Thank God it’s Friday

Just as well it was a short week this week (holiday Monday) as I had an attack of the blahs and the week dragged.  Probably adjusting to the earlier rising with Daylight Saving contributed to the feeling, plus ongoing altercations with young Donald.  He insists that he is still going to school, that he will not get a job and that I cannot make him do otherwise.  Just quietly, he is probably right, but if his intention is to go to school, then he actually has to do that.  I have told him that I am not intervening on his behalf with the school.  It is up to him to do so if he wants to try to talk his way back in.

Normally I ride my bicycle to work, or if the weather is inclement then I ride Jeffrey, my motor scooter.  Very occasionally I take the car, but this means that I must remember to keep shifting it through the day as there is a two-hour limit on car parks.  Thursday morning, I decided to drive as I was feeling tired and lethargic and also the weather was drizzly.  I was running rather late, so when I rushed outside to actually leave, I was not impressed to discover that the car was not in the driveway.  Nor was Donald in the house.  He had slipped out after I had gone to sleep and driven to Daisy’s house.  Needless to say I blew my top and left a very hostile message on his mobile phone.  At times like this I am beside myself with fury.  It’s that casual assumption that he can just take the car whenever he likes that upsets me.  I was also cross with myself that I had left the keys out where he could take them.  I shouldn’t have to hide them though.

The nice surprise for the week was receiving an email from a woman who I last saw thirty years ago.  We both met, some years before that when we both worked in a bar in Alice Springs.  K was only a couple of years older than me, but by comparison I was very innocent and naive.  She was the most overtly sexual woman I had ever met.  She wore skimpy skirts and low-cut tops, and her long hair, parted on the side seductively grazed those pouting lips.  As the male customers walked into our restaurant each evening, she would look them over critically and assess which were worth pursuing that evening.  Whichever man she chose, she usually got.  He didn’t have a chance.

K half terrified me and half fascinated me.  For some reason she took a shine to me and took me under her wing.  We were chalk and cheese but became good friends anyway.  We had many hilarious nights in the restaurant, and of course after work we would hit the town, living it up until the early hours and exhaustion hit.  I recall skinny dipping in the motel swimming pool at midnight, wearing sunglasses and our knickers on our heads as a disguise.  We probably kept half the guests awake with our raucous laughter and rude jokes.

She took me to my first bush race meeting, giving me more of a run-down on the men that were there than on the horses on the track.  It was their form that she was more concerned with anyway, though of course we did have a bet on the horses as well.  I recall when one famous Australian rock star, well known for his musical roles as well, hit town for a concert.  K took one look at the statuesque figure and said, ‘Duckie, I’m going to have him!’ and she did.  I gather it was a night to remember, for she said to me the next morning, ‘Boy, he wasn’t hiding behind the door when they were handed out!’  By her reports, he was very well endowed.  I think of that every time I see him on TV.

Although she had grown up in Alice, there came a time when she wanted a change, and she decided to move to Townsville.  I visited her a few times and still enjoyed her company although the relationship that she had at that time had brought about an element of more sedate behaviour.  Well, of a sort.

Something intriguing happened on one of those visits.  K and her sister had recently lost their father and were consulting a medium for some belated consultation with their parent.  There were unresolved issues from memory and they wanted to make contact with him.  This was taking place at the sister’s house, after which K and I were going out on the town.  At the appointed time, I drove over to the sister’s house to pick up K.  As I approached the back door, I could hear the conversation happening inside and deduced that the consultation was still in progress.  I didn’t knock, not wanting to create a disturbance but quietly opened the door, crept inside and sat down.

The man was talking in a focused fashion with his eyes closed to aid concentration or to better hear the voices I assume.  Suddenly, he stopped talking and went quiet.  He shifted in his seat and then started talking again.  He said that a young lady has just entered the room, and there is someone here who wishes to speak to her.  He described a young man who had died a short time previously and gave details of the death and my reactions to the news.  The description fitted a friend of mine, and he gave accurate detail of the circumstances and the impact on myself and the fact that I had sent a silent prayer to this friend.  I was told that the friend had received this prayer and wished to thank me.  Nobody in that room knew of my friend’s death, and I had never told K about it.  To say that I was rendered speechless at this encounter would be an understatement.  I wished later that I had thought to ask some questions, the answers to which only my friend and I would know the answers but was not quick enough.

K is now married and living a retired and settled life.  She had a young son (as a single mother) when I first knew her and now she has a granddaughter a little older than my son.  She always had a passion for animals and it seems that she still has a menagerie, with a focus on birds and parrots now – intelligent birds that are as demanding as little children.

I was delighted that she made contact with me.  I had often wondered what had become of her, but as she had married and changed her name, had no way of contacting her.  We shared news and photographs and promised to keep in touch.  She says that she has put on a bit more weight than she used to carry, but then haven’t we all?  In my mind’s eye though, I will still see the vamp that challenged and scared the pants off me when I first met her.  Can’t wait to catch up with her again.

Making a Stand

I have had brief words with young Donald today, but I know that we will need to sit down together and review the conversation in a couple of days.  I told him about receiving the letter from school, and how disappointed I was to learn of his less-than-satisfactory attendance record.

