WALKING THE LINE

My eight-year-old daughter and her classmates had one of their six summer swimming lessons yesterday at the local pool. I volunteered as a parent helper to assist in the change rooms and to make sure the children were safe on their walk there and back.

I like volunteering as a parent helper for school/kinder excursions, incursions and in the classroom. It allows me to better understand what my children are learning, see how they interact with their peers and teacher and shows them the importance of participating in a larger community.

I’m in a fortunate place where I am able to volunteer my time, and I’m grateful for it. Not all parents are able to do these things for their children.

As the class started their journey towards the local pool, I found myself supervising the children in the middle of the walking line.

One of the boys sidled up to me and asked, “What do you think of being a vegan?”

How do you answer that? You can’t exactly be upfront and honest with young impressionable children who aren’t yours! What if I said something that was contradictory to his parent’s beliefs or opened a can of worms I wasn’t meant to?

So what do you do when you’re like a deer caught in the headlights by a tricky question from a kid? You deflect. “Um, what made you ask that? Do you know what a vegan is?”

“It’s when you don’t eat eggs and meat,” he replied with a shrug of his shoulders. “I just wanted to know.”

“Well, I guess you could give it a go if you’re interested and see?”

Obviously, I need to work on my deflecting and diplomatic skills. I should have told him to ask his parents or given a non-response. They could be meatatarians for all I know, and my flippant comment on trying veganism could really anger them.

I had inadvertently dropped a think bomb. Trying to limit the damage, I moved away and left the boy to ponder his lifestyle choices.

I noticed a couple of girls walking behind me and slowed down to talk to them. “Hello, what are your names?”

The girls were terribly shy. They reminded me of when I was a young girl and would reply with one worded answers and refused to make eye contact. I started to feel bad when one of the girls unconsciously moved further and further away from me and ended off the footpath. I realised I was making them feel uncomfortable with the questions and so I moved away.

I wondered how I would have reacted to an unknown adult giving me attention as a shy child and came to the conclusion that I’d have done the same.

By the end of the journey, I was near my daughter and her buddy at the front of the walking line. Yes, my daughter hadn’t wanted to walk with me. Apparently, I’m embarrassing. Oh, have I mentioned that last week she took a proverbial axe to my heart by declaring she was too old to give me goodbye cuddles at the school gates? Yeah, that happened.

My daughter’s buddy decided a walking line was the perfect place to pounce on an unsuspecting parent.

“Can I have a sleepover at your house? Or maybe Mandy can come to my house?”

“Maybe. We’ll see,” I answered, not wanting to commit to anything because like elephants, children NEVER forget promises.

“Do you work?”
“Can we have a playdate during the school holidays?”
“Could you organise a sleepover?”
“Mandy and I would really like a sleepover.”

My daughter was suspiciously silent throughout the onslaught, letting her buddy steamroll me.

“Mandy wants a lot of things but it doesn’t mean she always gets what she wants,” I replied, hoping her buddy understood nuances. But like most eight-year-olds, they hear what they want to hear and it wasn’t a firm no.

“I’ll get my mum to volunteer next week with you, so you can both talk.” The kid gave me a stern look. The teacher and I made eyes, and I’m pretty sure she was giving me a sympathetic look that said ‘Welcome to my world’.

As I was leaving the school grounds, I couldn’t help but wonder if it was possible to predict a child’s future career using their personality traits and temperament.

The boy asking about veganism seemed inquisitive and thoughtful. Maybe he’ll become a philosopher or an activist. Perhaps he’ll become a scientist.

My daughter’s buddy was assertive to the point of aggressive and possessed debating skills that would make her a great lawyer. God help her parents in the meantime, though.

While it’s easy for us to imagine or predict a child’s future career based on obvious personality traits, it’s not as straightforward when it comes to shy and quieter children. No one pays attention to the shy kids, who are often unseen and unheard, let alone being noticed long enough for someone to predict their futures!

