Parental Guidance Recommended

A Let them Be Little

How much should I tell them?

One of the greatest challenges of being a parent is finding the right way to explain things to your children — or maybe not the right way, but the one that is most age appropriate, or the one that they will actually find some way of correctly interpreting and understanding.

I was reminded of this when Miss Malaprop came home from school yesterday and said her teacher had read her class a story about Moses and the Israelites in Egypt. Ever true to her pseudonym, Miss Malaprop didn’t quite manage to say ‘Israelites’, but she had a pretty good go at it — and I must admit I was too distracted by the sheaf of school notices and permission slips that has somehow managed to materialise in my kitchen since school resumed two days ago to discern the exact word she used as a substitute.

Now, being fully aware that my younger daughter is never one to speak to one so lowly as her mother of the knowledge bestowed upon her in the classroom unless she at least seven questions to ask me about various aspects of what she has learned, I braced myself for the inevitable barrage. I presumed — incorrectly, as it turned out — that she probably wanted to know all about the basket into which Moses had been placed among the bullrushes, its capacity, its relative seaworthiness, that sort of thing. Or perhaps she wished to quiz me about exactly what the Egyptian princess who found Moses might have been wearing that day, and whether her ensemble would have included a crown?

Wrong again.

“Mummy, what are slaves?”

This was the question that came from my smallest child’s lips. It came out so sweetly, so innocently, that I was forced to stop, immediately, and turn away from the tottering pile of lunchboxes I had just plonked onto the kitchen bench.

How do you answer a question like that when the person who has asked it is so young that they have only just started school? And how do you explain something as abhorrent and cruel as slavery to that person when you believe it is your solemn and sacred duty to protect them from all that is evil in this world?

A Dobby

Dobby, the House Elf who started it all…

“Slaves,” I ventured, “well, they’re a bit like the house elves in Harry Potter — the ones who have to do everything their masters tell them to, and don’t get paid.”

Miss Malaprop’s greeny-blue eyes lit up with dawning comprehension — somehow, incredibly, I had managed to hit upon a reference she understood straight away.

“Oh, OK then,” she said, nodded her head, and ran off to play.

Now, in my defence, Harry Potter is Miss Malaprop’s current obsession. It is not unusual for me to hear her yell, “Expelliarmus!” in an attempt to disarm her sister during one of their inevitable fights, and when given an alphabet book to complete for homework over the holidays she decided that drawing a picture of Voldemort was an excellent choice to illustrate the letter V.

Moreover, we are currently half-way through reading Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, which details Hermione’s crusade to improve the lot of house elves at Hogwarts by founding the Society for the Promotion of Elfish Welfare (S.P.E.W.), so the concept of slavery — albeit it in a fictionalised, relatively child-friendly context — is not entirely unknown to her.

But should I have said more? Had I just completely trivialised a serious topic? Should I have checked that Miss Malaprop understood that I meant that slaves are individuals who have been denied that most basic and fundamental of all human rights — freedom — and that they are not tiny creatures with large ears and bulging eyes who toil away in the Hogwarts kitchens?

A Cleanup

This wouldn’t work in my house…I’d have to resort to a whole other fandom to get my laundry hampter sorted properly.

If it was a trivial matter we were discussing, I wouldn’t think twice about making an example of Dobby and his kin, or of shamelessly appropriating whatever other popular culture references I need to make my children understand things. Believe me, I’ve even considered putting pictures of Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker above the laundry hamper so that my kids learn to correctly differentiate between the Dark Side and the Light Side. (Honestly, the two of them can rhapsodise for hours over the different types of light sabers or various random skirmishes during the Clone Wars, but heaven help them if they can figure out how to separate whites from colours when it comes to doing the washing.)

But that’s just the small stuff.

Anyone who follows this blog with any regularity knows that when I believe it is called for, I am not afraid to put fingers to keys and speak up for what I believe in, regardless of whether it’s to do with Asylum Seekers, Marriage Equality, the Death Penalty or whatever other injustice I perceive in the world. And I think it practially goes without saying that I want my children to be raised with a strong sense of social justice and an awareness of the things that impact other people — not just themselves.

