Saturday, 27 August 2016

Why abstinence based education is harmful at any age

So today I have a ranty post for you guys, and I'd love to hear opinions that aren't mine at the end of this, so pay close attention lovely peoples.

For a bit of a background before I get into the nitty gritty, NAPCAN (or the National Association for Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect) are holding their annual child protection week from 4th to 10th September. As a part of the lead up to this week, and as a new initiative brought into schools, daycare centres and kindergartens, all children are being given lots of lectures about safety and healthy living at the moment. In Miss K's kindergarten in the last week alone they have used this as an excuse to discuss healthy foods, anatomy and exercise. They will also be holding various conversations about protective behaviour etc. One thing they have already discussed is acceptable physical contact, but I'm not impressed with the way they have handled this.

On Wednesday afternoon when all us parents went in to pick up our darling monsters, the head teacher informed us all that they had had to have a discussion about appropriate physical contact between the kids while at kindergarten. They had put in a total ban on hugging and kissing, and the kids saying I love you to each other.  This isn't the part I really had a problem with, I know that a zero contact policy is usually the norm at schools and kindergartens, so while bringing problems of its own, it is to be expected. It was when she told us that they had also informed the kids of the acceptable people to hug and kiss outside of kindergarten that I had an issue. Now I'm not sure if she was only giving us the abridged version for the sake of not holding us up too long, however when it was explained to us, she informed that the list of acceptable people to hug, kiss, and give admissions of love to outside of kindergarten consisted of parents, grandparents and siblings. That was the entire list she gave to us. Later on at home when I questioned Miss K about this, she repeated that list back to me, however given she has proven time and time again that she doesn't have the most reliable memory, she may have only been going off the abridged version that we were given at pick up. But even if that wasn't the complete list, that is what Miss K has taken from their conversation and I am mad as hell about this.

Number one, while I appreciate that they are madly trying to cram as much education about protective behaviours into a tiny window of space, with an audience not known for its attention span, it's not their damn job to dictate what my child does outside of kindergarten. I am the one who makes the rules outside of those four walls, and I do not appreciate anyone coming in and thinking they know better than me about what is best for my child. This new protective behaviours education is meant to be aimed at the parents, and not the children, so lecture me by all means, but don't do it through my child.

Number two, if that was the complete list of acceptable people to hug, go to hell. In my family alone there are eight aunts and uncles and five cousins which were excluded from that list. Then there are the family friends who we love to give affection too. Then there are the ladies at the supermarket who are always up for a hug and a chat. By making any kind of list of acceptable people to give physical affection too, they make this a shameful act, which it isn't. It is an innocent show of love and friendship given by an incredibly friendly child, and to place limits on it changes it into something dirty which I refuse to allow to happen. This isn't like the list of people Miss K isn't allowed to swear in front of, this isn't something we have to hide. Physical affection is an actual biological need. Multiple studies have shown the importance of affection and physical contact to the human brain and body, and to limit it runs the risk of harm.

I already put zero tolerance physical contact rules right up there next to abstinence based sexual education programs, and this just cements my convictions. By teaching kids the best way to be safe is to not do something, you do them a disservice. You ignore a young person's natural inclination towards curiosity and experimentation, and you fail to keep them safe. By teaching abstinence of any form, you fail to teach children to know their own limits and the limits of the people around them. You fail to teach them self preservation, because it assumes that for the rest of their life, everyone is just going to comply to the rules they were taught, which never ever actually happens. You also fail to teach them about consent which is one of the biggest lesson we can teach our kids before we let them out into the big wide world. In the short term abstinence looks like the safest option, but we have seen time and time again that it is the most dangerous thing to learn.

The only silver lining I can see out of all of this is that it forced me to have a conversation with Miss K about consent. We sat down at home and I explained to her that people were allowed to not want physical affection, and that she has to accept their wishes, I also let her know that she was allowed to refuse physical contact, and that it was her right to have her refusal accepted. This is the lesson she was meant to learn that day, not that hugs are dirty and must be stopped. I'm sure I'll need to have this conversation again and again, especially as she gets older and I begin preparing her for a world where rape apologists exist, but for now it is simply about being allowed to say no to a hug.

I would love to know what you think. Am I overreacting in my anger at the kindergarten? Do you think they botched their attempts? Do you agree with them? Let me know down below in the comments.

Saturday, 20 August 2016

August Fly on the Wall

Welcome to another installment of Fly on the Wall. For any newcomers here, today we are giving you a glimpse of what you would see if you were a fly on the wall. There are ten bloggers joining in the fun today, so be sure to visit them all and enjoy the fun.

