Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Little Gems in the Desert

My sister has had the great misfortune of breaking her leg.  It is a nasty break and she has been housebound for so long that she gets a little bit of cabin fever now and again.  She broke it out here, in rural Australia on her property near to mine and has not been able to get back to the city let alone go back there for work. 

It has been and still is really horrible for her but it has been quite good for Pixel and me.  We can drop by whenever we like because she can not possibly go anywhere.  Pixel is loving his wheel chair rides – they call the wheel chair Thunderbird 13.  What is a grave misfortune, has been quite the gem for us.  Pixel has been able to bond even more closely with his Auntie and of course Nanna is always there looking after his Aunt so he has her at his disposal also.

Pixel now knows all about hospital and broken legs being fixed but more importantly, he knows that his Aunt and Nanna can not escape from the house.

Always a positive in a negative or a little gem in the desert….

Monday, 11 June 2012

So what exactly does TV do?

When I became a Mother I found that nurses, doctors, experts, other Mothers and so on would all parrot the latest research findings to me like they were quoting dogma.  Having not grown up with dogmas, I am fortunate to have a healthy skepticism when it comes to life and its goings on.   

I recall that when I was pregnant with Pixel, I saw a report on the news which stated that TV and other media such as computers were detrimental to children younger than three and that the French had put this notice on to all children’s videos.  I thought at the time that this was pretty serious stuff but hardly difficult to prevent a toddler from watching TV until after the age of three.

I had also learned that language is pathed in a child’s brain whilst still a forming baby in the womb and that by the age of three, if they are not exposed to alternative languages, that it would be much more difficult for the child to learn and retain other languages.

So this takes me to my dilemma of a few years back.  I desperately wanted Pixel to learn German for three reasons.  One was that his Omie and Opie would have loved to speak to him in German, being German themselves.  Reason two was that of course Pixel’s Father’s entire heritage is German and I wanted him to maintain a connection with his heritage.  Reason three is that I spoke very basic German that I had struggled so hard to learn so I thought that I could at least teach Pixel some words if not the correct sentences.

My solution was to make the most of this baby sponge time and ignore the warnings about TV.  This came about when I met with my Mother Care Nurse and the topic of TV came up.  Of course out came the diatribe so I stopped her and asked, “what does it do?”

The answer was not what I was expecting.  She told me that researchers had found that it impeded the child’s imagination.  “So that’s it?  That’s all it does?”  I asked and was given a very solemn affirmative.

“For goodness sakes,” I thought.  “That’s just crazy!” 

Having worked for a stint at a University in the Research Grants Office Department, I knew that not all research was true and at times, what was considered fact one day, was often overturned after the next study is completed.  For goodness sake Dr Spock had to appolgise to an entire generation of children (mine) and make huge adjustments to his techniques. 

Anyway I gave a rather glib comment along the lines of it perhaps being rather a good thing if it did manage to do that given that both of Pixel’s parents were dreamers.  We were the sorts that spent school days staring out the window, dreaming of more interesting things.  Needless to say, I did not believe this warning and I exposed my child to German programmes which have had a lasting effect.

Pixel has been exposed to fluent German speaking way beyond my capabilities.  We use words and phrases that I can manage and I expect that it will stay with him.  To this day he has only heard Tellie Tubbies in German. 

My opinion is, do not expose children to too much TV or other media devices ie computers just as they should not be over exposed to any thing.  Do not allow them to watch unattended and be interactive and reinforce with them what they are learning.

I will have to wait and see if there are any consequences but he has to me proven that he has an enormous imagination with every pen in the house being appropriated into rocket service and the like.  He also invents his own stories to go along with ambient music and so forth so somehow, I am just not too worried.

Friday, 8 June 2012

To PVC or Not to PVC that is the question Horatio ?

Well it has been three years and today, I actually put on one of my PVC pair of trousers.
It came about all of a sudden and was totally uncontrived.  I was cold, we live on a mountain, I needed to wear trousers, jeans create muffin tops and I wanted dignity and warmth that stockings would not provide.  Suddenly, there they were right before me – why hadn’t I worn them before now?  The black, PVC trousers!  Now I don’t care what anyone else tells you, having a baby changes ones figure for good.  The reason why these trousers were so appealing all of a sudden was exactly why they were slightly daggy when I used to have my figure; they had a stretchy panel!

Huzzah!  I could look cool, Goth and be warm and comfortable all at the same time. 

