Happy 13th Birthday!


Once upon a time, there was a little girl with dimples and chutzpah in spades. Daring and unafraid. She equaled me with her absurdist humour, and we constantly laughed at the nonsense contained within life. Understated, humble and loyal, you turned down opportunities because it was a friend’s birthday, or because somebody needed you more. You have always been loyal to commitments, whenever possible. No interest in validation online, you are happy learning and plugging away in the background. You already know what you are going to do in life, and how you are going to get there.

I am meant to dread the teenage years. However, I don’t. Rather, I am enthralled by it’s swift appearance and amazed by its sweet and wise countenance. I celebrate the arrival of this new world. Keep flying, sweetheart, linking hands and arms with your contemporaries as you all learn new tricks and balance many plates. The answers aren’t found ‘out there’, nor within a phone, but rather, within yourselves. Have fun and make time for silliness. You will be an adult for a long time, and these years shall fly by.

I am learning and evolving at the same time as you. I need to lead the way, showing you how to care for yourself, learn new skills through education, and produce a future worthy of you and I. I look forward to long walks throughout Sydney, including our beloved Secret Garden. We shall keep up with our binge-watching of our favourite shows, whilst eating popcorn. I look forward to facials and pyjama days, camping and road trips, art galleries and our favourite and most hilarious activity, hamming it up as though we are ensconced in a soap opera. We actually are, and it’s best not to take it too seriously; an art you have mastered and in turn, have taught me.

You have told me what you want to do for your birthday. You want to hang out, have a supermarket chocolate cake, eat pizza then watch a movie at home. It’s so you. Whether you are holding a homeless person’s hand, demanding manners from a passenger on a train, encouraging a distressed friend or putting up with your directionally-challenged mother, you have style and grace, and a laser-like focus. It shall remain with you all your days, even after the next act in your life dissipates. Six short years, and then there will be another phase beginning. I shall remain right by your side throughout.

Love,

Mum

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Home schooling, Highschool and what I have learnt.


I educated my daughter for four years, and considered it a privilege. She recently started  high school, and a myriad of emotions hit me. I hadn’t seen her in a school uniform for many years, and I must say, that seeing her beaming face as she tried it on, brought nothing but happiness. I have learnt much from our home school journey, and have made many lifelong friends.

Trust

I learned to trust myself as her mother. I guess every parent second-guesses themselves when it comes to their child. They worry if they are doing the right things and making the right decisions, and many sleepless nights are had. I certainly agonized over my decision to home school. Mothers know more than we give ourselves credit for, sensing the big picture before it becomes clear. If I knew then what I know now… I farewelled my daughter on her first day of high school and she bounded off,  confident and assured. It was beyond my wildest dreams, and I found it thrilling.

Joy

Home education gave both she and I the time and space to rediscover a love of learning. Shakespeare at nine years old, physics and chemistry whilst still in primary… She tried scores of classes, and ended up loving them. She debated and wrote essays, and was amazed at the ease in which she picked it all up, once taught. She was stretched beyond what she thought she could do, and learnt that she can achieve anything.

Friends

She has friends from playgroup, preschool, choir, dancing, drama, home schooling, and from her three years at school before starting home education. They are scattered all over the place, and even if they don’t see each other for ages, they pick up where they left off, and time and distance mean nought. I think it has taught her to be confident in her friendships, that they won’t diminish without daily contact, and can be depended upon as a touchstone to her life.

Self-Reliant

She would map out a plan for each week, and we would sit and discuss the classes and workshops she would attend. She would pack her bag, and any equipment she needed to take for the day ahead, then tend to any homework the teachers gave her that evening. She now unpacks her bag at night after high school, and organizes her own lunch in the morning. She is a kid who loves routines, and scrutinizes her white board to see what awaits the next day. Attending a local high school is like a holiday compared to the planning and time that went into our weeks prior!

