Posted on

How to Have a Present Free Christmas and Spend Less on Christmas Day

Or ‘The Spawning of a new Christmas Myth and the Death of Tradition’

Christmas is my absolute favourite time of year. I love everything about it. The lights, the decorations and, most importantly, the surprises. I love shopping for people and planning menus. There isn’t anything I don’t like about it.

Okay, that is not technically true. There are several things I don’t like. I am not fond of having the same conversation every year with my hubby.

“What do you want for Christmas, My Love?”
“Sleep”
“Besides sleep, what do you want for Christmas?”
“Nothing”

Seriously, you could use that conversation as a fixed point in time. No passage through the Space-Time Vortex can change this one moment in our year.

And I don’t love haemorrhaging money. How expensive has Christmas become? The pressure the media put on us to give more and be perfect examples of domestic goddesses at this time of year is becoming unfathomable. Stores start advertising Christmas earlier and earlier, trying to get us to part with more and more money. And I cannot say I am immune. I love to give gifts. Watching people’s faces light up when opening something I have meticulously chosen because I think they will love it is a wonderful feeling.

The Death of Tradition

Fair warning here, if you are looking for Christmas ideas that involve a traditional roast lunch with brussels sprouts followed by getting drunk and starting a family argument, you’re not going to find it here.

For starters, I live in Australia. There is no other day that you would think, ‘it’s so hot outside that the countryside is melting in a Dali-esque manner, I think I’ll turn the oven on and heat the house up. A hot meal is exactly what we all need and I’ll feel so much more festive, relaxed and refreshed after standing next to a 180 degree oven making gravy.’

For me, Christmas is a time to share some fun, bonding time with my family. To flex my imagination and plan a day I know everyone will enjoy and file away in their bank of happy memories to look back on.

Growing up my mother gave us wonderful Christmas’ full of fun and joy. Traditional, but with one difference to all the other family Christmas’ I have been lucky enough to participate in over the years. And it is a tradition I have brought forward to my own family.

As children, presents lasted all day for us. Not because there were so many or because we had lots of money. Farmers in South Australia are not likely to top the highest earners list any time soon. It is because we did not open all our presents at once.

Before breakfast we got to wake our parents up and find out what Santa had brought us in our Christmas stocking. Then we would share breakfast as a family, always something a little fancy rather than the usual farm fare, and afterwards we were allowed to open our gifts from Mum and Dad. While we played and enjoyed what we had been given, Mum would prepare lunch and, if it was a late harvest, sometimes Dad would have to go out and work until lunch time.

After a huge, traditional roast lunch we would be allowed to open the gifts from extended family.

So this conversation happened one Christmas lunch on a farm far, far away –

Me, fussy eater, about 12 years old “I don’t like turkey”
Mum, genius, great cook and master manipulator, “You haven’t tried it before.  It tastes like chicken.”
“I don’t like it.”
“Well that’s why I cooked a chicken and put some slices down the bottom just for you.”

Me – happily takes my ‘chicken’.
Grown ups – silently in awe of my mother.

To add to this gradual opening of presents, we took turns opening the gifts under our tree one at a time. One child played ‘Santa’s helper’ and handed out the gifts under the tree to people and each one was opened and appreciated before the next gift was opened. This little slice of delayed gratification was wonderful in that we not only learned early on to feel excited when other people are happy and to be a part of each other’s joy, but learned to appreciate each gift and the person who gave it.

For years I had no idea that other families opened all their presents first thing in the morning and then it was just lunch, rellies and napping for the rest of the day. Last year I mentioned to my mother that I loved that she did this and she told me she had started it because she felt bad that it was often just the four of us for Christmas. The majority of our family lived a six hour drive away and we couldn’t leave the farm unattended at that time of year. Potential bushfires, stock and harvest time all formed a perfect trifecta of reasons we were housebound on Christmas Day. I am so appreciative that she found a way to make us feel like Christmas lasted all day even if we weren’t travelling around to spend time with family like so many other people.

A Present Free Christmas Sarcastic Whimsy style.

