Category Archives: Parents and Family

It’s Grade Four Long Jump. Not The Answer To Stop World Hunger.

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BY ABBY MAC

I stand on the sideline of the long jump pit measuring the scores of each grade four girl, at the school athletics carnival.  I smile and tell them well done and try to dismiss the obsessive parent in the background who insists in telling each girl their exact measurement, how far behind or in front they are from the previous girl and the exercises they need to do to be a better long jumper.  Then, the teacher makes a crucial mistake.  She asks for volunteers.  That parent I was trying to ignore is now in my face, her necklace jangling and earrings swinging side to side.  She’s bouncing up and down to be selected.  She’s the only one volunteering.

Now she has a job at the long jump.  All she has to do is measure how long each girl jumps.  Round it off to the closest centimetre and if you really want, millimetre.  The first girl jumps, she starts measuring and for the next five minutes debates whether she jumped 1.02 metres or 1.03.  Her two year old son, Miller (???) who is a great “helper”, jumps out in front of the girls each time they’re jumping.  Miller, seems to have trouble to know what the word “no” means, but I am reiterated to that he is a great “helper”.  The mother starts talking to me again, trepidation and excitement mixed in her voice.   Her daughter is about to jump.  Will she meet her PB?  Oh, how nerve-racking?  Her daughter jumps, and just like her brother Miller, doesn’t seem to understand me when I speak.

“You fouled.  I’m sorry.”

This is where you're meant to jump from.

This is where you’re meant to jump from.

 

“I did not foul,” yelled the little girl!

“I don’t think my Lily* fouled,” yelled the mother/volunteer.

“I’m sorry but the rules are you have to jump before the white line.  Lily jumped whilst she was in the sand.  That is way over the line,” I informed them.

 

This is where the little girl jumped from.

This is where the little girl jumped from.

This debate continued for another five minutes, arguing that we could just grant her with the benefit of the doubt.  Eventually, the little girl stormed out of the pit (she actually walked to where she was meant to jump from, which I could technically measure her from there because that was the last footstep in the pit, but I didn’t because it wasn’t the OLYMPICS) and her mother ran over to the tantrum-ing little girl  and reassured her that she was still the best – she would do better on the next jump.  Once their little pep talk was over, the mother raced back over to me where the following conversation took place.

“My Lily, she just gets really sad when she fouls so I just have to make sure she is okay.”

“Right.”

“Yes.  Yesterday, she was doing discus and she threw a really good shot but it was a foul, as well.  The sports teacher there, Mr Clohe*, said that was the best shot he had ever seen and if it wasn’t a foul then it would have been the best discus throw ever.

Because Grade Four discus would compare to something like the Olympics.

“I can imagine.”

“Grace was just great!”

This mother continued with her fascination of being the coolest, most knowledgeable and completely over-rated mum there.  She compared kids in my grade with each other (how does she even know their names?  Her own child is in grade four???) and went on to measure every jump to 1.03792 exactly.  And she annoyed me.  A lot.

I stood at that athletics carnival and had a look at the parents who were there.  I listened to their conversations such as, “I cannot believe the technique they are teaching for shotput!” (Grade Three) and “I was so angry that my child did not get a PB in high jump, yesterday!” (Grade Three, again).  I looked in utter disbelief and thought:

WHAT HAS HAPPENED TO THE WORLD?  WHEN DID ANYBODY CARE IF A SEVEN YEAR OLD DIDN’T MAKE A PB?  THEY’RE SEVEN?  WHEN DID THEY EVEN GET A PB?

Initially, I was just struck in absolute shock and then I became quite angry.  These parents, these obsessed and pressuring parents, are become so fanatical with their child and minor achievements such as the extra 0.000001 they added to their long jump PB that one day, that child will just give up.  That child will feel so much anxiety and pressure to win or get a PB that their fuse will just burn out and in turn, so will they.

This constant obsession that our society seems for our children to be able to play Grade Five piano when they’re five, winning nationals for swimming, cross country and netball, academically receiving A++ in every subject and being socially perfect is just rubbish.  I cannot understand why a parent would choose to inflict such pressure onto their child – such pain for a child to endlessly desire to live up to their parents’ growing, changing and heightening expectations and let their child run until the ends of the Earth just to please, but, nonetheless, it happens.  I see it every day.  I see what the parents want and what the child wants.  I see the polar opposites trying to meet and then one day, everything that child has ever done and the person they have become is stripped.  They get to a point where they can no longer cope with any pressure at all so they let everything go.

