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The Tweens have left the building – week 72

This is it. Today Number Two Tween turned 13. It’s a milestone, a leap and a jump from a pocket of power to a pot of gold. The usual birthday ritual of lining up for a measure shows inches have stretched from toes to head.

With this growth comes short trousers, bigger shoes and a reckoning of the world that knows no boundaries.

The house is now fully complete in its testosterone filled shell. With two teenagers to bring a new strength into the conversations, convictions and sometimes a battleground.

The mother in me has been repositioned into the friendly antics of the “Unicorn mom“; if you don’t know her, then she’s the friend you need to keep life real – kids, career, marriage.

I’m Her and have been for quite a while.

I love my children without boundaries but this doesn’t mean I blindly look at some of the $%^& that comes out of their mouths and wonder what or how this is happening.

I’m the mom that happily pays for Uber eats so I don’t have to think of nutrition and a balanced meal every single day.

I’m the friend who tells it straight. Yep, our careers aren’t amazing, however, we’re having so much fun at work, our husbands/partners are fallible and so are we. The world is more important than loo paper on the roll and toothpaste in the sink.

And that’s what Tweens Between has taught me. There are no rules and roads to follow. The playground is often full of “judgy” people but that’s their issue, not mine. That my friends love me regardless of the trouble I cause and weird cakes I bake.

Thank you to Tween One and Two, and thank you to all the people who have followed me on this journey, commented with love and held back from the hurtfulness.

Happy 13th – may your first teenage year be blessed.

All love

Jessica xxii

Jessica Purbrick-Herbst
June 2018

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A Wondrous Adventure – week 71

We’ve just returned from India.

Two boys and one mama on tour. It made a great Instagram hashtag.

The teenager and the tween were excited about this adventure. Tween Two had been before, a couple of years ago we ventured to the northern desert region . An easy first step.

This trip we hit up Mumbai, Varanasi and Kolkata.

Arriving to the chaos feels like home to me. This is my tenth trip to India some have been long and languid over many months and others have been quickies to enrich my soul during difficult times.

The boys have been lucky. They have travelled well over their short lives; births in London and New York, travelling Europe by car and train, and drop in holidays to Asia has given them an understanding of their place in the world and importantly how much we have compared to the have nots.

Arriving to the faecal smells of India hit the senses at 7am in the morning. The crammed taxi, the gridlock traffic. We bustle into the hotel for brief relief before we’re off again on the local trains to taste the food on the beach, the laneways and roadside.

We cycle early in the morning as Mumbai awakens to her daily routines. We gather the smells of the pavement dwellers and the cleanliness and order of the slums.

Flying into Varanasi gives us a new smell. The smell of burning wood for warmth and the offering of the family to the Ganga god underpins the taste of everything in this small rural location. The Ghats are busy with offerings amongst the closeness of the smog and pollution. It’s not how I remember it  long summer evenings sitting and thinking, a quiet calmness. That was in the 1990’s  Varanasi like me has grown up.

We check out a day early as we yearn the bustle of a city again. Kolkata doesn’t disappoint.

We walk the roads to Mother House to be part of the movement of volunteers. We spend time with the round milky babies and the wobbly children. We tickle, we laugh.

Early the next morning the boys drag tired bodies from the warmth of blankets to experience mass at Mother House, a volunteer breakfast of cha, bananas and bread before heading off on the local rocking bus to work in the one of the children’s homes.

The delight of the teenager and the tween as they spend time with young people who haven’t had the kick start to life is refreshing. They do laundry, play, teach, read and feed before tucking up into large cots for rest time.

Our metro ride back to the hotel is full of funny stories and laughter. The lightness of their world is wonderful.

We eat, we explore, we taste. The food has flavour, the conversations are rich and we discover new enchantments with each twist and turn.

My early morning solo run on our final day provides delights to the locals and some peace for me. I run to Mother House to listen to the singing. The doors are closed but the sweet voice of women, young and old, emerges above the traffic and the horns and floats down to me.

It’s this peace amongst the chaos that makes two boys and one mama on tour such a unique and wondrous adventure.

All love

Jessica Purbrick-Herbst
January 2018

 

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Cracking the code – week 70

Mothers are wrong.

The look, the vibe, the hostility some days flaw me. How can the charming, delightful, funny, joyous 14 year old turn from this to a cutting, disdainful teenager in just a matter of moments? It makes no sense and honestly, I don’t really want to understand why.

“Everyone” tells me this is “just teenagers” and that “it’s ok, they come out the other end”, yet I don’t accept this behaviour as okay. It’s not and never will be something that is “just teenagers”.

