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Parenting - Kim Petersen

Some Apologies Are Endless.

And some are made from delusions.

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When I was a teenager my friends and I spent many hours discussing futuristic relationships. Secrets smiles and girly giggles accompanied much of these conversations. Dreams floated somewhere above us encased within invisible pink bubbles tied with crimson ribbons; the man of our dreams awaited to sweep into our lives when the universe conspired our fated meeting. We could barely wait.

Dreams.

They are the cornerstone of imagination and make the world go around. They form the wings of precious wishes and exquisite desires; and there are none so much as precious as the promising dreams of love to a girl.

My teenage dreams foretold love like no other — he was charming and smart, caring and tender; his smile would light up my heart and quicken my pulse. He was open-minded, sweet and compassionate. He was witty, vulnerable yet strong. Most of all, though, he respected me.

Respect.

This quality was vital and posed lengthy in-depth discussions among our group. None of us had a history of violent homes, yet we were more than aware of the widespread violence against women that went on behind closed doors across the world.

My convictions were strong; I would never tolerate violence or mistreatment from my future partners. Never.

But the convictions of a girl who dreamed of falling in love fizzled as time moved forward to present a man who she thought possessed the above-mentioned qualities. They say love is blind. Perhaps it is. But I think that an open-heart nurtures forgiveness, tolerance and empathy, and it is those elements of love that can become the foundation under which the narcissist to thrive.

She was giddy. Excitement filled her. The future stretched untouched and perfect beneath his devotion. They would stick together through thick and thin; they would carve the path and create dreams. They would love and be loved. Hold and be held.

But dreams are nothing when the edges begin to crack and the shadows start to loom.

Excitement fades when the constant barrage of demeaning comments begin to chip at your psyche. The convictions of a girl drown in a tsunami of guilt when he kicks you so hard that you can barely walk for a week, or tells you he would gladly do jail time for your death.

“I’m sorry, honey. I’ll make it up to you.”

Some apologies are smothered in golden jewels, international holidays and new clothes. Some even take on the form of a new car.

Thwack!

“I was feeling a little cagey — you stepped on my toes. I’m sorry, honey. It will never happen again. I love you.”

Some apologies are made from delusion even when delivered sincerely.

Goodbye dreams. So long, respect. Enter guilt, self-loathing and everything black.

Black for the single most horrific day that still haunts me — the day the screams of my little boys followed me down the hall as he gripped my scalp and dragged me to the bedroom. Black for the moments my heart split when they watched from the threshold as he flung me on the bed and punched me in the head. Black for the terrified eyes that blinked back at me.

Boom!

My head pounded. The sound of his voice reverberated somewhere in the distance as he growled. But I felt nothing and heard nothing as I focused on the horrified eyes brimming from the doorway.

Some moments you can never undo. Some moments stay with you no matter how deep you bury them.

I’m sorry for the charred dreams and teenage wishes snatched away by brutality. I’m sorry for betraying the convictions and values that I had so strongly believed in. I’m sorry for abandoning my sense of self-respect, self-love and self-worth. Most of all, I’m sorry for the innocence stolen away from my little boys the day their world turned black.

Some apologies are never too late to be expressed. And some apologies last forever.


Also published by P.S. I Love You on Medium

I Hate the World Today – Parenting in the fast lane

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“I hate the world today!” Master Six said, scrunching his nose and treating me to a dark, brooding stare.

“Alrighty, that didn’t take much.”

Seriously, if putting on socks represented my greatest adversities, I’d take it in a flash. I tried not to smile, I really did, but when his rosebud lips began to curl my way, I failed miserably.

 He has a thing for bums.

That wasn’t a typo. Yep, the littlest man of the house has had a thing for the “butt” ever since he could walk and talk. I’m not sure why. Nothing out of the ordinary ever happened to erm… nurture this odd idiosyncrasy of his. Yet, he has this habit of dishing out a light paddle on behinds every now and then as he passes by. Namely, mine. Actually, only mine.

I’ve never seen him try it on his father. I’m thinking because my butt is much more padded than his dad’s – which by the way, wouldn’t take a whole lot to achieve. My husband has one of those behinds you can’t see. Oh, you know it’s there; it has to be – my senses remind me it exists more often than I’d like. It just seems to become swallowed in his clothes.

In my house, it isn’t unusual to spot me randomly break out in my version of a booty dance while slapping my ass and crooning some of the lyrics to Baby Got Back. Well, the only part of the song I remember – “I like big butts and I cannot lie; You other brothers can’t deny.” Okay, I admit, it doesn’t sound like a very mothery thing to do; swinging my hips and wriggling my behind at my children, but they laugh every time. I just hope they don’t go searching up that song on YouTube any time soon. 

