Thursday, November 29, 2007


He is in the shower. I stand beside the bath, turning idly before the mirror. I lift my tee shirt above my stomach, peer critically ahead, and turn again to examine myself in profile.


‘What are you doing?’

I turn around, dropping my shirt as I do. F is watching me with interest.

I have not really been aware of my actions until now; it’s an unconscious habit.

‘Oh. Um, I’m looking at my stomach.’
‘Let me see.’
I frown at him, trying to work out what he means.
‘Do it again. I’ll tell you if you’re fat or not.’

I do it again, this time facing away from the mirror, towards him. I’m a lot more self-conscious now.
‘Turn around.’
I do. I’m suddenly, stupidly aware that whatever he says next will be the truth, unfiltered by grown-up caution. I hold my breath a little as I wait for it.

‘Nope’ he says. ‘You’re not fat.’
‘Really? Oh good.’ I am relieved. A few months ago, I shooed him out of a dressing room for telling me I looked fat while I was trying on jeans.

(Literally, I told him to get lost. He walked out of the shop and onto the street in response. When I came looking for him, a salesgirl pointed out the door, saying ‘he told me that he was going to get lost’. With my new Asperger’s knowledge, I cringe every time I remember it.)

‘You might look fat in a dress though,’ he adds.
I laugh.
‘Why is that?’
‘Most people look fat in dresses.’
‘I wore a dress on Sunday. Did I look fat then?’
He considers it.
‘No. You didn’t. So, I guess you can wear dresses.’
He pauses, twirling under the shower faucet.
‘I don’t think you need your diet anymore, Mum. I think you should stop it now.’
‘Yes. You’re PERFECT.’

I lean into the shower and hug him, not caring about getting wet.

‘Thank you’ I say.

At the supermarket that evening, I buy a box of Turkish Delight ice creams. And I eat one on the way home.

Monday, November 26, 2007

The defeated

F has a friend who comes to play after school every Monday, while his mum is at work.

L is a delightful child, who I most prize for his sensitivity and compassion as a friend to my son. (I grit my teeth when he walks in the back door, rifles through my cupboard, opens my freezer and says 'I'm hungry! Feed me!' and 'I want a chocolate biscuit', but that's beside the point.)

However, L has one noticable quirk. He loves John Howard.

A few months ago, he first spotted the 'Not Happy John' sticker on my filing cabinet.
'Is that John Howard?' he asked.
'Why does it say Not Happy John?'
'Because I'm not happy with John Howard.'
'But why?'
'Well, he locks children up in the desert when they haven't done anything wrong,' I said. 'Isn't that right, F?
'Yup.' F didn't look up from the floor, where he was sprawled, drawing a picture.
'So, you don't like John Howard?' asked L.

L was visibly shocked.

His mother had already told me that he liked John Howard. She was a bit embarassed. She's a nurse. L doesn't get the sentiment from her. Her theory is that he likes authority, and automatically reveres the person in authority. (He's also shocked by the idea of Australia as a Republic.)

A month or so ago, L was crouching on the back lawn, making BMX-like accessories for his bike out of toilet rolls, when he noticed the 'Still Not Happy John' sticker on my bike.
'Huh!' he said. 'Not Happy John! Not happy KEVIN, more like it!'

His mum told me today that he stood in the line on Saturday pleading with her.
'MUM! Please! Put in a vote for me! Vote for John Howard!'

She didn't.

'He's not as unhappy as I thought he'd be, though,' she observed this afternoon.
'Don't worry L,' I told him. 'You'll change your mind soon enough. You'll be a fan of Kevin.'
'He looks just like John Howard, only 20 years younger,' F's father helpfully added. 'You'll hardly notice the difference.' (He was kicking a footy around with the boys on the back lawn, before he took F home.)
'We'd better!' I said.
L's mother laughed.

'Ah, my son's a Liberal,' she said ruefully.
L nodded.
F frowned and crashed purposefully into him from the side, even though neither of them had the ball.
'Hey!' I applauded the sentiment, if not the action.

