Saturday, September 13, 2014

She's eighteen






Yesterday was my girl's birthday. We had a family gathering last night, and all day I worked to tidy the house, organise food, and (at the last minute) decided I wanted to put together a scrap book type of document for her, with some photos and comments, something that everyone could write in, memories of her, that sort of thing. It was a great success, the whole thing, except my speech.

Earlier in the day I'd been thinking about what I would say. I'd told the fam there would be the opportunity for speeches. My mother came prepared, with a folder, no less, of  'props' as she called them. She wrote in the book and then when it came to talking, after cake, she was eloquent and loving. My sister read out what she'd written in the book, and it was poignant. My brother spoke really well too, he's a natural. And then me. I'd been teary during the day when looking at photos and thinking about how much I love her, so maybe that's why, when it came to speaking, I kept it fairly business-like. I spoke about how I tidied her room yesterday, probably for the first time in ten years. I forgot to say why I did it, which was as a surprise for her (it was a real mess, a typical Year 12 out-of-control mess); the window ledge hadn't been cleaned in years, so much dust. A truckload of books beside the bed, little piles toppled. Her bedside table, also uncleaned for ages. And clothes everywhere. She was thrilled when she came home and saw it. She's got friends coming tonight and I thought it would help her to have it tidied, and so even though it's against my principles to tidy teen bedrooms, I did it this once, and in a weirdly emotional way, it felt like the last time.

In my speech I talked about the books that were beside her bed. How different they were to the ones I would have had beside my bed, at eighteen. For me it was Jackie Collins, Sid Sheldon, Stephen King. For her, I tidied up Middlemarch, War and Peace, several Henry James novels, an Anne Bronte one (the lesser-known sister); Crime and Punishment, that sort of thing, as well as a few non-fiction titles. Then I said it's been a very quick journey from The Lion King, Aristocats and Lady and the Tramp, to David Attenborough, then vampires and zombies - how quickly time has flown. That I was going to find her baby book to look up her first words, but that I knew the very first one was 'more'; and that somehow I would have been surprised not to see words like 'Mussolini' and 'Munch' and Oberfuhrer. That there probably has never been a thirteen-year-old girl who could give you a three-hour talk on the evolution of fashion and accessories from the Dark Ages through to the 1950s.

I didn't say anything I wanted to say, which was how proud I am of her, how much I delight in her company, how she feeds my intellect and how much I value the conversations we have. How fun she is, how thoughtful and mature and patient and loving. How she had quite a few difficult emotional things to deal with when she was little and through her teens: her dad not living with us, and living overseas; her beloved grandmother's cancer and all the trips to the hospital, through traffic along the diabolical Punt Road;  needing glasses at five; her best friend moving interstate; struggling with learning to read; becoming part of a family of steps (I think she's done best out of it; it's given her a group of people to be with, even though as an only child, she was maybe a bit lonely at times; she likes a bunch of people around her); breaking her ankle in Year 5; not seeing her dad for almost four years at a time when she needed that connection. This has all made her resilient and flexible, aware and able to manage her emotions in a healthy way.

Anyway, I will write these things in the book and if it comes to 21st speeches, I'll be better prepared. She knows all this, though, doesn't need some speech to know how I feel about her. I've told her frequently how wonderful I think she is.

Tonight she's got friends coming over. There'll be a brazier in the back yard and candles and lanterns and fairy lights. The theme is 'nostalgia' and I hope she has a lovely night.

Hope you are all well and making sure that you tell the people you care about that you love them, and why they mean so much to you. It's so important.

16 comments:

suze2000 said...

Congratuations to the Princess on reaching her majority!

Mleba, if you want to make yourself clear to her, just get her to read what you've written, it choked me up.

She'll be able to vote in the upcoming election... which leads me to diabolical Punt Rd. The LIbs are promising to make it a 24hr clearway. Imagine how that would improve the lives of all of us who have to drive it on a daily basis (it's a nightmare outside of peak hour because of the parked cars).

Alex said...

Happy birthday to the Princess.

I can't really come up with any comments that aren't going to sound trite and superficial. So instead, I'll just ask how everything went last night. Was it a big hangover inducing affair, or something of a different nature?

Also, I can't remember any adult in my family telling another adult they loved them. I mean, we all know it, but, well, it's just not done, is it? I had a moment with my parents a few years ago when they were talking about becoming burdensome in their old age, and I managed "Nah, don't worry about it. After all, youse fellas are me best mates, ay'." That's about as close as it comes here.

squib said...

