Tearing at the Fabric

Of the space-time continuum


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White, middle class privilege. With a side of compulsory angst.

I think we can all agree that I have moved past the need to blog constantly. For a few months. But I still read every day. Or almost every day. And I am still not the healthy person I was prior to 2009.

There are several things I want to say, but often don’t have the words to articulate the trials and tribulations of my current life, and the lives of my kids, etc. So, I will attempt to address some of my postmodern angst here…

Firstly, I have had to take the lead in getting started on a small, single semester project, and the academic year doesn’t even start until March. However, I am glad I have had time to think about some options, and met with a favourite lecturer who is happy to supervise this for me. I think I might just be a little bit in love with her! We tossed around some ideas and I think I have a framework for one, albeit a different one to the one we discussed in person. And she helped me immensely by basically pointing out a theoretical framework for it and sending me some journal articles (I always struggle with starting, not quite knowing where to look, as my focus can be a little narrow.) So, mobility theory, here I come, something new for me 🙂

Then, my son went back to uni earlier this month. He goes to a uni at the other end of the country, and has JUST missed out on a spot for the degree he was wanting to do, but is so close that they invited him on the compulsory camp, and he is basically doing the degree, but under the wider BSc for this year, as they work to get him re-admitted next year (he had one failed paper, that precludes him from full admittance, but his average was still high enough, so he is crossing some t’s and dotting some i’s.) He has been hard at it for two weeks, one week of 10 hour days at the School to prepare for camp and then the travel up to the camp itself. He seems happy, his first year flatting, but also very aware that this is a very demanding year – he just sent me a link to an article saying that this small-in-numbers degree is widely acknowledged as having the second highest workload at his university, and they do have a Med School, and all the other Health Sciences like Dentistry, Pharmacy, also a Law School …. So, I am glad he is mentally prepared.

My eldest daughter, meanwhile, is having a terrible time. She is 23 shortly, and doing an adult apprenticeship in our capital city. She got through her first year fine, but was on a terrible pay rate (I talked to many in the industry – employers of apprentices – and they were shocked it was even legal to pay that little – her employer had found a loophole in the minimum wage laws) so she transferred her apprenticeship to another business in October. She is about to be sacked. Three meetings with the bosses last week. It does not look good. But, although I can see that she possibly/probably hasn’t lived up to expectations, what about hers? They have not provided one hour of training for her in all this time. I know she came on board at the busy pre-Xmas period, and of the three seniors one broke a leg and was out for three months, but by now, they should have come back to her with some support. None. I asked her to call her apprenticeship mentors in the Industry Training Organisation, and I think she has withdrawn into her shell (she LOVES her shell) and decided she is a lemon and unemployable. I think she will leave the industry, no job, and half trained. So hard to watch your kids fuck shit up! Her partner is leaving the city, as he has been unemployed for over 12 months, and I know that has been a factor in her depression and under-performance. That said, she is diligent, always turned up on time, tried hard and never taken so much as a sick day. She has rave reviews from every other employer she has ever had, and I think the industry is probably just a bad fit for her, and she has wandered into a bad situation, with people who have never employed an apprentice before, and not been prepared for how little she knew. My heart breaks for her, and there is a little fear about what her future holds. It’s easy to say what you DON’T want to do – but what about the positives? What DO you want to do? We talked, and an old idea came up – one that her father (and myself to a lesser degree) HATE – it is low paying, and has potential for soul destruction, but at the end of the day – THIS IS HER LIFE. So let it go, Daddy. Let her try, and if she fails again, well, at least there will be no regrets…. Sigh….

The youngest, well, she has come back from her six month exchange. My skinny girl is no longer! She is lardy! Truly quite fat! I know, I am not allowed to say that. Bad mother!!! But OMG, she is covered in huge red stretchmarks, and her skin is lumpy and she looks very uncomfortably large – for her. She has joined a gym, and has been quite good about going in before school, but she goes with her best friend, who is a very large girl, and I know the friend spends the time there chatting up the boys and playing with the equipment, not actually WORKING OUT. I wonder if my girl is doing enough. Why does this worry me so? Am I really that shallow? Anyway, shallowness aside, we had discussed, before she came home from Europe, that she would like to talk to a counsellor when she got home. So I revisited this with her the other day, and we researched and found someone we felt may be a good fit. She got in touch with her, and the woman rang me and discussed fees and how she works with youth, stuff like how she negotiates with the teen what they are prepared to/want to discuss with parents. I am cool with it. D does not feel like she wants to discuss whatever the problem is with me – yet. I don’t believe I have to know. Of course, she is my daughter, and I am worried, but this is her journey, and I am proud of her for recognising that she might need some help. I promised not to tell her father. However, he must have known something was up, and he asked me directly the other night. I told him, but I also told him that I had promised her that I would keep this to myself, but wasn’t going to lie to him when he asked me directly. I went away on Friday night, and he “confronted” her – and there were words and she messaged me to say “thanks for telling Dad, I am now not going to counselling,” hmmmm. To say I was a bit annoyed…. When I arrived home, I talked to him. I had some time to think about it, and how to approach this without a nasty fight. So, I said that I was disappointed in him. Turns out, the 17 year old may have been playing Mum against Dad, and I kind of got this inkling, so I asked him his version of what went on. Yep, she got defensive when he showed concern for her, and it apparently it turned into a stompy, slammy doors fight. I just said that I DID ask him not to say anything to her, but that as her father, I got it. He was concerned, the thing that made me laugh is that he asked me what the problem was, and I told him that she had not shared that, and wasn’t ready to, if she ever was. So, Dad, the guy they DON’T go to with problems, thought she might share with him. The idiocy!!! Just pissed her off and alienated her further from him. I say again – IDIOT! However, I stayed calm, and I said to him that we all needed to sit down together, and she needs to know that we are united in this, it isn’t a case of Mum wants you to go to counselling, and Dad does not. Not at all. I wonder if her “Oh, I won’t be going to counselling now, waste of time and money” was a shot at him- “see, YOU made me a fuck up and you won’t even help me fix it, your fault I am a fuck up and won’t ever get better, nyah, nyah, nyah-nyah, nyah nyah!” Good job teenage daughter, good job. Ugh.