 

Let your child grow up.  Let your child lead their own life and nurture their talents, gifts and weaknesses.  Your child should be the most beautiful thing in the world to you, no matter their PB in Grade Four long jump, and if you can’t appreciate them just as they are, then you’re not being a true parent.

 

Did you know any parents who pressure their children?  Do you do it?  Why?  Do your parents pressure you? 

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The Parent-Child Trust. And, How It Can Be Broken.

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BY ABBY MAC

This is my friend, Rosa*’s story:

When I was 10, I told my mum a secret. I asked her not to tell anybody. Then, a week or so later we went to a dinner party. We were all sitting at the table when my mum started telling everyone this secret I had told her. She didn’t omit my name or anyone else’s for that matter, and still continued to inform everyone at the table of this sweet, little secret I had told her. Everyone at the table thought my secret, which was no longer so secretive, to be quite amusing and they all chuckled to themselves. I did not find it amusing. Later on, I approached my mum and asked, “Why would you tell them my secret?” She didn’t think she had done anything wrong. I became angry and questioned why she would think it okay to blurt out my secret? She replied by saying that I was only 10 and all the adults found it quite cute. All those people there didn’t really care much for it and to stop fussing. It’s only a secret and you’re only 10.

A little ten year old with a little ten year old secret is no big deal, many might conclude. True, it was only a small secret to be told, nonetheless, it was a secret told to a mother from a little girl, secretly.

Girl Telling Mum Secret

This is what happened.

I have heard many friends of mine repeat stories similar to the one above, and all have affected them and their relationship with their mother/father in various ways. Though, the reason why I chose to share this story is, the failure by my friend’s mother to keep her daughter’s secret is still impacting their relationship today. Rosa feels as though she can’t trust her mother with most things, at the vulnerable age of 15. The mistake that her mother made five years earlier, is still affecting her today.

Quite a few people may view this as an overreaction, taking the same stance as Rosa’s mum that it was only a little secret. Rosa is making a big deal out of something that is relatively small and an event that you should just get over – if there was anything really to get over. Move on.

I feel very differently. Yes, a small secret. I know. But it was how her mother reacted which actually broke the trust between the two. I take the perspective that one cannot judge another for a mistake but how they recuperate or respond to it, is the true test of character. Think of a game of hockey, netball or whatever you play, if you lose the ball, it’s how you respond to your error which really matters. You can either, keep going and do your absolute best to get it back or, give up and have a sulk for the rest of the game. It’s not the event which breaks friendship or trust; it is how the person handles it after.

As my friend has admitted, she would have been prepared to move on with things if her mum had apologised and seen fault in her actions, however, she didn’t. She relayed the blame back to Rosa and made her feel bad for accusing her mum of breaking the trust. She refused to admit that she did something wrong.

Mum and daughter fighting

This is what it caused.

This is what has travelled with Rose for the past five years. This event isn’t the definitive reason why Rosa and her mum share a rocky relationship, but it was certainly the catalyst to the problems they have today. It was the beginning of their troubles. And I think this is incredibly sad. It is so sad that this mother and daughter can’t enjoy a special relationship because of something that occurred many years earlier – a mother just couldn’t admit to her faults and do better.

The relationship between this mother and daughter is not rare, but many teenagers have experienced something similar with their parents and can be the reason for their distant relationships.

It’s important to any relationship that when there are issues, fault on both sides can be identified instead of transferring it from one person to another. Rosa, apart from when she first asked her mum why she would tell her secret, has not admitted to her mother why she can’t trust her. I could only hope that if she did, her mum would take Rosa more seriously.

Today, Rosa’s mum believes that it is Rosa being a teenager and all the hormones going through their body which is the reason why they don’t speak often. Again, she’s blaming something/someone else apart from her.

Just because Rosa was 10 when it happened and the secret was only small, it cannot be underestimated the impacts that it had. Maybe it’s time as a parent to admit some fault in problems you have with your children and being prepared to listen to them. The parent-child trust is a very special aspect to the relationship you have with your child and it is something that should be cared and nurtured. When you have it, you may not know it, but when it’s gone, it’s impossible not to miss.

For teens: have your parents betrayed your trust? Is it affecting you and/or your relationship today? Have you told them why?

For parents: do you and your child have a good/bad relationship? Why?

*Names have been changed in consideration of privacy.

The Way to Solve Bullying Is Not Through Awareness

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BY ABBY MAC

Through all the seminars, awareness programs and group chats at school that revolve about bullying and the urge to stop it, none have succeeded.  I am probably bursting dreams of many of the motivational speakers which have come to schools trying to convince various people not to bully and how to cope with bullying best, but the fact of the matter is; THEY’RE NOT WORKING.  I am sorry to break it to you but unfortunately, the hours spent promoting and having various “Say No to Bullying” days is not putting an end to bullying.

