The Doctor Will See You Now

Skeleton

Is there a doctor in the house?

Well, it would be bloody handy if there was! Even a doctor who just stopped by for a drink one weekend and conveniently left their prescription pad behind.

The amount of time we’ve spent at medical appointments over the past 23 years, it would have been quicker for one of us just to have gone to medical school. Why on earth didn’t I elect to study medicine instead of arts at university? Oh yes, that’s right, grades.

I could have married a doctor, I suppose. If one had ever asked. I never really met one I fancied apart from the doctor who delivered Happy Chin and it’s fair to say my chances of netting him were pretty slim. I was not really at my best that day, what with the epidural and 24 hours of prolonged labour and all. I may have been able to land the red nosed obstetrics registrar who wandered in off the golf course midway through to boozily enquire whether it was alright to give me an internal, but Mr August glared at him so hard it was probably unlikely.

Anyway, a doctor spouse is all very well in theory but has its disadvantages. It’s much easier to call your husband in tears and demand he come home right away because your child has just put his fist through yet another window when your husband is not a person who may be in the middle of resuscitating someone.

I mean, Shirley’s lawn will still be there to mow tomorrow, right?

Hang on, I hear you cry, you were the one that wanted kids! Endless medical appointments are part of the shit you sign up for when you become a parent, didn’t anyone tell you this?

I can’t remember, but I was 26 and probably wouldn’t have listened.

So in the spirit helpfulness, I am writing this piece. Young People, heed my words! This is your future if you elect to have children! You too will lose valuable hours of your life sitting in waiting rooms trying to stop your kids commenting loudly on the other patients’ personal attributes while destroying the selection of 70s era Little Golden Books! It’s not too late to go and study medicine!

All parents spend a lot of their time ferrying their children around to all sorts of appointments and we do it because we want our kids to be healthy, able to achieve their full potential and have a good life in general.

As a parent of a child with a complex disorder, I spend so much time in waiting rooms that you’d think I’d be a Jedi Master at it by now.

On the contrary. At our second to last visit, after waiting 25 minutes to be seen, Happy Chin simply walked out the front door, ran straight across the road into the bakery with me in hot pursuit and helped himself to a fizzy drink. Dropping a fiver on the counter, I managed to get him safely back across the road and into the waiting room where moments later the shop assistant from the bakery appeared.

‘Is this your change?’ she asked, handing me 80 cents.

‘Keep it,’ I said, ‘he’s stolen one of your magazines.’

Happy Chin is as good at waiting as you can expect a young man with poor impulse control and low frustration tolerance to be. He really does do very well considering the amount of medical scrutiny he is subjected to.

We currently have 8 specialists on our team taking care of his medical, psychological and therapy needs. Then there’s the hospitals he visits regularly, and the professionals we see there. In any given year he’s poked, prodded, asked to say ‘ah’ or simply just talked about while he has to sit patiently, by at least 50 or 60 people.

We are pretty good at navigating the system, have the whole general anaesthetic thing down pat and know a few tricks here and there. For example, I always go to specialists clinics in business attire, full make up, hair done and with my laptop bag over my shoulder (I’ve learned not to wear heels in case I have to chase HC down the hospital corridor). I am sorry to say this inevitably gets us seen quicker. On the last occasion, the specialist actually apologised for having taken up so much of my time!

I have noticed those in the medical profession treat me remarkably differently when I am in my Serious Professional Woman outfit compared to my Tired Mother in Trackpants get up. They don’t talk to me like I am in Grade 5, they even sometimes listen to me!

But as Tired Mother I am often treated with condescension. This is partly because I have resting Dumb Face. I get so bored with having basic concepts explained to me in the kind of sing-song voice generally reserved for talking to toddlers that I drift off and start thinking about what to have for dinner or whether I have booked the car in for service. My face meanwhile takes on an expression indicative of an IQ lower than your average potted plant.

The doctor, NDIS planner or hospital receptionist then leans forward, looks at me pityingly and asks in a very slow voice, ‘do you understand?’

I actually understood in the first 5 seconds, I was just employing my time for the remaining 7.5 minutes you were speaking to think of more important things, like the Lamington’s ingrown toenail.

When you spend your whole life chronically short of time, it is incredibly annoying to have your time wasted. Coordinating a visit to the GP simply to fill out forms, which you also have to coordinate with your son’s carers so they can drive him 40 minutes from home to the surgery, in order to sit in the waiting room for 45 minutes just so that the doctor can sight HC in order to get paid by Medicare is the most ludicrous thing I can think of. I will be the happiest person in Tasmania when we finally get access to Telehealth.

