Monday, December 5, 2011

Independence? Not yet.

Adulthood brings a whole 'nother set of problems. All of a sudden, Mummy can't step in and fix things.

"I'm sorry, I need to speak to Dreamer" the woman on the telephone says.

I recognise that tone of voice. It's the same one I get when, as Chief Financial Officer of the house, I stupidly try to do business with whichever company and forget that the account is in my husband's name.

Damn. Dreamer is 18. I can't do things for him any more. Officially.

This time, his memory-deficit had adult financial implications. He had a pre-paid mobile phone, which he continually forgot to buy new credit for. He was always out of credit. So I suggested he move onto the great plan that the rest of the family have. It's bundled with our household internet, so I'd set it up on my credit card, and he could pay me back with a monthly bank transfer. Dreamer agreed that it was a good idea.

So I set it up, paid for the new sim card, which duly arrived, and he duly put into his phone.

Next day, the woman phoned. She was from his old phone company, and wanted a copy of his bank statement.

Huh? What for?
I'm sorry. I need to speak to Dreamer.
Uh, he's not here. I'm his mother. Can I help?
Please get him to phone me back. Goodbye.

Oh yeah, said Dreamer. Last time I went to buy credit for the phone, they suggested an account, and it seemed like a good deal.
But what about the new sim that we talked about, and you agreed to?
Oh, I forgot about that.

Shit. Shit. Shit. Has he signed up for a 2 year phone contract?
What did you sign?
I don't know.

He was lucky. This time.
A website search told me that for a BYO phone, the contract could be cancelled anytime without penalty. A phone call to cancel was all that was needed. He'd have to pay for the first month.

He kept avoiding making the phone call. I kept reminding him that he would continue to be billed monthly for a phone plan he wasn't using until he cancelled the contract. The stand-off lasted a week.

In the end I sat him down, and I made the phone call. I was the one who had to explain what he wanted. Then I handed the phone to Dreamer for him to officially agree with me.

The whole episode left me numb. The way his memory problems led him to having two phone accounts. The way his communication skill level meant refusal to make the phone call to fix the problem.

Simple, important life skills for independent adults. He doesn't have them.
I'm gutted.
He's got a long way to go.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Sanity vs Holidays

And I said that I will not tolerate seven weeks of him sitting there on the computer, whining and yelling about how unfair it is that he doesn't win every, single, time.

OMFG it's the school holidays. He has no friends. He doesn't intend to leave the house. His idea of a holiday is to be on the computer for 18 hours a day, eat occasionally, and sleep sporadically.

Young Curly has been a teenager for one.whole.month and already I've had enough.

I've threatened a camp. Just to get him off the computer and out of the house. To get him out of earshot, mostly.  In my most vengeful moment, I've imagined a SPORTS camp. Bwahahaha. No. I couldn't really do that to him.**


Nothing has really interested him at school this year. Hopefully Year 9 with a few elective subjects will be better. As for the lack of friends, he's doing exactly what his big brother did - attempting to hang out with big bro's friends. Why are they never satisfied with age peers? Why are the older kids always looked up to? OK, don't bother answering that. I know. I know.

At least the olders aren't bad role models. They just enjoy, well, being older, and proving it by giving the youngsters a hard time. Then the youngsters try harder to fit in, and oh. damn. Why do the youngsters make it hard for themselves?

Anyway. So Curly's idea of being grown up is to win on computer games.

He is actually good. Even the older group grudgingly agree about that. It's just the tanties when he doesn't win that nobody likes.

At what age do people*** realise that 'winning' isn't everything? That being a good team member is important too? That having a go and improving is a worthwhile goal? That internet gaming the world is not a level playing field, and you can't expect it to be. That you often 'lose' for reasons beyond your control? That 'get over it' is a fair comment.

Right. Seven. Long. Weeks.

I can picture it being an endless loop of me talking myself blue in the face trying to get through to him, and he telling me that I know nothing.

I know that one day it will sink in, so I have to do it, and keep doing it.
Will my sanity last the distance?

** Medical reasons - mono vision means crap at ball sports, and heat is a major eczema trigger
*** People. Not kids, not teenagers. People.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The Traumatic Year Two and the Wicked Witch of the West

It was the Traumatic Year Two, when Speedy met the Wicked Witch of the West (henceforth to be known as WWW). At first she just looked like the WWW - all flaming hair and rainbow stockings.

Yes, Speedy hated her from the beginning, but we knew by then that he didn't suffer fools, and trotted out further 'life lessons' on how to deal with the fools you will inevitably meet, often, for the rest of your life.

Next thing you know, we were in the principal's office, where Speedy was suspended for two days for throwing scissors at the teacher. Say Wha'?

