Four Extra Children.

emma

I was young, naive and excited about the future. I had four wonderful children, a loving husband and we had just purchased our very first home. Life was looking pretty good indeed.

However, just a short time after, a new house was being built on the property next door to ours. My children were excited as brick after brick was added to the foundation. We all knew that a large family would eventually live there, due to the massive size of the house. What we didn’t know, was what kind of impact that family would have on ours. However, it wouldn’t take long for us to find out.  The day “they” came to town will be a day I’ll remember for the rest of my life.

Being honest, I don’t really recall them moving in on moving day. Perhaps it was just our busy schedules with schools, sports and living life, but whatever it was, that day sure changed our lives forever. I had been helping my youngest daughter with a project when I heard someone tapping on the front door. I opened it and saw the prettiest, doe-eyed, young girl standing there. She stood at the door nervously wringing her hands and struggling to speak. I asked her if she was okay. She said that she was, but she was embarrassed because her mother had sent her over to ask what day the wheelie-bins had to be put out. I smiled at her and told her not to be embarrassed and that the bins went out on a Wednesday. From that moment on, that young girl would smile and wave to me every time she saw me.

Over the next few days, my sons, being the fantastic private investigators that they were in those days, found out that the girl was 12-years-old and that there were also twin 11-year-old girls and a 9-year-old boy living in the house. My sons were super excited as there were no other children my son’s ages in our street, so they thought all their Christmas’s had come at once. And, I must admit, they were adorable little people with their big  brown eyes, tanned features, and gorgeous smiles. It didn’t take long before they would become best friends and all “hang out” together, every afternoon after school.

Strangely enough, I wouldn’t meet the children’s mother for several weeks after they moved in. Despite the feeling that something wasn’t quite right with the woman, I really didn’t mind her. She had some very strange habits, but I assumed it was just how she was, so I simply brushed it off. Once I learned that she was severally mentally ill and always heavily medicated, I tried to help her as much as I possibly could. She would often tell me stories of how the children had no other family other than her and that my family was a blessing to them. She explained to me that she only had one sister, but that her sister was too lazy and selfish to help her. She explained that her two older daughters that lived out of home wanted nothing to do with the younger children because they were too much trouble. She also said she had her reasons for not letting the children’s father have anything to do with them. Being totally honest, I felt so sorry for the family, so I did my best to help them.

During this time, my husband suffered a work injury and could no longer work his trade, so money became tight within the family. All the fun activities stopped, luxuries ceased and the day to day grind became all but impossible. Nevertheless, by this stage, the four children from next door had become a part of our family. We loved them and cared for them and did all that we could for them. They were no stranger to going without food, clothing or necessities prior to moving in next door, but once we met them, things slowly began to change. We often provided them with food, personal items, and necessities whenever we could. However, they wanted more. They wanted parents, a healthy home life and above all, they yearned for love.

Nonetheless, no matter what we did for them, their mother eventually turned on us, believing we were trying to take her children away from her. Nothing could have been further from the truth. We certainly didn’t need four extra mouths to feed and clothe, nor did we feel it was our responsibility, but, the children wanted and needed us, so we kept doing whatever we could to help them,because by then, we loved them like our own. In the end, it wouldn’t matter what any of us wanted as the Health Department came in and shut down the house due to the filth, the Red-Back spiders, and other dangerous situations that were occurring in the home. The mother was sent to a mental health facility and we were left with the responsibility of finding homes for these children. We were unable to take them in as the authorities wouldn’t allow us to have teenage girls and boys in the same room, sensibly enough. We carefully placed three of them with loving people we knew and trusted. One went to stay with her oldest sister, only to leave there very quickly when things went sour. I stayed in contact with them daily the whole time they were gone.

Eventually, the mother would be released from the hospital and all appeared well. The therapy she had received during her lengthy stay seemed to be working and the children were allowed to return home. Things ran smoothly for a month or so before the same behaviours returned once more. The children were still too wild and the mother ill-equipped to deal with them. Once again, the mother returned to her bed and the children’s lives once again fell into shambles.

