Posts Tagged ‘parenting’

Each year of a child’s life, there is a different focus a different theme a different version of the child you knew before. Although I resist and feel the tug of nostalgia for the younger version, I also delight in the unfolding. It’s an amazing privilege to watch your kids grow up.  After a tough first year at high school, my youngest son passed his exams, and they named him one of the top thirty smartest kids in year nine. I have concluded that not only is he smarter than me he also in a lot of ways is older than I am. He’s one of those people whom they say ‘has an old head on young shoulders.’

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Already planning his years at university at fourteen? I have to admit I had no thoughts about my future when I started high school. I was the very definition of teenage and clueless. Yet, here’s son number three filling me in on some ideas already hatching. “My friends and I have lots of plans. Because we want to attend university together, we thought we might buy a house together. Because we’re all nice people. I don’t think we’ve had one argument. We just talk. We’ve known each other the whole way through school and we all get on.” Throw co-owning a house in there as well? Sheesh. Perhaps it was those years spent playing Minecraft and building his own houses again and again. At least he can think big.

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With the youngest I noticed that in year seven (11 years old) he was solely about sport and vigorous active play, in year eight it became more about friends and social networks, talking, and occasional soccer or basketball, and year nine, at fourteen the friends have taken centre stage, it’s about hanging out, catching up and occasional sport. Throughout the year he and his friends have organized many gatherings outside of school hours: bowling, movies, trick or treating and so on yet the difference is the parents did not arrange them, the kids themselves did everything. They’re motivated to socialize more outside of school, to be together more often, yet they’re still young enough that their voices squeak and their parties run from 4 to 7 p.m. They’re adorable.

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The youngest son’s still into online gaming. The language and gentle jibing that goes on continuously has changed. The age appropriate slang or “teen-speak” is a fluid ever moving river, and it’s always evolving into something else. The accepted greeting is still hey or what’s up, the endearment is bro and sometimes gets extended to a fonder brother. If things are not great with you, you can be numb, salt/salty, or scuffed, if things are not going well with the game, it’s gay, aids, or cancer. If someone’s trying too hard, they’re sweaty. If they’re smart and sexy, they’re smexy. When two people like each other, you ‘ship’ their names together. The youngest is being harassed at school at the moment for being suspected of being gay with his best friend Harry so everyone’s shipped their names and have been calling both boys ‘Hat.’ When you get lucky it’s clutch, and when things are so good it’s so gang.

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The other day, the youngest son and I were having a conversation when his teen-speak crept into the situation. He said, “Stupid, right?”

I said, “No, I don’t think it’s stupid at all.”

He said, “I mean crazy stupid… as in good.”

Ah! Ma writes a note in her mental dictionary. I love listening to it, teen-speak is a mobile, connected, ever shifting form. We must have been the same when we were young.

Yesterday, he asked me, “How old are you going to be on your birthday?”

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I said, “Fifty-five.”

He said, “That’s not as old as I thought you were.” You’ve got to laugh, right. In some ways, our teenagers are so grown up and in others, not at all.

The fourteenth year is flying by. I’m only barely keeping up with the changes the youngest is doing before my eyes. It seems with every day his limbs are longer. It’s like getting to watch a slow-motion morph as your teen swerves from child to adult and his profile fills out. He wakes taller every morning. In September, he’d crept up to standing eye-to-eye with me and two months later he’s slightly taller. Instead of our old you’re short enough to stand under my armpit game, now I fit under his. It’s very odd. I liked him being shorter because my middle child has already outgrown me.

Ever wanted to feel you’re steadily shrinking? Here, borrow my teenagers!

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams. ~ Eleanor Roosevelt

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Subscribe to my Newsletter by emailing me with “Newsletter Subscription” in the subject line to: yvettecarol@hotmail.com

It has been a rollercoaster couple of weeks. It all began when the youngest in the family began having occasional tummy aches.

Of all my children, he is the one who has always been the dream sleeper. Nothing wakes him up once he’s in bed. If I hear him knocking on my door in the middle of the night, I know it’s serious. “My stomach hurts.” I gave him a painkiller and he went back to sleep. After the third night of interrupted sleep for both of us, I took him to see the doctor.

The doctor said it was either appendicitis or inflammation of the lymph nodes, which boys can often experience around his age of fourteen. They did some tests, took his blood, etc. Then we went home to wait for the results.

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The youngest son couldn’t move too far without pain so everywhere we went, everything we did this week, we had to walk slowly, drive slowly over speed bumps, and he would hold onto my arm to walk long distances.