I forgot to discuss the election with F this afternoon and now he's gone. The Husband, who spent the afternoon in the back yard with the footy while I worked inside, told me that F was more concerned with the OTHER voting contest this weekend.

'He was very grumpy,' he laughed. 'He said I hate Natalie. I told him that wasn't nice, so he said I hate the voting public.'

On the contrary, I rather love them right now.


There's only one 'Still Not Happy John' sticker left on our fence this morning.

I'm not sure if it's due to sabotage or souveniring, but I hope it's the latter.

I'm leaving the last one up, out of curiosity, just to see if that one disappears too.


At 10am yesterday morning, our newsagent had sold out of The Sunday Age - simply unheard of, in my experience. Someone else was asking after it at the same time as me, and the newsagent suggested we try the supermarket.

I sped down the road ahead of my rival, picturing us both in the race for one last newspaper. Didn't I feel silly when I arrived to find a big pile in the doorway?

I bought The Herald Sun, too. Again. Second time this year. It's good to see how the Other Side are reacting.

Over my morning coffee, sitting in the weak morning sun in the window of an Anderson Street cafe, no less than four people tried to take my paper, not realising I'd bought it.

It's so nice to see people so interested and engaged with politics again. Here's hoping it lasts past the initial buzz of this weekend.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

The sweetest victory of all

So, they actually did it.

I’m so excited I can’t think straight. (Still.)


One of my favourite moments from the election coverage was when ‘Red’ Kerry O’Brien said ‘In Bennelong, it looks like the ABC is leading ... I mean the ALP is leading ...’ Pause. Red face. ‘I guess that had to happen at some point tonight.’

I got all teary when the cheering broke out at ABC headquarters when it first looked like Maxine was actually going to win it. Seriously, how proud would you be of your former colleague?

Imagine it: Maxine McKew, Minister for Communications. (Even though she’s strongly hinted she’d like Education.) Imagine the collective sigh of relief at ABC headquarters.

I predict that this forthcoming book will be a bestseller. I know I want a copy.

And Peter Garrett, Minister for the Environment. Surely he’s going to show his true colours now that he’s in the job. That's if he gerts it, I suppose. It seems that he might not. Though I don't know how one stupid, ill-timed joke disqualifies him as Minister for the Environment. I read in the SMH that they think he might lose that one but get Minister for Indigenous Affairs. That would be pretty good, too. Can't he have both?!

I have to admit that I’m more excited by Maxine (yes, I know it’s not 100 per cent confirmed, but ...) and Peter Garrett (fingers crossed) than by Kevin the conquering hero himself. I reserve my judgement until he starts work.


How about that speech? He’s certainly no Keating in the orator stakes. He’s a great speaker – a natural – smooth, polished, exuding ‘ordinary bloke’ humility. He wears his erudition lightly. Much more so than the famously ‘prolix’ Kim Beazley. But he speaks from the head, not the heart. There’s no passion, no clever wordplay. His message is tailored for the ‘everyone’ he promises to govern for.

When he opened with ‘I will govern for all Australians’, my heart sank. Talk about ‘me too’. But then he followed it up with his own ‘dog whistle’, this time aimed at us, the chardonnay left. ‘For indigenous Australians. For those who have come here from other countries.’ Phew. Didn’t like the schtick about national security. Didn’t like the suck-up to America. But it’s all part of the reassurance game, I suppose. I did like the fact that he said he would act urgently on climate change. And the education revolution is wonderful in theory. Here’s hoping it includes properly paid educators and the return of a workable public school system.

I guess times have changed. I guess Latham proved that ‘mainstream Australia’ doesn’t want a passion-fuelled Keating. Speeches that read like poetry are SO 1993-1996.

I think Kevin 07 and his team have some massive opportunities. One of them is the rare window they have to fix the big problems in our federal system. Imagine if they actually work together with the state Labor governments to rebuild public health and education without playing the traditional blame game. They probably have a very limited time-frame in which to do it.


