How long do I have to pander to my kids’ fears ?

Scared

Scared

It’s a loooong time ago that I started kindy, so long that I cant even face working out what year it was. Somewhere in the mid 70s I’m guessing. Around 40 years ago, so I cant profess to remember the whole experience, but I do remember snippets clearly and have an overall feel for how it went.

We went to school. Full stop. No clinging, no crying, no begging Mummy not to leave. We were dropped off and went inside and got on with it. I don’t remember it even occurring to me to cling or cry even when I was scared or uncertain. Granted I had two sisters there, but the very last thing they were going to do was look after me. I barely got a grunt out of them until we all got home after school.

In fact, I don’t actually remember being dropped off at school. In Sydney we caught the bus. When we moved to Perth, I was 8 and we rode our bikes to school.

I know, I know, I’m doing the “in my day” thing. Ugh. Sorry. But it’s relevant.

Tippi has always been a nervous, shy kid. She’s always stayed close to me, she’s not the kid that gets lost in the shopping mall, she’s not a risk taker. Which has served me well over time as kids who wander are harder work, but it means she misses out on experiences. As she’s grown in age she’s grown in confidence, which has been frankly a big relief, but not that much confidence. At least 3 days a week, there’s some kind of clinging when I take her to school – it might be as mild as needing a few cuddles, or right up to the full blown Beg and Cling dance. Yep, she’s that kid. You’ve all seen them.

And then there’s the night fears that appeared a couple of years ago. I know, I GET that! I was terrified of the dark as a kid thanks to my two older sisters’ constant torment (cue evil Russian accent): “Dracula is coming to suck your blooooood”. Teeth time, story time, snuggle time, ‘night, love you’, dark…… ARGGGHHHHHHHH! Terrifying. The dark was so so scary for me right up until adulthood and then some.

But I had to suck it up. The hall light was left on while I was falling asleep and that was it. No parent checking on me, no staying with me, no lullabies. It was goodnight, get myself to sleep. I remember lying there in a sweat sometimes, trembling. But I went to sleep eventually and now I can live on a remote farm with no other adult in the house and all lights off and sleep soundly all night.

Tippi has the door open, the hall lights on, lullabies playing softly, a 2 minute check, 5 minutes, 8 minutes etc until asleep which doesn’t usually take long but jeeeez it is interminable when has started, it’s the end of the day, couch is beckoning.

So here’s the thing. I want Tippi to grow into a person who is independent, resilient, brave, fierce, adventurous, confident, able to take risks, living life to its fullest, and every other cliche I can think of. I don’t know for sure, but I strongly believe my parents did that for me, with a little help from my big sisters.

I confess, I’m over pandering to her fears whether they’re real or imagined. Surely by doing so, I’m fueling them, aren’t I? By hugging her 10 times at school drop off, hanging around, waving, encouraging, maybe I’m being nice and loving, but it’s not helping her to learn independence. By staying with her in her room when she’s scared at night might be a motherly thing to do, but doesn’t it confirm that if I’m not there, monsters might come in?

I’ve toughened up lately. I walk away at school after just a couple of hugs. I speak sternly if she follows me out, and I don’t look back. Actually this week I did look back and she was skipping happily back into school which tells me she’s playing me. I don’t stay in her room after lights out.

Then on the flipside… she’s 5, that little teary face breaks my heart into a million pieces.

Oh FFS, no it doesn’t, it’s infuriating, I have other things to get on with and this kid needs to learn resilience.

So tell me, how loving and patient do I have to be to these fears without cementing them for her, and how tough do I have to be without traumatising her?

Parenting Dilemma #5078.

Do you have a fearful child? How do you manage it?

A Year Gone By

A little over I year ago I jumped into this blogging thing with gusto, cranking out 10 or so blogs in a couple of months. It seemed to get some reads, some interest, mainly from my friends. Lot’s of indifference, of course, you’ve got to expect that, but some nice comments too. I got some Facebook likes, and then…….I stopped. Why?