Highschool

I know that she missed having the experience of a year 6 formal. There are some experiences that home school can’t replicate, in my experience. Little things that mean a great deal when looking back. Having an entry in the year 6 yearbook and the school camp, for example. The things we used to go to were scattered around Sydney, and I felt it important to attend so to give her a well-rounded education. This left both of us feeling exhausted at the end of the day. Now, she walks eight minutes to school! They have a farm with lots of animals, dancing, drama, hospitality classes, and everything else I had been sourcing from all over the place! She is making a lovely group of friends, and bounds out of here, looking forward to seeing them of a day. As we live outside of the city, trying to organize social outings and classes was pretty full-on. I found as she got older, I wasn’t able to give her everything that she needed. Needs change the older kids get, and what suits one won’t suit another. She needed the buzz of high school, and the camaraderie. If you had an anxious child, or several children schooling at home, their needs would probably be entirely different.

Nothing Lost and No Regrets

When she expressed a desire to go to high school, we attended an information session. I was impressed with the school, and one look at the unadulterated joy radiating from my child told me all I needed to know. I didn’t want her to look back and regret not at least having the experience. What is the worst that could happen? I knew that home schooling could work and work well, providing an alternate pathway to higher education. If need be, we would just pick up where we left off.

Experiences

She has seen and done some pretty amazing things. She knows about the arts, science and history. She has acted in Shakespearean plays and produced art. She is able to talk to a wide range of people, from babies to 100 years of age. Most importantly, she knows where she starts and other people leave off, crucial when it comes to boundaries. Home schooling laid the ground work for the years ahead. It has been a week today, since she started high school. Just as I had when we began home schooling, I am excited at what lays ahead.

I must say that I miss my little mate when she is at school. We divided our time into home days and outside classes throughout home schooling. I loved traveling with her; having lunch together in a new place, perhaps going for a swim afterward. I loved our adventures, and relished the sense that anything was possible. I am grateful to all the teachers, kids and parents who made our journey so special. Her wings have unfurled, and she is ready to fly. It is why we started home schooling in the first place, and I couldn’t be more proud, nor happier.

Time


I had such a cavalier attitude to time when I was younger, and it was little wonder. I stared up at the tiled ceiling from my spinal rotor bed, counting the dots on each square for months on end. I anxiously waited until I was old enough to make my own choices, and lead a life of my desire. Time seemed to stretch on forever, as it is want to do when pain, isolation and abuse feature. Always impatient, waiting for and recovering from surgery was agonizing, not to mention the years in physiotherapy. I had to learn to break everything down into tiny steps. Those little steps added up and became quite a hike! IVF came along, and each day stretched out. The two-week-wait to find out if I was pregnant seemed to defy time on earth. Pregnancy felt the same; endless, as I impatiently waited to meet this baby.

Since her birth, I have a new respect for time. It can be a hard taskmaster, both when you long for it to speed up, and when you yearn for it to slow down. Having a child has made me yearn for it to lean in and stretch out. If I could turn back the hand’s, I would. How can it be that I almost have a teenager, starting her last term of Year 6 after the holidays? I don’t even know how it is possible? You finally get a handle on differing ages and the milestones reached, and they are gone, replaced with the next expectation.

It is as though an editor has rushed through the movie reel, speeding it up in a race to the end. I have only fully appreciated each age by looking over videos and photographs after the events. It is true that you often don’t know you are enjoying a perfect moment in time whilst living it. As we waited to board a country train to where my daughter would be performing, I turned to her and said “we will look back on these adventures as being some of the most perfect moments in our lives.” She stopped and smiled, nodding her head, and we both ceased our hurriedness to the next destination, to fully appreciate what we had now. In silence, we looked around the small station, hearing the kookaburras and cockatoos in neighbouring gum trees, and admiring the cherry blossoms in bloom. We heard a solitary crow in the distance, and we knew that this moment was magic. Now is all we have.

