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Family Life in Australia Co-parenting The uninvited guest.. Eco Psychology
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Contents 7 10 13 14 16 18 27 30
Family Life in Australia Is this where we are heading? Rituals and their place in the life of a 21st Century family The glue that holds a family together Co-parenting Our lives often take journeys we don’t expect The uninvited guest - technology Choice, balance and control
Strange infatuations Craziness, mothering and a young adult son Seasonal children’s page Just for the kids - spring activities Educating...at school Montessori - Education for peace and as an aid for life Intuitive Breastfeeding One mother’s journey
People 22 28 35 32 33 34 4 5 20 25 26 36 38
Home death My mother’s journey out of this world The tides of friendship Friends: before and after kids Putting LOVE into food Be inspired to put this ingredient into your food
Healthy hygiene The truth about cleaning Eco psychology Reconnecting with the earth Conversations with nature It’s edgy, this talking about nature spirits
Letters Your say From the team Editorial Reviews Book & cd reviews Seneka’s tales Working as a midwife Educating...at home Fitting in Ordinary people doing extraordinary things Young philanthrops making a difference Seasonal stars Spring Astrology
Issue two Winter 2009 $5.95
Contemporary Fathering Breeding Brats? Living Simply Zen and the art of...
i am really glad to have come across this magazine, the first issue reminded me of a conversation that I had with a wonderful zookeeper, named Angelo, that I once had the good fortune to work with. I had asked him what his wife did, and he told me, full of pride, ‘She has the most important job in the world’. When I asked him what this job was, he told me, ‘She is raising our children’. it is something that I try to remind myself of regularly as I struggle with raising my own two children. If only more people had this attitude. Shellie Drysdale
Barefoot Magazine is produced by Budding Iris Publications. It seeks to inform, challenge, support, respect and inspire mothers, fathers, grandparents, carers and communities to live more consciously and value the importance of children and family life. Disclaimer: The comments and opinions expressed in Barefoot are not to be considered those of the editors or publisher, who accept no liability of any nature arising out of, or in connection to, the contents of Barefoot Magazine. Publishing Team Anna Foletta , Charlotte Young, Rachel Watts
Eltham , Vic
Our star letter wins an organic cotton cow from Eco Toys.. Thanks for one of the best magazines I have read in a long time. It is so nice to find a family magazine that is truly for the family, with so many good articles written for dads or by dads. I really loved ‘Learning to be a father’, from the 2nd issue. How true it is that people think fathers can’t be as good parents as mothers! Hopefully an article like this will change some people’s views. Thanks - keep up the good writing. Daniel Finney Eltham, VIC
Co-Editors Rachel Watts, Charlotte Young Design Anna Foletta, Yvette Harbinson Proofreading Fiona Young Admin/Advertising Anna Foletta Interested in finding out more about Barefoot magazine? Visit our website: www.barefootmagazine.com.au Barefoot magazine is designed & produced in Australia. Barefoot is printed using the most environmentally responsible printing methods available. The paper is made from 100% pre-used waste paper and is not chlorine bleached. Vegetable inks and benign press chemicals are used—preserving forests and water. Print Green www.printgreen.com.au Copyright of each piece belongs to the author/artist/photographer; copyright of the magazine belongs to Budding Iris Publications. Republication is permitted on request to author/artist/photographer and the editors.
SPRING ISSUE NEEDS TO GO HERE - YVETTE TO HELP WITH B&W with GREEN BACKGROUND
I was introduced to Barefoot magazine at the recent Greenfest Expo in Brisbane, and after receiving a copy I read it from cover to cover. I found it as beautiful a magazine to touch and feel with its earthy paper, as to read. Given that I’m homebirthing my baby in October there were also some fabulously honest and revealing articles that seemed to be written just for me! It brought me closer to embracing my natural birthing abilities and acknowledging those fears about birthing which I have inherited over the years. For that I am grateful. Thank you. Dr Sarah Lantz Brisbane, QLD
I just wanted to congratulate Seneka on her articles. As a student midwife I am very inspired by her ‘tales’ and always seem to shed a tear. More please! Jo Terry Coburg, VIC Congratulations you courageous women! What a wonderful publication you have created. I had the wonderful joy of reading it after a friend passed it on to me. Your articles encapture the soulful journey of parenthood and are both informative and enjoyable to read. Your layout is professional and artwork divine. Well done to all of you! I know the challenges you may have faced and the determination and commitment it takes to do what you are doing. I wish you every success. Susan Stark Natural Family Publishing (formally Natural Parenting Magazine) When I first saw your magazine I thought to myself, do I really need to read another child/parent magazine? As it turns out, I do! So thank you for some very interesting reading for those moments during the day when there is time to read! Liz Kelly Park Orchards, VIc
Calling all you communicators... We’d love it if you disagreed wildly with us or waxed lyrical about some amazing and life changing words unearthed from within these pages. Write and go in the running to win this beautiful Celtic Dreamland CD from Putumayo Kids world music label kindly donated from Dragonfly Toys! www.dragonflytoys.com.au Come on! Don’t just think it, say it! Send letters to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Its amazing how things can come to you through unexpected channels at the perfect time (serendipity I believe its called?) Through one of these such connections I found Barefoot , finally a magazine that feels like home! From the natural inks and paper, to the art, the words, even the fonts - it all speaks to me, and is just such a beautiful thing. Each issue has so much to offer, but I feel moved to comment on the article in the last issue about the Maternity Services Review. Many readers will be aware that it is a critical time for women’s birthing rights in Australia. Recent bills introduced by the Federal Government will effectively make homebirthing illegal after July 2010.