Oh, and Julia Gillard, second most powerful person in the country. A woman. A genuine lefty. Living a few train stations away from me. Bless her and her empty fruit bowl.

That was the other big emotional moment for me last night, seeing her finally, cautiously, embrace victory, with tears in her eyes.


Of course, this, really TRULY the sweetest victory of all, is not one for the true believers. It’s the one for the battlers who have returned to the Labor fold.

I’ll be interested (and nervous) to see how the ALP goes about keeping them without alienating its progressive wing.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Election day nerves

I'd prefer 'Bob Brown for PM', but I'm operating in the realms of reality.

I planned to spend today getting stuck right into some work I’ve been procrastinating about. Work that involves a lot of thinking. Work that is due in one week.

But, of course, I can’t think.

Not about work, anyway. I didn’t realise just how nervous and excited I was about this election until this morning.


Drag myself out of bed, after several not-so-subtle proddings from The Husband over the past hour. While he is stirring his breakfast rice porridge, I decorate our white picket fence with a row of ‘Still Not Happy John’ stickers from my desk drawer. I am rather fetchingly clad in my pyjama top and last night’s straggly ponytail.


Get dressed in my traditional election-day outfit: a Mambo tee shirt I bought in 2001 that says ‘Mambo Super Chump’ on the front, with a caricature of John Howard’s head atop a lollipop stick on the back.

Read The Age online. Worry about the late surge to the Coalition. Dismiss it. Worry about it again.


The Husband and I walk the matter of metres to the nearest polling booth. We pass Nicola Roxon on the way. The Husband points at her as she heads away, presumably on her way to the next stop.
‘Look, it’s Nicola Roxon’ he says.
She must hear him, because she waves at us and calls out a hello.
‘Good luck today!’ I shout, full of confidence - and pride that my local member has bested Tony Abbott recently.
‘Thanks!’ she calls back, and disappears.

It strikes me, as I bask in the warmth of our little exchange, that a friendly encounter with your local MP really could sway a swinging voter, wrong though that seems. On Insight yesterday I watched a fifty-something man talk about how he’d decided to vote for Kevin Rudd after seeing him on Rove and deciding he seemed a ‘good bloke’. A man beside him nodded agreement. Bizarre, but good, I guess. For ‘our team’, if not for what it says about Australian voters.

The Husband and I follow our election ritual of heading straight for the Greens representative and taking a how-to-vote card, pointedly and rather snootily refusing the Liberals’ volunteer.

There is already a long line, snaking across the asphalt and towards the playground, past the card tables piled with boxes of old books for sale and a wicker basket full of food, wrapped in cellophane: a raffle prize.


I cast my vote. And yes, I fill out the Senate card ‘below the line’, all bloody 68 preferences. I have no idea who some of these people are, especially the independents.

An elderly lady leans on a cane beside me in the neighbouring booth as I painstakingly fill out my Senate sheet. She peers closely at me, reading what I am doing. I am inexplicably annoyed, as if she is copying my answers on a test.


Woo-hoo! I’ve done it.

We browse the books and I buy six, including two Goosebumps books for F, who has just gotten into them.

On the way out the gate, we follow our other election day ritual, solemnly handing back our How to Vote cards for recycling.


We collect the dogs from home and walk to the monthly Farmer’s Market held nearby in the Yarraville Gardens.

I buy a Fair Trade coffee and a slice of orange and poppyseed cake and eat them on the lawns, while The Husband daringly flaunts the council by-laws and lets the dogs off the lead on the adjacent oval. He walks in circles on the yellowing grass, against the backdrop of rust-red towers of shipping containers and the hum of traffic on Whitehall Road.

The Husband and the dogs join me on the grass and the dogs alternately try to eat my cake and chase a nearby dog, letting off machine gun bursts of staccato barks.

The market throngs with clusters of wandering people, many of them trailing dogs. One woman draws stares with a little white dog perched atop an old-fashioned vinyl shopping trolley.