Three days passed with our groaning patient. He was bitterly sad to miss the last week of school for the third term. His squad missed him, too, by the number of text messages that flew back and forth.

When we returned to the doctor’s clinic, she could see no problem with the test results. I said he was still in pain and it was getting worse for him in the middle of the night. The doctor rang the children’s hospital to get a second opinion. A few minutes later she gave us a letter and said we should go over to the hospital.

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We came home and I quickly packed a bag with books, phones, chargers, water, food, our jackets and lip balm. An hour later, my son and I arrived at the children’s hospital. He had to have another blood test, which he gets really nervous about and squeamish. Everything is so amplified when you’re fourteen. In between seeing nurses and doctors, there were long waits in the crowded waiting room. We were told around eight in the evening that the doctors couldn’t figure out what was wrong with him. We’d have to come back in the morning for an ultra-sound.

We were just happy to come home and sleep in our own beds. Unfortunately, the youngest had another bad night, with pain even worse than before. He and I returned to the children’s hospital the next morning.

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The ultrasound process was painful for him. All I could do was hold his hand and make him laugh by talking about all the cakes I’m going to bake him when he’s well enough to eat them.

Two hours later we were discussing his test results with a hospital physician. She explained the scan showed an inflamed lower bowel. This could be a common bowel infection, which will clear up by itself in time, or its inflammatory bowel disease, in which case we get to begin another round of tests with the gastro specialists. They took another blood test, and we will find out definitively what is ailing him within the next few days.

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I always worry about my kids when they get sick. In the past, when they were babies, the anxiety drained me of energy when I needed it most. I knew it was something I had to learn how to control. In the last thirty-five years the thing that’s helped me the most is learning how to keep thinking what my grandmother used to call ‘having the right thoughts.’

Nan was a big believer in The Power of Positive Thinking, and the book by the same name, written by the wonderful Norman Vincent Peale.

These days  it’s been proven that positive people live longer and are healthier than negative thinkers. Positive thoughts make us happier. Happiness floods our brains with dopamine, the one chemical that has the potential to drown out the negative thoughts and anxious feelings.

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It was Pat Riley who said, “If you have a positive attitude and constantly strive to give your best effort, eventually you will overcome your immediate problems and find you are ready for greater challenges.”

Faced with my current situation, what am I going to do? Spend the next three days worrying my son might have bowel disease? No, of course not, it wouldn’t serve me in any way. Besides, I want to demonstrate a good example of how an adult reacts to the crises in life.

I’m going to think about the outcome I prefer, which preserves my energy, which keeps me calm, which makes me feel proactive, which keeps my spirits up, which reassures my children. That’s the power of positive thinking.

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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Staying positive doesn’t mean everything will turn out ok. Rather, it is knowing you will be ok no matter how things turn out. – Unknown

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It’s been a week of it. Colds, scrapes, grazes, and a near miss in my car. The week started with that first sneeze, when the parental heart skips a beat, because you know what a sneeze means, and what is coming is not going to be fun for anyone. It is still winter down here in the southern hemisphere.

Last weekend, the boys came home from their father’s place, and the youngest son complained he’d been sick the whole time he’d been there. He was full of a cold, so he stayed home until he was well and went back to school yesterday.

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The middle son started sneezing the same afternoon.

Of course, now I have a cold, too.

It usually happens the parents sail through miraculously while their kids are sick, and then we finally catch it.

I was especially sad for my middle son to catch a cold, because Sam was already feeling poorly. He had taken a nasty fall while running on the playground at school. I could tell from the moment I saw him step out of the taxi bus, that he was not in a good way. He was limping and nursing his hand, palm up, in front of him. Sam has Down syndrome and he can’t tell me what happened. However, I read in his “communication book”—which goes backwards and forwards between his teacher and me—about his fall. Sam’s palm was quite swollen and there were two large skinless patches. He had skinned his knee as well, with little gravel bits added. I felt like a monster when I sprayed the disinfectant on his hand, because he didn’t know what was coming. Sam groaned and pinched down on his forearm, and I said, “I’m sorry, I’m sorry, but I had to do it.” It was a horrible moment. Then I put new dressings on.

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The next day, when I went to change the dressings, I found I’d used ones that stuck to the wounds. Parental fail. Oh, man! To add insult to injury, the poor kid had also caught his brother’s cold. He had to learn how to blow and sneeze one-handed.

