Tag Archives: learning

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.

What no one tells you about parenting a special needs child|a little bird made me

What no one ever tells you about parenting a special needs child

What no one tells you about parenting a special needs child|a little bird made meIn the last couple of years I have had to come to terms with the diagnosis of my boy as having special needs.  I have been walking through the fog of discovery ever since, usually taking one step forward and two steps back.  I have been extremely fortunate that I have a wonderful family who provide great moral support even though none of them live within driving distance, a steadfast group of good friends, and that I have the skills to research and find the information I need.  I have also had to learn a new set of skills and shift my thinking dramatically about so many parts of my life, so I thought that if I shared a few of those discoveries here it might help someone else who ends up in the same boat.

1. You have to become your child’s advocate.   There is no one else in the world who knows your child as well as you, and who has more right than you to stand up for what is right for your child.  If you aren’t comfortable challenging the authority of teachers, principals, doctors, or your own family, it is time to learn. Challenging them doesn’t need to be aggressive, but it does need to involve questioning whether there are other options, whether factors that affect your child have been taken into account, and whether this is in the best interests of your child.

What no one tells you about parenting a special needs child|a little bird made me

2. There are laws to protect your child from discrimination, but the only person who is going to remind anyone about them is you.  Become aware of your rights and your child’s rights. When the school says ‘oh he/she can’t join the class to do (such-and-such) because he/she will be (insert any myriad of reasons)’, don’t agree and apologise for the inconvenience that your child has caused.  Instead ask what reasonable steps they could take to include your child in the activity.  Often just by asking the question they will be reminded that they have a duty to try and include your child, and will take steps to do so.

3. You cannot do everything yourself.  No matter how independent, strong and resilient you think you are, when you have a special needs child you need to make sure that you ask for help when you need it, or accept an offer of help when it is made.  Your child needs to have other people in his/her life that they trust and are comfortable being with, and you need to have people that you can leave your child with, knowing that they will be cared for and looked after.

What no one tells you about parenting a special needs child|a little bird made me

4. You will learn to appreciate little things that make life good.  I used to think in terms of a good week, or a good month. Now I celebrate a good hour, and sometimes even just a good decision about something small.  Being able to sit and drink a good cup of tea in one sitting is worthy of a celebration isn’t it?!

5. You will become very good at making apologies for not attending events.  I have lost count of the number of times I have had to give last minute apologies, not accept an invitation, or rearrange plans because I know that I need to stay home and not disrupt (further) our routine by going out.    I used to feel embarrassed or awkward about it.  Now I just say “I am very sorry but a family commitment has come up and I won’t be able to attend’, and no one ever complains to my face.  It is about establishing your priorities – what is more important – your children or your social obligations?

6. It is okay to trust your own judgement.  I recently took my children on a spur of the moment holiday to Hawaii.  (I know – crazy stuff!)  If I had thought about it for too long I probably would have listened to all the warnings about travelling with my son, and what could go wrong.  But instead I relied on my own judgement that I could manage the situation for him, and for his sisters, and although I began to question my own sanity on the overnight flight there (when no one slept and he was becoming agitated at the sound of a toddler crying) it turns out that I was right.  By taking everyone’s needs into account we had a lovely holiday that was much more stress free than life at home usually is!

What no one tells you about parenting a special needs child|a little bird made me

7. You have to look after yourself.  This one is probably obvious to many of you, but it wasn’t to me, and I learned the hard way what happens if you don’t read the warning signs.  I had a breakdown/burn out at the end of last year that has forced me to learn what happens if you just keep going without caring for yourself.  Whether it is having time to read a book, catch up with friends, have a hair cut, go for a walk – something that soothes your soul, and re-energises you is essential if you are going to be a good parent.

8. Special needs kids fight with their siblings just like other kids.  My boy and one of his sisters argue with each other a lot.  It is loud, it involves lots of whining, and it drives me crazy.  But I have to remind myself, and everyone else, that this isn’t because of his condition – this is standard sibling stuff going on.  And in the same way, the two of them will play together for hours without a cross word and get angry with their older sister for interrupting the rhythm of their game.  Sometimes kids are just kids.

9. You will get to know all sorts of amazing new people.  I have become friends with other parents of children with special needs who I would not otherwise have met which is great for support, but in fact, because my son looks at the world in a different way, he talks to people I would never think to engage with. I have lost count of the number of times we are at a shop and all of a sudden the lady at the fruit section is chatting to us about her life, or at a camp-ground and we are invited to join a camp-fire because they have met my son, or at a park and the other parents know that I make and sell things, thanks to my greatest advocate.

