Wednesday, October 29, 2008

She misses me too.

Lauren misses me too. Tonight I had a phone call from her. She was at work and wouldn't finish before 10pm. The message: I cooked food for you, come and get it.

I went to the restaurant where she works nights and in between looking after the diners she sat and chatted. It took her about 15 minutes before she went to get the food, then she walked me to my car and chatted some more.

My heart swells with love and pride every time I see her, even think of her. I know so many people who don't want to spend time with their parents but my daughter likes me enough to engineer times together.

I know I've said it before, but I'm so lucky.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Rules to live by

Just before Lauren turned 12 we negotiated ‘rules to live by’. She was beginning to want to go out with friends unsupervised, or at least not fully supervised. I thought we should have some ground rules that would last her until she turned 18 and became an adult according to law.

I decided the rules would work for both of us. It seemed unreasonable for me to expect her to tell me where she was going if I wasn’t prepared to do the same for her. We formulated a series of questions that had to be answered appropriately before any request to go out would be considered. This is what we agreed upon:

1. Where are you going?
2. How are you getting there?
3. Who are you going with?
4. Who else will be there?
5. What will you be doing there?
6. Will there be adult supervision? And what form will that take?
7. How will you be getting home?
8. What time will you be home?
9. Do you feel safe going with these people?

Most of the time questions 2 and 7 were answered with “You’ll take me, won’t you, Mum?”.

I originally came up with this plan to try to reduce the constant pleading and arguing that accompanied every invitation for her to go somewhere. It was tiring. At least this way, she knew what I expected from the beginning, and knew I wouldn’t even consider letting her go somewhere unless each of these questions could be answered in such a way that I felt comfortable about the situation. I was surprised by how well it worked. And how long it lasted.

If Lauren really wanted to go somewhere she came to me armed with the answers to the questions. She began planning her outings, organising lifts and checking venues. I’m sure that’s part of the reason she’s such a well-organised person now she’s an adult. I’m equally sure there were a lot of outings I was never told about, simply because she couldn’t answer all the questions or she knew I wouldn’t be happy with the answers. She didn’t bother asking and didn’t go. At least with the list of questions she could gain some control over where she went and when. She became adept at manipulating situations, arranging friends’ parents (or me) to be on standby for supervision, just so she could go somewhere she really wanted to.

The situation became a bit more difficult during her senior year at school. The year before she turned 18 and the following year were difficult in comparison to previous ones because she wanted to push the boundaries. Still, the basics held. I always knew where she was and who she was with. I didn’t always know how she planned to get home but often received a phone call in the wee hours asking for a lift. She’s 25 now and she still emails or calls me if she’s going out somewhere unusual, just so I know where she is. If she travels, even overnight, I get a full itinerary with flight numbers and arrival times. She sends me a text message to let me know she’s arrived safely and another before she leaves to come home.

I follow the same rules with her. I remember when she was about 16, getting a phone call when I was at a seminar for work. I’d forgotten to tell Lauren I’d be late home so she rang to check on me – and let me know I had to tell her where I was. She was convinced I’d had an accident. It could be nothing else because we always told each other where we would be.

I didn’t forget again.

Monday, October 27, 2008

My daughter and me

Lauren and I haven't seen each other much lately. It's been nearly three weeks - that's a long time when I usually see her at least once a week. We've both been really busy. Of course, we've been emailing, texting and talking on the phone but it's not the same. I know I shouldn't complain. My daughter lives just two suburbs away and actually enjoys talking with her mother. Some parents aren't so lucky.

Because I've been missing her I've decided to do a few posts of "Memories of Lauren". Things that have stuck with me for years. Defining moments that show what a special person she is. Here's the first one.

From the moment she was born Lauren showed a determination that amazed me. She could never be told to do something – not even eat. She had to be cajoled and convinced things were a good idea. She had to make the decision for herself.