I took Sam down to our doctor’s clinic, to have a trained nurse clean and dress the wounds. She said she doesn’t think he’s fractured anything and the sites are not infected. He will need the dressings redone at the clinic in a couple of days.

It’s hard isn’t it, when you take your child to see a medical professional, and you know that the nurse or doctor is going to hurt that child in the name of medicine, and there’s nothing you can do to save them from the pain. Sam looked at me as the nurse wiped the wounds really firmly with some sort of wet wipes and then dry ones, and I could see him flinching, and all I could do was say helpless nothings, “Nearly there” “You’re doing so well” “Almost clean.”

The whole process made his hand and leg hurt so much, he was limping a lot more on the way out than on the way in.

As the parent who has taken them to be subjected to the procedure, you feel guilt. It’s a tough ride this parenting business.

To finish off a gnarly week of it, after I dropped the boys off at their dad’s tonight, I drove around the corner in my station wagon and came to a screeching halt bumper-to-bumper with a large Landover. The road is narrow and there were cars parked on both sides of the street, and we had both moved into the middle to pass through the gap. Luckily for both of us, he saw me and braked, and then I braked. We managed to avoid a collision.

I drove away thinking, what if both of us had been driving a tad faster? I felt very fortunate indeed. And I realized life has been hectic of late. The near-miss was a wake-up call to ‘slow down.’ They boys and I all need to ease the foot off the accelerator and look after our health and ourselves, first and foremost.

In life, difficult things can happen. There can be strife with people, or hard life lessons, coupled with illness and accidents. Those are the times when taking a step back, slowing down and taking a breather becomes really important. Rest. Heal. Return.

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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Even the darkest night will end and the sun will rise. – Victor Hugo

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Subscribe to my Newsletter by emailing me with “Newsletter Subscription” in the subject line to: yvettecarol@hotmail.com

The first week back at school, the youngest son and his friends organized a game of laser tag on the Friday night. The group of nine kids arranged their parental transport and played laser tag from 6-7 p.m. It was all good clean fun, and the kids had a ball. This week, they’ve organised to play Call of Duty together at one of the boys’ houses.

I thought, wow, we’ve come a long way from the earlier despair over having no friends.

His social life is definitely waxing. However, for the time being, the youngest still seems mostly content to be at home playing C.O.D, Minecraft or Fortnite on his X-box, or watching anime on his phone. Sometimes, he even reverts back to playing Roblox on his laptop. I still have a buddy a while longer, yet.

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We were talking the other night at bedtime. I’ve mentioned this before. My son does his own version of The 10 p.m. Question like the protagonist, Frankie, in Kate de Goldi’s brilliant book, who comes to the door of his parents room every night with a deep, thought-provoking question. On one of the writing courses I did with Kate, she told us that the character sprang directly from her son and his ‘nightly questions about the universe and everything.’ My youngest does his own version: every night, after we’ve all done some reading, cleaned our teeth, and said our prayers, when I go to close the door and say goodnight, the youngest son suddenly says, “Why do people get depressed?” (last night’s question) or something similarly deep and reflective and requiring a long considered conversation. He says he gets most of his ideas at night.

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As a fourteen-year-old, I had my head in a book, to the extent that I remember taking twenty books with me, when our family went on holiday to the Coromandel. I suffered frequent headaches throughout the vacation. When my parents had my eyes tested upon our return home, they were told I had 20/20 vision. So they put my headaches down to ‘too much reading’! As if.

I carried on reading regardless, of course, as you do when you’re a teenager.

My youngest son is headstrong in the way of being in his own dreamworld at times. Tonight, he was due at soccer practice at 5.15 p.m. “Finish your food.” “Put your phone down.” “You still have your exercises to do.” Why is he still sitting there watching anime on his phone and eating with one hand, when it’s 4.55? “Put your phone down.” “Hurry up and finish your food.”

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Result: we arrived at practice ten minutes late, which is disrespectful to the coach. Next week, I will renew my efforts to coral this long-limbed, gangly, phone-watching teenager and get him to soccer practice on time.

We have had one success story, so far. This year, I forced the youngest son into a new routine of nightly reading. He was consistently getting his lowest marks in English. He’d always enjoyed a bedtime story, but never spent time reading on his own. So this year, while I have continued with the usual bedtime stories for his brother, the youngest son chooses his own books and reads alone. His goal is two pages a night. Sometimes, I have to make him stop after four, or he’ll be late to bed. And he’s now getting better marks in English.

