Un-Mother’s Day

My Mother on a different day

My mother and my son

Mother’s Day opens with breakfast in bed and other culinary delights shared with family. I don’t recall if I ever sat up in bed through the burnt toast routine, but there may have been one year. It was a long time ago.

I rarely followed through with my own mother either, though I have a vague recollection of perhaps supplying the breakfast one year. When your mother is always up early, it is not easy and it was never really a tradition in our house. There was little fuss around Mother’s day.

Even years ago, I dismissed the day as commercial and therefore of minimal relevance. I think after my grandmother died, the importance of the day (for me at least) diminished further. The ritual dissipated and I left home and moved interstate and generally marked the day with a phone call. Duty done.

I miss my mother every day of course, but today especially is a day of sadness and embarrassment. Sadness because there are times when I really want her company or support. I want to tell her things, or to share things with her. There are days when I want her to kiss it better.

Embarrassment because I realised in hindsight how much I had taken her for granted over the years, and for all the things I never said to her and should have. I’m not putting on the rose-tinted glasses; there were times when she was vitriolic or manipulative, or conniving even. It was only in hindsight though that I realised how much she had done for me and sometimes at what personal cost.

One of the illuminating moments was when I became a mother myself. It wasn’t instant understanding, but gradually I came to understand what the status entailed, especially as I was raising a self-centred child who thought the world revolved around him. The older he got, the stronger this belief was. This is understandable as a child develops an appreciation of their place in the world and acquires degrees of independence. At least I don’t have a child who is tied to my apron strings.

My child no longer speaks to me. This may be a short-term situation and may not. I have no way of knowing, but he has decided I no longer have a role in his life. We live at some distance from each other, and the challenges of misunderstandings have not helped. I have extended the olive branch, which he has ignored. So be it. Today is a reminder I wish I didn’t have.

A day like today is tinged with sadness and regret. It is a day to get through as painlessly as possible. Instead, my heart goes out to all the mothers and would-be mothers for whom the day is a stark reminder of a situation that is not of their choosing.

 

An Emotional Impasse

It’s a while since I have mentioned Young Donald – a couple of years probably. He left home some years ago and lives in another state. This was a strange adjustment for me to make. One moment, I was excitedly anticipating the arrival of a baby, one that I’d gone to considerable effort and expense to conceive and in the blink of an eye, eighteen years had passed and he was off to face the world on his own.

There was a brief period where he returned home from a few months, but then he was gone again, and our contact was limited to very occasional visits – either me to Perth or him to Adelaide. He always worked over Christmas so that special time was not shared anymore, nor his birthday which followed a few days later. I was always sad that we were apart at this time, but had to accept it.

One of the important lessons in becoming a parent is that we don’t create clones of ourselves; rather we give birth to separate human beings, with their own views, personalities, attitudes, hopes and dreams.  As Gibran said, ‘You may give them your love but not your thoughts, for they have their own thoughts’. While we are alike in many ways, we are also different in so many others. That, I had to learn to accept.

There have been frequent phone calls over the period of separation. Sometimes it has been to ask advice – how to cook something, what to buy, or some such. The calls that I liked best were those that were simply to have a chat. Not that they were frequent. Usually he was in the car and calling to fill in the time until he reached a destination.

I couldn’t escape from the feeling though that there was a growing distance between us; a separation over which I had no control and couldn’t breach. What caused me the most angst was that it seemed to be an indifference. He was moving onto his new life, one which didn’t really involve me to any great degree.

Gradually, I could see that his ideas and perceptions of the world were changing. Although I’d tried to bring him up with an appreciation of social justice issues, and values which reflected a fair go for all, his interpretations on events around us were developing differently to mine. This meant that we frequently fell into arguments, and when I spoke to him on the phone, I needed to have other topics up my sleeve so that I could quickly move us onto safer ground when it seemed that we were reaching an emotional impasse.

I was dismayed to see these views evolve, but could only surmise that they arose from his current circumstances. He has been living with other young men in shared households and most of them are online gamers. Their interaction is with others of their ilk, and I suspect that many of the views perpetuated in the online forums are conservative and misogynist. His work environment is likewise a manual and male-dominated environment, not known for intellectual debate.

Now we have reached not a point of no-return, but are currently estranged. Part of the problem lies in communicating electronically, where issues and meanings can become distorted. I don’t wish to detail the issue that gave rise to this breakdown in our relationship, but what I thought was a discussion he interpreted differently and responded with astonishing vitriol and hatefulness. He also told me to f*ck off and not speak to him again. So I haven’t.

