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.

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

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THE DREADED SCHOOL RUN

When my daughter started primary school, I had a master plan. Despite suffering from crippling social anxiety, I was going to shove my insecurities deep down where the sun doesn’t shine, pull up my big girl pants, and be sociable. I was going to make an effort to introduce myself to other mums because I understood that I was the gateway to my daughter’s social life, and I wanted her to have positive experiences. I didn’t want people to see me as the awkward and antisocial person that seldom spoke and therefore, unfairly judge my daughter.

So in the first year of school, I tried getting to know people. I soon realised that there were many cliques and not all were welcoming, not everyone was friendly and some would outright ignore me. It surprised me to see strangers becoming fast friends within such a short space of time. People were enjoying family holidays together, picking up each other’s children and organising play dates.

All the while, I was struggling to get an invite to the end of term park gatherings and classroom parent dinners. Most of the time, I was invited as an afterthought or at least, that was my perception. I couldn’t even secure play dates successfully, bar one mum who took me under her wing.

I would watch with envy and disappointment as groups of mums would leave for coffee dates after the school runs. Why didn’t they invite me? These situations would evoke powerful emotional childhood memories of insecurities and inadequacies, making me feel like that outcast once more. Suffice to say, I spent a lot of those early days hidden in the car until the very last minute.

Fortunately, I did make a few good friends that year, and I’ve clung on to them since (You know who you are – thank you!). School runs can be intimidating, especially for someone who suffers from social anxiety. On days where I don’t find a friendly face, I feel anxious waiting around. Small talk is a mammoth task for me, especially with people I’m not comfortable with or know well.

My husband doesn’t understand my irrational fears with the dreaded school runs. How could he though? He doesn’t have social anxiety. He wasn’t an outcast as a child in school. He is confident in his own skin and has his tight-knit group of childhood friends. He has no problem with small talk or meeting new people, even though he is an introvert by nature.

I, however, allow this debilitating mental illness to dictate almost every social interaction that I have. It has become a stranglehold that keeps me from meeting new people, forming friendships and sometimes even keeping friendships. I’m plagued by insecurities and anxiety over forming connections but at the same time, I doubt why anyone would want to be my friend. I’m not interesting, I don’t have hobbies, I’m not well-travelled, and I’m not worldly or cultured.

My husband made an observation that gave me pause. “Why is it that you think so little of yourself? Why wouldn’t people want to be your friend? Why don’t you ask to join them for coffee?”

Upon reflection, I surmised that I am simply scared. I’m scared to put myself out there, to allow myself to be vulnerable and be judged. What if I’m found to be wanting? What if people don’t like me? What if I let myself hope for friendship and be sorely disappointed? What if I’m rejected for being me?

Recently, I met a wonderful and kind school mum, by chance, at one of my daughter’s friend’s birthday party. It was only upon getting to know her that I realised that I am not alone in my feelings, that perhaps there are many of us that have our own doubts and insecurities. She made me understand that having meaningful social connections and friendships are important, and that it is worth pursuing, particularly for people who suffer from social anxiety.

This year, I haven’t hidden in my car or pretended to be on the phone as much and I’ve continued to work on my small talk and forming connections with other people. I would like to think that my social anxiety has lessened in intensity and that my communication skills have improved.

But as we creep towards a new school year, where undoubtedly there will be new faces to meet and new connections to make, I know my anxiety levels will rise and there will be an overwhelming urge to hide in the car.

Does it get easier? Can someone overcome social anxiety? I really hope so because I don’t like the idea of hiding in the car for the next decade.

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

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PROJECT HEALTHY EATING

People deal with stress in all manner of ways; meditation, nature immersion, exercise, getting support through conversation, spending time with family and friends, writing, KFC. Each to their own and hopefully, in non-destructive ways. My coping mechanism involves keeping busy to prevent my mind from rumination. Left to my own devices, I tend to wallow in self-pity and catastrophic thoughts.

Given that I’m currently experiencing stress at peak levels, I needed some “projects” to me busy. When I received an email from Henry’s childcare stating that parents could to do small jobs in lieu of the contribution levy, I put my name forth. The wrapping of Christmas presents was my first choice, but that was snatched up within two minutes of the email being sent. So the next best option was the sewing of sheets for the children’s bedding. This seemed easy enough, how hard could mending a few sheets be?

Little did I know when I accepted the job that I would be making the sheets from scratch! One of the parents had come up with a brilliant plan to use queen sized sheets, cut up into parts to make the children’s bedding. From one queen sized sheet, three sheets with a cover could be made. I was given enough materials to make eighteen sheets. To have the levy refunded, the parent only needed to volunteer two hours of their time.

Three parts of a queen sized sheet. Most sides needed double fold hemming.

I am no seamstress. I’m an amateur at best! It took me roughly an hour to make one sheet and cover! Being the person that I am, I couldn’t return the unfinished sheets and so I’m making all eighteen. It helps Henry’s childcare, the children have new bedding for the upcoming year and it keeps me busy. A win for everyone. Hopefully, the stitching lasts one cycle in the wash!

Lots of inside out, outside in stitching and hemming.
Final product.

In addition to this, I decided an overhaul of the family meals was in order. I banned all take-away, eating out and processed meats. I changed everything to low-fat (except for the kids), high fibre white bread to wholemeal and white rice to brown. I reduced the red meat intake to once weekly, added more fibre, fruit and vegetables to the meals, and cut out all junk snacks. Extreme? Probably, but I don’t do things by halves and this keeps me preoccupied.

I think the family have accepted some of the changes rather well, despite the reactions and comments that I have received so far. Initially, I was dealing with this:

Henry (3 y.o.), gagging with each mouthful of veggies.
“I’m not eating that! No way!”
“This makes me want to vomit!”
“Where’s the meat?”
“No vegetables. Yuck!”

Mandy (7 y.o.), eating only after negotiating TV deals.
“This is disgusting!”
“Do I have to eat it all?”
“How many more spoonfuls?”
“If I eat this, can I watch TV?”

Gary (hubby), eating only after I gave him my death glares.
“This is so bland!”
“I’ve lost two kilos!”
“We can’t go from high calorie meals to this!”
“This isn’t a race. It’s a marathon!”
“Make smaller changes and make it stick!”

Now, I claim victory with these wins:
1. The kids think All Bran cereal tastes like chips (poor sods).
2. The kids haven’t noticed the change to wholemeal bread.
3. The lack of available snacks has meant everyone is reaching for fruit, seaweed, nuts and Greek yoghurt instead.
4. The kids are picking at the salads whereas before they wouldn’t touch it.
5. Everyone loves the homemade air-fried potato fries.

In light of the success thus far, I was thinking of branching out and trying new things. Like organic produce and introducing different mushrooms and tofu. Maybe even trial kale?

Could this push us into the realm of too fast too soon? I do wonder if I can keep up this diet or whether my body will just chuck a fit and force my mouth to feast on all those forbidden foods.

Maybe this time, I won’t have to come clean about my secret stash of Cheesels and Aero Mints or explain why they’re hidden in my underwear tub. Only time will tell.

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

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