My 90 year old mother has dementia. The word dementia comes from the Latin dementiae. In the dictionary, it is defined as, madness, distraction or folly. The mum I knew is slipping away and all I can do is massage her dry skin with rose scented cream, hold her hand and try to bring her some joy.
Some weeks the phone calls from my mother are so numerous, angry, repetitive and bat shit crazy, that I find myself glancing at shite online trying to distract myself while I listen to her tell me stories that I’ve heard 100 times. These conversations become so bad, that reading updates on LinkedIn seems like a good idea.
But this week I found the upside to my mother’s dementia.We had a cup of tea and then she handed me her mail.
“Do you know what to do about this?” she said. I looked at the envelopes and realised that amongst the bills and a letter from Centrelink, was the ABS voting form for the Same Sex Marriage survey. I grinned.
“Yes mum, yes I do. If any of your friends here in the nursing home need help with this, I can help them too.” Helping people, that is what Christians who want to heal the world can do.
Once upon a time a lovely hairy mother lived with three not so little tweenage pigs.
The funnest bestest girl in the world was born 10 years ago today. This kid makes me laugh and laugh. Late one night we were catching a bus home and as we sat on the front seat she said,
“Mummy, if an old person gets on the bus we have to move. But it’s dark so all of the grandpas and the grandmas are at home except for the ninja ones. So if you see any old ladies or old mans get on the bus they’re ninjas.” At the next stop an old lady got on the bus and sat behind us.
“Mum,” she whispered, “the old lady behind us, she’s a ninja.”
“How do you know?”
“I’m a ninja.”
Another day, another break up of a ‘star’ marriage, be it Johnny Whatsit or a ‘celebrity’ personal trainer; these are the ‘men’ who walk away from their children and run to someone else who may be younger, or prettier and aren’t burdened with looking after his children. Meanwhile who takes the kids to school, helps with their homework, washes their sports uniforms? While the little boys are taking selfies with their girlfriends on red carpets and jetting off on fun holidays, the women who are left behind are the ones dedicating themselves to child rearing. What does it do to a teenage girl to see Daddy running off with someone young enough to be her elder sister? Yawn.
Are these the role models we want for our boys? Males who’ve been in relationships that lasted less time than a bottle of Morning Fresh detergent (that stuff lasts ages). Guys who can’t hang around when the going gets tough in a marriage? Ask anyone who has been married for a long time and they’ll tell you that the going gets tough at some point in a long term relationship. Good blokes can you have a word with your mates? Please tell them that kids need their dads. I don’t want to male bash, I know some fabulous fathers, but I’m not meeting a lot of deadbeat mummies. 32% of babies in the United States are born to single mothers, and in 2006 mothers headed 87% of one-parent families with children under 15 years in Australia.
Parenting isn’t glamorous, it isn’t fun a lot of the time, it’s about making tough decisions and showing kids there are boundaries to their behaviour. To do that you have to be in the same space as children. Being there for a kid means physically showing up, cleaning up their vomit in the middle of the night, sitting through school concerts even when you’re bored, showing kids that as a parent you want to be in their lives for all the important moments. Any monkey can take their children to a cafe. Fathers who think that going to a trendy hairdresser is more important than being with their kids are not attractive. Yes, the rules of the game are being redefined but parenting isn’t something you can opt in and out of and decide to sit out on the bench for a few years, you’re either there or you’re not. Kids are tough bosses, they notice when you don’t show up for parenting duty. I meet many teenagers with mental health issues, and troubled adolescents are being admitted to hospitals in greater numbers than ever before; I truly believe that family breakdown plays a part. A lot of these kids crave time with absent parents. As a survivor of domestic violence I’m not advocating staying in an abusive relationship forever, but I really don’t think modern men are trying hard enough to keep it together for the kids or themselves.
Divorce is painful for kids. So if your relationship is faltering from the burdens of modern life, not enough time or money or extended family to give you a break from the relentless pressure of work, child rearing, nursing ageing parents and paying the bills, get thee to a good counsellor.
All the research apparently says that kids from broken families do fine eventually. But there are a lot of tears, heartache and wasted energy between now and the mysterious destination called eventually.
Happy birthday amazing, beautiful prototype child. You changed my life, waking me up to the beauty of the world and I love you for it.