I explained that school attendance was a privilege, and that the deal in our house was that he either engaged in study full time or got a full time job.  I had agreed to him dropping a couple of Year 12 subjects because I knew that they were not really the best choice for him in the first place and that there was little point in continuing with them.  I was assuming that he was going to put full effort into his remaining subjects however.

The reality is that he has been coasting, downloading and watching movies and TV series during the day, hanging out with Daisy, and driving around a lot in my car.  Any assignments have been submitted late and only with a lot of nagging and pushing on my part and he bitterly resents this ‘interference’.  My costs have increased (fuel costs more than doubled), I am no longer eligible for parenting tax benefits (as he is not studying full time) and when I get home, there is no washing up done, no tea prepared, no nothing.

I told Donald that my initial reaction on getting the letter from the school was for us both to make an appointment with relevant teachers and to see what we could do to get him reinstated.  I realised though that in reality, he was unlikely to change his ways or make enough of an effort.  Why should I put myself out for him yet again?

I explained that he has been free-loading and has now lost the right to attend school.  I highlighted a couple of jobs in the paper and suggested that there was one as a kitchen hand in the City Remand Centre that he could apply for.  On Tuesday, he must go and register at Centrelink and commence serious job hunting.  His current part time job is just Friday and Saturday nights and does not pay enough to sustain him at the moment.

By this stage, he was looking stunned and aghast.  I explained that there were some options.  He could look for other study options and gain skills that would assist him in the search for work.  I would accept that.  He could also go and work for his donor father as a labourer.  This would be very hard work, 7 days per week and would mean moving interstate.  I would give him until the end of October to have something in place – job or study or combination thereof.  Otherwise, it would be time that he moved out and made his own arrangements but that I was not prepared to let things continue as they had to date.

Unfortunately, the phone rang (land line) in the middle of this conversation at a crucial point, which was a bit of an unfortunate interruption, but I cut the caller off and picked up the thread as best I could.  Donald retreated to his room and I tried to get on with a handyman job in my laundry, installing brackets and shelving.  I couldn’t really focus however as I was so churned up over having to say what I did.  I didn’t get half as much done as I should have and will have to finish it tomorrow.

Perhaps some time in the garden will blow the cobwebs away.  I know however that I will have to repeat this conversation because unless I keep pushing, none of the required action will happen.  Donald’s strategy will be that I will be too busy to enforce my stand and if he keeps really quiet, I will just forget or whatever.  The battle, for that is what it feels like to me, is not over yet.

Exasperation

Received a letter from Donald’s school yesterday to say that he has been withdrawn from one of his Year 12 subjects due to lack of attendance.  He has submitted assignments but has not maintained the required attendance.  This happened some months ago also (same subject) and I talked the teacher into taking him back.  I thought that he was attending classes now but clearly that wasn’t the case.

I am so cross, as for the sake of sitting through only a handful of classes, he has blown a year’s study.   I have done my bit for him in relation to this subject so if he wants to salvage the situation it is now up to him.  When I asked him for an explanation, he said he thought that as long as he submitted his work (all past the due dates of course) then he could get away without attending the classes, which he found too boring.  Der!!!  Like regulations don’t apply to him!  I doubt that he will get around to approaching his teacher as he doesn’t really stir himself in these situations, and always has an excuse as to why the teacher was unreasonable and probably wouldn’t listen to him anyway.  I hope that he surprises me though.

*******

Three days later.  I left this post in draft form as I have had such a busy week.  Came home tonight to find another letter from the school, referring to inadequate attendance for another subject – one which he is supposed to enjoy.  Daisy also attends this class and I thought that they were both attending together – the one subject for which they were maintaining attendance.  Just as well he is at work tonight as I would probably say things that I might regret later.

I am torn on treatment of this issue.  One view is to just let him crash and burn.  Donald must learn his own lessons and then figure out how to extricate himself from the bog hole in which he finds himself.  Another part of me says that this simply is not good enough and he needs to man up and learn some self-discipline and develop some moral fibre and backbone.  He is so feckless.  I should make him finish the last term of school and attend every day that he should (how I would do that I don’t quite know).

I have tried very hard not to be a helicopter parent, though probably out of frustration at his continual lack of progress over the years, I have helped him out more than I should.  That means he hasn’t confronted consequences enough.  When we discuss the implications of his actions (or inaction) Donald has a tendency not to accept what I say and to only believe in his own truths, even though they are based on heresay or his own limited experience and un-researched opinion.

As an implication for me (a sole parent) I must support him longer when he repeats school, accepting the resultant financial cost.  There has also been the time and input requirement as I have monitored deadlines, edited assignments and encouraged, pushed and cajoled.  Now we are facing another year of this process.  Ideally, he would have finished Year 12 and would be embarking on a character-forming Gap Year, as he is not ready for any form of post-secondary study.

I am experiencing frustration at the sheer stupidity of it – for the sake of a few hours sitting in class, he has blown a whole year’s worth of study.  If I express these opinions of course, then I am imposing my views or expectations on him and making his life miserable.  At least I give him something to complain to Daisy about.

