FRIDAY FUNDAY

Friday. It has become my favourite day of the week. It marks the end of another exhausting week of “teaching” a whingeing grade two daughter and a short-tempered kinder son. It’s a temporary reprieve from having to lavish excessive praise, plead and badger, and issuing empty threats to get the children to complete tasks in a timely manner. It’s the end of being the rope in the tug of war between two children who need my help. I get a breather from juggling household chores and schooling the children. By Friday, I am utterly and completely spent. I’ve tapped out.

Back in mid-March when my daughter was still attending school, my husband and I had many arguments on whether it was safe to send her. At the time, the number of confirmed Coronavirus cases in Australia was on the rise, and there was mounting pressure from parents and school teachers for the Government to close schools. My husband was working from home, along with hundreds of others from his workplace. We had pulled our son from childcare to save money and reduce exposure. So in my mind, I couldn’t understand why we would risk my daughter and us by sending her to school.

Despite the Chief Medical Officer and Prime Minister reiterating that going to school represented a low risk to children, it did not sway my opinion because what-if my children were the exception? I wanted my children safe at home and I did not care about the costs or impacts of that decision.

My husband had a different opinion. He believed that the cost of closing schools and businesses was too steep a price to pay, given our significantly lower confirmed cases compared to other countries. He strongly believed that the economic and educational impacts far outweighed the risk of transmission through schools. He argued that schools needed to remain open for people who needed to work, hospital workers and emergency service personnel. He reasoned that children need normality and remote-access learning could affect children’s mental health and see vulnerable children left behind. He didn’t feel the level of response matched the level of threat.

The debate raged on for weeks and we kept to our staunch views on schools. I was relieved when there was a state directive to close Victorian schools. I was prepared to step up to the plate to do my best with home learning if it meant keeping my family safe from Coronavirus.

As of yesterday, Victoria had six new confirmed cases, with a total of 14 confirmed cases nationwide. Have closing schools made a great impact on reducing infected numbers? Was the cost to students, parents, carers and economy worth it? Or was the success in reduction largely due to social distancing, restriction of businesses and border closures? Who knows. The important thing is that our collective efforts and temporary hardships have led to containing this virus and prevented the devastation seen overseas.

Now with the threat diminished, I want to return to some kind of normalcy. I would like to see schools reopened and children able to see their friends and teachers. While I love (*cough*) playing substitute teacher, sitting in a classroom with fellow students being taught by a teacher is better for everyone. No parent needs their seven-year-old discovering that they have to google and phone-a-friend lifeline the answers to grade two homework.

More importantly, at this point, home schooling my children poses far greater health risks than any pandemic.

 

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OPPOSITES ATTRACT

My husband accused me of being a pop culture fluff ball today. Why? We were having an intense discussion about why people are attracted to those that are fundamentally different to them.

You see, my husband and I grew up in very different households with ethnicity, culture, socioeconomics, religion and parental life experiences, impacting on our cognitive and behavioural development.

In my view, he had a fortunate and stable upbringing. He lived in the family home for most of his childhood, made life-long school friends, given opportunities to participate in extra-curricular sports and had few disadvantages.

My upbringing was decidedly different. My parents were refugees and that in itself brought a vast number of issues. I didn’t stay at any school (bar my last few senior years) for longer than two years. Both my parents had undiagnosed mental health issues. We were dirt poor most of the time.

My husband is a logical, pragmatic and heavily systems thinking based person. Emotion is the last variable in his decision-making. His objective to any problem is finding the simplest solution that makes the biggest impact.

While my decision-making is often driven by emotion. This is not to say that I don’t have capabilities. I can hold down a high-pressure and high-level job. I can run a household. I am capable of making good decisions. But compared to my husband, I don’t like to face variables and I tend to veer towards confirmation bias.

If a stranger came up to me and asked me to peel an orange, my immediate response would be… why? Whereas, my husband would think… what’s the best and worst thing, that could happen? And peel the damn orange.

We agreed that the diversity of thinking or lack of was attributed to our differences – our tapestry of life experiences, leading to the software and hard wiring in our brains.

My argument was that given the same upbringing, my husband would not have the same decision-making abilities. He might even be a bit more like me. 

Nope. No way. My husband was adamant that given the same upbringing, he would still be who he is. He would still be the observant, boundary-pushing, thought-provoking and forward-thinking person.

His counter-argument was that while our childhood experience had some influence, the main reason for his diversity of thinking was due to his open-mindedness to challenging assumptions and expectations. Particularly those of people in positions of authority and power – like his parents and teachers.