I stop on the way home to buy the papers. I get The Age, The Australian, The Herald Sun and The Financial Review.

‘You’ve got a lot of reading to do there’ laughs the girl behind the counter at the newsagent.

‘You got all four papers?’ asks The Husband.
‘We need to know how the other side is thinking.’

The main road is much busier than usual. Everyone seems to be lingering outside after they cast their votes.


We run into friends from Seddon outside our house, on their way back from the polling booth. They look at our fence and laugh.

‘What do you think about that?’ my friend, who has known us for about six years, asks The Husband. ‘Are you thinking, why do we always have to make a statement?’
‘No,’ says The Husband, surprised.

The Husband loves making a statement. He particularly enjoys wearing his ‘Free Palestine’ tee shirt to work, in an area where most of his customers are firmly on the side of Israel.

‘It’s very interesting,’ says my friend.

‘I should have got some posters for the Greens and Labor and put them up, too.’
‘Or Dave O’Neill!’ she says. ‘He seems like a nice guy. I just noticed he’s a candidate.’
No offence, I’m sure Dave is lovely, but I’m not going to support him just because he’s a famous nice bloke. I have no idea why he’s standing, or what he stands for.

Their baby stirs in his pram and they say their goodbyes.


We go out for lunch, with an armful of newspapers. The cafes are packed.

At Hausfrau, the table next to us is packed with B-list (maybe C-list?) celebrities, most of them recognisable from from Thank God You’re Here. The one we don't recognise is very loud, as if he wouldn't mind people looking over and realising who he is sitting with. Afterwards, the Husband tells me that Brooke Satchwell accidentally touched his arm.
‘Were you excited?’
I think he might be serious.

‘Nobody touched your arm’ he says.
‘Um, no. How terrible.’
I tell him this would only disappoint me if Hamish Blake was at the table and didn’t touch my arm.

I am still thinking about Hamish Blake touching my arm when The Mother cycles down the footpath towards us, trailing Kujo on a lead. Kujo is so enormous that his head is pretty much in line with her seat.
I look away, across the road. The Husband looks right at her.
‘Hi guys’ she calls out as she passes us.
‘Hi there’ says The Husband.
I say nothing.

‘Wow’ he says.
‘Yeah. I was officially REALLY rude.’
‘I was pretty rude too! Did you hear the way I said hi? It was like I really didn’t care.’
“Oh yes, I heard that.’


We both read the latest political news online.

I do about five minutes worth of actual work.

Then I write a really kind of pointless blog about my day.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Earliest memory meme

Via Eleanor Bloom

I’m pretty sure this is my first memory. It doesn’t add up to much, but here it is.

I have a memory of holding out this stapled book I had made and showing it to my mother. It had two stories in it.

The first one was called ‘Joanne Peg’. It went: ‘Joanne Peg found a worm in the dirt.’ That was the whole story.

The second one was ‘Me and My Friend’. It was a little bit longer. My best friend’s parents had died, so she was coming to live with us forever. ‘Wheee!’ There is a picture of two stick figure little girls joyfully bounding on twin beds, because they are so very happy.

I remember this second story with a kind of retrospective horror that it obviously did not occur to my childhood self that my friend would be devastated rather than pleased if her parents died. That her response would not, in fact, be: ‘Wheeee!’

I was four years old. I was very proud of my book. I can remember the bright texta colour drawings and that I was standing in our cement courtyard in the backyard when I gave it to my mother. It was hot.

I don’t remember my mother’s response. She probably just said it was lovely, I guess. As you do.


The meme doesn’t ask for a second or third memory, but I’ve dredged them up anyway, so ...

I remember being at school, in Prep. I remember that I had very long, very straight hair that hung past my bottom. It took a long time for my mother to brush it for me. I usually wore it in two long plaits, tied with ribbons to match my clothes.

My mother says I came home from my first day of school quite annoyed. My parents are teachers, and I had thought that I was going to teach the other kids. I was shocked, apparently, to discover that I was expected to be one of the taught. I adapted quickly though.

