This is one of those blog posts – the kind that come from the heart but are very difficult to tell.
It was an extraordinarily challenging time for Miss11 and I. So much so, we thought we were alone. The thing is, I now know we weren’t. Many of us, from all across our community, can empathise with the story below. That’s because it’s a story about belonging!
I’m flashing back to a standard Monday morning in April, 2015.
I’ve woken up with hot flushes again, having endured another sleepless night tossing & turning. I feel overwhelmingly exhausted. I stumble out of bed in my PJs and prepare myself for the inevitable frustration of moving my family towards their morning school routines.
Miss11 is a dawdler. She always has been. But today, I’m not angered by her inertia to get ready for school. I’m no longer standing over her yelling commands like “hurry up”, “why has it taken you so long to get dressed”, “have you done your teeth yet”, “stop playing with those super animal woolworths cards”. Instead, I’m gently nudging her into self-belief and resilience. “It’s ok sweetheart”. “You’ll be fine”. “Can you find someone else to play with today?” “Do you want me to talk to your teacher for you?” Today I finally understand what it is that she’s been unable to articulate … that she genuinely doesn’t want to go to school.
Her green school is gorgeous. On face value there is absolutely no reason for her to be unhappy. She has great teachers, excellent programs, an awesome principal and a very special bff that she can trust and hang out with.
The problem is, that’s all she has!
Somewhere between year 1 and 2, Miss11 lost herself. She lost her sense of empowerment to choose what she plays and with whom she plays it. Her introversion became her curse and she allowed herself to be isolated from her peers. That isolation and ongoing sense of exclusion lasted for three years. Her school yard experience was one of lethargy – not quite loathed, not quite bullied, not quite ignored but not quite included. And yet somehow that was ok for us. We kept expecting her social skills to resolve themselves. Her learning was on track. Her grades were good, not outstanding, but solid. We told ourselves that we didn’t need to worry.
And then it escalated. Suddenly she is at home crying, each and every night.
That empowerment she lost so long ago, meant she no longer trusted herself to say “No”. Saying no, resulted in stronger personalities taking stronger positions. Saying No, resulted in a choice between what felt right or what was expected. Guilt stricken and overridden, Miss11 was doing as she was told rather than as she wanted. At the end of the road, she had found herself in a continuous cycle of dominance and aggression that had begun to break her. I began to worry. Hard.
I saw my doctor who told me “You are not having hot flushes my dear – you are having anxiety attacks. Your sleepless nights are physiological but the cause is not as you suspected. You are worried. You are heartbroken. You are anxious.”
So flashing forward to today, the time has finally come to make a choice. I needed to trust my parental instinct! Do I keep her at her gorgeous green school – guiding her across a tightrope of resilience versus self-doubt? Or, do we try something different?
In the end the choice was hers. We showed her ‘gold school’. It has great teachers, excellent programs, an awesome principal and a school yard of potential bffs that she might trust and hang out with. She chose to try gold! I asked miss 11, “Why gold?” “What is the main reason YOU want to change?”. She responded “It feels right for my soul”.
It is 33 degrees. My window is down, my hair is loose, my elbow rests an inch outside the window. Billy Joel is on AM Radio and the roadsign tells me that I’m 98 kilometers away from the next available services. To the tourist – it’s easy to see snow-capped mountains drawing ever closer. BUT, they’re not mountains and its not snow. It’s sand! Bright white and constantly shifting inland, the sand dunes of Cervantes are signalling home.
I’m in the wheat-belt region of Western Australia. Known today as the turquoise coast, this remote part of the world is Dirt Music Country, land of the Pinnacles and home to my childhood. I’m struck by how different my memory has painted it. For a start, this land is BIG for a LITTLE town. It has an endless horizon of native grasstrees that slowly blur into one homogeneous mass of green, gold and blue. There’s an ambitious forest of man-made windmills, absorbing energy from the windswept farmland and idealistically capable of feeding a city 100 times the size of its closest neighbour. And yet it is empty country – raw, wild and beautiful.
I didn’t always love this place. My history in dirt music was one built on locker room gossip and the ambitious imaginings of teenage boys. It’s taken 28 years to forgive that history and walk these streets with affection. The amazing thing is, once I decided to forgive, forgiveness was easy.
The house that I grew up in & the jetty I jumped off are there no more. Time has taken those relics of history from me. However, it is surprisingly easy to find others. A rusty tractor – a timber swing – a pile of fishing rope tossed carelessly amongst disregarded craypots. I flick through ancient photos and am reawakened to the carelessless of childhood. Bare feet, foam surfboards, giant sharks and green utes that made perfect chariots. At last I can smell the salt in my blood – embrace the wind as it caresses my hair. This is not nostalgia. It is a deep sense of belonging reawakening within me.
As I reunite with my history and my history reunites with me, I find something I once lost; a sense of pride and belonging to the relics of time that define who we are and what we become. I’m understand now that it’s our history which drives us forward and leads us home – wherever that home may be.