The other night, as I went to say goodnight, the youngest said, “Mum, I have to write an essay for social studies about early life in New Zealand, all about the pioneers. I need pictures and maps. I mean where do you find that sort of stuff?” “I’d go to the library and ask the librarian.” “The library? Thanks, mum, I never thought of that.”

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He needed more than Google could provide, yet he never thought of going to the library? That’s sad. The school library would have been my first port of call when I was a kid.

By the way, the youngest loved the idea and went to the school library with a few of his friends this morning. “Did you get any books out to help with your essay?” “No, I got chatting with my friends and forgot to get any books out.”

He promises me, he will remember to actually look for books next time.

I believe in the value of libraries. Well known author, Margaret Mahy said, “I’m here to assert that librarians stand dancing on that tenuous ridge that separates chaos from order. That dancing librarian makes so much of the world accessible to others.”

I’ll be expecting more 10 p.m. questions soon…

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(Kate de Goldi and I, 2008)

Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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Leave the libraries alone. You don’t know the value of what you’re looking after. It is too precious to destroy.’ ~ Philip Pullman

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What a kid. My youngest son never fails to amaze me. He’s been a walking list of ailments his entire fourteen years of life. I have had to slowly peel away the “onion rings” of his symptoms in order to get to the source of his real problems. I’ve raised all three of my kids alone. With the middle son’s special needs and the complex health profile of my youngest son, I’ve found that there is help out there, however nothing’s handed to you on a plate. You have to go and find it. You have to ask questions. You’ve got to self advocate. And, you have to keep a watchful eye on your child, keep notes, and keep going to health professionals until you get over the finish line with the answers.

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My son started coughing at two weeks old.

There began the first part of our medical mystery tour together. In his first five years, we were in and out of doctor’s offices because of his cough. We got different diagnoses: hayfever, flu, childhood asthma, and he took lots of medicine. We tried different branches of alternative medicine: he was diagnosed with sour stomach, gluten allergy, and wheat intolerance, and we tried eating in many new ways. We tried Chinese herbal medicine as well, and they all did help a bit.

But nothing stopped the coughing. When he did catch the flu, he and I would spend long, frightening nights as I tried to keep him alive through his continuous bouts. We spent many nights at A&E.

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I kept taking him back to the doctor. He was put on nebulizers, and given a blue and orange inhaler to take daily. At one stage, when things were at their worst, I spent $600 taking him to the doctor in one month. I was determined to get to the bottom of it. And, we did. Finally, on the umpteenth visit, we got a doctor who listened to his chest, and listened again, and said, “I think I hear a heart murmur.”

Those words set us on the course to finally learning what he really had, which was Congenital Heart Disorder.

We were put on the short list for surgery. Four months later, the youngest son underwent double bypass open heart surgery to have a closure of the large Atrial Spetal Defect, and repair of a partial anomalous venous drainage.

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It was a harrowing ordeal he came through with flying colours. After the operation began a lengthy recovery process

It takes kids who have heart surgery a year to get over the anaesthetic, five years to get back to their pre-surgery weight, and ten years for their bodies to get back to their pre-surgery state.

My son had his surgery at the age of five, so next year he will pass the ten year mark. However, back in 2010, after the surgery had fixed his heart and healing was underway, he was still coughing.

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This time, the rounds of visits were confined to a doctor and a homeopath. I felt he was allergic to something, so I requested of my doctor that we be sent for allergy testing. The result was, he was allergic to cats, dogs, fish, dust and egg. On a scale of one to ten, he was allergic to eggs at a ten. Eggs were off the menu. He was put onto daily antihistamines. Our homeopath prescribed homeopathic tinctures to help him get over flus and colds. All good except he went on coughing.

Long story short, we discovered the youngest son had asthma, not the ‘childhood’ variety, but the real kind.

Leapfrog a few years to last week. After years of the youngest son being teased in the family for being deaf, I finally decided to have his hearing tested.

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To my surprise, we discovered he has a retracted eardrum and a loss of hearing. I thought, that makes sense of a lot of things. We’re seeing the specialist in four months, at Otorhinolaryngology.

This week, I followed up on another worry. I’ve always worried that the youngest son injures his ankles easily. A recent sprain wasn’t getting better, so I took him to a physiotherapist and a podiatrist. Turns out, he has a twisted pelvis with one hip more forward than the other. And he has an in turned foot. That explained a few things. Nevertheless, with daily exercises and an insert in his shoe, we can fix what could have been a developmental problem for him, in future. I’m so grateful. (I’m also thinking, what the heck with this kid?)