A belated happy birthday to the princess. That is incredibly sweet of you to clean here room. Makes me feel bad because I once cleaned BigSquib's room and billed her $200 for it which was two terms of pocket money. Now she is 20 (how did that happen?!), her room is still disgusting. I have visions of her turning into one of those people you see on the telly, house full of cardboard boxes and cat shit

Her school had this letter thing in year 12. We were supposed to write a big letter a bit like your speech and hand it into the school and the students were supposed to write their own letters to us. Then they would all get handed out. I remember spending ages writing it and putting in pictures. Later, I found it on her bedroom floor, all trodden, along with her other crap

Only problem with the letter thing is some parents either didn't do it or were living overseas so some girls probably felt pretty unloved come letter day

Alex said...

I don't know about you ladies, but I woulda copped a hiding if I'd left my (or any other) room in a messy state.

My Dad always used to say, "I don't care how big a mess you make, Matey, just as long as you clean it up when you're done".

Parenting seems very different these days, doesn't it?

squib said...

Are you saying a good thrashing is effective parenting?! BigSquib has always been the type of child who would cut her nose off to spite her face so you could pretty much burn her at the stake when she was younger and she wouldn't budge. She has always helped out around the house without being asked and without expecting anything in return, and she has never asked for money or the latest things. She works hard at her volunteer jobs and at uni. But she has always been and still is really slovenly

Alex said...

I'm not advocating anything one way or the other Squib. BigSquib sounds great (as does Princess). I remember how very impressed I was when you were talking about her helping out with LittleSquib's birthday parties and such.

But you're both talking about how messy your teenage girls are, and I'm saying that when I was young, I would have got a thrashing for doing that. So would many of my cousins, and some of the girls I went to school with (true, many of them had parents who didn't care, either because they themselves were slovenly, or they were lost in a bottle, or for other reasons. And of course, some of them just flogged their kids for no real reason at all). Now, I don't know what it was like when you were young, I doubt you grew up in exactly the same environment I did; but my observation is that, from my perspective, parenting has changed a lot over the span of a generation.

Is thrashing effective parenting? I suppose it depends on what metrics you're using to measure effectiveness. Is it ethically wrong? I don't know. I can see why people would say so. But it would mean that virtually every parent ever apart from a few westerners in modern times have been doing it wrong (and maybe they have). Even my old high-school still had the cane.

squib said...

Maybe it's nothing to do with discipline and it's everything to do with kids today having 5 million toys/gadgets/clothes/shoes

I just had a Nescafe tin wrapped up in a bathmat called Dolly

If I start talking about my childhood environment, I'm pretty sure I will end up on your shrink couch, Alex, with an empty bottle of whisky

jo_blue said...

Hi Melba, Happy belated birthday to your princess. She just sounds amazing. I know how proud of her you must be,
xx

Jo

Alex said...

You're welcome to use my couch any time you feel like it Squibs.

And I can't help but imagine that despite her shortcomings, Dolly was probably well-loved.

Much like clothes*, I'm pretty sure most (all?) of my toys were hand-me-downs from older brothers. And while I can't remember there being many of them, it didn't really matter. I had acres of trees to climb and animals to harass.

*Farm clothes, anyway. I had my own town clothes.

Nowadays, I've got rellies who've converted whole guest rooms into toy-storage-closets for their kids. I already told Melba this a while back, but I have a niece who got the shits at Chrissy because she got a middle-of-the-road Android tablet instead of a new iPad. Needless to say, I got the shits a bit too, and she's had to make do with just a card for her birthday.

Sorry for going a bit ranty in Princess' birthday post, Melba.

Melba said...

That's ok Alex, rants good and fine. Thanks everyone for bd wishes and otherwise to my daughter. On the voting thing, Suze, yes, she will vote 'correctly' (as my father put it) and Punt Road is such a nightmare almost at any time these days.

On the messy room, she's in the middle of end of Year 12 stuff, squib, and I don't care if her room is messy, I think that kids (if they're lucky enough to have their own room, or even if they share with a sibling) need to have one place where they can relax and have the power in the family house. Where no adults tell them what to do, it's their own zone. For privacy and for autonomy. So I try not to care about the states of their room (the oldest one's is unbelievably revolting, cause I'm not just talking clothes everywhere, I'm talking old plates and bowls and milo mugs, as well as (now) empty booze cans, piles of Maccas wrappings. Horrible. And it stinks cause she doesn't wash her clothes often enough, wears and wears them, then sprays perfume to try to spruce up. I don't think she showers enough either, but none of that is my lookout. Apart from maybe the crockery and cutlery when we run out. I joke to Clokes about buying her a year's worth of plastic picnic-ware for her birthday, including plastic cutlery.

