Tag Archives: family

Listen Up. I Deserve to Be Heard.

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BY ABBY MAC

To be honest, I am quite slack at this blogging business. I relish the stages where I want to publish an update everyday and my post-it note wall is spewing with ideas and then there are the miserable phases where I don’t post for months (note: this post is the first one in almost five months). Now, don’t get me wrong. My intermittent periods of posting and then not posting are not driven by my desire to post. Not. At. All.

I always want to post, though at times my want is stronger than at others. The level of my posting is mostly dictated by the time I have available.

Currently, it is holidays so my post rate will quadruple. During school times my posts tend to dwindle off because Growing Pains ever so slowly dwindles to the very bottom of my “To-Do” list and on very, very rare occasions do I reach anywhere close to the end of the list.

However, what always draws be back to this blog is not primarily an abundance of time that I am gifted with. It’s the fact that without this blog I don’t have a voice greater than my home, school or friends. My voice can’t be heard, or it is limited, without this platform which I can vent, rage, embrace, love or call for change. I am constantly brought back to this blog because with Growing Pains, I can be heard by anyone, anywhere and at anytime. And, this excites me and is empowering.

Today, I opened up my computer to write after reading stories such as the refugee who walked free from child kidnapping due to “cultural differences” and saw no time in prison after the molestation of a child. Or, when the hair-removal company, Veet, published ads claiming that an unshaven woman becomes a “man”.

So, whilst I sat and read articles like the above, I became outraged and felt so small. How could I – a young woman who lives in tiny Suburbia and hasn’t yet even had the chance to vote – change all these wrongs which infiltrate our world? Then I realized, not every change-maker has started with a voice which can be heard by the many people who populate our world.

Nelson Mandela did not begin with a voice, Gloria Steinem was not listened to and Martin Luther King Jr was oppressed due to the colour of his skin, but still, these people have all accomplished the greatest of greats and shaped history like few before us.

Gloria Steinem

Gloria Steinem raised her voice for the women’s movement in the 1970s.

I am lucky for the fact that I have this platform – the Internet – to express my opinion and not fear extreme penalty for telling the world.

Now, I vow, that no matter how far down the “To-Do” list my blog sits, I will write. I will write not for fame or money or glory, but because I deserve to be heard and my blog, is where I can be.

How do you use your voice to speak up? Do you sometimes feel silenced?

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? 

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.

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?

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.

A Word From Abby…

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BY ABBY MAC

So, I know Jess has already wished you a very, merry Christmas but I think it is polite (and my pleasure) to wish all the Growing Pains readers a happy Christmas, whether it has just begun, lunch is being served or Christmas for you is another 365 days away. I am currently lying on my bed, with my mum fast asleep beside me and the boys are watching a movie which one of them was given for Christmas. Boring? For some. But it’s perfect for me.

Everybody celebrates Christmas differently and I think that is beautiful. Christmas is so wide-spread and understood, yet everyone has a unique was to enjoy it. Last night, we dined at a wonderful friend’s house whom my mother has known for decades and this morning we all woke at a reasonable (enough) hour, unlike Jess, to unwrap plenty of presents given to and by the family. Usually, we would eat out at a restaurant for lunch to save mum the hassle of preparing a dazzling, world-class meal, but this year I really wanted to stay in. I wanted a family-do, where it was just us and quite casual. Instead of devouring a spectacular lunch, we’re keeping it simple and having ham and cheese toasties for lunch… and then, for dinner, getting down to the world-class meals. That’s how we chose to do it this year.

Everyone interprets and chooses their way to spend Christmas, differently. Even the people in your own family. See, my grandmother spent Christmas Eve and morning with us and then madly dashed north-west to her other younger grand children. My brother is up at the crack of dawn and will happily sit at the end of my bed until I wake from feeling creepy eyes watching me. Jess – her family is different again. And so are our neighbours, friends and family. Christmas means something different to every person. Whether that be because of religion, age or values.

So, depending on all those different factors, how do you celebrate or spend Christmas? What do you eat? Where do you spend it? How many presents do you give or receive?

Oh, and no Christmas photos from me. I’m in my pyjamas and it is very early. Too early.

Merry Christmas, once again.

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?