Donald has totally embraced Daisy and her needs.  His life has been adapted around hers and she seems to fill a basic need that he has to be needed and to be supportive.  I know that this is understandable for a young person on the cusp of adulthood but it appears to me that he is subjugating his needs for hers.

It makes me start to ask questions of myself.  Has our two-person family unit left a gaping hole in his life and emotional well-being?  If Donald had grown up with two parents, would he have had more self-assurance and confidence in himself?  Would he have developed more emotional resilience?  These are impossible questions for me to answer, but they lurk at me through sleepless nights.

Memorial Reflection

This afternoon, I attended the memorial service for Elliot Johnston QC.  Elliot was an old political comrade of my father’s, and also represented Dad when he was in strife over a conflict with a neighbour (another story).  He was a man of keen intellect and was highly respected both in the state and around the country.  This was a memorial service, as Elliot had bequeathed his body to the University.

There were many distinguished speakers who paid homage to the man and his accomplishments.  He was 93, so there were many years in which to make an impact.  The last speaker was his son, who spoke endearingly of his father, and towards the end of that tribute, listed the things that he had learnt from the man.  It got me thinking – what have I learnt from Dad?  It is something that needs some reflection, so I will report back on that.

*****

Unfortunately, in the hours leading up to the service, I was involved in an accident with my car and it is probably going to be a write-off.  I had been pondering over effective control mechanisms in relation to young Donald’s use of the car and assumptions of ownership.  All rights and no responsibility, that sort of thing and definitely no cost. Well now there is no problem as there is no car!  For a while, anyway but hopefully long enough to re-introduce him to buses and his two feet.

*****

I have now had a little time to consider what I have learnt from my father in growing up on his household and it woudl be as follows:

Work ethic – this was strongly instilled in all of us girls and demonstrated by my father, in fact by both parents.  What I have also learnt though is that one should look at working smarter not harder, and factor in some time for play.

Tools – thanks to Dad, I can use all the tools in my shed and have reasonable competency in a range of handyperson tasks.  He still insists on keeping blades sharpened and moving parts oiled though as noone can do that as well as him.  He is probably right there too – certainly better than me.

Hospitality – set another place at the table.  Dad would often meet someone in the course of the day and bring them home for a meal for a bed.  His hospitality was plain, but anyone was always welcome and he would offer any help that he thought was needed.  He picked up hitchhikers, international travellers and people like that.

Passionate beliefs – work for causes in which you believe.  Dad still hands out how-to-vote cards for the Greens and attends various meetings of those causes that interest him.  He is a life member of the Friends of the ABC.  He is not one to stand back and let others do the work – he is in there helping.

Family Values he has a stong sense of family and respect for family strength.  He would do anything to help his family, nuclear or extended.

Stoicism – this is a late addition but it has occurrerd to me that the expression ‘When the going gets tough, the tough get going‘, was probably written for my father.  He picks himself up, dusts himself off and keeps going.

So – what has your father taught you?

Dashed Again

I got up early this morning so that I could get some quick supermarket shopping done before work.  That was when I discovered that young Donald was not in his bed and my car was not in the driveway.  There were no guesses really as to where he was – with girlfriend Daisy Duck.  Donald and Daisy are joined at the hip and together are failing their Year 12 in spectacular fashion.  Neither has any practical ambition, not one that actually entails focus and work anyway and all they want to do is spend every waking and every sleeping moment together.  Daisy often is sad or ‘depressed’ or is having fights with her mother and at these times, Donald goes running.  I assume that this is also what happened last night.  In my car.

He had left his computer running so I took the opportunity to check out his Face Book page to see what he has been up to lately that perhaps I ought to know about.  Yes, I admit it.  I was snooping.  Donald is 17 and although he feels that he is akin to an adult and wants associated freedoms etc it is a case of all rights and no responsibilities.  There is a fair amount of self-obsessed immaturity.  At this stage of his development and while I am fully responsible for him, I do feel it appropriate to have some idea of what he is up to and with whom.

I was interested, no make that disappointed to read that a couple of weeks ago when there was a major incident and he left home for 10 days that he was engaged in a discussion with friends on what had happened.  It was a very general discussion but the gist of it was that you focus on what you want, regardless of parent attitude.  You then keep pushing and pushing and no matter what the parental response you keep pushing back until eventually you will get your own way.

I wish that he was so focussed about other aspects of his life.  It has clarified for me the his strategy that I basically understood, but having it spelt out like that is still a bit in-your-face.  To add to my displeasure of course is the fact that he took the car without permission, and this morning I had to use the motor scooter instead of the car on my shopping trip.

I have also just had an email from one of his teachers indicating that he is not putting the effort in and much of what he has told me about his requirements in this subject are not accurate.  Misinformation though to be fair, he often gets confused about requirements and does not clarify when he is confused. So not happy.

I realise that I have to just let go of this child and let him crash and burn all by himself and wear the consequences but it is so hard to see your child slide into the mire of their own stupidity.  Interested in how others have reacted in similar circumstances.