JOURNEY TO MATURITY

During lockdown, we bought a Nintendo game called Animal Crossing. Have you heard of it? It’s a popular social simulation game where you play a customisable character that willingly moves to a deserted island run by a (shady-ass) raccoon named Tom Nook, the island landlord. He gives you a tent and some tools. You make ‘money’ through selling fish and bugs that you catch. Pillaging and pilfering for resources from smaller islands and trading on the turnip stock market gets you the big bucks (ahem… just a tip). You can recreate your own dream island filled with friends, fruit and money trees, a museum and a clothing store. If you don’t mind repaying exorbitant mortgage loans to Tom, you can turn your humble tent into a three storey house and hoard furniture and clothes until your heart’s content.

Anyway, I’m getting off track. The point is, the kids love this game and so do I. It’s fun, friendly and ever so addictive. Whenever my three-year-old son has a turn, he likes to take off all his character’s clothing and run around in his underwear. Whenever my seven-year-old daughter has a turn, she likes to go to the clothing store and spend all her money on unnecessary fashion.

It’s painful to sit and watch them play. I have a habit of telling them what to do. I remind them that there’s fruit to harvest and sell, weeds and fallen sticks to pick up, mortgage loans to repay, and island star ratings to consider.

My husband always says, “Let them play their game how they want.”

You see, I forget that each child is playing the game to their level of maturity. Each person is unique in their definition of success and their journey to maturity. What a three-year-old boy finds interesting is different to that of a seven-year-old girl. And the same goes for adults.

My son is a hoarder of fish and furniture. He has a room filled to the brim with fish tanks and furniture stacked randomly inside and outside of his house. My daughter has questionable taste in fashion and wallpaper. She will spend her entire savings at the clothing store. But that is their game. That is what’s important to them. That is where they are in their journey.

As an adult, I am used to running on that pesky treadmill of life (obviously not literally because sweating and I have a hate-hate relationship). I am much further along in my journey to maturation, having experienced some high and lows of this rollercoaster called a life. Sometimes I forget to have realistic expectations of my children.

I need to remind myself to give my children the freedom to grow emotionally, socially, spiritually and intellectually at a pace that meets their needs. They will have plenty of years to be burdened by the complexities of life but as a parent, I can try to shelter them as best I can. Hopefully, in a way that doesn’t turn them into precious snowflakes!

In the meantime, I’ll wait until they’re asleep to log onto Animal Crossing to harvest all those unpicked fruit, make some money and pay off their loans. Hey, I’m not addicted! Someone’s gotta do it. Well, that’s the excuse I’m sticking to.

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

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SQUARE CUT

Most people will fork out the money to have their hair cut and styled by a professional. Why? Because unless you have eyes behind your head and extra limbs, it’s pretty hard to give yourself an even trim or a styled haircut. A DIY dye job? Yeah, achievable for the majority. DIY highlights? Doable for some. For most people, the cost of a trip to the hairdresser is insurance against sporting a hair fail that will take months to grow out. That’s not to say that disastrous results don’t happen at salons but you’d think the odds are lower.

So why are we quick to grab the kitchen scissors and offer our services to hack someone else’s hair? Why do we think we can do the job a professional is trained to do?

When my daughter was two-years-old, I convinced my husband that trimming her hair would be easy peasy. It would save us money and time, and spare her the trauma of facing a stranger wielding sharp scissors. Luckily, I succeeded in giving our daughter a decent hairdo. As a result, my husband readily agreed to the next cut.

Only something terrible happened. Maybe it was the pressure of expectations. Maybe I had a bad pair of scissors. Maybe the three cups of coffee I had prior made my hands shaky. If I’m being totally honest with myself, the first time was probably a fluke.

Whatever the case, I gave my almost three-year-old daughter a sixteenth century Trappist monk-like haircut, minus the bald spot. You know the one I’m talking about? AKA a mushroom cut or a bowl cut. I kept trying to correct the uneven bits and instead of cutting my losses, I pressed on. Eventually, I had to stop because I ran out of hair to cut.

My poor little girl lost her wavy brown tresses and had to sport a Dumb and Dumber look for months. A beanie became her best friend. Suffice to say, my haircutting privileges were revoked, never to be returned. We learned a valuable lesson from this mishap.

1. Less is more.
2. Know when to quit.
3. Sometimes accepting mistakes is better than trying to fix them.
4. Some things are best left to the professionals.

When my three-year-old son needed a haircut last week, I didn’t think twice about booking an appointment. Unfortunately, our usual hairdresser was fully booked for another month and given that Henry’s fringe had started impinging on his sight, I felt the urgency in getting the task done. We visited two hair salons before dropping into the nearest barber.

Poking my head into the shop, I asked the man if they catered for children. The man looked at Henry and said, “It depends. Will he sit still? Will he behave?” I should have listened to my ‘this is a bad idea’ instincts and backed the fudge away but I hadn’t wanted the time spent searching to be in vain.

After reassuring both the man and Henry, we proceeded with the haircut. My only stipulation was that he didn’t use a hairdryer or an electric razor as Henry is sensitive to the noise. The last time Henry visited the hairdresser, he spent the entire time with an anxious scowl, watching for any movement towards the dreaded handheld hairdryer.

