Not in My Name

Today I joined a strong sea of thirty thousand people in the heart of Melbourne’s CBD. Not only united by a lack of faith and confidence in our current government but also a desire for a better future for us all, and the generations to come.

IMG_3245

Many of us would have shared common issues with the acts and policies of our government, but what drove each of us thirty thousand to venture out and make a stand on this dreary Sunday would no doubt have been something that uniquely tore at our own moral fibre.

The issues are terrifyingly large.

There’s the continued mistreatment of our refugees and the barbaric conditions they are living in and the fiddling governance and unjust power play of private corporate bodies. That’s enough in itself, but still there’s more. Like the madness of a government who denies climate change, believes we have too many forests and that our beautiful reefs are actually better off dredged than pristine and unharmed. On the topic of madness, there’s the backward NBN that’s going to leave Australia behind, the signing away of our democratic right to protest and the outright attack on the ABC, one of the few media outlets who reports freely and is not controlled by the corporates. And let’s forget about the future of our children, because unless you can afford to send your child/ren to a private school or pay exorbitant fees for university, they’re pretty much fucked with all the cuts to education. Hell, we may as well forget about all of those people who can’t afford private systems, period, because our government is keen to pillage the Medicare system, screw the pension and wave their overly proud flag of ‘the end of the age of entitlement’. And equal rights, well they are on their way back to the fifties.

IMG_3215

This government drove thirty thousand people, all representing a diverse cross-section of Melbourne’s population, out of the comfort of their homes. (And that’s just the Melbourne march. Thousands more gathered in regional areas and capital cities across the weekend, all sharing the same lack of confidence.)  Standing underneath an uncertain sky with a strong sun occasionally venturing out from behind dark clouds, the weather seemed to mirror the sentiment. The voice of all these people, sporting placards and t-shirts, was loud and clear from behind the darkness that this government has brought. It was a peaceful march from the steps of the State Library to Parliament House and resting at Treasury Gardens. But the message was unwavering– we do not stand for it and this will not be done in our name. We hope they are listening.

IMG_3225

I realise there are many lessons to be learnt from bad government. And one of the biggest, I saw today. We are not separate people living an existence that does not affect others. We are all threaded together, for better or worse. Some of the decisions we make can and will affect other people, something we may not even be aware of. Like our government who are making decisions right this very second. These may not affect us immediately, but they will affect our children and their children and all the children to come. We must not be complacent about this. We must think beyond our own little bubbles because one day these too will pop.

IMG_3226

The other big lesson I saw today – how good it is to share our ideas with others, to be a part of something that together makes us stronger. Today, one person bleating away on a megaphone would have stopped nothing. But thirty thousand people stopped the whole city for two hours. Thirty thousand people let the world know that our government does not represent us. This is the very heart of community. Share what you are passionate about, stand up for it, talk to others about it and get others together to talk about it and be passionate. Don’t stand for something you don’t believe in just because the majority rules. I did not vote for this government or its policies, why should I stand for it? Why should I be okay with them messing up the place where my son has to grow up in? There is nothing worse than apathy and disempowerment. We may not be able to overturn the government but we can exercise our right to be heard. We can speak of what does or does not impassion us. We can stand up for others too, for those who might not be able to stand up for themselves.

IMG_3221

And a lesson that keeps resurfacing is – sometimes it takes something so bad to ignite action and wake us from a comatose state. Sometimes we need a government like this to really shine a light on the things that are important to us and the things we value about life. I saw that light today. After the dark periods pass, after we wake up, it’s almost impossible to go back to sleep.

I am grateful for this today, for observing and partaking.

IMG_3237

And today I hope that we at least taught our children something. We may be comparatively small, but still we can be heard. And I hope that the generations beneath us – like the children I teach – and my son’s generation coming up, will continue to stand up and be heard and that apathy will never be in their name.

Hindsight is a Wasteland

Last night I died my hair because today I turned another year older.

I didn’t want to wake up with my hair peppered with white; my undercut, which once served me well, now the nesting ground for the creepers that can’t be hidden.

A photo on my dressing table as I changed this morning reminded me of the fresh face I wore some seven years ago.

Each year from now I move further away from my twenties.

And each birthday I wrestle with the thoughts and wishes that I could somehow go back and do those days again knowing what I know now.

But hindsight is a wasteland.

And I’m not sure that if those days were any other way – if they somehow had’ve turned out differently – if I’d actually know what I know now. Actually, I know I wouldn’t. And even if I did, had those days turned out any different, my life would not have been so colourful, I would not have been so colourful. I simply would not be myself.

f7d90377382066c11476cbced8ca035b

You see hindsight is a wasteland.

So I sit here in my thirty-somethings and I wish for nothing to be any different, for it all to just be as it is. I woke up today and went to a job I love, sharing my loves. Throughout the day, I got to read messages from the people I love; the incredible, wonderful, magical people whose paths have crossed with mine. At the end of the day I picked up my incredible little man from school and got to hug him tight, wearing our matching watches, and hearing all about how he made more transformer robots with Mobilo. I got to watch him practice his loudest kia at taekwondo and then I got to go back to the place we call home and share food and noise and mess and laughter with my family. And when all that was done, I sat down at my computer and I wrote like a woman possessed. And now I will fall asleep in my thirty-somethings, my belly full of cake and my heart full of gratitude.