There are some days when the interaction from 6.30am until the busting out the door an hour later is so cutting and mind chillingly dreadful, I find myself stopping on the way to work for coffee to pull myself out of this head space and into the reality of an adult world.

Do the teenagers treat their teachers this way?

Apparently not as term after term I receive glowing reports of this amazing young man who has maturity and delight that grabs his teachers hearts and souls.

Perhaps Teenager 1 uses up all his good bits at school and the safety of home opens a flaying child who is exhausted by this best public behaviour. Or could it be that home is so safe Teenager 1 has the luxury of pushing all possible emotional boundaries to test the love of a strong family bond?

I know it won’t break but will I?

The rational of adulthood seeks to crack the code of the teenager however just maybe it’s me that needs to wait out this time.

All love

Jessica Purbrick-Herbst
July 2017

 

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Spinning worlds – week 69

March already in a world that is spinning faster on its axis than ever before. Not actually true yet that’s the rush that surrounds parenting in 2017. Stop any parent at the school gate, sports stadium or Saturday traffic jam.

Tween One has reached the sky; we have seen him stretch tall to look over my head – the garden shed bears the tale-tell signs of pencil makings of a growing lad. He is relishing this lean languid of a new body.

Tween Two has also stepped into a new world of his self; new school–new friends–new routine. Exerting the rightfulness of independence, Tween Two has kicked away the ropes of primary school and enwrapped the offerings of high school tightly around his brave new world.

With this comes a change in parenting. 

Turning to the bruised knees of growing, as parents we are sometimes left holding the forgotten lunch that likely wasn’t going to be eaten anyway. How – just when the parent ebb is low, the hackles are up and the family feels of a battleground – there is delight, laughter and the immense joy and living with those whose everyday is growing up. 

I remember I’m more than a bystander. 

All love

Jessica x 

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Be a rainbow – week 68

We’ve been having some fun. Tween Two is stepping out into a new brave world. 

As primary school comes to an end, Tween Two is looking ahead to high school—from 26 children to 170 boys—there is the delight of stepping into the mix of the masses; the diverse; and the languid. 

With this gleeful insight,  it’s hard not to check out of today and bide time. 

I’ve been wanting to use Tween Two’s creativity and sense of adventure to keep him grounded to now, the present. 

The solution? Add a start-up business into the mix. A trip to India last year sparked an interest in playing with fabrics, textures, colours and designs. From this tactile experience has developed a mother—son collaboration. 

Brick Green Designs – a start-up that takes the beige out of boring and adds in pop, colour and design. We have worked together to develop designs and sourced manufacturers that align with our values. We have chosen fabrics that are produced without harming and adding more waste to the world. 

Our launching platform is a crowdfunded kickstarter campaign to get our first commercial production off the ground. 

Success or failure—it doesn’t matter. 

It’s the chance to ignite the creative soul of Tween Two into something tangible, spending time together and leaning in to learn. 

The gift as parents is to teach our children to love challenges, be intrigued by mistakes, enjoy effort and keep on learning (Carol Dweck). 

And that is what I hope I’m doing. 

All love

me

Jessica x 

PS. If you want to travel the journey of Brick Green Designs, please support our kickstarter campaign here

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The Creep of Tweens – week 67

Number One Tween has cracked the age and kicked over into his teenage years. Years that will see a veracity of change in his body, mind and soul. It may be profound or filled with profanities. He will emerge a new person; fingers crossed that it is a robust, quirky, interesting and happy soul that arrives at the kitchen table as a 20-something.

Tween Two has announced his arrival at the scene and suggested my focus should be aimed at his stories, his feats and his way of life. I love his openness for this social commentary – is it the Andy Warhol prediction of 15 minutes of fame?

Tween Two is 10, he’s a youngie for Grade Six, the final year of primary school. He’s smart, articulate and curious. He can debate, hold a crowd with his intellect and wit, and deliver the crunch point that nobody else thought of.

He’s not the cool kid at school. Not that keen of team sports, not the social butterfly that oozes friends. His friendships are solid and mature; no fools, no flakes and definitely no fanatics.

But that doesn’t mean he doesn’t want to play with the cool crowd. The magnetic of those boys with the flicky hair, sporting prowess and more. It’s the same crowd as my days at school back in the 1980’s. Only difference is the interpretation. I, as a tween and teen, was happy with my own beat, style, thoughts and the kids I hung out with – I was troublesome, naughty and led the best of the girls at my private boarding school astray with breakouts and knockabout antics.