Rallies” protest at Parliament House in Canberra on September 7th. I urge all readers to join your sisters to stand up for the right to birth where you wish, with whom you wish. If you can’t make it to the rally, please write to Health Minister Nicola Roxon to make sure she gets the message that women need the choice to birth their baby gently, peacefully and safely at home. blessings, Tahne Brown Brisbane, QLD
Barefoot Spring 2009 Contributors: Writers (in order of appearance): Hugh McKay, Claire Miran-Khan, Jenny Chapman, Jenny Heslop, kirsten MoellerSaxone, Irena Krol, Kane Ord, Rosie Burgess, Eliza Hay, Rachel Power, Jennie Teskey, Seneka Cohen, Maira Lerch, Amy Kirkham, Lucy Dawson, Cate Bailey, Bridget Gardner, Charlotte Young, Ilyhana Kennedy, Angela Gioffre, Fiona Young, Jane Fitzpatrick,
I have never birthed at home, and may never do so, but i feel passionate about every woman having the fundamental right to homebirth if they so desire. This passion will lead myself, and thousands of other women to the “Mother of all
Artwork: Julia Symons (pages 10,11,12,32 & 35), Brigette De Chirico, Narissa Butler, Sarah (?) (page 33 and back cover),
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Issue two Winter 2009 $5.95
Issue two Winter 2009 $5.95
therhood Art & Mo thering ue of Mo e Manne
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Contemporary Fathering Breeding Brats? Living Simply Zen and the art of...
Contemp orary Fat hering Breeding Brats? Living Sim ply Zen and the art of...
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Contemporary Fathering Breeding Brats? Living Simply Zen and the art of...
... m a e t e h t From
g—to a group. parents we are n—of belongin tio ec nn co with others. As of t be in to po n st ar fir le y d kin: m rrent generaow up an My family, my e where we gr me point this cu ac so pl e At th n. is ’ tio ily lla ay in our ’s conste nstellation, ‘fam ental part we pl t—of our family as am le nd at Whatever its co fu le a t hi w ha w for a . Understanding and builders— al idea whether the architects e child focussed ily. I have no re or av m e he s m gh co ei be w onsible and al choices decided to are caring, resp making parent tion of parents d ho w an ts g ul in nt ad re lanced , the job of pa r. ing into well ba children’s lives what I strive fo y children grow m to e is is my hope; ut th t rib Bu nt n. co fu ill e w s m ion of choice. ce so oi my ch t and to have to be in a posit ec gh nn ou co en to e at w rtun ow ho lia...Where?— fair few of us fo resilient and kn Advance Austra I’m sure, with a s, ok te bo na akes y’s so ka re ac at M t one th children. He m m Hugh A tall order bu hold for today’s ited extract fro ay ed m an re ve — tu ha es fu ’t ili e m dn d what th s if we di ure on fa In our first feat ralian family an ch a fine line...a st su Au t’s y ..i n. da n tio it, t er ec k abou er prot ers the mod you didn’t thin ousness and ov Mackay consid ice, ‘In my day, t our over zeal vo ou a’s ab ts dm in an po gr g r my some interestin ile as I remembe out already! I sm ab k in th to ily—and inside enough s inside the fam ’ en it. pp in ith ha w t ha on w t occur naturally to look at you just go oint a few that the big picture np m pi to fro e d th in ; s ve us lie om I was re ature zo l that bind ern day rituals. Our second fe uals are the ge od rit m at in th e d at ip ce ic in conv n we part e for more as I’m ourselves—whe e to make spac lik ld ou w t bu t technology is my own family ers how presen id ns g. co in p lo ng es lo H of be ares a snippet as Jenny practical glue y Chapman sh logical balance nn no Je , ch es te ili m to e fa ov e on balance we m our final featur From spiritual ber perhaps? In em m ily n. m tio fa ra a e extr after sepa my family—a in her family; th e of parenting eeze-frame’ of nc ‘fr l rie na pe sio ex ca e iv oc the exe; a posit e experienced of body/family of her family lif ilies so much I’v e. A sort of out m m fa ho t r ou ldou ab ho nd a ng e; ou en thinki ering ar art spac ily means a he ot of us all pott Because I’ve be m sh fa ap at sn th a nd t st ta ju gs amon unders g or maybe fferent tunes, in ce. I’ve come to dinner or outin ncing to our di us from a distan da e l al se other—in re to an e’ t e w ge I on re belong to d o!). And whilst to an s perience, whe d al te m ec ni (a nn t e all co ber in my hear ctations, we ar ing of each mem ialism and expe er at m , es iti al own practic ‘midwives’ her each other and d midwife who an r r. he e ve ot re m liv a e fo w g; e cycles e of writin a heart sense— words evoke th a moving piec r is he h’ h, at at de de e d om birth an article ‘H exist between Jennie Teskey’s e parallels that th as l t) el w As h. editorial at leas mother’s deat tting go. ginning (of this le be to e t th en is to m e ck ch dg atta knowle g? Well, ba through, from nt for concrete eearth’ offerin pl ha eo nc np pe r re ou ild od As ‘ch rth? s a go e Earth in this ect with the Ea ith nature. So it’ And what of th n we really conn er to connect w ca rd w ha g ho re’. in n; tt na tio ge nnec ions with tu forth, it’s and points of co ’ and ‘Conversat rete sprawling nc gy lo co ho al tu yc Ps ac in ‘Eco gallons of rning stove. I’m ing and being manifested in of our wood bu nt kind of know re ow ffe gl di e a th t ng ou ei g I say! fire, ey time to read ab g on the Sprin in front of the r on the floor, d soul...but brin te in an s w is ne th bo y of t m upon I’ve spent a lo al fire bestows armth that a re w e th r fo ntributors. ul ef grat to all of our co u yo k an th g and a very bi Happy reading el and Anna Charlotte, Rach
The future of australian families Is this where we’re heading?
words Hugh McKay Introduction Rachel Watts Hugh Mackay is a social researcher and novelist who has made a lifelong study of the attitudes and behaviour of Australians. He is the author of twelve books, including five bestsellers. He was a newspaper columnist for almost 30 years and is a frequent guest on ABC radio.