I’m not blaming medical staff, and I do understand there have to be rules. And the staff are probably just as frustrated as I am. They are also under resourced and overworked.

Especially in hospitals, where there are similarly baffling rules. Being asked to arrive at hospital at 7.30AM for a day procedure when your child ends up waiting until 3PM to go to surgery (hungry, thirsty and bored) is, quite frankly, cruel.

I have been known to just let Happy Chin wreck the waiting room just to get him bumped up the theatre list. Sure, he may be older than the other kids, but he is frightened and unable to understand what is happening. He is also likely to escalate, lash out and scare the other children. So just get us done and we’ll be in recovery before you know it, then on our way and out of your hair (just as soon as we’ve gone through a box of icy poles and all of the vegemite sandwiches).

It’s when I read statistics about poor health among carers that I really have to reach for the gin bottle and the cheese twisties. A 2008 study of 5,000 carers found that around twice as many carers were in poor health than people in the general population.

Well of course our health outcomes are poor! When do we have time to go to the doctor/dentist/skin cancer clinic/toilet?

The last time I went to the dentist was in 1995. I remember because they offered me a root canal at $600 or a tooth extraction at $60. Can you guess which one I chose?

It’s not good for carers to neglect their health. We are needed. If we fall then it all comes crashing down with us. And I do try, I really do. I don’t want my sons to lose their mother any earlier than they have to, especially not from something preventable.

But I have to bank my sick leave for HC’s neurosurgery next year, I average two appointments a week with HC and the Lamington and then there’s those annoying things like working, shopping and cooking. Oh, and sleeping.

If only I had time to go and see my local member about this! Does anyone out there know the Health Minister? If so, please invite him round for a drink. Ask him to bring his prescription pad!

Thanks in advance,

Tired Mother in Trackpants

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DIY Love: Out of the Frying-pan Into the Fire

Rocket

Regular readers might have been wondering what’s been going on in the self-love department since the last installment of DIY love (‘An Unexpected Journey,’ March 2018).

I am pleased to say we have not been idle and progress has been made!

For a start I have discovered that, in the pattern of all things technical, I should simply have gone to Tech Support for advice in the first place. Over coffee one Saturday the conversation turned to ‘cool things I’d seen online’ and wouldn’t you know it, he’d seen them already! Typical millennial.

You see, I had discovered the Fleshlight. For those of you who have been living under the same sexual rock as me, it’s a tube shaped device with a silicone lining meant to simulate the feeling of, well…an orifice. A soft, squidgy kind of orifice. On proceeding to the official website I made a number of startling discoveries.

Firstly:

There Are Lots of Naked Women on Websites for Sex Toys!

(I know, right? I was as surprised as you are. Most of the products are sponsored by actual porn stars. Go take a look yourself. Or don’t. Whatever).

Secondly:

Sex toys for straight men are really pink. They’re so pink I had to peer at the screen through my fingers. Honestly, it’s worse than the Barbie aisle at Toys R Us!

Thirdly:

Once you buy one, it’s not until you get it home and unpack it that you realise you need special sprays and wipes to clean it with which you THEN have to go back to the website and buy. What a rort.

Fourthly:

There are SO many different models, it’s mind-boggling. There’s even a stamina training model, for god’s sake! Choosing one reminded me of my last visit to the Telstra shop to get a new mobile phone (‘can’t I just get one to send texts and you know, call people?’)

Turns out Tech Support knew about the Fleshlight all along. Our conversation ran somewhat along these lines:

Me: I can’t believe you knew about this!

TS: I can’t believe you didn’t know about this!

Me: Why on earth didn’t you tell me?

TS: Mum, it’s embarrassing!

Me: I can’t believe you’re embarrassed talking about masturbation with your mother! Didn’t I raise you better than that?

Dear Reader, I bought one. The least pink one I could find. It looks just like a flashlight, it’s an innocuous black tube, but when you open it you get an eyeful of silicone orifice that is frankly rather alarming.

Which caused us to rethink our strategy.

I mean, if I had a willy I wouldn’t be putting it in there.

So it was back to the drawing board.