It was such an inappropriate response to what I had disclosed to him. If it hadn’t been for those final words, I would have attempted to salvage the situation but my heart is shattered into a thousand little pieces. I can’t let the situation remain indefinitely, but am not at the point of mending bridges either. I’m not sure if he even understands how totally inappropriate his response was, but there is another thing that worries me. He has little emotional support. Whatever differences we had, I was still at the end of the phone for him, and now he has no one. I worry about his emotional resilience and ability to cope on his own. Young men don’t always do well with emotionally negotiating their way through life and when you have a person who habitually sees the negative rather than the positive in a situation, that scenario is magnified.

Although he should apologise, I am not sure that he will or will fully understand why he should. I still need to resolve what I will do and when, but until that time, the night hides my tears. He is still my son.

 

Phoning Mother

This morning, just before waking, I dreamt of my mother. It was just a fleeting connection and very mundane.  I was at the kitchen sink doing the washing up and she brought me some more dirty cutlery to add to the pile needing to be washed.  Moments later, I woke up and felt both astonished at her appearance and bereft.

Ironic that it was today, Mother’s Day that she chose to appear.  She died with breast cancer twelve years ago, and of course I miss her – even though she often exasperated me or we disagreed on things.  I realise with hindsight though that although I was aware in a general sense that she did so much for me, I took a lot for granted and never really thanked her properly.  This morning’s episode reminded me of a story I wrote in the months following her death.

 

 Answer the phone Mother – answer the phone!  

     “This call is being diverted to another number.  Please hold.”

     Not again!

            “You have reached the mail box for …”

            “Nancy … Shorne.”

     My mother’s disembodied voice.  I listen intently, absorbing the tonal nuances and waiting for what else she might say.  You never know, this time it might be something different.  The two names are spoken distinctly, as though there is no association between them.  Nancy – pause – Shorne.  Two separate words, not Nancy Shorne, with the words running into each other with a combined inflective melody.  I listen to the message, hesitating.  Should I speak?  What should I say?    I dither and the silence extends into an embarrassment.  I hang up, feeling stupid and bereft.  Unfinished business is so unsettling.

       After a few moments I collect my thoughts and pick up the phone again. 

            “Nancy … Shorne.”

            “Ummm, it’s me Mum.  Just calling to see how you are.” 

     This time I’m prepared and hang up the phone quickly.  No pause.  I feel a little flushed and unsteady though. 

     It’s strange – it’s not as if I am a kid any more, but there are times when you still want your Mum.  I was surprised when it first hit me.  I was always quite independent and confident.  I had unexpected surgery a few years ago.  When I awoke, I was overcome by post-operative melancholy, to say nothing of pain, and all I could think was ‘I want my mum!’  That was bad luck, because we were in different parts of the country.  I wept miserably, saved only by a nurse of mature years who recognised my distress and isolation and sat with me for a while. 

     I would have phoned Mother then, but only local calls were permitted from my bedside phone, and I couldn’t walk down the hall to the pay phone.  I had to wait for her to call me, just like I am waiting now.  I wonder if she knows what time it is?  Perhaps that is why she hasn’t rung.

     Phones have become such a way of life.  They are more than just communication devices.   They are statements of personality, fashion accessories, reminders, companions, and cameras..  I have a theory that in the not too distant future, our phones will be the means of Big Brother keeping track of us all, and we will use them for everything.  They will hold all our identity information and through our personal phone number it will be possible to access our tax file number, credit card info, social security number, etc.  It will happen gradually and we will all be seduced by the gadgetry before we realise what is happening – a sort of pocket sized Trojan Horse.

     Mother’s phone is just of the basic variety.  It took a while to coach her on how to leave the message.  All she wants is to be able to make and receive calls.  It does have other features, but she never uses them and she seems to have lost the instruction book now anyway.

 Once, we used to solve our problems for ourselves, and now when we are unsure what to do, we automatically reach for the phone.  Our children are loosing survival skills, and are really dependent on their phones.  I know it, but I still reach for the phone for the simplest thing.

          “Nancy … Shorne.”

     “Mum, do you know where your address book is?  I need to do the Christmas cards and I don’t know where anyone lives.  I could send email cards instead, but it is nice at least once a year to actually post something.  I suppose all I really need to do is wait until other people send their cards and then just note the addresses from the back of the envelopes.  I’ll write some notes in the cards as well.  Is there anyone you particularly want me to write to?”

       While I wait for her to call back, I could have a look through her desk.  It seems a bit intrusive though – like looking in someone’s handbag.  They are such personal spaces.  If anyone looks in either my bag or goes through my desk it feels like a real invasion of privacy but how else can I find anything?  I’m very careful and try to put everything back just as I found it.  Hopefully she won’t even realise what I’ve been doing.