A Jason

The very lovely Jason Isaacs, resplendent in what he called his “Paris Hilton wig”, letting them be little.

I know that in the years ahead there will be many questions, hard questions, that Miss Malaprop and her sister will ask me to answer. And I hope that I have the courage to face those questions with an open heart and an open mind, and to answer them as best I can without diminishing the facts or distorting the truth.

But I don’t think that my girls — my mostly sweet, still innocent girls — are yet ready to open the book on the grisly lessons of the history of humankind, with all its madness, mayhem, murder and misogyny.

So in the meantime, I’m going to keep answering the difficult questions my kids ask by referring them to things that they already know and understand, even if that knowledge and comprehension is partially drawn from reading Harry Potter.

I would imagine that by the time they’re up to reading the Hunger Games, the conversations will be very, very different.

But for now? I’m with Jason Isaacs on this one.

Dobby is in his trailer.


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T spoon

Just one spoonful…every now and then. You can get a spoon just like this on Esty, here.

I just put a spoonful of sugar into my tea (Earl Grey, black, piping hot).

That might seem like a very ordinary thing to do, but some time ago I banished sugar to the top shelf of my pantry. Nowadays, the sugar jar only really makes an appearance when my Dad comes over (English Breakfast, white with one).

But there are some days — and quite often, for me, they are grey-skied, quiet days — when I prefer to take my tea with a spoonful of sugar. These are the days when I feel the need for that gentle buzz only sugar brings. (And yes, you really do notice it once you’ve gone without it for some time).

If I’m honest, however, it’s not the weather that made me pick up the sugar jar, even though autumn is descending rapidly upon Sydneytown at this time of year. And it’s not the solace of stirring, either, which I’ve written about before.

No, it’s my kids.

Lord knows I love them — dearly, oh so dearly — but by the end of the school term, my kids are driving me crazy. Bonkers. Mad as a box of frogs.

After ten long weeks of school, my children’s behaviour…ummm…deteriorates.

That’s the nicest word I can find to describe the out of control crazytrain ride that confronts me before drop off and after pick up every day at the end of term. I don’t think it’s deliberate or in any way malicious: I suspect my girls are really, truly worn out and that self-regulation is, quite simply, beyond them when they have to front up for six hours each day of being ever-so-good for their teachers.

And, having picked up all the signals that the crazytrain was careening towards me this week (the least of which were tears and tantrums), I have taken steps to look after my own sanity and have managed to keep it — mostly — together. It just so happens that today, one of those steps involved stirring sugar into my tea. But yesterday, for example, I made sure I got to yoga.

T so ham


My yoga teacher is like a lovely little gypsy fairy (seriously, you can almost see her wings sparkling silvery bluey-green) with a beaming smile that is as warm and open as her beautiful heart. And yesterday, bless her, she introduced our class to a very simple mantra that has helped remind me to take a couple of deep, life-saving and sanity-preserving breaths whenever the kid-filled crazytrain has looked like it was about to derail.

The mantra: SO HAM.

It’s pronounced more like so hum, which resembles the sound of inhaling and exhaling, and allows you to connect the mantra to your breathing.

But what has really helped me this week is what so ham means: the mantra translates, very simply, as I am that. So when you connect the mantra to your breath, and repeat it over and over again, you connect also to the core of your being:

I am that I am that I am that I am that I am that I am that I am that I am…

 And I came to realise, in those moments of stillness, when I connected to myself and my breath, that even though I am a mother and a wife and a daughter and a sister and an aunt and a friend and a freelance writer and a carer and homemaker who cleans and washes and irons and makes lunches and all manner of other meals and snacks and everything else —

T peace— that really, at the centre of it all, I just am.

And no one can take that away.

So hamso ham…so ham…




Filing Happy

BJB Filing Mess

…that pile of household filing that makes you shudder like you’ve just seen a cockroach.

Have you ever had one of those days when you looked around a room in your house — I’m guessing it’s your kitchen — and discovered that the few important notices you had carefully collated (on the bench, perhaps?!) had suddenly turned into a gigantic pile of paper?