Experiencing the Loss of a loved one

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Jess and Her Uncle

Whenever I hear the word, Death, I want to cringe. I am one of those people who is absolutely petrified of death and the tragedy that follows these events. I find it very hard to express myself when it comes to these types of situations and I often feel very lost for words. I don’t know if any of you have the same feeling or if any of you also feel lost. I decided to be brave and try to post something about this issue so that I could let my emotions out and maybe encourage or inspire any one to write about what you are experiencing.

When someone mentions ‘death’ as a whole, I get this feeling of pain all through my body. I never used to, but my perspective of death and loss has changed so dramatically over the past two years. I would like to tell you about my brave Uncle Clive. He is still so special to me and I miss him as each day passes. When I was about 10, my family received the worst possible news. After a terrible car accident, my Uncle was injured and thank God he did survive the crash but only for the doctors to find that he had a huge brain tumor inside his head. At the time, I didn’t quite understand what it meant, I didn’t even think death was a possibility at that stage. I was blind to mortality and I was naive. I still remember my uncle so vividly, the way he laughed, his jokes and the passion that he had for the outdoors, especially the beach and the wildlife. As things started to change, I was a bit confused at that age. I would often see people crying and I would often ask myself if I should be crying too? As time went by, his situation got worse and as I matured I started to understand. His first operation went so well and he survived and I remember how happy my family was, we felt as if we could conquer the world now. I thought nothing could bring me down, he was alive and well. We used to laugh with him and he used to joke about how it was “…just a scratch” and my uncle continued to live life to the fullest, just as he had always done and for a while he felt infinite.

Months passed and we thought his illness was a thing of the past and I hadn’t thought about it for so long. About 3 months later the ‘monster’ grew back and it was like nothing I had felt before. It was like a re-occurring nightmare that just wouldn’t leave your mind. My whole family couldn’t believe it, it seemed so unreal. Anticipation grew high and for many months, family life was tense and painful inside but my brave uncle told us not to worry and to go about as we usually do, smiling with his funny grin that I remember. I admired him so much, I still do. Thanks to all our prayers and hope, we were granted yet another miracle when my uncle survived another head operation and that feeling of release and joy overwhelmed us, yet again. We felt ten times more powerful than before. I always remember thinking, “Now this is it, it won’t happen again” and at the time, that statement seemed so promising and so realistic. Scars from the operation left Uncle Clive with huge metal stitches across his forehead, and he always used to say, “you see, the doctors should just make a zip across my head, every time they need to operate” and we would all have a good laugh about that. My uncle was a real joker, always making us happy when things weren’t looking up. Clive started to grow back some of his hair and he really was starting to look healthier and more like himself again.

We all felt so proud and excited that he was getting well again. I wish I could end the story here and say that everything was alright after that, that he survived and we are so grateful to have him here with us today. However as much as I really, sincerely wish I could, I can’t. As much as it kills me inside, I must go on. By this time, my close family (meaning my mother, father and brother) had moved to Australia and we had got yet another devastating and gut wrenching phone call that broke our hearts. He was ill again. We were so far away from all our family and it was so hard during that time as we were alone. I missed everyone so much and I felt scared. Everyday I would think that I should be in South Africa, I should be with all my family at this very difficult time. I didn’t get to speak to my uncle often. I really regret not talking to him much, I wish I had called and asked him how he was going. Numerous of occasions I would walk in on my mum crying or having a serious conversation and from what I could hear; it didn’t sound promising or hopeful. I prayed every night and most of my prayers would end in tears. After weeks of anxiety and worrying about him we got a very surprising phone call, which brought us the miraculous news once again that he survived his THIRD operation and by this time, we really thought our blessed uncle had been kissed by an angel. After that we kept in contact over Skype and phone calls etc. Uncle Clive sounded and looked great! We were also so excited as my family were getting ready to actually visit South Africa again and see everyone. I felt like I was happy again. I was going home. I would love to say it’s the same here in Australia but unfortunately it’s not.

Seeing our family and visiting S.A was so amazing, it felt so surreal and spending quality time with the family was wonderful. I am really exceeding the word limit but I will tell you about a day, a day in South Africa that I will most definitely remember for the rest of my life.