I have been severely bullied most of my schooling life (so far this year there has been none – let’s not jinx that) so I think it is fair that I have an opinion on this.  There are many different ways to attack the issue of bullying and each method will work better for a different victim and put a stop to the bullying faster.  There is no “one-size-fits-all” and sometimes that can be the largest problem with teachers, adults or anybody trying to solve bullying.  Approaches have to be different depending on the situation, type of bully and who the victim is.

Before writing this post, I questioned what I thought could end bullying and to be honest, I don’t know 100%.  I can provide advice and how I would have liked to seen the bullies be dealt with but they aren’t definite answers either.  Who knows what goes through the mind of someone that openly chooses to demean, degrade, criticise, inflict pain and damage another person?  Sometimes, nothing at all.  Below are a few things that I think need to be actioned more and unfortunately, more harshly.

1.       Accountability

Throughout the years that I have been bullied, not one person who has bullied me has ever had to apologise.  Not one.  Ever.  Quite frightening?  Not once have that had to admit to bullying me and apologise.  People not being made accountable for their actions means that haven’t had to see any fault in their behaviour.  It means that they aren’t being told that they’re behaviour they are showing is wrong.  Consequently, no effort has to be made by them to change.

Most time incidents of bullying has occurred, I have reported it to a teacher or if matters become worse, a year co-ordinator, deputy principal or headmaster.  Each time, they have either denied the bullying is occurring (Yes, because they would know sitting in their offices) or promised some sort of action which has never been followed through with.

Ensuring that bullies become accountable for their actions can firstly help to recognise their behaviour is wrong and in doing this, it tells them they have been caught and an excuse is not going to be provided for their behaviour.  Hopefully, this will lead to a cease in the bullying.

2.       Identifying all types of bullying

Bullying is not just punching someone.  It is not just calling them fat.  It is not just writing them a mean message.  Bullying can also be being a bitch.  At my last school, bitchiness, what the prime type of bullying I received, however, bitchiness is sometimes the hardest to identify and the easiest to cover.  Many people underestimate the power of people, particularly, girls being bitches to each other because bitchiness, is most of the time silent and adapted to directly hurt the individual intended.

Bullying is not okay

Bullying comes in all forms. And none of it is okay.

For instance, I was standing in line at school waiting for a class and a group of girls came up to our class and waved and said hello to everyone standing there.  Apart from me.  They did this every time we had that class for one and a half terms.  To an adult, it’s something you should just get over.  But when that happens every day, in front of everybody else, it hurts.  Or a group of girls playing “What Do I Hate” in class.  They were all sitting around me and it started with, girls with blonde hair, girls who wear their hair in plaits (I was wearing my hair in plaits), girls in White House (I was in White House), girls whose names begins with ‘A’.  It’s bitchy.  And it sucks.

Trying to tell an adult that them simply death staring you every time you go to your locker and following you to your next class but they aren’t in your next class, can just sound petty.  Most of the teachers I told said that I was just interpreting their behaviour wrong or for me to just grow up.  And that’s because they just don’t understand that bitchiness hurts and is hard to stop.  Identifying this and all types of bullying is key to stopping it.

3.       Why?

Most of the bullies that I have encountered they either suffer from issues at home or have reasons (not always directly linking to the victim) for why they bully.  Some have been bullied at home by parents or siblings, are acting by rumours they have heard or from friends and jealousy.  None are justifiable for the bullying but it helps to understand why.

Identifying and fixing the biggest question of all – why, is the greatest milestone of stopping individual cases of bullying.  Though it is the greatest achievement, it is often difficult to discover.  In some circumstances it is embarrassing, not yet understood or they are found out to be wrong.  As an example, in grade one I was bullied by another girl and it started because she was being bullied and abused by her mum.  Now, what she was doing to me wasn’t acceptable but it helped to explain why she was acting in the way that she was.  She clearly wasn’t cared for or had any control over her own life and so she needed to inflict the pain she was on me.

Questioning and attempting to understand the thought process of the bully can also be hard for them as speaking their reasons aloud can be embarrassing on their part.  Now, embarrassment isn’t always the solution but it aids in ceasing the bullying.

4.       Enforcing punishment and change

I don’t always source complete agreement on this point, however, I believe enforcing stronger punishment is crucial to stopping bullying.  Solving the root of bullying, which I addressed above, is the real solution to stopping bullying though this process is time consuming and in the meantime, we solve the more immediate issue with direct punishment – showing that for every action there is consequence.