I wish not to waste another day in hindsight because I am blessed. And what is meant for me will not pass me by.

cedac88ebd99c8d78d1d4d5358bc26f6

The School Mum

Last Friday I became a different sort of mother.

I became the mother of a primary school child.

I have no idea how it happened. He was just a premature dot in my arms in a moment that felt like yesterday.

But somehow that small dot has grown and he no longer really fits in my arms.

And that small kid walked into the big kids’ school, still comparatively rather dot-sized against the big grade sixers, an independent and savvy little man ready to have his own whole new experience.

I won’t pretend. It was me who was a mess, not him. Sure, he was hyperactive and his listening skills had been thrown to the wind with all the excitement and curiosity bubbling inside him as we walked to school.

1797434_603341109735383_1060292540_n

Still, he was composed and confident. And I was in a heap with an anxious racing heart.

Will he make friends?

What if he was on his own in the playground?

Will he sit still and listen to his teacher?

Will his little voice be heard?

Will he want to go?

What on earth am I going to put in his lunchbox everyday? 

Was my mother’s gut right in sending him early?

Had I made the right decision about the school?

Had I done my job properly?

Knowing I had no idea of the answers to these questions racing through my head made me anxious, really bloody anxious. I wanted to vomit in my hand, an urge I thankfully contained.

We walked into his classroom, his teacher and many of his classmates already in there. There was an art and craft-making table right at the door. His little creative eyes fell on the table and he was off. Texta and glue and tape all over his hands within seconds. Another few minutes later, and my young man had forgotten I existed. He was confident and ready for me to leave. I kissed his forehead, told him I loved him and felt the tears swell in my chest.

1601577_603341433068684_162178620_n

It was exactly the start I wanted him to have, the confident response to his new environment that I wanted him to experience.

But still my heart fluttered. And it fluttered all day as I filled my day with dazed, sweet nothings; too distracted to think or do anything much and too focused on the 3:30PM school bell.

His father was picking him after school for his weekend with him. I would not usually impede, but on his first day I wanted to see him when he came out. That in itself, the two of us being in the same place for one of our son’s special days, was massive.

The bell went. I waited at the door.

He was as hyper coming out as he was going in, his thoughts all over the place. There was no sense in how his day went, no verbal indication that he had made it through the six hours unscathed, and no confirmation that my worries were unfounded. We found his father waiting outside, our son beamed at both of us.

I kissed him once more on the forehead, told him I loved him and left none the wiser but with a little hope in my heart that his smiles and all that was unsaid was enough to know he was okay.

He returned to school on Monday, happy to go but still with little words to express his experience.

1517730_603341139735380_1033206600_n

Until 3:30PM on Monday when all of his words and feelings and experiences flooded him. I could tell the minute he came out of class that he had a lot to tell me, that he was ready to articulate what he thought about his day and the place and this new life as a school boy.

He bounced out of class. His face full of expression that he couldn’t wait to unload, and when we got in the car it burst out in a babble of fast-words and excited sentences and exaggerated pauses.

“I did sport, Mummy. A whole hour of sport and we played this really cool game with beanbags and hoola hoops and I’ll tell you what happened, mummy…” He was breathless but I was excited.

“Tell me, darling, tell me all about it.”

“Well we had these hoops on the floor and we had to throw the beanbags and try to get them in the hoops. And we ran, we ran lots and lots. Do we have any hoola hoops at home, mummy? What about beanbags? We’ll need to get some beanbags, too.”

I was right there with him, mentally racking my brain for the location of the hoola hoops in the garage and what we could use for beanbags.

I asked him about the playground and who he played with and who he talked to.

“I made friends today, mummy.”

I let out a breath of relief. Phew.

“I made three friends today. But I don’t remember their names.”

Precision. Three friends exactly. I liked it.

“That’s fantastic darling, really fantastic.”

And the stories kept coming. They came out in the activities he wanted to do when we got home, influenced by his day’s learning. They came out in the discussions he wanted to have and the vocabulary he wanted to use. They came out everywhere.

1497181_607253582677469_111301974_n

That night we filled out the first page of his reader log. We pointed to the words, highlighted the repetition of sight words and we got excited about writing his comment, filling out the emotion face and writing the number of the days in the right hand side column. And we skipped to the sticker page to see what he had to look forward to when he hit 25 days of reading in his log.

And the rest of the week continued in this way.

The stories came. Snippets of memories scattered in conversation as we made a healthy apple cake for his lunchbox snack or built robots with mobilo.

On Friday afternoon he had his first school assembly, which I attended. I heard words like confidence, resilience, compassion and risk taking. I heard more about the IB (International Baccalaureate) values that sang to my heart when I first went on a school tour. I saw kids already presenting and sharing their ideas in front of the whole school and I heard a pianist playing uplifting music and the students exited the building at the end of assembly. My heart sang.

And by the time the end of his first week came, I realised that all I needed to do was trust and have a little faith.

Not just in the school and my son, but also in my mother’s gut.

Everything was in its right place. Everything.