       Actually, I have been looking through her recipes too, but she never seems to file anything in a logical order.  A lot of stuff she just keeps in her head and never actually writes it down.  When you do read the recipes that she has written, she leaves out the crucial bits, like in which order ingredients should be added, or how long to cook things and at what temperature.  I have to sort of guess, or else give her a quick call at some crucial moment when I’m getting a bit panicky.

           “Nancy … Shorne.”

  “Mum, how long do you cook quince paste?  How do you know when it’s ready?  This stuff that I’ve got on the stove now looks more like jam.  It’s taken so long to peel and cook and sieve and cook, and it just doesn’t look like yours at all.  What do I do now?”

       I wait for a while, just in case she has just picked up the phone and has heard my message and is going to reply.  I know that’s silly, because although you can pick up the phone and interrupt a call to a land line that is connected to an answer phone machine, calls to mobile phones go to virtual mailboxes instead and you can’t interrupt those.  I still wait for a bit, but there is only silence, so I hang up.  With some answer phones, a silence is interpreted as a completed call anyway, and the device actually hangs up on you, the caller.  Bit rude.

     Having got this far with the quinces and seen how difficult it is, I think I will just buy some from the providores in future – there are some good stalls at the Central Market – but it seems such a waste to just throw out this batch.  I’ve invested so much time in it.  Perhaps I will just keep it as jam.  Pity I never eat it.  By the time she calls me back, it might well be Quince Toffee – a new culinary delight.

       Sometimes when I phone her I don’t wait.  I dial her number and that impersonal mechanical voice starts with This call is being diverted to …” and I just hang up.  I get a bit irritated.  I don’t want to hear that strange woman’s voice.  At least it’s not an American voice, like those you hear in lifts telling you what floor the lift is travelling to.  The phone companies seem to have developed some sensitivity to the local markets.  I haven’t thought about it before but perhaps this is a new job for current times.  Qualification – well modulated voice, slow delivery, absence of regional accent.  A bit strange – there would be exposure around the country, all day every day, but totally anonymous. 

     Even one of my printers talks to me, and tells me when it has a paper jam, or if it has finished printing.  Voices everywhere.  I wonder if there is an association for recorded voices, or whatever they might be called.  There is bound to be some very important sounding technological name.  What would happen if they all went on strike one day?  What would we do with the silence?

     Speaking of silences, I wish she would call me back.  It’s a bit of a one-way street, leaving messages and not getting a call in return.  I have my mobile with me most of the time, so I am always contactable.  I miss some calls when the phone is in the bottom of my bag and no matter how frantically I scrabble around, I can’t find it in time and it stops ringing just as I locate it.  She doesn’t have a silent number, so I would know if she had called.  Her number would be displayed as a missed call.

     Dad has the phone now.  He inherited it by default, but he is even more technologically illiterate than mother was, so he often forgets to take it with him, or even to switch it on.  As for changing the recording or even reading the messages, forget it.  He has no idea.  It means that any time I want to talk to Mother, she’s there, her voice permanently preserved in virtual reality.  It’s comforting in a bizarre sort of way. 

     “You have reached the mail box for …”

            “Nancy …  Shorne”

     “Hi Mum.”

                   24 June 2004

 

Shortly after this story was written, my father erased the recording, as he pressed random buttons on the phone, trying to figure out how things worked.  My trojan horse comment was more prophetic than I realised at the time.

 

Children born through IVF have no souls

An acquaintance reported recently that another guest at a BBQ was loudly critical of people who used IVF services and declared that children born via IVF ‘have no souls’.  As my friend (unknown to the gathering) was mid-cycle with her latest IVF attempt in conceiving a child, thins was highly distressing to her.  As the mother of a child conceived via IVF, the comment was insulting to my son and I was understandably indignant .  You don’t know whether to laugh or cry at dim-witted comments like that.

Young Donald is now 21 so I have had plenty of time to observe the soul-less creature.  He was a fairly conventional kid really.  Baulked at eating vegetables, had too much screen time, thought that I nagged him too much and protested at being made to walk or ride his bike when surely it would be much quicker for me to just drive him.

Admittedly he didn’t have much of a religious upbringing – well none really.  I had to attend a church service in an official capacity when he was about four and took him with me.  We sat up the front with the dignitaries.  During one of the hymns, all in attendance standing of course, I looked up from my hymn book to realise that he was standing on the pew along side of me, conducting the rest of the congregation.  I don’t think that we have attended a religious ceremony since then, except for a recent wedding in Japan in a Buddhist temple. I guess there wasn’t the need for someone without a soul.

