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What a morning.  Saturday mornings at 11 McBean always has his swim lessons – or more like water familiarisation lessons.  He can’t really swim yet.  Most Saturdays Clark takes him, it’s her things she does with him.  This morning she didn’t want to, so I was up.  It’s always somewhat of a drama.  McBean is a high maintenance high energy little man, and it’s never easy corralling him.  More often than not he will bolt from his lesson towards the infant pool, and a life guard will have to retrieve him.  Multiple times.  It can be hellish on a normal day.

This morning was like a Shakespearean comedy, it was one farce after another.

We have a cloth swim nappy for him, so normally get him ready just before leaving home, strip him as soon as we get there and dump him in the water.  This had been going on for a while, without any dramas.  This morning, McBean does a giant pee in the car seat, so he’s completely wet before we even get out of the car.  Consequently so is the car seat.  And then the pusher that I have to transfer him into.

There were no car parks close by the aquatic centre this morning, so we were forced to park in the shopping centre car park and hike all the way back to the aquatic centre.  In the pouring rain.  Getting even more wet.  Bear in mind that this is in street clothes, and I have no other change of clothes for him, because it’s never been necessary before.

We get there with just enough time to get clothes off and into the water, that’s a positive.  But McBean doesn’t want to go to his swim lesson, he wants to go play in the infant paddle pool.  So for the first 10 out of 30 minutes he was whinging and struggling and refusing to cooperate and just generally being a monster.  Finally he calmed down and participated really well, didn’t run off, floated really nicely on his back for a bit, which was a new thing, and generally did really well from then on.  Okay, so that’s a good thing.  Instructor was impressed, commented he did a 10 out of 10 this week, which was nice.

As a reward we went to have a play in the paddle pool.  McBean was having a ball, splashing around, eyeballing all the other kids, jumping on me.  So we’ve been there maybe 10 minutes when he gets the straining face on.  I was like ‘Holy shit’, whipped him straight out of the water, and sure enough he’d pooped in his nappy.  Thank god I was watching him intently, otherwise it could have got really ugly.  I race him off to the change rooms, and of course there are no family change rooms free, so I have to go into the main change room and keep him contained while changing him and myself.

With a messy wet swim nappy.  Lovely.

And somewhere between the pool and change room it seems that he also managed to vomit a little bit, as when I flipped him over on the towel he had a line of puke dribbling down the corner of his mouth.  Don’t even know what happened there.

Oh, all this and then I had to get him back into wet clothes, because that’s all we had.  Noice, very noice.

I nearly collapsed in a heap by the time we managed to make it home.  God I hope nothing like that ever happens again.

Ran into a colleague whist getting a hot chocolate this morning, and I mentioned that I was scared of the results of the election tomorrow, and she turned to me and asked what difference it would really make. I had to pause and think for a moment, and then concede that really, it wouldn’t make a great deal of difference. It certainly doesn’t feel that way, that there’s much of a difference. Both parties are so entrenched and full of conservatives that we’re effectively functioning in the dark ages.
Traditionally I have voted Labour under the guise of it being slightly further left than the extreme right Libs, but this time around I’m finding both parties lacking even more than normal. Maybe it’s just because I’m more politically and socially aware this time around.
I have this entrenched paranoia that the Liberals will be elected, and it drives me insane when I hear swing voter on Insight saying they are leaning coalition. But rationally, eh…
Who are we kidding, thinking this backwards conservative piece of crap country will actually elect a party headed by a woman. They’d rather a crazy right-wing religious wingnut.
Don’t get me wrong in anyway, I damn well want Labour to come through tomorrow, preferably with flying colours and no doubt. My ideal outcome would be that Labour wins, Libs lose seats, Greens win Melbourne and a huge increase of seats in the Senate. Go Greens getting balance of power. And how could I forget, Fielding getting turfed out on his bigoted ass, preferably with the whole Family First party crumbling into the dust.
However, I despair.