At this point I stumbled across a US Facebook page with a candid account of a mother’s attempts to teach her son to self-pleasure. She recounted stories of success using manual prompting. Many other parents responded with their stories, and some of their young men had to be helped because they were injuring themselves. We realised this was now much more important than simply teaching a fun new skill to while away a Sunday afternoon when there’s nothing on Netflix.

Shortly after this, HC came home on the weekend with carpet burn on his elbows, knees and ankles and bruising on his penis from rocking on the floor. This was serious. We had to teach him for his own safety.

Grasping the bull by the horns (if you’ll pardon the rather phallic metaphor), I sat down and wrote a social story. With help from our Coordinator of Supports, who was relieved only to be asked to provide Boardmaker images this time, and with photos of HC’s bed, we wrote a story with the key message that it’s OK to have private time, but not on the floor. The floor hurts. The bed is soft and safe. I took a picture of the lube, a picture of a hand, and a picture of his tissue box.  I even found an ejaculation symbol.

Then of course I needed to buy lubricant. Reasoning that lids would be fiddly, a pump pack seemed optimal but surprise! Not available at Chemist Warehouse. So online I went again for the jumbo one litre pump pack at $22.95 including delivery. Pleasure is an expensive business.

Tissues obviously needed to be up to the job, so it was off to the supermarket. Who knew you can’t get man-sized Kleenex anymore? They must have gone the way of the ‘Feed the Man Meat’ campaign. Either that or men’s noses have shrunk.

So with preparations now in place, we all read the story with HC.

Mr A then sat with him and showed him how to pump the lube into his palm and move his hand up and down. He pointed out the location of the tissues for cleaning up afterwards and left the room.

Happy Chin kept at it for a little while but not…how shall I put it? Not to the point of needing to use the tissues.

Cut to a few weeks later though, and our young man is starting to get the hang of it. His male carers have been extremely mature and supportive. One young carer, not much older than HC, really helped the process along by explaining patiently, ‘just move your hand up and down, keep on doing that, it will feel nice’ and then leaving the room. HC now calls masturbation ‘Up and Down,’ and tells his carers he’s off to his room for up and down.

So far the state of underwear and bed linen indicate that we haven’t achieved completion, but I have discovered a whole new set of expressions to use with his carers when enquiring about his progress.

‘How’s the up and down going?’

‘Do we have lift off?’

‘Can we pop the champagne yet?’

We have also tried adult magazines. It was my job to buy pornographic magazines for my son when Mr August mysteriously just ran out of time to do it. I stood in front of the naughty magazine section for a good 10 minutes (having taken care to visit a newsagency in a different suburb where I was unlikely to run into anyone I knew), dithering over the choices. Playboy was full of articles (again, who knew, right?) Penthouse seemed tasteful enough. Perhaps a bit too tasteful? Also, quite expensive. But Dirty Housewives at $5.95 seemed a tad inappropriate (as if I was in a position to judge!)

Unfortunately, due to the poor quality of the paper, Penthouse failed to arouse, as Happy Chin prefers the high quality glossies. He likes the look and feel of flicking through expensive magazines, also the way they smell seems to be a trigger for him. If only Vogue or Harper’s would do a sealed section. Time to write to Anna Wintour I think!

TSC Heroes

TAND conference Sydney

Mr August and I recently attended a seminar in Sydney organised by Tuberous Sclerosis Australia (a wonderful organisation and you can donate here https://tsa.org.au/). The room was full of individuals, parents, carers and professionals with lived experience of Tuberous Sclerosis Complex (TSC).

There is something incredibly comforting about being among people to whom you don’t have to say ‘it’s a neurological disorder that produces sclerotic growths on the brain, heart, lungs and kidneys.’ It feels like a big warm hug.

I was asked to deliver a brief parent overview which seemed well received. It’s very difficult to stand up in front of a group of strangers with mostly younger children and resist the temptation to say, ‘don’t buy any expensive glassware, you’ll regret it later!’

Because Tuberous Sclerosis is so variable. You can go for most of your life and never know you have it, which is why I refused the pre-natal screening test that had become available when the Lamington was still in utero. I mean, what a choice to make! A woman carrying a child with a genetic disorder has an agonising time of it, and I certainly don’t wish to trivialise any person’s experience of TSC, but there truly is such a massive variation in lived experience. TSC can make a huge impact on lives, or a more subtle impact. Areas that one would think are unimportant can be a huge pain in the ass for the person affected and their family. Each person is so different. To paraphrase one of the presenters, ‘If you’ve met one person with Tuberous Sclerosis, you’ve met one person with Tuberous Sclerosis.’