As an example, I came out of the gym one day to the sports notice board.  For a couple of days, photos from our school touch football team were on the board and there happened to be one of me about to pass the ball.  As I walked out towards the board a group of girls from my team were standing around the photo of me.  When they saw me, they looked back, giggled and walked away.  The photo of me was now a photo of my body with my head ripped out and in the team photo, my face was scribbled out with pen.

Nothing happened to those girls.  The photo was simply taken down and replaced with a new one after I reported the incident.  These girls continued their parade with refusing to pass the ball to me on the field and different tactics to get me out of the team.  There was no punishment.  No consequences for their actions.  In this incidence, immediate punishment would have stopped their behaviour.  The school instigating that they will not play any games until their torments stopped.  I can almost guarantee I would have no longer been bullied if quick enforcement of the rules had occurred.

More action needs to be taken to bring an end to bullying instead of pitying the bully for the punishment that they might get or giving them one more chance when they have clearly abused the amount of rope you have already supplied them with. In cases like this, how much the victim suffers and will continue to suffer without punishment towards the bullying, is far worse than small punishment for poor behaviour.

5.       Becoming real.

Many teachers, parents and adults don’t like to believe that the perceived Good Girl is oh so bad.  As parents, I can imagine it would be hard to think that the son or daughter you brought up could not be the person that you thought they were.  Though, it is better to make small admissions and fix their behaviour than letting it continue and escalate.  At my last school, they refused to admit that girls were bullying each other and preferred to live in a perfect world of perfect people.  Such action caused the dux of their grade, most valuable hockey player, needed touch player for the undefeated team and competitor in swimming and athletics to switch to a different school.  Just because they didn’t become real.

Having pictures around the school with a big, red zero around it does not stop kids from bullying.

Bullying

These sorts of posters. They don’t help.

If schools think this is a good enough solution to bullying then they are very stupid and frankly, partly responsible for bullying.  I have witnessed first hand the commence of “Bullying Awareness Week” and having a discussion in class about actively trying to stop bullying, and kids walked out and impersonated and bullied a boy in our class.  Bullying awareness isn’t the answer.  It also isn’t completely invaluable.  It helps in some aspects of bullying, but it does not solve it.  When the world works this out, so will bullying.

Have you been bullied?  Was it fixed?  If so, how?  

I love my sisters. It doesn’t mean I get to see them.

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BY ABBY MAC

When I say sisters, they’re not my full sisters.   I sometimes say step-sisters or half.  Though, to me, it doesn’t matter whether we don’t share the same blood or family tree, they are still my sisters.

I dearly love my sisters and everyday I cherish the moments I did get to spend with them, however, just because I love them doesn’t mean I can see them.  Just like my dad, I haven’t seen my sisters for four years and that isn’t going to change in the near future.  The eldest of my two sisters is eight and the yougest is five.   My brother has had brief contact with my dad and he says that the eldest one remembers me and the youngest one doesn’t but she knows of me.

Every Christmas and birthday I receive a card from them and I rip open the envelope, shut the door to my bed room and sit and have a cry.  I sit and cry a mixture guilt, love and sadness.  I feel guity for not being with them, watching them grow and nurturing them.  I am sorry for not being the sister I should be.  I can only watch both grow through their handwriting skills, from just scribbles to carefully copied dotted lines and now legible writing that slides downwards.

The last letter I wrote to them I decided to add photos of my brother and I.  I know this may seem a minute step to most, but I never receive a reply to my letters where I ask a thousand questions.  The worst they could do is not reply and possibly stop talking to me forever, but I was willing to take the chance.  If they accepted this step, it would hopefully see the end to my unanswered question and a progression in our relationship.

I know that it is not their choice to not reply.  I understand that is my dad and his wife that limit the contact but it still hurts to never hear anything back from them.  When I decided to not see my dad anymore, it wasn’t a hard choice.  Part of our difficult relationship stemmed from his new family and he preferred to spend time with the girls than me.  For a long time I resented them over his choice and so when I left, I was definitely saddened that I couldn’t see them anymore because I did love them, but I did think that I could move on from whatever a one year old and ten year old could share.  Unfortunately, I was unsuccessful.

As I grew up, I found that I did not resent the girls, I resented his choice to priortise them over me.  I no longer resented my sisters but deeply missed them and felt a sense of guilt from choice to leave them.  Even now, I would still choose to not see my dad but I know the decision would be harder for me.  I know that if I stayed with my dad, I would have continued to become an angry and unhappy girl which is something that would be hard to undo however, I hope that I will one day rekindle a relationship with my sisters when they aren’t influenced my dad or his wife.

