March 26, 2014 § Leave a comment
Last Friday, it was world Down Syndrome Day. On Saturday, my family gathered to celebrate my older brother’s 40th birthday.
My brother, Stephen, lives with Down Syndrome. I had no idea there was a day of recognition for Down Syndrome until photos began popping up in my Facebook newsfeed, posted by mothers celebrating their children who have this condition. It started me thinking, remembering my childhood, and what it was like growing up twenty five years ago with a sibling who was ‘different’.
There wasn’t the acceptance and support that exists nowadays. And while I don’t remember ever being teased, I do remember stares whenever we were shopping or out in the community.
It wasn’t always easy growing up with my brother. He was incredibly stubborn as a child, and more than once I ended up doing his chores as well as my own. But at only two years older, he was a great playmate. I remember many hours of playing outside together: cricket, riding bikes, and then basketball on the driveway.
We shared a bedroom for a while, and a love of swimming in our backyard pool and on holidays.
He had a great love of musicals, and would watch The Sound of Music all the way through, only to instantly rewind the tape and watch it again. I think I know all the words to that movie, as well as Thoroughly Modern Millie and Calamity Jane.
Stephen now lives independently, with some support. Nearly every weekend he goes to lunch with our mother, and so I often catch up with him there. For his birthday my family, my sister’s family and our mother all came together, a rarity in these busy times.
We had chinese takeaway and I made a chocolate and salted caramel cake. Being one of the major birthday milestones, I just had to put all 40 candles on the cake!
March 17, 2014 § Leave a comment
Having a large family makes one on one time with the children difficult. Especially when they are the very co-operative, happy to go along with things type of child.
Zara is so proud and excited to be at school now. Just preschool, one day a week. And when the class was invited to an apple picking excursion, well, I knew I just had to take her.
I made other arrangements for the boys and Lily, them being much older and having had their apple picking experiences, but Robin was to come with us.
That was, until we were ready to go but he was still fast asleep, face buried into the pillow. I didn’t have the heart to disturb him. And suddenly, like a flower blooming in my mind, was the wonderful idea that Zara and I would have the entire morning together. Just the two of us.
She didn’t say much on the trip up the mountain. And once there, she eschewed socialising in favour of gripping my hand and staying by my side. Many people were surprised to see me there with just one child, and indeed my arms felt rather empty with no toddler to carry or breastfeed!
I didn’t take many photos because I wanted to be there, with her, in the moment. Watching her enthusiasm as she picked apples, filling her bag with the clean ones and my bag with the less perfect looking specimens.
On the way home we shared a pie at the famous pie shop. She loves food, and we took turns eating, her sitting on my lap. As I pulled into the driveway at home, she was fast asleep, holding her apples.
It was a sweet morning. But what I have noticed since then is the increased connection between us – her seeking cuddles from me more often. It was so great to have that little moment in time with her.
March 11, 2014 § Leave a comment
Yesterday I suddenly decided I HAD to swim in the ocean. It’s been a while for me. I was feeling wound up, and water is the best way to wind me down again. We chucked some towels in the car and four kids joined me on my impromptu excursion. At the beach I was so desperate to swim that I almost ditched the children and ran ahead on my own into that alive, moving mass of water.
When I enter the ocean, I enter a new realm within myself. I drop my load: I give it to the ocean that supports my body in it’s soft, watery embrace. I begin to move in time to the subtle deep pull of the tide, and the swash of the waves. I look out to the horizon, into sky and space. I dissolve. I AM.
And I emerge from the ocean complete again: in touch with the part of me that is innately connected to water and tide and moon.
Our family does many activities around water. It is guaranteed to give a good time. The pool is great: easy, close, and mostly the children’s preference. But living water is my preference: the calm and mysterious depths of the river, and the fun, lively wash of the waves.
Below is a selection of my favourite water spots:
March 5, 2014 § Leave a comment
I have a secret that I haven’t told my friends.
My teenage son listens to Eminem. And, last weekend, I let him go to Eminem’s Sydney concert.
My son loves music: rap music, to be specific. I don’t know where this came from, given that my husband and I are more classical/new age/folk music types. When I first discovered he was listening to Eminem and his extreme alter ego, Slim Shady, I was horrified.
This is my first child to hit the teenage years, and I am rapidly learning that the second you disapprove of something as a parent, it becomes all the more attractive to them. Come to think of it, I can remember that one from when I was a rebellious teenager myself.
So for a while I tried to pretend he wasn’t really listening that much, or that the other voices and influences in his life were stronger. And I didn’t really know much about Eminem or Slim Shady. I only knew the rumours, which were definitely not comforting.
One day, whilst waiting for William at drumming practice, I sneaked a peek at his ipod. It was full of Eminem and Slim Shady – hell, I think he had the entire back catalogue on there! So I listened, to educate myself. And yes, I was horrified.
That was a year ago. Now, I say thank you to Eminem.
Thank you, because that day, on the way home in the car, my son and I had the first of many conversations (arguments!) about Eminem’s music. The opinions, the language, the themes, even the names of the songs all became launching pads for deeper conversations.
We’ve now discussed women, how Eminem speaks about them, and they should be spoken to and treated. Smoking, alcohol, and drugs, and how easy it is to become addicted were next on the agenda. Racism, homophobia, dealing with anger, and violence have also been talked about.
I’m sure I would have managed those important conversations with my teenage son eventually, but Eminem’s music enabled a more honest conversation, with an example my son could relate to. Since we were discussing a third party, my son could lose the self defense he has in place when we specifically discuss him.
In turn, I have now been educated on the few songs where Eminem displays the kinder emotions: regret, care, and love for his children. He now has a teenage child himself.
The thing is: I love my son. I love his personality, and I love watching him grow into an adult. In his case, rap music is a big part of his life. It helps to make him who he is. My attitude began to soften.
So we let him go to the concert, with a friend and his father. It was to be his first big mosh pit concert, and I was nervous. I gave him many, many speeches about responsible behaviour at a concert and personal safety in the lead up. But I needn’t have worried. He and his friend made it to the front of the pit and stayed there for the whole concert. It was well run and safe. He loved it.
The best part was the run down from the father, who informed me that although he performed a few songs of his older Slim Shady work, Eminem did say that he is now a different man from back then, and talked briefly about how. He also apparently said words in support of gay marriage.
This is where the biggest thank you comes in. It is well known that as our children grow into teenage-hood, their main influences shift away from parents. How great is it that a cool, edgy rap star is now maturing and sharing that with his impressionable young fans.
Another interesting read on Eminem: http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/features/why-eminem-is-a-greater-artist-than-lady-gaga-will-ever-be/story-e6frg8h6-1226836137106#