Two years ago our children, masters of patience and delayed gratification, decided that they would like to go without gifts for two years in order to put the money we would usually spend on Christmas on another family cruise. Have I ever mentioned that I love them? They are fucking awesome! No seriously. They are bloody brilliant.

No gifts, huh? How do you do Christmas without gifts? I started thinking and came up with a genius idea. It was pure brilliance. It was perfect… it was also not to be. Just as I started putting all the pieces in place for my no-present joyfest, we got notice that we needed to move house and all our energies were put into that. Once settled I quickly realised that our new place was not suited to this idea.  In fact, we soon realised that our new abode was not suited to us in general.  Too small, too ugly, too falling down.  But I digress as usual.  I was talking about my idea.  An I idea that I am keeping quiet about because I am certain I will use it at some stage all all and sundry will continue to be amazed by my brilliant idea.

After much thinking, I settled on my new no present Christmas idea. I can tell you that there is a lot of pressure in finding an idea that will make everyone in our diverse clan happy for Christmas without spending much money.

I cancelled Christmas.

Yes, you heard me.

I cancelled Christmas.

As you know, I have teens. Teens are notorious for sleeping in and being lazy. And I have a husband who isn’t particularly occasiony. That conversation we have every year pretty much sums up his attitude to Christmas. He is the antithesis of me. The yin to my yang. The Bert to my Ernie. The Lano to my Woodley. The Grinch to my Cindy-Lou. You get the idea. He’s the sensible one in our relationship that makes sure I don’t get hit by a bus when crossing the road. Road crossing can be dangerous when you’ve been distracted by butterflies.

As discussed, every year when I ask him what he wants for Christmas, he answers “sleep”. And when I push him, because that’s a crap answer, he responds “nothing.” And while my children are fun and wonderful people, I feel that his influence on them is not altogether good. When asked what they want for Christmas, my girls often respond “sleep”. BASTARDS! The lot of them! Spoiling all my Christmassy excitement. Seriously, I am the first one awake on Christmas, waiting for my children to get up and discover what I have done for them. I am so excited that it is hard not to jump on them the way they used to jump on me at 5:30 am on Christmas Past.

The Spawning of a New Christmas Myth

Without gifts to deliver, Santa wasn’t actually necessary to the equation.

So without further adieu, I would like to introduce <underwhelming fanfare please>

 

 

The Christmas Sloth fully supports sleeping in and doing nothing all day.

Present Free Christmas

My children woke up to letters left outside their doors from the Christmas Sloth explaining that Christmas was cancelled. Santa had been… detained and with any luck would be able to visit in time to bring them their cruise in a couple of years.

Click for Printable and Editable Word Doc

In the spirit of spending the entire day slothing around, I made personalised pyjama t-shirts to celebrate the newly created holiday. Five dollar white t-shirts from Big W, some iron on transfer paper from eBay (much cheaper than buying it at Officeworks), a little googling (original image found here) and some photoshopping went in to making everyone their own Slothsmas 2016 t-shirts.


Click here to order T-Shirt Transfer Paper to create your own custom Slothsmas T-shirts from Amazon

I love that my almost grown girls stepped over their letters and t-shirts because they were more excited about surprising me like they used to as tiny children. I’m using the word ‘surprising’ loosely. Two very noticeable lumps (actually, there were four very noticeable lumps on top of two daughter sized lumps) gave away their presence under my duvet when I stepped out of the shower. And just like I used to ten years ago, I pretended not to know they were there and loudly made a to-do over the fact I was tired and would just lay across my bed to nap. Quarter of an hour of giggling and snuggling later, the girls had still not made a move towards the doorway surprises they had walked past earlier.

Unfortunately, at this point Hubby was nowhere to be seen as his pager had been rather uncouth by piercingly summoning him to a fire call before the girls had woken from their holiday slumber.

After making their way back to their rooms to get dressed and discover what was awaiting them outside their doors, it was time for breakfast.

Walking out to the living area, the children found a box from the Christmas sloth. This is where the term ‘present free’ gets a little hazy, but I still stand by it as this is less of a present and more of a box-o-relaxation-and-happiness. Ours was a low-spend day, not a no-spend day.