When small Young Donald loved cuddle time (and still gives me beaut hugs), is always ready to give his mates a hand, and is very generous – especially for a soul-less person.  He has morphed from at times being a morose and moody juvenile to being a socially adept young man who charms one and all with his conversation.  It gives me a frisson of pleasure when people seek me out to tell me what a personable young man he is and how much they have enjoyed their conversation with him.  What a pity he doesn’t have a soul.

I am reminded of a Valentine’s Day a few years ago, when Daisy was very much a feature in young Donald’s life.  He took her out to dinner, selecting a cuisine the he knew she would enjoy.  When he brought her home, he had set up my massage table in his bedroom and scattered the whole room with red rose petals.  When they arrived home, she was greeted with soft lighting and massage oil.  Whatever else she was greeted with, I as his mother don’t really want to know, but think what he could have done if he actually had a soul.

I started to wonder just what might have been intended with the reference to ‘soul’ and resorted to online sources for interpretation and definition.  There were many, all much of a muchness and Wikipedia captured the essence with this explanation.

    “The soul, in many religious, philosophical and mythological traditions, is the incorporeal and in many conceptions immortal essence of a living thing.”

I’m not going to debate the presence or otherwise of a soul, whether from the religious, philosophical or mythological perspective.  In my son however, I can see and hear the essence of many who have gone before – my parents and probably their parents and it is possible that his essence will be reflected in those who are to come.  I see mannerisms, I hear laughter, I see reasoning, I see a sense of social justice, I see an observant young man – and I see an individual.  This individual has a resonance that impacts not only on myself, but also on his mates and those he holds near and dear.  Does not that impact render one immortal and if so, is that the influence of a soul, that incorporeal essence of being?

Whether or not my son has a soul is irrelevant really.   What that man was insinuating was that my child, and others who were conceived via assisted reproductive services, is somehow deficient and not a complete human being.  It’s that sort of bigotry that has fuelled the justification of those who would impose segregation on others, and worse.  I just hope for his sake that when the time comes that he wants to reproduce, that his swimmers are up to the task. How would he cope with fathering soul-less children of his own?  That would be karma.

The Journey

My son has returned home.  He got a big hug rather than a fatted calf and it was good to have him with me again, however briefly that might be.

When he left aged 18 to seek work and fortune interstate, it was a wrenching moment, but one that I knew he had to make.  Think ‘The Epic of Gilgamesh’, or ‘The Journey’ by John Marsden or all those classic stories relating to The Journey that you may have read.  It is a time when a young person leaves the safety and security of home to seek the learning and experience that life outside of the home has to offer them.  There is the call to adventure, entering the labyrinth, fighting the demons, achieving, reaching an understanding, etc. as described by Joseph Campbell in ‘The Hero’s Journey’.

Journey

Young Donald had reached a crossroads in his life.  He had realised that his relationship with Daisy was destructive and based on the web of lies that she continually spun.  (Donald and Daisy are discussed in earlier posts.)  He was played for the sucker.  He had dropped out of school and had no prospects, beyond the casual pub job that he had.  He was bored at home and I was forever on his back about helping around the house and just doing something.

I was fed up with the piles of dirty dishes around the house and other things just dumped anywhere and had made the decision at work that day that when I got home, we would have a serious talk.  Either he needed to leave home, or he needed to start paying board.  He got in first.  He said that he had been thinking and perhaps he would go to Perth and look for work.  I was both stunned and relieved.

Perth was not such a big deal in that my sister lives in that city and his donor father is also there, although Donald and his father hardly knew each other.  They certainly did not have a father/son relationship.  Still it was far away and it meant that Donald was going to have to find accommodation, a job, and to make a new life for himself.

While away, he did labouring work, did some TAFE study in the mining sector and got a job at the remote Woodie Woodie mine site in the Pilbara region.  He had to work with characters who Donald described as racist, sexist and homophobic.  (I was relieved that he recognised these people for what they were.  It meant that I had done something right.)  He found himself somewhere to live and made new friends.  Those were the social skills.

On the practical side, he learnt self-resilience, how to budget on minimal income, how to shop economically, and how to keep himself healthy with wise food choices.  He can drive a 4-Wheel Drive and change a spark plug.  He has a range of technical skills that surprise me.  He also has a new confidence in himself that I welcome.

OK – there are not total miracles here.  There are still dirty plates hibernating in his room but not as many and he is better at washing up and domestic chores and cooking dinner for us both too.  Importantly, it was a teenager who left and it is a young man who has come back.  It is so good to have him home again.  I didn’t realise how much I had missed that kiss goodnight before he went to bed or he went out with his friends.  It’s great to have someone with whom I can discuss issues and share decisions.  At some stage, Donald will move on and make his own life elsewhere, but for now I like the feeling of company and understanding.

