Gorilla Parenting (it’s not a typo!)

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Last Sunday night I was in an ordinary place. The Little Lion was troubling me, I was feeling responsible, fragile and overwhelmed and every one of my buttons had been pummeled to the max. So I decided a nice glass of godly nectar and some mindless wildlife documentary would help soothe my soul.

Sure.

Within the first five minutes of the documentary about mountain gorillas, I was so shamed by their superior mothering skills that I had to turn the TV off and go weep in the shower.

I’m not kidding. I was put to shame by a gorilla. And not just any gorilla. A MALE GORILLA! Yep. One of those chest-beating, tooth-baring, grunt-making, harem-keeping, male-archetyping silverbacks.

His daughter had been badly injured in one of his battles for superiority (typical), she had been saved by watchful humans and, after being suckled back to health, mum abandoned her for a better-looking silverback (hussy). So what did dad do? Took her on, of course. Here was a big, hairy brute hugging, grooming, nurturing, playing and sleeping with his little girl as much as she needed whenever she needed.

Did he ever complain that she was taking over his life? No. Did he bemoan the loss of his personal space? No. And for how long do baby gorillas maintain complete and unconditional dominion over their parents? At least five whole, long, exhausting years.

I know, there are attachment parenting advocates who would be smiling serenely right about now, wondering what all the fuss is about. But seriously, WHO CAN DO THAT? And how, pray tell? How?

So here I am after two and a half years hoping that LL gets his toilet training shit together so I can ship him off to the most beautiful preschool in the world ASAP! I am beating myself up for having had him in a daycare situation that was less than ideal, but now that I’ve taken him out, I’m wondering how I’m going to make it through to October when he is (hopefully) going to start at that most beautiful preschool in world. Oh he’s great and I love him and all, but there is only so much tractoring I can do before wanting to dig my own grave.

I kid you not, I have been stewing over this bloody perfect gorilla father all week.

And I have come to the conclusion that there are a few external pressures that we humans experience on a daily basis that gorillas generally don’t have to deal with and that’s why he gets to be a fountain of self-sacrificing patience and I get to be crabby cow – washing for a start, they don’t have houses to clean, meals are generally “eat what you can find” affairs, nappies don’t exist, nor do appointments, bills, groceries, and and and and and and…

So I’ve decided that I’m going to live a week of Gorilla Parenting. There will be no cleaning. There will be no cooking. There will be no washing and the children can run like little heathens though the mud. I’ll try to maintain basic personal hygiene so that Social Services don’t come a-knocking, but we’ll graze on whatever is handy, we’ll play and rumble and lounge and bask in the slowness of each day. We’ll laugh and sing and climb and swing. We’ll cuddle and snooze and just be.

The only rub is that gorilla mummies have lots of other gorilla mummies around to hang out with, to share the gossip with, to co-supervise with, to parent with. Gorilla babies have other gorilla babies to play with, to learn from, to be distracted by, to explore with.

Yep, I need a harem. So, who’s in?

Every Australian Counts – but what can I do?

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What can I do? How can I help? I have so little time, I have no skills, I’m not a sales person…

The NDIS is a cause whose time has come, but to get government to take this crucial step in overhauling a disability services system that is catastrophically failing so many Australians, we need numbers. We need people to put up their hands, to say “I support this idea”, and all that means is adding their name and email address to the website. So, here are a few ideas of things that you can do to help get those numbers. Whether it’s an email to friends or a morning tea, an article in the school newsletter or a presentation at the P&C meeting, every little bit helps.

The Little Things that make a difference:

    • Write an email to everyone in your contacts list asking them to log onto the Every Australian Counts website, to register and then to pass this email on to everyone in their contact list.
    • Put up information posters on your local community notice boards in libraries, shopping centres, scout halls, community centres, coffee shops, etc – don’t forget to ask management for permission!
    • Use the local community groups you are involved with to best advantage:

 – Collect registrations on the EAC postcards at your playgroup, sporting club, school P&C meeting, church group, etc.

    – Put an article in the newsletter.
    – Combine fundraising efforts with “awareness raising” – A bake sale that raises money for the club where each item sold has an EAC registration card attached.
    – Encourage each parent to register on the EAC website on the permission slip for the school disco
       

    • Use the opportunities your work place presents:

 – Leave registration postcards and information in the common room

    – Send an email via the intranet
    – Arrange a workplace morning tea and ask each person to register as they arrive/leave
    – Place an article in the weekly bulletin

The Medium-Sized Things that make a difference:

    • Hold a stall at your local markets with information fliers, T-shirts, bumper stickers and registration cards. You can get them by contacting your state coordinator.
    • Engage your local media with your personal story:

 – a letter to the editor, a feature story, an opinion piece, etc

    – select a section of the paper that you feel is relevant to your story, for example, if your daughter is a disabled swimmer, contact the sports editor; if you are a student at the local university, write for the education section; if you are a disability services provider, approach the community news journalists, etc.

