CHUMP CHANGE

There is the ‘fun’ parent and the ‘chump’ parent. Yeah, you know what I’m talking about, don’t even bother pretending that there’s no such thing. The ‘fun’ parent is the one who says yes to ice-creams for dessert on a school night, sides with the children for takeaway when dinner has been organised and spends more time with the better versions of the children. The ‘chump’, aka usually the mother, is treated like an emotional punching bag, expected to front for active duty 24/7, and rarely gets the appreciation they deserve.

I’ll give you an example of how I am the ‘chump’ parent. This morning, instead of waking at some ungodly hour, our 5-year-old son slept in. His sister and dad were in the kitchen having breakfast while I was on the potty. Our son woke up cranky and a bit alarmed to be alone in the bedroom. He hates being left alone anywhere and is basically afraid of his own shadow.

This was the interaction that followed:

From his bed, he yelled out “Mummy! Come!

“I’m on the potty!”

Whimpering ensued and with more force, he screamed “Mummy! Come NOW!”

“I’M ON THE POTTY!” I mean, come on! You can’t rush these things!

Not getting his way immediately, he had a meltdown of nuclear proportions.

“MUMMY! MUMMY! COME NOW! I WANT YOU TO COME NOW!”

You’re probably wondering why he didn’t ask the ‘fun’ parent to come, right? Why didn’t his dad go check on him? Because the ‘fun’ parent is also the clever parent who knows to avoid and not indulge a cantankerous child who woke up on the wrong side of the bed and in the throes of a temper tantrum. No one sane would bother to entertain this situation, no one except for the ‘chump’ parent. 

Later in the day, I got another reality check, a reminder that I was the ‘chump’ parent. We were sitting on a bench on the edge of the prep playground waiting to pick up our son from school. Today was his second day of prep transition where he got to meet his 2022 prep teacher and classmates. As there were forty odd parents milling around the exit of the classroom, I was worried that our son wouldn’t be able to see us sitting so far away, so I moved to stand closer within the middle of the crowd. My husband hadn’t seen the need to move and stayed at the bench.

The children were told to wait on the verandah until they could see a parent and to inform their teacher before leaving. As I was frantically waving like the embarrassing parent that I am, our son had no problem seeing me. After notifying his teacher, he started running towards me clutching a piece of paper in his hand. Anticipating a hug, I smiled and bent down with my arms wide open, ready to embrace him.

Imagine my surprise to see him bypass my outstretched arms, veer left of me and continue towards his dad, who was sitting on the bench across the yard. I quickly dropped my arms and stood up. Awkward!

It wasn’t a deliberate act on his part. He was simply excited to show his dad, the ‘fun’ parent, the art he made during class. But geez, talk about epic burns! I wanted to clap and say, “Well played Sir, well played indeed.”

A friend of mine witnessed the encounter and burst out laughing, which made me giggle instead of being mortified with embarrassment because let’s be honest here, my son basically performed the equivalent of a fake high-five to me.   

I asked my husband if he saw what transpired, to which he replied, “Yeah, it was pretty funny. You should blog about it.” Hah! Of course I was gonna blog about parental embarrassment. It’s the only way for me to process – a problem shared is a problem halved and all that.

Anyway, on the walk back to the car, our son engaged in animated discussion with his dad about his time during prep transition. I tried getting in on the conversation by asking some relevant questions. 

“What kind of things did you do?”

“Who did you sit next to?”

“Do you know what your teacher’s name is?”

Maybe I wasn’t asking the right questions. Perhaps my voice sits in a frequency range that’s incompatible with our son’s hearing. More likely though, he has selective hearing and by selective, I mean he point blank ignores me. Rude much? My husband does make an effort by reminding the children not to snub me, but it’s grating to need the favourite parent to intervene on my behalf. It’s ever more annoying that I need a third party involvement to get the children to spare me a few minutes of their attention. This is another example of what a ‘chump’ parent has to deal with. 

Anyhow, it is a hard pill to swallow knowing that you’re not the favourite parent. Being the ‘chump’ parent doesn’t always feel good and can be pretty bruising on the ego. Apparently, people say that children will often act poorly with one particular parent, often mums, because they feel safe and secure in your love for them and so, are comfortable to let loose on their emotions. 

