Tag Archives: change

Theresa van Gessel

25/07/2015

If you want to get me cranky, protective and outraged, give one of these statements a try when you are next talking to me.  Even better, use most of them in one conversation, and do it in front of my son.  That is a sure fired way to ensure that I will discount your helpful suggestions on how I can better do my job as his mother.  (It will also 100% guarantee that I will write a blog post about it.)

1. He just needs to fit in with everyone else

You think?  Wouldn’t it be great if just telling him to fit in with everyone else was the answer.  Wouldn’t it be great if we were all cut from the same mould and could fit into the designated slot in life that you think we should fit into.  Oh, and while we are at it, thank you for telling me, after knowing him for a very short time, how you know what he ‘needs’.  Because up until now, while I have been dealing with schools, psychiatrists, paediatricians, psychologists, police, social workers and the government, it never occurred to me that I could solve all of this by telling him to fit in.

Fitting in.  What does that look like?  Is that where he doesn’t say anything that makes you feel uncomfortable, doesn’t question whether something is fair or not, doesn’t overreact when he feels he is treated unfairly, and doesn’t interrupt your vision of what your life should look like?  Wouldn’t it be nice if he did fit in.  Did it ever occur to you that perhaps all he wants himself is to fit in.  To not be the kid who can’t cope with too much noise, or with not being perfect at something the first time he tries, who can’t understand why other kids don’t get his sense of humour, who worries that other kids don’t like him because he gets angry when he is overwhelmed.  To be ‘normal’.why fit in when you were born to stand

Guess what?  I don’t want him to fit in.  If he fitted in, in the way that you want him to, he would lose himself, and all the good things that go with being him.  His awesome sense of the ridiculous, his ability to give hugs just at the right time, his sharp mind and amazing strategies, and the endless possibilities that are open before him because he has to work so much harder than everyone else to do the same things that other kids in his class do with ease.

I'm beautiful in my way'Cause God makes (2)

2. He is just doing this to get attention

Of course he is!  What kid climbs an electricity pole in the middle of winter and declares that he won’t come down, in order not to get attention?  What kid rings his mother who is many hours drive away and threatens to kill himself, in order not to get attention?

The question is not whether he wants attention, it is WHY he wants attention.  What overloading of his senses, his ability to cope, his sense of fairness has happened that is causing him to act in such an extreme way?  And what can we do to help him to see that he is loved, supported, and cherished, so that he doesn’t need to behave in this way in order to get our attention.

3. He needs to understand how this makes (insert name of choice) feel

Ouch.  There it is again.  What he ‘needs’ to do.  If only he can rewire his brain circuits so that he understands other people’s emotions clearly, and take them into account when those people are contributing to his need to seek attention, then everything will be okay.  You will love him if he understands how his behaviour is affecting you.

Maybe, just maybe, you might like to think about how an 8 year old kid sees the world.  Forget whether he has special needs or not – most 8 year old kids are still fairly egocentric in their actions.  Telling him to take your feelings into account and to stop this behaviour is not, unfortunately, a magic cure-all.  If it was then I would be rich, having saved many thousands of dollars on specialists because I could have taken your advice for free.

4. He needs to understand the consequence of his actions

Uh-huh.  Again, what he ‘needs’ to do.  Because if he can just think about what his behaviour is doing, then he will stop it, straight away.  Can I remind you again, using small words, that this boy is 8 years old.  He doesn’t like hurting people.  He doesn’t like feeling hurt.  He doesn’t like constantly stumbling through life, letting people down, making mistakes.  If he could, at this age, think of the consequences of his actions and therefore change his actions, don’t you think he would?

5.  He is going to have a miserable life if he doesn’t start to improve his behaviour

Grrrrrrr…….how dare you presume to tell my son what his life is going to be like. And even worse, how dare you tell him that his life will be bad.  He believes the things that adults tell him.  Ever heard of a self-fulfilling prophecy?  And quite apart from my emotive response to how an adult can be so cruel to a child, how on earth do you know what his life is going to be like?  Have you seen the amazing steps he has taken over the last couple of years?  Do you know just how bad things were 3 years ago?  Do you know how much work and support I put into ensuring that in fact he has a wonderful future ahead of him, and how much he looks to the positive future now? And finally, do you honestly think that this is his choice?!  What on earth is he hoping to gain by ‘choosing’ to behave in this way, particularly when not behaving in this way has so many more rewards!

