AGE OF REASON

Henry, my three-year-old son holds a chicken nugget and pretends it’s a person.

This is my Mummy, she’s short and round.

Cue a muffled half-snort-laugh from the husband and an all-out cackle from the seven-year-old daughter. Ha-di-ha-ha.

Apparently, children don’t develop a brain filter until about seven years of age, give or take a year. Until then, children will give you unfiltered truth as they see it and it can be hard to hear.

Like the time my son gave me his assessment of everyone’s role in the family.

Daddy’s job is going to work. Mandy’s job is going to school. My job is playing. And Mummy’s job is yelling.

I almost spat my coffee in surprise, and that surely would have ended in some yelling.

As children grow older, changes to their brain development means that there are greater cognitive capacities for processing emotions and showing empathy.

So situations like this won’t happen. You can only hope.

Me: Can you get me some toilet paper from the other toilet, please?
Henry: No, I don’t want to.
Me: Henry! Get me the toilet paper!
Henry: Fine. I can’t open the door. (Ten minutes of negotiating a door handle)
Henry: Here. (Throws the package at my feet)
Me: They are wipes! I need toilet paper!
Henry: Just use it!
Me: No! Please, please, please get me the toilet paper.
Henry: Okay. Here.
Me: This one’s too little. There’s almost no paper left. I need another one.
Henry: No. I got you one.
Me: You can watch all the TV you want if you get me another one.
Henry: (brings me a bagful and leaves to watch TV)

They begin to develop their own internalised sense of right and wrong, and hence, understand and respect rules.

We all know that it’s important to respect rules, especially ones that our parents make. Like using manners with greetings and farewells. While I wait for my son to develop a healthy respect for rules, instead of the standard goodbye, he may say this…

GOOOOOOOD BYYYYYEEEE BumFace.

Along with emotional development, they become better at problem-solving, identifying patterns and using logic to questions.

Henry has begun understanding these concepts. Just like how he waits until his Mummy is busy homeschooling his big sister to grab the Nintendo controller and hide behind the couch to turn on Animal Crossing, his favourite video game. I believe that’s a form of identifying patterns and using logic. And hey, it doesn’t matter that he can’t read, he just button bashes until he gets the results he wants. That is called problem-solving.

I have four years until Henry reaches the “age of reason”. In the meantime, I’ll have to dig deep, pull out the big parenting guns, use open communication and guide him along the way. Next time we’re stopped on our walk by the waving elderly man, maybe he won’t whisper loudly, “Why is that man waving like a weirdo?”

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MY KINGDOM FOR A BISCUIT

The traditional ANZAC biscuit, a sweet biscuit made from rolled oats and golden syrup, is my favourite biscuit. I love the crumbly, crispy outer texture and the slightly chewy centre. I adore desicated coconut mixed with that buttery taste.

So when my husband suggested that we make ANZAC biscuits to commemorate ANZAC Day, I was all on board. I sent him off to the supermarket with a photo of ingredients needed for the recipe.

He came home with a packet of Monte Carlos, a packet of Butter Snaps and all of the ingredients for ANZAC biscuits except the most important ones – golden syrup and desicated coconut.

It appeared that every other Australian was commemorating in the same way, which was fair enough. This pandemic had restricted Australians to holding dawn services at the end of their driveways and baking ANZAC biscuits. We were just too late to the party.

Almost a week later, I tried online ordering golden syrup, coconut and treacle (as a substitute, just in case). I had my heart (and stomach) set on making and eating ANZAC biscuits. Plus I had a surplus of rolled oats that would never be eaten otherwise. Imagine my disappointment when only coconut made an appearance.

I thought to myself, “What kind of weirdo conspiracy is this?”

By this stage, it became a matter of principle. I was getting that golden syrup. I wasn’t about to let a pandemic or supermarket shortage stop me. I spent days trawling aisles at different supermarkets. I visited local grocers and natural food stores.