Blue skies. Hot, Durban weather. My aunty said we should all go out to have a nice lunch at this cafe next to the beach. Life was good, everyone was healthy and happy. We had just driven for an hour and a half to visit my cousins, who were staying at the beach (I can’t remember the exact name). We all had a delicious lunch and we had the beach breeze cooling us down. My cousin Devon challenged himself with the hottest curry on the menu and so did his older brother, my other cousin, Shaun. Of course, you can only guess the result of that… Anyway, as we do, we all decided to take some nice family photos while we were all together enjoying that gorgeous day. I remember holding the camera and taking funny photos. Clive and his sons loved to pull the funniest faces and always tended to do so in ALL of our nice family photos! We love them for it though! I remember specifically saying  “Uncle Clive, look here” and he pulled the cheesiest grin and I snapped that moment, us laughing and having a ball. I still have those photos and I cry and laugh every time I see them now.

The memorable cheesy grin

Unfortunately, holidays come to an end and it was time to say good-bye. Uncle Clive was feeling sick again. It started to come back. I didn’t get to say good-bye to him because he was too unwell to come to the airport. I wonder what was going through my head at that time. I couldn’t have known. I feel like I should have. I feel sick in my stomach, thinking about our last hug and wave goodbye. Little did I know it would be our last one ever.

So by now you have probably guessed the ending. A tragic one it was. I can hardly finish off this story. I feel shaky and sore.

I came home from a hockey game feeling great, I’m pretty sure we won, then mum and dad called Matt and I to come and sit down on the couch. I could see that look in their eyes, I had seen it three times before remember. My heart literally sank and I swear I could feel it in my stomach. My heart raced at about a million rates per hour and all of a sudden the sound was mumbled as mum put her hand on mine and said the words I had been dreading for months, “There’s no easy way to say this, but Uncle Clive has passed away.” Everything went silent and all I could hear was my heart. It’s so clear in my memory I can almost feel it now. I had never felt grief before. I had never really experienced loss. To me, it felt like the end of the world. I couldn’t see a bright light at the end of our pitch black tunnel. My family was shocked but in a way, they expected this to happen. Mum used to say that I just be grateful to have known such a brave person and that we were all so lucky and blessed. I wished it hadn’t happen. Sometimes I used to shut my eyes so tight they would hurt and I would try to convince myself that this wasn’t happening, that it wasn’t real. To my horror, it was terrifyingly real.

I can’t say that I only mourned for several months, because in fact, I am still mourning. It’s not as bad anymore as everything heals with time but such a loss will never fully heal. I began to wonder what I would say to him if I could have said one last goodbye. What could I have done or said differently?

Dear Uncle Clive, 

I miss you more than you could ever know. I really admire you. I am so sorry that such a cruel, unfair thing had to happen to you. You were one of the most amazing, brave people I knew. I aspire to be like you. I really do. I sometimes cry, thinking that you won’t see your kids marry or see us graduate from school, but that is selfish of me. I am happy that you are not suffering anymore but you really gave those other 3 brain tumors a run for their money! I want to thank you for being such a great uncle, son, father and husband to all of us and let you know that we love you and always will. We will never forget you. You aren’t completely gone, you see, whenever I see the ocean, I think of you. I didn’t get to attend your funeral but I know that your ashes are somewhere in the ocean, where you would wish to be. I look at the sea and remember how you taught me to dive under the waves when I was scared of the ocean. I remember you teaching your boys to surf and having fun with us all on the beach. I wish I could have said this to you. Everyday, I think about this. Please remember me, and watch over all of us. I will look out for you. Thank you for being you and we love you.

Uncle Clive and Devon having a surf. Good old days.

I am sorry to really go into detail, but you must know that this is the first time I have written about this and I feel a huge sense of release. I was inspired to write this story today when I remembered that I am attending my old principal’s funeral tomorrow, we are paying our respects to her as she sadly passed away just over a week ago after suffering a long, hard battle with breast cancer and I feel that it somehow relates to my story. It also struck me that I have never actually been to a funeral before and to be honest, I am scared. However, I will hold my head up high, for my Uncle and for Jan remembering that just as life can be brought into this world, sadly we all have our departure dates. Unfortunately, some of us are not given a fair go and our lives get cut short but we will always remember the precious memories that will never evaporate or die in our minds and in our hearts. We must appreciate the lives of our loved ones every day and not take anything for granted.

May my Uncle and Ms. Newham and any of your loved ones – who have passed, rest in peace. I hope you all grow strength in your minds, bodies and spirits and I wish that you find hope, love and support during these hard times.