Tearing at the Fabric

Of the space-time continuum

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

12 Comments

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

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12 thoughts on “White, middle class privilege. With a side of compulsory angst.

  1. For some reason I thought about you today.. My mind is so fleeting lately.. but I thought I bet Paula would know.. and for the life of me I cannot remember.. UGH.. Good to catch up on your life.

  2. Please don’t talk about topping yourself, I know why you feel so deeply but
    nothing, no way, no how is worth even a fleeting thought of it.
    How does your daughter feel about her weight gain? I was about the same age when I slapped on a pile of chubs, I’m quite watchful with my daughter I’d like to educate her in ways I wasn’t – but of course even that is no guarantee, the ability to become overweight is so much easier today. Clearly your eldest daughter is fabulous, none of the best women know what they want before they’re 30, the super best 40!! Why kids got to be so difficult?! Don’t they know how easily we grow grey hairs?
    Hope the exercise today helped x x x

    • I am not suicidal anymore, but there was a moment I could feel things slipping from my grasp again.

      The daughter knew she had gained a lot of weight, very quickly. To put it in perspective, she is naturally a wee thing, but 11kgs in five months is fast, a 25 percent weight gain, and the skin has stretched badly. My girls are “blessed” with Roger’s female line’s legs – they are bloody tree trunks! Same at the ankle as the thigh! So, you start with heavy legs on a teeny-tiny less-than-size 6 frame, and she blows out – oh Mama! The legs and the stretchmarks are wowza. She knows, and is at the gym as we speak. And we eat pretty well here, lots of raw food, fresh options, veggies, protein, etc, not really much crap at all. If she wants to lose the weight, she will. It is just a bit of a shock. I am still heavier than her, after all. I am just surprised by the clothing choices despite the weight. I probably need to gently take her aside and somehow, positively suggest some dressing to accentuate the great parts of her body. But, at the same time, I don’t want her to be ashamed of her body – argh! It is a fine line!

      I know about the fabulousness, but it is hard to watch the unhappiness that goes with it! She will be fine, I’m sure. She has gone off the radar, and was shifting to her new flat yesterday, hope she gets back in touch soon. And grey hairs, I am over 50% already! My hairdressing bill is out of control!

      • Its a very fine line, which is difficult to get right. I hope she feels positive about herself and working out and eating right will, i’m sure, help.
        When you feel you might slip again just think – ARGENTINA!!! Argen-fucking-tina! x

  3. Teenagers and young adults are still so unformed. They make stupid decisions. As parents we feel so helpless because we want to keep them safe. Your love shines through. Just hang on because they eventually grow up.
    I hope school will keep you grounded. Focus on that. You are too important to your children to give up.

  4. I get into phases too where I run out of words, or don’t actually feel like talking, and then there are the times i suffer from word vomit. Its ok to take a break. This is supposed to be a hobby, not paid work. YOu do it when you feel like it. We all go through cycles I think. Good and bad. Maybe the really bad ones come to make us realize how really good the good ones are.
    I don’t have kids, so I can’t say much on that. But just know, even if you dont write, I still think of you. Focus on what makes you smile.
    Love always, C

    • Thanks, c. I have always said to the kids, you don’t know true happiness and joy until you have experienced the flipside, it is the price you pay to have a rich and full life, with the full range of emotions, pleasures and pains.

  5. It seems these days that regular old life can be quite overwhelming. I question why, after everything I have been through do I still have to keep trudging through shit. It doesn’t seem fair. Trusting things have worked themselves out and that you are focusing back on you. ❤

  6. Just letting you know I do the same – I read almost everyday but no need to write anything or comment. Still here, still living it and learning to live WITH it.

    Love and support to you and your kids. Life is complicated. They are born from strong stock, keep the faith xxoo

    • Learning to live WITH it is something we seem to be missing societally. It’s weird. This happens to so many people. But we are not very prepared for encompassing it into our narrative in a way that feels okay. And we are all trying to. I do know that it is something that I will be learning to live with forever. Still very painful. Sick of living with this terrible weight that I keep shovelling away at, but never seems to reduce any. I honestly thought the pain would reduce by now. Not at all. Terribly frustrating. I don’t want to live with this anymore. And can’t find a place to put it down.

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