  • Arrange to give a presentation at your local community group about the NDIS and You – the key here is to personalise the message so you become an inspiring ambassador. Many schools, charity groups such as Rotary and Lions clubs, church groups and youth groups are interested in hearing from inspiring role models with an urgent message.
  • Create an NDIS Team to participate in local events like fun runs, triathlons, bike rides, swim-a-thons, etc… or Join the Sydney City to Surf team – NDIS NOW!

The Big Things that make a difference:

      • Make a presentation to your local council:

 – Contact the community liaison department and discuss the best forum for this. It may be at a council meeting, at a public forum, or a private submission to the General Manager and/or the Mayor. Be clear on what you would like them to do: host an event; to be included in the program for an even already planned; awareness raising through rates notices mail out; letters of support to local members of parliament

      • Letter box drop of the houses in your local area
      • Organise an event like a family picnic day, a concert, a celebrity soccer match to promote the EAC campaign and to engage the local media
      • Approach local sporting heroes, celebrities, radio station hosts, etc for their support:

 – Just like the council, make sure you are clear about what you want them to do to help promote the campaign –  Airtime on their radio program; endorsement of the campaign in media appearances; Mentioning the campaign website in interviews, on air, at concerts, etc; Wearing the EAC t-shirt or badge at events

      • Approach local companies for support:

 – Again, be clear on what you want – Website links to the campaign website; Banner displays in shop fronts or offices; Branding (like the pink ribbon campaign) on selected goods; Post card display on shop counter… (the key with these big strategies is not to bite off more than anybody can chew. Gauge your level of influence carefully – if you have known the store manager personally for years, ask for the world, but if you’re cold-calling, keep your requests modest – you can always build on a counter-top post card display, but you can’t turn a flat ‘no’ to a ‘yes’). 

No matter what you choose to do, do it with passion, with enthusiasm and with belief. No matter how you choose approach spreading the word, make it personal. No matter what level you feel you can contribute at, know you will be helping to bring about a change for the better in the lives of millions.

People are animals too

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Cows have been getting a lot of press lately. Specifically, animals that are being exported live to places where standards of slaughter are brutal at best. The ghastly images from 4 Corners are all over the papers, they’re pouring into my inbox and they make me sick. No creature should have to endure that kind of torture and I wholeheartedly support any legislation that will offer some kind of protection to animals that are helpless in the face of such human brutality.

But this week’s outcry against the barbaric treatment of animals has had me feeling… I don’t know, kind of frustrated. I’m not frustrated at my own powerlessness or at the fact that such inhumane practices still exist (and flourish) in other parts of the world, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on exactly what was making me so uneasy until today.

You see, after Monday night’s 4 Corners story, I was stewing over the graphic images of those pitiful doe-eyed creatures with their velvety noses and big floppy ears being tortured in blood-smeared rooms when I checked my email for the four-hundredth time in a week. I was looking for a response to an email I had sent to the director of the Every Australian Counts campaign for an NDIS some 12 days previously.

Having had a bit of experience in promoting stuff, doing events, yadda-yadda, and having had some (if I do say so myself) pretty kick-arse ideas and strategies for getting maximum bang for minimum buck to spread the word to millions, I decided to whip together a proposal and send it to the boss – a promotion strategy on a platter where, by the boss’ own admission, there was no real strategy.

Did I get a response? No. Nothing. Not even a “Thanks for your email. We’ll be in touch.” Total, resounding silence that could only mean one of two things – a) he thinks I’m a nutter who needs to be steered clear of, or b) he never got the email because he is on holidays (it’s called auto-response) or the evil internet ether virus swallowed it whole and sent it directly to spam. Either way, I began to stew. Time is a-wasting…

So I sent another email to another one of the campaign team with a call to action and a number of questions. Again, no response. Silence on the airwaves. Grrrr.

The next day I registered for the Sydney City to Surf and decided, heck, I’ll action part A of one of my grand plans regardless of ‘approval’ from the campaign team. My idea was to gather together the largest ever team registered for the Sydney City to Surf, get each person in a red NDIS NOW t-shirt, fill the event with the message that the disability services system needs change now and that now is our chance to make that happen. But when it came time to choose my charity, the campaign was nowhere to be found. Why?

So I sent another email, and as I scanned my inbox for that elusive response, there were the cows, bleating madly all over my inbox and Facebook page. Dozens of invitations to send letters of disgust, to sign online petitions, to click if you’re outraged. And it struck me: the outpouring of concern for animals that were, let’s face it, born and bred for slaughter (of a humane kind, granted, but dinner plates and hand bags none the less) screamed against the stark silence from those who were meant to be driving the campaign for an NDIS. Why?

