Archive for the ‘Philosophy’ Category

International Women’s Day

International Women’s Day is today, March 8th.  I thought it would be nice to celebrate by looking at some inspirational women.

RitaThe reality is that the best and quickest way to decrease population, therefore decreasing environmental problems and increasing standards of living, is to educate future mothers.  The more women know, the more they empower themselves and take control of their reproduction and production.  There are many Ritas who have had the guts and opportunity to educate themselves and develop their own voices, but there are many others who need and deserve help and support.

Benazir Bhutto, Mary Robinson, Mary MacAleese, Corazon Aquino – A sample of the women who have reached high political office.  We struggle to get equal numbers or rights in parliaments, it is inspirational that some women can reach the highest levels.

Marie Curie – Of course I have to have a scientist in here!  She worked with her husband in a little shed doing hard physical labour to process ore and isolate radioactive elements.  There were actually many woman scientists at the time but they were only credited with the data collection and illustration, not the qualifications and theories.  Marie Curie was an exceptional woman who had the good luck but also the tenacity and brilliance to be recognised.

Jane Austen – Such acute insight, psychology and reflection in such an unassuming package.  Read her books.  Think about them.  Marvel how well she understood people, the depth and complexity she manages with seemingly simple subjects.  And above all, enjoy them and introduce her to your daughters.  She’s still around 200 years later, somehow I don’t think Stephanie Meyer will be.

Mothers of children with special needs – Mothering is the most important and toughest job there is.  How much tougher it must be with a child who has extra needs.  How much tougher to try to be fair to other children.  How much tougher to find time to look after yourself and your other relationships.  I have no doubt there is also so much joy and love, I don’t see it as a constant sacrifice.  And I am certain there are bad days and things they don’t get right and things they feel bad about or wish they hadn’t done.  But I am humbled by women who do something harder than the thing I find the hardest – mothering.

Breastfeeding Counsellors – I’m sure they don’t always get it right.  I’m sure there are times when personality is wrong, or they make a mistake, or their answer isn’t what the woman ringing wants to hear, or maybe there is no answer.  But mothers of young children who volunteer to answer phone calls at 2am purely to support other mothers are very special women.  As women we have a tendency to pull each other down or not value each other enough.  Volunteers of all types, and especially volunteers who are there for other women, are inspirational.

Who inspires you?

I don’t want my kids to be nice

or good.  Definitely not.  You see ‘nice’ and ‘good’ are not actually nice and good things to be.  They’re about oppression, and definitely a feminist issue seeing most pressure to be nice is on, and comes from, women.

How can I say this?

‘Nice’ is the woman who is working herself into the ground because she can’t say no to another job.

‘Good’ is the little girl at the back of the class who’s being pinched, but won’t say anything because she’s been told to be quiet and taught not to make a fuss.

‘Nice’ is biting your lip while people say things that are rude or nasty.

‘Good’ is allowing other people to judge my behaviour, not myself.  It is living in a constant guessing game and being scared to do anything in case I get it wrong.

‘Nice’ is not standing up for yourself, and putting everyone else’s needs ahead of your own.

No.  I definitely don’t want my kids, and especially my daughters, to be nice.  And unfortunately they, and I, will almost certainly cop criticism for it.  But I’d rather be criticised than bully my own children.

There are other things far more important (in no particular order).

