I made a promise to myself, and my readers to write honestly about the good times, and the harder. There is often that feeling that writing about potentially negative stuff isn’t what people want to read. But being real, is just that.
We are in our eighth week of settling into our new home. We are all feeling emotional as we navigate new territory, trying to establish a connection with a place, and its people.
We miss our family, friends, school and little shrines of familiarity. My whizbag, jelly foam pillow that miraculously has a memory, to cherish all the hours we’ve spent together.
Quinn misses his top bunk haven with its secret compartment hidden from his brother’s tenacious, prying fingers. Here, the 2 brothers share a double bed, one mosquito net and numerous cuddles or wrestles depending on their romantic mood.
Tim misses his tools. and his man cave made out of a converted shipping container. Far enough down the garden path, and nestled into oleander, to give him much needed solace and privacy. Not a dude to ever frequent our local Umina pub, this space, for both artistic pursuits and thinking time, is his temple.
Beau being the most rambunctious of our lot, and the youngest, seems quite content, being a toddler mutant ninja turtle, as long as his family are within earshot. But even he is showing signs of mild distress, mainly I feel through soaking up our frustrations.
We are all a noisy, vibrant bunch. Putting it positively, we are gregarious. But now we live within a compound, with our landlords and another foreigner, a British guy with a demanding job overseeing the removal of all landmines across Cambodia. He is often away in Angola. But he isn’t showing much paternal penchance and is more interested in Asian women.
Our landlords, have worked hard in the US, leaving in 1980 in the aftermath of the Khmer Rouge, Tong worked as a security guard and Pheak, his wife in an electronics factory, her job was to put the battery part into the ubitiquitious ceiling fan. After 22 years of being migrants in another culture, and working 6 days a week 12 hours a day, they decided to return to their homeland. They had saved enough to buy a big house and live out the rest of their days in peace. They are examples of the resilient spirit that many Cambodians, and migrants world over exhibit. I stand in the face of this story, humbled by privilege and a fanciful nature, that has been able to grow wild in my garden of fortunity.
So there is a big adjustment by all parties in this microcosm. Our children make noise, bouncing a ball and squealing as they ride their bikes. Yes they are loud, and surely improvements can be made, but they are also children. Tim likes to play his guitar, it is a lifeline soothing a deep thinking, sensitive soul. He has been asked to play quietly and not outside at night.
And then there are my actions. It is time for one of those self reflecting mamma moments. You know those times when you see, are forced to look, at how yes, I’ve been yelling a bit too much. Possibly it starts as a reaction to the kids’ continual chatter, I have to raise a few decibels to be heard. But it is also wielded as a tool upon deaf ears with…no effect. So the cycle begins, ends and continues.
I’ve been coping with the change, with the kids lack of friends and subsequent boredom, by resorting to the comfort of cooking. Cutting up onions and discovering new herbs, has become a relaxing pastime for me. But ironically, whilst I’m enjoying the aromas of fried garlic, the kids are running amok in the courtyard. And my lack of supervision is seen as neglectful. Yesterday during a particularly large downpour, a welcome relief to the heavy cloak of heat of past few days, Quinn and Beau were delighting in waterfalls coming off the roof. Quinn then decides to start riding the downpipe like a horse, the end breaking off. Tong seeing all of this, needless to say wasn’t happy. It is fixable. But the point has been made, that I can’t control my kids, and Tong is worried they will hurt themselves one day. That very morning, Beau was trying to lift up the water pump cover. His curious fingers could have met with 240volts.
We’ve had a family meeting with the kids about ‘out of bound’ areas and respecting other people’s stuff. It is a learning curve. A life lesson for living in a society with others. Quinn at nearly seven gets it. Beau at three, was thinking about the zombies that live in the blue house up the street.
This parenting gig is HARD. Even when you want to escape to places in your imagination or hide in the linen press, they require your attention. Quinn amazed me with his insights- I asked him how should I tone down my yelling- ‘mum, I could post signs up all around the house for you?’. Bingo. Reminscient of a movement called Orange Rhino ( http://theorangerhino.com) that I discovered then forgotten about back in Oz. A great exercise in consciously trying to change your behaviour and getting your kids to help.
I just want to salute all the parents out there. A difficult job without a manual, and this generation of parents are steering into unchartered waters. Without child labour, industrial revolution and corporal punishment as a basis for discipline, societal pressures and occupying kids’ time, how things have dramatically changed over the last century.
Has anyone noticed how joyful and well behaved your kids are when you give them time and your undivided attention?
Always a juggling act.