The girls, who are much more patient and amazing than I am, did not make a move to open the large box wrapped in plain brown paper and string. Personally, if I had seen a mystery box filled with potentially mystical things at their age, I would have been dying to open it. Who are we kidding, if I had seen that yesterday I would have been dying to open it.

But those children are better humans than I am.  They were waiting for their Daddy to get home so he wouldn’t miss out on any Slothsmas surprises he had helped orchestrate.  Knowing that our favourite Grinch would feel bad thinking everyone had put their morning on hold waiting for him to get home from his call out, I told the girls that they were amazing and thoughtful, but to go ahead and open the box.

Inside were things like paper plates, plastic cutlery and glasses, popcorn kernels and paper popcorn cups, a few dvds they’d been dying to watch, a bottle of Baileys (well, my favourite Aldi knock-off that costs $14 instead of $40), a cheap puzzle and a pack of cards and teaspoons. Everything had been purchased at the $2 store with the exception of the DVDs and $10 jigsaw puzzle. All in all, this box cost $106. And most of that was DVDs, our family love watching movies.

While they opened their box of goodies and took selfies with custard (I kid you not), I made breakfast. I had already made all the food we were going to need for the day and had used disposable bowls and trays to serve it on. We had everything we needed for a day free of work, including dishes and cooking. With all the preparation done the day before, I only needed to reheat the croissants and take the fruit platter and spreads out of the fridge. Served on paper plates and disposable trays, there were no dishes to be done at the end of the meal. Everything went straight into the waiting bin liner.

There could be only one thing more relaxing than a chore free day in front of the TV with food laid on. And that would be if that chore free day had a swim up pool bar included.

Fear not! The Christmas Sloth had thought of everything. Upon opening the blinds to the back patio, the children were met with this:

Click for Printable Slothsmas Pool Bar PDF

What’s a good Aussie Christmas without a swim? We don’t have a pool, but that was not going to stop me from giving everyone a swim up pool bar. A tiny wading pool, a blow up palm tree, leis and flamingo fairy lights from Kmart all came together to create the most giggle inducing tropical swim up pool bar you could imagine. Twenty-four dollars well spent.

So there you have it. Not counting food, our entire Christmas without presents cost us $160. It was a day full of joy, laughter, and abject laziness. Hubby’s parents came over for lunch, bringing cold roasted turkey and ham with them. I had done all the preparation possible for the accompanying salads the day before, needing only to cut a few last minute fruits and vegetables up and drizzle dressing over our fresh feast. A languidly slothful day had by all enjoying each others company.

And now, Christmas is upon us for another year.  And the stores are still pressuring us months in advance to buy, buy, buy.  So in the spirit of Slothsmas, I am going to be posting more Low Spend Christmas ideas in the weeks to come.  Last year the Christmas Sloth ripped a hole in the fabric of space and time and we ended up stuck in the 80’s for the day.  This year I have a True Blue idea that will knock their socks off and give the Christmas Sloth an excuse to drop the F bomb several times.

Merry (Impending) Slothsmas!

Pin me to share the love

 

Save

Posted on

Mental Health Check List

Self care is such an important factor in our lives. And as parents we often put it on the back burner feeling that it is selfish to care for ourselves when there are things we could be doing for our family.  This is especially true of women in general.  Society has conditioned us to think of others before ourselves.  But that is a whole other conversation and a feminist pinterest hole I often get lost down in the darkest hours of the night.

Aaand back to my original point – self care is important and it is not selfish.  In fact, if we care for ourselves properly we are in better shape to look after others.  Nobody ever says “Why are you changing the oil in your car?  Its purpose is to just be taking you where you need to go.”  We all know that without fuel and maintenance the car is going to be less fuel effective over time and eventually break down.  People aren’t cars (even though I’m pretty sure I could add a plethora of automotive based innuendos right here) but the point still stands.  All people, adults and children alike need to be looked after properly to function at their fullest capacity.