  1. Polite – especially when you are going to disagree with someone, it’s still important to be polite and give them the same rights you expect.
  2. Kind – being kind is completely different to ‘nice.’  Kind is telling someone (politely) when they’re hurting other people, ‘nice’ is letting them get away with it so you don’t upset them.  Of course it includes all the other types of kindness, being helpful but with limits.
  3. Assertive – very different to aggressive, but it seems to be so rare they get confused.  But we all need to be able to stand up for ourselves.  How can the world change if we allow injustice to continue?
  4. Assertive for others – I wasn’t sure what to label this, but sometimes we need to stand up for others too.
  5. Compassionate – An important one, but hard.  I can be compassionate and sympathetic, which means supporting someone and feeling for their situation.  But it also includes being kind and calling them on it if necessary, not letting them get away with things.  As an extreme example, we all know about the cycle of abuse.  A child who is abused definitely needs our compassion.  But if they grow up and abuse others, are they no longer worthy?  To me, it’s not compassion if it comes with limits.  It doesn’t change, they are still deserving of our support and our understanding, and still need us to call them out on what they are doing wrong.
  6. Questioning – I don’t want them to accept something purely because it comes from authority.  Of course, knowing when to question is the trick!
  7. Curious – This is a source of so much joy, and I want them to have a joyful life.  Discovering, investigating, noticing what is around them.
  8. Reflective – Know thyself!  So much of what we dislike in others is a reflection of ourselves, I want them to be constantly thinking about what they have done, and thought, and said, and how it impacts on others.  Be open to criticism and willing to change, if they think the criticism is right.
  9. Generous – How can we live together as a society if we don’t help each other?
  10. Persistent – Don’t give up, keep trying.  Whether it is to understand something, or finish, or find a new friend, or understand why on earth people do that.  And don’t retreat into your comfort zone.
  11. Independent – Be able to stand on your own.  It doesn’t mean you have to, but if you do you’ll be OK.
  12. Confident – This is about self-worth.  About knowing that your opinion and experiences are as valuable as other peoples’.
  13. Gracious – Pick your battles.  In spite of being confident and independent and assertive and reflective, you don’t have to have the last word.  There are times you will never convince others, even if it is hurting them or someone else.  So have the grace to withdraw and allow them to continue.

Of course, I would absolutely love them to have wisdom, which is how you know if you’re doing all the rest!  But I think that one will take a lot of time and experience to develop.

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13 ways in which I am priveleged

Thursday 13

  1. White
  2. Well-educated
  3. Middle – upper middle class
  4. Heterosexual
  5. Able
  6. Never been abused
  7. Cis (not transgender)
  8. Financially independent
  9. Accessible communications technology
  10. Married
  11. English speaker
  12. Healthy
  13. My immediate family are healthy

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Putting things away when you finish

I love the theory – I mean it’s so simple.  When you finish playing with something you put it away before you get the next thing out.  I’ve tried to enforce this since the beginning, first me then the girls when they could get the concept.  But 4 years on, my house is covered in half-done jigsaws, textas with or without lids, pull along toys and lots of little bits and pieces.  My kitchen floor is a graveyard of soft toys, fridge magnets, wipe cloths and little plastic containers.

Some of this is ‘good mess’ – the soft toys are there because the little girl knows she has to let go of whatever she has when she climbs or she’ll fall off, the wipe cloths are because both girls are really good at cleaning up spills and can’t get into the laundry to put them in the wash afterwards.  Some of it is the house – the plastics cupboard doesn’t close and is very high traffic, so all the little bits fall out then get kicked around.  Some is just the result of little kids – they love playing with the fridge magnets but of course that involves taking them off and they never seem to all go back on.  There are always clothes on the bathroom floor because they toilet independently, but can’t (or don’t bother to) get their undies and bottoms back on afterwards and I don’t know until later.

It seems that we generally start a new activity inspired by the last one, and stopping to put things away would ruin the flow.  Or if I’m really honest, I don’t think of it until later and then I don’t want to interrupt them when they’re concentrating/being creative/playing beautifully together.  And it’s causing fights with the big girl – every time she asks to get something out the answer is “As soon as you’ve cleaned the last one up” and she DOES NOT WANT TO.  She’s not going to get away with that, but I’d rather avoid the fights because it’s not a pleasant way to spend the morning.  (I went to play floor dominoes with the girls this morning and they were in their bedroom.  I asked why they were in there not the living room and the answer was “We don’t want to clean up there before we’re allowed to play.”)

Five minute clean ups at the end of the day work the best so far, but then I still spend the day stepping on small things with lots of corners, the girls skid on paper and hurt themselves, textas are left without lids, and vital pieces mysteriously vanish.  We’re reasonable and getting better at having homes for everything – there’s a box or a shelf they are supposed to be on, but not everything makes it back and as the day goes on we progressively drown.  Then it’s such a hassle getting the girls to bed that I just flake out and seeing napping is a bit disastrous/non-existent it’s my first break of the day and I want to get some of my stuff done, so every day starts a bit further behind.  My darling husband on weekends keeps the house ticking over.

