DON’T TAKE THOSE FREEBIES!

I love freebies. It’s like winning the lottery, only with better odds. It doesn’t matter if it’s a free sample of haemorrhoid cream that I’ll never use or a brochure that will end up in my recycle bin. If it’s free, I’m attracted to it like a fly on a turd. It’s revolting, shameless and somewhat disturbing.

So as a professional freebie collection agent, I’ve learnt a few valuable lessons that I can impart.


Bananas, Nutella, Eggs, Weetbix, Milo, Vanish

I recite the words over in my head.

Coles Little Shop. The current bane of my existence. How has my life become so consumed by this madness?

I curse the marketing gurus at Coles for their ingenious campaign. Damn these super addictive gimmicks! It certainly hooked, lined, and sinkered the crapola out of me. I’m the perfect gullible marketer’s wet dream.

I went from casually getting a few collectables with the weekly groceries to religiously scrolling advertisements on Gumtree for trades and cheap buys. Never in my life have I dreamed of meeting a total stranger; another grown-ass adult, to trade or buy promotional toys. Yet, that’s exactly what I do, under the pretense of getting the whole collection for my five-year-old daughter.

I’ve secured a transaction with someone called MeiMei. She claims to have all six of my… ahem, I mean my daughter’s missing items at a steal. Is it too good to be true? Possibly.

As I park out front of the address MeiMei texted me and stare up at the massive apartment building, I reconsider the rationality of my actions. I have the kids in the car. No one knows I’m here, not even my husband. MeiMei could be an axe murderer.

I quickly rectify the situation by texting my bestie.

“Hey, I’m at x address. If I don’t text you in fifteen minutes, call the cops.”

There. Problem solved.

“Mummy, why are we just sitting here?” asks Mandy.

“I’m just thinking,” I reply. I text MeiMei to let her know that I’m outside her building.

My phone dings. ‘Meet me at Room 42, Level 2.’

The theme song to Jaws starts to play in my mind as I conjure up a whole host of bloody and graphic scenarios of my death. I get a cold sweat; my hands are shaking. I can’t do this! It’s crazy. There’s no way I can escape with two kids dragging me down!

“Mummy! Are we getting the Little Shop!” demands Mandy, exasperated with my procrastination.

I text MeiMei to meet us downstairs instead. It seems like the most sensible thing to do.

“Ok. I want you to lock the doors when I leave and call this number if anything happens,” I tell Mandy.

Mandy looks worried so I try to placate her. “It’s ok. Nothing will happen. I’m just being extra cautious.”

I mentally facepalm myself for putting us through this unnecessary danger and stress. I’m certainly not in the running for the Mother-Of-The-Year Award.

I gape at the person who just exited the doors. The Asian woman is wearing a pair of six-inch black platform pumps, bright pink bike shorts and a pink feathered crop top.

Woah. She can’t possibly chase me down in those heels. I’m probably safe.

“Here, you check,” MeiMei says. No introduction. No pleasantries. Straight to business.

I feel like I’m in a scene of Breaking Bad. I glance about nervously, hand over the cash and grab the goods before rushing back to the car. I forget to say goodbye; I’m that skittish.

I chuck the goods over my shoulder to my daughter and laugh at the absurdity of the situation.

Two weeks later…

I grab my foot and wince in agony. I look down at the offending object. Stupid Little Shop miniatures are strewn all over the carpet like landmines waiting to exact maximum damage.

Life lesson: What began as a freebie ended in unnecessary anxiety and a miniature Dettol bottle embedded into the sole of my foot. Nothing is truly free.

Copyright © 2019, KN J Tales and Snippets. All rights reserved.

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MY STRUGGLE WITH SMALL TALK

Do you find it hard to partake in small talk? Does it make you feel anxious? Or do you have the gift of the gab?

There are so many factors required to have a successful conversation with another person.

  • Using exact words to effectively express your thoughts
  • Understanding body language and its nuances
  • Maintaining eye contact
  • Finding a balance between listening and speaking
  • Showing an interest in the person and what they have to say
  • Offering interesting topic threads
  • Remembering to relax
  • Smile

If you suffer from social anxiety, being thrust into situations where you must engage in conversation can be scary. It might feel easier to avoid it altogether.

So why do I force myself to engage in conversation?

I recognise that to communicate and engage with others means social interaction. It means forging new relationships and strengthening others. It means developing my sense of self and belonging.

Ultimately, I don’t want my life to be consumed by my anxiety. I won’t allow it to tear me down. Therefore, I must engage.


Butcher: “Hello there!”

Me: “Hi.”

Butcher: “How can I help? What would you like?”

Oh my God, I don’t know. Shit, I better hurry. Shit, how do you say that word ‘enchiladas’.

Me: “Um. Six en-chill-a-dars please?”

Butcher: “My wife just took one of these last night and upped to Mildura.”

What? What did he just say? Am I supposed to reply? I just want to tick dinner off my list.