If you’re anything like me, you just jump in your car and drive without a second thought, both literally and metaphorically.   And it isn’t until you hear a chug in the engine or everything slows down that you think about the mechanics of the whole operation.  If you know anything about me from my various blog posts that focus on mental health, it is that I am a huge fan of mindfulness.  Living a mindful life helps me quiet the anxious chatter in my head and live my best, happiest, most stress free, insert-your-own-chilled-out-adjectives-and-superlatives-here life.  In fact, if you head to this post over here, you’ll find a handy mindful day planner that can help you bring mindfulness to even the busiest of days.  And here you will find some five minute mindfulness techniques that you can bring to your work day to ease the stress of being in an office surrounded by a whole stack of stupid.

Teens especially are prone to forgetting to do the basics that keep them happy and healthy (and often hygienic…). They are in this awesome, awkward state between childhood and adulthood where the world is not new, but they are learning to navigate it without the training wheels on.  By us giving them the space they need to discover themselves, grow into functioning adults and steer their own path they no longer have us hovering over them reminding them to do the little things.

So on that note, here is my handy dandy, printable and saveable as a .pdf mental health check list of things for your teen to do when they’re feeling flat and shite and they don’t know what to do about it.  And it is pretty darn good advice for we grown-ups to be reminded of as well.

Click for a printable PDF version or pin me to share the love.

What Have I Had to Eat?

Have you forgotten to eat, gotten to busy to have time to eat or be subsisting on junk food for too long?  Your body needs fuel.  Find tasty nutrients and ingest them regularly.  There is a very strong link between food and disorders such as anxiety and depression, if you are interested in looking into this more in depth, head to the Food and Mood Centre website.

Have I Had Enough Water to Drink?

Two litres, or eight glasses, per day is the standard recommended amount of water to drink per day.  Fill up a Pump bottle and drink three of those per day.  The last thing you need, especially if you already have a mental health issue, is to be struggling against the effects of dehydration.  Becoming dehydrated impacts your ability to think clearly and negatively affects mood.

What are My Sleep Patterns Like?

How good is bed?  I love bed.  I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t in my trackies snuggled up on my bed writing this post while listening to the weather rage outside.  Good, uninterrupted sleep is important to give the brain some down time to process the day and increase mental resilience during waking hours.  And it aids memory.  Get you teen sleeping like their grades depend on it – because they kind of do.

When did I Last Talk to a Friend?

Good friendships are even better than a freshly made bed with line dried sheets.  Research shows that people who have regular contact with friends produce less cortisol in the brain.  Cortisol is a stress hormone that can lead to symptoms of anxiety.  Staying cooped up in their room studying all holidays or playing video games alone is not helping stress levels.  Reach out and contact someone, prompt your teen to speak to a friend if they’ve gotten too insular or wrapped up in the stress of getting good grades.

Have I Been Active Today?

This one time, I put the symptoms to my fibromyalgia into web md and it came up telling me I was most likely suffering from exercise.  True story.  But don’t let that put you off of pulling on your sweat pants and taking a walk in mother nature.  Exercise releases the happy-feel-good endorphin serotonin, aids sleep (see above), reduces stress, enlarges the part of the brain responsible for memory and the list goes on.

What am I Thinking About?

There’s not nearly enough space here to talk about all the detrimental effects of negative thinking on mental health.  Getting trapped inside our own heads replaying past events, unnecessarily worrying about the future, or focusing on negative self-talk can increase can lead to symptoms of depression and anxiety.  Speak to your mental health professional about techniques that work for you to keep your mind healthy and positive.

*cough*mindfulness

While this is not an exhaustive list of things that impact mental health and is not a complete treatment plan, it is certainly a good place to start when you are feeling flat and a good reminder to have up somewhere to avoid feeling like dehydrated shite.

Posted on

Love Your Children In a Manner That They Can’t Help But Love You Back. Whatever That Is To You.

We have just recently moved in to a rental property that is… less than ideal.  After piling all the trash left at the property by the previous tenant out on the curb for council clean up one evening, I was walking arm in arm up the driveway with my 17 yo daughter.

Me: “Thanks for helping.”

Bek: “I love you too.”

