Let it Be

In my last post I screwed up my courage and put up a photo of myself circa 1985. It didn't make the first edit, I snuck it in later after a few of you had already commented.

I got some lovely responses thank you, not least from Mr Hammie who read your comments and then said:

"they're right; you were a beautiful girl".

Here's Another

Don't panic, he qualified it with the obligatory-for-marital-relations: "still are"

And I had to answer, "Wow, I had no idea".

At the time the photo was taken I was completely unaware. There were girls at school who were much thinner than me. They had better clothes, better "rich girl" hair, they got nicely tanned in the first rays of springtime and looked better in short summer uniforms. (it was the 80's, we put baby oil on our legs and TRIED to tan in those days)

They most certainly always looked better at the swimming carnival and filled out their bikinis a lot more capably than I did. And a lot of them were blonde.

Blonde, brown and busty - the Idole du Jour, and I was none of those.

But I tried! Hair disaster number 2 in my life involved my newly apprenticed hairdresser sister bringing home left over peroxide bleach wrapped up in some cling film and then plopping it on my scalp. MY SCALP.

It turned my very coarse auburn hair orange of course. In patches. And really, I was lucky it didn't burn it off.

My Mum saw it as my own fault for submitting to the attempted blondeness and sent me off to school next day with my orange patchwork head. Where of course I was teased endlessly, particularly by older girls at school who called me "Experiment Head"
And my boyfriend broke up with me. Well, the guy I was "going with" "dropped me"
It took a long time to grow out. It took just as long for me to accept that I wasn't that pretty beachy blonde. Me and my poor hair eventually realised that we were never gonna be the locals idea of a "spunk", and with good skincare, make-up and self tanning lessons from my Sydney cous', I found my own look; eventually.

I wish I could go back and tell that awkward teenager that she was pretty. That she was just comparing herself to the wrong people and looking for acceptance in the wrong places.
Just let yourself be who you really are; Appreciate yourself and you will be much happier and have a lot more fun.

I could offer the same advice today to parents of children with newly diagnosed autism.

Instead of trying to project what your idea of a child should be, stop and appreciate who they actually are.

Of course there are always going to be behaviours and social skills that you will need to shape and change in order to give your child (and you) a better quality of life.

But you should not be trying to superimpose "ideal child" on to the one that you actually have. Because I have to tell you, you will miss out on a lot.

And you might also waste a lot of energy that could be spent getting to know the real child, and finding out how You can connect with Them.

Sure they may have interests that you find inappropriate to their age group. But hey, take a look at the Internet and find out just how many grown-ups watch the teletubbies, and then discuss "The significance of the kraken-baby" online.

Or they may have language limitations that make typically interactive conversations difficult. So try listening to what they do talk about, and join in. Even if they just want you to repeat the things they like hearing, such as lines from The Simpsons Movie; you are making yourself a valuable and amusing conversational partner. You can use that bond to introduce small adaptations to grammar, or even to role play something they find challenging. Getting small people dressed and downstairs in the morning is much easier when you are doing the "Boom Boom Dance" -"Come on! Shake your boom boom, shake your boom boom......"

And they may find things that you feel you are supposed to do, to be a good generous parent, VERY Challenging.

I will never forget being in a parent group where one mother wanted to know how she could get her son to attend the Christmas pantomime in town. She dominated the discussion for 15 minutes saying how bad he had been at last year's panto'; while the rest of us sat open mouthed. At least two of us were coping with smearing at the time, and my guy hadn't gone to sleep before 1am for about a year. But this lady needed to get all our help so she could normalise her son and get him to the Christmas panto.

There are countless other examples, often involving dads who buy Power Rangers and Football cards for kids who would rather stick with Thomas and Bob the Builder. Or buying loads of imaginative and interactive toys for Christmas, and finding that your two children have gone back to their laptops before you have finished untying all those little black twisty wires that they package everything in. (I was that soldier)

This is the equivalent of me bleaching my hair, and trying to fry my pale freckly skin in an attempt to be something I clearly wasn't.

Instead of appreciating who I was. Who I am.

Don't try and put a "Neuro typical" wig on your kid. Let them be.



Skye said…
Words of wisdom for all parents actually! Hammie, I really think you could get a book deal for a parenting book.

I was one of those blonde tanned chicks in high school so I spent most of my twenties trying to be a credible brunette judged on my own merits and not for my "hot bod". So you can't win, no matter who you are, unless you really do just accept yourself for who you are!
K.Line said…
You always say it perfectly H. And you were gorgeous (and are - I'm sure, though I need to see some more pictures to verify it!) I would be very wise to stop seeking the ideal in every situation. I do waste a lot of my time that way. So thank you for this reminder! (Could you harp on this at least once a week in lieu of smacking me upside the head :-))
Elizabeth said…
I agree with Skye^^ and you. I think it's valuable to listen to the clues children give us, instead of trying to "Parent" them all the time.