God, sometimes wish I never had kids!

And, to top it all off, I had promised an old school friend, the girl I stayed with when I first went to the UK, the girl who lived in a nearby town to my there, who drove me to my first pregnancy ultrasound (which was to diagnose pregnancy, as my bloods and urine results were all over the show) that I would come and spend the weekend with her and her kids in their beautiful beachfront property that is in the process of a very high-end renovation while her husband is away. She is great fun. And married to a narc. It was lovely and all, but I didn’t stay the whole weekend, as D was going to a party last night, and when there is alcohol involved, I like to be contactable and within driving distance if there are any incidents. My friend, Gabby, is a down-to-earth girl, has four kids, and a very demanding, shit of a husband. She is not allowed friends in the house while he is there!!! (I am an exception, we all grew up together, and I actually love Pierre, he loves me, but he is a narc, and I am glad I am not married to him!) So, we drank bubbles and chatted, I went for a lovely walk along the beach in the morning, we chatted and drank tea, and I left. I realised that my social conscience is at odds with some “stuff” in many of my friends lives. But also in agreement with much, and it creates an unease that I am not altogether comfortable with.

Years ago, these very wealthy people and I (probably about three years ago) had a conversation about the waning egalitarianism in our country. We discussed the way we went to our local, state school, and got lifetime friendships, commonality and “real-life” skills from that experience. We were all very white, middle-class, but there were all kinds of people and we mixed with a vast majority of them. We were not entitled (back then) or thought ourselves any more or any less than anyone else. We all went on, got further education, got on with shit. We had friends and contemporaries who stayed in the small town, or took different paths, but still enjoyed catching up with them, feeling we had more in common than difference with them.

In the meantime, the proliferation of the idea that many state schools are letting us down (with our centre-right government policies ramming late capitalism down our choking throats) and more and more “ordinary” people like ourselves are choosing – at GREAT EXPENSE – to send kids to private schools. Pierre, stated unequivocably that “HIS CHILDREN WILL BE GOING TO THE STATE SCHOOL DOWN THE ROAD. NO QUESTION.” Hmm, fast forward three years, and he has his eldest at secondary school. Yes, the school down the road, right??? Nope. Of course not! A new private school (kindergarten to secondary) opened last year, across the harbour bridge, and across the other side of the nearby city, and they whipped her out of her middle school, and sent her straight there. Words. Empty, fucking words. But, the thing is, I KNOW that if I had kids that age right now, in the shift that has happened in the governance and leadership at the local, state school that all three of mine have attended, I WOULD ALSO BE VOTING WITH MY FEET. It may not be a shift to a flash, private school, but I drive through a town with a good state school, and there is a good state school in the same locale as my university – I know I would be shifting the kids. It was brought up and discussed by D when she was still overseas, and was a strong possibility, but she chose to remain at her local for her final year. And I kinda hate this shit. Why are we creating and buying into this class divide? Fear. Neoliberal, middle-class fear. So, good old Paula, can’t even go and have a pleasant weekend with my friend without overanalysing and angsting over EVERY LITTLE DAMN THING! And second guessing myself and the choices I have made to try to bring up centred, happy kids. Faaaaarrrrrrrrkkkkkkk!

Coming home with all of that shit stirring in my head is always something I am very mindful of. I knew I had to have a conversation with both D and Rog. And also deal with my own dissatisfaction with society’s shit without it causing a fight, and for me to spiral down. Yes, I saw this pit coming, and I seemed to be sucked into it anyway. I felt truly suicidal again last night for the first time in five years. I slept on the couch. There were more tears. I feel a bit better this morning, and no, I won’t be topping myself today, thank you.

So, I know the best thing to do in this case is to get some outdoor exercise, and write the shit out – so here it is – vomited on this page. And pull up some good ole Billy Bragg wisdom.

Enjoy, you’re welcome!

 

 

Billy Bragg – To Have and To Have Not

Up in the morning and out to school
Mother says there’ll be no work next year
Qualifications once the Golden Rule
Are now just pieces of paper

Just because you’re better than me
Doesn’t mean I’m lazy
Just because you’re going forwards
Doesn’t mean I’m going backwards

If you look the part you’ll get the job
In last year’s trousers and your old school shoes
The truth is son, it’s a buyer’s market
They can afford to pick and choose

Just because you’re better than me
Doesn’t mean I’m lazy
Just because I dress like this
Doesn’t mean I’m a communist

The factories are closing and the army’s full –
I don’t know what I’m going to do
But I’ve come to see in the Land of the Free
There’s only a future for the Chosen Few

Just because you’re better than me
Doesn’t mean I’m lazy
Just because you’re going forwards
Doesn’t mean I’m going backwards

At twenty one you’re on top of the scrapheap
At sixteen you were top of the class
All they taught you at school
Was how to be a good worker
The system has failed you, don’t fail yourself

Just because you’re better than me
Doesn’t mean I’m lazy
Just because you’re going forwards
Doesn’t mean I’m going backwards