That right there is everything I could have hoped for as a parent.  No matter what I say, my daughter hears ‘I love you’.

Their whole lives, the last thing my children have heard before they leave the house is “I love you”, even if we have just had a disagreement or I am feeling less than loving towards some of their behaviours.  “I love you” will always be the last thing they hear when they leave our home.  It may be “I really want to choke you Homer Simpson style for your stupidity right now, but that doesn’t mean I don’t love you beyond compare.”  Or “we’ll talk about it when you get home tonight and  you’ve removed your head from your arse.  Just know I love you no matter how special your behaviour is.”  But it is still “I love you”.

When I say love your children in a manner they can’t help but love you back, I don’t mean give them everything they want and never impose any rules on them.  What you get in return for that is not love and it is certainly not respect.  We are there to be their parents, not their enabling best friends.  I am mother.  Mentor.  Enforcer of Rules.  Shepherd through life.  Often begrudging, but generally chatty Taxi Driver.  Chores and Homework Badger.  Our friendship, though it exists, exists with strings attached.  With caveats and boundaries.  I am first and foremost their mother.  We will but heads on the odd occasion that they are being buttheads.

Now I know that my style of parenting isn’t for everyone, we are quite sweary and NSFW behind closed doors.  That is why I encourage you to use whatever it is about the amazing human being you are, the thing that makes you lovable and unique, in order to love your children so much they can’t help but love you back.  If like me, you love building box forts in the lounge room and creating indoor beach barbeques, engage with them using quirky part of your personality that meshes with yours.  If you are crafty, show you love by creating things you know they’ll adore.  If you are sporty, make chores fun by turning them into games and competitions.  If they enjoy both fishing and animated films, exclaim “I don’t understand fishing metaphors” before collapsing to the ground if you get lost when they start talking about inline spinners and jerkbait.

Birthday forts are parenting done right!

Parenting is difficult and tiring.  But it also the most wonderfully joyous thing to be a part of.  For me, my children can’t help but love me back because my love shines through in all the nonsense I bring to their lives.  And in the fact that within the circus we call home I put in the effort to set consistent rules and boundaries.  All the fun, laughter, and inappropriate joking is underscored by boundaries and discipline.

I was at the store on the weekend and a tired looking mother was on the travelator with her twin boys.  One was running up the down travelator and the other was walking calmly in front of her towards me.  I smiled knowingly at her and we in that moment of understanding we bonded as parents.  She was clearly overwrought, the shopping centre was near on empty and there was no one else on the travelator but us so it was no big deal that the boys were not standing perfectly by her side.  They were quiet, happy and quite well behaved for 6 ish years old to my eye.  “It gets easier as they get older and less active” I encouraged her.

“Yeah but I’ve still got to go through that horrible stage that comes after this.”  I always find it interesting that parents just assume their children will be difficult, as if they don’t have any control over it.

“My boy is 22 and he didn’t have a difficult stage after he stopped running everywhere and breaking bones” I responded.  Her response floored me.  I wish it was the first time I had heard words to this effect, but sadly it isn’t.

“My daughter is thirteen and she’s a bitch.”

If I thought my mother had that opinion of me, I probably would be too.  In fact, thirteen year old me would go out of her way to prove she was a bitch.  That’s what thirteen year olds do.  If children don’t have someone believing in the person they can be, why would they try to be anyone different?

Loving our children in a way that they can’t help but love us back is about modelling the behaviours we want to see in them, engaging with them in a manner that they connect with and taking the time to experience the world from their own frame of reference.  If we treat our children like a hindrance or a difficulty then that is what they will think we believe of them.  There is no connection in that, it communicates disappointment in who they are and the gap between what we want them to be and who they actually are.  There is a vast difference between hearing “Will you just shut up and stay still for a change?” or “Why can’t you just behave like your brother/friend/anyone other than them” than hearing “Sweetheart, you know how sometimes you get tired and grumpy and I look after you? I’m feeling that right now, can we just take some time out for me to rest so I can be my fun self again soon?”  They all ask for peace and quiet, but the last one creates a shared experience and helps our children understand and connect with us and how we are feeling.