I was getting better there with posting, but then I got a call from my previous work and they wanted me to help out for a few weeks.  Seven weeks later and it’s been a little hectic around here.  I feel like I’ve barely got time to breathe anymore.  Also doesn’t help that we are down two computers as both our desktop and netbook went kaputski within the same week and now we’ve commandeered FenFox’s clunky old box to get by.  Bring on our tax return and a new computer!

Lot’s of stuff going on around here.  I am job hunting, not as easy this time around, when I’m looking at part-time and set days each week.  Not much around that fits the bill, and competition is fierce.  There’s the larger overbearing issue of what I am going to do with my life too, still unresolved.

McBean has been through a wildly naughty and traumatic (for us) stage, where he was being a bugger about sleeping, waking up sobbing inconsolably every day and every nap and getting up to as much deliberate mischief as he could manage.  He’s now being lovely and practically angelic (for him), he is a delight to be around which is so very nice.  He’s been to a paediatrician about his delayed speech and she is investigating.  Had his hearing tested, concluded he has adequate hearing for speech development, so we’re now facing a full developmental assessment.  More on that later.  His speech is progressing slowly without further assistance so far, but we’ll see.

FenFox is getting more and more tweeny.  Had a little cry at the breakfast table this morning because the art teacher had “abused” her about her poorly made clay pot, which required a quick pep talk from Clark.  Mostly FenFox is so like R1 that it’s absurd, and then, like this morning, she’ll display an outstandingly Clark-like quality, such as getting upset that she is not good at doing something (like working with clay).  The mind boggles sometimes.  You just have to keep reminding them that in the grand scheme of life, the practical application of making pots by hand out of clay is not so important, and that you just need to move on through these little trials.  They get so bogged down in the minutiae of their lives.

Clark is beavering away at work.  She’s doing a lot of training for child inclusive practice, she’s off to a conference in Darwin in a couple of weeks, she’s got some research ideas for a paper she wants to write.  It’s all happening for her.  Full time is a hard slog though, so I’ll be glad when I finally secure something which means she can drop a day.

Election is upcoming, much discussions about that.  I worry that the mad monk will scrape in, somehow.  No matter who I talk to they are disparaging about him, and yet the polls are still close.  I guess I’m lucky that I don’t associate with the caliber of people who vote Liberal.  Disappointed in JG and her same-sex marriage stance, still hope that she gets in.  What’s the alternative in any case?  Shudder at the thought.

Election night we have plans with close friends, it will be her first time she can vote since recently becoming a citizen and the last time we’ll see them for a very long time, as they are moving to France in a couple of weeks.  We’ve know it was happening for so long, but it feels that it’s snuck up on us, and we’re no where near ready to lose them.  Every time we go over (which is often because FenFox is spending practically every spare moment with her best friend before she goes) the house is emptier and emptier, and it becomes more bleak and real.  Hopefully at least the election will be good news, so we can bid them farewell without the specter of the mad monk and the xtian right hanging over the country.

Tween music

Parenting conundrum no. 7583: how much to regulate the pre-teen’s musical choices. any ideas?

This was my status on FB a few days ago, and it led to some interesting conversation with some friends (most of whom are bloggy friends).  I thought I’d reproduce the discussion for posterity, and so I can look back on it when FenFox is more grown up and laugh at my own naïveté!

Owlie:
As a pre-teen that was always obsessed (and still is) with music I say don’t regulate. Just show an interest in what she likes and ensure you know the content-I.e if it is overtly sexual, violent or just has awful messages. If you regulate she’ll build up ansgt and Stop telling you what she listens to, and she will find a way to access it. Just my two cents!

Sorenson:
i’m with owlie

Chips:
Me too!