The phrase, “how the mighty have fallen” rattled around my head for a short while but hey, after three years of being a Mum and needing to wear trousers under my dresses due to crawling on the floor with my child (often in public), I thought I would cut myself some slack.

Yeah, it worked.  So I say, manufacturers, why don’t you just make more PVC clothing with stretchy panels for us old Goths to keep up the dream?…chAnges

Never having been one for swearing, I didn’t have to modify my speech until I remembered that I have a penchant for blasphemy when my Pixel began saying very loudly “Oh my GOD!”

To cap that off, he became obsessed with rockets when he hit the two year mark.  They were on an equal par with diggers until his Daddy showed him the Thunderbirds on youtube; rockets have won out ever since. 

All going well and learning to live with a child who dropped the “Oh my God” phrase every now and again, things started to really unravel when he began to yell at churches when we would drive past.  It was along the lines of “Rocket, blast off!”  I feel somewhat liberated that I attended a Methodist College rather than a Catholic College as I am sure that by this stage I would have been feeling that horrible guilt that seems to go around.  Happily for me, I felt bemused but thought I should put things right.  Not wanting to be negative and use the dreaded negative word, no, I would say something like, “Yes tower rockets.”  I thought we would get to the word spire later in life. 

Unfortunately to a two year old, tower rockets seemed to translate to a type of rocket so this became a new phrase he would yell out at churches passing by and anything with a tower/spire for that matter.

What can you do?  I really think the innocence of children has to prevail.  They mean no harm and life is so exciting and amazing that we must look at it through their eyes so that we may live fully ourselves. 

That being said, I find it much easier to modify my blasphemy and revert to a lot of phrases such as “Gosh, darn it”! “Good gracious!” and that old chestnut, “Blast!”

Thursday, 7 June 2012

Parenting Is An Art Unique to all Artists

One of my core ideas of parenting actually came from reading “Gone with the Wind.”  Years ago a solicitor I was working with and I had a cultural exchange, where she lent me this novel and I lent her the entirely inappropriate “Withnail and I.”  I didn’t realize until later that I had lent a movie about two hopeless alcoholics to an avid, non drinker.  The solicitor had said to me at the time to overlook the awful racism of “Gone With The Wind” and to try and read the rest of the story.   I took this on board and did just that and yes, I found it to be a shockingly racist novel full of ignorance and arrogance but it was also an interesting yarn and perhaps one of the first girl power books ever written.

The part that I have taken from this novel and applied to my parenting came from the character Rhett Butler.  He fiercely protected his daughter Belle from what he perceived to be the threat of Starlett’s undermining her confidence, abilities and strength of character.  He looked no further than to Scarlett’s son who was a frightened, insecure little boy who was often pushed aside by the thoughtless, yet courageous Mother.  Rhett suggested that strong women tended to raise weak children.  I supposed it was because he thought women of strength tended to do everything for the child rather than allow them to try for themselves and thus, grow and learn from mistakes or endeavors.  This has always been in the back of my mind as a Mother.  It is much easier to just do everything and much quicker to say the least but I made a conscious effort to allow my son to try and do things for himself and then mop up the mess later. 

The outcome of this is a very strong, opinionated force of personality.  I believe he always had these qualities within him but I made sure never to squash them or punish him for them.  This style of parenting has suited my husband’s natural way and he, time and again reinforces what I am doing without real design. 

In some respects what I have done in parenting could be said to lend a little of the Attachment Theories but I have tweaked to my own style and philosophies so that there are fundamental differences.  I disciplined myself to not let my beautiful, precious little baby fall asleep in my arms but would place him in his little bassinette with a loose swaddle and allow him to fall asleep naturally.  This was so hard to do but the benefits for myself, my Husband and my son were immediate.  My son was and always has been a great sleeper with only the teething era causing temporary havoc.  I had decided that it was my duty to raise him to be as independent as he wanted very much to be.  This of course, differs very much from the latest Attachment Theory pin up which seems to promote and prolong dependence of the child on the Mother, undermining the natural push for some level of independence and personal dignity. 
Omie had told me to take the skim from porridge and add it to Pixel’s bottles so we decided to start doing just that when our baby when he was around 3 months.  When I mentioned this to my Mother care nurse, I received a right telling off and much scoffing at it being out dated parenting.  I was told that babies received everything they needed from a bottle until they were 6 months at least and that if they were fed before that they would become obese.  I was told this was a fact from current research.  My husband and I considered this and decided that this was nouveau parenting and nothing more.  It was a fad on the latest research that would change with the next research grant.  My Husband was certain that Pixel needed and wanted food.  We fed him and I am glad that we did.  Our little one has consistently been just under the average weight and certainly needed topping up.  We now had a little boy who loves his food and sleep, adores adventures and running yet remains a light weight still.