I peered over at my daughter, and marvelled at how her journey is only just beginning. There is so much for her to look forward to. It won’t be as hard a trip into adulthood; I will make sure of that. I am trying to live in the moment after our sublime experience at the station. On Tuesday, we were waiting for another train, and were sitting near a young Canadian traveller. She was soon joined by a man forty years her senior, and as I heard their banter, I grew increasingly uncomfortable. He was asking her questions at a rapid-fire rate. No sooner had she answered, than he was asking her another. She did that thing where you smile and try to be friendly. So many of us have done, as we secretly hope that the stranger will leave us alone and not hurt us if we do. He asked her if he could show her around Sydney. She politely declined. He then insisted on taking her out to dinner. She stammered and tried to deflect his attention. By this stage I had heard enough, and went over. He was decidedly irritated at my intervention, whilst the traveller was grateful. Eventually he moved away, and left her in peace.

I talked to my daughter about what had transpired, and told her that she need never feel like she has to put up with a stranger being invasive. I told her that I had done it many times, frightened of angering a persistent stranger. So many times, passing women would come to my aid, some pretending to be friends who were meeting me in order to thwart advances. We talked for the whole hour into the city, and it was wondrous. My little girl is growing up and there is nothing to fear. She has this. She is growing up in a time where girls have a voice. She is growing up in a time where she doesn’t feel the pressure to conform nor accommodate everyone. She has got this.

I am planning the next term, and shall be scheduling more trips and adventures, as I know that this precious time won’t come around again; at least not in the same way. I have heard that once a child reaches high school, time seems to speed up. I pray for day trips and camps, walks and other adventures in which time stands still. Right now is perfect. This is all we are guaranteed, this moment in time. I plan to lean into it, and make a second last a day.

 

Happy 12th Birthday!


On the occasion of your 12th birthday, I wanted to share a little of the many lessons I’ve learnt from you, my precious daughter.

  •  There is no point of comparison, as we are all so very different, achieving in our own allotted timeline. There is no room for envy, nor hankering after what someone else has. You celebrate your friend’s wins more than anyone I know. I have never seen you covet another’s fortune.
  • You have taught me to not fear death. Loved ones have died in front of you, and you have reached for their hands. You have insisted on attending more than one viewing  and have then celebrated their precious lives, whilst comforting the grieving.
  • You aren’t afraid to be seen, whether that be via acting in a production, dancing or singing. You stand on stage and proudly declare that you are here, staking your place in this world. You know that there is enough room for everyone.
  • Criticism doesn’t bother you. You humbly take on board constructive feedback, but discard nastiness in all its forms. It takes many people a lifetime to learn the difference.
  • You have a keen appreciation of the ridiculous, and a wonderful sense of humour. Remember when we were trying to find the hotel room I had booked? We wearily walked several blocks, because I couldn’t figure out which way was north when Google Maps told me to go that direction? I finally saw the appropriate signage on a motel building and remarked to you that it was pretty grand for a budget motel, what with its marble reception and pianist. The nice lady at the counter informed us that the budget arm of their chain was in fact a few blocks away. “Just head west,” she said, which saw you collapse into peals of laughter. We laughed some more when we read on the copious instructions in the dodgy room that if we showered, we would surely set off the nervy smoke alarm and the whole place may have to be evacuated. Being able to laugh in the face of delays, problems and a directionally-challenged mother, will hold you in good stead.
  • You have a healthy relationship with social media, with no interest in most of the platforms. You don’t need likes nor to have your worth affirmed by other people. Sensitive, you are acutely aware of the pain of exclusion, and see no need to highlight what you are doing and with whom, every day.
  • You are a loyal friend, and make no demands of those whom you love. You may not see a good friend for six months, but when you do, you simply pick up where you left off.
  • You bound out of bed of a morning, and give every activity 100%. Your enthusiasm inspires me.
  • Before you came along, I was a hermit. This world had been a dangerous, unpredictable launching pad, and I put away my rocket ship, and closed the blinds. When I started IVF, I had to travel to the clinic most days, and my engagement with life began anew. Now, I look forward to adventures and the world is no longer terrifying. This is largely due to your love of travel and new experiences.
  • You have built yourself up, and played to your strengths, letting nothing stop you. I have seen the way you deflect negativity and refuse to play small to help naysayers play large.
  • You are a savvy shopper, and hate waste. You already have a healthy relationship with money, and prioritize accordingly.
  • Life, when seen through your eyes, is blissfully clear. You have taught me to simplify rather than catastrophize. You have the gift of being able to break a problem down into workable pieces, and look to hopeful outcomes rather present calamity.
  • You are grateful for every kind action, and for our home. You are grateful for the trill of birds, the trees in the yard, the food in the pantry and for the clothes in your wardrobe. I am lovingly reprimanded whenever I have bought you something that you simply don’t need.
  • Careful with money, you proudly brought back a large portion of the spending money I had given you when you went away with a friend a year or so ago. You have a budget and stick to it.
  • You aren’t afraid of your voice, and not only do you stick up for yourself, but for those around you. You wont let certain things happen on your watch, no way. You live with integrity and won’t say anything, unless it is true. You are unafraid of confrontation, and saying what is on your mind, even if it’s a hard conversation to have.
  • You have borne witness to my surgeries, and have seen the scars. You have experienced the aftermath on a daily basis, and have the heart of a social justice warrior. You have anger at the plight of the homeless, and demand to know why resources aren’t freely available for youth, whether that be in the way of long-term housing or counselling. You find so many things unacceptable, and by this, you can help promote change.
  • You adore all things vintage! You love petti skirts and A-line dresses, record players and vintage shoes. To you, everything old is new again, apart from old attitudes (which needed to be put into mothballs). Little girls can now be seen and heard, and that aside, they demand to be respected.