What’s happening in Australian families? We know that families come from a diverse range of cultural backgrounds. We know that more couples are separating than they did in our parents’ generation and that they are re-partnering to form families that contain step-siblings and half-siblings. We are told that life has become more complex and that this adversely affects the amount and quality of time families spend together. In his book Advance Australia…where1 Hugh Mackay writes about what family life might be like for this generation of children. In chapter 8 he particularly focuses on the impact of the trend towards having smaller families and having them later in life. Mackay predicts that this generation is likely to be over-indulged and over-protected. Mackay invites us to think about the kinds of families we want to be part of in the future and the kinds of communities we want to live in. We parents are a product of our times, to some extent at least. We live in an information rich age, where every aspect of life and family life is researched and reported on. It is hard to avoid hearing about the latest research about some ‘damaging’ aspect of parenting: toilet training too early or too late, breast-feeding versus bottle-feeding, being over-involved or under-involved in a child’s schooling, just to name a few. Is it possible to hold all this (anxiety provoking) information in one’s mind, and still be a balanced, open and relaxed parent? Can parents respect and honour the preciousness of and parents are marginalised? Is it still possible to childhood without this being somehow suffocating or live in communities where children are welcomed and seen as an integral part of the health and life of burdensome? that community? Mackay also considers the apparent growing divide between those who have children and those who do not. We see the occasional article and letter in the media about how badly behaved children are ‘these days’, or how annoying it is for those without children to have to put up with parents who talk about their offspring, or how parents are too ‘soft’. Certainly many things change when children are born into a family, including friendships, availability to socialise and pursue interests outside the family, but do we want to live in a society where children
We hope you enjoy this extract from chapter 8 of Advance Australia…where? and find it as challenging as we did. We would love to know your thoughts and ideas about the state of Australian families and how they fit within the wider community. Many thanks to Hugh Mackay for giving us permission to print this edited extract.
likely to be found in the middle- and upper- middle socio-economic strata. But indulgence is only part of the story: overprotectiveness is an equally tough burden to bear. How will children learn to take risks if they are never allowed to indulge in risky behaviour appropriate to their age? How will they learn to deal with crises if all potential crises are averted for them by parents who are committed to smoothing the way? And what is the advantage of postponing their discovery that the world is an unfair place by having their parents insist on everything being fair? If members of the Options Generation—hang loose; wait and see; what else is there?—aren’t rushing into marriage, you can be sure they won’t be rushing into parenthood either. The birthrate in Australia plummeted to an all-time low of 1.7 babies per woman in 2004. Why? As with most attempts to explain changes in human behaviour, the key word is multifactorial. Because our population continues to grow, the children being born at this time of a record low birth rate do not comprise our smallest-ever generation numerically, though the actual number of children in the 0—14 years age group is projected to decline over the next 20 years. But, relative to total population, this is our smallest-ever generation: they will have the smallest footprint and the quietest voice of any generation in our history. Once they reach the workforce, they’ll have a dream run. Unemployment simply won’t be an issue for them: they’ll be able to pick and choose among job offers and employers will be furiously competing for their services, though their tax bill may make today’s taxation rate dreamily desirable. But that’s all 20 or 30 years away. In the meantime they will have to contend with two contradictory pressures on them. First, they will have to learn how to absorb the impact of overzealous attention from a generation of parents who have embraced the idea of ‘parenting skills’. Then they will have to learn how to cope with life in a less childfriendly society. A really low birthrate almost guarantees a generation of overindulged children who will grow up with the idea that they are the most precious creatures on earth. This won’t be all children in the rising generation, of course: many parents will be balanced, sane and firm even in the raising of a single child, and in any case, the birthrate will continue to remain higher among less affluent parents who could not afford to overindulge their children even if they wanted to. The most unbridled expressions of parental zeal are most page
The children of the low birthrate era may not realize they are the victims of overzealous parenting, since many of them will spend their formative years in a kind of emotional and cultural bubble. The bubble will burst, however, when they make an uncomfortable discovery: the world beyond the home and school environments is likely to be a less welcoming and friendly place than they might have been led to expect. Their parents might be enchanted and preoccupied with them, but as members of our relatively smallest-ever generation, they may find themselves struggling for attention in a wider society that has become more interested in its elderly than its young. It will also be a society with a larger proportion of non-parents than we have previously seen in the adult population. As the number of childless couples rises, a significant culture shift takes place. Not only does the idea of having children come to seem like one choice among many—a possibility, rather than an almost automatic probability—but the cultural status of parenthood changes. As we reach the stage where childlessness seems as normal as parenthood, non-
parents are likely to become less sympathetic and accommodating in their attitudes towards those who choose to become parents. The implications of this culture gap soon become clear. Many non-parents, having written children out of their personal scripts, would like to write them out of the wider societal script as well: they will prefer child-free restaurants, child-free resorts, child-free apartment blocks. You’ve seen what we’ve done with smokers: children may be next in line—not heard and not seen. The culture gap between parents and non-parents is also being revealed by the disapproval directed at parents who infringe on other people’s space or peace, and by the tendency to blame the parents whenever a child-related problem surfaces. Two current examples are: excessive TV viewing and excessive fast-food consumption. Finding yourself in a society that is more indifferent to children and young people than it has traditionally been will create some understandable resentment. ‘Hey, we’re here, too!’ may well become the catchcry of tomorrow’s adolescents and young adults. Will they be even more rebellious than previous generations, as a result? Perhaps, but many of them will be [only children], who tend to side with authority.