I realised when he left that this was a move that he needed to make but it is only now that I have understood that it was a version of the epic Journey.  Thinking back, it is very similar to a journey of self-discovery that I made decades before, and that was important to my self-learning as well.  It is a pity that all young people are not able to make this trip of discovery though many of them do.

Did you make a journey?  What changes did it make for you?

A Sort of Chrysalis

Times are a-changing.  Young Donald is still lazy and frustrating and irritating and causing me to lose my hair and at time leaving me a quivering blob of despair.  Parenting a teenage boy is never easy and even less so doing it on your own, with limited dialogue or input from another person who cares about your child as much as you do.  I know that technically, at 18 Donald is now an adult but he’s my child and always will be.

I have been concerned about many things relating to Donald.  His non-existent academic achievement, his attitude, his lack of motivation, the negative influence upon him by his girlfriend Daisy (sometimes known as Dippy Daisy).  The last twelve months have been bringing slow and subtle changes, but changes nonetheless. 

I can see that my son is slowly morphing into a more likeable human being.  I even get glimpses of the man he will become.  He is developing a sophisticated sense of humour and has a wicked appreciation of the absurd.  He is still hard work in that it is a major effort to do him to do anything – like get out of bed for instance – but I know that he is capable of doing a lot and probably will do so later.  He is observing some of the truly assinine behaviour of some of his mates and noting that it’s not a good look.  Best of all, he is thinking about things.

I was all set a week ago, spurred on by disappointment and frustration, to tell Donald that I could no longer support him and his bludging lifestyle; that he needed to either start paying Board (which would entail him finding more work than is offered by his casual role) or that he would have to leave home.  He got in first.  When I arrived home that night, Donald told me that he had been thinking and that he might travel to Western Australia to work with his father.

Ours is not a conventional family scenario.  When I decided that I wanted to have a child, even though I was still single, I asked an old friend and lover if he would assist me to do this.  Although living on the other side of the country, he agreed and after flying to see me and discuss it further, left a sperm donation with a fertility clinic, the result of which was ultimately my son.  There were two stipulations that I made: that financial responsibility would be all mine; and that I wanted him to acknowledge any resulting child as his.  It was important to me that a child could know who his or her father was.  There was agreement on both these issues.

Donald has had minimal contact over the years with his father, due the tyranny of distance and more recently, a lack of interest.  I gave him the option of what to call this man, and Donald chose Dad or Father.  Knowing them both, I can see a lot of similarities between them.  I know that they are father and son (always a worry when using donor sperm).  This man (I shall call him Duncan) has maintained a regular interest in his son (and seventh child) though has never actively sought greater involvement.  The offer was always there for Donald to spend school holidays with him but it only happened twice.  Donald wasn’t really interested and I didn’t push it.

Duncan works in the building trade, and has always said that he will find work for Donald if that is what he wants.  Work, being a four-letter word, was not terribly appealing to Donald and he always dismissed the suggestion with a degree of horror.  How could I even think such a thing.  Hard, physical grunt work with long hours.  Shudder.

Now suddenly, this is an option to Donald.  It caught my breath a bit as it would mean that he really was leaving home, even though possibly for a short time.  It would mean though taking responsibility for himself and having to honour commitments to the work environment; having to contribute and organise himself and to earn a living.  It will be an opportunity for him to test himself and to learn what he is capable of.  He might even develop a relationship with his father.  I doubt that it will ever be a traditional father-son relationship but at least they will get to know each other better.  I am pleased about this because there has been minimal male influence in my son’s life.

The other issue that I am relieved about is that Donald has finally recognised that his relationship with Daisy did not have many benefits and has ended it.  He has tried to do this a few times already but never made a clean break and things got messy and then sort of resumed.  He has learnt a lot during this relationship, and I think will be a little more discerning when entering into the next.  I know that Daisy will be devastated, as I think that Donald is a dependable influence in her life and she has come to rely on that.   I fully understand though why Donald feels that it is a relationship that has run its course.

*****

Donald had his wisdom teeth extracted today also.  I was also concerned about this as he is seriously needle phobic.  The procedure was done in the chair, but with IV sedation prior to have the local anaesthetics applied to  all four extraction sites.  The surgeon and the anaesthetist were professional and caring in their treatment of Donald (I remained for the sedation) but I was impressed with his determination to cope with the first needle that he has submitted to in many years.

Ode to Mothers

Mother’s Day is approaching, giving rise to what it all means – mothers, acknowledgement of mothers, the relationship with our mothers and then our relationship with those that we mother.

