My Curly Haired Baby Finishes 3-16 School. 

16 year old kids are ready to leave school, I however am not ready. I am a hot mess.

OK, so I might have been a hot mess last night. I might have managed to keep my “I am so pleased for you, congratulations sweetie” composure as Missy dropped the news that she leaves school officially on Wednesday lunchtime. The penny dropped. I suddenly twigged that my little curly afro haired baby who’d been wearing a school uniform for over a decade would be finished with uniforms as she enters study leave for her exams. My curly haired baby who looked at me so doe eyed in those first days of school was now laughing at me getting misty eyed as she talked about the final ever classes with her favourite teachers and how they were taking pictures with the students and giving them pep talks. My child is a child to me. Sure, the world sees a 5′ 10″ young woman who is capable and confident but I see my baby fresh out the hospital or in her oversized polo shirt with a logo. They see someone doing really well in the sciences and I see Chip and Biff early reader books. They see someone who stands her ground and I see someone who needed defending. 

She is ready, I am not. 

After this summer, adulthood looms. She is going to be magnificent and rock everything she sets her mind to. I will have to continue letting her move away and acclimatise into opportunity and responsibility.  My whole mandate for 16 years has been to let her be free enough to be a child, safe and loved. Now my mandate is changing and it is happening so quickly that it is difficult keeping up but I will get there.  She still has two more years of school but is more like junior college where they’re more autonomous. My baby is no longer a baby and it has come as a surprise. 

I am often behind the emotional curve, this is nothing new, no major surprises. I am very pleased with the woman she is becoming and look forward to standing back and observing her in adulthood in a few years, but not yet. I need a little more time. 

Writing a book via Email.

How could I help her remember her roots and learn from others experiences? I decided to write a book just for her.

I email myself things I want to tell my daughter when she is grown… things I wish i’d known about how the world works. I have the intent of compiling a book for her for when she heads to University.  Hopefully she’ll take a few moments to browse the pages and be able to incorporate some of the things shared.

There is so much I wish I had known and stumbled upon this idea a few years ago. Not wanting my daughter to fall into the same trap of starting from scratch I came up with a way to pass down the things I learned through graduating from the school of hard knocks.  Things on budgeting, careers, prioritisation, staying very close to friends and paying particular attention to the quality of your girls who are friends, making time for oneself, becoming subject matter experts in things which she is passionate over and which are useful to the wider community, health, how much I love how she can work a room, how much I love how she notices the people who need someone to talk to, some memories of her before she can remember, how I found moving beyond my own wants and needs led to a happier life, a reminder of her childhood dreams and aspirations, some photos of her early artwork and some comments perhaps about her to me over the years from our nearests and dearests.

Whether she loves it or not, it has been a delight to compile over the years.  Emailing myself little memories or thoughts on the hoof, from anywhere in the world using my phone, helped me to gather a wide repository of items to share.  Even reading back over early entries at this point in time shows me how quickly we forget the little things which make a life.  There are entries on subjects and events which until prompted I had completely forgotten even though I was the author.

I have noticed that when I stop and notice the good things in life, I am more prone to continue noticing the good things.  This has been a blessing to my life as it helped me focus on someone other than myself and helped me look for the good.  There is a sense of enrichment.  It also fortifies me against the moments which chip away at happiness.  It is like the id says “this rubbish thing may well be happening, but look at this vast array of successes” as it throws its arms wide over all the collected moments.

So, as much as this has been for Missy to peruse at her convenience at some later date, it has become a talisman of goodness in my own life, right here and right now.  I am pleased I started and pleased that I didn’t think to myself “ah, she’s already 10 years old, it is too late”.  Transpired I remembered much of her little years when she was 10, and as we start to focus on adulthood there are things for which I want her to be positively aware.  It wasn’t too late.

 

The House # 3 – what happened next

We had the key to the house, Missy had 3 days booked at a residential course in Cambridge, we had the shock realisation that the rental house wasn’t packed as much as is required to move home.

Elbow grease.  That’s what was required from this point forth.  That, and money.  Lots and lots of money.  My purse is now filled with receipts from DIY stores.

So, the teen seemed to be emotionally stopped on packing her room.  That’s all that was required of her apart from picking up after herself.  She had to pack her room.  I saw dozens of rubbish bags exiting her little sanctuary but didn’t see many boxes making it to the move me pile.  What should have taken half a day ended up taking more than two weeks.  Whenever I go in her room it is a cause of contention.  We end up arguing so I tried to leave her to it.  In the end I found myself standing on the landing tersely pointing out that she was not fulfilling her end of the bargain, I was highly disappointed in her and she needed to pull her finger out or argument or not I would go in and sort the situation.  “But I’m deciding what to keep and what to throw”, “Decide Faster!!!”.