a social landscape lush with grey hair and crackling with grey power. The good news is that there may be many surrogate grandparents in search of substitutes for the grandchildren they never had. Our ageing society may well turn out to be a very lively place, with such a high proportion of elderly people who are healthier, better educated, more widely traveled and more engaged in society than was typical of older people in the past. ‘Tribal elders’ will be a highly visible, vigorous and participative segment of the population. As a result, there may well be a more caring and respectful attitude towards older people, and in spite of the continuing rapid rate of technological change and innovation, there will still be a huge bank of experience among the over-65s for our society to draw on. Hugh Mackay, Advance Australia…where?, 2007, Hachette Australia
Parenting used to be something that happened by accident—or, more correctly, by example. Children learned how to grow up by watching what their parents did, helped along by going to school and learning how to live in a community. Their moral formation happened as part of that process. They learned about the courtesies of everyday life, the need to show respect for parents and other authority figures, and the nature of mutual obligation, by observing how it all happened (or didn’t happen) in the various adult worlds they encountered, especially at home. Although it’s still the case that our children learn far more from watching what we do than from listening to what we say, we seem to have decided that parenting is an art, perhaps even a science, but certainly a field of serious study. The low birthrate generation may turn out to be at more risk from overattentive parents than from neglect. The drive to help parents do a better job of raising their children springs from praiseworthy motivations. But our current preoccupation with parenting has its downside. In their concern to be wonderful parents, many people now report that it is getting harder to know when to set the limits for tolerance of children’s behaviour that offends them. The rising generation of children will be living in page
Rituals and their place in the life of a 21st Century family words Claire Miran-Khan Claire Miran-Khan is a family therapist working in private practice where she provides post graduate training, counselling and consulting. Claire is also the mother of two adult daughters. artwork Julia Symons
Effective rituals have the potential to link us spiritually and provide food for the soul. They are essential to our wellbeing; maintaining identity and connectedness. Without ritual there is no belonging. Traditionally rituals were linked to religion or some formal social transition or rite of passage. The Macquarie Dictionary has as its first definition for rituals, ‘an established or prescribed procedure, code, etc for a religious or other rite.’ Many of these established or prescribed rituals are no longer satisfying. For many people rituals linked to religion aren’t able to capture the essence of what the current day ritual needs to provide. It’s time to be more mindful about what we want our rituals to convey and then work towards developing practices that capture the relevant intention and meaning.
ing in these must attend events is something we all do, they do not fall into the category of ritual. It’s important to note that each person’s experience is different: what might be a profound ritual for one member of a family or friendship group may not be experienced in the same way by other members of the family or friendship group. This is the situation where the idea of ritual gets confused with the need to please others. This leads to mis-labelling. A person believes that the experience they are participating in is a ritual, when it’s actually an exercise in doing the right thing!
The absence of rituals leaves a profound yearning for connection to self and others. Because many of the formalised rituals have lost their meaning and don’t accurately capture the spirit of what is relevant, and they have become boring routines that actually contribute to feelings of isolation and disconnection.
I personally believe that this ‘solution’ (discarding and not replacing) significantly contributes to our current psychological distress. Depression and addictions are two that immediately come to mind. When people are depressed there is often a profound yearning for relevant rituals. In depression people have often ‘lost their way’ and in the process the ability to appropriately articulate what they need. Depression could be reframed as ‘a voice coming from the soul’.1
It is easy for rituals to become tangled with the rejection of religious and traditional social or family practices. Consequently, a common error that many people make when moving away from traditional ways of doing things is to see the rituals as the problem. With that frame of thinking it makes sense to discontinue a ritual. The error in this way of thinking is the failure to recognise that it is not the participation in the ritual that is the problem but what the ritual represents. As simple as it sounds, this distinction is essential and one that is consistently overlooked and confused. Clarifying this distinction makes up much of my clinical work as a family therapist. Part of this clarification process requires making a distinction between a ritual and a routine. A ritual is something that is profoundly missed if it’s discontinued. A routine is often driven by ‘shoulds’ and duty: the kind of event that is attended only because the consequences of non-attendance are emotionally too great. The action of making a point by nonattendance is unacceptable and often hurtful to someone we have no wish to harm. While participat-
A tragic outcome of this mistake is the discontinuation of socially prescribed practices that have become tedious. This is done without any thought about what might replace them.