Is it because those whose passion lies in animal welfare are just better at the publicity thing? Do they have more campaign funds at their disposal? Is it because the bill is before parliament and there will be an equal uprising for disability in July when the Productivity Commission delivers their final report on an NDIS to government? I doubt it.

Perhaps it is because of what I call the “fuzzy factor”. Animals are cute. They are easy to love. But there is noting cute or easy to love about disability. It is confronting and uncomfortable and painful to look at no matter what angle you tackle it from. So, in the same way that we casually spray poison gas at a cockroach but baulk at culling rabbits, we turn a blind eye to the truth of life with a disability and weep for tortured cattle.

Or maybe it’s the “simple sells” phenomenon. Sheep being tied and stuffed in the boot of a car is a pretty simple problem to recognize. A bull watching his peers being butchered isn’t hard to comprehend as wrong. But what kind of graphic visual image could capture the complexities of the lives of those with a disability? The 35-year-old quadriplegic forced to live in an aged-care facility surrounded by dementia patients; the 40-year-old cerebral palsy sufferer barred from a course of study because her parents wouldn’t give their consent; the mother who has to fight to get nappies for her 4-year-old son because he has ‘already used his quota for the year’; the family who, limited by how many oxygen tanks they can carry, have never in 35 years travelled more than half a day away from home because they are unable to afford the machine that would give their son a constant supply of oxygen; the parents who are informed that they are no longer eligible for a range of benefits because they no longer live in the right postcode; the father who worries, every day, what will happen to his son once he is no longer around to bathe, feed, toilet, move, lift, love, care for him…

It’s too hard. Much easier to stir the emotions with blood and wild eyes. Audiences will watch that. Audiences will take action against that. It’s graphic, and we get graphic.

But I say:

Dear 4 Corners, Sydney Morning Herald, Media decision-makers and consumers alike,

PEOPLE ARE ANIMALS TOO! People are being imprisoned in their own homes. People are being forced to give up their jobs to look after loved ones. People are living below the poverty line. People’s freedoms and choices are being crushed by a system that is broken, that is unsalvageable, that is doomed to crumble under a future where the disabled, for the first time, are likely to out-live their parents.

So let’s talk about them. Let’s listen to their stories. Let’s lift the veil of fear that has kept disability out of the spotlight for so long. Let’s confront the prejudice and misinformation that makes us turn away. Let’s look beyond the images, the faces, the broken bodies and see the people in need of our voices.

Go for your lives, support the cows – I have been a vegetarian for 20 years and I’ve sent my letter to Julia. But please, don’t turn away from people as you do so. They may not be cute and furry. They may not be bound and beaten. They may not be tormented before being put to death, but they are being failed by their country, by OUR country, and if we continue to let them fend for themselves, our silence will be our complicity in that failure.

Register your support at http://www.everyaustraliancounts.com.au/, register for the Sydney City to Surf – team NDIS NOW, spread the word to every person you know, link up, send out, stand up and speak out.

No suffering should ever be ignored.

So What’s Normal Anyway?

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Thank you, my bloggy friends.

Thank you for your astute observations – blogging, it seems, is fraught with dangers for the ex-adulation-junky (read: athlete). Thank you for your advice – taking a step back, it seems, does not have to be the end of a good thing. Thank you for your warmth – my whining, it seems, does not grate on others as much as it does on me!

I have done a good deal of soul searching this past week and I have had epiphany after epiphany (I love that word, don’t you?). These epiphanies are nothing new, mind you. Then again, are they ever? I’m sure I am destined to learn the same damned lessons over and over and over until I die, but, with each new context I believe I’m growing.

This past week I have learned that, whatever form it takes, writing is part of who I am, and no matter what form it takes, somebody will resonate with my thoughts and feelings. What better reason to write than to express who I am and to connect with other human beings.

I have learned that I still have work to do on my need for approval, my need to be seen and heard for validation. This is a work in progress, but with a little help from a brilliant woman, I have moved light years ahead on the path to self-acceptance.

I have learned that changing direction is not ‘quitting’. Everything evolves and a stagnant pool can never harbour the life that a bubbling stream can.

So, this week I am embracing the changes that are bubbling away in me without a thought of what others may or may not think of me. A good place to be.

I intend to get back to what this blog was orginally about – So What’s Normal Anyway? I intend to write what moves me when it moves me (hopefully I will continue to feel moved on a Wednesday, but I can’t guarantee it!). I will begin working on my larger projects in bits and pieces. I am listening to my children rather than telling them how the week will go down. I am relaxing – nothing matters so much that I should be miserable or stressed. I will cook more and clean less. I will laugh more and sigh less. I will create more and craft less. I will be more and try less.