 

Lead by exampleAnd finally – don’t ever, whether a child has special needs or not, talk about that child in such a way in front of him or her.  It is cruel.  And slightly ironic.  While you are so busy telling me that he needs to control himself, behave better, understand the consequences of his actions, you are doing the exact opposite.  Perhaps leading by example would be a better way to help him.

Vent over!  Regular programming will resume shortly!

A small post-script.  If you think you recognise yourself in this post, you probably do.  (And we may never have met.)

 

6 ways to help you bounce back when you are worn out

Over the last few weeks I have recognised that I am getting worn out.  Again.  (This may be the reason for my more thought provoking posts recently, now that I come to think of it!)  Between caring for my children, dealing with the mountains of paperwork that seem to accompany every decision about my son, and my income, and trying to be business like about my ‘business’, things have started to slip.  And, as I said in my post yesterday, it is important to be kind to yourself.

How do you bounce back when you are worn out?

Some of the things that I have found that work include:

1. Keep things simple.  Cancel those social appointments that you are dreading, don’t schedule any complex arrangements, and just focus on the basics.  Looking after you and yours is more important than obligations to friends.  Good friends will understand that this is temporary and that you will be back on deck soon.

Fresh is best |a little bird made me

2. Eat healthy food.  Instead of reaching for the easy peanut butter sandwich, or cheese and crackers, take a few extra minutes to eat some fresh food – a salad sandwich, a fruit platter, or even just grab a banana instead of something processed and sugary.

3. Exercise.  I know – the last thing you want to do when you are tired and worn out is to exercise.  I am not talking about a full cardio work out followed by a boxing class (although if that is your thing go for it!).  I find that even just taking a walk around the block is often enough to get things moving again, to lift your energy levels and your spirits.  Doing a bit more active exercise helps even more!M O V E

4. Rest.  Actually stop, put your feet up, and rest.  Not work on your laptop or tablet.  Rest.  Maybe read a novel, listen to some music, or just be at peace for a few minutes.  My personal favourite?  Lying in a hammock. (Note to self.  Spring is here.  Set the hammock up.  Soon!)

5. Let go of some of your responsibilities.  This is the hardest one for me.  I love sewing, creating, designing, making.  I also love earning some income from it.  But it takes all my focus, and at the moment I need to give the children a bit more focus, so sewing has to take a back seat.  This is hard, but I know it isn’t forever – it may be for a day or two, or for a week or two, but it will all be there waiting for me when I have time and head-space to walk into my sewing room and pick up where I left off.

6. Do something different.  You might remember my favourite graphic from a post a couple of weeks ago.   5 things I learned about divorce|a little bird made meI love this.  It reminds me that if we are in a rut, with tired children, whinging mother, etc, then in order for me to change that, I need to change something I am doing.  Ideas that have worked well in the past include a picnic dinner as a surprise, having a family movie night in the middle of the week, letting the kids build a fort and live in it for a day – even though they use a whole room and insist on keeping it there for days!

What helps you to bounce back when you are getting run down or worn out?

5 things I learned about divorce|a little bird made me

5 things I have learned about divorce

My marriage ended 5 1/2 years ago when my husband announced, via email, that he ‘couldn’t do this anymore’.  At the time I truly had not seen it coming.  Looking back I can see that the marriage was doomed.  Ah the wisdom of hindsight.

Since then I have been through the ups and downs and ins and outs of divorce.  While I wouldn’t wish it on anyone, and while my first question to anyone I meet who tells me that they are thinking of leaving their partner is “Is there any way you can fix this?” there are a few things I have learned along the way that might help someone else going through separation and divorce, particularly if there are children involved.  I am not an expert, these are my personal experiences and learnings, but they seem, from discussion with friends, to be universal.