A part of me understands that there will come a time where we won’t talk.  I am predicting that my dad will try and persuade them to lose contact with me and he will tell his side to the long and complicated relationship we had.  Though, I do hope that they will want to one day find out for themselves what really went down.  That is something I have to accept.

Everyday I miss my sisters more and I will never stop caring and loving them.  I feel like I should be painting their nails and combing their hair.  Helping them with school work and talking about movies, friends and boys with them.  But I can’t do that.  I don’t know what school they go to, what type of clothes they like or want sport they both play.  I sometimes feel as though I have failed them.

For the first time yet, the girls have replied to my letter.  They sent back photos of themselves.  As usual, I cried.  I stuck the photos up in my room and I feel grateful for what I have now been granted.  I know that the youngest one has brown curly hair and the eldest likes tie dye clothing.  It’s minimal information, but it still feels like too much.  I can now compare how much they have grown from the images of the their baby faces in my mind, to their now grown-up ones.

Even though I love my girls to pieces, it doesn’t mean I get to see them.

From one the cards the eldest sister wrote to me:

‘…Dear Abby….I miss you so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so much and I will love you forever.   I can’t wait until I can see you again…roses are red, violets are blue and I will never stop loving you.’

Accompanied by a beautiful drawing of the day we see each other again.

Have you been separated by a loved one by choice? Do you still keep in touch, if so, how?  How do you feel on this topic?

My dog’s my best friend.

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BY ABBY MAC

Zaakie Grass

My boy.

My best friend is perfect. He listens to everything I have to say, he never questions my opinions and traits and he always greets me with a smile. Unfortunately, he’s my dog. I know, I know. You’re probably thinking that I’ll end up being that crazy cat lady down the street, or in this case dog lady, but someone else please tell me you feel the same way?

I have other really good friends, of course, who meet my needs of human interaction better than my dog, Zaakie, but he still never fails to make me smile every day. Zaakie calms me down, reads my emotions and manages to always be there when I need him. And I think I do the same for him. When he is frightened, he runs to where I am or into my room and that makes me feel very satisfied. Our friendship isn’t just me talking to a dog, he feels protected around me. When I’m sad he comes and lies me and when he’s sad, tired or being lazy he lies on me.

I really do love my dog. He’s my friend. He’s the best one I have. But he’s actually so much more than I thought. It isn’t just Zaakie who calms me down. He isn’t a special dog, in that, any dog can calm and soothe you. According to Elizabeth Scott, wellness coach, author and health coach, it’s often hard to resist calming down when you look into their adoring eyes. Pets can reduce blood pressure and help with your stress levels.

I know Zaakie does this. If he walks in and I’m angry, I don’t yell or show anger in front of him. It will scare him and I don’t want that. His infective personality is hard to resist and his big goofy smile doesn’t help. I watch him rip up toys and try to steal teddies from my room. That makes me laugh. He makes me very, very happy.

He may not be able to speak back to me, but he knows me better than any other friend. As I wrote earlier, when I’m sad, he lays on me. To non-animal lovers, that may seem disgusting but it’s comforting. How can you not obey to his demands; calm down and just pat him? Dogs have other benefits as well. They can encourage you to do exercise and get outside. Unless, you have a dog like mine and I end up pulling him home or just driving him everywhere.

Zaakie Sunglasses

I protect him from the sun.

But most of all, my dog loves me unconditionally. No matter whether you like to dance in your dressing gown and slippers to Mariah Carey songs…at 1pm in the afternoon, or you have no friends at school, your dog will love you. And that is one constant friendship and love in your life. Your friends can be so conditional during school, and there is nothing better than having one assuring friend. Your pet.

Zaakie is my best mate and there are days where I have a bad day at school and I just want to come home to Zac. It is his love and smile and dog antics that every day, make me love him even more. And, so on days where your assignments are getting a bit stressful or your ‘friends’ aren’t being friendly, maybe you should turn to that little obliging dog or cat who will always sit by you.

And if I am the crazy dog lady, at least my dogs won’t judge me.

Simple Pleasures.

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BY ABBY MAC

In a world where we often spend years, or our life, searching for people or items that make us happy, I think it is safe to say, that we could so easily miss simple things that have the potential to make us the most happy. On Christmas Day, I saw so many simple pleasures, many were missed and others were appreciated.

They varied from the care and delicacy one took to wrap the gift (not necessarily the gift), to the true beauty of a meal or the presentation of the dinner table. They made me happy. They made me smile. And they were extremely simple.