How we deal with those moments when we butt heads with our children is every bit as important as all the moments in between when they are actually nice to be around.  In fact, they speak volumes to our children about our role in their lives and how we view them as people.

One of the reasons my children can’t help but love me back is because they see the love in everything I do.  Even when I have to discipline them.  Rarely are there raised voices and harsh words in our house, no matter how spectacularly stupid or hurtful the behaviour by the adorable little miscreant has been.  I always speak honestly and openly with them about where I am coming from when I do have to play the Parent Card and squash their fun or any misbehaviours.

After all the hurt feelings and teenage anger has died down to a simmer, I approach my child and explain to them why I did what I did.  I assure them that I understand that they are hurt and angry and I would have felt the same at their age.  But I’ve lived a life and I can see the pitfalls of their decisions even if they can’t.  I remind them that I am their mother and my job is to get them through to adulthood safe, well rounded and happy.  In that order.  Happy sometimes has to take a back seat when the other two goals are jeopardised.  I make sure they understand that loving them is much bigger than just making them happy in that moment.  I love them so much I will be the one to put my foot down so they can go on to have rich and happy lives as adults, regardless of how unhappy it makes the both of us at the time.

Speaking to my 16 year old about parenting styles and how we show love to each other, including my setting of rules and boundaries, she said “I was an asshole for a bit but you refused to take any of my crap and I pulled my head in pretty quickly.”  While we as parents are not wholly in control of our children’s actions and attitudes, we play a large part in them as they grow up.

After thinking about writing this post I presented all of my children a seemingly simple question.  I asked “This is not a self serving question for gratification; it’s a genuine question for a post I’m writing.  Why do you love me?”

My 17 year old daughter gave me the most insightful answer which, thankfully, confirmed what I had suspected.  She said she loved me because I was funny, kind, silly and thoughtful.  All good answers and, if I’m honest, did give me the gratification as a parent that I was not intentionally seeking.  It is easy to see why someone would respond well to kindness and thoughtfulness, but I wanted to know why my personal characteristics of funny and silly were reasons to love me as a parent.  To her, those qualities are a reflection of her and she likes that we connect that way.  She responds well to being parented in a style that meshes with her own personality.

All my children have their own wonderful, unique personalities and are experiencing life differently to myself and each other.  To have the kind of relationship where they can’t help but love me back I take the time to see life through their eyes, listen to everything they have to say to me even if I. Really. Don’t. Care. About. Pokemon Go.  And I recognise that the little things aren’t worth saying no to if they don’t take too much time out of my day or cause inconvenience.  Is it a pain in the butt to detour past the gym to go past three pokemon stops? Yes.  Does it take more than two minutes? No.  I have two minutes to give to my children to make them feel that I care about helping them with the things that interest them.  Did I just clean the lounge room?  Yes.  Is it a pain in the butt to step over lego or a stuffed toy tea party? Yes.  Does it actually hurt me in any way for the lounge to be messed up again for a few hours? No.  Off you go, have fun, clean up after yourselves.  If you don’t, the next time you ask to mess the house up will be a learning experience you won’t enjoy.

I show my children that I not only love them but like them.  I seek out ways for us to spend time together doing things that we both enjoy.  I have created a comfortable space that they can ask anything they like (seriously, once my child came out with ‘I heard something at school I don’t know.  What’s a rim job?’), and they know they can call for help if they have made a mistake and they won’t be instantly met with attitude.  They know there will be consequences, but they also know they will be met with love and support before the consequences come after they are out of danger and distress. The punishment always fits the crime, if I think I am going to overreact I tell them I love them but will talk to them when I have had a moment to collect myself because I’m too angry to make good decisions.  I am consistent.  In short, I treat them like individual, thinking, feeling people, not possessions for me to own or control.

Parenting Tools – TL;DR

There is no magic formula for parenting. But I can tell you that your children can’t help but love you back when your chief parenting tool is love.  Love and patience.  Patience and love.  Your two main parenting tools are love and patience and respect.  Your three main parenting tools are love, respect, patience and honesty.  Your four…no amongst your parenting tools are such elements as love… no wait, I’ll start this again.