Songs can be a good alternative to express ourselves sometimes. For instance, when I hear the words “but it’s not fair” flung from one of my kid’s mouths, I walk away singing The Rolling Stones classic “You can’t always get what you want”. It’s pretty self-explanatory. I tend to not elaborate after that, and they tend to not push the matter.

Unless we’re in teenage territory, which is another ball game altogether. Her current song is Teenage Dirtbag. I know, it’s not so adventurous, but if you could see some of the looks this princess saves just for me, you’d understand. I swear, I’m pretty sure she thinks I’m clueless. You know, adults, like, seriously have no idea about, like, anything. Especially when they croon those annoying words “I’m just a teenage dirtbag, baby” in your face, and don’t understand why spending ridiculous amounts of money on acrylic nails is so important.

She doesn’t laugh at my booty dance, by the way. No. She eye rolls and fluffs away into her cave where she spends an extraordinary amount of time on the crucial stuff – lying in bed and getting her social on. Those hours are paying off because the other day she showed us just how skillful she could be with her iPhone. She has cultivated the ability to blind-text. That’s right, I watched as she watched me while her long, painted talons flew over the phone keypad as she produced a perfectly formed text message. It was oddly impressive. Until she told me it was the trick she uses in class.

“I can look right at the teacher and talk to her while texting beneath my desk, mum,” she said, laughing.

What do you say to that when you know, given half the chance, it was something you would’ve done too? Of course, I didn’t tell her as much. I managed to say the expected “motherly” things which do actually occur around here at times. It was promptly met with a smirk and a casual shrug before she pranced back into the den for more essential activities.

I took her shopping for her birthday recently. This is something for me because I hate shopping and she loves it. My dislike for shopping isn’t just limited to the mall. I hate all kinds of shopping. The mall, however, makes me feel giddy and light-headed after a while. Like I can’t breathe. The food halls are the worst. Argh! Just the thought of being in that environment makes my skin crawl. All those people making noise and shuffling around the various food outlets before sitting down together to shovel it in their mouths … no thanks. I’ll pick up something to eat elsewhere and pray the kids have forgotten about McDonald’s.

As if that will ever happen. Gross. Why do kids love that shit?   

Teenage princess wanted her nose pierced for her birthday. After pretending to think about it for a few days, I decided to oblige and allow her to get a small shiny stud on one nostril. So, we went to the body-piercing shop and I watched as she braved the needle. Okay, I didn’t really watch, I just stood at the threshold and gazed at the pictures on the walls while trying to appear supportive. I’m not into watching needles plunge into skin. I don’t even watch when I get poked for blood tests.

It was over in a jiffy and without so much as a squeak from her. It looked kind of cute, too. Hmmm … then came the lightbulb moment. I’m someone that tends to experience these spur-of-the-moment decisions from time to time. I don’t always overthink everything. When I got my first tattoo, I had decided then and there and did it before I could procrastinate. Something similar happened that day when out with my daughter – I walked out of that mall with a brand-new sparkle adorning my left nostril. I, however, yelped during the process. Yep, turns out my teenage dirtbag is tougher than me.

For one glorious moment, I wasn’t a clueless mother. I might’ve even been cool. My cool lasted for less than a week, though, because although I liked my little nose-stud, my subconscious mind rejected it. I ended up tearing it out during my sleep a few nights later and that hurt like hell.

“Go get it done again, mum,” she said.

“No way.”

“But it looked so cute on you.” Blink, blink.

Yeah, I’ll take the clueless mother tag and keep singing, sunshine.

Guilt Overload -Take it Easy on Yourself.

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“Your children are not your children.

They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.

They come through you but not from you,

And though they are with you, yet they belong not to you.”

~ On Children, by Kahlil Gibran

Someone once told me that I wouldn’t know what guilt was all about until I had children. Someone was right.

I killed a kitten once. True story. I am a kitten murderer. He was fluffy and gray with the sweetest blue eyes studding the cutest kitten face ever. He was about seven weeks old and he had somehow managed to climb into the washing basket that was full of bed sheets waiting to be washed. He was probably floating in some enchanting kitten-dream as he snuggled into those sheets, breathing in the scent of his humans – all nice and content. Then I came along, gathered the sheets and stuffed them along with kitten into the washing machine before hitting the start button.

Guilt. Overload.