However, with each new diagnosis life gets easier. We gain new tools. Getting the answers is the thing. And from here, all is possible.

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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Failures I consider valuable negative information – Dr. Goddard

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Subscribe to my Newsletter by emailing me with “Newsletter Subscription” in the subject line to: yvettecarol@hotmail.com

Raising children is a fantastic journey, with lovely highs and wicked dumping lows. There are certain things that can and do happen along the way every parent dreads: the scrapes, the bruises, the childhood ailments and other tales of woe.

As a parent, you go along and everything flows nicely, and then, suddenly you get hit blindside by a really bad day.

You get that letter from the teacher, asking if they can phone you, (for a chat about your child’s bad behaviour). Or you get that phone call from the nurse at school, to say your child is sick in the sickbay, they’re not looking well, and could you pick them up straight away. Or your normally ravenous child looks pale and doesn’t want to eat breakfast. You get that horrible sinking feeling.

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The bad day started when I noticed the middle son wasn’t eating.

I asked him what’s wrong. He said, “My back.” As he has Downs’ syndrome and can’t communicate clearly, that was all I could get out of him. Of Downs’ syndrome people, 70% of girls can be understood by anyone outside their immediate circle, and of the boys, that number falls to only 50%. In my son’s case, he doesn’t speak clearly at all and the amount I can understand is limited. I left a message with an osteopath, requesting an appointment to help my son today, if possible.

There was no response for most of the day, and in that time there was still work to be done. I couldn’t leave my son at home alone, so I had to take him with me. He seemed fine, he helped me doing the list of things that needed doing today: glasses fixed, running errands, doing the week’s grocery shopping.

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Halfway through the supermarket, the osteopath rang with an appt. for late afternoon. I was relieved he was able to fit us in.

We came home with the groceries, and son ate a treat of hot chips. From that moment on, his condition started to decline. He was sitting in his chair, white faced, groaning slightly. Feverish, he wiped sweat off his face with tissues.

I tried to get an appointment with our G.P, but they were fully booked. So, I thought we’ve just got to wait it out till we can see the osteopath. Poor son vomited the chips. However, the colour did come back into his cheeks after that, so maybe it helped.

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The middle son’s “carer supporter” is a nice Korean man. He arrived to do his usual two and a half hour stint with us. Upon hearing middle son had a sore back, he asked him if he could touch his toes. Son could only go down halfway before he said, “Ow.” So we knew where the pain was.

In the osteopath’s clinic, he gave him an adjustment and said my son had twisted his pelvis. He said, “He should feel much better, but if there are any issues, come back again in a couple of days.”

The middle son looked happier, and said he felt better. Thankfully, he seemed to have turned a corner for the better. But this is the thing with children, you never know when they’re going to really recover or go downhill further. I found the whole thing today with my boy quite terrifying. Because he couldn’t tell me what was going on for him, I had to read his cues, and test his temperature and check on him all the time.

But, I have learned to be vigilant with my kids’ health, because they’ve each had serious health issues.

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The latest with my youngest son has been his hearing. He has been the subject of much speculation in the family, over the years, as to whether his hearing was 100%. I decided to have him tested in January of this year. The appointment finally came in, seven months later.

We rocked along this week, and I was fully expecting that they were going to say, his hearing was perfect. It would turn out he had been choosing to ignore me all these years. But no, to my surprise, we learned that he has hearing loss in one ear, and the other side appears to have a “retracted eardrum.” We have been referred to a specialist and also given another appointment for a follow-up with the same hearing clinic. We’ll see where we go from here.

Everything that happens to your kids has the power to hurt you, too. Adulting sucks sometimes.

Still, I wouldn’t be without my kids for the entire world. What about you?

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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The darkest night is often the bridge to the brightest tomorrow. – Jonathan Lockwood Huie

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Subscribe to my Newsletter by emailing me with “Newsletter Subscription” in the subject line to: yvettecarol@hotmail.com

Last week, my youngest son turned to me and asked in all earnestness, “You’ve never done anything wrong have you, mum?” This follows on from the week before last, when he asked me, “You don’t tell lies do you, mum?” He’s newly turned fourteen and we’ve entered the age of questions. You’ve heard of Kate de Goldi’s bestselling book, The 10 p.m. Question? Her son would come to their bedroom door every night with deep, thought-provoking queries. My son does the same thing.