From the time you were born (four weeks early), you have always had your own timetable. Walking before you crawled, climbing structures before you had ever played in a sandpit. I could only watch with admiration. I am doing the same now, as you cartwheel into your teenage years. I love you, sweetheart.

Yours Always and ever,

Mum xxx

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Moving and Reframing


My daughter and I are moving again, into a lovely friend’s home. She is travelling to Europe to go exploring with her little family, and we shall be minding her Chinese Crested dog. She looks like this:

This little dog is a great escape artist, notorious in our town. She has an elderly boyfriend who happens to be a Chihuahua with no teeth, as well as another suitor around the corner. She actually helped dig this terrier out of his backyard so she could play with him!

At the moment, I am sorting through what is going into storage, and what needs to be brought into the house. I have already donated/given away quite a bit. Honestly, when you start decluttering, it is akin to falling through a worm hole; limitless! I have no idea why I kept all manner of items, including clothing and shoes that were ill-fitting. Perhaps it was in the back of my mind that in order to feel safe, I had to hold on. Maybe it was in case I couldn’t  obtain more shoes and clothes, books and nick-nacs? This move has been hard physically, as I am not supposed to lift anything. Even the process of filling boxes has been excruciating. Somehow, I am managing. This move is getting me closer to feeling secure, with a forever home; I can feel it.

My friend has a yoga studio in her home, imbued with years of people relaxing and letting go. It hangs around in the ethers, and makes you sigh with relief upon entering. For several months, I shall be able to breathe in and exhale heavily, laying my head down and resting. It will be a welcome relief, even if I have to keep a watchful eye on our little Chinese Crested friend!

To those in permanent housing, I highly recommend clearing out your home, as if you are moving, only bringing that which you need or love back in. It is cathartic! The thought of moving twice in a year is overwhelming, and so I won’t think about it for the time being. This move sees me  being transient, a roamer without a base. It is both thrilling and frightening. I remind myself that we are all transient in the end. You have to shake up your world sometimes, or else you stagnate. As I light candles and incense in my friend’s home, and leave my shoes at her front door, I will be honouring the home’s history, and waiting with eager senses to receive what it has to teach me.

