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Dear Kinmond,

Today is your 18th birthday.  It’s such a cliché to say that I can hardly believe it and that time has gone by so quickly, but it’s the truth.

I feel tremendous ambivalence on this day, and it is not just the poignancy of a parent watching the maturation of a child and the accelerating passage of time and disbelieving that it could happen so quickly.  How could you get to be so tall, so independent, so capable, so complex, so funny, so far away?  How could eighteen years have elapsed since that astonishing, magical moment that our eyes locked and I saw all that you had ever been and all that you were to become.  You were disconcertingly serious, unconditionally present and absolutely real, and I have loved you completely ever since.

Like any first child, you were the culmination of such vast trepidations and expectations, the repository of such ineffable hope, the focus of so much concern and love.  What I’m feeling as I anticipate your transition to adulthood (whatever that might mean!) is beyond my ability to express with words.  In thinking about how well or how badly your father and I have prepared you for the world, I find that I am completely unprepared for how much more perilous and awful it feels to send you into the unknown.  There are so many more things I want to teach you, to tell you, to show you.

You are still so young and you’re at a wonderful stage of life, with so many wonderful stages of life still to come, but they are not without their costs and perils.  I want you to know that no matter what situation life may bring you, I will be there to see you through, if not in person, then in your heart.

There are, and will be more, days that you don’t have the right answers, or any answers at all.  You will find cruelty and suffering in your journey through life … but don’t let that close you to new things. Don’t retreat from life, don’t hide or wall yourself off. Be open to new things, new experiences and to new people.  If you close your heart to new people, you’ll avoid pain … but you will also lose out on experiencing some incredible people, who will be there during the toughest times of your life and create some of the best times of your life.

Always take responsibility for your actions, good and bad.  If you can’t change something, change the way you think about it.  You will fail many times but if you allow that to stop you from trying, you will miss out on the amazing feeling of success once you reach new heights with your accomplishments. Failure is a stepping stone to success. You are growing stronger in wisdom with each passing year. Don’t ever use CAN’T as an excuse, ALWAYS TRY.  Remember a mistake is not a failure unless you let it keep you down.

You will meet many people who will try to outdo you.  Remember, life isn’t a competition. It’s a journey. If you spend that journey always trying to impress others, to outdo others, you’re wasting your journey. Instead, learn to enjoy the journey. Make it a journey of happiness, of constant learning, of continual improvement and above all, of love.

Remember to be kind to others even when you feel they might not deserve it.  Let others see the real you from the inside. It’s ok to show your true feeling.  Share your amazing spirit with others.

Most of all, love yourself. While others may criticize you, learn not to be so hard on yourself, to think that you’re anything less than the wonderful, sensitive, funny, strong, loyal, multifaceted, intuitive young man that I am so profoundly proud to call my son.

Finally, know that I love you and always will. You are starting out on a weird, scary, daunting, but ultimately incredibly wonderful journey, and I will be there for you when I can.

With all my love

mom

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I’ve just had breakfast with two, yes two, chocochino’s (that’s espresso and hot chocolate for those of you who haven’t discovered this decadent pleasure yet), so I could not possibly be hungry, and yet, here I am hour later, wanting to stuff my face with whatever’s available.  I’m starving… the huger feels physical, but the need is emotional.  I’ve settled for a glass of water, but it is definitely not very satisfying.

What is it about feeling out of control, sad, no, let’s face it, depressed, that sends us (and I know it happens to many of you too) straight to the refrigerator/grocery cupboard/sweet shop?  If you’re anything like me it may send you to the bottle store for a bottle of Johnny Walker Red.

I’ve finally come to terms with the fact that I’m not coping, well, haven’t been for the last few months.  There’ve been too many stresses from too many different directions and I’ve been having many mini meltdowns.  Part of making the journey back to equilibrium is admitting I need help, so I went and broke down in my doctor’s office on Tuesday.  I suspect he thought it was long overdue, and it probably was, but being the control freak that I am it’s taken a while for me to realise that the panic, the pain, the grief, the helplessness has spun out of control.

Depression is a slimy little sucker, it creeps up on you and before you know it you are completely overwhelmed.  I think I’ve caught it in time and look forward to sleeping through the night again soon and wanting to get up in the morning and smiling without crying inside… and giving up the chocochino’s …

I forgot my friend’s birthday. Yes, I feel terrible. This is the person I speak to every day, who knows all my ins and outs, who is there for me through thick and thin… and … I just forgot. How could I have become so caught up in the day to day grind that I could overlook something so important?

I remembered it last week when I bought her gift, but then somehow managed to pack away the gift and the memory…

Of course, I called her as soon as I remembered (two days later) and apologised. She laughed it off, but I still feel awful.

