1 Nov 2014
NaNoWriMo starts today. Read More
There is a perfectly good playground on the top of a hill in Canberra, and the parents are ruining it. Through a misguided idea that all kids need to be able to do everything immediately and need to be helped to do everything, the Pod Playground today was full of helicopter parents hovering. Not just(…)
Friday night I was blindsided. Punched in the soul. By my best friend. She meant it too. It wasn’t a casual sucker punch to the solar plexus, it was much worse than that.
Conversations with strangers
How a kettle ruined my office.
One hundred and eighty five days is a long time to not do something you profess to love. It has been one hundred and eighty five days since I wrote a blog post. This blog which sustained me during dark times, good times, mothering times, and busy times, has been shelved. It was intentional, in(…)
The problem with being a control freak, is that the conceit only works if everyone else plays along too.
Blogvember post the last 2013. Yuletide joy.
5 Oct 2014
There is a perfectly good playground on the top of a hill in Canberra, and the parents are ruining it.
Through a misguided idea that all kids need to be able to do everything immediately and need to be helped to do everything, the Pod Playground today was full of helicopter parents hovering. Not just watching closely, but ‘playing’ if you could call it that. At one point this afternoon there was a log jam of fathers in among the children trying to climb the rope ladders inside the acorns to get to the corkscrew slide launch point. I looked up, horrified to see a father with his hand on the nappied bum of a tiny toddler high up in the big kids acorn equipment. This little person wouldn’t have been able to climb up on her own but her father was there, shoving her along with one hand on her bum. The bigger kids pushed past him. He persisted with his mission. Get the child to the top of the equipment. For what? So he can slide down the slide with her on his lap? To give you an idea of the scale and how high up this guy was with his tiny child, here is a shot from earlier this year.
The irony is that this is a playground is in an Arboretum. It is about nature and growth. To quote from one of its many promotional pieces, ‘the design recognises that play is a vital social development and educational tool for children of all ages, and is particularly important when it assists in forming relationships to its landscape, climate and surrounding context. The world amongst the giant seeds aims to stimulate spontaneity and creativity, to foster the imagination and to challenge and encourage confidence with growth.’
The Pod Playground has won countless prestigious design awards. It’s safer than our house. Much much safer than our backyard. People visit it from everywhere in Canberra and all over the country. It is a sought after play experience with a well thought through intent and experts in design and safety behind it. It is more than million dollars of quality play experience. And yet here are the parents of our future over-achievers with their hands all over their kids and their own bodies blocking the way.
Most of the seating was occupied today and at 11-30 in full sun. Instead I sat quietly on the concrete lid of the electrics box near the gate. You can see it in the lower left of the photo above. It is one of the very few shady places during the middle of the day. I leaned up against the gate watching on and off as I listened to music, partly to drown out other people shouting at their children to be careful! I inwardly screamed at the mothers carrying babies without hats, and the ones called Jayden. There is a significant issue here, and it isn’t about me judging other people’s parenting, although I will freely admit to plenty of that. The babies without hats! Then there was the mother who shouted at her son, right in his face, ‘stop being a little shit.’ Aside from the obvious, stop being a little shit or what? What was she going to do if he didn’t stop? What reward would he receive if he did? All shades of wrong.* It is much more serious than that.
The mother of one toddler said to her older child, you try telling her she can’t go in there? Well indeed, but don’t give her a leg up. Let her figure it out for herself that she can’t reach the next rung of the perfectly proportioned and safe ladder. She’ll work out she can’t reach, and go and do something else, or cry or eat gravel or something that will be equally irritating to her parents.
I watched Catalyst this week and it featured a story about nature play and how important it was. The Pod Playground at the National Arboretum featured and it reminded me that we hadn’t been for a while. I filled it away as an activity to do over this solo parenting weekend. The story was about outside nature play and how children (some children) do not get enough of it, and also about how vital it is. The story emphasised kids being allowed to take risks, learn things, be themselves and most importantly be outside. As one of the academics, Associate Professor Tonia Gray, who was interviewed said, ‘taking incremental risks, such as this, allows their growth and development to occur in a gradual and sequential rate.’ What she said before that was essentially that while Pod was great, it wasn’t proper nature. She’s right, it is safe nature. So safe you’d have to really be trying.