Unfortunately, peoples’ lives are cramped with such meaningless tasks and planned pleasures that these simple pleasures can’t be enjoyed. We forget the people we love and dedicate our precious time to those we feel the need to please or will get us somewhere.

When my two cousins arrived on Christmas Day, I found my favourite simple pleasure. The girls arrived with a basket full of different dolls, craft sets and lip glosses, with dazzling smiles which only ever masks faces once a year. They made it hard not to smile at the sight of their grins.

They showed me each doll and why they were so special to them; they chased me with their toy cars and set up games for us to play. I think it was many Christmas’ ago which I was able to ‘play’ with my toys not apply them, wear them or soak up their smells and colours. And I thoroughly enjoyed those games only recommended for children aged 4-12.

Blingled

My Laptop was ‘Blingled’

After we played with all their toys, they asked me what gifts I was given. And so I listed the lotions, candles and gift cards. Most of that seemed rather boring to them, however they were most interested in what I was going to spend my gift card money on. BOXING DAY SALES, OF COURSE! It was then to my delight that the eldest one wanted to go shopping with me. And there was my simple joy. She wanted to spend time with me. Without a true purpose. Not because it was Christmas or a birthday, because we were two friends and wanted to spend time together. That was the most pleasurable joy of my day.

Simple pleasures are so spontaneous and spectacular which make them just so special. They’re missed for other, less important people or tasks, and aren’t often recognised for actually being pleasurable. How can spending time with a 12 and 7 year old be fun, some may say? It’s often presented as a chore, when really it shouldn’t be. It is your privilege to be together. As a family. Safely.

If I think back to when I was 12 and 7, I would have certainly embraced the idea of having a friend or family member, older than me, open to spending time with someone younger – not being a chore. My simple joys are very simple. My cousins feel free to ask for me to spend time with them. And I am more than happy to willingly do so.

Simple pleasures aren’t planned, they’re spontaneous. They’re pleasures which would never strike you as something you would enjoy or notice, however, when they do, they are the most pleasurable pleasures of all.

Merry Christmas Everyone!

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BY JESS WRAY

Hey all! I write on behalf of myself, Abby and the Growing Pains Team as we wish you all a very merry Christmas, wherever you may be! I hope you all have a lovely day with whomever you choose to spend it with. I hope you all share the Christmas spirit and enjoy your presents!

If you’re like me, I release the ‘inner-child’ in me on Christmas day. I sprung awake at 3:50 am on the dot. It was still dark and I was so excited to look under the tree, be the first one to see the gifts. I lay in my dark, chilly room and debated with myself whether I should get up or if I should just stop being ridiculous and go back to bed, “It’s 3 o’clock Jess!” The more reasonable, mature side of me won the argument, so I tried desperately to go back to sleep; I shut my eyes tight. After about 10 minutes I decided I just couldn’t do it, so I turned on my lamp and decided to read my book for a while. After I had finished reading, checked Facebook and browsed on Instagram, I was delighted to have a small glistening glow of the sunshine peep through my window! By this time it was 4:45 or something crazy like that. I immediately opened my curtains and let the morning sunshine implode in. I love the crisp smell of the early morning, the gentle cool breeze and the birds that sing in chorus with nature. I was happy that soon I would be able to go wake up Mum and Dad as well, but I had to wait for the time to be just right… If I woke mum up at 4:00, I think she would have a fit and ban Christmas all together!

Not really, but you get the picture. After further debating with myself whether I should get up or not, I finally got the courage to get up and explore beneath the tree! I tip-toed as sneakily and as quietly as I could, checking all my surroundings before I approached the tree. Roger, Roger, the coast was clear. I saw some presents under the tree, all beautifully wrapped with red and white ribbons and each person in the family had exactly 3 presents addressed to them. I tried to sneak a peek but I thought, “Come on Jess, you’re ruining the spirit of Christmas!” By this time, I felt quite lonely and I needed to talk and wish someone Merry Christmas, my mouth felt trapped! I am usually quite the blabber mouth so you can understand my dilemma! I was suddenly greeted, very excitedly, by my favorite kitty, Cooper – he’s my pet cat. We cuddled for a while and he meowed me a Merry Christmas! I held him in my arms and decided to walk into Matt’s room (he’s my younger brother) and to my surprise Matt was wide awake too! A huge sense of relief came across the both of us; I wasn’t the only insane person in the family on Christmas day. Matt and I and little Coops chatted for a while about how we couldn’t get to sleep, he had been up since 4:00 am, and Cooper, well who knows! Later, we transferred to the living room, perfect distance away from Mum and Dad’s room, for us to make a noise and be able to talk and watch ‘The Big Bang Theory’ ; it’s one of Matt and I’s favorite T.V shows of all time. We know every word of the song… sometimes, even the script! So we were entertained by Sheldon and the Big Bang gang for about half an hour when we heard a very exciting sound.