It was as though the Universe was taunting me. “You don’t need those biscuits, love.”

After searching for almost two weeks and on the verge of throwing in the towel, I finally found the object of my desires. By chance, while at my local supermarket, I found two precious bottles of golden syrup tucked right in the back of the top shelf. The only problem? I could not reach them.

Being vertically challenged, I had to get creative. Tippy toes. Jumping up and down. Using my phone and other grocery items to tease the bottles forward. Trying to chase down unwilling and unhelpful store assistants.

In the end, an elderly lady who was browsing nearby took pity on my short ass. She reached over, grabbed a bottle of golden syrup and put me out of my misery. We had a lovely chat afterwards about ANZAC recipes.

When I finally sat down with a hot cuppa and took a bite of the biscuit… well, let’s just say it was worth the wait.

So to my neighbours and friends who received a pack of my home-made ANZAC biscuits, the secret ingredient was… time.

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KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE

Why are personal statements difficult to write? Being the sole expert in the subject matter of me, it should be a breeze to write a highlight reel. Alas, it is like drawing blood from a stone. It’s worse than sitting in the dentist’s chair.

The last time I wrote a personal statement for a university application, I was a sheltered eighteen year old girl with tall ambitions. Now, I am wiser, wealthier and womanly. Ok, that’s far-fetched, I’m a whole lot of woman and maybe a touch more wiser. At the very least, I have a wealth of work and life experiences to write about.

After staring at a blank computer screen for ages, I took the easy way out and googled how to write a personal statement.

Sell yourself. Highlight achievements. Make it interesting. Be concise. Show the admissions team why they should accept your application. Focus on relevant work and volunteering experiences.

How do you even sell yourself these days? I’ve been out of the game far too long being in my last job for almost a decade. And spruiking my strengths and achievements feels conceited and boastful. It doesn’t come naturally for me. After much deliberation, I wrote my first draft and read it to my husband for a second opinion.

“You’re a mature aged student. No one cares about your high school score or your university grades.” Slashed that section out.

“I think highlighting work experience and achievements isn’t necessary. It’s in your résumé.” Slashed that section out.

“It sounds like you’re trying too hard to sound clever. People will see right through that and think you’re a chump.” Simplified the language. Stopped googling synonyms for every second word.

“Get to the point. Don’t use unnecessary words.” Edited text to be more concise.

“Meticulous, quick to learn, independent… everyone uses them. The reader has probably read thousands of these.” Removed trite phrases and words. Tried to be original.

“Think of who might be reading this. Who is your audience? What are their incentives to say yes or no?”

At this point, I got mad at all the feedback and cracked the sads. I demanded my husband tell me the answer and stop trying to get me to think critically. I don’t know who will read my personal statement but they probably want people who are capable of completing the course and can pay the fees.

“What do they want to know about a non-school leaver who obviously has the capabilities to do the course?”

I scrapped the whole damn thing and started again. In fact, I scrapped many drafts and slept on it for a few more before it finally dawned on me.

Know your audience. Why am I applying? What has led me to this point? What is my story?

I left my job to become a primary caregiver to two young children and started volunteering at the local neighbourhood community centre. That is when this journey began and so that was where I started my personal statement.

I wrote about how I enjoyed the challenges of helping students from diverse backgrounds. I highlighted my admiration for the dedicated teachers who taught the courses. I chose to remove the fluff of achievements, work experiences and skills to simply express my passion in seeking a career in education. I showcased my desire to make a difference in the community and to help others.

Hopefully, by being authentic and truthful, whoever reads my personal statement will look beyond grades, scores and experiences to see the capable woman who is really excited for the next chapter of her life.

As proud as I am of what I’ve written as my personal statement and the lessons learned from the task, I’m nervous about the outcome. I’m checking the email every day for that rejection letter.

Update: I got in! Come July, I’ll be starting a course to become an adult and vocational educator. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I had the kind of courage needed to dr


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