Addictions are often misguided rituals. People turn to a substance to soothe something within themselves, often with unfortunate consequences for themselves and those around them. The addiction can link them with a sense of self and connects them to a community. Many ex-smokers will talk about not missing the smoking but missing the practices attached to smoking. For example, the opportunity to go outside could be a ritual in its own right, even without the added pleasure of satisfying one’s addiction. Added to this is the bonus of personal space or the connection to a community of other smokers. When thinking about rituals a good place to start is to think about what it is that you want the ritual to capture. What is it that you want to celebrate, acknowledge or highlight? Also it is useful to think in terms of a hierarchy of rituals. To maintain our wellbeing we need personal rituals, relationship and
friendship rituals, nuclear and extended family rituals, community and cultural rituals. This is nothing new; all cultures have rituals that maintain individual identities, relationships and cultural health.2 Personal rituals can be as simple as having a cup of coffee in a favourite chair with a book or as tortuous as running a marathon. Whatever rituals a person is drawn to are a reflection of who that person is. It defines the essence of what is of value to that person and provides comfort. Once recognised as an important ritual, the practice can be a valuable resource in times of stress. Relationship and friendship rituals clarify the quality of the relationship. These rituals will highlight a shared pleasure. Whether it’s a shared meal, a movie, a much loved T.V. program or something more intimate, like sex. The important point is the shared enjoyment. Different relationships require different rituals to maintain and develop the essential elements of the relationship. Parents often overlook the importance of this level of ritual, allocating all their energy, time and finances to their children. In my work, I find that children know intuitively that it is important for their parents to have shared rituals. They know that it is part of what maintains and builds the intimacy of their parents’ relationship. While they might complain about being left with a babysitter and being excluded, this doesn’t mean they don’t recognize the significance of their parents having time together. Sometimes when asked why they were naughty for the baby-sitter, children reply, ‘I wanted mummy and daddy to come home before they started fighting’. Children are observers of their parents’ relationship. If they feel they can trust their parents to go out without coming home divorced they will often volunteer to help finance the outing by giving up an activity; admittedly usually something they hate—common offerings are things like violin lessons!
overtly acknowledge what has been rejected and the reasons why. It’s here that the distinction between ritual and duty is very important. What is valued is being passed on to the next generation. Dishonesty and an inability to articulate one’s own feelings can inadvertently become heirlooms handed down to the next generation merely because duty directed unquestioning attendance at various family events. Emotional heirlooms are the indirect by-product of rituals. It’s important to be mindful about what the next generation will inherit. It is also important to recognise that rituals change over time as the family moves through the life cycle. If the family suffers a tragic event along the way this also needs to be honoured through ritual. Community rituals help us feel safe in our local community. Children help us link to the community often through school or sport. Even the ritual of having coffee in a local café can help us develop a sense of belonging to our local community. Familiar faces provide a sense of safety and can work as an antidote to fear. Unfortunately, in our society, cultural rituals generally come with a lot of commercial hype. Even though one might feel put off by the consumer hijacking of cultural events like Christmas, it’s important not to discard them too easily. Embedded in most of our cultural rituals
Nuclear and extended family rituals are important in terms of identity and belonging. How and what is celebrated defines the heritage and values of the family system. If family rituals have become unsatisfying it’s important to develop new ones and
is an essential element of our culture: the value of giving. I feel disheartened when I hear about schools giving up the Christmas nativity play. This is a simple solution that devalues the importance of rituals. A creative school includes all the important religious rituals in order to accurately reflect the school population.
trick us into feeling like we are doing something meaningful. But mindless pursuits are not meaningful because the essence of self (soul) and any linking with the sense of a world greater than oneself (spirituality) is missing. Time with the soul and spirituality is provided through rituals. Even simple acts like the lighting of a candle or making a pot of tea and drinking it out of a much In Victoria, AFL football traverses all the loved cup can be acts of soul feeding and levels of ritual and so, whether you like in turn represent spiritual linking to past it or not, it is a significant phenomenon. and future generations and the great world. When clubs are being relocated, particularly interstate, the cries of protest generally The key is taking time to honour the act; to actually notice how the light flickers in the reflect rituals at all levels: at the personal candle or the feel of the cup or the sense of level, ‘I’ve always barracked for…’; at the relationship level ‘I met my partner at…’; at camaraderie in the stands at the MCG. the nuclear family level, ‘I want my children Take the time to honour the ritual and the to support…’; and at family of origin level, legacy that you are passing onto others. ‘this club is part of the community I grew up in…’. And then there’s the cultural level; Thomas Moore, Care of the Soul, 1992, you only need to go shopping when the Harper Collins New York grand final is on to know what a significant Evan Imber-Black & Janine Roberts, , 1992, cultural event it is. Harper Collins, New York For many people traditional rituals no longer serve their needs. The solution is to individually design our own rituals that suit us, our partners, friends and family. It requires taking time to be more mindful about what it is that is being honoured. A ritual might be about remembering the beginning or ending of something. It might be about honouring a profound loss, or one that others wouldn’t recognise. Either way, it needs ritual to provide space for the expression of distress or yearning. Likewise moments of achievement and joy—no matter how large or small—also need honouring. A ritual can be just lighting a candle at the end of a tiresome day or a huge feast to celebrate a significant family or cultural event. Rituals thread together the self with the rest of the world. They are easy to overlook but when overlooked leave an emptiness that is often filled with mindless pursuits that can
Co-parenting Our lives often take journeys that we don’t expect...
son Crusoe. She
When I was twenty I fantasised about having a large Walton-sized family sitting at the dinner table laughing and chatting while passing around the home-grown sweetcorn. At thirty I imagined having a family of five, with in-laws and grandkids sitting at the farm-sized kitchen table, laughing and passing around home-grown sweetcorn. At forty I was single and the mother of an eight month old. ‘That’ll do.’ I said to myself, and bit into my store-bought corncob.
is currently studying
Some relationships fail—mine did.
words Jenny Chapman Jenny Chapman lives in the north east suburbs of Melbourne, with her four-year-old
Professional Writing and Editing.