It was Santa! Or maybe just mum awakening from up stairs. We both look at each other and our eyes light up! It was what we had been waiting for since 3:00 am! Thump, thump, thump went Mum’s footprints and the noise got louder as she came down the stairs and towards us; we knew it was time…to begin Christmas!

“MERRY CHRISTMAS!” we belted out as we ran to mum who was still half asleep! We bounced and cheered and Matt and I anticipated and waited for the five words that we desperately wanted to hear… “Let’s go open some presents!” Mum and Dad, Matt and I all sat in our formal lounge and each collected our treasures from underneath the tree. We all took turns opening one present each as we went around the circle. Just like children. Oh, how I love Christmas!

Our family was very lucky this Christmas to receive a holiday as our main present, I also recieved DKNY ‘Be Delicious’ perfume, an eye shadow kit and a Coldplay ‘MY LO XYLOTO’ Concert Tour T-Shirt! I am very happy with all of my gifts and I am very excited to spend the rest of our Christmas Day with our dear family friends, The Ducrays! They used to live in South Africa too and we have known them all our lives, Brigitte (daughter, and my very close friend) and I were born together only about a month or two a part! We do miss our family so much, all the time but especially on these precious days, I send my love and Christmas wishes onto all of my dear friends and family that I cannot be with today.

So once again, I would like to wish you all a very magical Christmas and I hope that you are able to share and celebrate the love and joy with people who are special to you!

How did you start your Christmas day? Do you have any family ‘traditions’ on Christmas day? What gifts did you receive? 

Top 3 Strangest Christmas Presents. Ever.

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BY ABBY MAC

They could be delivered from old Aunt Nelly with the dodgy eye or even the neighbours across the road, but everyone gets strange Christmas presents. These ‘gifts’ could vary from a hand-made sweater with reindeers and Santa dancing on the front (Bridget Jones’ Diary anyone?) or simply another hand lotion which has obviously been re-gifted and still has the discounted price tag on the back.

Bridget Jones' Diary Sweaters

Bridget Jones’ Diary, anyone?

So, with the Christmas spirit floating around, I have compiled a short list of the top three strangest Christmas presents that I’ve ever received.

  1. Two wire coat hangers from my Grandmother. The same gift she gave my mum a decade ago. Tip: Wire coat hangers are never ‘on trend’.
  2. Underwear and a singlet from my Dad.
  3. Pool toys from my Aunt. We don’t even own a pool.

Please tell me I’m not alone in this strange Christmas fever. I often wonder what runs through people’s minds when they give gifts like the ones above.

‘Gee – I really think Abby would like two wire coat hangers for Christmas to hang up all the pretty clothes she gets from other people. Though, I don’t want to spoil her with a whole packet, she might get a bit greedy.’

That’s how I imagine it. Totally logical to them. Totally illogical to us.

But it’s the thought that counts, right?

What is your top three strangest Christmas presents, or does your list go on for longer than three? Have you ever given a strange Christmas present, why? Do you believe that it is the thought that counts?

WARNING: Embarrassing

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BY ABBY MAC

It is the duty parents must think they should fulfil. That duty could take place when you are young, or when you grow older, as they can bask in the heat which radiates from your burning hot, embarrassed face. But beware, at some point, your parents will embarrass you.

Every parent (or sibling) has their own style. Are they cruel enough to do it publically or privately, when you’re younger or older and is it so embarrassing that your life could come to an end?

Embarrassing Parents Dancing

Anyone seen this scene before?

I know of many friends whose parents have tried to act really young and hip, and that’s been the embarrassing moment. Others have had parents who really and intentionally embarrassed them and then there is the sad parent and the unfortunate child who don’t even know they’re embarrassing each other. For example, a girl in grade 11 caught our school bus, occasionally. Her mother would always wait at the bus stop with her and try to talk to all the kids there. But one day, one cruel day where even I was embarrassed, was when that mum got onto the bus. Yes, she got onto the bus. In her pyjamas and pink dressing gown. I know by now you’re wanting the story to stop here but it can’t. The truth must be told. Her mum then walked up the bus to say hello to all the kids – some being grade 12 men, that she remembers from when they were ‘tiny tots’. The worst part of it all, her daughter in grade 11 didn’t even care. Not a jot. ‘It was normal’.