It has been amazing to share the experience of parenthood with my husband, whom I admire, love and respect.  I have often wondered at his tireless enthusiasm over our little son.

Chip off the Old Goth (and the Old Punk of course)

Of course my Pixel is very much a part of me and our womb-time that we spent together was a private and special time for us both.  From the time he moved into my womb, I changed my lifestyle so that his environment was totally his and after 9 months (and a little bit more), I got it back.  Like a zealot, I studied the list of foods that I had to leave behind and what I was allowed to have and I strictly lived by it.  I gave up coffee, alcohol, salad from cafes, fetta goodness the list went on.  I remember my sister taking us out for lunch as a treat for my 40th birthday and all I could have from the menu was the fruit muesli.  There was an issue with utterly everything listed on the menu.  It was quite surprising to me that of all the things I missed the most, it was not alcohol or coffee, it was actually eggs Benedict!  I suffered badly from nausea and vomiting for most of the pregnancy and in the last trimester when that was meant to right itself, I suffered from reflux. I have no regrets over my pregnancy and gave it the best that I could and really treasured our womb-time.

As an ex DJ music has always been important to me.  I think Pixel was always going to love music too and I believe that he enjoyed listening to my compilation tapes in the car drive home after a long day at work filled with solicitor’s discussions of contracts.

Toward the end of my pregnancy, my husband began re-mastering songs from his old band.  I would listen to each mix and give my opinion and I believe that the little Pixel inside was absorbing what life would be on the outside with music.
Aside from sharing some of my traits, Pixel is also a very large chunk of his Father and the two are utterly devoted to each other.  Sometimes I think they have a telepathic connection as quite often, one completes the others’ thoughts and such.

My husband and I have a private lounge attached to our bedroom which we had set up as our record bar where we would lounge together and play records and drink cocktails.  This lasted until Pixel could climb the stairs up to our room.  It didn’t take long for him to insist on this space as his record/music space to share with his Daddy and he would ask me to leave; sometimes quite brutally.  Of course I would respect this and leave the two of them to share their special music time together.  When my Husband would insist that I stay with them I would notice that Pixel at times became distressed by trying to compete with me for his Father’s full attention.  Clearly this time was special and it was best that I removed myself so that Pixel could dominate his Daddy for those special moments.  These moments also expanded to our downstairs computer to watch clips of bands on Youtube.

From The Beatles to Bowie as firm favourites our Pixel slowly began to broaden his taste to eventually become obsessed by The Buzzcocks.  Pixel called them the Buzzcops and so they became named in our household.  He became recharged over his little drum set that “Nikolas” had sent to him on the 5 December the year before (it was actually his Opie who sent it).   So enthusiastic was he, that he broke his sticks.  Of course his Daddy scoured music shops to get him new ones but unlike his little plastic ones, these were solid wood.  Soon bits of the little drum kit began to fly around the house as the sticks were thudded down with all his little might.  We resolved to get him a new drum kit that was for older children so that it could stand up to the Buzzcops mania that our son was experiencing. 

From giving Beatle bows, he would give a short sharp “Buzzcop” bow that the drummer did after a gig; he also insisted on wearing his leather jacket in 30 degree heat.

Perhaps he began to channel my husband and my old personas……

Old Goth New Tricks: Appearance

So what happens when an old Goth/rockabilly/punk becomes a Mum?  Does it all fall away?  Does the look prevail?  Does the make up, or the corsets, or the boots, wind their way into a Mother’s Group?  I don’t really know how it is for others but I can speak as to how it has been for me. 

So the clobber, what happened there and the make up?  The practical way of life stepped in.  Days would pass where I wouldn’t see or speak to a single person aside from my husband when he would return in the evening to our little nest.  I slowly began to give away discomfort for the practical.  Eventually my son began to insist that I wear colours and I realized that my old Gothic tendencies were impacting upon my happy little son.

Motherhood and being so far from family and friends has also meant that my husband and I stopped going out as a couple.  There was no need for my elaborate makeup of the past given that we were staying in.  On rare occasions one of the old bands would tour that all the old bods would dust off the cobwebs for and I would have once moved Heaven and Earth to see but the new me contentedly stayed with my son and my Husband attended these with his friends and without me.  I suppose if I had family close by, I would likely still go to these things on the rare occasions that they fall but living so far from city life has meant a new mindset of self sufficiency and submerging entirely into the here and now.  There is no one that I can ask to come and sit with my son so that I can go out with my Husband.  So far, it has not been a dramatic sacrifice for either of us.  I would not trade our happy little ever after life for anything and neither would my Husband.  Any difficulties are really not that difficult when outweighed with the ultimate pleasure of having a happy little toddler/monkey jumping on the bed. 