Anyway, back to the seminar. It was about TAND (Tuberous Sclerosis Associated Neuropsychiatric Disorders), which is a term developed to diagnose, understand and better treat the array of neuropsychiatric challenges that come with TSC. These challenges include autism, ADHD, anxiety & depression, aggressive behaviour, learning difficulties and so on. It’s quite a long list. In fact it’s such a long list that I felt glad we hadn’t known about all of this when Happy Chin was born. I also felt a deep respect for the parents in the room with younger children, or newly diagnosed children, who were absorbing all of this information with interest and (it appeared) equanimity. HC was born long before Google, before the internet even, so we couldn’t jump online and scare ourselves with the array of symptoms this complex disorder can present.

On the other hand, we also couldn’t jump online and help ourselves (and him) with information. We could have gone to the library I suppose, although I doubt there would’ve been anything in the medical shelves about TSC! There was a hospital brochure but it was pretty vague. So we just muddled through and hoped for the best.

How different things are for new parents today!  It’s so heartening to hear about all of the new treatments available or at research and development stage that will dramatically improve the lives of people diagnosed with TSC. We have first hand experience of how fast developments in medical science are happening. After having been told in 2006 that neurosurgery for Happy Chin was not an option, a successful operation was performed in 2013. The technology had improved, neurologists could pinpoint seizure activity, and remove the tuber that was the source of that activity.

Outcomes for babies born today with TSC are so much brighter, and we were fascinated to hear about research in Europe which suggests that an EEG performed in newborns with TSC can detect abnormalities before the onset of seizures, and treat the baby right from the start, hopefully reducing seizures or even eliminating them occurring in the first place. What an amazing developmental gift this could be for a young child!

mTOR inhibitors (medicines which control cell growth in the body and therefore inhibit the growth of tumours) are another exciting and quite new development, with one drug, Everolimus, looking set to be added to the PBS this year. Our young man started on rapamycin (another mTOR inhibitor) this year, and we are seeing great results with his facial angiofibromas.

Professor Petrus de Vries, a visiting academic from the University of Cape Town, gave an engaging and informative presentation about TAND. During the afternoon sessions, he invited input from the audience about treatment options here in Australia and it was valuable to hear strategies other parents were using and services they’d been able to access.

We came away with a great sense of hope for the future.

Every day can seem like a burden, we can become overwhelmed by the constant medical appointments, behaviour specialist meetings, NDIS planning, actual day to day physical care of your child or family member (not to mention your other children), your relationship plus your paid work if you are employed.  You’ll notice I don’t mention housework as I hate it and as you can see, really don’t have time for it anyway (does anyone know of an organisation that provides trustworthy volunteer cleaners? Actually, don’t worry about the trustworthy part, Happy Chin has broken everything of value we ever owned so we’ve got nothing worth stealing!)

But in a room with a group of parents, carers and people who live and work in TSC, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of purpose and pride that we were all working to make lives better for our loved ones. Human beings like to feel they’re a part of something bigger than themselves, and working away at the coalface in your home or school or lab can feel like a very tiny, solitary thing to be doing. But get us all together and look at what we can achieve!

Unpacking TAND and all of its complexity gave such an understanding into the complex brain patterns of our person with Tuberous Sclerosis. Thank you to the TSA for organising such a great day. I’ll be feeling much more charitable the next time Happy Chin chucks my Stephanie Alexander cookbook across the room.

 

 

 

Personal Worst

Sheets

Happy Chin seemed determined to achieve his personal worst today – slowest morning routine by a 23 year old in the Greater Hobart area.

I could tell it was going to be One of Those Days when I detected the strong smell of urine in his room. The smell was so overpowering I failed to sniff out the dog poo on the rug and promptly stepped in it. We have a new puppy called Dave and he is a poo machine. He views Liam’s room as his ensuite.

So, wet sheets (which holds us up by at least 20 minutes) and then dog poo to clean up. Excellent.

I coaxed HC out from under the nest of bedclothes, last night’s leftovers and a Union Jack flag he’d got from god knows where, to discover he’d taken his cherished red cotton sheet to bed last night. It was now soaked in urine and naturally, he wanted it right away.

Swiftly negotiating the first compromise of the day, said sheet was whisked away to be washed, with the promise we would take it with us and hang it out to dry when we got to his house.

