Category Archives: Parenting

Bored (aka Board) Games

Mum – we’re bored.
Go find something to do then.
But there’s nothing to do.
Go outside. Read a book. Play a board game. Or else I will find something for you to do.

Well we didn’t want that. That meant chores.

So we’d almost always end up playing a board game. Monopoly. Scrabble. Boggle. Cluedo. They were the standards. We’d play on the floor, with cushions. And more often than not, after about 15 minutes of playing, Mum would bring us a snack – acknowledging we had made a good decision.

Board games were fun – but they also taught us how to share, to take turns, to be competitive, to win gracefully and to accept defeat with dignity.

Sure – they created arguments. Like the Christmas we fought hard during a session of The Game of Life. So hard in fact, that as a result – a new house rule was instilled by Mum. For the rest of the Christmas holidays each time we interacted with someone Mum would make us say: ‘I love you, I’m glad you’re here.’ Every time. It became a joke eventually – but it did help give us some perspective. We never did play Game of Life again though. That was tainted forever.

But mostly these games gave us our best Playing moments. I remember the marathon Monopoly sessions, using books to hide our Cludeo sheets and building mammoth dominio stacks.

These were the best family moments. No separate sessions on computers, phones, etc in separate bedrooms – we would all be in the one room, playing a game together.

Bored? Play a Board Game. How long since you last sat down and played a game with your family?

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Becoming a Woman

When I was 9, my Mum took me on a day trip – we went for a drive and had lunch and she told me about the time when I would become a woman. I was made to feel special – and I was excited about the day arriving. She explained to me that I would be joining a long line of women before me, that everyone had their period – and that it wasn’t something to be afraid of, or to hide from, but instead, it was something that I should be proud of – something that I should look forward to even.

She taught me that to have your period is something to celebrate. Once a month, women are physically, literally, reminded that they are women. That they are blessed with a uterus – and most importantly, that they are participating in a momentous cycle of womanhood – one that has continued from the beginning of time until this very moment in our world today.

It is a shame now, that I hear stories of girls who don’t receive this simliar information – and instead are forced to learn of periods from textbooks, or worse, the media. They are made to feel isolated, and are disconnected from this ‘long line’ of women that my mother referred to.

Stories of girls who have their period for quite some time before even telling their mother or anyone else. They just go through the motions of purchasing a product from the ‘feminine hygiene’ section of the supermarket and join the queues of people who go through their lives hating having their period, and thus hating being a woman, and even worse, hating themselves.

When the day finally arrived – and I got my period – my Mum hugged me and we cried a bit, but we laughed and loved that I had become a woman. I remember begging Mum not to tell Dad – I think out of embarrasment really. But that afternoon, Dad went to the shops and came home with ice-creams. He bought my younger brother and sister a Paddle-Pop, and a Golden Gaytime for Mum, me and him. I had been bought an adult ice-cream. I felt so grown-up.  Dad kissed my forehead and said ‘congratulations’. Mum smiled and cuddled me. Eating that ice-cream with Mum and Dad, made me feel like I was a little bit more grown up than the day before.

To embrace this cycle – to embrace the female, is to be free. A free woman amidst the patriarchal and often anti-female world that we today live in. A Woman. But that is a whole other lesson from my Mum – one for another day perhaps.

Stand Up Straight

Did your Mum always tell you this?

Stand up straight. Stop hunching. Get those shoulders back. Stand proud.

Mine did.

And she taught me a neat trick to get correct posture.

Pretend you have a pencil pointing out from your shoulder. Now, draw a little backwards circle with that pencil – so that you roll your shoulders up and back. Do that – and you’ll stand up a bit straighter every time.

Stand proud, as my Mum would say.

 

May I Leave the Table, Dinner was Nice?

After setting the table, we would all sit down to eat. Usually this started with a yell of ‘Dinner’s Ready!’ – from Mum or from whichever of us kids was helping with dinner. One of us always helped. Sometimes because we wanted to, sometimes because we were asked to – sometimes just because we wandered past the kitchen and Mum would say: Here, stir this or Here, taste this or Here, grate this.

The first to the table would pour the water for everyone. Never starting with themselves, always starting with Dad or Mum and then making their way back around the table – pouring their own glass last.

We would come to the table and sit down in our usual seats. I don’t really know why we had our own seats – but we did.

Mum would usually serve dinner in the kitchen – so The Helper would then bring the meals out. Again – a ritual here: it started with the youngest and finished with The Helper, and then Dad, and then Mum. Mum would bring her own meal out to the table.