Does it sound better if I say (with hindsight):

After months of frustration and put-downs and verbal bullying, 6 hours a day, 5 days a week, by a person in a position of power, a 7 year old child couldn't take any more, and threw a pair of plastic, snub-nosed, child's safety scissors in the general direction of the bully.

There was a meeting.

The counsellor was chirpy, enthusiastic, and pushing for attendance at a Behaviour Management/Parenting Techniques Program.

The teacher was horrified and hurt and in punishment mode.

The principal didn't know where to look, but did look like he was in the cooking pot and the water was heating up.

We insisted that Speedy did not need a Behaviour Management Program, and wanted to know why he threw the scissors.

Of course, the answer to problem behaviour at school was to teach the parents how to parent, and so we were railroaded into agreeing to the Behaviour Management Program, and it was the best thing that could've happened.

Day One was a 'benchmark' exercise. Parents and child were locked into a room - very reminiscent of a padded cell, including the padding. Parents were instructed to direct the child to do something, while the program facilitators watched and listened from outside, via video camera. The parents were judged on their parenting technique. From this, the facilitators would plan a program to teach techniques for managing the behaviour of the child.

So, we played along. No choice, really.

At the end of the first session, when we were let out of jail, it was to find a group of facilitators with their jaws on the ground. But, you're already using all the techniques that we teach in this program! they said.

On we went. Subversively. Now aware of what the program was about, we enlisted the help of the intelligent Speedy. We discussed what they were aiming for, and how to give it to them. The chats in the car while driving there and back were of more use than the Program.

We learnt more about the WWW during this time - from Speedy, and from other class parents, and from parents who'd previously had a child in her class. A classroom helper confided that she hated the way the WWW treated Speedy. We heard that the WWW was heard to say to the class "Oh, the girls are my sweeties- they're so neat at colouring in". Speedy reported that an artwork he'd done, involving action figures and guns, was confiscated as being 'inappropriate for year 2' and told that "he should draw flowers and animals". You get the gist.

Meanwhile, back at the Program, we were getting on very well with the facilitators. I think they may have picked up some new behaviour management techniques!

Not that they were stupid. They were looking at a bright kid, and parents who knew and could apply all the latest parenting techniques. So they puzzled out where the problem may lie. And being an education department program, they announced that as well as working with the parents, they'd like to work with the teacher. All under the guise of managing the behaviour of this 'orrible little kid in class, right?

You see where I'm going here?

Now, a school principal's duty is firstly to their staff. They are not allowed to side with parents or students against a teacher. Conflict of interest and all that- have to support your staff. The facilitators were education department colleagues, consultants, if you will. They were able to go places that we couldn't. They started doing classroom observations. I expect they were horrified.

The WWW started taking sick leave, and more sick leave. She started looking stressed and losing weight. And taking more days off. And pulling her head in when she was in the classroom.

I'm sorry to say I enjoyed that term.

Nothing more was said to the parents. By anyone. Ever after. But at the end of the year, when it came time to allocate classes for the next year, the principal wanted a long chat about who would be best suited to teach Speedy. I believe it was his only way of apologising.

For the next 5 years at that school, Speedy was allocated hand-picked, fabulous teachers. He learned to love school and learning. It did take all of year 3 to catch up academically, but once the spark was back he powered along and hasn't looked back.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

I don't believe in a Normal Life

I believe that 'normal' is something that people pretend. A social construct. Conform  to the average, aspire to the above-average.

I don't believe that most people (or families) think much about it. They go on pretending, and aspiring, watching the neighbours, the newspapers, the TV, and most of the time they come close enough, without too much effort. It's the done thing. Just do it.

For some, though, the reality is too far away from the normal. Aspire as they might, it isn't going to happen. Sometimes never. Sometimes maybe one day.

What do you do?
Try harder? Rail at the injustice?
Yearn for the moon? Wish it wasn't you?

Then you have to get off that road to nowhere, and take the road less travelled.
Ouch. Sorry 'bout that. But now that I've gone there, I may as well continue. Ha ha.

You get sneered at on the road less travelled.
You get left behind.
You lose bragging rights about winning.
You lose sight of those on the main road.

You don't have to worry about the traffic jams, speeding, hustle, stress of keeping up with the traffic.
You see others on the road, and have time to meet them.
You can pull over whenever and wherever you need to.
You can take your time and go at your own speed.
You'll get there in the end.

Where is 'there'? I don't know. I'm not there yet.

I believe that those on the road less travelled are the thoughtful ones. Instead of speeding along conforming, they have chosen another way. They are not doing what they are supposed to do, or what society tells them is normal. They can't just follow the car in front. They must think deeply about every little thing, and make their own choices. Choices that are right for them, and nobody else.

It may be easier if you just stay in your lane and keep going straight, at 100km/hr, but you miss out on so much.