Thought so.

Now, I don’t know about you, but when I am surprised by a massive stack of paperwork, I tend to shudder inadvertently — you know, the way you do when you see an unexpected cockroach in your otherwise impeccably clean home — before averting my gaze, and then I try to ignore the slightly nauseated feeling building in my stomach by actively turning my attention to something else.

Like cleaning the oven, for example. Because even that chore is more enjoyable than tackling a huge mess of household filing, isn’t it?

Well, it doesn’t have to be.

And that’s where Filing Happy comes in.

Now, as you can probably tell from what I’ve written so far, there are occasions when I’m as guilty as the next person of neglecting my household filing. I know how overwhelming it can feel to see a stack of papers that need sorting, and how difficult it can be to motivate yourself to tackle that stack. I also know how not being able to find something in the midst of all that…stuff…can make you feel panicked, or ever so slightly out of control. And, finally, I completely understand that there are times when little things — like life, for example — get in the way of our best-organised selves.

One of the reasons I started Blue Jai Creative is that, despite the fact that I’m far from perfect, I happen to be really good at sorting things out. I love developing systems. Logical, user-friendly systems, even. And I’m awesome at organising stuff. Any kind of stuff, really.

So here are my three top tips for beating the paperwork blues, and for getting yourself well on the way to Filing Happy:

1. Know where to look. 

Everyone has places in their homes where stuff accumulates. You might know them as hot spots, or drop zones, or dumping grounds. These are the spots where things pile up: school newsletters, product warranties, utility bills, unclaimed medical receipts, the page you tore out of the toy catalogue because there’s a super special on the Lego your six year old desperately wants for their birthday (and no, I have not been snooping through your windows when you’re not at home).

Step One of Filing Happy is to identify the places where things accumulate in your home, to develop an awareness of where things pile up, and what’s most likely to end up there.

2. Separate the Active from the Passive.

Once you know where your papers accumulate, the next step is to sort them out. Don’t freak out — I’m not talking about finding every last gas bill, car registration certificate and school report and paper-clipping them into neat and tidy piles. All we’re doing here is separating the papers that need attention from those that don’t.

So, Step Two of Filing Happy is simply to separate the papers into two piles: an Active pile of papers that require some sort of action (such as unpaid bills, school permission slips, even that Lego special), and a Passive pile of papers that you’ve already dealt with (and don’t forget to give yourself a pat on the back for doing that — good for you).

3. Find something —anything — positive to get you going.

Now that you have your Active and Passive piles, the logical next step is to deal with the (hopefully much smaller) Active pile. In the time it takes to boil the kettle, you’ve hopefully managed to sort the Active pile by prioritising it — and in my experience, this tends to be by due date. If you’re still going by the time the kettle has boiled, make yourself a cup of tea or coffee and keep working away while you drink it.

If caffeine isn’t your thing, maybe put on some music you like. Maybe you can aim to sort the pile before your favourite song finishes playing. The point of Step Three of Filing Happy is simply to build in something enjoyable to the experience so you stick with the task until it’s done.

Now, I’m not going to get into what to do with the Passive Pile today — that’s a whole other post entirely, though the principles are fairly similar.

BJB Filed

Find something positive to kickstart the action – even if it’s making it pretty!

Needless to say, if you feel like you need more help, or some tailor-made tips, or just a simple kickstart, please get in contact with Blue Jai Creative. It doesn’t matter to me whether it’s your home or business that needs sorting, I’m here to help. But it might help if you know this:

I’m not emotionally invested in your stuff, whatever it is, so I can deal with it far more easily than you can.

I don’t judge. We’ve all been there at some point — believe me. And, it goes without saying, I treat your stuff (whatever it is) with respect, discretion and absolute confidentiality.

At Blue Jai Creative, I’m all for finding solutions that work for you, whether they be paperless, or colour-coded, or list-based, or whatever it is that makes you feel comfortable and in control.

Because that’s what Filing Happy is all about.