Lazyboo:
I don’t think it’s realistic to compare our experience in youth to the environment FenFox is growing up in now. I think the world is a vastly different place and the level of explicitness in music, film, media etc is vastly higher, not necessarily sexually but in the kind of prejudice and bigotry that I’ve heard, and the ridiculousness of the whole raunch culture as they call it. Also, she’s not that interested in music, it’s a very recent development which I suspect is more peer pressure than genuine regard. We regulate what she watches and reads and will continue to do so, I don’t see how music is any different. There are things like racism, misogyny, homophobia and bigotry that she shouldn’t be exposed to as “entertainment”

Clark:
so our challenge is to decide whether to regulate in terms of the awfulness that Lazyboo outlined or to just pay attention and talk to her about it… we are leaning towards regulating only those things and letting the sexually explicit and violent (sans bigotry) stuff go, even though it makes me cringe to think about her listening to that stuff.

An aunt:
a bit over my head

Clark:
so you guys wouldn’t regulate at all? I see your point, Owlie, about the angst and the not telling us and finding it elsewhere but am still very conflicted about even tacitly approving of such things… we are and will attempt to remain very aware of what she listens to, but am just not sure how I would respond if she did want to listen to something awful. Thanks for your thoughts, it is good to talk it through!

Sorenson:
it’s a really tricky problem (that i obviously haven’t had to face yet!). But i think that you can express very clearly what you think and the reasons why, without actually banning stuff – that is, there doesn’t have to be tacit approval in any way. i agree that the environment now is even more extreme than when we were 12 but this is also the environment that she will be living in for the rest of her life (and as much as i’d like it to improve i deeply doubt that it will). can you find some kind of balance between giving her the tools to critically analyse the crap and also somehow protecting her from the worst of it? i was like Owlie though – the only book my mum said she didn’t want me to read i immediately read when she had her back turned! how much control do you actually have?

Owlie:
i think it would be impossible to regulate without completely invading her privacy and therefore causing serious issues between you and her. I also think (and I still have idealistic views of what relationship i will have with my kids when they are older) that music is a fantastic way of relating to your kid and finding out where they are at, ifyou regulate it you won’t get that oppurtunity. Also, if you take an interest and get her to talk about why she likes the bad stuff, at least you will get the chance to talk to her about why you think it is awful, biggoted or violent. If you stop her from listening, she’ll listen by herself or with her friends and decide for herself what it means, and it will possibly have more impact because she won’t have you to help her decipher the messages. BUT like I said, my oldest is 5 and perhaps I have unrealistic expectations about what my relationship will be like…no doubt I’ll be eating my words and I’ll be asking you for advice in about 4 yrs!

out of interest, what music does she like?

Chips:
I don’t think it’s a matter of blanket rules and though I take Lazyboo’s point, I think that case-by-case or as the need arises is the best approach. And I’d pick my battles very very carefully. The chance of her being into super offensive gangsta rap or death metal is fairly low (in fact it makes me giggle to think of gorgeous little FenFox with dollar signs around her neck). Some stuff will go over her head. Other stuff, she won’t even really notice the content. If it’s truly awful, I’d probably encourage against it, and I’d definitely make sure she knew my objection to the content (you guys already have these conversations all the time about lots of current affair and pop culture goings on) but trying to stop it will be met with much resistance and will ensure she closes down (and will prob find other channels to drive you nuts).

I’m curious. Is there something in particular that she’s listening to that has sparked this train of thought?

Chips:
(I love that we were all typing at the same time and came up with variations of the same thing!)

Clark:
In terms of control and privacy right now, we have a lot of control and she has very little privacy, not that she actually wants it yet. She’s only 10 and currently has no means of independent spending or gaining of music (apart from copies from her friends). She is still so beautifully innocent – all this came up because she is buying her first ipod next week (or we are for her with her ‘savings’ that have all come from us) and also because she called today from a friend’s house to ask if she could have a copy of a cd because we have been talking about this with her lately. She still tells us everything and is very respectful of the boundaries we give her. We are under no illusion that this will last though, and the next three years are going to be tumultuous as our control wanes while her need for privacy grows. So far she is just asking for such things as Pink and Kesha and Lady Gaga, all of whom I have no problem with (even though they have sparked interesting conversations about sex, but that is certainly nothing new!)