These shy girls might not have much to say now, but I hope that with time they’ll learn to believe in themselves and find their voice. Maybe it’ll happen soon or maybe like me, it’ll happen later in life.

Copyright © 2021, KN J Tales and Snippets. All rights reserved.

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A GHOST OR A GLITCHY TV

Remember a month ago when I wrote about our mini vacation in a coastal town and was mistaken for a mail-order bride? On our way home from there, I received a phone call from my brother, who was in a bit of a state.

“I think someone’s been in your house! There’s pee in the toilet, like someone peed and didn’t flush. It stinks! And the TV is on. It wasn’t on the last time I was here!”

I had asked my brother to look after our home and to do things like taking in the rubbish bins, watering the garden and bringing in the mail. We were only gone for three days and this was the second time he’d been over to our place to do a house check.

“Did you check the windows and doors for anything suspicious?”

Nothing seemed out of place. All of the things you’d expect a burglar to steal were still there – computers, tablets, TV, musical instruments. My brother told me he hadn’t found anything suspicious after doing a perimeter check and looking in every nook and cranny of the house. As the house hadn’t been burgled, he suggested it could have been an unwelcomed squatter.

If you had concerns that a temporary squatter had somehow broken into your sister’s house, used her toilet without flushing and left the TV on, would you call her immediately while there?

Furthermore, would you then leave her keys on the kitchen counter for said squatter to have easy access to the car and house?

Apparently, my brother isn’t as sensible as I thought he was. He left my keys in the house, locked himself out and then called to tell me about his concerns while he was on a forty-five-minute road trip.

My mother went to do another house check and retrieved the keys after my brother admitted to being spooked by the TV and wasn’t certain he’d done a proper check.

At least my mother had the good sense to video call me so I could see if anything was out of place. Obviously, I’d be the best person to know. Nothing was amiss, and the keys were hidden in a place for me to collect later on.

My mother had failed to find the squatter. My brother texted me this as another possible reason for the weirdness.

KN J Tales and Snippets

We never did figure out how the TV turned itself on and why there was urine in the toilet. I could have sworn I flushed the toilets and turned off all the switches on the power points. It became an unsolved mystery.

A few weeks later, in the dead of the night, I woke to faint sounds coming from the lounge room. Half asleep, I dragged myself out of bed to inspect the noise that had caused me to wake. I noticed light flickering and saw the TV on. I went to switch it off but before I could get within a few feet of the TV, it abruptly turned off. Eerie, right?

I hurried back to bed and not fifteen minutes later, I could hear the TV had turned back on. At this stage, I’ll admit I had the creeps. I don’t truly believe in ghosts, but my brother’s comment snuck into my mind and made me jumpy. I nudged my husband awake because I’m a wimp and asked him to turn the TV off and unplug the thing from the wall. Just. In. Case.

We ended up buying a new TV. The old one was over eight years old, had multiple scratches and was probably glitchy. Plus, I didn’t want a spooky ghost TV.

Anyway, the new TV came yesterday and so I asked my brother if he wanted to take the old one. He said yes.

I haven’t told him about the freaky night where the TV turned itself on and off like something out of a horror movie. He probably wouldn’t take it if I told him the truth about why I wanted a new TV.

Ghost TVs aren’t real, so is it really that bad to keep this “glitch” a secret?

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IS THIRD TIME REALLY A CHARM?

On Friday morning, I woke to whispers of a third lockdown and thought ‘Here we go again’. The State’s hotel quarantine had failed yet again, and community transmission of the dreaded mutated COVID strain had begun. There were 19 confirmed cases in the State. Newspapers started reporting that Victorians were about to be hit with a snap five-day lockdown to curb the possible undetected spread of this deadlier and more transmissible virus that was ripping through the UK.

Like the rest of Victoria, we had plans and lockdown would throw everything out of the window. We had swimming classes the next day. Lunar New Year celebrations were planned for Sunday. There was school swimming starting on the following Monday and parent teacher interviews on the Tuesday.