As a mother it’s interesting to see how the tweens use their power for good or evil; who wants to be “in the group” and who doesn’t care.

What is it about the “group” that drives such desire to be like that, when we all know a quick whip around at a school reunion tells us the “in group” weren’t the happy, socialised kids we thought them to be.

I do feel the realness of the playground, the endlessness of those lunchtimes when you just don’t quite fit in. When you try but keep getting push out. When you look for friendships but just can’t quite get there.

The advice to all tweens: playgrounds are likely to be the toughest environment you will ever have to be in; there will be really shitty days and days that just don’t seem that bad. Amongst the crappiness there will be stories to share of survival, of wins, of those days when you came out on top.

Hang in there – be kind in the face of unkindness; be resilient in the face of adversity and be true to yourself; whomever that 20-something turns out to be.

Warmly

Jessica x

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In front of the crowd – week 66

I spent the week working with an inspiring group of people through Melbourne’s Slow School of Business. We spent the week stripping back our words and rebuilding stories of purpose. This is my story…

When I was 10 I saddled my pony, my mother stuffed two Mars Bars into my pocket and I rode out on a family farm larger than Melbourne; my adventures lasting all day. The rule to be home by dark.

Now I am the mother of ten year old Theodore and his brother Sebastian. Two inner city tweens –that crack of age of nine to 12 from childhood to teenage years. Teenagers in waiting. The world of parenting is packed with prescriptive actions, Wi-Fi blockers and scenarios of fear.

As parents we are fearful of a world that is unknown to us. I seek the courage of my mother to trust my tweens and their street smartness. The smartness of growing up in laneways leaking hookers, syringes and beatboys.

There were no streets in Western New South Wales.

What could possibly go wrong if I packed my boys off with Mar Bars for a day on their bikes? Be home by dark?

Sebastian as a 10 year old took himself to and from school, dragging his little brother through the laneways and trams of Melbourne. Within weeks, neighbourhood parents asked if he could take their children too.

Sebastian became the mother hen of Richmond – with his gaggle of winding kids.

My grit in Sebastian gave parent’s permission to trust. These parents turned their fear of the “white van man” into the courage of the tribe. Are you this parent?

From the fat open spaces of rural Australia to the everyday creak, rush and grunge of inner city Richmond I became the courageous parent. Our nanny resigned – the thought of drudging through the advertising, interviewing and finding someone else was so exhausting. So much easier to push the kids onto the streets!

Trusting my tweens can be tough. Mistakes are made, timelines are missed. The fearful playground parents relish in the regaling of horror stories of snatched children from sidewalks, flashings in the park and online antics.

By having faith in my boys, I have found the courage to let go of my fear; it has allowed me to watch the missteps of my sons, to stretch into the real world with one hand on the apron strings. I have given myself permission to let my sons have the freedom that my mother gave me to explore worlds and universes that didn’t exist five let alone 40 years ago.

It is this time of trust, courage and freedom that will be the strength behind the tricky teens and yucky youths.

Be courageous, be the brave parent.

Warmly

in the library

Jessica x

23 August  2015

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Stormy clouds – week 65

Stormy clouds hung over Tween Two.

In full force he fought the demons that make him crack.break.fall apart.

It was the last week of term. The school production was in full swing with Tween Two taking on a  front and centre role.

He learnt the lines, he sang the songs; solos were practiced and practiced. He examined the life of his character.

The opening night was beyond spectacular. The crowds cheered at the incredible display of 70 children having the time of their lives; the stunning singing, the acting, the words.

The second night arrives; a few mistakes, a missed line, a yawn. Tween Two was primed and ready to deliver his piece. He missed a beat, memory went blank – eyes widened. The cast nudged in, a heart beat, just a fumbled word, phew… the scene moves on and words are remembered.

Sitting in the second row I noticed a physical change. A squaring of shoulders, a face turned to thunder. The tears begin to fall.

My stomach lurched, the play continued.

Its the solo act, the singing of a narrative song. Tween Two steps to the front of the stage, thick with glistening shine, chin out and sings.

The voice is clear, striking, moving. The crowd holds its breath, the tears continue to flow. He does it. He makes it through, not just as a struggle but as a sound byte that delivers one of his best.

Standing ovations for the whole cast and the lumbering thankfulness of a mother.

Backstage I gather my 10 year old into my arms, I wrap him in kisses and take him home.

I am so full-blown proud that he held it together, that he really, really understood what resilience really feels like. Its not just a word tossed about during class time, not just a stamp on a page that ticks the box.

