Saturday, December 27, 2008

And so that was Christmas

It's such a cliche to say that Christmas can be a frought time, but it really can, can't it? Our Christmas has been relatively calm and enjoyable, but there has still been a lot of emotional intensity to deal with.

It was preceded by the decision to ask Greta Garbo to leave home. The situation has become untenable. I've committed the heinous sin of expecting her to pay board ($60 per week) whilst not granting much in the way of privileges along with that... other than her being able to come and go as she pleases, her doing pretty much zilch in the way of cooking or cleaning or otherwise contributing to the household or being in any way accountable. Yes, she doesn't have a proper bed, she sleeps on a mattress in her sister's room. We had planned on rearranging rooms and putting the loft bed up in there for her - but apparently that's not good enough. She was happy enough to live in a pigsty on a mattress for twice what we are asking beforehand.

It' s just not working, and not just because of her inability to stop berating us over this basic requirement of an adult living in this household. It's that while she is here, she simply can't learn the lessons she needs to. The place for her to fall is too soft. Whilst she complains about it all, she's happy enough to accept it, and not figure out that this is now her life, and it isn't up to us to solve her problems any more. Not only is it not our *problem*, it's not our place - it's actually not doing her any good, letting her stay here and continue in the position she's in. She needs to get out and confront life and learn the lessons it has to teach her, without holding her hand all the way.

It came to a head the other day when she brought the subject up again and then proceded to be ruder than anyone in this house has a right to be, shouting over the top of us, telling us to shut up, and generally being appalling. I gave her one warning that if she didn't stop, she'd be given a month's notice to quit. She didn't stop, so I gave her the news. It all happened quite quickly.

What surprised me was how difficult it wasn't. I feel few regrets other than that I wish I had been more consistent and much firmer over the past year while she transitioned from "high school student" to "independent adult". Where I must accept fault is in overcompensating for my fear of failure of being a Good Enough Mother. I've said, "I will not do this for you," and then I have gone and done it.

And in the meantime, this kiddult has left a pile of her dirty clothes in the laundry for nearly two weeks.

Christmas was a series of compromises, in many ways. While it was enjoyable to spend the last two days with the inlaws once Beloved had finished his church duties, it is always hard to leave behind the things that have always marked out Christmas as something special for me. Doing it in a different place, eating differently, doing things at different times, in different ways... it was hard. I decided to cope by looking at Christmas as a season that will continue for the next twelve days, and to celebrate the things that were missing through that time. Things like the food we didn't have - jaffa cakes and trifle and nuts, we can do that along the way. Looking at Christmas lights - well, they're still up! They're still pretty! I might even see if I can buy a turkey on special at the sales tomorrow, just so that I can have turkey leftovers for days.

Beloved has also messed me about a bit with our planned holidays - things that I thought were going to happen are now not going to happen. Things that I wasn't anticipating are happening - like extended stays of his family and mine - while I am on my brief and desperately needed holiday, so I've had to rearrange my mind. I've come to realise that I can adapt better than I used to be able to - I just have to find strategies to think about things differently. There are aspects of my character that are still very difficult to deal with, but last night proved a shining example of why they aren't all bad.

I couldn't sleep last night - the noise from the inlaws' neighbours was atrocious. As the night wore on, the volume just grew and grew. I went to bed early-ish and fell asleep reasonably quickly, despite it all, but awoke at 11.30pm to screaming coming from next door. The room was hot and sticky and I could literally feel my blood pressure rising as my pulse started whooshing in my ears. Frustrated and angry I poked Beloved and said, "Is anyone going to ask them to shut up?" "I don't know," grumbled Beloved, who, from the sound of his raucous snoring was not being particularly disturbed.

"I guess it's up to the pregnant woman to get up and do something about it, then," I snarled. I stomped out of the house and up their drive way. "Excuse me! Excuse me!" I shouted at them. I had to shout several times from only a few feet away before they could even hear me. "I have a house full of kids and a pregnant woman who can't sleep. Do you think you could shut up??!!!" The adult in the equation poked his head out and told them they'd better pipe down - they were squirting each other with a hose and screaming, whilst the stereo boomed out of the windows. At nearly midnight!

So my irritability is a bad thing... but if it weren't for my occasional bouts of high dudgeon, sometimes things just wouldn't get done. The kids think it is hysterically funny when I put on my scary lady face and get angry at people (who deserve it), but I sincerely believe that if you aren't prepared to do something about whatever is pissing you off, whether it's changing the way you think about it or doing something active about stopping the behaviour, then you lose your right to complain. There comes a point where lack of action signals self-abuse, and my sympathy begins to wane.

Thursday, December 11, 2008


This week, Greta Garbo has been fuming at the expectation that now she is in employment, she is required to pay board - $60 per week. That is the rate we decided on with dd2, and it seems reasonable. Even if she chooses to eat elsewhere 90% of the time, it seems important that adults pay their way, simply on principle. It's a lesson we all need to learn. And it's not like we aren't forgoing a significant amount of income in order to live where we do. She has a warm spot, amenities, and security. To me, that's worth $60. She wouldn't get it anywhere else on the continent for $60 a week. She's not speaking to us. We are apparently grotesque in the unreasonableness department.