Me: “Oh. That’s a long way.”

Butcher: “She loves them. Drove after work last night and got there this morning.”

Okay, I think I’m supposed to say something here. Fudge if I know. Why is he telling me this? Breathe. Relax. You can do this. It’s just a conversation. Be normal.

Me: “Yeah, she must love them to drive that far.”

Did he mean she loves enchiladas? Is six enough for dinner?

Butcher: “My daughter lives up there and had her baby last night.”

How long does it take to wrap these enchiladas?! I feel my anxiety levels rising. This conversation is hurting my mind. New baby. Ok, so remember to congratulate him.

Me: “My husband loves your enchiladas.”

Butcher: “Thanks. My wife’s already saying she wants to come back.”

You seem like a really nice dude and I’m really glad you’re chatting to me but I suck at this and I feel awkward. Please have mercy on me!

Me: “My husband loves your enchiladas.”

Fudge! That’s not what I meant to say. I forgot the congratulations.

Butcher: “Uh, thanks?”

Me: “Um, congratulations?”

Oh my God, he did say his daughter, right? He looks young. I hope I haven’t misheard. This conversation is going downhill. Abort! Abort!

Butcher: “It’s my third grandkid. Here you are.”

Oh thank goodness.

Me: “Thanks. Have a great day.”

I need to get out of here.

Butcher: “You haven’t paid yet.”

Me: “You too. I mean, sorry I haven’t.”

Did I just say that? How embarrassing! I hope the next butcher isn’t as talkative.


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INNOCENT WHITE LIES

When is a lie acceptable? Are there degrees of lying? It is less of a lie if it’s a “white lie”? Or is lying just plain old lying?

What about telling your children that Santa exists? Or the Easter Bunny? Or the Tooth Fairy?

And if you choose to do so, when do you tell them the truth? That you have indeed, lied to them.

My parents didn’t give me fairy tales or half-truths. We were poor. If I got a present, they made damn sure I knew that they had scraped and saved every dollar to get me that ONE present. That one item would be a necessity; no frivolous toy; no gift wrapping; no card. There was no illusion of some old jovial fat dude climbing down a chimney in the middle of the night to place a beautifully wrapped gift under a Christmas tree. No Easter Bunny was pooping chocolate eggs on our lawns. And the Tooth Fairy? I was lucky to see the dentist.

Maybe that’s why I overcompensate as a parent. I want to give them the magic and fun that I didn’t get as a child. I want them to look back fondly at their childhood memories.

I’ll admit that a small part of me wants to conform to society norms. I don’t want my child to blurt out, “It’s a lie! Your parents are lying to you! There’s no such thing as Santa.”

I can ponder away the day trying to find reason and rhyme for my parenting choices. Inevitably, I will have to come clean with my lies.

We place the baby tooth into a plastic bag and put it under Mandy’s pillow.

“So the Tooth Fairy will come, take my tooth and give me a coin?” Mandy queries.

I can’t seem to look her in the eyes. “Yes, so I’m told.”

“What does she look like? How does she get my tooth if I’m lying on the pillow? How much money will I get? What happens with the teeth?”

Oh boy.

My brain scrambles for answers. I don’t recall seeing a “How to lie effectively to your child” section in the parenting manual I received from the maternal health nurse.

“Uh, no-one has seen the Tooth Fairy, so we don’t know the mechanics or logistics,” I reply. “Also, you get ONE gold coin per tooth. That’s all I know.”

Mandy contemplates my answers for a moment.

“Mummy, do you give me presents as well as Santa or are you pretending to be Santa?”

I pause. She’s at an age where her friends are probably discussing the rumours. This is the perfect opportunity to come clean, but then she’s likely to ruin it for her little brother.

“No, Mummy and Daddy give you presents as well as Santa,” I reluctantly reply.

“What about the Easter Bunny? Are you putting the eggs in the lawn for us to find?”

I feel the weight of her accusing stare. I shift uncomfortably. Mandy could become an excellent cross-examiner one day.

“Me?” I exclaim in feigned shock, “I don’t have time for that!”

“Hmm.” Mandy responds. She’s onto me. The jig is probably up.

“If you have any further questions, ask your dad. He’s the expert,” I deflect. “Hey, let’s read a book.”

I am the Master of Deflection and Timely Distractions.

“I think I’ll ask Ally tomorrow if she thinks the Tooth Fairy is real,” Mandy casually says. “She knows everything.”

I shudder at the thought of what’s to come.

Copyright © 2019, KN J Tales and Snippets. All rights reserved.

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FIND YOUR STRENGTH

I walk down this well-trodden path, resigned to my fate. The sky is filled with dark clouds, threatening a downpour that will sweep me off my feet and drown me in its flood. There is no light; no rays of sunshine; no warmth. Despite efforts to protect myself, piling layers upon layers, I feel the cold penetrating into the depths of my soul. Winter is here. Well and truly.