Fly on the Wall

Baking In A Tornado                   
Menopausal Mother                           
Spatulas on Parade                                                                
Never Ever Give Up Hope                                     
Dinosaur Superhero Mommy                             
Southern Belle Charm                   
Eileen’s Perpetually Busy               
Molly Ritterbeck                                     
Go Mama O                                          

One day mum and I were sitting in the lounge room when our dog Chase started barking.
Mum: Your bloody dog barks like an esky.
Me: Do you mean husky?
Mum:..... yep.

Miss K trying to do a magic trick
Abra and dabra!

My niece bought a new wig based on the hairstyle of her favourite anime holograph (yeah I don't get it either.) She showed it to mum and mum tried it on.
Mum: This is awesome. I'm now granime!

My sister Nat is getting ready to get her first tattoo! She's decided on her childhood nickname Natimuk written in mum's handwriting. We were discussing it on the phone one day.

Nat: I'll need to get mum to rewrite it as I've only got it in pen and I think the tattooists need it in Sharpie.
Me: Well it should be ok. I'm pretty sure they trace over the design on tracing paper. And with yours they'll need to reverse it like a stamp otherwise it will go on backwards.
Nat: Yeah I don't want that, what would it be if they didn't reverse it?
Me: Kumitan
Nat: Yeah, that's not my name.
Me: It is now Kumitan.

Mum and I were watching an ad on television which featured Stephen Hawking.
Stephen told a random joke and mum and I laughed.

Me: He's funny. He should do stand up, I'd watch that.
Mum then proceeded to laugh for thirty seconds before I even realised what I'd said.

Several days later we were watching the same ad and mum started laughing.
Mum: Do you know what I was about to say?
Me: He should do standup?
Mum: No, he has an American accent, but he was born in England. I couldn't understand why.
Me: *facepalm*

This last week has been a massive week for Miss K and I, first of all I enrolled her into her first year of primary school for next year. I got so caught up in making sure the paperwork was all correct and that I had all the miscellaneous pages the school had asked for that I totally didn't realise what I'd just done until I was walking to my car. It was probably a good thing as it meant I didn't ugly cry in front of the vice principal and the lovely ladies at the reception area.

Then as if I wasn't already feeling fragile enough, Miss K lost her first tooth today! We've been monitoring the progress of her two bottom teeth for weeks now, and I thought the left one was going to be the first to go until today when I checked and noticed her right tooth was almost as wobbly. I told her to go get an apple from the kitchen and take a couple of bites to see if we couldn't get them out. Once she'd had a couple of bites I took a look expecting the left tooth to be missing, but it was the right tooth that had fallen out. We still can't get the left tooth to budge and she won't let me pull it out for her so we continue to wait. As of writing this she has the tooth tucked under her pillow waiting for a gift from the tooth fairy.

Now if you'll excuse me I'll be sitting in the corner denying that my little girl is growing up right in front of me.

Friday, 12 August 2016

This is what happens when you give me 3 days notice

So for anyone who read my last post you might think that was enough insanity for this week. Sadly there is no such thing as enough insanity in our household, so allow me to show you yet another moment that had me wanting to tear my hair out. 

Do I have any people in my audience who work for the Department of Education?? No need to out yourselves, especially after the rant I'm about to go on, but can this be passed on to the higher ups somewhere pretty please? I'm asking, no I'm begging you guys to stop organising dress up days at schools and kindergartens.

For anyone out there who thinks I'm just being a grinch right now, clearly you have never had the panic of being told THREE DAYS before a dress up event that your child is required to come to school/kindergarten this week dressed up as something from some random theme that there is no way in hell you have anything that relates to in your dress up box. Admittedly our dress up box is one fairy dress because Miss K really isn't into dressing up much, and she rarely wears the one costume she does own. She's just as happy putting on a pair of my shoes and pretending to be me. But when the theme of your dress up day is "Australian" it is difficult to put a national spin on a fairy dress. Short of teaming it with a pair of thongs (flip flops Americans, I know.) and a bottle of VB beer and going as a bogan fairy, I really struggled to come up with an idea. (For any non-Australians who don't know what a bogan is, please feel free to Google it.)