My ex-partner and I started a new journey. Separated as a couple, yet tied by a commitment stronger than any we had previously made to each other— our son’s wellbeing. We consciously put aside our issues and concentrated on parenting. Going through legal channels was neither necessary nor an option. We worked at understanding our son’s needs, and how we could best meet them together. Our families and friends didn’t understand how we could get along so well, yet not ‘be together’, or why we weren’t spitefully sabotaging each other’s parenting efforts. ‘That might be your experience of separations, but it’s not ours’, we told them. We chose not to do it that way; our son’s future was and is more important than petty power struggles. They remarked that it wasn’t ‘normal’. Normal? I don’t want to sound self-righteous—old issues do sneak in from time to time. While our relationship and our parenting are not perfect, we try and keep our son’s needs as our priority. We didn’t have coparenting role models to follow and there weren’t many books on the subject, and so, like any new parents, we had to fumble and bumble and make it up as we went along. Sometimes our differing values show in how we parent. This is no different from parents who are still together and living under one roof.
We make the effort to talk about it; to listen, to ask, to trust and to be heard. We remind each other that our concerns are not personal attacks and that we are trying to find a way that works. It is simpler, less disruptive and far healthier than fighting custodial battles. We have strong support from friends and other families from playgroups. We live separately in nearby suburbs, and our child lives with me. His father sees him during the week and has him stay most weekends. If our son wants to see his Dada, or is missing him, we try to accommodate him. It’s not about having equal time with our child—it’s about the quality of that time. If I am having a hard week, or just not coping well, my ex-partner helps me out with the parenting side of things. He has been dedicated and patient. It mustn’t be easy for him to be away from his son whom he adores so much. I am far from being the ‘single parent’ with him sharing care only on the periphery. We do our best to co-parent, equally. There is another man in my life now: he is wonderful, gracious and wise. I appreciate his acceptance of this strange family arrangement and value the addition of his life to the mix. For my ex-partner and me the journey continues—individually and together— with all its unexpected twists and turns. And for my son, the way things have turned out has been the best possible arrangement in the circumstances. He is happy, carefree, inquisitive and active. I could not ask for anything more…except for some home-grown sweetcorn. Reteach a thing, lovely it was Once when shaped to a more common form; Til broken we thought, Damaged. Reteach a thing, lovely it is As a new creation, as whole as before Though a different form, Shining with hope.
The uninvited guest - technology Choice, balance and control
words Jenny Heslop Jenny is the mother of two, a nine year old boy and a six year old girl. She is enjoying exploring her way through parenthood with her husband and may someday find that mythical ‘easy path’.
There are always going to be ‘big’ issues to worry about as technology advances; the Y2K bug, Big Brother, identification cards, secret spy satellites, Google Maps. My worry is not about these big things. It’s about the smaller things fading away: finding joy in a sunset; the excitement of a zoo visit; receiving a letter in the post; taking a risk instead of a safe option; entertaining ourselves; getting lost in our senses of touch, smell and imagination—not just sight and hearing; and spending time with friends face to face, not on facebook.
We have settled on him being allowed to watch two matches a week. Our younger daughter finds football boring and we won’t allow her the equivalent amount of time in programs she enjoys. This decision is based on age as much as on content. She finds this grossly unfair. She has to make do with Playschool on Fridays and we have to live with the complaints.
When pay T.V. was being introduced, I opened my mother’s door one day to a salesman. When I could get a word in edgeways I informed him there was no television in the house, so pay TV would not be of any benefit. I could tell, in the stunned silence that followed, that he didn’t believe me. His eyes flicked to the roof to check for an aerial. Then, he left: there was no sale to be had.
Everything on the television is larger than life. For example, television news is so much more intrusive and graphic than news on the radio or in newspapers; visual images pack a heftier punch than the spoken or written word. It is entertainment. The lack of effort required is what draws children, and us, in. But the moving window on the world can influence a child’s development and may send messages about lifestyles and behaviours that do not necessarily reflect our own personal behaviours. This can be confusing for a child.
We have television at our house and it is a constant battle to find a balance between what’s acceptable viewing and what is not. Our son loves football.
