Adult Child

We’ve done it – we’ve managed to raise one child to become an adult. It’s a strange feeling to think that our daughter is no longer legally a child and is responsible for herself – well sort of! My daughter would like all the freedom that comes with being an adult but isn’t so keen on the responsibilities.

It only seems like yesterday she was a newborn baby swaddled and nestled in my arms. It’s hard to comprehend that she is now an adult. I still want to wrap her up and keep her by my side, but while that isn’t possible, I am at least proud of the woman she is becoming.

It really doesn’t matter how old your child is, you will always want to protect and care for them. My daughter is currently on ‘schoolies’ (an end of school tradition where kids go on holidays to celebrate graduating). This is the first time she has holidayed without a chaperone and I must admit I’ve had sleepless nights wondering if she is ok. It’s not that I think she will do anything stupid but where you get a group of teens conglomerating under the influence of alcohol and god knows what else, there is a propensity for trouble. I just don’t want her to get caught up in any violence or drink spiking etc. I know that as our kids grow up I have to learn to give them freedom, but until she is back home safely I think that I will feel uneasy.

It’s hard to believe I have an eighteen year old daughter as I still only feel eighteen myself. I look forward to the progression in our mother/daughter relationship from me being the disciplinarian to being more of a friend. In fact, since she has finished school I’ve noticed a shift in our connection, as she is now happy to hang out with me for a coffee and she has begun to confide in me more.

Parenthood is a journey through your kid’s different phases and now we embark on our next phase.

So today we celebrate our daughter’s milestone birthday in her absence and can relax in the knowledge that we’ve succeeded in getting our first born to adulthood. One down – three to go!

Quality over quantity

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Our teenagers are growing up in a world quite different to the one that we encountered at the same age. With the invention of social media, I’ve seen the worrying trend of my teenage daughters and their friends, judging their worth based upon the number of ‘friends’/followers that they have on social media. They are constantly assessing whether photos or comments posted are rating well, expecting them to reach an acceptable level of likes in a certain amount of time. That’s a lot of pressure to put on yourself! As if being a teenager isn’t already fraught with insecurity, imagine getting instant results on how popular or likeable your posts are.

I once saw a girl on social media comment that a selfy with a sarcastic comment about her looks had got minimal likes while a picture of pizza had scored more highly. I commented to the girl that her perception was a bit skewed. If lots of people liked the photo where she basically called herself ugly then she would have thought that they agreed with her. I told her that obviously her friends wouldn’t agree with that comment, therefore wouldn’t have liked it, while everyone loves a good slice of pizza!

One of the incentives to have a large number of followers on social media seems to be the associated perks. My daughter’s friend has around 15,000 followers and is constantly being sent free clothing and merchandise, being asked to tag the retailers in her photos. As is to be expected, where there is love there is hate. Whilst the majority of people like her and are positive, there are the haters that are rude and mean in their comments. No person wants to hear cruel words aimed at them, particularly for doing something as mundane as posting a photo.

I’ve always told my kids to only accept requests on social media from people who are their friends. I think a good litmus test is to ask yourself whether you would cross the street to talk to a person – if you would, then accept their friendship request, if not then why would you want to invite them into your personal world? Unfortunately, although these are my beliefs, teens have a different perception. Their worth is linked to the number of followers, and in turn the number of likes their posts receive, so whether their mother has lectured them on safety in social media, they are more concerned with perceived popularity than cyber safety.

As a parent you can’t bury your head in the sand when it comes to changing technology, but rather you should try to embrace it. I’m an advocate of having your kids as friends on social media and having their log in details (although I’m not that naïve to know that if they choose to have privacy as they get older, it won’t take them much to change their passwords or block a parent). I don’t have any definitive answers as to what we can do to make sure our kids cherish their real friends and put less emphasis on social media, but I’m monitoring the kids to try to keep them safe and to try to let them know that a person’s worth can’t be accounted for by the number of likes on a photo.

Do you have any advice on managing social media?

(Image courtesy of master isolated images, freedigitalphotos.net)

EXCHANGE

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We are about to take a huge leap of faith and entrust our sixteen year old daughter to a family on the other side of the world for a few weeks. Whilst on a cultural school trip to China last year our daughter met a girl from Spain and they became firm friends, organizing a private exchange to take place this year. Thankfully this girl speaks fluent English, however the same can’t be said for her parents.