And here I have a confession to make.  Sure when I was a child, I bought my mother ludicrous ornaments and soaps and scents or whatever, and eagerly watched as she opened them.  Looking back I had totally abysmal taste.  As I grew up though I moved around a lot, and lived interstate for a long time.  I lived  a single lifestyle and although I was always family orientated, was also fairly self-absorbed.   Mother’s Day was not something that featured strongly on my horizon.  After all, it was such a commercial event, with the letterbox full  of brochures and the retail industry in your face for weeks before hand.  I didn’t want to be part of that and I was sure that my mother didn’t either.  Mother’s Day faded from focus for me and sometimes I never even registered that it had come – or gone – beyond wishing my mother a happy Mother’s Day in our regular Sunday  morning call.

Time rolled on, and then I was pregnant.  This was a long time coming, given that I was a couple of months shy of 40 at the time.   I was a whole 8 weeks pregnant by the time the next Mother’s Day came around.  To my surprised delight, a friend and his partner sent me a Mother’s Day card.  It made the who motherhood business seem so much more real.  That card was so treasured.

By the next Mothers’ Day of course I really was a mother, with an infant who was a few months old.  Parenthood was a solo venture for me, so I didn’t have a partner to express any sort of appreciation for my maternal efforts, but I had a beautiful child and we had a mutual adoration thing going. We were pretty absorbed in each other and my mother was a big help too, making the interstate trip whenever possible.  She had a special relationship with my son as well.

With each year, another Mother’s Day rolled around and passed again.  Another commercial opportunity that I chose largely to ignore, except that I was a little more aware of it now.  My friend never sent me a card again, so there wasn’t any acknowledgement of my own motherhood, beyond my own reflections.  My son and I moved back to my home state and my mother was so pleased to have us close to her.  We were pretty pleased as well and over the next years that were challenging over many fronts, Mum was always there for us.

But then she wasn’t.  Her cancer was sudden and cruel and we never made those last goodbyes, mostly because we hadn’t quite comprehended that it was really happening.  We were rather a ‘stiff upper lip’ type family anyway and weren’t open about affection and our feelings.  That last morning I reached her a few brief minutes before she slid into a coma.  I’m sure that she knew I was there during those minutes, but I never knew if she heard and understood the words that I softly whispered to her over the next hour as I massaged her hands with cream and gently massaged her scalp and face, easing the transition for us both.

As the saying goes, your never appreciate what you’ve got until it’s gone.  So, it was far too late to tell her when I really acknowledged and appreciated all that my mother had not only done but sacrificed for me.  Part of this understanding came from an evolving maturity (so OK – I was a late developer) and part of it, well perhaps a lot of it came from being a mother myself and looking at life and events through totally different eyes.  I was very much aware of what I did for my child, with much of it unacknowledged and un-thanked.  I began to understand motherhood in a way that I never had before.

It’s poetic justice of course that my son, now in his late teens, gives no recognition to the significance of mother’s day.  He always sleeps in on Sundays so there is no breakfast in bed.  I may get a passing hug if I’m lucky, and perhaps he will ruffle my hair on his way out the door with his mates.

I still think that Mother’s Day is unnecessarily commercial and that making an event of one day out of the year is in a way to belittle the support our mothers give us not just through the year but through all of our lives.  I still could have shown my appreciation more demonstrably. I could l have told her how much I appreciated all that she did.

I miss you Mum.

 

 

A life in Boxes

De-cluttering (see earlier blog). What a surprise – progress is slow!  Much slower than I anticipated.  I keep getting sidetracked on associated issues, like sorting through boxes of mixed up Lego.  I have re-assembled kits and reconnected the bits with their instructions and boxes.  The balance, I have sorted into colours or like pieces (i.e all the wheels together) and stored them all in cliplok bags.  Once I had done all of this, I was still in a quandary.  Do I keep it, sell it, or give it away?  Some of the bigger kits are worth a couple of hundred dollars on eBay.  In the end, it was stored carefully into large plastic storage boxes and put back into the attic.  Those boxes are along side other boxes containing the train set and similar multi-componented toys.

And so it has been – sort, classify and decide on disposal.  I still have stored in that attic things like boxes of linen and towels, old dinner sets and household bits and pieces that I have always thought that young Donald might use when he leaves home.  I have this underlying concern that as soon as I dispose of these items, they may be required.

I must have around twenty of these boxes in the attic now.  They contain much-loved clothes from earlier decades, each with their own memories.  Perhaps one day I will have granddaughters who will enjoy exploring their contents, and might give those designer labels an airing again. There are boxes of quilting fabrics that I will use one day.  Boxes of other craft items.  Boxes of bedding and quilts – we have had many different bed configurations in the house over the years and have retained the blankets and quilts, even though the beds may have gone.