Because it got terrifying. On Facebook it gets a much, much wider audience than I would have by just staying on WordPress, which was exciting at first. Then a little intoxicating as I looked at the stats – people were clicking! But then self-judgement came in and it suddenly seemed unbearably self-indulgent, boring and well, kinda embarrassing.

So I stopped.. And I must say I now have an enormous respect for those successful bloggers with thousands, tens of thousands of readers, letting it all hang out. What amazing confidence, such lack of self-consciousness – opening themselves up to the judgement and the brutality of the internet. Because with all the love they get, there’s a whole lot of nastiness thrown their way. It’s a brave person who blogs for a living.

A couple of my lovely friends have told me to get onto it again, and after a somewhat turbulent 12 months, I’ve had an urge to write. Please feel free to bugger off now, this is me time.

The Last 12 Months 

We built:

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Our very grown up house. I think it looks like a winery. Actually it could be with the amount of wine going through our place these days.

Nothing to get excited about yet – it’s more or less a shell. We are about half way and any further progress will be slow unless someone wants to throw a lazy couple of hungey grand our way (PM me for bank details).  We chip, chip, chip away at it one tradey at a time. And to bring in the bucks to get it finished, Andy continues to work away, which frankly is hard on the family and our relationship. But eye on the prize – when it’s built he can come home, get a lower paying local job and we’ll be a family together living in our glam country home.

We sent:

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Our girl off to kindy. With a 1st of March birthday, we had the dilemma of sending her this year, at 4 nearly 5, or waiting till next year when she’s 5 turning 6. I agonised about it right up to the day she started, and then for the first half of 1st term. She is fine, she loves it, is making friends and is loving learning to read and write. I will always wonder if she’d have been better off if we’d waited, and I suspect she would have been. But she’s fine, she’s happy.

We changed:

My work situation. By far the absolutely best thing that has happened in the last 12 months is quitting my job as a part-time financial planner. I’m not sure Andy agrees, but he’s supporting it bless him. We have one kid, one shot at it, and I wanted to do it completely. I wanted to be involved in her schooling, be there for her achievements, her school life. As it turns out, I haven’t completely quit the financial services world and continue to do some contract work, but it’s in my time and I’m not bound to an office, sitting in a job that my heart wasn’t in.

I’ve never been busier, with at least 2 hours of driving a day – a MASSIVE downside of rural life is the driving that’s involved with a young family. Everyday into town and back out and in and out again. Or hang in town and have to kill hours while you could be at home working, or getting the house clean, or cooking a great dinner for the family. Tippi is keen to get the bus, and we’re working towards that, but it’s complicated with a child with anaphylaxis and putting a 5 year old on a bus trip for over an hour carrying her own epipens is a tricky obstacle to overcome.

We lost:

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My mum. In the lead up to mothers day last year, I wrote about mum and her battle with ovarian cancer. She was doing so well with it it seemed. She’d endured more chemo, but still it hadn’t made her sick – she was definitely off, but not super sick like you see cancer victims in the movies. Maybe she was just being brave, but she was managing to live almost a normal life. She did hate the chemo though.

My sister brought her family out from the UK for Christmas, and we although we didn’t know it at the time, we had our last time all together. Mum was quieter than usual, with stomach and bowel issues dogging her a little, and a bit of vagueness she called “chemo brain”. By New Years Eve she was back in hospital with a bowel blockage. It was cleared for a while, but it came back and she was scheduled for bowel surgery in February to – in her mind – fix it once and for all.

But it wasn’t to be. The blockage became inoperable and untreatable, nothing more they could do. By then she had barely eaten for a few weeks, weight was falling off her. “Take her home” the doctors said, “keep her comfortable, give her whatever she wants.”