We have skyped the family to ‘meet’ them, however it was a slow and interesting process having the Spanish daughter translate everything we said to them and then translate their response in return. 

As much as we are a little nervous about sending our daughter to Spain, we actually host the Spanish girl first, so her family is taking an even bigger leap of faith entrusting us with their daughter first. Our plan is to show her the sights of Sydney and give her a glimpse of our life in Australia. I’m not sure how she will cope being thrust into our family, as with four children, our household can be loud and raucous at times, whilst she is an only child that is used to peace and quiet.

Our daughter will miss a few weeks of school whilst in Spain, but I believe she will learn life skills and have cultural experiences that will far outweigh the lessons she will miss. It is such an amazing opportunity for her to be welcomed into another family and be shown how others in this world live. I’m interested to see if it changes her outlook on life and influences her in anyway when planning her future.

So next week, we will meet our new little Spanish friend at the airport with banners, balloons and open arms and I will mumble the only real statement I can think of in Spanish ‘Mi casa es su casa’ (my home is your home) and hope that she feels at home with our family!

 

 

(Picture courtesy of pinkblue, freedigitialphotos.net)

ARE WE RAISING A GENERATION OF SPOILT KIDS? 

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I know this will make me sound ancient, but back in my day, kids had more respect for adults. As a child you only spoke to adults when spoken to, you would never have the audacity to back chat and you did what was expected of you because that’s what you were told to do.

Perhaps it was because we feared our parents! If we didn’t do as we were told or were rude, they could and would hit us, usually with whatever kitchen utensil was closest.

I’m not advocating hitting children but I think we are raising a generation who are very familiar with adults and with that familiarity comes a lack of respect for their elders. There are also no harsh penalties for misbehaving so kids push the limits without worrying about the consequences!

Kids these days have such comfortable lives they expect everything to be done for them. In my kids I notice a lack of appreciation for all they have and a lack of work ethic to earn money to buy things they want – they just expect they can ask for things and it is their right to receive them. Even when I give my kids the option of earning extra pocket money through doing additional chores, they generally choose to not take up that opportunity because of the effort involved.

The other day I was talking to a friend, questioning where I have gone wrong, as I’m trying to raise well-adjusted kids. I was relieved to hear that she suffers the same frustrations with her kids. Maybe it is a phase they will grow out of, or maybe it is a generational thing – just as our parents before us probably think we are a spoilt generation.

Perhaps the solution is to send our kids to a remote village in a third world country so they can see how fortunate they are in their everyday lives and maybe then they would have some appreciation for the privileged lives they lead. 

Realistically I think the only thing we can do is to be consistent with our values and hope that our kids will mature to adopt these in the way they live.

 

Do you feel like your kids sometimes don’t show you the respect that you deserve or that they are too spoilt? What have you done to address this?

 

 

(Photo courtesy of stockphoto, freedigitalphotos.net)

SLEEPLESS NIGHTS

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As a mother of four kids, I’ve had my fair share of sleepless nights – particularly since none of them slept through until they were two years old.

Now that my daughter is sixteen and has her first real boyfriend, I’m entering a new phase of a different kind of sleepless night – one that I think are may be worse than the toddler days.

The other night she went on a harbour cruise in town with her boyfriend. I knew his mother was driving her there and home so her safety wasn’t what was keeping me up – I just couldn’t sleep until I knew she had arrived home.

At first I intended on staying up until she came home, but as I wasn’t exactly sure what time to expect her, I thought maybe I was best to try to go to bed, knowing full well I wouldn’t sleep until she was home.

As I lay there in the dark, with my husband sound asleep beside me, I was thinking about the fact that this is just the tip of the iceberg. As our kids get older they will start socialising more and inevitably be out later than I want to stay up. At least when our kids were toddlers, they may have kept us awake, but they were safely tucked in bed. Will I ever get over the anxiety of waiting to hear the door open to ensure that my beloved kids are home safe and sound?

When my daughter arrived home, she quietly tiptoed upstairs as to not wake the family. I jumped out of bed to see that it was her and not an intruder, and to ask if she had a good time. I almost scared her to death creeping out of the dark of the night! It was then that I fully transformed into my mother and asked her in future to come to my room to let me know that she was home safe and sound. Visions of me at that age rushed through my head – arriving home just on my curfew and calling out to let Mum know I was home. I only had to call out to my Mum because like my husband, my father was always sound asleep too!