I was very small and very quiet. I had a best friend who lived around the corner from us. We shared the same name. She was tall and, while by no means fat or even chubby, she was a solid girl. They called us Big A and Small A. She was about six months older than me, and it was her job to walk me to and from school. One day she forgot and I waited in the school office for a very long time until my mother came to find me an hour or so later. Big A was in a lot of trouble.

In the playground, I sometimes played Star Wars with the boys. There was only one part for a girl, so I was the only girl allowed to play. It probably helped that I wore my hair in braids, making me a perfect Leia. The raised wooden fort in the playground was our Starship Enterprise. There was only the one Star Wars movie back in those days, so no one knew that Darth Vader was Luke’s father or that Luke was Leia’s sister. At some point in the game, ‘Luke Skywalker’ would kiss me.

There was a girl in my class named B. She had very short, cropped hair and she lived with her grandmother. She was always in trouble and her grandmother was always being called up to the school. One day, sitting next to me in class, she pulled out her scissors and chopped off one of my plaits. I cried and cried.

Another day, B inexplicably went missing. They searched the whole school for her. They rang her grandmother to see if she’d walked home. She hadn’t. The police were called to comb the neighbourhood. My teacher was frantic. After this had been going on for a while, to everyone’s shock, B crawled out from under a desk in the corner of the room, where she had been hiding all that time.

F loves to hear these two stories, and asks for them so often that I have invented a raft of other ‘B’ stories over the years.

I remember sitting in a circle on the carpet one day, the teacher asking us in turn what we wanted to be when we grew up. There were the usual firemen, teachers, nurses, football players and doctors. When it came to me, I quite innocently said that I wanted to be a mother. Everyone laughed. I hadn’t realised that would be funny, and that I was supposed to come up with a ‘real’ job.

F loves that story, too. He said to me one day, quite out the blue, that of course I was a good parent, because I’d always wanted to be a mother, ever since I was a little girl.


I'm supposed to tag at least five people, but I'm going to do the cop-out option instead: if you like the idea of this meme, please do it, and please let me know if you have so I can pop over and read it!

So, the rules are:

1. Describe your earliest memory where the memory is clear, and where "clear" means you can depict at least three details;
2. Give an estimate of your age at the time;
3. Tag five other bloggers with this meme. (Or, do as I did and just extend an open invitation)

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

The kind of person I am

We’re in the car, driving from Yarraville to Richmond. IKEA country.

It’s hot. 37 degrees hot.

I line the burning black leather seat with my denim jacket before I sit. The silver foil windscreen cover stings my fingers as I peel it off for the drive.

My armful of CDs falls beside me with a plastic clatter.

We’ve chosen most of them for F’s tastes. AC DC. Blur. The Beatles. The Verve. (He loves Bittersweet Symphony since Matt Corby sang it on Idol.) I’ve snuck in an ‘oldie but goodie’ of mine, too, one that jumped out at me as I rifled through my CD rack on the way out the door.

We agree to take turns choosing the music. The order, decides F (and we don’t challenge him), is youngest to oldest. So, F goes first. He chooses Back in Black.

I turn to see him listening earnestly, a faint smile hovering at his lips. He is quite still.
‘Are you enjoying that?’
‘He’s a connoisseur, not a headbanger,’ says The Husband.
I glance back again. He is now bobbing back and forth, the dreamy expression replaced by a fierce, slightly self-conscious, expression.

The Husband is right, of course, but F prefers the idea of himself as a headbanger.

‘What will you pick?’ he asks The Husband. ‘You’re the next youngest.’
‘Mum can go next,’ says The Husband. He’s into reggae at the moment and isn’t about to throw that into the mix.
‘Great!’ I settle back with a grin, enjoying the lukewarm breeze in my hair.
‘What will you choose, Mum? I bet I know! I bet it’s Bittersweet Symphony! To get us in the mood for driving.’

I’d mused on this on the way from the house to the car.

