Every fortnight, I donate blood plasma. I’ve been doing it for approximately two years now and I’d like to tell you why.
When I sit in that chair, with a needle in my arm, I’m not donating just blood. I’m donating memories.
Four years ago, my father-in-law was diagnosed with Cancer. In the time he was sick, he had to have countless blood transfusions. These transfusions gave him back to us, time and again. Together with Chemotherapy, Radiation and all the other treatments that come with Cancer, these blood transfusions extended his time with us and for that I will always be grateful. I wish I could track down and hug the people who took the time and effort to donate blood – their momentary discomfort gave us a priceless gift.
I donate blood because, without it, my Baby G would not have known her Bumpa. She would not have memories of him playing the clown at the dinner table. She would not have memories of the deep discussions they had and how he listened intently to all she had to say. She wouldn’t still talk about him cuddling her at bedtime and telling her special stories. She would have missed out on this:
My kids love to laugh. They will go to extraordinary lengths to find things to laugh about and to get a laugh out of hubby and I. So, when I hear giggling behind closed doors, I know they’re up to something.
Yesterday, while driving between one after school activity and another, Little Man asked for some paper and a pen. I obliged, pleased that he wanted to write something. Its been a bumpy start with him, being way more interested in Lego and Star Wars battles than reading and writing, so this new-found interest in pens and paper is a dream come true for me.
As I drove, he wrote. And giggled. And giggled. I asked what he was doing and he said, “Nothing!” followed by an explosion of giggles. Hmmmm. Intriguing.
When we got home, he was out of the car like Usain Bolt and at my door, flashing his cheeky, gap-toothed grin and holding out a folded pile of papers. “What’s this?”, I asked, innocently? “Its a love letter for you, Mummy…”, he replied, hardly containing the hysterical laughter I could see bubbling below the surface.
I unfolded the package and started to read: Read the rest of this entry
Have you ever watched Wife Swap? The basic premise is that two radically different families swap wives for two weeks. The wives don’t know where they are going and the families left behind don’t know know what kind of wife/mother they are getting. What usually happens is this: Wives are interviewed pre-move and tell us how they are going to bring their brilliant ways to the new family and teach them how to live like their family lives. These wives each believe she is perfect and that she is performing an act of generosity and kindness by leading the new family down her ‘enlightened’ path. At this point, I am already addicted. Why? Because, courtesy of some legendary and not-biased-at-all editing, we have had a little glimpse into her
horrific perfect life and stressed-out well-balanced family. Time to settle in for the carnage that will be presented to me over the next half hour.
I have an amazing friend, Marianne. She is a mother of two, a cycling fanatic, a Zen Do Kai Black Belt and at the tender age of 50, she is flying through a degree in Exercise and Sport Science. Her kids (16 and 20) are amazing individuals who have relationships with her that I can only wish for when my kids are their age. They respect her, adore her, trust her and confide in her. In short, she is phenomenal.
Marianne is also a fabulous writer (did I mention her background in journalism? Yes, this is a multi-talented lady) and I have asked her to guest post here, to give us a peek into the future. After all, our little angels are one day going to be teenagers. Here, folks, is a look into the future through the eyes of Mari.
Armpits, hair mud and hot wax.
When I stand up straight and tall, my nose is about level with my 19-year-old son’s armpits. When he teases me about how little I am, and drags me in for a hug, I pretty much disappear. I am eternally grateful that he listens to his mother and scrubs under there, because it’s obvious that some of his mates just hover under the shower and rinse, before clouding themselves in the ubiquitous Lynx deodorant spray. As I’ve grown older, my tolerance for powerful perfumes has declined rapidly and a car-load of Lynxed-up lads has me sticking my head out the window gasping for oxygen. A build-up of body bacteria overlaid with Lynx sets off my pass-the-bucket reflex.
Look on the wall of any kindergarten classroom and you’ll find a list of rules like this:
From the minute they enter the school system, our kids are taught how to be good, play fair, be nice. It’s wonderful and delightful and, well, unrealistic.
I was the mother who mirrored those rules at home. I made damned sure my children said please and thank-you. I always facilitated sharing and turn-taking. We spoke about weapon-words and how to ask for things nicely and how snatching toys was bad. When my children started to fight with one another, I always jumped right in and mediated so they could learn that it’s not necessary to be mean. We did a lot of role-playing.
How very naive. Not to mention short-sighted.
“Why?”, you ask.
Are you aware that you tell your kids this all the time? I did once. I would tell them, “You’re fat, unattractive, unloveable. You are not good enough. I wish you looked like that prettier person over there.”