I dropped Missy at Cambridge, and then collected her and took the day to look around that beautiful city with her and my cousin Noele.  We had an amazing day.  The course was more than everything she’d ever dreamed of.  We needed some together time.

The house with the key needed emptying.  Debris everywhere, cupboards still full and unable to receive our personal effects.  So, every night after work and every morning before work, there I was emptying the house into my car to be taken to the recycling centre.  Walls needed scrubbing, floors needed scrubbing, every single surface needed scrubbing.

Every time I moved something in the house I found more mould.  Rather than being able to proceed, I would have to stop, strip the wall, apply mould remedy, wait, scrub, reapply, rewash, repaper, before I could get on with what I had intended to do before moving the item.  It was rather disheartening and time consuming.

I bought trade paint.  I thought “Tradesmen, they know what they’re doing, I’ll buy their paint” but it transpires that tradespeople do not buy trade paint because it is fit for very little.  What should have taken 2 coats took upwards of 4.

Missy had design ideas about her room including stripping the woodchip wallpaper, painting, and adding brick wallpaper as a feature wall.  Apart from me sneakily adding 4 coats of paint to her room while she was in Cambridge, and laying a carpet, she did the rest herself.  It looks great.

So, slowly the house began to change from dirty, mouldy, icky to a place where you could touch the paintwork, run your hand down the bannister, walk through a room and open a cupboard to find emptiness.

The helpers helped, during week 2 mum arrived and stayed over.  We hired gardeners to help tame the wildly overgrown hedge.  We’d cut it down to an appropriate width using heavy duty power tools but needed help topping it off and taking away the cuttings.  The gardeners also helped me to put the fence back up which had been pulled down.  The Mormon missionaries arrived and helped me change the roof of a shed, to re-board and re-tarp so that it was watertight.  I still have remedial work there fixing the back wall, but baby steps.

The skip filled, the cars filled over and over again.  One of the dogs my mum owns, a big floofy German Shepherd, slipped through the gate and took a walk through the neighbourhood causing much excitement among the local residents.  Appliances were delivered.  Things were starting to come together.  Now, to pack the old house and book a removal company.

But one thing at a time.

 

 

Cambridge University for 16 Year Olds

Missy is off for a 3 day residential course at Cambridge University, England tomorrow entitled Women in Science.  

She qualified to attend as 1 of 30 year 11 students which means the children are 15 and 16 years old.  In the acceptance letter the University stated thousands had applied and that they were excited to extend the offer. 

To qualify the candidate had to be female, getting fantastic grades in science, have chosen to study sciences in the next phase of education during A levels for the next two years, have a reference from a senior staff member at school and generally be an all round good egg who’s parent didn’t have the opportunity to attend University themself. 

As with all new experiences there are some small measure of jitters.  I told her it’s just like camp where we think we won’t get along with anyone but end up firm friends.

“Not this time, all these people are nerds”

“I hate to break it to you, Honey, but so are you!  Ha ha”

She jokes that if it goes squiffy she’ll head out on the razz because she’ll obviously be the cool one in the group.

“Honey, I am going out with my girlfriends, I will not collect you”

“No need, I’ll be on the razz, ain’t no stopping this razzzzzz, [insert heavy metal aaaarrrrgrgrg sound]”

She made me hoot laughing. 

Prepping: Water outage

I have a slippery landlord.  Very slippery.  Right now, with a cracked cistern in a 1 bath house and no water he is holding us hostage with the invoice to replace a poorly fitted, old and broken WC before they’ll replace and fix and turn the water back on.

For clarity, we officially have no piped water for sanitation, food prep or drinking.

We are impeccable tenants, we maintain the home, we hire window cleaners, we garden, we take in parcels for the neighbours, we pay the inflated rent on time every time.  In the dictionary where it lists “Model Perfect Tenant” there is a picture of me.

The idea that somebody could hold me hostage for water is shocking and despicable.  I have discovered that it takes  more than 30 litres a day to wash your body and to flush and to get one drink each.  30 LITRES!

What the landlord may or may not have been ready for is water storage.  We’re rationing like crazy but Mormons got the water storage thing going on a strong game.