Amongst your parenting tools are such diverse elements as love, patience, respect, honesty, fairness, boundaries, consistency and a genuine desire to connect with your children and understand where they are coming from.

Throw in a liberal handful of your own personality and they will never realise they are in the middle of the Spanish Inquisition.  Or a Monty Python Sketch.

 

Save

Save

Save

Posted on

Just because it isn’t real, doesn’t mean it isn’t true.

My daughter is writing a paper at the moment about Freedom and she was discussing with the family how she was going to compare the ‘Kony 2012’ movement with the women’s rights movement. And during this discussion on how ideas start and spread I pulled out one of my favourite Gloria Steinem quotes:

gloria_steinem_quote

And then I gave her a wonderful one by Jane Goodall:

Jane_Goodall_Inspirational_Quote_EnvironmentAnd finally I pulled out a deep and awesome quote that teaches us that small, every day acts make a difference, but I didn’t tell her who said it until afterwards.

gandalfAfter hearing this she nodded and said “Yeah, I like that. It’s really good.”

I asked “Do you know who said that?”

“No” she replied, looking enquiringly.

“Gandalf.”

She tilted her head and looked at me as if I had been no help whatsoever and I was just being silly.

Now I take exception to this notion she seemed to convey that imaginary people can’t be deep and inspirational. Or right. Because he is right. Just because he isn’t real doesn’t make the point any less valid. I reminded her that a very real man had that thought and wrote it down, in the same way that a Jane Goodall or Gloria Steinham did. Tolkien just did it under the guise of fiction. Fiction I might add that has graced the bookshelves and movie screens of generations for over 60 years and sold over 150 million copies in print and grossed $871,530,324 worldwide at the box office. * Fiction that makes wise thoughts and lessons about the human condition accessible to the masses.

Paraphrasing Chesterton, Neil Gaiman said “Fairy tales are more than true: not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.”

The Brown Coats showed us that it is important to stand together and fight; and even if you don’t win the battle – you don’t have to give in and live life like those who oppress you have won the war.

Malcolm shows us that there is strength in protecting those who are important to you. Compassion doesn’t mean weakness or softness of character.

Zoe shows us that women can stand alongside men as equals, without apology for who they are or explanation for their belief that they have every right to do so.

Inara teaches us that there is beauty and power in owning your choices, values and sexuality.

Kaylee reminds us that there is beauty in the world around us no matter where or when we are and that attitude does not have to be dictated by circumstance.

Wash is particularly important in showing our young girls that men can love and respect a strong woman and find her attractive without trying to control or dominate her. **

Simon is a constant reminder that family is of the utmost importance and that we should travel to the ends of the ‘Verse to make sure that family, in all its forms, know that we love them and will protect them from harm.

River is instrumental in showing us that no matter how broken we are, we can kill people with our minds we can still make connections the best way we know how, be a valued member of a community of people. And through the broken pieces of our lives and minds, stand up and kick arse when pushed too far.

And Jane. Jane reminds us that no matter what happens, assholes can be tolerated and useful in life as long as you remember to be cautious about their motivations and loyalties.

So read your children fairy tales. Immerse your teenagers in dragons and wizards and space cowboys. The most important lessons are waiting for them dressed in robes or carrying rings or flying a spaceship.


*According to Wikipedia. Please don’t tell my Uni lecturers that I quoted a Wiki as a credible source. I’m not sure if they can issue a failing grade for this blog post, but I don’t want to risk it.

**Also, Joss, you know that I love you, your work and your feminism to pieces but I’m waiting for my written apology for killing Wash. I still haven’t come to terms with his death and I’m not sure I ever will. Go stand in a corner and think about what you have done.


Save

Posted on

There is a Shrine to Me – I might be a Deity of Some Kind. Also, it is Ryan Reynold’s Fault I Can’t be Trusted with Your Souls.

Oh my god, you guys!! My daughter came home from school with the BEST story to tell me today.