I don’t think I have a story that even compares slightly to that. I asked my parents and they said they’d never intentionally embarrassed us, at an older age (yet). Only when we were young and couldn’t understand why they were making us stand on top of the seat at the train station and flap our ears so the train could come faster. That sort of stuff. Anyway, there is one story which still results in my face burning extremely red.
It was pyjama day at our school and I was in grade two. (Just to let you know, when that girl’s mum got on the bus, it wasn’t pyjama day.) Basically, every child, and some teachers, could come to school in their pyjamas. I was happily entertained by the idea that I would have to do no changing from my bed clothes to my school clothes and therefore the hour which I woke up could be pushed back. My mum dropped me off at school as usual and she drove home. But unfortunately, that’s not where the story ends. My mum came back to school later that day to be a ‘helper’ . She came dressed in her pyjamas. With bunny rabbits all over them. And purple, fluffy slippers. No other ‘helper’ had worn pyjamas. With bunny rabbits all over them. And purple, fluffy slippers. I thought my life could end at that moment. Until mum turned around. On her bottom, she had accidentally ripped the pyjama pants at the gate and left a gaping hole for everyone in that room to take a look at the lilac underpants which she had (thankfully) worn. It was there that I realised my life was not about to end, but it was already ending.

When have your parents embarrassed you? Or, when have you embarrassed your kids? Have you embarrassed your sibling/s?

Child Parenting: Do You Do It?

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BY ABBY MAC

When my dad remarried, he and his new wife – had two more girls. Those girls were lovely and it was my genuine love for them which provoked me to want to be part of their lives. I wanted to play with them, brush their hair and hold them just like any other older sister would. That’s what I wanted to do. But I didn’t want to become their parent. Nonetheless, that’s exactly what did happen.

I only visited my dad every second weekend, however, that didn’t stop my dad and step-mother from making me the step-in parent. I was often asked look after them for extended periods or in unsafe environments, feed them, brush their teeth and bathe them, dress them and entertain them. I emphasise on the word entertain. I wanted to play with my sisters, not become the ‘girl on show’ to entertain them. That isn’t in my criteria.

When I was told to look after them, I ultimately had no choice in the decision. Whilst my dad and his wife went out for an hour or so, it was my responsibility to care for a toddler and baby – I started at just eight years old. It makes me feel uncomfortable that they were prepared to leave an eight year old girl on her own, let alone an eight year old caring for a toddler and a baby.

Siblings looking after siblings

Child Parenting. It happens.

The most frightening time for me was whilst my baby sister, step-mother and I were swimming in a public pool. At the time I was eight. My step-mother jumped out of the pool and said she would be back soon and just left the baby in my arms. In a public pool. I was eight. She was a baby.

Playing with a sibling is okay. Wanting to brush their hair or paint their nails is okay. Leaving young siblings under their brother’s or sister’s care, is not okay. It is unsafe on both accounts; for me and my younger sisters.

It is not any parent’s right to think it is okay to leave young siblings with another older sibling. It doesn’t matter whether the elder sibling is 16 – it is not okay. When one decides to become a parent, one cannot simply hand it off to their other children when they crave a break. When someone becomes a parent, one must fulfil it.

It was lucky for me that I was not with my sisters all the time and therefore was not their permanent parent, however many others have different stories. I know of a family whose mother and father have completely disregarded the job as parents and have transferred it onto their eldest from when she was eight. I think the best way to describe her life is sad. She was expected – forced – to fulfil a role that she didn’t choose and one she didn’t deserve. We lived quite close to their house and I could clearly hear her name being screeched across the house. ‘Jaazzz*, feed Kate*’, ‘Jaazzz, put Kate to bed’, ‘Jaazzz, stop Kate misbehaving’ and it would go on daily, her mother screaming taunts of abuse.

It is this poor and disgusting behaviour which plants a seed of resentment towards the younger sibling. It did for me. My sisters were no longer sisters but chores and that is not fair on them. They don’t have the choice in who cares for them, particularly at a young age.

Jazz lost her right to freedom, therefore being tied to her house all hours of the day to feed her younger sister, bathe her, dress her; the list goes on and on. She couldn’t apply for a job because she already had one. She lost her childhood. She lost her right to childhood.

It is not wrong to ask a sibling to occasionally brush another’s hair or put a jacket on them, though it is wrong to ask them to become their parent. I wanted to play with my sisters, not parent them.

How do you feel about children being forced to parent their younger siblings? Have you or are you the parent to your siblings? Do you force your kids to parent your other children? Why?