‘No,’ I say. ‘I’ve changed my mind.’
‘What? It’s A Long Way to the Top?’ He sounds hopeful.
‘Nope. Something you don’t know.’
‘F, you need to take turns. That’s the rule. That means I can choose whatever I like, not what you want me to choose.’

‘It’s rock,’ I venture, as I fumble for my CD in the pile. ‘It’s good.’

A few beats later ...

‘Do you know what kind of person I am?’
‘No. What kind of person are you?’
‘I’m the kind of PERSON,’ he replies, somewhat imperiously, ‘who when someone TELLS me to like something, WON’T like it.’
‘Ah,’ I say. ‘Are you now?’

He is silent when my song comes on. Not, I think, the silence of the connoisseur.
More like a silent protest.


Earlier that day ...

‘Hey!’ says The Husband. ‘We’re out of dental floss!’
I don’t look up from my newspaper.
‘You’re using it!’
‘Uh huh.’

The Husband got back from his overseas sojourn fanatical about the wonders of daily flossing and preached about it with all the fervour of a Mormon on a train for his first month back.

‘You know what?’ I say, folding down my paper to fix him with a stare. ‘I’m the kind of person who, if you bug me about doing something, if you TELL me to do it, I won’t. You left me alone, so I’m doing it.’


Is it genetics or small ears lurking in hallways? Or both?

Friday, November 16, 2007

Verbal diarrhea (or: how one thing leads to another)

Recently, on a not-so-good day, a work colleague asked me how F is. I don't know her terribly well.
'He's good, thanks' I managed.
'And how's school? Does he like it?'
'Oh, not really.'
'Oh. Why? Is it his teacher?'
'Yes. I hate her.'
'Oh. Is she a yeller, is she?'
'No, she's just a bitch.'
'Yes. The other day I screamed at her. She told me that he wasn't having an emotional week even though F was diagnosed with Asperger's. She rolled her eyes at me.'
I glanced up to see the work colleague, someone I have known vaguely, in a pleasant 'what are you reading now?' kind of a way, for three years or so, looking back at me in blank horror.

I'd said too much.

I'm not sure if I drifted off or she did.

But at least I had a bit of an excuse: I was distressed. I was having a shit few weeks. I was aware, that day, I didn't have my shit together.


Last night, at a work gathering, I got chatting to a newish colleague I've never met before. He's been there for months, but as I'm so incredibly rarely in the office, our paths had never crossed. He seemed nice. We fell fairly easily into one of those bantering chats about nothing much.

Someone asked if I wanted a sandwich. I politely demurred. Another colleague, a very close friend of many many years who I can say anything to, made a joke.
'You didn't see them being made?'
I laughed.
The new colleague raised an eyebrow.

'I have a thing about sandwiches' I admitted. 'I can't eat them unless I see them being made. Or if I make them myself. And I can't eat unmelted butter. There's probably butter in them.'
'Is it a trust thing?' asks New Colleague.
He knows someone who can't eat anything unless they see it being made, can't even have pre-mixed drinks, but is fine if the food/drink is prepared by someone they really trust.
'No. It's because I don't like it being soggy. At all. I have to make it in a special way, like with lettuce on the outside, protecting things like tomatoes from touching the bread and making it soggy. And that way I know it's fresh.'
'Ah.' He makes another joke about his friend.
'Oh, well, I can still one-up you on that' I said breezily, buoyed by approximately three sips of wine. 'My dad went through a stage where he couldn't eat anything that wasn't prepared by my mother.'
'Was it a trust thing?'
'No. I don't think so. He's just very fussy and said that he knew she knew how to make things just the way he liked them.'
'That must be a problem.'
'Oh no, it's not like that's all he ever ate. He sometimes ate out I guess, at places he knew he liked. It was just most of the time.'
'I think that sounds like a trust thing.'
'No. Once mum left him ingredients to make a pizza and he made it and then he threw it out because it didn't taste right. That can't have been trust. She chose the ingredients. And it was himself.'
'So it was his way of getting her to do everything for him?'
'I don't think that was it.'
'So he washed his own clothes and stuff?'
'Hmmm, no. Not really. Once, while my mum was in hospital, he woke my sister at 6am to ask how to use the washing machine.'
'He looks after himself fine now.'
'What happened?'
'Well, they separated.'
'So, that's how he got over it?'
'No. I think he just did somehow. I don't live in the same state as them, so I'm not sure what happened. I just went back for a visit and he wasn't doing that anymore.'
'So did he leave her or did she leave him?'
'Kinda both. I dunno. I guess they just grew apart. Or something.'

