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?

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Speedy vs The World

Speedy is, well, speedy. He has two speeds - 100 miles per hour and asleep. He was himself before he was born- either asleep, or kicking me.
He hit all his physical milestones early - he was walking at 9 months, and running around at his first birthday party.

Determined? Stubborn? Yes, to the extreme. Smart little bastard? Yep.
He was difficult, to put it politely, as a baby.

I became frustrated at the lack of success I was having with parenting strategies, especially the one that has it that tantrums are attention seeking, and if you ignore the child, they'll lose interest. Ha.

It was getting dark, and Speedy was on the back deck, but wanted to go downstairs and play in the yard. I said no, and he threw himself to the ground in a classic tantrum. Right, I thought, let's play ignoring and see how long it takes for him to lose interest.

Thirty minutes... he spent 30 minutes lying on the deck, kicking and screaming and yelling that he wanted to go downstairs.

He was just 12 months old.

For 'time outs' we'd put him in his cot. By the time he was two, he'd kicked the wooden bars out of the cot.

We moved him into a bed, cleared the room of anything that could be broken or thrown, and would shut the door for time out. Before he was three, we had to re-screw the hinges on the bedroom door. Speedy would just stand at the door and kick it.

Language development was a wonderful thing. Finally, he was able to communicate his feelings, and we began to understand the why's of the behaviours.

It really boiled down to fairness, and not suffering fools. When he was able to explain what he wanted, or why he didn't want to do something, it made sense. He really, really did not tolerate being told 'no' without logical reason.

Road safety lessons worked when they went "I know you are fine, but you just can't trust the drivers of those cars. They don't look carefully enough, and they are stupid and drive too fast, so you have to be the smart one and make sure you look out for them. Also, I'm taller than you, so I'm easier to see, so how about you stay next to me and hold my hand."

Physically, he'd attempt the ridiculous, but had an innate sense of his own limitations. Friends and relatives thought we were crazy not to stop him climbing this that and the other, but we had to trust him. The only time I saw him hesitate and almost fall was when an adult gasped loudly and yelled his name in a frightened tone. He was halfway up a tree, and it broke his concentration.

Then he went to school, where (some of) the adults believed that children should comply without question.

(I found this lurking in my drafts folder. Half finished? Or is Speedy at School a whole 'nother story?)

Wednesday, October 26, 2011


A year ago, I dipped my toe into the blogosphere. I wrote a few, and 'followed' some. Twenty-three to be precise. Then I flitted off to other things, with nary a thought about blogs for over a year.

My eldest son had a birthday, and I wanted to record the milestone so I logged back in, wrote and posted '18'.

But oooh, shiny! There was my Reading List of 'followed' blogs. Some seemed to have continued posting regularly, some sporadically, and some just not. I can understand that, after all, I haven't posted anything in over a year.

Gleeful Random clicking.
Like popping in to catch up over a cup of tea with old acquaintances.
Hey! How ya been? Haven't caught up with you in ages. What's new?

It just can't be possible.

One year. Twenty-three blogs. Subtract two which are professional, newsletter type blogs. Twenty-one personal blogs.

Lori - is still blogging about the suicide death of her husband.
Lulu - wrote her last blog post about the funeral of her sister. Comments on that post revealed that she had
died shortly afterward.
Jen - is now solo parenting, and I'm hoping like hell that nothing awful happened to her husband.

I'm stunned. I'm appalled. I keep thinking about the snippets of lives that have been shared because of
blogs. I've never even met these people. Their writing has made them real, and is the reason I feel like
I've been hit with a sledgehammer.

I'm hoping that the other bloggers who have stopped posting have done so because their lives have become
fuller away from their blog, or that they've taken up crochet instead. (Not looking at you here, Ro).

I'm grateful that my family and I are still alive. Crazy, frustrating, battling. Still here.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

What difference does a year make?

I could be doing my tax. I could be looking for a new job. I could ask you to note that I'm using the word 'could' and not 'should'. I could be planning world domination.

In the true spirit of procrastination, I fire up blogger. Wow, has it really been more than a year?

The different brainspace has been ... in other brainspaces.

I have an adult son now. Sort of. The dreamer reached a chronological milestone, and had a bunch of friends meet up with him at a bar to celebrate his 18th birthday. OK, it was a gaming bar, which isn't such a bad thing. Gamers don't tend towards punch-ups and glassing, or anything physical, really. And he didn't even have a hangover the next day.

For the purposes of posterity, I should take this opportunity to reflect on how his different brainspace intersects with the larger world view. Ahem.

Let's run through the NT checklist:
Enrolled to vote - check.
Income - check.
Job - has applied for an apprenticeship, and made it through three sets of interviews and aptitude tests. Awaiting the yea/nay letter due in November.
Social life - check.
Relationship - check.

Sounds great? And it is.

Oops. I must have my Parental Bragging Hat on. That's the one I wear when acquaintances and distant relatives ask me "How are things going?", just before they start telling me about Their Dear Johnny, who has just graduated with honours in and become engaged to and is already an executive at and he's only sixteen.
Alrighty then.

Reality Hat on, and let's try that again with some other popular markers of adulthood:

Driving licence - 4 attempts so far on the written test.
It's multiple choice ffs. He tells me he 'overthinks' the questions, and that it couldn't possibly be that easy. It's possible that he's terrified of the next step - actually being in control of a tonne of fast-moving metal. He just doesn't think that fast. I'm more than slightly nervous about that part too, so I'm not pushing the licence test too hard.

Education - I can say he 'finished school', but usually omit the part about how he failed to complete any assessment in any subject, so doesn't actually have an official piece of paper.

The income -  It's a disability pension. It gives him a bit of spending money. Which he does. Spend, I mean. Usually the day he's paid. Can you say 'impulse spending'? On the bright side, his impulses tend toward good books.

I'm terrified about the job application. It was for an apprenticeship with a large company. I'm sure that he did well in the aptitude tests - considering that they were basic numeracy and literacy tests. I can even stretch to imagining that he was as capable as most incoherent teenagers in the interviews. Where I see impending doom, if he was offered the job, would be his capability to be 'present' for 8 hours at a stretch, 5 days each week. He wouldn't have enough time left each day to shower and eat! I have no idea whether it's the medication, or the drifting away on the computer at nights and needing sleep during the day, I just know that it's impossible to keep him upright. Turn away for 5 minutes and he's asleep again. He still doesn't have either the self-discipline, or the short-term memory, to remember to eat breakfast.

Aside from that, he has a wonderful life.

The girlfriend (I think I'll call her 'Red') decides on their social life, walks in the front door, nags him into getting out of bed and getting dressed in time. If she doesn't come and get him, he doesn't leave the house (or often, the bed). He still takes 2 hours to have a shower and get dressed. Minimum. She knows that if a social event begins at 2pm, she'll have to be here at 10am and spend the next 4 hours nagging and threatening.
Luckily, Red is a 'type A personality'. She bullies, nags, decides, tells him what to do, threatens a bit more, and it works. It takes hours, but they go out and have a good time.

Maybe I'm a bit over the nagging after 18 years,  but she's stuck around for 8 months now and seems to be enjoying it.

I think I may have to hand over my Carer's Allowance.

Now if you'll excuse me, I'll move on to the more immediate crisis of three Year 11 assignments due Monday. Yesterday, they were 'easy' and 'almost done'. Now, they are 'impossible' and he 'may as well quit school now'.