I also have a large plastic box that is the ‘picnic basket’.  In theory, I can just grab this and go, but I should check its contents and their cleanliness etc before the next trip.  It has plastic plates and cutlery, chopping board, sharp knives, can opener, bottle opener, scissors, tea towel, washing up brush and detergent, tea, coffee, salt, pepper, storage bags and items of this nature.  So handy to have it all together and it just needs checking now and then for currency.

I have all the travel items in the attic as well.  Suitcases and wheelie bags and back-packs and sleeping bags and packing cells.  I love the packing cells that I discovered a few years back.  It makes the organisation of packing so much easier.  Of course these things are not in boxes but are tumbled in their own corner, along side the sporting equipment that is rarely used and in fact hardly ever was.  There are still the tennis racquets and the boogie board and the cricket bats and those sorts of things – just in case.

As I write this, it is apparent to me that I was always equipping our house for a larger family – in my mind there would be children coming and going and ‘doing things’.  The reality was that I only had the one child, and he was very non-sporty and as there were no other children of similar age growing up in our immediate locality, he didn’t do a lot of outdoor stuff either.  It is a warning not to place too much emotional anticipation on the advent of grandchildren.

I also have heaps of financial records, the sort that should be kept for 7 years.  I haven’t addressed them as yet but I am sure that there are some older years now that can be culled.  Stored on those racks (I have heaps of metal shelving racks in the attic as well) is lots of stationery and study notes from various courses over the years.  That could do with critical evaluation.  Many of the notes are probably out of date.

Sounds as though I have kept everything, doesn’t it?  I have still managed to give away a lot of items – furniture, books, clothing, and toys.  Some has gone to friends and some has been disposed of via Freecycle.  There are other items, that I have had for many years, that I have decided to dispose of via auction.  There is a lovely brass art nouveau fire tool set.  I have always loved the lady, but I don’t have a fire and don’t have a use for this item.  It has just been stored in the attic.

Brass Fire Tools

And then there is the antique phone that I have had since around 1980.  It still has the inner workings and my techie brother-in-law tells me that it could be made to work again, in a limited fashion.  Again this has just been sitting in the attic for years and I have to ask myself of what value it is stuck up there.

Antique Pnone

Another item that I will be very pleased to see go to a new home is a Dexter Rocking Chair that was left here by a lodger and never re-claimed.  He had promised someone to french polish it and it has been sitting on my back verandah for around five years.  I feel so sorry for the person who originally owned it as they must have done a lot of work in stripping it but I have no way of knowing who they are or contacting them.

Another aspect to the de-cluttering is sorting out all the stuff left by lodgers.  Mostly this is clothing and shoes, but also electrical items, tools, fishing gear and of course antique rocking chairs.

One task that I was not looking forward to was de-cluttering my computer.  There will still be junk data files lurking in corners but I have deleted a lot of dead software and many folders also that have not been access for a long time.  In part, I had to do this as I am running out of storage space but in part I want to de-clutter before my next computer upgrade.  I felt very virtuous after I had spent the time on this.

So what of my transitional son?  I have received the odd text but I haven’t seen him since my last post.  He was supposed to come home last night (with Daisy) but did not turn up.  Perhaps today.

Uneasy Transitions

Transitions are never easy. There have been many changes in my son’s life over the last twelve months. Donald is 18 and so has acquired adult status, in years anyway. He now sports a cool stubble and his bedside drawer reveals a box of condoms. He has a girlfriend (Daisy) and other female friends, at least one of whom would like to be a little more than that. At least I can see that she would like this, but it doesn’t quite seem to have registered on his horizon.

Daisy has turned his life upside-down over this year. She is very needy and also very manipulative. She is used to clicking her fingers and for Donald and whoever else she requires, to come running. She frequently has emotional episodes which require hand holding, brow wiping and attendance, regardless of the time of day or night. Given the huge quantities of caffeinated drinks that she consumes, these episodes usually occur at night, meaning that Donald is frequently summonsed in the wee hours, with his absence discovered the following morning.

With so much nocturnal activity, Donald’s school work bit the dust last year and he only passed one subject of his final year of high school. Daisy dropped out just before the exams so she did not fare any better. They both have casual jobs and are supposedly studying again but I will be very surprised if they complete the academic year in their enrolments. Their entire focus is on partying.

Remember how when your children are toddlers, they love to help you around the house? Whatever you are doing, they want to do to. Sweeping, washing up, working in the garden and especially cooking. Helping mum is wonderful. Sigh. It doesn’t last. For a start, Donald sleeps for a greater part of the day because he is up all night. When I race out the door for work in the morning, I might leave a note asking him to hang out the washing or some such chore. I then need to ring him later in the day and tell him to read the note as I cannot assume that this will happen without prompting. When I get home, there will be damp clothing on the line, indicating that it has only just been hung up. Assuming that it has. Some days, it is still in the basket and I hear ‘Oops – I forgot!’