In a nutshell, my daughter had a great night whilst I had an epiphany that we are entering a new phase in our life – one where, when our kids are out socialising, my husband will sleep like a baby and I will lie awake until all my chicks have come home to roost for the night.

(Photo courtesy of photostock, freedigitalmedia.net)

If you want to check out my previous blogs head to truthaboutparenting.net

MOON AND STARS

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When our eldest daughter was only 18 months old we would take her outside at night to show her the moon and stars. She was quite literally star struck and would spend as much time as we would allow looking up into the night sky. Each night as she would get ready for bed she would ask with her limited vocabulary ‘see moon and stars’ and we would take her outside for a while as we were just as mesmerised by her awe as she was by the stars.

Fast forward fifteen years and she still finds the night sky beautiful. The other night, whilst staying on our boat, we thought she had gone to bed only to find she had in fact climbed on to the roof of our boat and was lying there looking at the constellations.

Looking at the sky littered with tiny twinkling stars really puts our lives in perspective. When you think earth is just another speck in the universe, our country just a small portion of earth and our location like a freckle on our country, our issues are really so insignificant in the scheme of the whole universe. It is humbling to think a teenager can recognise this, considering for the most part they normally think the world revolves around them!

So tonight if you get the chance, go outside, wish on the first star you see and take time to revel in the beauty of our universe, because if an infant child can appreciate that beauty then surely we shouldn’t take it for granted.

 

(Picture courtesy of fotographic1980, freedigitalphotos.net)

 

 

LESSON LEARNT

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As much as we try to teach our kids life lessons, they will automatically believe that we are just nagging, as that is how we derive pleasure in our lives! Sometimes it takes the painful journey of them not following your advice to learn the lesson the hard way.

Last week my eldest daughter learnt her lesson through experience, and whilst it broke my heart, she will also never make the same mistake again! We were out on our boat with multiple families (17 kids and 15 adults in total!). To say it was hectic is an understatement, but it was also amazingly great fun. We took care to lather the younger kids in sunscreen because we all know the dangers of sunburn in the harsh Australian sun. My eldest daughter is 16 and as such it is very uncool to apply sunscreen directly to her skin, so instead mild reminders like ‘I hope you have sunscreen on’ were aimed in her direction.

Unfortunately, even though I have vigilantly applied sunscreen to her beautiful skin since birth, she likes to look tanned and believes (or should I say believed) that sunburn turns into tan. She is aware of the dangers of sunburn – from pain, to the chance of melanoma, to age spots and wrinkles when you are older, but none of these were deterrent enough for her to apply sunscreen and cover up.

It wasn’t until it became apparent later in the day that she was sunburnt that she confessed that she hadn’t applied any sunscreen. I could have throttled her, but one look at her lobster red face was enough to see that she was in pain. I felt like such a bad mother for not physically applying sunscreen to my daughter, but at 16 she is old enough to be responsible for this small task. We discussed the reasons why we have always insisted she covers up her skin in the sun and I may have thrown in a ‘I told you so’ once or twice, but her poor burnt face indicated that she now understood the implications of her actions.

The next morning she awoke with blisters on her face and chest. I felt sick with concern over her pain and suffering. As much as we have always shown through words and actions that you must use sunscreen, it took this harsh reality check for her to appreciate why we insist on the kids lathering themselves in sun block every day. She spent three days inside the boat without going in the sun at all. The flow on effect of her pain was that all the kids on board also saw the result of not wearing sunscreen and all became more vigilant with covering up.

The blisters have now subsided and her skin has peeled, leaving her with raw looking skin underneath. She is now liberally applying vitamin E oil to the area and has vowed to always wear sunscreen.

Sometimes the nagging words from a mother’s mouth fall on deaf ears and as painful as it is, the child actually experiencing the danger you are trying to protect them from, may be the most effective way for them to learn their lesson. I am by no means advocating letting your child get sunburnt but as someone who looks for the silver lining in life, I hope that my daughter’s experience will reinforce that I don’t nag her for fun and that I truly have her best interests at heart.