Messages started circulating among friends and families. Someone heard from someone who knew someone who worked somewhere who vouched that lockdown was imminent. That’s how reputable news travels these days. And where there is smoke, there’s surely to be fire, right?

By lunch time, it was confirmed. Victoria and its 6.49 million residents were going into a hard lockdown again. We would only be leaving home for four reasons; essential work, medical care and care-giving, food and exercise. We would be limited to 5 KM from our home (except for work) and exercise would be reduced to 2 hours. One person would be allowed to go food shopping, once per day. Weddings were to be postponed and all non-essential businesses to close.

While lockdown causes little damage to our financial situation, for some of our family and friends, it has the potential to significantly affect their livelihoods.

A friend of mine who owns a restaurant and already struggles with staffing and revenue, was forced to cancel all of his Valentine and Lunar New Year bookings. All the time and money he spent prepping food for the weekend crowd will probably go to waste unless delivery and takeaway orders can make up for the cancelled bookings. Another friend who owns a small business running baby sensory classes only recently reopened and now has to deal with cancellations. My brother’s friend was forced to cancel his wedding today. I don’t even want to think about how that’s going to affect them financially with unused flowers and food.

While it’s easy to suggest that a five-day lockdown is necessary and pales in comparison to the devastation of a rampant pandemic, it’s still a hard pill to swallow. Victorians are still reeling from the last hard lockdown and there are those of us who have barely had time to readjust to normal life. As much as I am thankful that Australia hasn’t experienced what other countries are currently suffering through, it must be acknowledged that lockdowns cause a different kind of devastation.

The possibility of another prolonged lockdown makes me anxious, and I’m doubtful that I’ll be able to cope with going back to my studies, doing teaching placements and homeschool two children. But let’s not go there. Positive thoughts and all.

So, with the announcement of a snap lockdown to begin on Friday night at 11:59 pm, we decided to have a Lunar New Year dinner with my parents beforehand. Was it counterintuitive to have family gatherings before a lockdown? Most definitely. Probably a bit like how people gathered in pubs for a last hurrah across England before lockdown restrictions were imposed. With 19 cases across the State, I was willing to see my extended family for an hour or so.

The eight of us gathered for a quick homecooked meal and red pockets for the children. If you don’t know what red pockets are, it’s a tradition where adults usually give children, employees and unmarried singles red pockets filled with money in hopes of receiving good luck. In return, these recipients offer well-wishes for the year.

My 4-year-old son thanked my dad by saying “I hope you get to buy lots of junk to put in your house and make you feel happy.” For my mum, he wished for a magical fountain to appear in her lounge room, spurting endless supply of his favourite apple juice. The good chap made $85 buckaroos for the night.

My 8-year-old daughter thanked me by saying “I hope you don’t get fat.” You can bet she received a paltry red pocket from me. Even with the snark, she made $95 bucks for the night.

Back in my day to get that kind of money, I had to bow in front of an uncle and aunty and spout empty platitudes before they’d give a measly $5 note. And there’d be a billion children lined up in front of a billion relatives. It was a tradition you couldn’t shirk and took FOREVER. Kids these days just rock up, stick their hand out and say whatever they want and grandparents just think they’re the wittiest little beings. If that happened back in my day… 

Anyway, we left after staying for an hour… a bit like Cinderella and the ball, in a hurry and not wanting to be caught when the clock struck midnight.

The small family gathering was what I needed to give me the strength and fortitude to see through this third lockdown. We’re already witnessing pandemonium at the supermarkets. Toilet paper is being stripped off shelves. Panic buying has started up again. You’d think going through a third lockdown that people would be calmer. After all, supermarkets are still open, and it’s only for 5 days. But maybe Victorians are lockdown wary and bracing themselves for the announcement of a longer lockdown. I know I am.

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