Television can be an easy way to tune out, to empty the mind and escape. It can be informative and is a fast, convenient avenue of communication. But it can
also become a time-waster, babysitter or procrastination tool very easily. Theoretically, I could live without it, but I don’t want to. I love to be entertained. Similarly, I can’t imagine my life without the computer. As a word processor and research tool it gets used most days. As a communication tool, through email, it gets used most days. And as a time-waster, time-filler, procrastinator and entertainer, it gets used every day. How many of us boot up the computer, shut the door, and expect the family to fend for itself while we get a bit of work done? Only to emerge from a fog of blogs, facebook pages and weblinks, hours later with the work still not started let alone finished. Or is that just me? Some of us have the luxury of working from home, or have partners who work from home either full-time or part-time. This is a great step towards family and work balance. My partner can bring up his work desktop at home with the touch of a couple of buttons and get a few extra hours of work done. But here lies another problem. Those working hours creep up, and can start spilling over into the weekend. Even though the reduced time spent in the work place may provide a better balance with family life, the hours spent closed off on the computer can tip the scales. People who would not work until midnight, even with decent overtime pay, will think nothing of coming home, spending an hour with the family over dinner and then sitting at the computer until midnight doing their projects. Occasionally, this is an acceptable trade off, but if it is a regular occurrence, it may not be. Mobile phones raise similar issues. You only need to have the car break down once on a busy road in the rain, with two small children, to appreciate the value of a mobile phone. They allow you to get on with things instead of waiting around for a call to come through. Last minute arrangements and re-arrangements are less stressful. They increase the viability of a mobile office. There is nothing more intrusive, however, than a business call in the middle of a family day out, a holiday, or a Sunday morning breakfast. Not to mention an SMS conversation that carries on through dinner, or the constant ‘beep, beep’ of a sporting score coming through. Do we need to be contactable twenty four hours a day? Is it reasonable to expect people to be available whenever we wish to contact them? Can we not switch off? All this new technology can enable us to work faster, more efficiently, conveniently and remotely. But don’t we need time away, time to wind down and block out that extra stimulus, extra stress? Do all these labour saving technological devices decrease our workload and stress? Individually and used in balance, they probably do. But their addictive nature and their entertainment value can make it difficult to recognise that healthy balance and stick
to it. Children learn by watching us. Should we be showing our children how to find all these short cuts? Or should we show them what it is to hang washing on the line on a warm, windy autumn morning rather than using the clothes dryer? The adrenalin rush as you race the elements to get them off the line before the clouds burst. The pure satisfaction of making it inside with a basket of fresh smelling clothes just as the tattoo of rain beats down on the roof. Sure, it’s quicker and easier to use the dryer, but do we always need to? Are we teaching our children to expect instant gratification responses? Given that computers and other technologies are built to be user friendly why can’t we assume that our children will pick up these skills quickly and easily later in life? Choice, balance and control are part of my answer. We need to make our own informed decisions about which parts of technology we choose to invite into our life. It may be argued that we can’t take the good without the bad, but on a small scale, within the family, why not? Why can’t I choose to have a computer to make my life easier and more enjoyable, to make my communications simpler, and yet not expose my young children to the world of computer games and websurfing? For me, it comes down to priorities and resolve. What is the tradeoff, and am I prepared to live with that? Where is my own personal line in the sand? It is possible to control technology use, and not let it control you. page
Strange infatuations Craziness, mothering and a young adult son
words Kirsten MoellerSaxone Kristen loves her marvellous partner, their three sons, and her work as a researcher in the mental health field.
Here I am spending another scintillating Saturday night vacuuming the house and thinking about my young adult son. Cursing and begrudging him for having barely spoken to me for days. The latest computer game craze, Age of Conan, has stolen him from me and the funny, sensitive, gorgeous bloke that I live with has become a recluse again. As I mutter angrily under my breath about his ungrateful ways, something alerts me to the fact that he has come into the kitchen. I look up and immediately my anger falls away. I apologise for not cooking him dinner and sweetly ask how he’s going. He replies that all’s fine—he didn’t want dinner anyway—and I feel an easy camaraderie with him that no one else shares. When he disappears back into his room I stop and reflect on what just happened. Am I crazy or did I just do a complete backflip? How did I go from fuming with resentment to putty in his hands just like that? As I think more about this, and other similar situations, the backflip reminds me of my teenage infatuations. Remembering the days when the mere sight of the object of my dreams was enough to make my heartstrings go zing. I have long since settled into mature love with my husband and don’t often get those moments anymore. So it’s quite a disturbing shock to not just feel this way, but to feel it about my son. I start to wonder whether I’m harbouring some dark, incestuous monster within, but that’s just too icky to even contemplate. No, there’s something else going on here. I remember the feelings of adoration I had for him when he was a little boy, when it’s normal for mothers to love their children fiercely. But now
that he’s a young man I’m supposed to have an ‘adult’ relationship with him. Not too friendly—that’s for desperate try-hard mothers who can’t accept their own ageing. Nor do I want to be like the caricature of a mother-in-law whose perfect son can do no wrong. I can see his faults. I hate how I can’t see the floor of his bedroom because it’s covered in junk, for example. Yet I’m not sure I feel entirely comfortable with these excitable feelings. Of course, he is not the only one who has changed. When I think about my own attitudes to twenty year old men when I was about that age, I was so blinded by the prospect of either attracting or repelling them (depending on how much I wanted to go out with them) that I couldn’t really see them. They were either prospective partners or creeps. Now, from the distance of middle age I can stand and look and appreciate them without any of that messy stuff. And I’ve discovered that they are really lovely. I’ve tested this by checking out my friends’ kids, and guess what? They are gorgeous too. There really is something delightful about these people. They are fresh and open and full of interest in stuff I barely have time for, like technology. And even when they talk and it’s all self-absorbed or posturing, that’s okay. They take me both backwards and forwards. Back to memories of my own early adulthood and a little more understanding and forgiveness for all the mistakes and the fun. And forward into stuff of the future; maybe search engines are more interesting than I realised! For me this is the endless magical mystery tour of parenting. Like the Hobbit, I remember setting off one
day over twenty years ago when I discovered I was pregnant, full of trepidation and with only a metaphorical supply of hankies for comfort. Over the years my son and I have had many adventures, many of them difficult and at times, downright harrowing. Yet we have survived so far, somewhat battlescarred, but still together. Perhaps the most consistent thing has been the deeply intense emotions associated with it all. From insane boredom to chronic overstimulation and everything in between—we’ve done the lot. And when I think about it, it is a kind of love affair and it is okay to think he is attractive and enjoy his company from the distance of motherhood. Because of course, at this age, the mothering is distant. We must move away from each other even with these strong emotional bonds. This is quite a tricky tightrope to walk and leads to strange mixed up feelings at times. I was chatting with a workmate the other day who also has young adult children and she wisely noted that, ‘from the moment you discover you are pregnant, ‘til you take your last breath, you are constantly worrying, wondering, hoping they’ll be alright’. I’d like to add: ‘and constantly loving them with an intensity that borders on pathological’. I suspect this intense love is probably necessary. As he has grown it has surprised me to discover that his talents and tastes are entirely divergent from mine. Surely, only a pathologically infatuated woman would attempt to hold a conversation about car modifications and the world’s largest multiplayer computer game while standing in a junkyard—really. But I do draw the line at vacuuming his room. I’m not that crazy.