You were indeed a beautiful girl then, and even though I can't see you now, I know you're beautiful. It shines through your posts.
Half rabbit said…
I'm not sure if the photo is of your name but if you want to keep it private then you might want to change it.

Now I'm probably going to embarrass myself. But do you have any videos of you singing the said songs while coming downstairs? ;)

Also where may one find out how many adults discuss each latest teletubbies episode. I honestly couldn't find it on google.
I agree with Skye, what you've written is applicable to ALL parents. Of course having no children myself I'm not entitled to make such comments (or rather some parents might think that) but as a silent observer who 'sees and hears all' I can say whatever fawk I want.
Seeker said…
This is a very well written post and with some great insights.
It just reminded me that there are a lot of traits about my appearance that I do not like and I know almost every woman shares the same sentiments so that makes me sad.
Reading this puts ones mind into perspective. Everyone actually is beautiful; you just have to see it yourself. To acknowledge yourself for whom you are. That’s what I’m trying. I don’t always succeed, but that doesn’t mean I stop trying. (And blogging is a way of me to express myself and gain confidence.)
Likewise I think parents should follow your advices, because they all make the best sense.
As you say in the end labelling kids would restrain them and people around, because they wouldn’t be completely free…
Let me tell you a story…
“An old Chinese lady had 2 large vases suspended at each end of a wood she wore every day on her backs. A vase was cracked and the other was perfect. The perfect was always filled with water at the end of the long road to the river at home, while the vase cracked arrived half empty. For a long time it continued and the lady always came home with a vase and a half of water. Of course, the perfect vase was always proud of its outcome and the poor cracked vase was ashamed of his failure, just only to achieve half of his work. After 2 years, after having carefully considered on its own bitter defeat to be "cracked", he decided to talk to the lady during the journey: "I am ashamed of myself because I have this crack that makes me lose half the water during the journey to your home..."
The old lady smiled and said to him: "Have you noticed just how beautiful flowers are on your side of the road? I always knew you had a defect and I planted flower seeds on the edge of your route side and all days when you took the way back you shower them. For 2 years I was able to collect these beautiful flowers to decorate my house. If you were not as you are, I could not have these wonders at home.”
Every one of us has its own shortcomings but these are the defects that make our coexistence be interesting and rewarding.
We must accept each for what one is ... and discover what the good that is inside is.

Indeed you were (and I’m so sure You are) such a beautiful girl.

Thank you darling for your support about the pants. And yes my hairdresser says that my hair is great to work because he can do what he wants, and he (the hairdresser) is also nice.

I’m so sorry for this longest comment, but I think I can’t cut it….

Sending you good vibrations from this island to yours with love.
jazzygal said…
Another brilliant post Hammie.
So well put...and so true.

And yes...I too did the baby oil bit in the 80's AND (I'm ashamed to say) The big pieces of cardboard, lined with TIN FOIL, that went around your sunchair like a windbreaker!! What WERE we thinking of??!

The Seeker.....what a really fab story. Really enhances what Hammie says. Brought a tear to my eye!

I tell ya, over the last few years I have learned to adapt and just do (or go places) that my son is able for. Sod everyone else (family) who doesn't "get it" and thinks we're pandering to him. As a result he's now able for more and more.

See, we do know our kids best!
Anonymous said…
This is my first time commenting on your blog (in this format)and you are just getting better all the time. ...i'd just like to say beautifully put and relevant to just about anyone. It's all about acceptance isn't it ? life that is, that old saying, change the things you can, accept the things you can't. oh and to back up your husband, yes you are still beautiful!
Lisamaree said…
Skye: Thankyou. I would love a deal for a parenting book. I would particularly love an advance for a deal on a parenting book. And I love hearing from the perspective of one of the in-crowd.
K-line: As a driven high achiever this is hard for you I know. How can we be the best at a job with so many different parameters? My big sis says that she will know if she has been a success at parenting if her kids still want to talk to her when they grow up. So hang in there. And thankyou. xx

enc: I am almost tearful when I read your comments, so sweet of you.

Half rabbit; no such video exists, my self photography shyness extends to home videotaping!
I found that Tubbies' discussion group 6 years ago when I was looking to download some images for Pecs cards. Maybe the tubbies fascination has gone off the boil? Maybe they have moved on to "in the Night garden" and the significance of the Ninky Nonk?
As for me, I am googling Sportacus these days, happy to discuss him anytime.

Matt: I know you are an excellent uncle so you do have a right to comment and probably with a lot more perspective than some. As I explain it, the reasons are always in the 85% of the iceberg that you cannot see; but we parents are in the titanic and too busy trying to stay afloat in all this icy water.

Seeker; your comments are as good as whole posts. Keep 'em long. I love the story of the cracked pot, it keeps me sane.
(and you rock the leather skinnies)

Jazzy; You have truly bloomed as a special needs parent and the confidence you have now is such a strength. Snuggles chose his Mummy well.