I will love more and judge less.

I hope to see you on the way.

This post is brought to you by:
“The only normal people are the ones you don’t know very well.” – Joe Ancis
Have a great week.

Weekend grateful

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I’m by no means a regular gratefuller, but whenever there is a real need for me to stop, breathe and appreciate, Maxabella’s list is there to help me remember.

So, this week I am grateful for:

1. Toddlers who push the buttons in just the right way to make you realise what has been bugging you all along – thank you, Little Lion, for being my messenger. Now I can go take that load of emotional garbage out!

2. Husbands on holidays – nothing calms the soul quite the way that your presence does.

3. Troublesome chickens – if your escape tactics and lack of laying capacity are my two greatest problems, I am a lucky woman indeed.

What are you grateful for this weekend?

Crossroads

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I’ve been having a bit of a bloggy crisis of late. Actually, I’ve been working my way through one of those “Damn, I’m not the person I thought I was, so who the hell am I and where the hell do I go from here” episodes and the resultant tsunami has triggered concurrent crises of varying magnitudes in a range of domains. I suspect the bloggy crisis is part of this shock-wave. Whatever.

Fact is I’m at a crossroads:

To blog or not to blog, this is the question.

Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer

The slings and arrows of outrageous self-criticism

Or to take arms against a sea of dissatisfaction

And by quitting, end them. To write to vent –

No more – and by a vent to say we end

The heartache, and the thousand natural shocks

That the mother’s brain is heir to. ‘Tis a consummation

Unlikely to be met. To quit, to sleep –

To sleep – perchance to dream: ay there’s the rub,

For in that sleep of the quitter what dreams may come

When there is no place for all the ideas to go,

Must give us pause. And the difference

Between blogging and writing makes calamity of a need to write…

Yeah, yeah, the Hamlet thing was getting lame, but you get the idea, yes?

I started this blog nearly a year ago for a couple of reasons – 1. To write; 2. To have a space to vent; 3. To get myself ‘out there’, you know, have my stuff read, adored, develop a cult following, become Mrs Woog or the NDM or someone equally magnificent, get book contracts thrown at me, publishers falling at my feet, my career as a world-by-storm writer secured… Ugh… whatever.

But I feel like my blog is amounting to nothing more than a big fat winge about my life, motherhood and the little poo machines I have given birth to. And I don’t like it. It’s not satisfying my need to write because it only ever feels like piece-meal. I want to get onto some of the big projects that have been burning at me for a REALLY. BLOODY. LONG. TIME… not to mention the thousand other projects on my absurd To Do list.

My argument for blogging was that it was something I could do in an hour here and there (I find big stuff almost impossible to write in this manner), so it would satisfy my creative urges without taking up my life. I like I need long stretches of silence and endless glasses of wine cups of tea to lose myself in the world of my creation so that the characters may take hold of their own destinies. And that’s fucking impossible a rare occurrence with Little Lions and Blossoms in da house, as we all know.

But blogging, as it has turned out, is taking considerably longer than an hour here or there and my creative urges are screaming louder than they were before I gave them a taste of freedom. Sure, the draft of a post is smashed out lickety-split, but then you edit it once or twice, you send it out through the universe, you wonder if anyone’s read it, you check your comments eighteen times a day, you log onto every other blog known to man to read (which I LOVE doing, mind you – what better excuse for some down time and damned good reading under the guise of ‘blogging’),you comment, you kiss the metaphoric babies and you press the cyber palms in the hope that someone will hop over to your place to have a read, they will love you and share you with all their friends… hmm, that went in an unexpected direction. Oops.

Anyway, before you know it, you could have written a Mills & Boon in the time you’ve spent belly aching about your latest public rant, your most recent airing of your dirty laundry, your up-to-the-hour personal expose.

I know blogging is writing (and any writing is better than no writing, of this I am sure) but I don’t know if it’s the kind of writing I want to be doing, at least not exclusively. And I don’t know how to fix it, this stupid, dissatisfied nagging in my gut. It’s killing me!

So, what to do? Do I quit the blogosphere and dedicate my thoughts to those big projects bashing in my brain? Do I redefine my blog and make it something more, um, I don’t know, meaningful? Do I go half way and only post once a fortnight/month and spend the rest of my time learning how to write big stuff in little bits? Do I just get over the belly aching and cyber-loving and get disciplined – 1 hour writing (no editing), 1 hour reading/commenting (for fun) and actually pay some attention to my other projects kids for a change? I don’t know…

And am I the only one? Has anyone else had bloggy burnout – a blog that takes over their world without giving a real sense of satisfaction? And what did you do?