Happy Chin was then lured into the shower by means of a handy Bluetooth speaker playing his favourite band, the Doves.

Phew! I deserved a coffee after that. Two sips in and I heard HC shouting ‘Oh no!’ Bolted into the bathroom to discover Bluetooth speaker had fallen into the sink, HC had picked it up and was standing under the shower with it. Excellent.

Briefly considered snatching it out of his hand but opted instead for compromise two of the morning, turning off the water and spending the next five minutes negotiating return of the speaker after personal ablutions were completed.

Phew! Returned to coffee which was now cold.

On exiting the shower, HC then decamped to the laundry where he stood in front of the washer demanding the return of his red sheet. I patiently explained about the clever numbers that tell you how long until the wash is finished. He was unimpressed.

He consented to drink his hot chocolate but we hit a sticking point with breakfast, where I failed to convince him to eat avocado toast (he is a millennial, why would he refuse avocado toast?) He proceeded to the couch, pulled a blanket over his head and left me staring down the barrel of a stand-off.

This behaviour is fairly commonplace when he doesn’t want to do something. I wish I could just retire to the couch and pull a blanket over my head every time I didn’t want to do something.

However.

I now faced a problem – how to get him off the couch and into the car without injury to any person, object or hapless pet straying into the vicinity hoping for dropped bits of toast?

Aha! The washing machine will beep when it’s finished! Surely the prospect of a clean sheet will get him to his feet? I then simply have to shepherd him out the front door quick-time. How hard could it be?

I dried my hair and dressed for work with the quietly confident air of a woman who has risen to the challenge.

But wait, don’t they say that pride comes before a fall? Or don’t count your chickens before they’re hatched? Or is it – you think you’re so smart but your child will defeat you?

Returning to the living room to find said child pretending to be asleep, I exclaimed excitedly ‘The washing’s finished! You sheet is ready!’

No response.

I removed the blanket. He rolled over and buried his face in the cushions.

So then I tried, in order: tickling, attempted manipulation of legs onto floor, bribery, Santa-is- watching, pleading and begging.

By this time he was fully awake and pretty annoyed.

Suddenly he hopped up, pointed out the window and said ‘jet ski!’

Happy Chin loves to look out the window at the river during summer and watch the jet skis going past. There were no jet skis at 8.30 on a Tuesday morning.

Hell, I can’t just produce jet skis! (Although at a recent seminar I met a mother whose son loved thunderstorms and expected her to produce them on demand. This made me feel much better. I mean, a jet ski is easier to produce than a thunderstorm isn’t it?)

I could, however, promise jet skis on YouTube IF he got in the car right NOW (compromise three).

After a bit of faffing about picking up magazines, the flag, the wet sheet and two other sets of sheets for good measure, we finally set off. During the 30 minute journey, Happy Chin entertained himself by alternately listening to music and passive/aggressive swinging of the speaker by its handle while saying ‘no throw.’

I entertained myself by imagining in vivid screaming detail the total nervous breakdown I’d have if any cop pulled me over for speeding.

Really, it’s no wonder I arrive at work with a brain as soggy as the Lamington’s two day old Weetbix! On mornings such as these, I often find myself unable to make the most basic decision. Coffee or tea? Biscuit or chocolate? Valium or Serapax?

When the phone rings at work on a morning like this, I find myself praying that it won’t be someone with a problem because I JUST CAN’T….

Conversations among normal people about their normal everyday problems fill me with a seething rage that is also kind of envy. Oh, to have these people’s problems! I often think about the Dad I met an autism seminar who put it perfectly – everyone else is talking about how they went skating and you spent the weekend wiping poo off the walls.

Of course, I know very well that everything is relative and also, many people have far worse problems than mine. As frustrating and exhausting as caring for HC can be, my son is not dying. In fact, he’ll probably be around to torment me for a good long time, provided the tubers in his brain stay fairly stable. Nor does he need the kind of round-the-clock, sheer hard yakka type of care that many people with disabilities do.

I am really very fortunate to have had him in my life to teach me patience, resilience and resourcefulness.

Just don’t tell me that at 9AM on a Tuesday morning. Not unless you have a large double shot latte standing by. And maybe a gluten free chocolate brownie as well?

The Hat Police

Hat Police

 

Yesterday the Lamington added a new duty to my job description – I am now the Hat Police.

