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I never made promises lightly.. There have been some that I’ve broken.. But I swear that in the days still left.. We will walk in fields of Gold…..  Fields of Gold by Eva Cassidy

The words to that song will have a different meaning to people.  As I was packing to head to Geelong last week, I turned the television on for some background noise.  Supernanny was on and as I couldn’t be bothered turning it over, I watched the end of it.  Children running completely out of control, swearing at, kicking, hitting  their parents and vandalising their own house when they didn’t get their own way.  All this at only 3 and 4 years of age.  Without some intervention, you just know this family was heading out of control.  Thankfully,  they asked for help so hopefully will get the strategies to help keep a tight family unit.

Then the show Toddlers and Tiaras came on.  I have never watched it before out of principle.  I don’t particularly like baby shows, as all babies are beautiful and judging one against another just seems to be like trying to pick the most beautiful star in the sky, catch it and shove a plastic crown on it’s head.  Totally impossible and pointless! But these child beauty pageants are something else.  I was transfixed by it, in the same way you are when a disaster has happened and you can’t take your eyes off the news reports.  It was a train wreck.  These parents (and I use the term loosely) are creating monsters who believe they are not only more beautiful and talented than other children but that they have the right to belittle and humiliate everyone around them as well.  It was horrifying.  If you haven’t seen it, I envy you.  I wish I hadn’t as I can’t get the visions out of my head.

Children dressed up like little burlesque dancers (and I’m being polite, I really mean tawdry strippers) and being encouraged by their parents to thrust their pelvis and shake their hips and non existent breasts at the judges.  Their mothers (mainly) are standing in the crowd while they do their routine pulling the faces they want them to pull.. The duck pout that is so popular on facebook.. the Ohhhh look  that Marilyn Monroe made famous.  Seriously.. these are little kids and they are being encouraged to flaunt their sexuality (if they have any yet) in the faces of strangers to win a ribbon. Their little bodies were spray tanned, their hair curled and lacquered and their baby faces painted to look like mini Boy Georges.  Surely, that is child abuse or contributing to the moral decline of a minor? Or at the very least it’s lousy parenting.

If you’ve been following my blog, you’ll know that my eldest child, Aimee, was killed on an access visit.  You’ll also know that I wasn’t always the best parent to my children and regret it deeply.  Watching this program yesterday made me realise that while I didn’t always do the best things by my kids, I did  teach them self respect.  I did make them believe they could do anything they set their minds to, but some things are privileges not rights.  That they didn’t deserve to take and never give anything back in return.  And I hope I have taught them that life is a two way street.

Of course they have their faults.  They are humans and humans who have been badly hurt by what life has thrown at them so far.  But they are also resilient.  They have an innate ability to get back after they’ve been knocked down, brush themselves off and start all over again.  They amaze me on a daily basis.  They are good decent men.  They say the proof of the pudding is in the eating.. and the proof of success as a parent is in the adult.  I’ve always been proud of them but last week, it finally hit home that I was a success.  The penny dropped.  I did something right.  They are exactly the sort of men I wanted to raise.  They are kind, decent, loving, funny, resilient, intelligent young men.

I think  the greatest gift I have given them is to dream.  I am a dreamer.  My school reports over the years will attest to that.  Teachers said dreamer like it’s a bad thing.  I never saw it that way and still don’t.  I would hate to think that my kids thought that life was just a 9-5 mundane existence that held nothing more than the occasional weekend and holiday to break the monotony.  I wanted them to dream big.  I wanted them to want more from life.  I wanted them to be visionaries.  And they are!

Financially, life has been hard.  To have milk to put on their cereal, there were times I had to raid their piggy banks.  Let me tell you, as a parent, that is the ultimate in feeling like a failure.  But I did what I had to do at the time.  I haven’t given them a good financial example.  When money did come in, we spent up instead of putting it away.  I didn’t teach them how to save. I unconsciously taught them to live it up when money is there rather than put it away for a rainy day.  While I wish I’d taught them differently, I did  what felt right at the time.  They often went without things, so when money came in, I indulged them in the things they usually missed out on.   Definitely not the best example but as I say, at the time, it felt right.

What we did learn during that time was that we are a family and family means sticking together and helping the other out.  I envy people who DON’T have the same strong bond with their  children that I have.  My sons and I have the strongest bond.   Trust me, I’m not bragging when I say this, although I love the relationship I have with them.  But these bonds were forged on grief and pain and I wish we’d never experienced the need to rely so heavily on each other.  We are a very tight family unit these days although probably still too emotionally dependent on each other..

When Stuart was still at school, he got a job at McDonalds.  The day he got his first week’s pay, he came home and took a bill off the fridge and went to walk out with it.  I asked him what he thought he was doing. His answer? “Mum, I got a job to help out around here.  I’m working.  I have to pay for some of the bills.”  I made him put it back and go spend his first pay packet on new clothes that he badly needed but that was a good glimpse of the sort of man I had raised.