What do you do when your mind begs to succumb to the deep pits of despair? How do you crawl out from the sinister tunnel of self-doubt? You’re in pain; mental fatigue; physical stress. You’re on the brink of shut down mode.

Oh, but The Show must go on! The children need to be fed, clothed and loved. The house should be cleaned. The bills must be paid. You have to turn up to work. People rely on you to function. Society expects your contribution. Life stops for no-one.

“Mummy, why are we going round and round?” asks Henry, my two-and-a-half-year-old son.

We’ve been driving around the neighbourhood for the last half an hour. At any moment I expect a police car to pull me over and write-up a ticket for public nuisance. I’ve taken the same roundabout ten times now and I see people peer out from curtains. I must look like I’m casing joints or seriously lost with directions.

“You need a nap,” I reply. The truth of the matter is that I need a nap but at this stage, I’ll take the consolation prize of a break. I am beyond exhausted, physically and mentally. Parenting is damn hard. It is relentless. You are on call twenty-four-seven, every day for at least eighteen years.

“Mummy, I need a chino!”

“Mummy, I did a fluff fluff!”

“Mummy, where’s Daddy?”

“Mummy, I want Donalds!”

I drive for another half an hour before there is silence. I park the car and rest my forehead on the steering wheel. It took everything I had to concentrate on driving without incident. I feel overwhelmed with the burden of responsibility. It creeps and climbs like vines, slowly choking and leaving me gasping for breath.

As I silently fall apart in the car, I realise that I need to seek help. I need to reach out to my village and remember that there are people willing to support and care for me, if only I ask. I need to pause to allow myself the time to recover so that I can gather the strength to continue.

Right now I’m merely existing, living day-to-day, going through the motions. I’m a grainy black and white. Instead, I want to be vibrant and colourful. I want loud and bright. I want to live life to its fullest.

Why? I owe it to my children and husband to be the best version of me. I owe it to myself.

For the time being, I’m reminded that after every storm, there is a rainbow.

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NEGOTIATION BREAKDOWN

Tantrums. A word that sends shivers down many a parent’s spine. An action that when unleashed in public, causes embarrassment and dismay.

Do you ignore it? Do you try to placate? Do you bribe? Or do you edge away and pretend the toddler lying facedown on the ground isn’t yours?

It’s common knowledge that toddlers lack social and emotional maturity, are at the beginning stages of language development and seek independence over their environment. As a consequence, toddlers are prone to tantrums when they become frustrated or upset. While it is a normal part of child development, it’s still painful to deal with.

“Remember Henry, if you want to walk,” I tell my tantrum-prone toddler, “you must hold Mummy’s hand.”

“Ok Mummy,” Henry replies, looking innocently at me.

I know better. I squat down to his eye level and reiterate my point. “You have to hold my hand. No running.”

“Yes Mummy,” he replies, adamant. “I will!”

“Promise?” I tease. Seriously, as if I can trust the word of a two-and-a-half-year-old.

“Promise.”

We start our hundred-metre walk to pick up his sister from school. We get two metres from the car before Henry tugs at my hand.

“Mummy! A bug!” Henry exclaims, pointing at a dead beetle.

“Oh yes, a bug.” I gently pull him along but he resists.

“Mummy, bug bite me?”

“No, it’s dead darling.” My second attempt at leaving fails.

“His Mummy and Daddy will be sad.”

I sigh. “Yes, so sad but they’ll always remember it.”

“Is it a boy or girl?”

Ah shoot. I don’t have time for this.

“I don’t know darling.” I pull him forwards.

“Hey look over there!” I point to nothing in particular.

“What?” Henry asks, his interest piqued.

“I see something interesting over there,” I lie. “Lets go have a look.”

Henry starts walking in the right direction. There are two randy teenagers exchanging saliva on the sidewalk. Henry decides to stop right in front of them and blurts out, “Bleurgh!”

The teenagers stop their tonsil hockey. I suppress my laughter.

We walk another five metres before Henry refuses to hold my hand.

“Mummy, I’m ok. I was here,” he argues, pointing to the footpath.

“No Henry,” I admonish. “Hold my hand.”

We are so so close to our destination, I could cry.

“No!”

In a flash, his hand slips out and he’s running towards the road. I sprint after him like Wile E. Coyote after the Road Runner.

I drop my phone in the process. I’m appalled to admit that for a split second I had considered the merits of stopping to pick up my phone.

I grab Henry by the jacket before he gets hurt. He throws an epic tantrum as I drag him back to retrieve my phone.

I struggle with small fists and legs thrashing around. I’m sweating from my exertion. My phone screen is cracked.

It’s a fine balance between giving your child the opportunity to feel independent and keeping them safe. Some days I feel like throwing in the parenting towel. It’s a hard role. The toughest gig I’ve ever had.

Next time you see a harried parent with a toddler chucking a tantrum, give them a sympathetic smile and try not to judge.

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