view, better answers.

But what effect does this sort of vicious attitude to teachers have on the children?

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

On not being a Wicked Stepmother

At least two of my friends are suffering from a bad case of Wicked Stepmother syndrome at the moment.  Loving their partner means trying to welcome his children from a previous relationship, and despite their best efforts, the children are being spiky and difficult.

These new step-mums are trying, really they are.  But I think that of all the difficult parenting gigs that are out there, becoming a stepmother to children who are no longer babes in arms can be one of the most challenging.

New step-mums are up against so many obstacles, and they have such a lot of learning to do.  Here are some of the questions to which they have to seek answers, in the face of sometimes daunting hostility.

Toxic Mothers

Lately I've been visiting a few internet parenting forums to see what topics might be of particular interest to my readers here.  Of course I've dropped a few comments into the threads along the way, with my usual good intent, and I've been amazed by some of the volatile (and sometimes downright offensive) reactions I've received to some very mildly worded input from me.

It got me thinking about how hard many young (and not-so-young) mothers, especially first-time mums, find it to deal with the Toxic Mother.  Maybe it's time to talk about that.

So here's a helpful guide to identifying some of the species of Toxic Mother, which might help you to avoid them.  There's no point arguing with them.  Steer clear of them.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

New childcare legislation: prejudice against our own culture?

Wow, the world really is going to hell in a handcart.  The latest news from the government of this fine country of Australia is that as of next year, childcare workers can be personally fined for making children take part in Christmas and Easter traditions if it's 'not appropriate for their culture'.

Well, hello.  As teachers who programme the year's activities, we are required to provide a range of 'inclusive' activities to ensure that we address the cultural needs of every child from every background- except those of white and Western descent.  I am the first to believe that it's necessary to help children from other cultures, including indigenous culture, feel at home in our centres- see my postings on aboriginal inclusion and using a child's home language just for starters- but what about children from our own culture?  Are they not also entitled to be exposed to the traditions and symbols of their own society?

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Three things I wish my parents had taught me...

Time for a little light relief, I think! 

I'm sure I'm not alone if I say that there are things I've learned the hard way in life which I would rather have been warned about in advance.  My parents valued school and environmental education, but perhaps they didn't pass on a lot of the basic life skills I needed.  Here are just a few of the things I think all parents would be wise to teach their children.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Naming your baby: it's not about you!

My son went to school with a boy named Richard Head.  If you can't see a problem with that choice of name, you'd better stop reading now, because there's no hope for you and your poor baby may well end up with a name that becomes a life-long burden.

If, on the other hand, you winced or had a guilty giggle at the very thought of a child called Dick Head, read on...