Pause. Silence.

'I'm going to get another drink' said New Colleague.

I turned to Longstanding Friend. We looked at each other.

'I think I just scared him away' I said. 'I have no idea how or why I just told him all that.'

We laugh. Longstanding Friends are a Very Good Thing. They know you are crazy and they love you anyway.

* NOTE: If you read this, sorry dad! It's not you, it's me. Really. I know you're now a whiz in the kitchen and with the washing machine.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Disturbing things I've heard in the last 24 hours

1. Next stop: Werribee

From a high school teacher I know. The latest thing in schools is for kids to video each other doing humiliating things and send the videos around on their mobiles. DETAILS ERASED AT REQUEST OF SAID TEACHER>

2. Rosemary's baby

My friend was unavailable for lunch today because she was meeting with some people who approached her in a cafe because they want to use her baby (aged around 4 months) in a film. A HORROR FILM. She's not sure about it, but is meeting them for lunch anyway. She's an impeccable parent, so I'm sure she won't be agreeing to have him doused in fake blood and cast as the devil's spawn or the subject of a child sacrifice. It's just so incongruous. 'Excuse me, I'd like to cast your baby in a horror film.' I have to admit it made me laugh. A lot.

Friday, November 09, 2007

My son rocks!

I have done terrible things with Photoshop to erase F's identity, but I just had to share this picture.

Sometimes as a parent, amidst all your despairing and wringing of hands, a moment comes that is just so perfect, so proud, that all the crap is blown away, at least for a while, and you're left with a warm glow in its place.

Those moments are usually pretty banal to the casual observer. A certain hug, a particularly unusual or amazingly apt observation, an exchange witnessed.

Tonight, this was mine.

This time last year, F's friend was picked up from our place en route to the school music concert, put on by and for students of the music program. F begged for us to tag along. I wasn't doing anything special, so agreed. He sat through the concert riveted. He sang along to the songs, clapped and cheered, and at the end, announced that he wanted to join the music program. He wanted to be on that stage next year. I didn't take him that seriously, but he remembered when school started this year.

In fact, since that concert a year ago, when a trio of his schoolmates brought the house down playing ACDC's 'TNT', he has developed a passion for rock music and ACDC in particular. ('Mum, I think I prefer the classics to recent music,' he told me today as we rode to the music concert. 'I think ACDC is better than Sneaky Sound System, after all.')

Tonight, I watched as he once again sat riveted to all the performances. He cheered on his friends. He even counselled a couple of them about stage fright (he assured them that they would 'be great once they got on the stage'). During his song, 'Hit the Road Jack', he unexpectedly stood up out of his seat during his guitar solo and proceeded to rock it out, applying lashings of stage presence. During the group song that followed, he stood beaming beside a friend (the one who is not allowed to play with him anymore, yet spent the concert by his side, giggling and chatting excitedly) and sang along with great gusto, dancing and swinging his hips in the front row.

This is such a turnaround for the boy who has always been reluctant to join group activities and performances. And seeing the way he mixed with the other kids so easily and with such reciprocal affection has made my day and will carry me right through the weekend.

At the end of his number, I stood up and he gave me a high-five, then leapt off the stage to give me a hug, before running to join his friends on the floor for the final, group performance.

After the show finished, he jumped around with a couple of friends for a while, beaming as a few grown-ups (and a couple of kids) approached him to congratulate him on his passionate solo.

Then, he hunted down his music teacher to solemnly thank her for teaching him 'Hit the Road Jack'.