I answered, that while I do my best, at times I make mistakes, too. I get angry at other drivers on the road. I sometimes forget why I went down the other end of the house. Recently I backed the car into a pillar at a friend’s house, which was in my blind spot, and I stove in my bumper. I’m not perfect. I make mistakes.

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Part of the youngest son’s transition from childhood to adulthood, is realizing some hard truths. In the next decade, he’ll learn that parents are not perfect, that life is not fair, that the world is not kind, that the world is in fact a scary, dangerous, ruthless place. Some people call it taking off the rose-tinted glasses of childhood.

The baby of the family is currently readjusting his view of the world. It’s a shame and also a necessary part of growing up. Every child must go through this rite of passage of adolescence, during which time the parents formerly believed to be gods, become human, during which time the reality of life starts to dawn.

It’s a bit of a test.

Still, at just turned fourteen, the innocence of the child is lingering and it’s precious.

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As the youngest, I have treasured this son’s childhood. I have truly valued the untamed, free, fluidity of the child’s spirit. ‘Is there a limited number of times that a child will insist on remaining wedded to the moment?’ asks Russell Brand, in his excellent book, Revolution. Brand posits that kids lose their spontaneity as they grow up. ‘We condition our children and ourselves to enter into this spectacle, confining ourselves to a prescribed path.’

The youngest is still in contact with the wild freedom of the boy within, while at the same time he takes tentative steps forward, finding his way into the jungle of adulthood.

I see the same wonderful element of untamed spirit in my one-year-old granddaughter. The spontaneity, the pure fervour she has for life is a joy to witness. She is a long way off from constructing a persona with which to deal with the world.

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When my son asks me have you ever done anything wrong, I feel a reaction of wanting to defend myself. But I don’t want to dig myself into a false position, or as Eckhart Tolle put it, to ‘adopt a mental position then we identify with that mental position and it becomes invested with self.’

So, I respond as honestly as I can. That way, the youngest son can come back later – as he often does, after he’s thought about things – and we can continue the conversation.

The teenage brain has been proven by scientists to only be able to sustain attention on a few things at a time. If I overburden him with too much information at once it will be wasted breath. It is far better, and more effective, to converse with a teenager in short instalments. Sound bites, if you will. Then they can retain what’s been said.

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I know he will be fine as long as we keep the lines of communication open. I remember my grandmother was proud of her closeness with her son (my father) when he was growing up. She said, they could discuss ‘anything and everything.’

When he would come home from sea for short stints, as an 18-year-old seaman, he and Gran would sit chatting for hours.

Gran said she never had a moment’s worry with dad, because she knew they could talk and sort out any problem.

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That’s the way I like to be with my kids.

In our conversations, I try to stay honest, and I try not to have a reaction to the things they share with me, so they feel safe.

The other day I overheard the youngest playing with friends on Fortnite. He said, “If you ever have a question don’t go to your teacher, they don’t like it when you ask lots of questions. Go to your mother. Mums know everything.”

Okay, so I haven’t quite debunked his myths around me yet, but we’re getting there.

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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A child’s bucket of self-esteem must be filled so high that the rest of the world can’t poke enough holes to drain it dry. ~ Alvin Price

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The youngest son turned fourteen, last week. It was my first thought when I woke up that morning, ‘How can my youngest be fourteen?’ I’ve heard it said, that while a boy is thirteen and fourteen they still ‘have the boy in them,’ and after the age of fifteen and sixteen ‘the man starts to appear.’

Some of the other boys in the youngest son’s soccer team are already shooting up, their voices have deepened and their necks are already thickening. The youngest is not quite there. I looked at him today, feeling that the loss of childhood is impending, and yet cherishing in him the puny neck and curving cheek of the child. He will still be a boy for another year, thank goodness.

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His first term of high school, the youngest said, he tried hard to be accepted by the cool kids. For whom, ‘you have to do bad things to fit in.’ But the cool kids refused to let him into their groups. He had been miserable, feeling he would never make any friends. “What I learnt,” he told me, “was that all you need to do is be yourself and be nice to people and you just end up making friends.”

I thought, wow, I could never have figured that out on my own as a fourteen-year-old. He’s smarter than I am!

He’s a dedicated gamer, still loyal to Fortnite, though he branches out to other online games now and then. His mobile phone has morphed from occasional gaming to now being part of his daily arsenal, always close at hand, for gaming, emailing, messages and instagram. He would no more think of leaving the house without it than he would think of leaving without his pants. He navigates between the real world and the virtual one with seamless ease and is fluid with the language for both.