Doing something of his own volition just does not happen, although on odd occasions, (very odd) I will come home to find that a meal has been cooked. More likely though I will get a text message through the day asking me to pick up more milk or whatever on my way home because there is none left. (Yes, he has drunk it all.) He feels that he is being responsible in advising me that we are out of this item. The idea of actually stirring himself to go shopping would not occur to him. This sort of organisation does not rate as highly as continuing with the computer games that he plays most days, when he is not watching the latest series that he has downloaded from the internet.

You start to get the picture here that his life is all about rights and not at all about responsibilities. Daisy is even more strongly an adherent to this philosophy, and to a general extent, so are all of Donald’s mates. The mates are generally reasonable kids – just totally wrapped up in themselves and the lives that they want to live. I frequently wake up and find that one or more of them has stayed the night, with all concerned assuming that this is OK. In general, yes it is but it doesn’t hurt to ask. Usually though they have arrived in the early hours of the morning whilst I am fast asleep. If they happen to see me as they slip out the back door in the morning (the easiest route to and from Donald’s room) they chirp ‘thank you for having me!’ before dragging their dishevelled and red-eyed selves off home. I can’t complain about the amount of water that they use, as they rarely shower.

Donald and Daisy’s relationship has been turbulent, as he has gradually come to realise that she is not always honest, not always faithful, and uses people shamelessly. He has gradually met a number of her discarded friends who have been used and abused along the way and now choose not to get too close. She cannot manage money and so frequently spends his as well. Progressively Donald has become aware of her shortcomings and has experienced much in her company that has distressed and dismayed him. Consequently, he has broken up with her – several times.

Last Thursday evening was the last of those occasions and it was with an indication of relief that he told me that he was meeting her later that evening to tell her that it was over and to give her back her possessions that she had left at our house. The next morning he confirmed that there had been tears because she loves him, but she had accepted his decision and that they would stay just friends. Ha! I popped home at lunch time and found them both fast asleep in his bed and I believe that this is where they were for most of the day. Not sure how she talked him around again, but the pair of very sexy red and black knickers that I found on his bedroom floor probably had something to do with it. I still wonder what she wore home that day! Donald went off to work that evening (three days ago) and he hasn’t been home since. He is presumably staying with Daisy, but has not seen fit to let me know that, nor to answer my texts asking that he check in with me on a daily basis, as he is supposed to do.

For some time, I have been contemplating telling Donald that it is time he moved out of our house. The reasons will not be new to him – I am sick of being taken for granted, and also don’t like losing control of the house. It is time that he learnt to take responsibility for himself and to pay his way in life. I am not being treated with respect and I do not deserve that. The concerns that I have of course are those that would occur to any mother. He barely earns enough to support himself – how would he manage and would I be putting him in moral jeopardy? Would he keep up his current course of study or would this be the final straw that encouraged him to drop out? Would it be the start of a downward spiral into a boozy and perhaps drug-related lifestyle, which would be more restricted if he continued to live with me? He would have to rent a room somewhere and could not afford anything too comfortable. Should I give him a small allowance to ensure that he has enough on which to sustain himself when combined with his wage?

The alternative is to ask him to start and pay board, equivalent to 25% of his earnings or thereabouts. This would also help to reinforce the understanding that there is no such thing as a free lunch, although I know that in order to get this money I would have to set up a direct debit arrangement. The down side though is that he would probably feel that this payment absolved him of any further domestic responsibility, and still would not abide by domestic rules that have been put in place but are difficult to enforce without his cooperation.

Donald is still a nice kid, and others are always telling me that he is so pleasant, helpful (to them), sociable, etc. He is not a lost cause and in future years he will probably become a reasonable human being. Right now though he is selfish, lazy, feckless, self-centred and unreliable.

This transition in in Donald’s growing up is difficult. No doubt there are issues for him, insecurities, unknowns, etc. but it is also immensely difficult for me as his parent. It is especially hard given that I work 40+ hours on week days and so am not around through the day to monitor what is happening at home. When he is awake, I am asleep and vice versa. If we are both awake and at home, there are often other people around, making personal communication difficult. There are days when I so wish that I had a partner with whom to address these issues and who could talk about man stuff, and respect, and the meaning of life and all that. A decent role model would be brilliant, but we have never had one of those in our lives. I am just hoping that he is home when I get home from work tonight, or at least has the decency to contact me.