Lachlan has also always helped out financially, many many times.   I run a small slideshow business and when he saw how much I loved what I did, he forked out for a full package of the program I use.  It was a lot of money, but it made the job I do, not only easier, but much more professional.  He’s very much a believer in working in what you love. Again, I have raised a man who will support the dreams of someone he loves and encourage them to live the best life.

We have always worked as one unit.  If one of us needed something and another one could provide it, that’s what we did.  There was no yours or mine.. It was ours.  If one of us was in trouble, the problem belonged to us as a family. If one of us gloried in something, we all gloried in it.  That is how family should be. All for one and one for all.

My sons are as different as chalk and cheese.  I was going out on a date one night.. I asked them how I looked.  Lachlan walked over and buttoned my shirt up 2 more buttons to hide any cleavage I might have had showing.. Stuart walked over and undid 3.  Lachlan is slow to fire up and slow to forgive (although he does eventually)… Stuart has a short fuse but is as quick to forgive (or apologise) as he is to fire up. Stuart is a doer.  Lachlan is a thinker. Now that’s not to say that Lachlan doesn’t do and Stuart doesn’t think.. but their first reactions are so different. Stuart sees a problem and rushes in to try to fix it.  Lachlan sits back and thinks about the best strategy to fix the problem.

What they have in common is compassion and generosity of spirit.  They both dream of a better world and are constantly trying to find ways to make it the truth.  They have integrity and will always help another human being.  They believe in community.  We were driving one day and saw a guy being beaten up on the street.  They both screamed at me to stop and were out of the car before I had fully pulled over, running to his assistance with no thought of their own safety.  Thankfully the police pulled up at the same time and averted the whole situation.

Yes, you may have gathered that I am proud of them.  Knowing what they have been through in their lives makes that pride even more justified.  They could easily have given up on trusting life to serve them fairly and just turned their back on trying but they didn’t.  They remind me of that Chumbawamba song.. “I get knocked down but I get up again, You’re never gonna keep me down”.  And that, my friends,  is what life is all about.  It’s not about the hand you are dealt, it’s how you play the game.

Life now, looks so much better for them both.  Lachlan works in Audio Visual as he has since before he left school.  He is also in the process of changing  his existing business into more the production side of things and will have his new business up and running very soon.  Stuart is engaged to the beautiful Sarah and they get married in 2013.  He has just finished his Aged Care certificate and wants to take that further into nursing.   I know now that if they have disappointments in their lives, they will be able to dust themselves off and start again. I always promised them, when life was not going the way we wanted, that one day, it would get better.  It finally has.  These are our fields of gold.

I wondered as I was watching Toddlers and Tiaras, how these poor kids would fair if they have a disappointment in life.  They think it’s a drama if their hair isn’t just perfect or if they miss an inappropriate dance step their mother has worked out for them. They think winning is the meaning of life… not how you play the game.  I feel so sorry for them.  I know we hear a lot about the youth of today and how selfish and self centered they are.  If that’s the case, it’s our generation who have made them that way.   There’s a fine line between praising a child and making them believe they are better than anyone else.  There is a fine line between encouraging a child to follow their dreams and  making them do things they have to do but don’t want to do.  There’s a fine line between allowing them freedom and letting them run wild.  I think most parents walk that fine line pretty damn well.  They don’t always get it completely right, but generally the end result is the same.  Decent adults!

I would like to think these child pageant stars will turn out okay.  I hope they come to understand they are worth so much more than how they look.  Their inner beauty should shine so much more than the outer.  I hope they learn the deep satisfaction you feel when you help another person.  To quote Les Miserables (yes I’m a tragic) “To love another person is to see the face of God.   I hope they strive to be so much more than “best in show”.  Even a cow can win that.  Most of all, I hope they enjoy their life and live it with pride, dignity and self respect.  Everyone deserves that!

We don’t get a manual that tells us how to raise kids.  We have to have a license to drive a car or a boat, to fish,  to hunt, to shoot, to marry.. Yet we don’t have to have any preparation to raise the future of the world.  We have such important lives in our hands yet, we are, on the whole, left floundering.  It is the hardest job any of us will ever do.  It isn’t all about cute baby clothes and toys.  It’s about being on call 24/7 for the rest of your life. It’s about sleepless nights when a teenager hasn’t come home.  It’s about watching your child’s heart break when they lose their first love and not be able to do anything.  It’s sometimes thankless and full of angst, worry and despair.  In some cases it can leave you completely brokenhearted.  Yet it is, for most of us the best thing we’ve ever done.  It is satisfying and joyful to see the evolving product.  It is the circle of life.

If I had my time over, I would do things differently.  I would be quicker to praise and slower to chastise.  I would save more and teach my kids the value of money.  I would spend more time playing than disciplining.  And I would certainly spend more time laughing than crying.  I would still have dreamed but put more effort into finding ways to bring the dreams into fruition.  Thankfully, there is still time to do all the things I want to do.  I intend living a long, healthy and happy life.  I have way too much to do still.  I promised my children we would walk in fields of gold.. and there are still so many fields left to walk.  I didn’t make that promise lightly and I will not break it.  It’s the most important.

Happy walking in your fields of gold… Livvy 🙂

My heart in my hands