The man complained that it would be difficult to execute a good cut without them. That should have served as a second warning from the Universe but like a stubborn mule, I ignored the tingling bells.

This man was like Edward Scissorhands reincarnated. He snipped and clipped at a furious rate. Poor Henry had his eyes squeezed shut and shoulders bunched for the whole duration. I could understand his reaction because it was terrifying to watch. I kept saying, “You’re doing so well buddy. The man’s a professional. He knows what he’s doing and he WON’T cut you.” I was tempted to pull the plug half-way through.

Ten minutes later, twenty bucks down and Henry walked out physically unscathed but sporting a professional crooked square haircut. You know the one I’m talking about? Unintentional blunt bangs that was in desperate need of some texturing and a leveller, and jagged sideways lightning bolts around the outside of the ears.

I don’t know what is worse; a DIY Trappist monk inspired haircut or an expensive haircut from a barber with the fine motor skills of a preschooler.

Anyway, it was my bad. Again. If I’m not prepared to drop into any old salon and get my hair styled by an unknown hairdresser, why did I subject my kid to that treatment? I chose the fastest way to solve a problem at the cost of my son’s comfort. I learned another valuable lesson here.

When my son asks, “Where are the photos of my first days at kinder?”, I’m gonna have to say iCloud got hacked but only those specific photos got deleted.

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

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THE MAGIC WAND

Have you watched ‘Bluey’? It’s our favourite animated children’s Australian TV series.

The main characters are Bluey, a six-year-old Blue Heeler puppy and her sister Bingo, a four-year-old Red Heeler puppy. Together, they go on adventures through their imaginative role-playing. The parents, Chilli and Bandit, often engage the pups in their games, supporting and encouraging their curiosity at the world surrounding them.

The show focuses on the importance of play-based learning, constructive positive parenting and emotional validation. It realistically depicts the modern-day nuclear family, with both parents working, sharing the housework and child rearing. There is no gender typecasting or parenting role stereotyping. The father is emotionally intelligent and portrayed as a positive father figure.

There is a great deal of resembalance between Bandit and my husband – in character not appearance! He is Bandit minus the Australian twang and goofiness. He has patience in spades, dives into role-playing with ease, and has the right balance of discipline and love. He’s funny, smart and a very hands on co-parent. He’s a great dad.

Bluey gives my children, Mandy (7 y.o.) and Henry (3 y.o.) lots of ideas to incorporate into their own imaginative role-plays. One episode in particular, called The Magic Xylophone, involving a xylophone that has the ability to freeze the dad, was inspiration for an ongoing game in our house.

Like the magic xylophone, the children have a special magic ‘wand’ that can freeze people. Saying the word ‘magic’ has the power to freeze and unfreeze. My husband takes his role-playing very seriously, never ever breaking from character… under any circumstances. It’s funny to a point. And then, it gets incredibly annoying. Especially, if the children refuse to unfreeze him and only they have the ability to wield this magic wand.

I could be talking to him about an important matter and the minute he is frozen, not even the seriousness of the conversation will make him respond. I could be needing a fresh towel and be stuck cold in the bathroom, and he would not break character to save me from catching pneumonia. Absolutely NOTHING will break him from character unless it’s the magic wand. It has gotten so annoying, that now I hide the wand and pretend it’s lost. Until the children find my hiding spot, wreak a bit of wand havoc and then it’s conveniently lost again.

Recently, I was on the phone with a medical receptionist, trying to organise the family’s influenza vaccinations. I had been quite anxious about getting an appointment and organising our injections to be performed in the medical clinic’s car park to avoid COVID-19 exposure. With the phone to my ear, I glanced over to my husband and asked if the available appointment worked with his schedule. To my horror, my three-year-old had located the wand. With a wave of his hand, an excited squeal, Henry uttered the five-letter word that I’ve come to despise. MAGIC! In a jiffy, my husband was frozen.

“Henry, unmagic your dad.”

Giggles. Giggles. More giggles. Two unrelenting kids. A frozen dad. No answer to my VERY important question.

“HENRY! Unmagic your dad.”

“Gary! Can you make the appointment or not? GARY!!”

All the while, the medical receptionist was huffing and puffing in my ear. She was talking of stock shortages, lack of appointments and pressured me to make a decision. If you can, imagine me with steam coming from my ears and nose. I lost my cool.

For the first time, my husband broke character and responded. I got my answer and made the appointment but at what cost? I broke the magic. I diluted the power of the wand. I destroyed their game of make-believe. The kids were mighty upset with me.

This was a game that brought two fighting siblings together, nurtured creativity and imagination, helped them share and co-operate and supported their emotional and social development. The magic wand was a powerful tool of learning. I had to fix the problem that I had created. I thought to myself “What would Chilli do?”

The next day, as I was sweeping the floor, Henry walked past with his magic wand. He pointed the wand in my direction and said MAGIC! I froze and to my delight, Henry yelled out to his sister “Mandy! Mandy, come quick! I froze Mummy.” Something that has never happened before. We ended up playing Magic Wand until we couldn’t keep the laughter in anymore.

“The magic is back!” I heard my three-year-old whisper to his sister.

I finished sweeping with a huge smile on my face. Who knew I’d be happy to hear that word again?!

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

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