I’m not good with dates at the best of times, but this is no excuse. I have it on my calendar in my kitchen – I guess the fact that the kids were on holiday meant that I didn’t need to consult the calendar in terms of their various activities, but still… Facebook sends a reminder for Pete’s sake, but I hadn’t been on facebook for a couple of days, but still… I have since delivered her gift and taken her for lunch, but still…

How is she supposed to know how important she is to me if I forgot her friggin birthday!

Fi, forgive me, I love you.

The C word…

We had news on Wednesday that my husband’s oldest friend has been diagnosed with testicular cancer.  He had no time to digest the information and was rushed straight into surgery.  He now faces months and months of treatment. More and more people we know are being affected.

I can remember my grandparents having conversations about all their friends beginning to die and thinking, “How morbid, why do they dwell on it?”  I don’t think they were being particularly morbid, it was just that stage of life for them, and now I find myself thinking about my friends and how young they are, all with small children.  Breast cancer has been the most prevalent, even I had a scare in January, but it turned out to be fine.  Fortunately everyone I know has so far managed to beat the odds, but at the risk of sounding morbid myself, it’s just a matter of time.

It brings me to the question of lifestyle again.  We just don’t take good enough care of ourselves.  We live stressed out lives, working too hard, not taking enough time out and not eating or exercising properly.  How many of you go for regular pap smears, mammograms, prostate exams?

This has spurred me on to revisit the resolutions I made in the New Year, not just for myself, but for my family.  And not just in terms of diet and exercise, but in terms of time spent together, listening to one another, not sweating the small stuff.  Why is it so hard to do?  Why do we get so caught up in the struggle?

“Mommy, Daddy, why’s that man SO FAT?”  These words were spoken, or should I say shouted, at the top of her voice by my daughter when she was three years old.  Having climbed up onto the table at our local McDonalds, pointed her chubby little finger at a man three tables down, she asked said question.

 

Well, what exactly is the correct response to a question like that?  “Sit down sweetheart and I’ll explain.”, “That’s not really polite my love.”?  As it happens, I didn’t have a chance to respond before said ‘fat man’, and indeed, he wasn’t merely chubby, waddled over and tore a strip of my husband and myself for daring to produce such an ill mannered child.  The tirade went on to include numerous insults about our parenting skills.  My husband’s response?  “Children tell it like it is!”  I couldn’t have said it better myself.

 

Teaching a child good manners is an ongoing process.  There are so many levels of good manners.  ‘Don’t talk with your mouth full,’ and ‘No elbows on the table,’ is a far cry from ‘Don’t mention the fat man/ lady with the green hair/ person in a wheelchair.  And really, should we be teaching our children to ignore the elephant in the room (the pun here really is unintended).

 

There is such a thing as age appropriate manners.  It is not acceptable for a twelve year old to make fun of someone because they are different, but for a three year old discovering the world around her to comment or ask questions about things that she observes?  It’s part of the learning process, surely?  And for the person in question to make such a scene?  Now that’s bad manners!

 

Of course, this is the opinion of said three-year-old’s mother who had her own faux pas at around age three involving the lady at daddy’s work who had a moustache, so perhaps I’m not the best person to judge.  Is any parent?

… I am now dealing with the same child as an almost-thirteen-year-old… the mind boggles!

 

 

(first published at Blogher)

Chatting with my friend yesterday over a drink (over the telephone too because the abhorrent traffic situation together with family commitments make it all but impossible to pop in for a visit on and afternoon – notice I haven’t included work here, it’s somehow easier to juggle work and meet for breakfast once a month), we were discussing on our daughters, both going on thirteen, and it occurred to me, no, not for the first time, that those people who insist on telling you that “things will get better” while you’re wrestling an irate three year old to the ground to stop her throwing the car keys down the toilet are smoking their socks. Either that or their kids never reached their teens!

As Fiona said “What happened to the little girl who would wear the cute little outfits I bought her?” No, now they somehow have the notion that looking like the Grimm Reaper or the homeless man begging at the corner is fashionable. And you just can’t wrestle them to the floor anymore. I know. I’ve tried.

I read something a while back about facebook being responsible for a “huge resurgence of global love” and I have to agree that social networking has changed the way we interact.  For better or worse? 

Many parents I know spend a good deal of time worrying about their children spending time on MXit, facebook and the like.  Why?  Could it be simply because they are technophobic?  Can social networking really be that bad?

Like anything else I guess it could be, but there’s a lot to be said for being able to see who your children are hanging out with online.  My point is, you can tell a lot more about your kids friends by their online activities than you can by conversation, I mean, have you ever tried to have a conversation with a teenager?! Enough said.

Take some time and check out the groups your kids have joined, the comments they make, lists of favourite movies, photo’s of their “real life” socialising.  Take the plunge, it’s possible to learn a lot more about your kids (and their friends), just by meeting them in their own playground…