Resilence is a physical, a mental and whole lot of guts to keep going, to stand up and stand out. Its a moment, a time that once strongly felt enables anyone to rise up and be counted.

And my mother pride saw the growing up of Tween Two, his gathering of inner strength and the breaking away of the boy that stood in his way.

The toughness of the moment led to a deep sleep that gave silver lining in the morning.

 

Warmly

in the library

Jessica x

5 July  2015

 

Ps. On the cold June night when my second child flooded his face with tears in the middle of the school production, I did everything I could not to rush onto the stage to cuddle him. To watch your young child soldier on, to sing an incredible piece whilst flooding the floor with his tears of inner despair and disappointment was heart wrenching.

Reflecting back on this moment I still feel slightly sick. I’m also incredibly proud of his strength to continue on – I wonder what I would have done if it was me?

As parents in the thick of parenting we can forget that our children are tough, or can be tough in circumstances we can’t predict. We are lucky to be watchers and to share their path of discovery.

Merciful holidays…. and it begins all again next week.

What toughness have your children shown you?

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A lone – week 64

I’m the lone female in the house, excluding our 18 month old Corgi Coco.

Coco is a definite kindred spirit and a lovely welcoming voice when I arrive home, and she has a perceptiveness that frankly scares me.

That aside, I am a lone in a house of two tweens, husband, rabbit and two gold fish (gender unknown!)

Tween Two is coming online. He is about to turn 10 and is showing the spirit and soul of someone firmly enamoured about social justice. The Prime Minister has become a pen friend, well friend is not the word, more a debriefer of the injustices coming through the Australian Government at this time.

This coming of age, of double digits feels strange, a growing up – yet so young.

I wondered where I was at 10? Tramping the plains of western NSW on a farm bigger than most cities, fat blue skies and the solace and knowing of being alone. Naive, yes! No exposure to the technologies of the day (were there any in the 1970’s?) although my parents did have a telex machine…

It’s the ability to grab and use any technology, to accept that it will be honest and good; to signup without thought of where all these details are stored, regurgitated and used for more advertising; targeting directly into inboxes.

Its not frightening, its simply overwhelming at times. As a parent of the 2015’s having grown a teenage life so far from this, it can be hard to keep up, to stay not ahead but simply on-par with what our 10 year olds are getting into.

We have open conversations about what tools are being used, about email addresses used to sign up; names and passwords.

As that lone female having the voice and keeping the voice across the growing up of boys is challenging and unique.

When the everydayness of the technology, I revert to the most natural of tactics. My most powerful cut through comes in the morning, the early hours when Tweens (still!) wander sleepily into the parental bed for a cuddle before their full awakens draws them back into a world that I don’t belong.

This is the true time of togetherness that no technology, age or lived in world of today will remove or encroach. Long may it last.

Warmly

in the library

Jessica

1 June 2015

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Rolling across the calendar – week 63

Easter is rolling across the calendar and Tweens One and Two have lovingly stamped in their requests for the Easter bunny – should he still be visiting our house. Fortunately visit or not our pet rabbit Scamp (male, not the cuddly type) will create magic on the day!

Scamp in the garden

With Easter comes the end of term one – the first term of high school for One and a touch of senior leadership in junior school for Tween Two.

Tween One’s interim school report tells stories of “being connected to all the students, embracing school life and all it has to offer”. But what does this say about home – there is anger, filthy looks and scowling negativity.

I’m dipping into my resources – from Dr Spock* to Blessings of a skinned knee, to Raising Boys and my recent edition Tricky Teens.

The “attitude” I read comes from cortisol – the stress hormone that is released with adrenaline, making tweens snappy, edgy and antsy says teen expert Andrew Fuller. And given Tween One is heading into his 13th birthday, I’m thinking there is a mass of cortisol bouldering through his system.

The cure? Time and patience with some family rituals and routines such as eating together with conversation and no distractions, checking in on the sugar intake and upping the water. And of course sleep – removing the technology at least 1/2 hour before bedtime to allow the brain to begin the process of sleep.

What is all this negativity like for Tween Two and the rest of the family? It’s awful, but that’s for another post.

Happy Easter if this is your thing, happy holidays for Australian’s who tread the last of the summer days, and – those in the northern hemisphere – bold into spring with glee.

Warmly

in the library

 

 

 

Jessica

29 March 2015

*Yes I realise Dr Spock being a baby expert can’t offer much guidance about tweens but I just thought it could be something from the baby days…

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