to clarify somewhat, it’s not death metal and gansta rap and such that bothers me so much, it’s the more insidious stuff – for example http://shakespearessister.blogspot.com/2010/04/today-in-rape-culture.html

Special K:
my pre-parent self would have argued strongly that there should be absolutely no interference, just general guidance and talk about why some things may be popular but embody a broader bad. give them the critical tools and let them come to an understanding themselves.
but i think now my parent self will be happy to ban stuff that is sexist andhomophobic. now that i think about it i have already thrown out children’s picture books that i felt were inappropriate (religious dogma, sexist crap ie the disney girls make-up book for little kids. really. horrible crap.)
i do think about the Twinkle growing up in the age of the internet, tween-agers, boob tubes for five years old, access to anything digital, and worry about how to manage it without being overly-militant and didactic.

Former workmate:
She’s 10, so I think it’s perfectly acceptable that you discuss and agree to some limits re sexual content and violence and stuff like that. As for sheer musical awfulness, I think less comment is better.

Single-minded determination – it’s really the only way to describe McBean’s eating style at breakfast.  He normally gets a bowl of mixed cereal or porridge and some sliced fruit, and from the time it’s put in front of him until the time his belly is full he’s like an eating automaton.  Spoon after spoon of cereal goes in the mouth in a steady progression, interspersed with bits of fruit being stuffed, and I mean stuffed, in alongside.  It’s quite remarkable to watch.

Breakfast is the only time of the day that McBean can be guaranteed to eat with gusto.  He will often have a good morning tea also, but come lunch time he’s as likely to refuse to eat anything at all.  Same goes for afternoon tea and dinner.  Some days breakfast is the only solid meal he eats.  Some days he eats more than I do.  I figure it all balances out over time.

Counter breakfast time McBean with breakfast time FenFox.  I’ve honestly never encountered anyone who faffs around as much and eats as slowly as FenFox.  Some mornings you quite literally have to harangue her for every single bite, otherwise she’d still be sitting there at lunchtime with half of her soggy breakfast in front of her.  It is one of the most incredibly frustrating experiences.  Sometimes she’s talking too much to eat, sometimes she’s just staring vacantly into space.  Reading has been banned at the breakfast table on school days.  She’ll come home from school and take 90 minutes to eat afternoon tea, because she’ll be stuck in her book.

We have the tortoise and hare children at breakfast time, except in our case the hare does win.  Meanwhile Clark is rushing around getting ready for work while I am trying to manage the kids and get breakfasts / lunches ready.  It’s a rare work day when we can all sit down for breakfast.  I am more likely to scrounge something vaguely breakfast like and eat standing up in the kitchen while I do other things, and several times a week Clark takes breakfast with her, a toasted sandwich or some such.

Clark and I are a bit like the tortoise and the hare in the mornings also – Clark leaves getting up too late and so has to rush around to do everything, whereas I allow for how slow I know I function in the mornings and get up early, when McBean hasn’t already made that choice for me of course.  It can take me 15 minutes to get my lunch and snacks together when I’m working, which Clark always finds funny;  I can stand in front of the pantry for long periods in contemplation.  Pantry meditation…  There might be something in that concept actually.  I’d never make a chef, I’m too slow and methodical in the kitchen.  It takes me hours and hours to meal plan, let alone cook.

I wonder are everyone’s mornings so erratic.  I consider it a good morning if FenFox is out the door by 8:45 without too much nagging and Clark walks to the train station (rather than having to drive, which then means McBean and I need to pick the car up within two hours).  We’ll get maybe one or two good mornings in a week, if we’re lucky.  Mornings are so crazy.

One highly irritating, one very cute.

Let’s get the irritating one out of the way first.  Lately, Clark or I – or FenFox to some extent – can’t sit down without McBean being all over us.  And try using the netbook while he’s around.  The amount of times he’s shut programs, pages or even the whole machine with a few well placed keystrokes beggars belief.  He has a talent.