We aren’t regulars at Pod Playground at the Arboretum for a couple of reasons. Firstly, there is very limited shade and the coffee is awful. We do go there occasionally. After today, I will think twice about it, even though Benedict really enjoys it. We have other choices open to us, actual bush for one, just 1 kilometre from our house. With real sticks and rocks. What clinched it for me today was Benedict. After being out of my sight for a good 20 minutes, I went looking for him. He was in the sand sea-saw. Where were you mum? he asked. Just over there I said. I couldn’t find you, he said, so I came over here.
I need to be there less. He needs to want to find me less. Seems to me it is really difficult to take risks and learn with someone breathing down your neck. Or in the case of this equipment, your bum in their face as they follow you through the climbing frame.
* Of course I also shout at my child but I mostly employ the crouched over fierce growling while in public.
25 Jul 2014
You won’t believe how fast it goes, he said. Mine is 6 foot 4 now.
His beard, entirely white with nicotine stains that betrayed a lifetime of smoking, surrounded his smiling mouth. He followed me out of the shiny new parcel hall of the lego red post office. It goes so quickly, he said. Suddenly, they sleep all night and then before you know it, they are gone. When I see little ones like that, he said pointing to my son, I am reminded how fast it goes. I’m not a pervert, he quickly added.
How I wish this stranger hadn’t had to add that last phrase. It never crossed my mind that he was. I just was pondering the smoking and the tinge of sadness in his voice as he recalled his own son and the fleeting reminder of him. He felt it necessary to reassure me in some way. He signaled that his act of just observing my boy playing with his animals on the floor while I retrieved a parcel, was just an innocent glance of a stranger. As we all walked out of the parcel hall he said, you are doing a great job. I thanked him and marveled myself how fast the last four and a half years have already gone.
There is a strange sadness to all our lives now that a grandfatherly man cannot talk to a woman about her son without an element of suspicion. It made me feel so melancholy that he needed to say that. That our society has eroded to the point where men of a certain age, or even, men of any age, cannot comment about children that are not their own.
Had this man, with his stained beard and soft Canadian accent, simply said, they grow up so fast, I would have just nodded and smiled. You won’t believe how fast it goes.
7 Jul 2014
Make no mistake, beverages are extremely important to me. More important than most other comestibles. Since I was nine years old and I discovered on a life changing trip to Canada, that people drank things other than water. Hot chocolate. Every afternoon. Just because it is nice! I was hooked from that moment. Read More
13 Jun 2014
One hundred and eighty five days is a long time to not do something you profess to love. It has been one hundred and eighty five days since I wrote a blog post. This blog which sustained me during dark times, good times, mothering times, and busy times, has been shelved. It was intentional, in a way. Read More
30 Nov 2013
The final blogvember piece herald the beginning of the end of the year. Bring on the parties, the glasses of fizz, the gin and tonics. New traditions I am forging like a tree from 1 December, and homemade advent calendar give me joy and I hope can bring back the pleasures of the season that are sometimes jettisoned for style over substance.
Today we bought all the dried fruit and mixed peel and cinnamon sticks we need from the markets. We bought vermouth and brandy, bitters and more. All the base ingredients for mince tarts, fruit cake, puddings and delicious drinks. Here’s cheers to that! The next few weeks are a whirlwind. I am going to try to focus on the enjoyment of the little simple pleasures. The joy of champagne popping, the tinkling lights, the smiles of people I love. I will try to not get too hot and bothered. We will have cold lunch and pudding at 10 o’clock at night when it’s cool enough. I am looking forward particularly to trifle. I love trifle more than almost all the other christmasy treat combined. You’ll find me on Boxing Day morning with a spoon and my head inside the fridge.
Let’s deck the halls and make the yuletide gay. Now all I want to do is count down. Christmas in T – minus 25 days.
29 Nov 2013
This blogvember I have so far written 11 536 words. By the last word on the post tomorrow it will be over 12 000. There are insights in those words, secrets and typos. There were a wide variety of topics covered and having completed a quick review, some of the writing could be better, and a lot of it would have been better with more editing. Such is the challenge of blogvember, write everyday, write fast and post.
The discipline of writing everyday is one of the techniques most commonly cited in advice for writers.
I’ve cited this before and I will again to remind myself that I am not there yet.
WRITE EVERY DAY
Writing is a muscle. Smaller than a hamstring and slightly bigger than a bicep, and it needs to be exercised to get stronger. Think of your words as reps, your paragraphs as sets, your pages as daily workouts. Think of your laptop as a machine like the one at the gym where you open and close your inner thighs in front of everyone, exposing both your insecurities and your genitals. Because that is what writing is all about. (Colin Nissan)
Much self editing has been at play, and not enough exposure. The exposing of insecurities I still need to work on. The generation of new ideas has been easier and harder than last year, sometimes I think because some of my ideas have already had a good run. It also lead me to conclude that there is a bit of sameness in the routine between this year and last year. I think now would be a good time for a complete overhaul and a new writing venture. I’ll be mulling that over while I keep doing my daily workout over the summer.