'You did a really good job. You did well,' he said.
'Yes, you did do well.'
'No, he was saying YOU did well. To teach him,' I said.
'Oh. Thank you, F.'

F loves his music teacher and so do we. She has been nothing but encouraging and has stoked his enthusiasm for the subject and, by way of gentle encouragement, got him to the stage where he is confident to tackle new and hard things, and even perform them in public.


There is a teacher's aide in F's classroom who works part-time with two students who have special needs. (Not at all with F, I might add.) She is a really lovely woman and adds a much-needed touch of warmth to the classroom. I have seen her comfort F on a couple of occasions. This afternoon when I picked F up from school, she was in charge of the classroom for the afternoon. F's friend pulled his mother and I in.
'Sorry,' said the mother. 'L invited us in.'
'COme IN!' she said. 'The more the merrier!'
The class was laughing and joking and having a marvellous time. She was telling them how wonderful the music program sneak peek had been that afternoon and that she just might come to the concert.

Well, to my amazement, she came. She was the only teacher (other than the music teachers) to do so. At the end, she made a point of walking over to F and shaking his hand and congratulating him on his performance.


I am absolutely delighted that F has such great teachers, even if they are not his classroom teacher.

It's not only your kids who do small, perfect things that make you happy to be alive.

(Rotten) apple for the teacher

Wednesday night, I went to see the psychologist who diagnosed F to talk about my 'issues' in dealing with the whole thing. The most concrete useful thing to come out of it was her suggested plan of action for dealing with F's teacher - to WRITE HER A LETTER of apology. Short, sharp, to the point. A way of avoiding me losing my cool again.

I did it and delivered it yesterday. Okay, it was delivered to her desk in an envelope, as she was away. Pretty much 'sorry for yelling, we have been through a very tough time as a family but that was no excuse, I hope we can return to working together for F's benefit'.

Today, I drew together all my courage and prepared to re-enter F's classroom to listen to kids read.

Dear little F was so eager for me to come back that he took it into his head to pop into the classroom and ask her 'is my mum welcome in the classroom?' and pop his head back out, shouting 'MUM! SHE SAID YOU'RE WELCOME IN THE CLASSROOM! COME IN!' as I sat on the benches outside talking to two other parents.

I spent Friday morning assembly talking to a friend, a mum with a kid in F's class, and another parent I'd never really met before, who - as it turns out - had same teacher for her sons, who have special needs and are on the autism spectrum. She loathed the teacher for the same reasons I do. Interesting. When I told her I'd lost my temper she said 'I'm sure you're not the only one. And if you were, she had it coming!'

After assembly, I slunk into the classroom. And the teacher, while perfectly polite in the words she used, was a complete and utter bitch to me. Flinty. Eyes like shards of ice. Shooting orders at me. A perfunctory 'thank you' at the end, said with no warmth or feeling whatsoever. And, instead of letting me call out kids in the order I choose, as I've done all year, she's told me that from now on I'm only to listen to the kids with the most difficulty, who actually need help. Not that that would really be a problem, in principle. It's the timing of the announcement. (And the fact that that means I can no longer listen to my son read, the reason I'm in there.) She wants to put me in my place. And to dissuade me from coming back.

Fuck her.

I got home thinking that was such an unpleasant and faintly degrading experience, I would never come back again.

But I'm not there for her, I'm there because F likes it. And if my presence makes her uncomfortable and she wants me gone, then I will not give her the satisfaction.

Only six weeks to go. God, I hate school.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Closing the big can of crazy

Not much to report the last couple of days, but that's good. It's great.

The big can of crazy that was recently cracked open is starting to close again.

I wrote a book review and submitted it. I've nearly finished re-reading and noting an 800+ page book for my next review, due by week's end.

I cooked dinner tonight.

Today, I spoke to the school psychologist on the phone to update her on the F situation and DIDN'T CRY.

This week's task: Speak to F's teacher and apologise for yelling (but only for yelling).