For any of you who aren't from Australia, you definitely have no idea what the heck I'm panicking about, so allow me to fill you in. Here in Australia we are about to celebrate book week starting on 20th August. I know this is about three months after you guys do, but we're always about a step behind so it's all good. This year the theme was Australian books/illustrators. I'm all for highlighting the local talent we have around here, especially for authors whose works I have enjoyed in the past like John Marsden, Paul Jennings, Andy Griffiths, and the wonderful Melina Mallos whose latest book I reviewed a few months ago. So for me that part was a big plus. The giant steaming bag of poop however was that I didn't find out until Monday of this week that we had to dress up on Thursday, and it had to fit the theme of book week. If I was any more fiscal than I actually am this wouldn't be a problem, I could just run down to the local shopping centre and find a costume. However given it is currently my off pay week, and any money I do have I've selfishly decided needs to be spent on food, this was not an option.

Luckily for me, this isn't my first rodeo. I have been given minimal notice of special occasions more than once by our kindergarten, despite the fact that we have a Facebook page and they have our email addresses so they can send out newsletters, so I know what it means to rush around like a headless chicken just so my child isn't left out of the fun. First I had to Google Australian children's books for inspiration and discovered to my joy that two of my favourite kids books are actually by Australians, Where is the Green Sheep and The Very Cranky Bear. My first thought was she could go as the green sheep, and just stay home and have a nap. (For any of you who haven't read Where is the Green Sheep and do not get my reference, please go out and find yourself a copy, it is a great book for kids, and it is so easy to read Miss K reads it to me nowadays.) But in the end I decided that would be too mean so we decided to dress Miss K up as the very cranky bear. I was able to do this with thanks to an empty egg carton, an old headband I had lying around and some icy pole sticks and toothpicks. It wasn't pretty by any means, and if Martha Stewart was grading me I'd get a C for effort and an F for enthusiasm. There is photographic evidence, just because this will look excellent on her photo board at her 21st, but that doesn't mean I can't share it now with you guys. I call this photos "This is what happens when you give me 3 days notice."

That's her best cranky bear face. Either that or she's impersonating the hunchback of Notre Dame, I really can't tell. 

Of course you look at the grin on her face in that picture and you realise she loves her costume, so I guess I can call it a win. What that photo does not show is the fact that one minute after the picture was taken the headpiece broke, so she ended up going to kindergarten with a bear nose. So my C for effort changed to an F.

The kindergarten very kindly told us that we didn't have to follow the theme if it was too hard. The only problem is they did it on Wednesday night after I had already spent an hour making this thing and I had no other alternative anyway so we went with cranky bear followed closely by her stressed and very cranky mum. I like to team with the theme you know. (Hats off to any Kath and Kim fans who read that in Kath's voice just now.)

So this is why I'm begging the powers that be to please stop making dress up days a part of the curriculum. You probably think you're doing something nice for the kids, breaking up the monotony that is learning, and giving them fun memories to carry on into their adulthood. What you don't see is the stressed out parents behind the scenes madly trying to figure out how to turn an old beer box and three empty tin cans into a cowboy outfit. We put enough pressure on ourselves to be perfect parents without you guys adding to that pressure by increasing our workload with all of these "fun" extra activities. 

Well that's all from me for now, there will definitely be more insanity to come soon, as I have so many more reasons to pull my hair out right now I'll be as bald as Bruce Willis before you know it. Is anyone interested in doing a reboot of GI Jane anytime soon because I'm sure I'll be a shoe-in for the lead. You'll even get my best crazy eyed stare for free. 

Tuesday, 9 August 2016

My child is an imaginary friend killer

So today I have to discuss my strangest parenting moment to date. This is so strange Google wasn't even able to help me. I'm sharing my story today in the hopes that if anyone else has come upon this problem you can come find me, bring me whiskey and we'll discuss how weird our children are together.  For any of you who follow me on Twitter, you may already know what I'm about to discuss because I mentioned it this morning, so you can just sit back while I fill you in on the rest of the story that I couldn't fit into 140 characters.

Miss K made some imaginary friends recently Mario and Baby Mario. These
friends have been named after Mario Kart for two reasons, 1. Miss K is absolutely nuts about Mario Kart on the Wii and 2. She is terrible at coming up for names for her toys and imaginary friends. I was first introduced to Mario and Baby Mario one night as I was getting Miss K ready for bed. She simply informed me that they were very tired and were also ready for bed. This was all fine, I probably made some small comment about them putting their pyjamas on and going to the toilet before bedtime (I don't like cleaning up wet mattresses during the night, not even imaginary ones).

Mario and Baby Mario made several guest appearances with us during the next few weeks, sometimes they'd show up while we were playing, or they'd accompany us to kindergarten, the usual imaginary friend stuff. I was never asked to lay extra places for them at dinner time, and they never asked for biscuits or snacks when Miss K was eating, so I have to commend them on their excellent manners.