So, who blinks first?  This is about to get interesting.

 

+++++++++++

5PM UPDATE:  We won!!! (so far, anyway)… without continuing to make a fuss the landlord replaced the equipment and turned the water back on while we were at work.  We discovered the great news upon returning home today.  I could hear the office maintenance guy rolling his eyes on the phone yesterday evening (eye rolling and “whatever” attitude is so loud) but all’s well that ends well and the showers and taps are now operational.  They apparently viewed my video this morning chatting about how the plumber had mentioned the cistern was not attached to the wall correctly and there was too much give and play which caused the crack and leak and were a little easier to deal with once their hostility subsided.  Me to them “In the nicest possible terms, we have no sanitation, could you confirm when we will have access to sanitation please?” was apparently a reason to become terse.  We won!!!

Making space for Autism in the workplace.

There is a great deal of conversation going on about how it is encumbent upon NeuroTypicals to make space in the workplace for non-NeuroTypical people.  It is starting to look like those making the noise require and expect other people to make space and lots of allowances for their child who will become an adult.  I agree partially with the sentiment, heartfelt as it is, but also partially disagree.  I agree that people on the Autism Spectrum have a lot to offer society.  They’re frequently bright, insightful, funny, lovely and an asset to an organisation.  However, they also take a lot of energy, time, allowances, interpretation and worry to those around them.  I work in an industry blessed with many people who if they were interviewed as a kid nowadays would likely be identified as being on the spectrum.  They are great folks.  They can also be very draining.  Their skill sets are valuable.  They’re also inflexible and resistant to the ebb and flow of industry life.  It takes a long time to get them on-board with the current focus and sometimes they just refuse which requires others to make up for the distinct lack of pull.  I am sure that the office environment is both beneficial and detrimental to my associates just as it is to me.  They find it tiring dealing with people who cannot naturally grasp the abstract concept or who just don’t worry about the nitpicky detail.  I have seen that my associates find it tiring just dealing with people.  We make accommodations, we chat ahead of meetings and we chat after meetings and we make lots of time available to revisiting the minute details that are important to them on a very generalised basis.  We like them, we’re all in it together, they’re definitely great at their work, they’re capable of so much and are a social and productive asset just the same as their colleagues who are NT.  It can be tiring for NT’s to keep reviewing things.  Yet the people I am speaking about are only what my family would be referring to as “Blessed with a tinge” of spectrum life.  Like a drop or two of red paint in a pot of white.  They have little difficulty with communication.  Their communication is frequently on a tangent or abrupt or sometimes borderline less than completely appropriate for the situation but there is no difficulty in expressing ideas.  I am in a quandary.  I see the benefit they are to the company just as all the rest of their colleagues are a benefit too.  They hold their own.  They are quirky but can interact.  My concern with the full-inclusion push (and I reserve the right to change my mind – this opinion, and that’s all it is, an opinion – is valid only for 5 minutes from publication) is that the deeper in to the spectrum one travels, the more difficulty there is in expressing thoughts and ideas in a manner which can be quickly incorporated in the Corporate World.  The more difficulty there is in training in tasks, in resolving concerns that arise as a matter of course and normal life.  It’s a very walking on eggshells situation.  I don’t yet see a solution, only a desire to have people live to their fullest potential (which is immense)… I don’t see how corporate life and people who cannot pass for Neurotypical are going to blend in the future.  If you have ideas or constructive comments, please share.

What do “Normal” people do?

I’m packing up our house one box at a time getting ready to move.  Once we’ve moved in and the internet service providers have done their thing and furniture is in situ and the lawn has been mowed and the hedge cut, and I have fixed all the fix-me’s, I don’t quite know what I will do with myself for the next 50 years.

Life will be settled for the first time.  Now THAT is daunting.

What do “normal” people do?  How do you all spend your time?  Finances are not unlimited so I cannot start joining a gazillion clubs… I am happily and contractually required to keep the teen happy and healthy.  But how do Normals who like me have a home and a nice friendship group, and a nice job and a lovely kid do with all of that copious spare time?

I don’t love gardening but I do love having a tidy home and green area.  I am more of a function over form girl.  I don’t like busywork just for the sake of it.  I disapprove of personally owning pets. 50 years is a long time to fill.

I may get all the way through Netflix with that amount of time on my hands.  Might start at one end of the Public Book Library and work my way through reading everything I can get my hands on.  Other than that, I’m out of ideas.  50 years, boy, that’s ages.