International Women’s Day


International Women’s Day started way back in 1909, and grown into the massive celebration as seen today. My daughter and I attended a wonderful 30th birthday celebration of a womens’ hub this March 8th. The womens-only centre is the only one of its kind in an area whose population is growing rapidly, and it is very much-needed. Not only does it provide free counselling services, a nurse, doctor and legal advice, but also workshops and groups, caseworkers and a referral service.

We listened to eloquent speakers, and were asked to reflect on the women whom we have loved that are no longer with us. Those who passed after a life of service, and those whom we have lost in tragic circumstances. Suddenly, the wind picked up, and caressed our faces, as though our ancestors and friends had been summoned.

Last year on this date, a doctor I had been seeing was arrested for the sexual assault of several patients. Today as we rode to the women’s centre in a bus, a young mother struggled on with a double pram. She managed to fit the pram into a corner, but the fellow sitting near her refused to tuck his legs in so she could sit comfortably next to her young ones. He had a look of scorn on his face as he deliberately stretched out further, and she struggled to shrink herself into less than half the leg space she should have been allotted.

We got home a short while ago, and I was looking forward to a rest. There was no sleep had last night, due to pain; the result of violence suffered long ago. As we alighted our bus, I sighed. Our neighbour was with a group of men smoking and playing loud music out the front of our place, at the same time as they were revving a chainsaw. They saw us, and continued chopping down a shrub, watching it fall onto our driveway. They then walked over and stood in our drive, ignoring the fact that we were there and had to walk around them. We weren’t even greeted, just glared at, as though we were unwelcome intruders. I was too wary to ask questions, and it can be rather intimidating to have six burly men on your property. I just wanted to get inside, away from them. The irony of it being International Women’s Day wasn’t lost on us. We hadn’t even been informed that they were planning on doing what they were doing. In my room, the music from their van was streaming through the closed window, and so I put on an ambient CD at full blast, resplendent with harps and harpsichords. I can imagine it delighted them, as much as their actions delighted me. Is there any noise more hideous than a chainsaw or leaf blower?!

We still have a long way to go, women and men and together as a community. Attitudes must be checked. Women are allowed to take up space! In fact, we must! As I watched my daughter drumming this morning,  my heart swelled. Here’s to women and girls, and here’s to friendships and the future. May our girls grow into women without shame, unafraid to speak their truths. May they have equal pay and equal rights to men. May old paradigms be vanquished and may we be able to stretch out comfortably in our seats next to men; afforded equal space. May we be able to walk into our front yard unabated.

What I missed when I was a Hermit


I went through a long period as a hermit,  both out of necessity and for health reasons. The outside world became a terrifying spectre, one I feared may swallow me whole. I read books and wrote of my experiences whilst inside hospital wards and in my room. Worlds can be contained in a small space, and I lived a hundred lives and died a thousand deaths whilst awaiting my return to the outside world.

I dreamed of performing simple tasks and going to ordinary places. The thought of going to the bakery and asking for a seeded loaf, or opening my own bank account, terrified and enthralled me. The thought of ordering food in a café or requesting a movie ticket was unthinkable. I would go through the actions required to get public transport from Point A to B a million times. Going to the letterbox made me feel vulnerable, let alone going down the street. I missed conversations, and the strangers whom you bumped into as part of a day. I missed the aromas streaming out of restaurants and the music of street artists. I missed the harried workers rushing to the station and building a rapport with the people at my favourite places, until they had become friends.

I don’t regret my years of hermitage. I was unencumbered by other’s input. I wrote stories which weren’t savaged by critics and dressed in my best clothing, styling myself without popular opinion playing on my mind. I was ruler of my thoughts and if a bad pain day or stalker caused me want to scream or weep, I could, freely. I knew where I started and other people left off with regards to boundaries, as I was the only one there! Much was given, but there was also much taken away throughout those years.