One day while I was brushing Miss K's hair getting ready for kindergarten she started throwing one of her daily "I don't need my hair brushed today mum, I'm happy looking like a hobo" tantrums. Everything was going swimmingly until she started yelling at no one to STOP LOOKING AT HER!!!! I asked her who she was yelling at and she told me Mario and Baby Mario were staring at her while she cried. This has always been one of Miss K's buttons, and she's never liked having an audience when she is having a bad moment. We usually combat this by getting Miss K to remove herself from the audience until she is calmed down and ready to act reasonably. Unfortunately given the audience this time was all in Miss K's head, I had no solution at the ready, other than to tell her it's not nice to yell at her friends just because she's having a bad moment. I gave the usual lecture about treating our friends nicely, while wondering to myself that if Miss K is the one who controls the actions of her imaginary friends, why not just stop them from staring at her, or don't imagine them staring at her in the first place.

But today things took a turn for the bizarre. We had a bad morning today. Miss K was feeling tired and grumpy, she didn't want to put her own shoes on, she didn't want to carry her bag to the car, and she tried (unsuccessfully) to slam the door in my face when we were leaving the house. She rushed ahead of me to the car, and tried to open the door. Usually I unlock the door by remote so that she can run to the car and get in while I'm locking up, just to save time, but given her behaviour at the time I decided she needed a lesson in patience and controlling her temper, so I didn't unlock the door until I got to the car. This just resulted in Miss K getting embarrassed when the door didn't open immediately for her, and we got the fifth tantrum of the day. This tantrum included her throwing invisible things around as well as the usual stomping and other fun kid stuff I get to witness that no one else believes me when I say my kid does these things. I didn't pay much attention to the throwing at the time, but when we finally got into the car she informed me that her friends were dead. Clue the light bulb going off above my head as I realise her imaginary throwing was her chucking Mario and Baby Mario onto the road. When I asked her why she killed her friends she told me it was because she was sad. Cue the obligatory lecture about treating friends nicely when we're dealing with tough emotions and the extra lecture about if she isn't nice to her friends they won't stick around just to be abused. This again was weird because I'm still aware we're talking about figments of her imagination.

The big thing about Miss K killing her imaginary friends and then telling me about it was she was implying their deaths were my fault because I was the one who had embarrassed her by not opening her door, and by always ruining her life in general. Given I am not that easily manipulated her plan to make me feel bad for pulling her into line failed, but to add insult to injury I then used my super magic powers to bring her imaginary friends back to life, at which time I claimed them as my own imaginary friends, because people don't like hanging around with anyone who kills them, imaginary or not. So now, not only has she lost two friends, she has to hear about me bragging about all the awesome fun we have together that she is no longer privy to.

What gets me the most about all of this is that Google was totally unable to help me sort through everything I'm dealing with right now. 99% of the posts on imaginary friends told me that either my daughter has schizophrenia or she is possessed by demonic spirits. I highly doubt the first one, and considering I already call her my little hell beast I'm not totally surprised by the second one, but am still ruling it out as an explanation given how quick she was to dispose of them in the most Looney Tunes way possible. Is it just an unspoken rule of parenting that we're not meant to discuss when our children straight up murder the figments of their imagination? Are there underground support groups for mums who have had to hide imaginary bodies or field questions from imaginary police officers about the whereabouts of these suddenly missing imaginary friends? Are there imaginary milk cartons out there with photos of these people? Can I call the imaginary crime stoppers and report my daughter for this?

I've spoken to Miss K's dad about today's events and his only response has been to tell me she is most definitely my daughter, and to congratulate me for making new friends for myself. So no help whatsoever. He couldn't even give me the number of a good imaginary lawyer just in case we end up going to trial. I can't be held as an accessory to an imaginary crime, what will the neighbours think?

So I guess the purpose of today's post is to give other parents who are dealing with their children killing off their imaginary friends a different place to land that isn't going to tell them their child is possessed or mentally unstable. Can I offer you a solution to your problem? Probably not. I can't promise that my solution is really effective as I'm still waiting for the therapy bills to start piling up and that could take years, so consider this a work in progress. If any of you have come upon the same problem and solved it differently to me I'd love to know what you did and if it worked. Did they make new imaginary friends? Did they also kill these imaginary friends? Did they end up in imaginary jail with a cellmate called Big Daddy? Do I need to start daytime drinking?

Well that's all from my crazy corner of the world for now, I'm sure Miss K and I will be back to make you all feel better about your own families very soon.
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