Pamser: Thanks and Shucks!
As you know, my kids are so bloody good looking it can be hard to see my own facial features recreated with such perfection on them and then look in the mirror to see the reality of the passing years.
Thanks for visiting and commenting.
The Spicers said…
Great post!
Your parenting advice is spot on.
And you are utterly gorgeous, by the way.
Anonymous said…
This made my heart ache. (Per usual, but still had to say it.) I was just the same: So lovely as a young girl, but never saw it in myself. And your advice to the parents of autistic children is something I hope they are told time and again, because it must be hard to hear and harder to accept. It is also advice that we should all apply to ALL humans. Also hard.

For the record, I think it was harsh of your mum to send you to school all scary haired. I know, lessons ... but man. That was harsh.
Te said…
I'm only 21 and I can already see how ridiculous it was for me to want to be like my 'friends' in highschool, because now that I have escaped the Gold Coast I can see, with only an extra 5 years of perspective, that they are people I would now never want to emulate. What you think it (clonish) perfection is really often something incredibly shallow and therefore more flawed than MY orange scalp and still brown lengths could ever be. Yes, I tried the hair dye thing. I bought two packets of blonde dye; Mum did half my head, Dad did the other. All I can say is that I wore a hat even when inside for months. The teasing was there, but it was even worse when in an attempt to revert to my natural colour I had the dye stripped and my hair went black. Then I was 'gothic girl' for months on end. I guess what I'm trying to say is that I doubt the 'High School Experience' for many people will never change, just like those parents who can't yet see how beautiful their child is as they are. I just hope that in their own time they realise it, like we realised we were.
Nan P. said…
When I saw this photo of you I said (aloud) “Whoa! What a beauty!” And from the half of you we could see on the photo you posted of Bratty and yourself for her birthday, you are still a beauty.

Don’t knock yourself. Leave the awkward teenager behind. She was only doing what she could, with what she had, to learn about life. We have all done it, it’s called the “painful process of growing up”. Dam it, I can still bend to other’s pressures to “conform” sometimes, if I don’t watch myself.

As for the rest of your post, you and all the comments posted are so right: it applies to every parent, irrespective of their child’s challenges. Put in a simpler form: How can we accept others if we do not accept ourselves? Big question! Even bigger answer!

The thing is, every parent has ideas about what their children “should” or “shouldn’t” do and be. Unfortunately, it does not go away with time, as the children become adults, it actually can get harder for the parent to control his/her urge to “guide”, “comment on”, “urge” or even “instruct”. I am quite outspoken, and I have had to restrain myself so often over the last 8 to 10 years or so, ever since Cathal’s Mammy left school and home to go into the Big Bad World. But you know what? I did have to trust her - and her brother - no choice! And at the end of it all, they have both proven my trust was well placed, and turned in very fine people. What is more, in the last few months, she in particular has exceeded all my expectations by the demonstration of her courage and energy and love where Cathal is concerned.

… It may be that I did something right somewhere along the way! ;-)

PS – sorry for the length of this comment, but Hammie, it’s YOUR fault. You always raise so any questions and thoughts…
Seeker said…
My dear what am I going to do with you? You're so kind with me, so supportive and I love our insights trades, fashion/style or something else.
I'm so happy to have found you.
What can I say... I simply love you!
Thank you for all.
Style On Track said…
I agree with Skye, your writing is so inspiring that it would be such an inspiring collection of words written in a book :) Im actually thinking of writing one on people with Cerebral Palsy, I don't believe there is enough knowledge out there about disabilities, but there are a lot of pre conceptions that need to be broken (which you do so well)
Cal said…
Thank you for sharing, Hammie. I appreciate your courage in showing us a picture of you from a time when you didn't recognize your own beauty and for the encouragement for others to step up and be accepting of who they and others in their lives are.
ATenorio said…
Well said, I can relate to this post sooooo much. I was a mousy shy brunette in high school who wished she could be a popular Guess? jeans (with the zipper ankle) wearing popular girl.
And I often wonder how I am going to keep Baby from having such a crappy self image. Thank you for another thought provoking post.

Oh and I have to agree with the others: you are beautiful... in many ways!
WendyB said…
I want to call people "Experiment Head" now.
Candice DeVille said…
I too was a pale skinned, freckled, large haired child. Yes, I used to do the baby oil in the sun trick but after a blistering episode or two gave it away and relied on fake tan or long pants in the following years. I've learnt to love my particular shade of white now that I watch my friends with their old leather legs. While we often wish we could go back in time and tell these lessons to our younger selves, we can do better than than by teaching our children from our lessons often harshly learnt.
Whether it is children, husbands or ourselves, we all need to embrace our "me-ness" more. I don't wish to live in a white bread, one dimensional world. I want to be a part of a place that celebrates uniqueness, the flouting of social conventions and the miracle of imagination. I want my world to be full of Isabella Blows, Quentin Crisps and Albert Einstiens.