What no one tells you about parenting a special needs child|a little bird made me

10.  You will learn to laugh at yourself and with your child in a whole new way.  Okay, so maybe that is because if you don’t laugh you’ll cry some days, but laughter is good for us, and if you can remember to laugh at the ridiculous, everything feels so much better as a result.

If you have any points to add here, please feel free to do so by commenting!

Being a brochure – Part 4 – getting social

One of the things that I didn’t expect with this whole ‘being a human’ thing was getting to meet and hang out with all the other ‘humans’, and being introduced to people who are experts in their social media fields in order to learn from them.  (Okay, so I really didn’t think any of this through at all did I??)

The highlight of the experience for me so far has been meeting the other humans who are part of the Human Brochure.  It is because of their company and contributions that I have been able to enjoy the Discovery Events so much.  We are an eclectic bunch, and bring different strengths and levels of engagement to the event.  Which means that it is fun getting to know other people, but also means that I am now viewing everyday life around me in a very different way.  There are some extremely talented and dedicated photographers in the group.  As a result I look at the spectacular sunset out my back window each day and know that it will be captured, and captured beautifully, by at least 3 or 4 of my fellow humans.  Following them on Instagram is a delight!  People with a passion sharing their passion in beautiful images is a wonderful way to spend some time each day!

A brochure of humans reflected in a sculpture at the National Gallery of Australia Sculpture Garden

A brochure of humans reflected in a sculpture at the National Gallery of Australia Sculpture Garden

I am sure to leave someone out if I try to recommend photographers to follow from the group, so instead will recommend that you look at the feed on the website to see the daily amazing images these people post!

Humans collaborating on an Instawalk

Humans collaborating on an Instawalk with Lauren Bath

There are amazing food bloggers, elite athletes, mummy bloggers, people who can manage to be using social media for instant responses while still holding down their day jobs, Uni students, fashionistas, and the list goes on.  Some have a massive social media following, while others are smaller and more ‘niche’.  What we all have in common is that we use social media, and we love living in Canberra!

Some human profiles!

Some human profiles!

The organisers of the Human Brochure arranged two different sessions for we 101 to spend time with experts in the field of social media.  The first session was held with two travel writers, Kerry Heaney and Christine Pfieffer. 01951d571adf3051d665e71771bc08d752870dfae2

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It was interesting hearing their advice on using social media from the travel perspective.  Some of it doesn’t translate well to those using social media for business etc, and some of their experiences were quite different from mine, but it was certainly a privilege to hear their perspectives.  Kerry is a food and travel writer, while Christina specialises in travel video blogs.  Her list of photographic equipment certainly had a few members of the audience getting animated!

 

Floating head installation at the National Gallery of Australia Sculpture Gardens

Floating head installation at the National Gallery of Australia Sculpture Gardens

 

The second was an Instawalk with Australia’s top Instagrammer, Lauren Bath.  I didn’t really know what to expect of an Instawalk, but soon realised that whether I learnt anything about using Instagram more effectively or not, it was a great way to meet more of the ‘humans’.  We had a rainy grey morning, but with the Sculpture Gardens of the National Gallery close at hand, the conditions made for some awesome pictures!  And we did get to pick Lauren’s brain about the most effective ways to use Instagram to promote Canberra (our aim in the brochure) and generally.

Industrial remnants installed at the National Gallery of Australia Sculpture Gardens

Industrial remnants (my interpretation) installed at the National Gallery of Australia Sculpture Gardens

The interesting aspect of all of this, however, is that many of the ‘humans’ are in fact experts already, so learning from them has been of benefit to all of us.  The photographers have been sharing their tips, lenses and shoots with each other – professional and non-professional, and many a discussion has been had over twitter vs Instagram, how to manage a number of platforms, and various other aspects of social media.  Which means that the learning isn’t confined to the two workshops – it is ongoing and collaborative, and really quite inspiring!  I know that I am going to walk away from this experience with a whole lot more than just a deeper knowledge of the town that I live in.  New friendships and new skills are the absolute icing on the cake!

Sculptural plants and curved concrete in an installation at the National Gallery of Australia Sculpture Gardens

Sculptural plants and curved concrete in an installation at the National Gallery of Australia Sculpture Gardens