I think after 4 years it’s time to admit the truth – I’m not going to remember to pack things away as soon as they’re done with.  It would be nice, it would be efficient, it would be easier.  But it hasn’t happened so far and I can’t see that changing.

So what do other people do?  Do you have really good memories?  Do you have extreme limits on toys?  (We don’t have limits as such, but a lot are packed away where they don’t remember them and we rotate.) Do you let it go then clean it all up afterwards?  I really need a system, I’m completely open to suggestions.

TV – Postpone and magnify

I’m happy with the way we use TV, so this post isn’t to get into that whole debate.  But I’ve noticed something in the last few weeks and it’s getting beyond coincidence.

We don’t watch much TV.  The big girl used to have a DVD while her sister was ‘napping,’ it was on, she’d have another activity as well.  Now she’s at preschool at that time, but DH often puts on a MacGuyver DVD before or after dinner (does that date us?).  So we’re only talking an hour or two a day, which makes her behaviour really noticeable.  TV doesn’t relax her or calm her down, except temporarily.  It postpones and magnifies.  So if she is tired and I pop on a movie on Friday afternoon, she happily watches and then she’s exhausted.  If she’s upset when something goes on she’ll calm down and watch, but when it finishes she’s beside herself.

I think it would be waaaaay too simplistic to blame TV itself – there are all sorts of other dynamics going on.  I mean if she’s tired and stays up an extra hour to watch something, of course she’ll be exhausted.  And if she’s upset and I really really need to cook dinner rather than being with her, of course she’ll be more upset later.  And if she’s happy before something goes on there’s really no problem.

It’s more an interesting thing I’ve noticed that I’m throwing out there as food for thought.  For us, it’s meant that I’m now very careful when to use TV.  If I think she’s overtired, I’ll do something quiet with them instead.  If she’s upset, the same.  I haven’t come up with a solution for getting dinner done, looks like I need to produce more leftovers for use in emergencies!  Or I suppose I could be organised?

Having a shower by myself – saying yes to me

It doesn’t sound that momentous.  And it’s not as if showering with the girls is difficult – they sit in the bath, I pass them the occasional toy and they play together.  But last weekend I got quite a bit of me-time while sewing the shirred dress, even if it was in 10 minute blocks!  So when my husband offered to distract the girls so I could shower by myself, my first instinct was to say that’s fine, I’m OK.

But is OK enough?  Why don’t I deserve the time to be good, great, fantastic?  Unfortunately it comes down to one word – guilt.

I’ve managed to convince myself I have to be a perfect parent or I’m hurting my kids.  This is wrong and I know it intellectually.  I know that there is no such thing as a perfect parent.  I know that kids have done very well over the years in less than ideal conditions and they’re pretty tough.  I even know that something like books and reading (for example) are incredibly new and people have learnt to use them without being read to for an hour a day from birth.  When it’s an individual example like that I’m perfectly rational.  But in my day to day emotions there’s always something I should be doing, or doing better, or worst of all not doing.

And in the rare cases where something goes wrong!  I’m extremely lucky and I know it, I have two healthy, happy little girls.  But between their sleep (or lack thereof) and their speech (big girl had a moderate delay which seems to be resolved, little girl is following in her footsteps) it seems that at least once a day I ask what on earth I’m doing wrong.  How did I create this sleep problem?  What have I neglected that has stopped them from talking?  How (why!) did I make them so clingy?

You can see the problem right there in that paragraph – the good things are due to luck, the bad things are all my fault.  And that turns into guilt.

I don’t know how I developed this attitude.  Probably a lot of things contributed, I’m a bit of an overachiever and a lot of a control freak, and there’s just so much information out there!  I’m not going to write a list because I don’t want to scare anyone else, but I managed to turn all sorts of things from extra bonuses into needs.  Rather than thinking how ‘lucky’ my kids are because they get so many extras on top of being happy, healthy and secure, or even (shock!) what a good job I might be doing, I’ve turned it around to say I’m doing a lousy job because they’re missing out.