Today I read the blog of a Melbourne family who lost their son too young, far too young, tragically young, to cancer. He had everything going for him, and was grabbing life by the throat when cancer grabbed him.

I want to grab my daughter, and shake some perspective into her.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Oh, the irony

I'm about to post two contradictory things, one little item on "emotional vampires," and a bit of a vent.

I read this online today and I could name at least two people who fit the description with whom I spend a lot of time.

How Energy Vampires Drain Your Positive Energy

Energy vampires drain positive energy in many ways, such as:

  • Intruding on your life, ignoring boundaries and privacy (energy vampires don't think of you).
  • Making big deals out of nothing. Energy vampires are often called "drama queens" because they can easily turn a broken nail into a Shakespearean tragedy. Negative energy spreads from everyday events.
  • Complaining constantly about their partners, jobs, children, bad luck, and illnesses. Energy vampires like to vent.
  • Criticizing your hair, appearance, job, children, partner, friends, and pets (energy vampires aren't positive).
  • Not taking "no" for an answer. Energy vampires don't consider your needs.
  • Being unrelentingly negative. Their negative energy is unrelentless, and energy vampires drain your positive energy by encouraging you to be negative, too.
  • Blaming everyone else for their problems (energy vampires don't take responsibility).
I need to learn to set boundaries and refuse to get dragged into it, I really do.


Last week, we found out we were having a boy baby. It sounds so prosaic! And yet it was so emotional, and all the more so for the fact that it was so very unexpected. I still haven't unraveled all of the issues contained in this delightful surprise.

One thing I will have to contend with however is the startling revelation (startling to me anyway as the feminist mother of five daughters) that the pressure on boys to be Boys™ is even stronger than it is for girls (to be Girls™, that is). Generally, whenever it was apparent the progeny was carrying two x chromosomes, the generalisations were along the lines of "Your poor Beloved," or "You'll never be alone, will you?" The most I can retort to those is, really, "He doesn't realise how hard done by he is yet," and, "Oh, bugger."

What has come out of the blue closet has been, well, revelatory.

Apparently, this child with the y chromosome will have to "stick together" with Beloved. I wonder why - are the girls and I suddenly going to surround them and throw stones whilst chanting "boy! germs! boy! germs!"?

Apparently, boys love their mummies. (Except for the ones that don't, but maybe I only meet them when they are adults.) I'm in for some monumental loving then, because as far as I can tell, girls love their mummies, and their daddies, too.

Beloved will find himself bonding closer with this baby. Is it possible to be closer than he is with Miss Four-Going-On-Forty, for whom he has been the primary carer for the past four and a half years? Is that such a superficial thing that the presence of testicles on the next child will allow a bond so much stronger?

Boys like cars, and building things. Which is good, because at least half of my girls do too, and I've got boxes of cars, trains and legos that they still love to play with. And while he's at it, he can play cricket with Stompy, and test out all the electrical circuitry on her home made gadgets, and discuss how cool arthropods and spiders are. All whilst getting absolutely filthy.

And, apparently, boys love blue. Girls love pink, sure, but in the clothing aisle, their wider tastes are reflected in the green, red, orange, purple, black, white, yellow and every other imaginable colour (even blue) clothing provided for them. In the boys' aisle, there is every shade of blue. Or, perhaps, blue mixed with some brown check. Or a bit of green. But don't forget the blue. Dark blue, especially. Because, as we've seen above, you need practical colours that Boys™ can get dirty.

I may be completely naive. After all, I haven't had an opportunity to observe any differences with this baby yet. It may be that he turns out to be a complete Boy™. Or, like many boys I know, he may be useless with his hands and love reading. Hate football, but be into fabrics and other creative pursuits. He may be quiet and contemplative. He may be anything at all.

What I'd like, world, is for you to just back off and give him the chance to be what it is he's meant to be. Thanks.

Monday, December 1, 2008


Poor David had to work on his day off today - to be accredited to do RE, for goodness' sake. So he dropped me off at work on his way there, and picked me up on his way back. Because we were in a hurry this morning (I was up all night with a horrible headache and managed to keep him up too) the house was in a dreadful mess when we left, and I had resigned myself to having to sort it all out when I got home.

To my surprise, when I got home, El Presidente had done all the breakfast dishes, folded up a ton of washing, and even cleaned up in the littlies' bedroom. I was so relieved I cried.

Greta Garbo was languishing on her bed (or more accurately her mattress - we have not authorised a proper bed yet since she returned home from moving out... something to do with consequences, not wanting to mess everyone around, little stuff like that).

Stompy was having the queen of all sulks this morning because she had to go to the school holiday program for the curriculum day. In the end she got to make lemon slice (minus the lemon juice "because kids don't like lemons") with icing that she coloured blood-red, so it wasn't a dead loss. And they rigged a trap that tipped tanbark chips all over people at the tug of a rope. Great stuff.

The Diva is off with her friend who is more of a conjoined twin, really! She has a better social life than I do.

Miss Four-Going-On-Forty is reading herself a book in bed, much to the astonishment of El Presidente.

Work was rough today, not because the work itself was rough but because in the aftermath of the headache and no sleep, I felt incredibly unwell by the middle of the day. Not eating probably doesn't help but i just don't like to eat at the moment. Not even a family sized block of Club Peppermint Dark Chocolate can tempt me past a few squares. Everything gives me indigestion.