This came about because he discovered his favourite baseball cap on top of Happy Chin’s head instead of where it rightfully belongs, on his bedroom floor.

“Mum, can you please make sure he doesn’t wear my hat?” came the exasperated cry.

“Oh, sorry,” I said, knee deep in laundry and breakfast dishes, “I didn’t realise it was your hat.”

Two days later I finally had time to stop and think – hang on, why the hell should I be sorry? How come I get to be the Hat Police? I don’t have time for this.

Last week, I was the Mug Police. Apparently there are several mugs in the house that no one else except the Lamington is permitted to drink from, especially not people like Happy Chin. Maybe the Lamington is worried that Tuberous Sclerosis is catching (note to self – schedule a Genetics 101 refresher with him, once the laundry’s done).

Kids pinch each other’s stuff in every family. I refer to the Cambridge English Dictionary’s definition:

sibling noun /ˈsɪb·lɪŋ/

a relation who enters your room unauthorised and takes your stuff

 

They annoy each other, they fight, dob on each other and claim unfair and unequal treatment from the parental unit all the time. This is normal.

Why should I get involved? Wouldn’t the normal parent thing be to simply ignore it, tell them to sort it out themselves and only intervene if there’s claret spilled?

Well, yes it would, but we are not a normal family (as regular readers may have noted). I’ve always intervened because at heart I feel guilty about the childhood the younger two have had and I want to make things better and easier for them somehow.

Let’s imagine for a moment their elder brother didn’t have a significant disability. What would I have said? Probably something along the lines of ‘Suck it up Snowflake. And by the way, are they his Dr Dre’s I see there on your head?’

In actual fact, during the most difficult years I was so exhausted I often replied to complaints about petty theft with variations on a theme of well-why- didn’t-you-hide-it-better-if-you-didn’t-want-him-to-have-it?

Thus, Tech Support and the Lamington have become Jedi masters of hiding stuff. They both have lots of secret squirrelly places in their rooms, locked chests and boxes of various shapes and sizes. They know that if they consume cola at home, it must first be decanted into a non-transparent, non-cola branded receptacle (and in utmost secrecy, preferably huddled in the pantry or broom cupboard, like an alcoholic filling their water bottle with vodka). They are also across most of my secret hiding places for chips, chocolate and bananas (yes bananas, cos if you put out 9 bananas HC will eat the lot). We are so sneaky that we are still finding stuff we hid back in 2013.

Frequently I’d just shrug my soldiers and explain that we were living in an anarchic social system and that all property is theft.

As you’d expect, my wildly inconsistent parenting really didn’t make life easy for the younger boys. Neither did it make things better for Happy Chin, who badly needed firm and consistent guidance. I knew it, and felt guilty about it but, as I’ve written elsewhere in this blog, I was just too damn tired to address the problem.

When I was feeling strong, I would use negotiation. Trying to grab the object and hide it at speed had proved effective at times, but a high risk activity. If you couldn’t run and secrete it quickly enough, or pass it on to a third party to be hidden, then you were very likely to be bitten or scratched.

Negotiation was slow, but often worked. On several occasions the item was returned voluntarily (usually in exchange for some negotiated treat or privilege). Problem was, it took about 20 minutes and you had to devote yourself entirely to the job, you couldn’t wander off to stir the dinner or the cause was lost.

Getting HC’s brothers to use negotiation was an abject failure. Their favoured method was always to shout for me, grab the item and then slam the bedroom door in HC’s face and lock it. This left me standing outside the door with an irate Happy Chin, waiting for him to pick up the nearest heavy object and hurl it at me.

So it’s no wonder I’d often just say ‘Give him the bloody hat already. You’ve got 17 others for god’s sake!’

So what is the point of this post? The point is that I’ve spent much of my life as a mother trying to make everything all right for everyone. And I couldn’t make it all right, not for a long time. So now I’m trying to make up for all those years where it wasn’t all right by agreeing to be the Hat Police.

Is that it? Have I unpacked my maternal psychopathology? Thanks for listening, you’ve been great. Shall I just pay the receptionist on the way out?

I Quit

Boss Baby

 

Lately I’ve been thinking about quitting my job.

I took a straw poll around the office the other day.

‘What are the main reasons people leave their jobs?’ I asked.

According to general consensus the main ones are – unhappiness in the position, the money’s average, difficult relationship with the boss, poor working conditions and lack of career development.