We would all have our plates in front of us – taking a whiff of the yummy dinner wafting up to greet our faces. But we wouldn’t start – not yet. Not until Mum had come to sit down at the table.

We weren’t religious – so there wasn’t a prayer to start. But sometimes Mum would say “Cheers” and raise her glass of water. But mostly Dad would say: “Two, Four, Six, Eight – Bog in, Don’t Wait” and that would be our cue to start eating.

A few mouthfuls in, Mum would kick off the conversation – asking one of us kids: “What was the best and worst bit of your day today?” – and we would then take it in turns to tell a bit about our days. Mum and Dad would also tell us about their days.

This created a little safe space in which we might mention somewhere we needed a little help. We might say – “The worst part was eating my lunch by myself today” or we might say “The worst part was my maths test today”. And this would prompt some questions after dinner from Mum or Dad. Gentle questions of course, but because we had the safe environment to slightly open the door into our own day-to-day world – this allowed Mum and Dad to get a glimpse and they would peak inside and see if everything was ok.

Dinner would continue with a talk about what tomorrow would bring – what we had planned for the weekend.

At the end of the meal, we had to wait for everyone to finish everything on their plate. It was only in exceptional circumstances that you could leave the table before everyone else. I remember my little sister having to stay at the table once to eat all her peas. She was there for a very long time.

When we were very small, and in order to leave the table – we had to politely say: “May I leave the table, dinner was nice?” and Mum or Dad would say Yes.

This little phrase became infamous – due to my little sister (the one who wouldn’t her peas), being very brave one night. Perched on the end of her chair, she started to say the little rhyme: “May I leave the table, dinner was…” and before Mum or Dad had a chance to react she yelled out “YUCK!” and bolted from the table.

Let’s just say that Mum served peas with every meal for a while after that.

Stab him, Strangle him, Push him off the Cliff OR A Lesson in Knitting

Mum made most of our clothes when we were younger. I think originally because it was cheaper, more economical – but also because it was the thing to do back then. Now – it is kitsch to make your own clothes. Not neccesity anymore, sadly.

She would also knit us jumpers and things. I mainly remember her knitting for babies though – and I vaguely remember her attempting some socks for Dad. I never did see the finished product though, so I’m not sure what happened there. Did she finish them? Did Dad not like them? Or did she not make it to the end?

When I was about 8 or 9, we had been doing ‘french knitting’ at school – you know, where you have the toilet roll cardboard tube with paddle pop sticks around the top and you ‘knit’ great long columns of wool. At the same time, Mum was knitting something too. Her needles clicking away on the couch. I remember sitting next to her with my ‘knitting’ and wanting to be like her.

She offered to teach me her knitting. I jumped at the chance to learn grown-up knitting.

She got some needles and some wool, cast on a few stitches and worked a few rows for me. And then the lesson began.

“This is how my Mum taught me. First – you stab him.” She put the needle through the first loop. “Then you strangle him.” She wrapped the wool around her needle. “Then you push him off the cliff.” And she moved the loop off the needle – having just knitted one stitch.

I still now mouth these words while knitting: stab him, strangle him, push him off the cliff; stab him, strangle him, push him off the cliff. It has a nice rhythm to it, don’t you think?

Mum wasn’t always conventional in her lessons. Bless her.

Sticks and Stones

We all know the saying: Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me.

When I was 5, and had just started school – I was being teased by the kids at school. I came home crying to Mum. She told me this saying and sent me to school the next day with these words as my protection.

At lunch, when the kids teased me, I shouted these words at their faces.

For a moment, there was shock – then laughter.

Then – they walked away.

Aha! I had done it! Those words really did protect me. I wasn’t teased again for a long time, and by then I had made some friends who could stand by side and protect me.

Of course, it’s not really about those particular words. It is just the need to stand up to those who threaten you – and to defend yourself by declaring yourself as present. I am here, and I will be heard.

When You Think You Can’t Open A Jar Yourself

You can.

Run it under the hot tap for a minute. Put a rubber band around the lid. Whack it a few times with a knife around the edge and break the seal.

But it is always a good thing to occasionally ask a man to help, as Mum would tell us.

I needed to do this the other night – I was flying home from a work trip interstate and asked for a wine from the drink trolley. I then struggled to open the damn thing. So I had to, reluctantly, ask the man next to me to open it for me. He beamed, and I think he felt a little needed at that point.

Maybe Mum is right. We really do need to occasionally ask a man to help. My experience on the plane also explains why the next line of this lesson was always: ‘it makes them feel better, love’.