29 Nov 2013
12 months, 11 women, much wine and many opinions.
The Christmas celebration was filled with cheesy Christmas music – Michael Bublé anyone? – and great food. It was for many the first official end of year celebration and there was some relish with which several members of the party took to that first gin and tonic.
Blogvember took a back seat while we feasted and chatted. During the end of dinner there was a suggestion of writing a line each for a post, however when it came to it, the motivation waned. I did however ask the eleven women some questions. And here is a glimpse into what we get up to once a month.
I like book club because I read things I would never otherwise read - KM
And sometimes I appreciate the books more after we discuss them. However, in most cases I still forget them – AM
What about the new Christos Tsiolkas one? Is that full of the c word like the last one? KM
They are quite good to listen to in the car … Matthew Riley .. talking books – AM
Coming down in favour of Roadl Dahl for the kids as talking books … they are good family distraction – CP
I like book club because it is my only adult pursuit – TP
David Tennant doing all the Vikings accents – is awesome – I love David – the how to train your dragon stories are awesome, the characters are awesome, even if I can never remember all their names – CP
I love bookclub because you can be smart at bookclub and it is ok, no wait, it’s because you can be opinionated and that’s ok – TL
I love bookclub because I get to hang out with fabulous women – LR
I love bookclub because I have met wonderful women I might never have met – KSM
The only reason I am here is because I had a crush on Paula’s boyfriend – TP
It is not about the book, it’s about downloading our lives - KSM
The books are sometimes hotly debated. Contentious books particularly. The chats and stories and support are worth as much as all the books in the world.
This year we read – Flaubert’s Parrot (Jullian Barnes), Past the Shallows (Favel Parret), When Colts Ran (Roger McDonald – our Canberra Centenary book), 100 Year Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window (Jonas Janasson), Behind the Beautiful Forevers (Katherine Boo), Illegal Action (Stella Rimington), The Rose Grower (Michelle De Krester), The Constant Gardener (John LeCarre), The Perks of Being a Wall Flower (Stephen Chbosky), Burial Rites (Hannah Kent), and Dog Boy (Eva Hornung ).
27 Nov 2013
Sometimes blogging is like philosophy.
Here’s one I wrote earlier.
In the hegemonic, one can claim to have the answer, or to have no use for images but we might as well do away with “false windows that lend symmetry and with illusory self-justifications.” In line with this project of the possibilities of non-hegemonic philosophy Le Dœuff notes that her own project will indeed be incomplete and provisional and never more so than in the Larynx.
One of Le Dœuff’s other imperatives is the idea that it is better to start to speak before knowing where the speaking will end than to not speak at all from fear of the not knowing. There are two aspects of methodology which will be important to capturing the resonances of the “Philosophy in the Larynx” paper. I will focus firstly on her operative lever of Rousseau to present the material of “Philosophy in the Larynx” and secondly, on the fragment which does not try to reconstruct everything and which might allow whispered, impressionistic stories which “can lead the way to an understanding of the most vital lesson”.
26 Nov 2013
There are parts of me that are damaged and sore. Literally and metaphorically the tender velvet purple bruise of pain resides in my right hip. It is at times more present and then, it recedes and fades. The soft part which is evident if you press it, if I lie on it, is protected, shielded and cosseted. The words to describe the pain do not come easily. I wonder if it will ever heal. Ever stop hurting.
The pain leads to compensation. It leads to holding back. I don’t use the full range of motion. I lengthen, only to a point. I hold back and keep myself in check, in reserve. Literally and metaphorically the pain is protected. I hold it in, as I hold myself back. I downplay. It doesn’t hurt that much. It doesn’t hurt today. It’ll feel better after I had a hot pack, a panadol, a stretch. Deep in my hip the pain curls itself deep in the tissue and keeps quiet and invisible.
The causes of the velvet purple bruise of pain are deeper than the tissue. They are deeper than me. They might stretch back to the beginning of me. The soft parts need careful handling. The bruise needs to be strengthened from the inside. The support structures of the hip, the tissues, the tendons need to be gently worked over. The rest of me need to be able to sustain. The rest of me needs to bear the bruise and the pain of working on the damage. I can’t run. It follows. I fell and now I am paying for hitting the ground.