It’s irrational.  I know it, but I can’t seem to help it.  And it’s not doing me or my kids any good as I stumble along near the edge.  Isn’t that sad – I’m realising I have to stop chasing unattainable perfection not because it’s impacting on me, but on my parenting.  Just shows how trapped I am.  So this is the first step.  When my husband offers me a shower all on my own, I’m going to take it even if I’ve had some me-time.  I’m going to keep track of me-time to make sure I actually get it and know that I get it.  And I’m writing it down so I can see how silly it is, and maybe start to believe it.

13 Things I’ve Learnt From My Children


Thursday 13

1.  You aren’t going to walk straight away, so get really good at standing and the walking will happen.

2.  Take time to smell the roses, and the grass, and look at the ants, and the caterpillar, and oh look!  There’s a dead leaf!

3.  Sometimes you need a really good cry.

4.  Just because this part of the slide is hot doesn’t mean it all is, so check it all out.

5.  The world won’t collapse if you write your S backwards.

6.  When you’re happy to see someone, race out, give them a hug and tell them.

7.  When you’re throwing a tantrum you forget what you were originally after.

8.  When you’re pushing someone on a swing, you have to keep stepping back as they get higher.

9.  It’s a really different world when all you can see are knees and shoes.

10.  If someone tickles you on the stomach, giggle and tickle them back.

11.  Sometimes you need to tell the seeker where you’re hiding.

12.  Even if you copy someone completely you won’t be just like them.

13.  Forgive and forget – stewing over it only hurts you, not them.

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Thoughts on Australia Day

It seems an appropriate time to announce I’m back, although since I don’t have any follow-ups organised I might regret it!

When I was a kid we went for barbecues on Australia Day and I didn’t really think too much about it – it was our national day, when we celebrated how lucky we were to live in Australia.  As I got older and learnt more history it started to bug me – the 26th of January is the beginning of a penal colony in NSW.  What does it have to do with the rest of Australia?  It wasn’t even a viable colony – that had to wait for the arrival of the second fleet which had the women on board.  And it certainly had nothing to do with the two thirds of the continent that isn’t in the East.  As a good little West Aussie school girl I was taught about the settlement of Albany – which was done in order to claim WA before the French could.  So obviously it hadn’t been claimed back in 1788 and the 26th of January is irrelevant in WA.

In uni I started learning more about Aboriginal people and it got worse.  I’ve lived and worked in Aboriginal communities for 12 years now, so I’ve heard a lot of first hand stories about the impact of white settlement.  The missions, the stolen generation are only part of it – I’ve been to the site of massacres and been privileged to walk the path of both people expelled from Moola Bulla station in the Kimberley and the Gurindji walk-off led by Vincent Lingiari, two pivotal events in the history of Australian race relations.  Interestingly, I’ve never personally heard an Aboriginal person refer to ‘Invasion Day,’ in my experience it is a phenomenon of the media and politicians.  However I sympathise with the concept.

So what to do?  I’m proud of being Australian.  I want to celebrate all it means to be Australian, I acknowledge that there are injustices and negatives in our past, but this is still a wonderful country that I feel lucky to live in.  But I don’t like celebrating such a negative date, which echoes with injustice to both those who were brought here and those who were already here, and ignores at least two thirds of our geography.

While researching this post I discovered an article from last Australia Day, when the Prime Minister respectfully refused the Australian of the Year, Mick Dodson’s, request to rethink January 26th.  I think the response to this was very sensible – no-one was surprised, as there is a huge weight of tradition behind it, but many people asked for a long and thoughtful conversation on what it means to celebrate Australia Day and when we should do it.  I agree that it cannot be a quick change, it is too important for that, but this is the beginning of my contribution to the discussion.  I hope that it will be ongoing and that reasoned and gentle resistance will eventually result in both a date and a sense of mature nationhood that all Australians can celebrate.  Let NSW celebrate the 26th of January in the same style as Foundation Day (WA), Territory Day (NT!) and the others, and let Australia have a new day important to us all.