I didn’t travel, nor dress to be seen. I couldn’t think of anything worse! I could be dressed in electric blue, though still invisible. One day, the doors were flung open, and there I was, out in the world. I was eighteen years of age. I took note of the prices at the local shops, writing them on a notepad and memorizing them. I had to learn everything, from how to ask for services to how to talk on the phone. Everything was new and thrilling, terrifying and stultifying.

Circumstances have seen me recede at times. I may have had surgery and am not strong enough to go out into the world, or circumstances have conspired to push me into a constrained space. When I am able to open the front door, I am greeted by sunshine and fresh air. I have had enough of living inside; of living within my imagination, and not out in the world. I am privileged to have been given the gift of knowing that I don’t need people to fulfil me, rather I delight in being with them. There is a marked difference.

To go to a movie or concert by yourself; to travel and dine singularly is still a lovely experience. To have been a hermit and not enjoyed your own company would be a nightmare! Fortunately, I can still laugh at my own jokes and bounce ideas off of myself. I look forward to seeing more of this world, what with its questionable leaders, crazy politics, beautiful folk, glorious art and delicious food. I have merely dipped my foot into the waters away from hermitage valley. I look forward to being fully submerged.

Looking Back on 2017


As I look back on 2017, images and memes peek out at me.

There were fireworks over Sydney Harbour, a celebration with 1.6 million people.

There was exhaustion on every level, and grief for a young lady who passed before her time. Conversations have been more open as a result, and many a brave demeanour has slipped. It is time for us all to be transparent, and to let it be known when we find it hard to face another day. It has rattled me to the core, the falling of people who can seemingly do anything, face anything and survive anything. We have our limits. It is time to practice self-care. This can often mean rebelling against that which we feel primed to do. Isolate? Seek out company instead. Depression is a liar, please remember that.

There has been wildlife and adventures, and extraordinary days that I am glad I survived to see.

There was this extraordinary daughter of mine. I knew when I had her that I had been given a luminous gift. Some days when I find it hard to conjure energy for myself, I find it for her.

There was Sydney and marriage equality.

There was my  home town and traveling to NZ to be at my beautiful friend’s wedding.

There was grieving our friend, the bird-watcher; changes in image, and getting up close with Meerkats.

There were Wuthering Heights enactments…

There was glorious Melbourne.

There were Memes. How can something so small, say so much?

 

Falling, Heights and Pemberton


I have always had a fear of heights. I would have nightmares about those I loved being thrown off balconies as a child, and wake up crying. I refused to walk over the Sydney Harbour Bridge on a school excursion, as well as the footbridge at Darling Harbour. I have never liked open escalators and glass lifts either. Staying on the ground was the only choice I allowed myself. It was a cruel irony then, that when I was abducted at fifteen, I was made to climb a staircase and set on a balcony. It is a cruel irony that I was thrown off said balcony. I had many surgeries to put my body back together. My fear of heights is still with me (understandably), though I can tackle staircases and some footbridges now.

Fast-forward a decade, and I now have an adventurous daughter. She is unafraid of anything, and has a love of climbing. I have had to put my own fears aside to applaud as she ascends to the sky, doing stunts along the way. I have had to reassure tourists throughout Sydney that she is fine, and knows what she is doing. She is happiest sitting in the canopy of a tree. I have had to remain silent on many occasions, resisting the urge to let out an audible gasp or holler out to “be careful.” This kid knows what she is doing; she always has. The most challenging time was still to come…

She was asked to accompany her friend to Western Australia for a holiday. The family was going to visit the Quokkas on Rottnest Island, snorkel and climb a trio of trees in Pemberton, the tallest at 75 metres. Here is an apt description of these beauties. Apparently, only one in three tourists make it to the top. My daughter was determined, and started training immediately. I was filled with trepidation, and had to resist the urge to say no. In my heart, I knew she could do it, and that it would provide an important life lesson. The more goals a kid can kick and the more challenges they accomplish, the better. It provides a great foundation for their lives. Afterall, if you can do something hard, it proves you can do anything! I wasn’t going to let my fears stand in her way.