Well, my current job qualifies on all those fronts. In fact, sometimes I wonder why I ever thought taking a job as a Mum was a good idea.

For a start, I never even saw a job description, and I assumed from the TV adverts that it’d be a doddle. The babies always seemed to be either asleep or doing really cute things whilst Mum, Dad and the family Labrador looked on adoringly. How hard could it be?

There was no training to speak of, although I was told there were several helpful books I could read during my downtime, not during company hours. Turns out company hours were 5AM-11.35PM Monday to Sunday, lunchbreaks were to be taken at my workstation and I got 4 minutes of (supervised) toilet breaks a day. I asked about annual leave but this was apparently not offered in the first 5 years. There was no sick leave either and even when I injured my leg recently, I was told light duties were ‘unavailable.’

It’s fair to say I didn’t take the job on for the money. At around 5 cents an hour, wages were well below Fair Work standards. Occasionally I could supplement my income by turning out the husband’s pockets before doing the laundry, but this cash would inevitably be reallocated to lunch orders. The annual tax refund was usually spent at the Uniform Shop.

And the workload! It was bad enough when I just reported to the Senior Partner. Honestly, he couldn’t do a thing for himself – couldn’t even wipe his own bum! When the Junior Partner came on board, he proved to be quite personable and not as demanding as the Senior Partner, but I still had to do all of my original work plus the new duties as well. Eventually there were 3 partners, and they still didn’t put anyone extra on to help me! Talk about unfair working conditions!

I’ve gotten used to being expected to perform tasks that are outside my skill set. If I’d known this role would require it, I could have undertaken prior training as a doctor, nurse, medical administrator, laundress, careers counsellor, seamstress, caterer, driver, UN negotiator, personal assistant, artist, milliner, driving instructor and physiotherapist. It’d look good on my CV.

Similarly, although I am happy to be a teacher, I am not A Teacher. I can’t do maths beyond grade 6, so forgot about this helping with homework business. I’m probably qualified to help with English homework, but my assistance with Maths or Science guarantees a one way ticket to the big F.

Working conditions in this role do leave a lot to be desired. A safe working environment really doesn’t seem to be a priority in this organisation. I’ve often find myself juggling hot pans and sharp knives with my employers unhelpfully crawling about underfoot, emptying the Tupperware cupboard directly in my path. And many’s the time I’ve suffered a Lego-related injury when walking barefoot through a bedroom at 3AM. Company birthday parties have frequently gone ahead despite obviously unsafe carer to child ratios. The Senior Partner’s 5th birthday, when the PR department thought it was a good idea to invite his entire class, springs to mind. I seem to recall having to take the afternoon off on stress leave after that function.

Career development opportunities seem non-existent. I’ll probably just have to quietly serve out my contract until the 3 partners have left, when I’ll be quietly demoted to a part time role doing the occasional load of laundry and rediscovering old hobbies like reading a book uninterrupted and spending my disposable income on cosmetics. I only hope that skill set hasn’t deserted me, it’s been a while.

On the whole, I have a fairly good relationship with my employers. Provided I keep the food coming, dispense cash on a regular basis and resign myself to the (sometimes daily) performance reviews, we get on all right. And I do appreciate the annual Mother’s Day ‘Year in Review’ card, complete with handmade gifts, cold tea and burnt toast. There’s no doubt they mean well. I just wish my KPIs weren’t quite so unrealistic – my boys really know how to set stretch targets. Apparently I have to cook a meal they like every single night, let them play as many video games as they want AND not get upset at the state of their rooms. I must also ensure the Wi-Fi is never down, the Netflix subscription is up to date and the pantry has food in it they want to eat. If I fail at this last duty, I am treated to heavy sighs from P1, 2 and 3 while they stand in front of the open pantry looking glumly at the contents, a performance that’s often followed by heavy sighs (mine) while standing in front of the fridge looking glumly at the lack of wine in there.

For the most part, I am philosophical. After all, I took the job on. It seemed like a good idea at the time and it’s fair to say that the opportunities for personal growth have been, well, continuous. In fact, I’m not sure I can grow anymore – is there a peak for character development, and once that peak is reached your body just excretes the unnecessary character, like too much Vitamin C? I’ve also acquired almost superhuman frustration tolerance levels, but I’d be quite happy to drop down a notch or two and just be able to have a massive temper tantrum when things don’t go right, just like my employers. And then storm off to my room, slam the door and refuse to come out for dinner.