For the first five minutes it’s not so bad, he’s all snuggly cuddly and there’s lots of hugs and kisses which is always very lovely.  But then after that early grace period it degenerates into lots of throwing things and hitting and climbing and generally being obnoxious.  And god forbid if you’re not focussing your full attention on him.  He’s liable to go and attempt to de-pelt the dog, or tear pages out of the photo albums or something equally and knowingly naughty.

It’s getting a bit old.

The cute new thing that he has picked up is requiring a blanket to go to sleep.  He has, since we stopped swaddling him, been sleeping in sleep sacks, so blankets have never really been essential, and until recently have been something we’ve put over him once he’s gone to sleep.  In the last week or so he now demands a blanket before he will settle down to sleep.  He has no sign for blanket yet, so it’s been a bit of a hit and miss process working this out.  It is somewhat endearing now that we have, that he snuggles down and makes his happy little chuckle when we put on his blanket.  And he’ll call you back and ask for it if you forget.

McBean is ahead of the 8-ball in many ways.  His physical development is ahead of his age, by as much as 6 months in some respects.  And he’s also a smart boy in many respects, I can see him watching things and trying to see how they work, I’ve observed him problem solving, he is adept at puzzles when he wants to be.  I don’t think he’s lacking in the brain department.

Of coursed, I’m a little biased being his parent, and while I am not impartial I don’t think that my assessment is too far off the mark.

The one area in which he is notably under developed is speech.  This is something that worries Clark a great deal, and me also to a certain extent, but not as much as Clark (FenFox had hearing issues as a baby).  According to many of the guidelines he should have a vocabulary of somewhere in the vicinity of 50 words, should be able to name parts of the body, and use me and you and words like that in context, use his own name and also mama and baba etc.  Now I am well aware that these are guidelines and not something to get too hung up on.  But he is well behind in any of this, and also lagging behind the children in our acquaintance (mother’s group etc), even children a few months younger than him.

Verbally he has almost no consistent words.  He can, if he wants to, use words that are somewhat distinguishable as cat, car, poo and baba – but he is not likely to.  He can, on occasion, mimic some words that are said to him – but again there is no consistency and I’m not sure that some of it is not completely coincidental.  When referring to animals, he will more often than not use the sound the animal makes rather than the word – he makes a hissing sound for cats (because we read a lot of Hairy Maclary stories and Scarface Claw does a lot of hissing, and also our cat Leonard does a lot of hissing in McBean’s presence), and he makes a woo woo noise for dogs. And pretty much any other four legged animal.  Again, when he wants to, he can moo for a cow, but he is more likely to fall back on the woo woo.

He has several recognisable signs, which again he uses when he wants to.  He can sign milk, food/eat, finished, water/drink, more, please, and bath/swimming.  He has also developed a couple of his own signs for things, such as bubbles, and unzip (for his sleep sack in the mornings).  He can even put two signs together for a rudimentary sentence such as more please.  He can also use many gestures with great efficacy, such as pointing and shaking his head, throwing his hands in the air for I don’t know, and waving.  He is often able to make himself very clearly understood with a minimum of effort.

But he makes little  effort to verbalise any of his communication.

This is something that crops up again and again between Clark and I, wondering if there’s an issue and what we should do about it.  The MCH nurse was once again less than helpful at his 18 month check up and jabs – it’s like she’s living in the middle of the last century, honestly, and she’s just not that old.  Her theory was that was should stop responding to his needs until he starts verbalising them.  Needless to say both Clark and I smiled and nodded at her and went no damn way are we doing that in our heads.

So our latest decision was to wait until he is two, and if he doesn’t seem to be improving then take him to a paediatrician and get it investigated.  Knowing McBean, contrary little bugger that he is, he’ll wait until just after we’ve started the process of following up and then begin speaking perfectly.  He already has perfect timing and can say things to generate maximum impact.  Yesterday Clark was having a sleep in, and McBean decided he wanted to go and have a snuggle with her in bed, so he said “Mama” very clearly and deliberately, and proceeded to get what he wanted.  Cheeky little monkey, he’s messing with us I swear.

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