What has surprised me about motherhood is how all consuming it actually is.  Of course it doesn’t have to be that way but I chose to attend to my son’s every need and drop everything and devote my full attention to him with the view to this making him independent and self sufficient when he gets bigger (which he now is both).  I had signed on for study that never seems to get anywhere, with the expectation of having enough free time to power through it.  What I have found is that my brain has changed and it isn’t as receptive or hungry as it used to be for information and learning has become a bit of a struggle.  Sometimes I think my son has absorbed my brain.  I exaggerate of course; I meant he has absorbed my academic brain. 

Back to the clobber though; on occasions I would pull out the old clothes and wear what I could still fit into (the body changes are another story) on the rare occasions that we had friends come to visit.  I felt like my old self but by the way Pixel would gaze at my Gothic make up. I knew to him, that this wasn’t the person he knew.  He was accepting and in fact he accepted his Father turn up one day heavily made up as a zombie (that’s another story) but Pixel seems to be thinking that he knows us both from the inside out.    

"What’s It All About Alfie?" Moments

I was fortunate enough to fall pregnant when I was 39 and with four month to go in my pregnancy, I turned the dreaded 40.  I can’t say if my body was going to change into that of a middle aged woman simply because I turned 40 but it suits me to think that I sacrificed it for my pregnancy.  It seems some how, more noble than to say I was heading toward old bagdom anyways.

Of course I’ve had my fair share of those “what’s it all about Alfie” moments.  Introspection is part of life and something we are born with; from tiny babies contemplating their own hands to adults trying to find their purpose, we all wonder at times, what it’s all about. 

My husband ensured that he kept me at home for the first three years of our child’s life, by making financial plans and sacrifices so that we can give our son what we consider to be the best possible chance at life.  I have squirreled and made meal plans.  I had taught myself how to make bread, focaccia and the perfect muffin all out of necessity.  As needs must but the time spent with my son has been invaluable.  I will be returning to part time work most likely next year as my son, Pixel, will then be attending 4 year old kindergarten.  We will need some relief from the relentless grind of having very little money tempered by a whole lot of love and our little son will be confidently exploring the world at kinder.

Two days before Pixel was born, my husband and I moved to live in rural Victoria.  We left our one bedroom apartment and the cafĂ© latte lifestyle behind and ended up with our own home with an established garden for our little one to play in.

The move was wonderful for our Pixel.  He loves his house and garden and of course, his own room.  It has been more difficult on my husband and me.  My husband drives to the city every day for work and back again every evening.  He does not complain but it is very draining.  This meant that I stayed at home with the baby and no one around me to speak to.  From an active social life, I faced a lonely and isolated one.   I focused all of my energies and attention upon my son and would speak to him about what I was doing or thinking; sometimes just humming to make happy noises in a very quiet house.

I am a very different person as to who I was even three years ago.  Once an active protester and worker/volunteer at Community Legal Services, clubber and concert goer, I have changed fundamentally.  Nowadays I get angry over things like the corporate mentality pervading children’s television by the sacking of a beloved entertainer without regard to what the children actually want.  It is a privilege to entertain children, not a business and with privileges, comes responsibility.  On this issue, my son won’t be watching the unnamed programme again as it will be too difficult to explain to him that his favorite of the four has been sacked because they don’t want to play with him anymore.

Motherhood has been the best experience of my life.  It has fortified me against my father’s death and that of my Mother in Law by giving me a clear sense of purpose.  It has nourished my soul, so to speak.  The unreal reality of death is too much to deal with without being tempered with life. I look at my son and I see a clear future for him of happiness and contentment that I am prepared to do anything to ensure unfolds for him.  I am somewhat of a helicopter Mum I have to admit.  To be more precise, I think I am the one step just before that of a helicopter mum and I am a mother hen or an overly doting mother.  When I sometimes look around and wonder why I am living in the bush, and have one of those “What’s it all about Alfie?” moments I look to my happy little family and it all makes sence.  This is what it’s all about for me and I am grateful to be Pixel’s Mum and married to my ex punk rocker.

Hello Earth (as Kate Bush once sang)

This is my first entry in what I hope will be many to come