Of course, the guilt didn’t hit me right away. I carried on with whatever I was doing, oblivious to the fact that I had just killed our newest family member. It was my son who found him about an hour later when he pulled the sheets from the machine to hang them to dry. Oops. That didn’t go down well. I felt like the most horrible human being on earth. I mean, who kills kittens and feels good about it?

Wait – let’s not go down that road.

I’m quite good at forgetting about the sickos of our world, that is, until those deranged humans get too close to home. My 15-year-old daughter encountered one such sicko during a train ride a few weeks back. She and her girlfriend were riding over a few stops to get to the mall. It was about 5pm. Somehow, they had missed their originally intended train and took the next one which comprised a longer series of carriages and was empty.

Empty, apart from Mr Psycho and one lone woman they discovered in another carriage when they fled from him. Didn’t make a difference though. This guy was in his element as he set about terrorizing two teenage girls and one woman. He pulled out a makeshift weapon – get this – it was a CD sharpened into a pointed edge. My daughter thought that she was going to die that afternoon.

Guilt. Overload.

I mean, who allows their teenage daughter to travel on a usually safe train route on a late Thursday afternoon? And only after having just warned her a week previously about the dangers lurking on trains.

Sydney trains are worse. Riding those pathways were my thing when I was young if I wanted to get from A to B. I survived.

My oldest son was run over by a car when he was 16 years old. This was no ordinary accident. No, we go above and beyond around here. The driver of the car was drunk and performing an elaborate burnout when he collected my kid and proceeded to burn the rear car tire over the backs of his legs.

Cringe-worthy stuff, right? Just think about it – your skin burning against the rubber until there’s nothing left.

The incident resulted in five surgical procedures, a two-week hospital stint in a specialist children’s burn unit, a month in a wheelchair and a year-long struggle of leg braces, dressing changes and follow-up appointments in Sydney. Throw in an impatient teenager who thought he was superman and it made for some great times.  

More guilt. Overload. But at least it didn’t happen on my watch. He’d been staying with his father out in a place called Buttfuck. Still, it was I that had allowed him to visit his dad over the summer holidays.

Same kid – and hands down, the hardest thing I’d ever had to do as a parent – was to deny him when he wanted to come home. He was 18 years old and had no direction. My cousin and aunt still lived in the Blue Mountains where he’d spent most of his life. They had offered him a roof and food in exchange for a small contribution – he had to go to work. He’d opted to go because all his childhood friends still lived there, and options were wearing thin where we had moved on the north coast.

So, I packed him up and drove the three hours it took to get to the mountains, delivering him to my cousin’s place and trying to appear brave. He called me about two weeks later crying and begging to come home. I denied him.

It was like someone had twisted my heart when I said “No”. I won’t lie – I almost caved, but somehow I knew that if I did, the experience would have been for nothing and his lessons would have gone unlearned. Someplace deep within me I knew he had to stay a little longer.

Guilt. Overload.

But you know what? As hard as it was, it was also one of the best decisions I’ve ever made as a parent. That boy came back home seven months later and had changed into a responsible and considerate young man – the kind of young man I always saw in him when everyone else had given up on him. He was the kind of person I always believed he was capable of being, and at 22 years old, those qualities have shined through him ever since.  

I was 23 years old when I first became a parent. Things were rather dicey during those early years. What I mean is that I was young and learning to be a mother without my own mother around to show me how a mother should behave. I didn’t even know how to change a nappy (diaper) before my son was born.

I remember having these silent anxiety attacks during my first, second and third pregnancies. It was the thought of being responsible for another being that tripped me up every time. By the fourth kid, nothing fazed me. I was in it and that was that. Come number five, and the childhood keepsake albums had ceased for good.

My eight-year-old daughter asked me about that the other day. She wanted to know why she and her younger brother don’t have those albums that her older siblings have. I told her that they did, but they were all digital now.

Guilt?

Nah. Twenty-two years of parenting and I no longer allow the guilt, at least for no extended period. Those beautiful children passed through me into this world for their own purposes. I can only do what I’m capable of doing in the moment. I am here for my own path and purposes too. They are part of it, but this is something they knew before choosing me as their mother.

I have learned to trust in my children’s innate abilities to know what is best for themselves. I show them love and compassion and ways to treat others respectfully, and hopefully provide them the base tools they need before embarking on their own lives. I don’t impose rules or impress my superiority over them. I’ll give them restrictions and offer guidance, but I back up every one of them with positivity.

It’s when they grow and move out that you realize they were never here for your sake; that they were always here for themselves. I guess the same goes for all of us because we each have our own unique paths to follow.