But for my daughter, she had friends coming over and even though they planned to be outside on the night, I knew it would please her if I tidied her room. Just superficially. She's now on holidays and while she's doing hours of study revision every day, her breaks are spent going through everything in her room and tidying up. But yeah, it was nice of me. But I wouldn't go near the older one's room other than to occasionally poke my head in just to marvel at the state of it.

We didn't get thrashings when I was a kid. I remember getting clipped across the ears by my dad a couple of times and fucking hating it so much, and hating him. He also tricked me a couple of times to 'teach me a lesson' and it was cruel. Never forgotten that.

I remember mum chasing me with wooden spoon and not being able to catch me, and me laughing and her then laughing too. Our punishments weren't physical. It was more 'go to your room' maybe miss out on treats, or the threat of missing out. I don't remember much punishment. We were all pretty well behaved as kids.

Melba said...

We had toys but not heaps like some other kids. We made our own fun, I remember making a high jump from some wood we got from somewhere. Hopscotch, bikes, scooters, trees, making up plays, all the running and ball games, hidey, skipping, elastics. Man they were the good old days. Kids these days... Maybe in the future there'll be summer camps a la the US and it'll all be tech-free and old-style. I'd love to work at a camp like that. 'Ok, kids, today we're going to build a cubby using blankets and chairs, and then we'll read a book, one of these paper things, all crammed inside. After that, we'll have lunch, this old thing called sandwiches and you get to choose what goes inside! There's one spread made from nuts, one from berries and one from, well, I don't know what it's from, but it's BLACK! After lunch, we're going to play a game called hide-and-seek. It's fun, you'll love it.'

Parenting has changed a lot, and very quickly Alex. It's my generation, say parents from 50 down to 30, that have fucked things up. But it's not me, or you squib, or you Jo. No, we are fab. It's the people who are so stuck on how their lives have to be Fabulous, and everyone has to know it, people who have a twisted view of success, which translates into having enormous houses, too many clothes and other possessions, their kids have to be scheduled to within an inch of their lives so they can pack as much in, they are prosthesis of their parents, little mini-mes who have to scale higher and higher. It's all so aspirational and superficial. But the biggest problem is parents can't or don't say No to their kids. They are spawning a generation of brats, families where the kids are in control, the parents are passive and ineffectual disciplinarians.

There you go, there's a rant.

Alex said...

I got the occasional clip under the ear too. It must have been fashionable in those days. But like you, I think I was pretty well behaved as a kid and bouts of corporal punishment were sparse. This is in contrast to my twenties, when I really could've used a clip under the ear / kick up the arse. The other thing I seem to remember is that it was rare for anyone to stay upset in our family. Once a punishment was meted out, the issue was over and done with. I can't really remember any long periods of bad feelings.

Melba, that last paragraph sounds exactly like something I've heard from a whole swath of teacher rellies. I was thinking it strange until I remembered that you are also a teacher. And this is not meant as a dig, but it's some of those very same teacher rellies who are the worst offenders. I suppose that seeing a pitfall is different to avoiding it.

I'm sure I've mentioned the brother who thinks his kids will be disadvantaged if they don't have all the latest gear and follow all the latest trends. As far as I can see, all it does is make them superficial and unappreciative. And it's not like he's completely blind to it either; I think he just doesn't want to take the risk of them getting "left behind". I guess you could view it as a vicious, expensive, consumer treadmill.

Melba said...

It's probably not just teachers, Alex, it'll be parents, all saying other people's kids are badly behaved, etc. Everybody's kid, including mine, are better than yours sort of thing. Guilty of it myself. But it's still true, parenting has changed and - like everything - in some ways it's for the better and in some ways, for the worse.

It's all about consumerism. The three teens in my family are ALL about buying clothes and shoes, but when I think back to myself at that age, I wasn't so different. So things change, but they stay the same.

I'm reminded of True Detective, and how things don't change and keep going over the over, things being repeated. Have you seen it yet??

squib said...

I remember Mum breaking her wooden spoon on me. I thought that was poetic justice. I always remember the wooden spoon being a bit of a joke (didn't hurt that much) but being smacked was terrifying. Even worse, being told you were going to be smacked and having to wait for it to happen

Oh the Milo cups, what is it about Milo cups and teen bedrooms. Must admit I had a lot of Milo cups in my room, growing up. Sometimes Mum would run out of cups. I always had Milo in an opaque vessel so no one could see it was three parts Milo, one part milk

squib said...

Forgot to say, in True Detective, I think he's talking about Eternal Return. The idea that the universe goes from big bang to big crunch, over and over, in exactly the same way so that our lives are repeated exactly the same way FOREVER. Scary prospect!

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