So if you've been forced off the highway onto the side-roads, don't sweat. Have a picnic, stop and chat with the other drivers, enjoy the scenery, choose your own direction at every crossroads, oh, and watch out for the pot-holes.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Another day, Another dollar

It is another day, and it's calmer around here. After I wrote yesterday's post, I got down-and-dirty practical. No use sitting around with the 'whatifs' spinning and multiplying in my brain. A few phone calls later, I found out what I'd lose if I quit my job. This close to retirement, it's a big number of dollars.

Well, it's not really that big, but it's much bigger than anything else I could make in the next few years, and I could double that number by switching back to full-time work. Now that would be hard. Work, sleep, work, sleep, do NOT get involved in office politics, let the bad days go, wave hello to the kids in passing. Nickname would be in charge of the household. Not much different to now, he says. (I hate housework.)

Time to suck it in. Keep my eye on the big number. I can always blog and play computer games after I retire.

So that was that. Funny how it was such a weight off my mind - making a decision. A sunny mood burst out from the storm that had been raging since Saturday.

As part of the decision making, I went trawling online for jobs - researching what type of jobs I could possibly get, and what pay rates were out there for comparison purposes. (It wasn't pretty).

I was searching by location, looking for work close to home, because I also hate my current 45 minute commute. I was hating everything about my job, as you do while hiding in a black storm cloud.  Apprentice caught my eye. Electronic. Suburb (close to home).

Now Dreamer has applied for another job.
That's not quite correct, is it? I did the online deed, and then I told him what he had done. Sneaky mummy tactics.

Keep moving, keep moving, and serendipity happens.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

New = Scary

Work is on my mind.

We managed to get some feedback on Dreamer's failed job application. It was the yawning gap in his resume- nothing between finishing school last November until now- that was mostly what failed him.

He needs to do something. Anything. Enrol in a course, find a part-time job, volunteer, whatever.

Me too. After a month's holiday, I don't know how many people look forward to going back to work, but I was dreading it. Then shit happened, and it became a return to hell. Management style has long been on a trend to where the job was almost untenable. I think it's just tipped over the edge.

I did spend a bit of time on holidays browsing the online job boards. Damn it if I didn't find something interesting, and believe it or not, it's with a company related to my current employer.

Now I don't know what to do. Carry on in my current job, trying not to let management niggles get to me, and take a punt on the likelihood of being made redundant? Or jump ship now?

I need to do something.

I keep yo-yo-ing Should I stay or should I go now? Pros, cons, pros, cons. The idea of going back to full time work is frightening, not least because it would mean I lose my 'own time', my house-to-myself, write a blog, no interruptions time.

Applications close Friday. I don't even have a resume, because I've been in the same job for 20 years. I can't even decide if I want the new job. It might be worse than the current one.

But... a resume would be a good thing to have done. And it's only an application - it doesn't mean I have to take the job (talk about getting ahead of myself, I haven't even applied yet!).

I'm feeling much more sympathetic towards Dreamer's avoidance and inaction today. I understand.

I need to just do something. I need to not worry about failure. I need to not double-triple-guess what the future holds. I need to not be frightened of the unknown.

It'll be good role-modelling for Dreamer.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Wanted: One Career

Dreamer applied for an apprenticeship, and was going through the process, so that was one less thing to think about. For a while, anyway.

Hey, mate, have you checked your email lately?
No, not lately.
Can you go do it?

And damn. There it was - "Thank you for your application. However..."

Dreamer's future is back on the worry-list. We need to get the blob out of the house, at least occasionally.

Find him a McJob? Something simple, non-stressful, and very part-time, so he can get back into a bit of a
daily routine. Restocking shelves at the supermarket? He could just do a few hours each week, not lose his pension, dip his toes into the world of employment.

On the other hand, could he start off immediately towards some form of trade/skills base that could lead to a long-term future? The problem with this hand is... finding a direction and a starting point.

Wanted: One career.

Must not involve people, or sunlight, or heat, or grubbiness. Oh, and must not require speed (of movement or thought). Preferably should not require much abstract problem-solving or planning.
May include science, computers, shiny things, books, words.
Precision (aka obsession) guaranteed.

Bwahahahaha. I have to be joking, right? But I have to try.

I've though of  locksmith, jeweller, lab technician, photographer.

Lab technician may require a bit much efficiency (read: speed) but it's the only science-related thing I can think of! Locksmith and Jeweller apprenticeships aren't exactly thick on the ground, and Photographer would require him to be more of a self-starter than he currently is.

Then there's the issue of whether or not to get the disability employment services involved, or try to keep control of the process. Would long term plans be hijacked in the name of employment at any cost?

I just keep thinking around in circles. Any brilliant (or ludicrous) ideas out there?

Anyone want an apprentice/assistant/work experience person?