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Seasonal children’s page Spring Activities words Irena Krol artwork Brigette De Chirico Irena is a devoted Mama, loving wife, dedicated shiatsu therapist and
Birth, new growth, expressions of physical energy, changeability, the dance of wind, rain and sun, joy of self and joining with others and cleansing are all themes of spring which we can explore through play with our children.
enthusiastic Aikido practioner who loves creating gardens and playing in the ocean.
Find the seeds you saved at the end of autumn or buy seeds and plants that catch the imagination of your children—such as sunflower seeds, strawberry runners, sweet peas and veggies—and make a special garden or give new life to an old one. Make a tipi structure out of bamboo stakes on which to grow beans that the children can play inside. Collect flowers and thread them together to make flower necklaces or flower wreaths for their heads. Cleansing Get the children to sort out their toy basket and book shelf. Collect the no longer played with toys and books and make a bag for the op shop or pass on to another family. Let the children consider that to make room for new growth it is important to let go of the things they have grown out of. Ask them to think about what it is they really love, treasure and need amongst their possessions and will really look after as opposed to the things they are willing to pass on and let go of rather than allow to become clutter. On a warmer, sunny day get the children to help you wash some windows. They might get soaked but will probably have a ball and learn to be part of the spring ritual of making their home a more beautiful and clearer space to live in.
You will need:
Heavy white pa
per cut in an 18
cm squares have a spheric al head) • New unshar pened pencils w ith the end. a rubber on •
Pins (those that
1. Allow the ch ild/children to decorate the piece of paper using crayons, gl itter etc. 2. Find the ce ntre of the pape r by numberin the four corner g s. Fold the pape r in half by brin ing number on ge to number th ree. Unfold an then fold agai d n bringing num ber two to num four. The inters ber ecting points of the two folds w give you the ce ill ntre. 3. Cut along each fold line about three qu of the way to th arters e centre. Leave the last 2.5cm uncut. 4. Cut a smal l circle of pape r about 3cm in diameter place a loop of sticky tape on one sid 5. Fold every e. second tip of th e square paper with the cuts in to the centre. Pu sh the pin through the ce ntre of the circ le of paper with sticky tape on the the other side and then throug the over lappin h g tips and into the rubber end the pencil. Mak of e sure the pin doesn’t poke ou the other side t of the rubber. Note Younger children will ne ed supervision the pin can co as me out with ro ugh treatment.
Adapted from Earthwise, Envi ronmental craf and activities w ts ith young child ren, Carol Petr Floris Books, Ed ash, inburgh, 1993 .
‘Book Nook’ Reviewed by Kane Ord
The bookshop proudly supports this magazine and will offer 5% off the RRP for the reviewed titles.
In The Fiddle Is A Song Durga Bernhard
So You’re Going To Be A Dad Peter Downey
Australian Autism Handbook Benison O’Reilly and Seana Smith
‘In The Fiddle Is a Song’ is a wonderful and easy-to-read picture book for young readers, which explores the hidden potential within the objects found in our surrounding environment— within wheat, a fiddle and the clouds there lies bread, a song and a storm. The author has masterfully organized the story in a simple lift-the-flap format, which encourages the reader to actively engage in the story and in the process reveals not only the intrinsic potential within our immediate environment but also the hidden potential that resides within all of us. By lifting the flap the reader can discover what possibilities exist within the object.
Peter Downey’s comical yet informative ‘So You’re Going to Be a Dad’ is a comprehensive albeit wry book for the unsuspecting male who knows very little about the trials, tribulations and rewards of fatherhood. Peter Downey explores in some depth the experience of fatherhood whilst giving practical advice on pregnancy, childbirth and baby-care.
The wonderfully vivid colours of the gouache illustrations—with the close-ups, movement and constantly changing perspectives—are sure to hold your child’s attention.
Simon and Schuster/ $24.95
At last—there exists a practical, well informed and detailed resource for parents who may have a child recently diagnosed with an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). This comprehensive guide offers advice on a wide-range of issues from early symptoms and signs of ASD through to the long-term obstacles and strategies of parenting a child with ASD. Contributing to the holistic and practical nature of this book is the fact that both O’Reilly and Smith are mothers of children with ASD, and thus interspersed within the book are the authors’ personal stories. Furthermore, the authors’ approach to this resource is primarily scientific, something which invokes much confidence, and is sure to arouse debate particularly concerning the current questions over the supposed correlation between Thiomersal in vaccines and autism. The second half of the book is completely devoted as a resource and services guide covering assistance available in each state and territory.
Hardie Grant Australia/ $22.95
The topics discussed include advice on baby names, finances, a glossary of words all fathers must learn and the book also includes his friends’ personal anecdotes of fatherhood. An entertaining read.
This section also includes a comprehensive list of books and websites. An incredibly helpful resource for any parent of a child with ASD. Jane Curry Publishing/ $35.00