But here’s the thing, when our children are hurt, sick or in need of comfort, they come to me. It’s in those moments that they relish my warm hugs and comforting touch. And it’s in those moments that I know, without a doubt, that I mean more to them than just being a ‘chump’ parent. 

Perhaps I’m looking at this all wrong. Instead of thinking of myself as the ‘chump’ parent, maybe it’s high time I consider myself the ‘comfort’ parent.

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THE POWER OF A NAG

Have you heard a child nag before? It’s the most annoying sound in the world, worse than any earworm song I’ve ever heard. It’s repetitive, going on and on like the wailing sound of a fire engine, but without an ounce of the melodious upbeat tempo. Seriously, you could put the sound of a child nagging on repeat and you’d have the perfect torture weapon.

Anyway, as a parent, the minute one of my children starts a nagging sesh, I get the dreads. You know the one I’m talking about? No? Well, let me explain. The dreads is like an evolutionary coping mechanism for parents. Think fight or flight response for when humans face danger, but instead it’s when parents face nagging children. The dreads activates a parent’s automatic coping mechanism whereby their mind and body goes into survival mode.

Parents in dread mode are easy to spot, their eyes tend to glaze over, some mumble incoherently to themselves, most shut down their auditory function. All these responses help fortify their mental shields to ward against exposure to sudden nag attacks. 

Undoubtedly, without this evolutionary behaviour, most parents would fall prey to the nagging wiles of their children. Unfortunately, the dreads brings about the onset of the ageing process. We literally age faster while suffering from a child’s nagging. 

Why am I harping on about this? Well, I recently fell victim to a nag attack, and feel an obligation to tell my story as a warning to would-be parents and parents alike of the dangers of giving into your child/ren. In this instance, I was blindsided by not one but two children nagging at a force of 10/10. No amount of defence or coping mechanism could protect me from that kind of onslaught, I caved faster than a house of cards. The result? I became a mother to three instead of two needy beings.

Yes, we’ve added another to our brood of four, a wee one my children have aptly named Mr Dave Hobart Turtle. One child wanted the name Dave while the other preferred Hobart. Neither were willing to compromise and so the poor turtle copped both names. I guess it’s a bit similar to hyphenated surnames, why keep to one when you could have two? 

Little Dave became our ward after suffering from neglect at the hands of my trigger-happy-retail-spending dad, who thought he could buy a couple of turtles to put into his fish tanks without doing any research on how to properly care for them. In the end, my dad relinquished his ownership when one of the turtles died and he realised turtles weren’t as easy to care for as fish. 

Despite initially being reluctant to have yet another thing to worry about, Dave has really grown on me. He’s been with us for two weeks now and every morning when he swims excitedly against the glass waiting for his food pellet, I can’t help but smile. I imagine he would say, ‘Good morning my lady, thank you for the lovely breakfast spread!’ You know, because he’s polite like that.

He was a bit skittish at first but now, Dave and I are like BFFs. We have a connection you see. Dave trusts me enough to eat right from my fingers. He will even let me rub his head – or at least that’s what I think I’m doing. Unlike a dog, it’s a bit hard to tell if I’m petting him or pushing his head down further into the water.

My husband thinks I’m crazy to think the turtle and I have bonded. My daughter, who was sick of me gloating about Dave letting me rub his head, decided to prove me wrong. Yesterday, she stuck her finger into the tank and shattered any illusion I had about special relationships. The dirty little bugger let her rub his head!

‘See Mummy, he just wants food. Doesn’t matter who puts their fingers in. You’re not special.’

Ah, Dave. I thought we had a thing. I thought we had a special bond, you and I. Remember the time I stuck my finger into your tank, and you came right up and sniffed it? Or that time you almost climbed on my hand? I thought we were BFFs!

Anyway, I still feed Dave every morning despite his betrayal. Now when I see him staring at me with his beady eyes, I imagine him being a bit more like my children. Instead of his polite aristocratic English accent, I imagine Dave nagging like my children, ‘Mummmmmmyyyy, I’m huunggggrrry! Where’s MY foood?’ I’ll bet it won’t be long before he reaches Pre-Teen Turtle age and starts rolling his eyes at me. I expect he will be turning his turtle back on me in no time. 