It’s really no wonder that he had so many school detentions and reprimands. It’s also not surprising that our offspring are cheeky buggers, full of sass and curiosity.

Anyway, we debated many points and in end, I was as befuddled as this post. Back to my original point. Why are people attracted to their opposites?

My husband’s answer? It’s because of our chimp brains and natural selection.

My answer? Because of my husband’s definition of diversity of thought, I have no option but to love pop culture.

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FIRST CRUSH ADVICE

Do you remember your first crush? Or the first time someone declared their undying love for you?

I was eleven-years-old when a boy plucked up the courage to ask me out. I’m not sure what the young kids these days think ‘going out’ means but back in my day, it meant stolen kisses behind the school shed, holding each other’s sweaty hands and hugging real close. Innocent kid stuff.

I remember that day like it was yesterday (clichéd much?). Almost three decades on and the memory is as fresh as a daisy (I’ll stop with the clichés soon, I promise!).

I was the new kid on the block (again)… an awkward and shy girl, just moved houses in a different suburb, attending a new Catholic school, and starting sixth grade. It was the first time that anyone had shown any kind of interest in me, and I guess that made an impact on the memory bank.

The school bell had rung, closing another day of learning. All of the school children were rushing out of classrooms and making their way home. I was this meek-as-a-lamb girl, sporting a thick monobrow and an unfashionable blunt fringe, wearing secondhand uniform and lugging a heavy bag full of books home. I reeked of loneliness and sadness. Not really a boy’s pin-up girl.

This scrawny boy with pants a smidge too baggy, chased after me with his two friends in tow, calling out my name. After stopping next to me, he shifted nervously on his feet before spilling his guts. He liked me and wanted to know if I’d go out with him.

My mother had prepared me for boys and their interests. She had given me her version of the birds and the bees, which was simply to avoid those bees altogether. She had taught me what to say in these events.

I recited her words. “Thank you. I’m trying to do my best in school. I’m not interested in a relationship.”

I might have been this poor boy’s first crush and he was my first admirer. Two kids on the cusps of teenagerhood and its burgeoning hormones. The situation was utterly embarrassing for both of us and made unbearably awkward by my odd response. So much so, that two decades later when I walked into a burger joint across from work, we immediately recognised each other and the awkwardness continued.

This guy ran a fantastic burger joint, serving perfectly seasoned fat cut chips that were fluffy on the inside and crispy on the outside. And the burgers had you salivating in anticipation. It was such a pity that the owner couldn’t look me in the eye and I couldn’t stand the weirdness of our conversations. My relationship with the burger joint ended prematurely. We didn’t stand a chance!

I’ve learnt from my experience with first crushes. I vowed that if my children came to me for advice, I would do better than my dear mother’s attempts.

Not too long ago (before school closed due to the pandemic), my seven-year-old daughter let me in on a secret and asked for my advice. This was how the conversation went.


Mandy: I think a boy likes me.

Me: OOOOHHHH, first crushes! Be cool, be cool Mumma! What makes you think that?

Mandy: He put his reading box next to mine.

Me: Uh… ok… Anything else?

Mandy: (shrugs) He always sits next to me on the floor.

Me: Hmm… need more to work with here buddy. Ok, anything else?

Mandy: He tugs my hair and calls me Mandy Moo Shoo.

Me: Ah… teasing, telltale signs. How does that make you feel?

Mandy: (shrugs) I don’t care. He also hugs me a lot.

Me: Wait a minute! What the hell? How does he hug you?

Mandy: He hugs my arm. And smacks my butt.

Me: What the?! Oh hell no, that is not cool!

Sometimes people can do strange things like tease or pull your hair to show you that they like you. BUT, that does NOT mean you should let anyone touch you without your permission. There are boundaries.

Mandy: Are boys just stupid and do stupid things?

Me: Try not to rant. Keep it simple. You can do this without preaching. Don’t waffle!

Uh, sometimes. Just remember that if anyone does anything that makes you feel uncomfortable, you tell them to stop and if they don’t stop, you tell the teacher. Remember that your vagina, your bottom, your chest, they are your private areas and no one should be touching those areas.

Mandy: Eww. Why would anyone do that?

Me: Um… not for this conversation. It can happen. You understand what Mummy is saying?

Mandy: Yeah.

Me: You know you can tell me anything, right? I will always listen and try to help you.

Mandy: I know Mummy.

Me: (Hugs) And no more hugging with this boy. We’re in a pandemic for Pete’s sake.


I think I did a decent enough job. Let’s hope I don’t accidentally come across my daughter’s blog post in future and read how she could have given better advice on boys.

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