 

 

 

(Photo courtesy of stockimages, freedigitalphotos.net)

MOBILE

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I remember back to when my kids were just learning to walk. They would bump into things and were often covered in bruises. I wondered how I could keep them safe as they became mobile. Fast forward a few years and they learnt to ride a bike. I would run along behind them holding their bike seat as they wobbled, trying to get the knack of riding. They wore a helmet to protect them and I was there to grab hold of the bike if it careered towards a tree or pole. 

Now my eldest daughter has turned sixteen and has just got her learner’s permit to drive. Imagine the fear and worry you have over your child riding a bike for the first time and magnify it one hundred fold to feel what it is like to be the passenger in a car as your child takes to the roads for the first time. Easing the accelerator and brake on is a finely tuned art, as is turning on an indicator whilst preparing to turn a corner.

I must admit, I wasn’t the calmest of tutors when my voice rose an octave or two as I screamed at my daughter that when I say ‘stop’, I mean then and not as we are teetering on the edge of an embankment. I had to grab the wheel a few times to correct the car from being half up on the curb and half on the road. Furthermore, it took three attempts to park the car in the driveway (thankfully we were on a quiet one way street).

It seems that whatever stage your child is at in life, there are dangers lurking that can harm your child for the slightest error in judgement. The problem is now I’m literally along for the ride, holding my breath, hoping my daughter gets the knack of turning a corner without cutting it whilst also learning all those other fine skills that become second nature as we become experienced drivers.

I think back to the fear I had when she was learning to ride a bike and how she managed to master that without too many accidents. Now I hope wholeheartedly, like that learning process, she will soon be able to take to the road and drive safely, avoiding damage to herself, my car and of course, me!

 

 

 

INDEPENDENCE

From the moment you have a child, every parent struggles with trying to give their kids the correct amount of independence, whilst still making sure they are safe.

It starts when they are toddlers and you have to give them space to explore their surroundings without injuring themselves too much. Then the time comes when they start school and you have to trust them to walk to their classroom by themselves. Tiny steps of independence are given, all the while still keeping an eye on them from a safe distance.

What age is it okay to let your children go to a public toilet on their own? When can they catch public transport by themselves? When can they use social media?

Parenting is a constant juggle between wanting to protect your children and letting them grow up. 

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Today I have let my two teenage girls catch the train to town by themselves for the first time ever. I know that if I don’t give them the tools to be independent when they grow up and leave school, they won’t have any life skills. Having said that, I still worry that they will get on the wrong train, get harassed or feel stressed from being in a situation with which they are completely unfamiliar. I will certainly be relieved when they arrive home again this afternoon!

Part of me wants to wrap them up in cotton wool and keep them in a time warp, never to leave home; whilst another part can’t wait for them to have the fun and exciting adventures that come with growing up.

I wonder whether you ever get to a point of not worrying about your kids? I don’t think you do! I think that the things you worry about change and evolve, but with love comes concern and as long as you love your kids, there will always be an element of anxiety over their safety. 

(Photo courtesy of tongdang – freedigitalphoto.net)

CAUGHT OUT

Yesterday I had to take one of my daughters to her basketball game and left my 16 year old daughter in charge of my youngest two kids. My younger kids don’t always like to take direction from their older sister, so I wasn’t sure what to expect when I got home.

Well I must admit, of all the scenarios I thought were possible, this is something that I hadn’t expected.  When I got home the house was quiet, which is something as a parent you are always a bit suspicious about! I then located my eldest daughter watching over her siblings playing in the backyard.

It wasn’t until later in the day that it became apparent what they had been up to in the afternoon. I heard chords being played on the piano – chords to a song that my 11 year old plays all the time, yet this time the playing wasn’t as polished. I glanced at the piano to see why she was tripping over the chords and discovered it was my 16 year old playing. While I had been out, my youngest daughter had taught her older sister how to play this song. I was amazed that they had spent time together (without parental instruction) playing music. What makes this even more special is that later last night, my 11 year old picked up a guitar and started to play chords to a song her eldest sister had taught her in return. 

Every now and again it is heartening to know that our kids support and encourage each other, even when we don’t make them. It is so nice to have caught them out actually being nice to each other, when so often we see the petty squabbles over who got a larger glass of juice or whose turn it is to ride in the front seat of the car.

Of all the scenarios I thought might have been waiting on my return from basketball yesterday; I hadn’t ever expected that they would have been having fun imparting their musical knowledge to each other.  Sometimes something so trivial can make for the loveliest surprise!

 

When have you caught out your kids doing something nice for each other?

 

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