Back to my nagging point. It’s like children are pre-programmed with advanced psychological warfare techniques, primarily well-versed in the art of negotiation and harassment tactics. Can you imagine a world where children got what they wanted because they nagged their parents to death? A world where children won’t take no for an answer? It’ll lead to a generation of spoiled and entitled brats, who will grow into a bunch of spoiled and entitled adults, and the cycle will continue and doom Earth.

As a parent, I have a responsibility to curb the entitlement and mold these children into well-rounded and good human beings. Therefore, it is important they take accountability and responsibility for their pet turtle. This means being involved in the cleaning of Dave’s tank and feeding him (under my supervision). Have you seen turtle poo? It’s hard to believe a small turtle can drop such big whoppers. And the smell… bleugh, worse than bog water on a hot stinky day.

So without further ado, please welcome the newest addition to our family, Mr Dave Hobart Turtle. Let’s hope he survives the week under the care of my children.


Update 18/11/21: For those of you who are curious to see what a turtle poo looks like…

Spot the poop!

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LIFE IS A BLANK CANVAS

Do you remember the first time you started applying for jobs? What about the first time you received a phone call asking you to come for an interview? Better yet, do you recall how you felt when you landed your first job? I bet you were a melting pot of emotions – a little bit of nerves mixed with a heap of hope. Perhaps you were young and brimming with confidence, maybe even a little bit arrogant. 

I was 16-years-old when I got my first paying job. After completing two weeks of work experience at a pharmacy, the owner offered me a job. I remember feeling overwhelmed with happiness. At the time, that job was a godsend as my parents were struggling financially and we were walking the poverty line. Every dollar had counted. I worked for the owner, who was a gentle, supportive and wise old soul, for three years before I left for University. I don’t think I can express how much that man shaped my future. 

By the time I left University to seek my dream job at the age of 22-years-old, I was eager to make my mark in the world. I felt ten feet tall and bulletproof. I was confident in my abilities and knowledge, and truly believed people were lucky to have me as an employee. Gosh, how conceited was I? I blame being young and naive. 

For the most part, I had no trouble finding work. I jumped from job to job, desperately searching for the next best thing; the nirvana of all jobs. I was never satisfied to stay in one place for long, always wanting more – higher pay, better conditions, fewer hours, more status. Eventually, I settled for a stable and secure government job when I started a family. It lasted almost a decade until I had a mental breakdown and a midlife crisis, which coincided with the start of the pandemic.

My focuses for the last two years have been supporting my family and strengthening my mental health. The reprieve from working has also been an opportunity to re-educate and explore a new career. In all, the break has given me clarity and perspective that has sorely been missing in my life.

After a year of studies and with my youngest going to school next year, I am finally in the position to look for a job for 2022. At the ripe old age of 39-years-old, I am a new ‘graduate’ and essentially starting over again. Only this time I don’t have the misplaced confidence and arrogance of youth. 

Currently, I am trying to scrub up my resume and cover letter to better fit the requirements of this day and age. Long gone are popular buzz terms like ‘self-starter’, ‘hard worker’, ‘people person’ or ‘punctual’. It’s no longer acceptable to just list what you did in previous jobs. Instead, you have to use action verbs and examples to show how you have demonstrated a competency or skill. There’s a lot of work needed to get my resume up to scratch, but luckily, I have access to the University’s postgraduate careers service which offers help. Soon I’ll be ready for the process of screening and applying for jobs. 

The prospect of getting out there and starting again is terrifying and on occasion, self-doubt likes to gnaw at my subconscious. Sometimes I wonder what will happen if no one wants to employ me? What happens if I don’t have what it takes to teach adults? What if I hate teaching?

It’s a good thing that the overruling emotions are excitement and hope. While there are self-doubt and anxiety about the uncertainty of my job prospects, I know deep down that my rich life experiences and confidence in soft skills, and eagerness to be a working member of society, makes me as a worthy applicant for any job. 

Plus, I don’t have the burning need to prove myself to anyone, like when I was a young person. There are no expectations that matter other than my own. There is no pressure to accept or reject a job. If it doesn’t fit the bill, then I’ll move on. In a way, the world is my oyster. 

With that thought in mind, I’ll endeavour to see this opportunity in life as a blank canvas ready for me to paint in any which way I want. Hopefully, in a few years I’ll look back and admire the masterpiece that is my life and give myself a pat on the back for having the courage to start over. 

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