5 things I learned about divorce|a little bird made me

1. The grief process following divorce is the same as the grief process following death of a loved one.  I truly didn’t understand this until I read a blurb in the back of a vampire fantasy novel by Laurell K. Hamilton (I was hiding in bad literature at the time) where the author talked about thinking that nothing would be worse than losing her mother as a child until she got divorced.  That statement shocked me but also resonated with me.  The death of a marriage is more than just walking away from someone you have loved.  It is the death of your dreams, of your idea of who the other person is, of the idea of who you are, of how you fit into your community and family, and of your belief in your future.

Once I understood this I realised why I had been angry, sad, wanting him back, etc.  It helped me to heal and bounce back much more quickly when I realised that my reactions were ‘normal’.

2. Putting your children first in every decision you make about how to react to your separation helps.  When I remembered to look at my decisions through the lens of ‘how will this affect the children’ my decisions were much better than when I had knee jerk reactions of ‘I don’t want this to happen’, ‘Hell no way am I agreeing with you’, or ‘You need to suffer too’.  (All of which are completely normal but not completely pleasant reactions.)

5 things I learned about divorce|a little bird made me

3. Something that was a problem during your marriage will continue to be a problem after your marriage.  I know – really obvious huh?!  For example it took me a long time to realise that the issues that we had about money during our marriage were exactly the same issues we were having about money after our marriage.  In fact it has taken me 5 years to realise that there is no point engaging in those discussions as nothing changes.  The sooner you learn to change your response, the sooner the situation will change.  By not engaging in these pointless conversations I am more able to gain perspective, less frustrated and more able to just ‘let it go.’

5 things I learned about divorce|a little bird made me

4. Biting your tongue lets your children develop their own relationships and form their own views on their parents.  Look.  I am no saint, and I make mistakes like everyone else.  However I have tried really hard not to tell the children every thought, feeling, frustration or anger I have towards their father.  They need to be able to work out his role in their life themselves, untainted by my history and views.  I try to just give them simple facts, or direct them to him for their answers.  When it is really hard I simply say ‘I don’t really understand why he did that either. Maybe you should talk to him about that so that he can help you to understand.’    What I mutter under my breath, in my mind or to my friends when the kids aren’t around is something quite different!

5. There is no perfect way for children to share their time between their parents.  No matter what people tell you there is no perfect solution.  Week about, every second weekend, every Friday night, half of each week, just on school holidays, and all the other weird and wonderful arrangements that we can dream up will never give our kids the ideal balance or life.  They will always feel a little displaced, out of sync, and disrupted.  There will always be the drama of telling a teacher ‘sorry I left that at Dad’s house’, or ‘Mum won’t sign the form because that is on Dad’s week’ or any of the hundred ways that they are forced to publicly share that they come from a broken home.  All we can do is support them, listen to them, give them a voice (but not control when they are too young), and let them know that we understand.

5 things I learned about divorce|a little bird made me

Life is complex.  Learning more about how to lead better lives helps to deal with that complexity.  Do I sound sage or just weary?  Either way – time for a cup of tea while I contemplate the latest development in the household.

Be kind to yourself today.

Being human for real

I have a  busy brain.  I am not quite sure why it is so busy at the moment, but it is.  It is busy enough to keep me awake a lot during the night, to have me wanting to write as soon as I wake up so that I can capture all the thoughts I have had during the night, and to have me hopping from one thought to another, one task to another, and forgetting some of the important thoughts and tasks that need to happen.

Used with permission from www.cartoonaday.com

Used with permission from www.cartoonaday.com

Those thoughts that were so well formed, and desperate to be shared in the waking hours have evaporated – a bit like the fog that my part of town was shrouded in yesterday – there thick and damp one minute and gone without trace the next.  One of the remnants lingering is about community and social media.

