FREEDOM, FAMILY and FUN

26  January 2012

FREEDOM, FAMILY and FUN

Happy Australia Day…. a day to celebrate being Australian.

I wasn’t born in Australia but I have been living here for well over fourteen years.  As soon as I could, I applied to receive my Australian Citizenship.  I am proud to be Australian and very patriotic too.  To me, Australia Day holds a special significance.  It reconfirms my commitment to living here.  Not once in my entire fourteen years have I looked back and wished I was “back home” where I was born.  In fact, quite often throughout the months and years I have had moments where I felt incredibly grateful for what I have here available to me compared to so many others in this world.  There is just one word for it and its called FREEDOM.

What would it be like to keep looking over your shoulders to see if you are followed? 

I used to live in a beautiful country, lots of wild animals and yes, in my early years a lot of freedom.  This freedom changed slowly over the years as politics became more heated between the different races and war erupted, crime took over and a human’s life was worth nothing.

I had the best childhood years.  My parents had a huge house and garden (well huge in the eyes of a 10-year-old kid) and definitely huge in today’s standards.  I don’t remember my life until about age 4 or 5.  I remember we had a tricycle my sister and I shared, it was one of those really sturdy ones and blue.  I would be the one pedalling and my sister stood on the back of it.  One day we took it out onto the roads (unbeknownst to my mother) and went down a hill that was a bit too steep.  My sister became scared and jumped off which left me to tumble front end over, again and again.  The resulting bitumen scrape marks with blood and gore on my nose, forehead, knees and elbows where hard to conceal from my mother, who was needless to say, more than a bit angry at us doing what we should not have done in the first place.  This was quickly replaced by concern about me howling my face off.  (I knew how to make the most of this!).

We also built the most amazing “farms” in the dirt outside the garden.  It was complete with roads and cars and paddocks stocked with plastic animals.  To top it all off, we even managed to catch a few corn crickets (terribly ugly-looking things) which we tried to keep inside the fences.  The plastic fences were usually held in place by soft sand and obviously no match for this big beast.  Once, we managed to find a chameleon in one of the big trees we had in our garden.  We always climbed the trees.  It was pitch black and its two eyes kept moving in opposite directions, hissing at us to stay away.  I was fascinated by this creature and to this day feel a close affinity to a chameleon.  I spend many school holidays on a farm owned by a family friend with very few responsibilities.  As a kid I was really fortunate.  Those were good days….

Fast forward to my adult years.  We grow up and then realise that the long summer months of playing and freedom are gone for good.  Games replace the need to create a living.  Freedom is replaced by having to make choices every single day of your life until one day you wake up and realise that there is more to life than work and money and status.  My wake-up call came the year when I was doing really well in all areas in my life. I was managing a jewellery store for a very large, well-known company.  The shop was doing well, we usually met our targets and life was generally good… until the day the store was held up at gun-point. Freedom was replaced by fear, endless fear and continuously looking over your shoulder.  There is nothing quite like this fear.  Many more unrelated incidences followed that year and a good year turned into a horror year.  The talk of crime was on everyone’s lips, there was no escape.  It was then that the decision was made to migrate to Australia.

What does it mean to be Australian? 

For me, not one Australia Day celebration is the same.  I feel good when I am able to see families and friends gather together with their extended families, usually in a park or on the beach, having a barbecue (BBQ) followed by a game of cricket or other outdoor games.  If you closed your eyes you would be able to feel this energy around you.  The smell of BBQs in the air, the sounds of kids laughing intermingled with adult laughter and the sound of the cricket ball it makes against the bat when it strikes; followed by the hollering and cheering of success.   I love seeing these gatherings because they represent everything that I always long for.  FAMILY.  Huge big families, with lots and lots of kids of all ages, FUN and laughter.  I feel good when I see images on the television that night showing the various celebrations.   Many more people receive their citizenship on this day, a day of CELEBRATION and it is also a day of remembrance for those who have fought in the wars to give us this FREEDOM.  Maybe one day I too will have these very large family gatherings but for now I am just happy to be here and enjoy what I have.

  To me …. THAT is Australia Day  ♥

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Parenting after Separation, making the most of family changes

22 January 2012

Parenting after Separation

Making the most of family changes is not that difficult to achieve if you are open to cultivating a positive and flexible approach to family life after separation.  Looking ahead without dwelling too much on what has been helps to approach parenting issues in a realistic and light-hearted way, anticipating and adapting the extra dimensions in your family, seeing them as a challenge rather than as a hassle.

This is not to say that separating can be made to be positive just by will power.  Most go through a really bad time as we come to terms with what we are facing.  However, your children will do better if you are positive and confident with how you approach life in general.

Appreciating one another’s point of view on different standpoints is an important step towards successful co-parenting.

Helpful and unhelpful attitudes

Every parent wants to be a successful one.  We hope that our children will achieve everything we would like to have achieved ourselves.  We try to improve our parenting in all the areas where we feel our own parents got it wrong, and to give our children all those things we value about our own childhood.  We worry quite a lot about the effect our separation will have or is having on our children, and we want to do all that we can to make up for the changes they have to make.  We want to ensure that our children don’t miss out on all that is important.

There’s no doubt that parents separating is usually a sad and disrupting experience for children, but they generally get over it in time, and will certainly do so faster if it is handled well.