“So my friends Dad is a teacher at our school and he was wandering around the staff rooms and he found something that was so awesome he had to tell me about it straight away. He came running up and he was all ‘OMG LISTEN’ and he told me about this cork board in the PE teachers area, it has a bunch of stupid excuse notes and it has Every. Single. One. That I handed into the sport teachers. The mutant squid cyborgs and the time dinosaurs ate my sport uniform, everything PLUS a two page letter from my teacher to the head teacher about how I shouldn’t be able to get away with this and how I should make up for the lessons missed.”’

The thing is, I think that physical health is important. But I don’t think that it is important to make children spend hours running around the perimeter of the school in the mud and rain in winter. That’s just stupid. Especially when yoga, indoor cricket, hot chocolate and common sense exist. So I write notes letting my children get out of cross country running when the weather is wet and slushy. And out of competitive sports that they don’t give a damn about. Which is most of them. Except Mario Kart. Mario Kart is a sport, right? Poorly spelled notes like this:

PE Note

Rebekah is excused from PE today due to a particularly vicious & fashion impaired heard of wild dinosaurs attacking the house & stealing her PE uniform, her running shoes & a pot plant. This has caused her untold amounts of stress and physical imparement.   She now, quite curiously, has been able to smell nothing but sauerkraut since the incident. As such, no PE for her on Wed 27/2.

And this:

PE Note #2

All hail the dark overlords.

Rebekah, in accordance with the wishes of our Evil Cyborg Squid Zombie masters is unable and unwilling to participate in Cross Country Running today so as not to anger the ECSZ overlords.
Only indoor sports may be done.
And eating braaaaaiiiins……
Brains mmmmmmm…..
Braaaaaaaaaaiiiiiiiiiins……..

Now I was quite proud of these notes and had written many like them in the past for genuine absenteeism and sport related apathy when the children were at other schools, and it had amused the teachers and excused the children. Not so much with this school. The 2 page letter writing whimsy police sports teacher prompted the head of the department to call me to tell me that I was weird. Not at all offensive. And by not at all, I mean TOTALLY. He went on to tell me that PE was the most important lesson that they have. To which I politely disagreed that running around in a circle would further my daughter’s chances of getting into NIDA as she plans to do, especially as she was making straight A’s in her other classes and I also politely (read firmly but respectfully) informed him that I was her mother and I was comfortable with my decision to excuse her from running around in the rain. To which he quite abruptly informed me that as her mother I had no right to have a say in her education. Cue me hanging up after informing him of the importance of my role in her life and education. And cue a less dinosaur studded letter to the principle to complain about his rudeness.

The next note was every bit as weird.

This was back in 2013. And I haven’t had cause to write too many zombie notes in the past year. On the odd occasion I have filled in medical consent forms and added chocolate as a recommended medication/incentive for laziness or wondered in writing if not being able to find things when looking for them was a medical condition. But all in all, Jurassic housebreakers and undead overlords have been kept to a minimum. (Also, my spell check doesn’t think undead is a word. It is. It knows this now.) And these notes are still on display in the teacher’s lounge nearly a year and a half after I wrote them.

So the take home message from all of this is:

  1. Teachers need something to break the boredom, besides putting vodka in the water cooler. Because I’d become a teacher if they had vodka coolers. I’d be the most drunk fun teacher there if there was a vodka cooler. Also, I’d invite the students I didn’t like into the staff room and give them a drink of ‘water’ from the cooler and then BAM!! I’d have them expelled for drinking on campus.
  2. It was worth it. Mwahahahahaha
  3. There is a shrine to me. This is undeniable proof that I may be a deity of some kind. But not the kind of deity that anyone should trust their soul to willingly. I can’t be trusted with souls. I’d probably lose them in a game of strip poker with a heavily muscled and slightly oiled Demi God. Like Helios, Kevin Sorbo or Chris Hemsworth. Or Ryan Reynolds. And yes, I know Ryan isn’t a real Demi God like Helios, Kevin or Chris, but c’mon – its Ryan Reynolds guys. I’d totally gamble your souls to try and see him up close and personal without his shirt.