Tonight is the kick off of my human experience.  (It cracks me up every time I say or write this!)  The 101 local humans are gathering to meet, hear about the planned experiences, and put voices, faces and bodies to the disembodied social media chats that have been occurring.  Except of course that, because this is real life, there won’t be 101 humans because real humans have commitments more important than gathering – family, work, life.  I am guessing that there will be about 90 odd (pun intended) humans at the gathering tonight.  The chat on Facebook this week has been revealing.  101 have been chosen.  About 95 are pretty comfortable that they are not as cool as the other 100, have been chosen in error, and are worried about meeting people out from behind their computer, think that the other 100 are the glitterati from about town, and have no idea what to wear to meet other humans.  (Of course I fall into the 95 – you know me!)

And therein lies the beauty of this experience.  We are exactly what is required.  Humans.  We are humans who live in a great city and enjoy different aspects of it.  Some are great photographers (not me), some are really good at tweeting (also not me), some can have a snappy conversation on facebook that has everyone at ease and feeling included (sometimes me) and others like to write, and share in prose rather than 140 character messages. (Yep – that is me).  We haven’t been chosen for our looks, our body shape, our ability to confidently sit and chat at the best cocktail bars in the world with celebrities, or for our ability to dress well for every occasion.  We have been chosen for our ability to share.  To wonder, whether through pictures, words, limited characters, or more, at the places we go and the experiences we have.  The very fact that so many have been willing to admit that they are nervous, anxious, unsure what to wear, and very uncool is a sign of how good we are at sharing openly and honestly.  These are human traits to be celebrated!

This then lurches rather than segues into societies use of social media.  As some of you would know, I think about this quite often – is it good, is it bad, and how does it improve/affect/damage our lives?  Through the wonders of Freecycle I had a great conversation yesterday with a fellow freecycler.  As such conversations tend to do we covered all manner of topics, during which he confessed that he had recently committed ‘Facebook suicide’ complete with a farewell note, and had enjoyed the results.  Friends were picking up the phone, he wasn’t looking for hollow affirmation from the number of likes he was receiving, and he felt liberated.  This of course had me analysing, reflecting, and wondering about my own use of social media – again!  (Small wonder my brain is busy!)

I know that I do not have a lot of contact with my friends who don’t use Facebook.  I don’t pick up the phone, I don’t write long emails of news, and I don’t send birthday cards anymore.  I know that I am missing out on their lives and they are missing out on mine.  I know that this is sad on one level.  But I also know that they, who aren’t using Facebook, instagram, twitter, etc, are also not reaching out to me, sending long emails, or writing birthday cards.  It is not due to Facebook that we are not connecting – it is due to our lives.  It doesn’t mean that we don’t care, that we don’t hold them in our hearts.  It means that life is busy, complex, crazy, fun and happening right now, where we are.  It doesn’t always have room for more.  It certainly doesn’t (in my case) have room for me to stay in touch with every person I have had a connection with.  And that is okay.  That is why when we do see someone that we have lost touch with there is joy, and wonder and sharing, and laughter and tears.

When I see someone I haven’t seen for ages, but am friends with on Facebook, many stories gets interrupted by one of us saying – oh yes, I saw it on Facebook.  But not every story.  Not all of the parts of our lives are lived out on social media.  Often the painful bits are tucked away to only be shared with the people we see face to face, or speak to on the phone.  Some are held close and safe and not put out in the public arena.  Social media is not replacing our need for close relationships and conversations that involve speaking rather than typing.  But it is helping us to be part of the lives of so many more people than we used to be just 10 years ago.

Yesterday, with my mother’s permission, I posted on Facebook that she and I had spoken and that she was recovering well from her knee replacement surgery on Monday.  By tagging her I was able to let her brother, cousins and aunts in Pennsylvania know that she is doing well, reassure her friends in Western Australia about her progress, fill in the family who live in the same country as her but who might not be aware of her surgery (it is a BIG family), and let my friends who know and love her know that she is fine.  And that, on it’s own, is why I like social media.

Right.  Now that I have emptied two of the busy thoughts from my busy brain I must hit the sewing machine as I have projects underway that need my attention!  I can slip in casually though, that I bought an industrial compound feed sewing machine yesterday.  As you do.  (Insert me doing a gigantic happy dance here – cannot wait for it to arrive early next week!!!!!)