Shocked? I’ll bet that you do the same. Every day. And you don’t even know it.
Let me explain.
That child of yours looks at you like you’re a superhero, right? To her, you’re the most beautiful, cleverest, strongest person in the whole wide world. EVER. She wants to be just like you because, to her, you are everything. From the time she was little, she mimicked you. She wore bejeweled necklaces and tottered around in your high heels. She painted your lipstick all over her face and looked at herself in the mirror, admiring just how like you she was. She speaks like you, she walks like you. And, as she grows up, she’ll look to you for advice. YOU ARE HER EVERYTHING.
She watches you even when you think she isn’t – especially when you think she isn’t.
She sees you looking in the mirror, grimacing and muttering about your cellulite. She hears you discussing how fat you think you are and how disgusting you think you look in your jeans. She watches you as you eat a piece of chocolate and then admonish yourself for being naughty. She is hyper-aware of the ugly names you call yourself when you make a mistake.
Here’s the thing. She thinks you’re perfect and she aspires to be just like you. If you call yourself – her hero - fat, stupid, ugly and worthless, you’re telling her that even if she manages to reach the pinnacle of perfection that you, in her eyes, are, you will think these things about her. She will learn from you that she will never be good enough. Because you don’t think you are good enough.
I used to be that person – the one who would say horrendous things to myself that I would never say to my worst enemy. Things that I would never let someone say to anyone I love. But somehow, it was okay to say these things to myself. Until, one day, when I was standing in front of the mirror, looking hatefully at myself and my little girl happened to walk in. She saw me looking at myself and said “Mum, why do you look so cross?” She gazed at me like I was an angel. Her eyes were filled with absolute love and admiration. She looked at me like I was the most exquisite person she had ever seen. A light bulb switched on in my head. Why not at least try to start seeing myself the way she sees me? Why not look in the mirror and see myself through kinder eyes.
Things changed after that day. Of course I still see my (multitude of) flaws. Oh, boy, do I see them! But I try my best to eat well, exercise and dress well. I even make it out of the house most days not covered in Vegemite. The difference is that when I look in the mirror, I see someone who has had three kids, who is a devoted mum and wife, who works really hard, who has her own unique talents. I see kind eyes. I see a generous heart. And when my little girl walks in and catches me eyeing out my
saggy spectacular bum, I look at her, smile and say “Don’t I look lovely today?” And, do you know what? She does a cheerful twirl in front of the mirror, smiles a gappy grin and says, “Yes! And I look beautiful, too!”
They don’t always listen to what we say, but they absolutely learn from what we do.
Do you want your child to love herself? Don’t tell her she’s worth it. Tell her you are.
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I realise more and more that I am the Mum I am because of the mother you were. Here are some of the valuable lessons you’ve taught me along the way.
From the time I was born, magic existed in my life. It was first revealed to me when you magically appeared from behind a fluffy blanket in peek-a-boo. I discovered it again in the tiny, glitter-encrusted note from the tooth fairy and the equally glittery trail that she left to the window. (Even when I realized you were the Tooth Fairy, I continued the pretense for the sheer magic it created in my life.) Magic was in the tree at the bottom of the garden, where the tree elves would enjoy the feast my siblings and I had painstakingly set up for them (they left crumbs and a very polite thank you note, suspiciously in your handwriting). I discovered that I could magically make people smile, just by smiling myself. Together, we discovered my inner-magic – my ability to do things I never knew I could, from traversing monkey bars to speaking solo in front of my entire school. I learnt the magic of envisioning something and making it happen. As I grew up, you showed it to me in more sophisticated ways. You showed be by achieving unachievable things yourself. My stay-at-home mom wrote books, plays, television shows and got them published – you showed me by your actions that I, too, could one day make obstacles disappear. Your mantra was always “Show me where it is written that I cant do this.”
I am a passionate person. So are you. You taught be to stand by what I believe, whether it makes me popular or not. I can’t count the number of times I sat on your lap, howling and crying crocodile tears because I had been ostracized for not doing what the cool kids expected of me. You gave me comfort, let me cry and always told me you were proud that I’d chosen the high road that led to your lap, rather than going against my conscience in order to fit in. I learned that sometimes the cool crowd aren’t that cool…sometimes the cool crowd are really the cowardly crowd. You taught me that not only is it okay to be me, it is, in fact, the most important thing in the world. You were never part of a herd and you are fabulous. I learned that my quirks make me fabulous too. Read the rest of this entry