Act Your Age

In another award-winning piece of parenting, I appear to have taught Happy Chin to say fuck. Or to be more accurate, fuck fuck fuck.

Well, he is nearly 26 now and really, fuck fuck fuck is a perfectly age appropriate thing to say on being rudely awakened at 6AM on a Sunday morning, having had very little sleep the night before. So yes, it slipped out and he repeated it. Except when he says it, it sounds like fut fut fut. So maybe nobody will notice. Don’t tell Gran, OK?

On our last weekend together, having finally accepted that he’d had his bottle of coke for the day and wasn’t getting any more, he went to the fridge and got himself an alternative bottle. A bottle of Pinot Grigio.

‘Bottle,’ he announced to me as he plonked down on the couch beside me and unscrewed the lid.

‘Go for it, mate,’ I said. ‘But I don’t think you’ll like it.’

In my mind I was thinking:

  • how should I feel about this, given he is an adult after all;
  • he is on medication and alcohol is not recommended for him;
  • that’s the last of the wine right there.

(Not necessarily in that order)

He didn’t drink any of the wine, he just wanted a bottle to cart about and leave, opened, in random places like the middle of the floor where any passing dog could knock it over. You can imagine how happy I was about this. I have new carpet and also it’s Saturday night and I want a glass of wine at some stage damn it!

Which is entirely age appropriate for a 54-year-old. What is probably not age appropriate is drinking a glass of wine while watching the Lion King with my 25-year-old and singing along to Hakuna Matata. Does anyone else do that on a Saturday night or have I really lost my mind?

Speaking of age appropriate things to do on a Saturday night, what would a 25 year old man be likely to be watching on a Saturday night? I know, porn! It’s time to teach him to watch porn on his iPad!

Except, let’s NOT. It’s age appropriate, I know. But it’s also fraught with Big Problems. It’s not so much that he might think porn represents how sex should be done, and that it’s OK to treat other people like that, especially women. It’s more that he has a tendency to click on links, and god knows where he’ll end up, and which of his poor carers will have to intervene. It reminds me of when I was working in a hotel and me and a female colleague found 76 pages of old lady porn on the iPad in a guest’s room after he checked out. It was so disgusting we ran downstairs to our (male) boss and made him clear the browsing history ready for the next guest. Then we washed our hands. Thoroughly.

And anyway, what sort of porn would Happy Chin like? It’s a mixed bag during private time at the moment, and I have to say that International Buses magazine is the most usual reading matter. And for those who’d like an update on the self pleasure situation, he is back to rocking on the floor, but now we have a yoga mat so no sore elbows and knees. I know it works because he recently emerged from private time in his room with a definite spring in his step, exclaiming ‘OK, alright, good, I’m OK. Good!’

So that’s worked out well.

On the whole, I think there are some things that are age appropriate that are best not taught to our young man. Binge drinking for example, and getting into cars with drunk people. I believe a person with disability has the right to be treated fairly, not to be talked down to or shouted at (he doesn’t have a hearing impairment!). To be treated with respect, basically. Just like anyone else, but of course not quite like anyone else. Vulnerable people like Happy Chin do have to be protected from what we call Poor Decisions when we, the people who care for them, know they may not be able to help themselves from making them.

But how safe should we keep our vulnerable people? At what point do we become too risk averse and take away their quality of life? Right now, Happy Chin cannot safely be transported by his carers because he escapes the car and runs on the road. This behaviour had gone away but resurfaced when he had a sudden change in his team and new carers started. He was testing limits and boundaries, made a couple of poor decisions and is now suffering for it while we scramble to get restrictive practice orders from the NDIS and behaviour management plans urgently drawn up.

Unfair on Happy Chin, who isn’t neurologically able to understand consequences? You bet it is. But we also have to keep him safe. Mr August and I try to make up for his temporary restriction of movement by taking him out on weekends, and he enjoys the outings. In an ideal world though, systems and organisations would move much faster, and the speed of getting the right support for our children shouldn’t depend on how much time and energy the parent has to hassle the NDIS.

The NDIS was passed in March 2013 (thank you Julia Gillard), so next month it will turn 8. According to, 8-year-olds can ‘understand how someone else feels in a given situation,’ be ‘capable of placing themselves in another person’s shoes’ and exhibit ‘a wide spectrum of pro-social skills including being generous, supportive and kind.’

Unfortunately, also goes on to say that 8-year-olds typically ‘adhere strictly to the rules…which can sometimes lead to conflicts.’ Hmmm, sounds like my last plan review!

The NDIS does cop a lot of flak and justly so sometimes. However, it has been hugely beneficial for our Happy Chin and many other people. Just like raising children, perhaps we should all just muddle along and do our best, hoping things won’t always be so stressful and that our child will turn out OK. That he or she (or it, in the case of the NDIS) will grow into a functioning unit capable of Good Decisions. And since the pre-frontal cortex, the area of the brain responsible for those decisions, doesn’t develop until around age 23, hoping we won’t have to wait another 15 years for a Good Decision from the NDIS!

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