Ideally I would like to celebrate Federation Day, for the day we became one nation, but I can see that the 1st of January is going to be a non-starter!  So here are my other suggestions.  I have purposely excluded Sorry Day, I feel this is extremely important but hardly a day of celebration and shouldn’t be a holiday.

  • While Australia officially became a federation on January 1st, our first parliament opened on May 9th 1901, so one candidate is Parliament Day, to celebrate the beginning of our government as one democratic nation.
  • The 1967 constitutional referendum did not, in fact, grant Aboriginal people citizenship, but it was an extremely significant event for both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Australians.  Aboriginal people successfully asserted themselves and non-Aboriginal people acknowledged their rights, at least symbolically.  So the 27th of May could become Referendum Day, a day to include all Australians.
  • Perhaps it’s a trifle ambitious to want two days, but it would be nice to acknowledge two of our strengths – free and open government, and working to become a united, fair nation.  Since two dates in May are a bit close together, my last suggestion is the day on which the Constitution Alteration (Aboriginals) Act, 1967 was proclaimed, the 10th of August.  This is the legislation made possible by the referendum; it was supported by both parties and passed all three reading for both houses in only one day.  So for me it represents the best our parliamentary system can be, working together carrying out the will of the people for the good of all Australians.

I hope you agree with me that Australia is a wonderful place to live.  I hope that, for you, there are more positives even while we acknowledge the negatives.  And I hope that, whether you agree or disagree with me, we have the maturity as a nation to engage in a positive and respectful conversation about when and how to celebrate our nationhood.  And if you agree with me, I hope that we can eventually move beyond conversation to action, and effect real change we can all be proud of.

(I do actually have something planned for tomorrow, but I’ll be a little busy.  You’ll have to wait and see why!)

13 Steps to Making a Crown

My big girl wants a crown for Christmas.  It’s all she’s asked for, and she’s asked several times!  You could do this in less that 13 steps, but then how would I use it for this post?

1.

2. 

It’s made of felt.

3. 

4. 

I’ve never used a hot glue gun before, this cost about $5 from a $2 shop and was very easy, although the glue comes out really hot!

5. 

I used a darning/embroidery foot to sew them on just to see how it went.  You could easily hand sew them, especially if you wanted it neat.  I was after a more casual look.  The needle picked up a fair bit of glue as well.

6. 

I hand sewed the beads with bead thread which is far stronger than normal cotton, then glued them as well.  Probably paranoid, but I’ve seen the way my toddler treat things!

7. 

Another play with the hot glue gun, I had some glitter glue.

8. 

Cut out a large piece of material for a head band (remember the measurement?).  Make sure it is a few centimetres longer than your head measurement and double your elastic width plus a couple of centimetres.  This one is about 57cm long and7cm wide.

9. 

Sew along the long sides to make a tube and turn it right side out.

10. 

Sew the tube to the crown, leaving a couple of centimetres at one end.  I glued it first so I didn’t have to pin it.  This material has a bit of stretch so I stretched it out when I was gluing it down, so when it is being stretched around their heads it doesn’t pull the felt.

11. 

Sorry for the horrible composite photo.  It is trying to show that I have threaded the elastic into the long end of the headband up until the crown, then sewn it down at that end.

12. 

Stretch the elastic comfortably so it goes the length of the headband, then sew the end and cut off the spare elastic.

13. 

Fold it around to those spare couple of centimetres you left on the other side and attach.  I put it inside the other end of the tube and sewed over it lots of times.

Tahdah!  Little sister wouldn’t try it on, so no photos of it on until Christmas!

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13 Little Luxuries

  1. A long, hot shower.
  2. Sweet, fresh grapes.
  3. Buying a block of the good Swiss chocolate.
  4. Wearing perfume.
  5. Sitting still and watching my children play together.
  6. Sleep for longer than a 3 hour stretch.
  7. Having the house all to myself for half an hour.
  8. A trip to the library.
  9. Not cooking dinner.
  10. Filing and painting my fingernails.
  11. Getting my family all dressed up to go out.
  12. Buying fabulous fabrics and imagining what to make with them.
  13. Slipping off baby girl’s mattress and sinking into my new mattress and feeling my whole body relax.

The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your Thirteen in others’ comments. It’s easy, and fun!

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