I’m very much a ‘see how it goes’ kind of person. Lauren plans things meticulously. When she was about three months old I decided I’d have to have a plan for how I was going to raise her because she wouldn’t respond well to my usual ad hoc approach to life. Unfortunately I’m not what I consider a natural mother. It took me about three years to work out how to deal with this very different personality, during which time the closest I came to formulating my plan was to make a few decisions about what I didn’t want to do.

My decisions:
Don’t ever break her spirit.
Don’t ever make her feel unloved.
Don’t ever let my decisions put her in danger.

In the ten years that followed, I did each and every one of those things. Probably more than once. I could say the break-down of my marriage, the abuse and subsequent stalking was the reason she was badly done by but really it was just me reacting to the world around me instead of having that plan I knew I would need for her. I’ve been very lucky with Lauren. She’s an amazing person.

Lauren is a watchful person but basically cheerful. I knew that and, during the times things were bad, I worked hard at getting her to smile. I remember sitting by her bed each night, talking about the day. We had a little system going.

I would ask, “What was the worst thing that happened today?” and she would tell me all the awful things that happened. It was difficult to get her to express how she felt about each one and I worried about that for a time. Actually I still worry about it. At 25 she still doesn’t express emotion well.

After we’d discussed all the bad things, how she dealt with them, what would happen if she did different things and what else she might be able to do next time, I asked another question:

“What was the best thing that happened today?” It broke my heart that some days the best thing to happen in her life was that her cat purred in her ear. At least she had that much.

We did that every night. Over time, the best things began to outweigh the worst things and she started smiling spontaneously again.

I realised when she was fifteen that our evenings talking about the bad things and how to deal with them had a wider-reaching impact. It was during one of those highly-charged emotional times teenagers have.

She was standing in the front yard screaming at me:

“You’ve ruined my life!”

I went outside and asked what I did to do that and her response was:

“You made me think of consequences. Now I can’t have any fun!”

I think that was the first deep breath I’d drawn since she hit puberty.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Dream on

The other night I watched a Bruce Willis movie "Striking Distance". It wasn't one of his best movies but that's ok - it was Bruce Willis. I think he has a wonderful face - chiselled and lived in and not at all 'beautiful'. Sculptured lips.

I don't watch movies with Brad Pitt or Johnny Depp - they're too pretty. I can't take them seriously as heroes. Bruce Willis has my kind of 'hero' face. So does Dennis Quaid.
Anyway, the end result of this movie was that I dreamed about Bruce Willis. 'Lucky you' you say? Not so much. While the dream made perfect sense while I was asleep the only image I was left with upon waking was Bruce Willis surfing in a port-a-potty as a way of escaping the bad guys.

Now, I can more than understand how Bruce Willis ended up the hero in my dreams, but a port-a-potty? You've got to be kidding.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Our mortal coil

I've been thinking about mortality. I've just spent two weeks working at the State Archives and, while an interesting place to be, it's all about dead people. Every task I did meant looking at handwriting written by someone who was dead. I read registers of miscellaneous court cases in the 1860s and 1940s. I read lists of names of people whose wills had been probated and property transferred. I read the diary of an explorer of the 1860s and minutes of meeting from when Queensland separated from New South Wales in 1859.

It was fascinating but after a week I felt I was mired in death. These lists and minutes and diaries are all that's left of those people - something they touched and put an indelible mark on. It was a glimpse into their lives. Just reading the different styles of handwriting (and seeing how it changed over a hundred years) made me feel I could almost touch the writer. It was a bit creepy and a bit scary.

Our time here is finite and we get so absorbed in living the lives we have we barely notice the passing of it. I wonder what pieces of our lives will be left for future generations. Is it enough to be remembered by those who loved us, then fade into the fog of history, not even missed because no one in the future would even be aware of our being?

I think I noticed it more because a friend (R) had surgery for breast cancer last week. Her prognosis is good but it's hard not to think of worst case scenarios when the word 'cancer' is mentioned.

Not all of life is a choice. Some things just happen and we have to deal with it - like my friend. The way we deal with it is the only choice we have. R is dealing with it the same way she has dealt with every knock life has given her - with courage and good humour. She's an incredible person, one of the strongest, most compassionate people I know. That alone will get her through.