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Oh – and I died my hair blue.  Because I can.  I have a big personal reason behind it, that I will share in a week or so (don’t worry – it is a good reason) but my explanation, shared on Facebook, is also true:

Yesterday I exercised creativity of a different kind and did something to make my children gasp in amazement, and to let my outward appearance be an expression of my inner dreams. This is the new colour of my hair – something my children have begged me to do for years. They are blown away that I actually did it and their excitement brings a huge smile to my face just thinking about it! ( my favourite quote “We were only joking and never thought you would really do it. This so cool!)

As for me? I love my life. Today I plan to create great things – and hopefully get some sewing done!
Have a great day out there and think about how you might give people a little peek into your inner dreams – who knows where it will lead you!

 

A change of pace

Tonight is certainly a night of changes in Australian politics with a change in the leadership of the Labour Party, and therefore in the role of Prime Minister. Not our finest moment as a country. The changes that follow will be interesting, especially as it is likely that the election will happen sooner. I am not particularly ‘political’ but being a public servant, and working in the nation’s capital, you end up being a bit of an interested bystander to it all! On a very superficial note, our just-ousted Prime Minister had just had a series of photos done where she was playing with her dog and knitting. They were the best ones yet as far as this little crafter was concerned! Oh well – wonder if the new Prime Minister will take up crochet to corner the same market? Probably not.

The other change of pace in the house is that I am putting down my personal projects for a short time while I concentrate on making costumes for the eldest chick’s class entry in the annual Wakakirri competition. This is a national competition which, for the primary schools, is a story dance competition. Our school enters with the Year 5 classes each year, and this year is our first as a family. Parents and teachers help out with costumes, props, sets, etc. Sort of unsurprisingly, but still a bit sad, only 5 parents (out of a possible 50+ households) indicated that they could sew…… so the five of us are responsible for making the 80 odd costumes (apparently they change during the performance.) So over the next two weeks I am making tunics, capes and other wonderous things. To keep costs down we are using polycotton – and after months of only sewing with 100% cotton it feels quite strange!

I am not the organiser of costumes (I am realistic enough about my restricted availability that I have finally learnt not to put my hand up for everything!) but did have one moment of success in contributing on the weekend. My friend who is organising the costumes said that she had been looking for a wedding dress in the charity shops, but they were still relatively expensive. She didn’t want to ask anyone at school to donate their dress as they are traditionally kept. I agreed, saying that while my marriage might not have lasted, I was still keeping the dress for my girls to have, if they want it. Then, while sitting through the hours of martial arts grading on the weekend I had a brainwave and put a call out on the freecycle network. I had two responses within half an hour! I picked up one dress that had been handed down as a ‘back-up’ through a family member and then stored for a few years, and another that had never been worn, and came with two bridesmaids dresses, also never worn. (I didn’t ask for the full story but was intrigued!!) So we now have plenty of fabric for the costume that is required, plus metres and metres of tulle and satin rosettes to be used for our craft stall later in the year! My girls were quite intrigued with the older dress and how ‘big and foofy it is’. I explained the concept of the ‘meringue dress’ (a la Four Weddings and a Funeral) to them and they were highly amused!

The good news is that the other change in this house is that I am finally healthy again! I had my first day back at work today and although I am exhausted, I made it through the day! The virus was nasty but I appear to have beaten it! I knew I was well again when I was able to sew. A personalised superhero cape for a little girl in Tasmania was finally made and sent yesterday. I think we should all have one tucked away in our wardrobes, no matter how old we are!
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Being sick did give me time to think about this blog more though and I finally worked out how to have a link at the top of the page straight to my Etsy shop, and one to my Pinterest boards! A little change, but one that took me ages to work out!

I have also found another way to combat the winter blues in a small way and have finally bought a heated clothes airer (a drying rack that heats up)! So that is one less basket of wet washing sitting around the kitchen (and a bit more dry washing for me to fold!)

Even with all these little changes, the week is going well (unless you are in the Australian Labour Party of course!) I hope that your week is going well too!