Imagine my delight when she Face-timed me from the top! The look of absolute joy on her and her friend’s faces said it all. They can do hard things. I must say, allowing her to climb an apex has been one of my hardest parenting moments. To encourage, rather than daub her skin with my phobia has been challenging. I am so proud of both these girls!

I was struck by two recent incidents when writing this piece:

#1 A fellow serving us at an inner-city coffee shop watched as my daughter performed a back-bend and other tricks. He told me that he had been a trapeze artist for the past 19 years, travelling the world with his wife, until a shoulder injury rendered the demise of his career. He urged me to put her in a school where she can learn more, and said she would never be a day without work when older if she pursued her love of climbing, such as is the demand for these skills.

#2 An older man watched as she joyfully climbed a tree near Sydney Harbour. He glared at me, and remarked that I was “a reckless parent.” My heart sank. The friend I was with urged me to not pay any mind to this stranger, but I still hurt. He had no idea that I suffer anxiety so severe that it rendered me house-bound before I had her. He had no idea that I had fallen from a height, and have had to work hard to applaud my child as she ascends. My grandmother was a very nervous person. She would holler to “be careful! Don’t fall!” as we climbed down her concrete back steps. Sure enough, we would be so alarmed at her hollering that we would indeed fall. It takes everything you have to not do it.

When I saw the look of pride and joy on my girl’s face, I knew it had been the absolute right thing to celebrate with her, rather than douse her enthusiasm in my own fears. As I said to her at the time, “you did this amazing thing; can you see that you will do anything you set your mind to?”

My Daughter and the Encounter at the Park


A new park was created around the corner from our home last year, and my daughter couldn’t wait to explore once it opened. An avid climber, it had a viewing post from a pirate ship, flying fox and much more. She spent many a happy hour there with local kids, mostly girls. Friendships were formed, secrets told, and fun was had. Oh, to be a kid again! Just before her eleventh birthday, she came to me, and incredulously stated that a boy had asked her out, not once, but three times. He wanted her to be his girlfriend! She was astonished and said that she had no intention of being anyone’s girlfriend, but that she was happy to be his friend. At that, his buddies put the pressure on. “Why wont you go out with him? C’mon!” She ignored the wheedling and came home. The next day, one of this boy’s friends sidled up to her (he was 11), and said that she wasn’t a pretty nor sexy eleven year old, and how dare she turn down his pal. He waited for a reaction, hoping for tears, shame or even anger. My incredible daughter just shrugged, said she didn’t give a flying fig what he thought, and left him gob-smacked.

I was outraged when she relayed the reason why she doesn’t want to return to the park. She has many friends that are boys; good respectful young fellas, who wouldn’t dream of treating any girl in such a manner. It made this behaviour all the more shocking; neither she nor I had any prior experience with her being harassed. She asserted herself at the time, but these encounters made the park feel unsafe and she hasn’t returned. It has made me sad and incredibly angry. We are talking ten and eleven year old boys! Asking girls out, and if they are turned down, turning nasty. It sends shivers through my bones, the thought of their behaviour escalating as they get older. I had to talk to my daughter about harassment, and how boys and men behave at times. I hated that I had to talk to my girl, still so young, about the dangers out there, as close as her local park. I told her I had been through it, cat-called, harassed, and put down when I asserted myself. I explained that when people put you down, it’s because they have nothing inside to lift them up. Thus, they attempt to demean you. She understood, and we talked into the night. We came up with action plans and action steps if she ever encounters this again. Little girls should be able to climb to the apex of viewing towers, and zoom through the air on flying foxes unabated. She worries for her friends, the girls she used to meet at the park, some of whom may not be able to stand up to these boys as she did.  It is a conundrum she shouldn’t have to face at eleven. It is a conundrum she shouldn’t have to face ever.