I wonder how that would go? Maybe I’ll get the sack. Think I’ll try it out tonight!

Dithead

 

Dickhead balloon

Really wishing we’d never taught Happy Chin to say dickhead.

Well, we didn’t actually teach him, it just slipped out one day during a man scaping session in the bathroom. HC is mostly resigned to the shaving and hair cutting process by now, but is still very happy to throw in loud objections during proceedings. Still, that’s better than throwing punches like he used to do.

He also refuses to stand still, which regrettably led to the parental exclamation of, ‘Stand still and don’t be a dickhead!’

We’re only human, you know.

And that’s where Dithead all started. Happy Chin can’t say dickhead, he pronounces it ‘dithead,’ and it’s a source of tremendous mirth. He can go on for hours just wandering round the house saying ‘dithead, dithead’ while laughing his head off. I wish I could say it was endearing.

We’ve developed an after-dinner evening routine, he and I. Once the dishes are cleared, we go upstairs to the parents’ retreat, put on some quiet music and sit there enjoying each other’s company and looking at books or magazines. We watch the sun set, have a hot drink and he lets me know when he’s ready for bed.

Well, I had an hour of Dithead last night and I can tell you it doesn’t go well with Sigur Ros. Normally I let him dictate his own bedtime (he’s 22 after all) but last night I had to call it. I couldn’t endure any more Dithead.

This morning I’d hoped we could start afresh, but Dithead was up before I was and ready for action and we had Dithead all the way down to drop off in the car. Just when I thought it had stopped, a car cut in front of me and I shouted ‘You total dickhead!’ and we were off again. Shit…I mean crap…I mean sugar.

Seriously though, how are we to respond to Dithead – any suggestions from the floor? What rude words do you wish you hadn’t used and now can’t get rid of? How are you meant to stop from laughing?

Especially when your child indicates he’d like a helium balloon for his birthday and further, tells you specifically that he wants a ‘Dickhead Balloon.’ How the hell am I going to walk into the party shop and ask for that? Or should I be going to the sex shop? (Hang on, that was last installment wasn’t it? Maybe I can combine the two errands!)

The most simple and obvious answer is to stop swearing ourselves.

OK, next suggestion?

Asking him to stop saying it only makes him say it more. Ignoring the behaviour (through gritted teeth) only makes him do it more. He can tell when we’re resolutely trying to ignore him, he can smell our fear, he can see through walls, he can withstand long periods of attention deprivation. In short, he is super human and he can break us. And he knows it.

Maybe we can teach him to swear in another language, one that his carers don’t know. Urdu, maybe? We’d have to avoid Indian restaurants, but that’s OK. There’s always takeaway.

When we ran our home program, we used joining as a technique. Instead of trying to stop Happy Chin in his repetitive behaviours, we joined him and in doing so created a vital connection. We could then go on to learn and teach together. So maybe the answer is to run around the house shouting ‘Dithead’? I’ll let you know how that goes.

I’m old enough to remember a time when we were threatened with having our mouths washed out with soap and water. But after 23 years of cleaning HC’s teeth (and many broken toothbrushes), I don’t really fancy trying to stick a bar of Palmolive Gold into his gob. Not without Teflon gloves, anyway.

In my quest for answers (and, let’s face it, material for this blog) I naturally turned to The Internet, where I found a handy article with several useful tips.

  1. Set and live the standard.

We have standards in our house, it’s just that they’re not very high. This enables us to get through life with some small sense of achievement. For example, no child is ever allowed to skip breakfast. Unless, you know, reasons. In which case – Up & Go!

  1. Help find better ways to express emotion.

I can definitely find these, and model them too. In the past I’ve: banged my head against the wall, shouted, cried, begged and threatened to put my hand in the blender. None of these were given as examples in the article, though, not sure why…

  1. Find appropriate replacement words.

Well, I tried www.thesaurus.com , but strangely they didn’t list dickhead as a word.

Wanker, maybe? It’s not really any better. Richard Cranium? Too long and difficult to pronounce.

  1. Don’t overreact.

Listen dickhead, you try being at home for 12 hours straight with a child who has said ‘coke’ 250 times in the past 2 hours, and you know that because you counted, because the only way you can stop from going stark, staring mad is to count the number of times he says it and then repeat the numbers back to him, like some kind of deranged talking clock!!

Oh, sorry, was I overreacting?