If you are able to put aside notions of blame, disappointment, failure, injustice and instead learn to understand how these factors will influence your and your children’s attitudes and behaviour then you are able to take on board a commitment to self-responsibility, personal awareness, patience and the potential for growth.

Language and labels

The last decade has seen a marked change in assumptions about parenting after separation.  It’s not just about ensuring that fathers have an equal right to parent when there is a family break-up.  It would seem that more and more parents are opting for shared parenting on an equal basis.

Therefore, instead of referring to your child’s other parent as “the ex” or  more formally “previous partner”, a more positive approach would be to refer to him/her as “John’s dad” or “Jenny’s mum” or even better, use the other parent’s name in reference rather than avoidance.  We were all given names and by using each other’s names in a kind manner allows our children to observe and reinforce our positive behaviour towards other people.

I read a blog the other day and the heading is “Put your words away” (written by earlbrussel).  It refers to a teachers who taught her children to “put their words away” shortly before crossing the road.  This has struck a chord with me.  If we as adults remember to “put our words away” before saying something negative, then the process of acceptance allows you to focus on what is important right now.

Accepting your ex for who they are allows you to focus on the needs of your children

Taking care of yourself

It is easy to get so caught up in the new parenting role that we neglect our own wants and needs.  We might feel guilty and selfish wanting to take “time out” even while our children are around, thinking we have to be there for them 24/7, play with them or attend to their needs all the time.  This is a trap most of us fall into at one point or another.  Don’t think that self-reflection , and looking after your own interests, is self-indulgence.  Children demand and hold your attention but why not show them and expose them to your world.  Do something that is important to you and share it with them.

Working towards successful co-parenting is a gradual process of attitude change.

♣ Image credit: office.microsoft.com/images/ MP900399506 & MP900409455

When Your Kids push Your Buttons…

15 January 2012

When your Kids push your Buttons…

Who would have thought that a book written in 2003 by Bonnie Harris “When Your Kids Push Your Buttons, And What You Can Do About It” would spin me out tonight.

I had this book sitting on my bookshelf for ages.  It was for sale on eBay but no-one seemed to buy it and then I finally sold it today, hurrah!  I fanned the pages to make sure there is nothing in there that should not be there before wrapping it up for postage.

As I fanned the pages a certain heading caught my attention:
“She’s out to get me!”
  I stopped to read the rest.  I could not put the book down.  Little Miss M will be 3 in May and oh, how can she push MY buttons at such a young age!  I know she is a very clever, strong-willed individual and I certainly don’t want to break her spirit but I also had to find a way around our occasional conflicts.  Already in kindy she seems to be the leader by initiating games and the other kids follow her instructions.  I always admired that about her when I first heard about it from her teachers.  I was a follower, still am sometimes.  Although, I have to say, I never, ever thought or said my daughter is “out to get me”, it was just the heading that caught my attention.

What rattled my cage were the next few pages.  It made me review my own childhood.  Just to make it clear from the start, whilst I do believe we are shaped by our childhood, I never really thought there was anything terribly wrong with my childhood.  To this day I maintain I had a great childhood, in many ways very innocent too.  For the first time in my entire life I realise now that all I ever wanted to do was to keep the peace at home and gain my parent’s approval.  My sister was the feisty, fighting one, pushing my mother to the end of her tether until she exploded in anger.  I, on the other hand, did everything to please my mother.  To this day it is still the same!  I’m not saying I’m Miss Goody Two Shoes.  Oh yes, I was quite a rascal and tomboy from time to time too and certainly did get into trouble just as much.

So, back to the future, ….

What has this all to do with my daughter and I?  Well, from time to time since her toddler years started, we have our occasional battle of wills and thus far I believed that it was just a matter of me guiding her into doing what is the right thing to do and not really understanding why she won’t do it.  That is until I read further…

In essence, because I grew up trying to please my parents; unintentionally I wanted Little Miss M to please me too (per se).  Thus unwittingly I was trying to shape her into conforming to MY way just like my mother did when I grew up.  Most importantly, I know I am a very good mum to my little girl but sometimes when the battles of wills raged out of hand I doubted my ability to raise this child and occasionally thought that I wasn’t a good mum (just self-doubt).  I didn’t know how to get around these feelings until today.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t have “mother issues” or any issues for that matter… it was just a lightbulb moment where I realised how I was raised is not necessarily how Little Miss Independent should or needs to be raised.

At a deeper level…

It also then occurred to me that since my separation from my daughter’s dad my confident levels have dipped considerably.  I thought it was just normal to feel that way and that it would take time to heal from these wounds.  I realise now that growing up and wanting to please everyone is something I continued doing throughout my adult life and in my relationships with partners and friends alike, putting their needs ahead of my own.  This is not something that can be changed overnight but certainly something I will be mindful of.

Another point I would like to make is that, as parents we are bound to make “mistakes”.  It is never our intention and we have the best in mind for our children.  Our parents made mistakes too but they may never realise it.  It is how WE perceive those mistakes and whether we choose to blame our parents for these “mistakes.  I don’t, do you?

Self-realisation is incredibly powerful and a great healer towards something better to come.

  (Image Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Goody_Two-Shoes_%281%29.jpg)