So we did. Mum never really grasped the fact that she was terminal, right up until the last week when she went into palliative care. My sister came out, leaving her young family in the UK for weeks, we all spent weeks going to and from Sydney to nurse her and be with her and Dad. And then, finally,just before Easter, we were doing the bedside vigil as we had been for a week. She was so weak, unable to speak or move. We sat with her all day, then at the end of the day, we kissed her, hugged her, told her goodbye, we love her, it’s ok to go. Her eyes indicated that she could hear us, and she loved us too.

My sisters and I left Dad alone with her and went home to Mum and Dads house where we’d all been staying together. Dad came home soon after. We were shattered. Then, within half an hour of Dad leaving the hospital, they called. She’s deteriorated, it’s very close. Did we want to go back?

We talked about it and decided no. We’d said goodbye. She’d held on all day, waiting for us to go. This is how she wanted it, she wanted to spare us from the moment. We sat together until the call came, and when it did we hugged each other close and wept.

At Christmas time when we were all together, we never dreamed we would be burying her by Easter.

Fucking cancer.

What the Hell Just Happened to our Dog?

I came home from work tonight tired and cranky. Andy is away as always during the week and I knew the fire would have gone out, it’s freezing here, and raining now and I dreaded getting home to the dog feeding frenzy, a freezing cold house,  lighting the fire, dinner, kids bath and bedtime. Any me time felt a long way off, and with Tippi sick this week, I’ve been unusually disturbed through the nights so I’m tired. And grumpy.

So grumpy in fact, that I took it out on Andy over the phone. I hated this farm tonight, it got to me as it does sometimes. I fed the dogs with more resentment than usual – no love for them as they wag their tails furiously in welcome – then headed inside to get the fire lit. ABC for Kids was on, but Tippi was chatty and laughing, feeling better after a few days of illness. I just wanted her to be quiet and watch TV.

At some point, I became aware that Jaq, our 3 (4?) year old kelpie was barking more than usual. She is a farm dog; an outside dog mostly, only coming in on occasional nights to sleep on the lounge room floor while we watch TV. She barks a lot – there’s a lot to bark at here. Wombats, kangaroos, rabbits, foxes, feral cats. We’ve got them all, and I go out several times a night to rouse on her and tell her to shut up.

But this was her different bark. I went outside, and here things are hazy. This wasn’t normal. She was under the veranda, scuffling, a high pitched yelp, desperate. It sounded like she was chasing something big. Then to the shed, yelping, banging, what was this creature she was chasing? I’d no idea what was going on, and I was scared. I rang Andy. What was getting her so worked up? I called her, to my surprise she came but she was manic. Under the veranda again, banging, yelping, high pitched, not her usual bark. I called her back again, she came. She was crazy, she was at the front door yelping, begging to be let inside. Andy, helpless from Brisbane, called our neighbour and told him to get over here.

I let her in the house. She ran from room to room, more yelping, she was terrified. Trying to sit, looking at me with imploring eyes; “help me” she seemed to be saying, “help me”. I looked all over at her, there were no obvious wounds, no blood. A vile stench that I couldn’t place. I tried to calm her, but I was scared of the wild look in her eyes. Tippi wanted to pat her, I yelled at her to get away. This wasn’t our dog, she’d lost her mind. Running, yelping, then into our bedroom and … silence.

I tentatively went in, Andy on the line. She was lying on our bedroom floor, still, foaming at the mouth, breathing only just. Then nothing. She was gone. Eyes open, glassed over, the most still she’s ever been. She’d died in that moment, terrified, on our bedroom floor.

I couldn’t help her.

Two hours later, I still can’t really process what happened. Maybe we’ll work it out, maybe we won’t. Tippi, surprisingly comprehending of the finality of death cried and cried. For the first time ever she turned down the icecream I’d dished out. She’s in bed now, fell asleep in under three minutes. Her first experience with loss, they were good buddies, Tippi and Jaq.

Tonight, when the world mourns the loss of a great actor and comedian, we also mourn the loss of Jaq, our very own Red Dog. She was Andy’s dog, and he is alone tonight in a hotel. The loss he must be feeling. I’ve never missed him more.