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He’s also the hippest guy in town. His conversation is rife with slang, “Yo, yo, yo” “Bro” “R.I.P” and “whatsup.” Virtually every second sentence is followed by, “I’m joking!” He laughs uproariously over ‘jokes’ that are not funny.

At fourteen, he’s going through periods of rapid growth in which he grows several inches in several months followed by periods of slow development. He’s hungry all the time. I don’t where he puts it, but the grocery bill is definitely growing with him.

He’s very talkative. I’m glad he still talks to me and feels he can tell me what’s going on in his life. When he confides in me I try not to have big reactions, like when he told me he’d been bullied, or when he cried for having no friends, I try not to over react in a way that would make him shut down or feel unsafe talking to me.

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My role is to listen and be as neutral as possible.

He doesn’t often want my opinion anyway. He’s convinced he knows everything. When I give advice, he usually won’t take it until he’s done it his way, figured out that doesn’t work and has come back, realizing he might like to give my idea a try after all.

Everything’s tested.

He has begun to socialize with friends in public places. So far, he’s independently organized three get-togethers with friends at the mall and at the cinema, where they were able to hang out while still within a lighted, relatively secure environment. Though I was nervous at first, he handled everything without a problem.

He’s flexing his wings and taking short flights from the nest. He’s discovering how far he can go.

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It’s appropriate he learns now that with turning fourteen and getting to do his own thing comes more responsibility. He can stay up later, but later bedtimes have to be earned. He’s got to make his own bed every morning and prepare his own snacks from now on. In return for extra chores, he can earn some pocket money. He’s learning that he can have more if he does more.

He can talk to me about anything, but he needs to be respectful and use clean language. If he snaps at me, he has to apologize. He can make his own snacks and food, but he has to tidy up afterwards. He can play digital games, but only once the chores and homework are done. He has his own computer, phone, and Xbox, but is only allowed to use them in the communal living room, and is not allowed devices in the bedroom. A balance of open-mindedness, love, and reassurance is best when it’s levelled out by principles and healthy limits.

Kids need both love and rules to thrive.

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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Parents are the bones on which children sharpen their teeth. ~ Peter Ustinov

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Last week, we finally managed a get together like the boys’ trips we used to do in school holidays past. My brother and I brought together our youngest sons at our parent’s old home on the Coromandel Peninsula.

While we still have the use of the old cabin by the sea, it’s precious to spend time together under the same roof, in the school holidays.

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Here, in New Zealand, there are four terms in the school year. Each term is separated by a two week holiday which stretches to about six weeks over Christmas, in summer. Middle of April, we had our first school break. It felt great to go back and spend time as a family under the dear roof dad built with his own two hands.

I like to create memories each holiday, if I can.

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Despite nearing the end of autumn, the water was still warm enough for swimming and the weather was still mild. We had two and a half days together at the beach. It was wonderfully idyllic. I expected it to be bitterly cold (as it can get when you’re exposed to the ocean) but the temperatures were relatively balmy. We managed to fit in some fishing which made my youngest son very happy indeed. He’s one of those young boys who always hanker to go fishing.

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My special needs son, on the other hand, has never shown the slightest bit of interest. He usually plonks himself on the wharf to watch resignedly, or he and I kick a ball on the street. But, this time, with a bit of encouragement, he tried holding the rod for the first time, to help us in catching some sprats for bait. He caught a sprat within five minutes, and it was the biggest fish we caught all morning He got such a kick out of that!

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Of course, no trip with the boys is ever complete without numerous rounds of basketball. The boys were delighted when my brother agreed to play a round of two on two with them. Then he managed to shoot the only hoop of the match. He continued to remind his long-suffering son the rest of the day and evening that he was the ‘undefeated champion.’ It was hilarious. My brother has a great sense of humour, and the boys all rib each other all the time, which I gather is part of the male bonding experience.

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Mornings and evenings were spent playing scrabble and cards and sitting around talking. A lot of time at family get-togethers is typically spent making food, eating, cleaning up from eating and planning what’s on the menu next. It’s time to share boxes of chocolates and a glass of wine or a beer, to cook big dinners and indulge in desserts. Every night we stayed up way too late, talking, and it took me about three days to recover, after we got home. To my mind, that’s the way it should be. As an adult, you don’t get the chance to hang out with extended family very often, so you have to make the most of it.

