I don’t mean to boast but, my beloved 13-year-old daughter is currently studying really hard for her Higher School Certificate (end of school exams for overseas friends). She’s so young but I know she’s going to smash it by the time she graduates. Which will be really soon the way she’s going. I don’t like to make other parents feel bad by bragging about my child’s high achieving ways, but I really think I need to celebrate the fact that she’s currently devoting hours of her time and attention to:
4 unit Instagram
3 unit yelling at her mother
3 unit serving looks
4 unit YouTube make up tutorials
I’m loving the extra attention she’s getting from her school teachers, there’s at least three emails a day with a list of all the homework and assignments she has neglected. But boy those videos she posts are marvellous. She has never going to be a kid who thrived in the over-crowded, one-size-fits-all school system, but she could not be less interested in her school curriculum if she tried. I love her.
In the 1990s, the cartoonist Gary Larson published a cartoon showing a teenager playing video games in his bedroom and a concerned parent looking on, with a thought bubble over their head dreaming of the day their child could get paid a lot of money to play computer games. I am that parent.
My dad would have been 92 this week, but his body didn’t want to stay around that long. He was a devoted da and a workaholic. He taught me:
*To do what I love for a living (he wrote/edited over 100 books)
*Travel opens your mind
*A sense of humour will help you in the darkest days of your life
*A good swim in the ocean can clear your mind
*Hard work is good for the soul
*A tough childhood doesn’t define the rest of your life
*Even if you haven’t had your own dad, you can achieve a lot
*Dancing a slow tango in the kitchen is magical
*Kids raised by single mums are tough
*A full fridge means you are doing really well
*Stray dogs are worth rescuing
*Some days we must get up and go to work even when we think we can’t
*Singing love songs is great for families
*Lovingly made freshly squeezed orange juice is better than an expensive restaurant breakfast
*Taking your kids back to your old childhood haunts opens their eyes
*Listening to the stories people tell you will help you learn about the world
*Love is a verb
*Singing to your kids at bedtime may soothe them or freak them out
*Saying yes to new opportunities is scary but worth it
*Never let the truth get in the way of a good story
16 years without him have gone by in a flash. I would sacrifice a few of my toes to see one of his cheeky smiles, hear his laugh and have a hug.
My dad was the Prince of Kings Cross
There comes a weekend in every mother’s life when we have to put on bad music, trample on the walk on wardrobe AKA floor-drobe, cough our way through crusty bits of rubbish and throw out the last remaining bits and bobs of our offsprings’ childhood. That weekend has come for me. There will be no more Hello Kitty pencils, no more craft that comes home saying I luv u mummmy and no more genuine joy at seeing me at the school gate.
I am emptying the unfinished projects into the bin and opening old One Direction pencil cases and finding handwritten notes from their friends. These painstakingly produced jottings were all written at the age when my kids were discovering the magic of writing a heartfelt letter to a beautiful new friend:
Dear Senny, I thik youre really specil and I reallly lik your shoos. I had funn wen we went to the pak and i now we wil be freinds forever. lov you
I’ve been a single mum for 10 years, so there are many jobs in my house that are being tackled well past their use by date. Despite our multiple moves, some special stuff was placed in boxes and carted from new address to new address. The perfectly unused birthday present textas from the seven-year old’s best friend in the hole world that were saved in the back of the cupboard for special occasions have been dug out, the lolly wrappers that she didn’t want mummy to see, beside the half-dressed dolls with real nail polish on their hands. I put together a box of nostalgia, thinking that my last teenager would be remotely interested in the lost cuteness and innocence of her childhood. She came home from a day out at the hideous local shopping trauma centre and said,
“That’s my stuff, what are you doing?”
“We need to chuck out.”
“No, I’m too busy.”
A few short weeks ago she sobbed because the Easter Bunny hadn’t left her an elaborate trail of eggs in our shared yard on Easter Sunday. But now she’s watching make up tutorials on how to copy the subtle facial contouring of the Kardashians on Youtube. She actually wants to look like a Jenner. I’ve failed as a mother. What the hell will I keep from this phase?
Lazy school holiday afternoon. Single mother folding washing, fruit rotting in the bowl, flies buzzing around the child’s cooking/slime experiment, cat eating the last of the bread, children glued to their screens.
“Zen, what are you watching?”
“Some highlights from the IT movie.”
“I don’t want you watching that movie, you’re too young, it will give you nightmares.”
“The boy in it is a Virgo.”
“He’s a Virgo like you mum.”
“NO, you are not watching it.”
“Worth a try, mum.”
Cyclone Senza exploded into my life 13 years ago, after I’d been at the hospital in drug-free childbirth hell for 25 minutes. She couldn’t wait to get the party started.
Or trash our house. She has painted on the walls of every place we’ve ever rented. And they’re good paintings, so I can’t get mad. Senza leaves a creative mess in every room she enters. It would be easier to parent her if we lived in a castle with four maids, a butler and a housekeeper.
My girl, you are the funniest person I’ve ever met; entertaining, smart, animated and kooky, you have only two gears, full throttle or passed out on the floor You struggle to use your inside voice but your astute observations about supposedly mature adults are always worth hearing.
Looking at a box of unpaid bills you said,
“Mum, that is a box full of nightmares.”
You are physically courageous; you surf, swim, climb trees, duck and dive. You’ve had breathtaking bodily self-confidence from the moment you were conceived. And you have a kind heart. This year you cared for babies in a Thai orphanage like they were your own family.
You are fast, furious, full of attitude and love for your friends, and easily bored. I hope your adventurous spirit takes you all over the world. You run head first at life, without fear. Your courage is everything I wish I could find in me (but with less back chat).
You kid, are everything. In your adolescent angst phase, don’t let teen bitches, dopey dudes and unenlightened teachers snuff out your fire.
Happy 13th Birthday to my beautiful hurricane #teenager
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.”
Happy birthday to my brave, hilarious, whacky little stunt woman, the girl who told me just the other day, “You don’t actually just grow mum, fairies help you grow.” I’m so glad I am your mama.