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There is a sense of amplified appreciation of the property my parents bought sixty-odd years ago, a sense of how precious it is, now that they’re not here. It’s a slice of paradise. I suddenly realize how fortunate we’ve been to have had a gathering place all our lives. Sure, as a family, we gather sometimes at one another’s houses for birthdays and milestones, and the big occasions throughout the year. But, it’s when you get to live under the same roof with family, that you really get to relax in one another’s company, and do lots of different activities. You have time to have all the conversations that need to be said.

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For townies like us, it’s a real tonic being in the countryside for a break. I think it’s the only time I ever truly unwind. I love the walks in nature. There’s a lovely walk through native bush we take to the mountain peak behind the house. I am always invigorated by walking among trees.

In Japan, there is a practice called ‘tree bathing,’ which is essentially walking through the forest. It comes from the belief that trees absorb negative energies from us, and that they have healing properties. Apparently, tree bathing has been proven to reduce stress, improve feelings of well-being, boost the immune system, and even to lower heart rate and blood pressure. I can attest forest bathing is zen. I came home to the city replenished and calm again.

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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“We must always change, renew, rejuvenate ourselves; otherwise, we harden” – Goethe

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At the moment, my eldest son is painting the exterior of the house for us. It’s been great. Because not only is the job getting done, but I get to see him regularly and sometimes he brings my granddaughter with him. At first, the idea was for my teenage boys to help me babysit her while the eldest carried on with the painting. But, after a couple of hours on the first day, the youngest son said, “Mum, I don’t think I’m responsible enough to be babysitting.” I had to laugh. At thirteen, he’s not quite ready to be a caregiver. He realized it takes constant vigilance to look after babies.

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He went back to his online game. My sixteen-year-old went back to watching YouTube. And I went back to following the path of her adventures. My nephew, who boards here, said to her, “Is it you who’s been pulling things out all over the house?” She just looked at them with those big blue peepers and we all laughed.

For me, as the grandparent, babysitting is a joyful vigilance. I’ve been absorbed in watching her and singing nursery rhymes, and reading baby books. It’s been a lot of fun and a wonderful bonding time with my granddaughter getting to see her for whole days at a time.

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Prior to my granddaughter’s birth, I was looking forward to being around a such a young child again. Even so, I had forgotten how special they are. When you’ve been here less than a year, the world is a vast and truly fascinating place. Everything is new waiting to be explored.

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They want to know what lies on top of every table and cabinet.

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They want to know what it is about these gadgets we find so fascinating, my granddaughter is never more animated than when she manages to get hold of a phone, or a tablet or a remote for a minute. They’re attracted to things they feel they probably shouldn’t be playing with.

There is one feature here at my house I had hoped to keep the baby away from, a Jade tree on the front porch which features little tiny pebbles and smallish glass butterflies.

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The jade tree was the first thing the baby noticed and she made a beeline for it. Babies are uncanny that way. They hone in on what you don’t want them to find. We played a fun game of Nana saying no, ‘you can’t eat that’ until I could distract her to something else.

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Luckily, we have loads of toys and everything a child could want here because I saved so much of the boys’ stuff, from their best baby toys and the best of everything over the years since then. Baby and I have a lot of fun playing with the musical instruments, playing with a bucket of water outside, blowing bubbles, reading picture books, stacking blocks and rolling a ball. But, what she’s really motivated to do is explore her world.

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One minute we’re playing the next minute she’s off, crawling at great speed to see what’s around the next corner. She wants to go into every room of the house, and pull herself up on the chairs and tables to see more.

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Every item she can get her hands on needs to be carefully examined and then sucked on. ‘Everything is intrinsically interesting’ as Shaun Tan said. This is the viewpoint of babies. I love how babies and little kids have to physically engage with their environment in a thorough way. It makes me see these same things anew.

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If there are stairs or different levels under fives have to go up and down and around and if possible through. They engage with things in every possible way. Nothing is taken for granted. Everything is tested and known completely. It’s not enough to take things out of the drawer; one must get in the drawer.

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So far, I have found this window into early childhood absorbing. Now that my two youngest boys are teenagers, life is different for us at home. I don’t have to have everything out of reach or locked up tight. Whereas, when there’s a baby around, anything you don’t want lost or broken, or that might be a potential hazard, has to be out of sight. We’re rediscovering the delights and dangers of the world again through her adventuring.

I’d always heard being a grandparent is fabulous, now I can attest to the fact. It’s the love for family enhanced by the benefit of time.

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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On the seventh day, God rested. His grandchildren must have been out of town. ~ Gene Perret

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Subscribe to my Newsletter by emailing me with “Newsletter Subscription” in the subject line to: yvettecarol@hotmail.com

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