Over the next few years, the girls began to date men….. And, I mean grown men. I was disgusted, not only in the girls and their boyfriends but also the children’s mother. These girls were 16 and 17-year-old girls dating men in their 30’s. I explained to the girls that it was not acceptable, but their mother didn’t mind and allowed them to move these older men into the house.  Hesitant to isolate the girls further, I spoke at length to them about finishing their schooling and told them these “men” were not right. I told them in order to have a good future they would need to let them go. I understood by now, being the most influential person in their lives, that if what I had said didn’t make a difference to them, no-one could have changed their minds. These girls had become all but my daughters. They loved and respected me as I did them. However, they were lonely and craving to be loved by anyone who would have them.

A few months after the men moved in with the girls, one of the twins boyfriends became very violent towards her. Naturally, my husband and I were horrified. We begged her to get rid of this guy because we feared he may kill her. Needless to say, she didn’t listen and ran away to South Australia to be with him. We begged her to come home to no avail. In the end, after all the bashings he did give her, I finally told her if she didn’t leave him there and return home, I would be forced to cut her off for good. The pain of him hurting her was destroying me and I had all the other children to consider. She decided to stay with him for a long time afterward and she still holds me responsible for her messy life to this day.

Despite being told time after time that “No good deed goes unpunished” I pushed on and helped these children who were not mine. I did all that I could for them and then some. I hold no malice for the wasted years. The years I should have been spending with my own children. And, given my time again, I’d probably make the same “mistakes” all over again.  I understand people may call them no-hopers, losers or whatever else they can call them, but my heart still goes out to them. They were born innocent into a life they did not choose. A life that treated them unfairly and they were forced to live it. In turn, they turned to drugs. Something that destroyed my relationship with each and every one of them for some period of their lives.They grabbed hold of what they thought could save them only to be burnt again.

Nevertheless, at the end of the day, I loved those children and against all the odds, I know I was there for them. I know it was my influence that made a speckle of difference in a life that knew no kindness.  I know when I look at them today, I see glimmers of the lessons I taught them. I see in their eyes they are good people. I see in the smiles of their babies, that what I did for them taught them how to love their children like a mother ought to.

However, they have made their choices that I don’t have to agree with, but they are their choices to make. These four innocent little people, who eventually grew up to be adults, gave something to me in return for my kindness. They taught me a huge life lesson: It doesn’t matter what you want in life for your children or any children you may have influence over, at the end of the day, they will be, who and what they want to be. And, that they are all perfect in their own way!

 

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Listening to children.

hear

Listening to children.

How many times a day do you say to your children, “Put your listening ears on,” when they ignore your instructions?

How many times do you say to your children, “Not now, I’m busy,” when they’re trying to tell you something?

I know with my kids, both case scenarios were way too often. I don’t know about you, but the mornings were worst for me. The morning rush in my house resembled something close to Central Station with the hustle and bustle of breakfasts, school lunches, and hair and teeth checks, making sure everyone has their school bags packed and that’s even before you get them into the car for drop off. I guess, if I was, to be honest, the afternoon wasn’t that much smoother either, with homework, playdates and organising dinner.

However, I’ve learnt something over the years; and that is, in amongst the minefield we call life, children often tell us things that we sometimes never hear. These are the things I guess we don’t really want to hear. Usually, they’ll be dobbing on this one or that one for something petty, but every now and then, they are trying to tell us something way more important and it is these times that will make all the difference in our child’s life.

Children, with their cherub grubby faces and tiny little mouths, are often more honest than we care to acknowledge. They are born truthful and innocent. Everything they are up to this point is what their parents and society sculpt them to be. They are not born with filters, so quite often, their honesty can be blunt and sometimes even hurtful. However, it’s this honesty that we all need to listen to. Children say things as they see them. They relay things to us in their truthful, innocent language, but if we are not listening when they speak, we may and do, miss important things they are trying to say.

Sometimes, we are told something by somebody else about our child and we are left wondering why our child didn’t tell us. So then, we go and ask our child why didn’t say something and they say, “I did try and tell you, but you weren’t listening.” It’s a scenario we have all been guilty of from time to time, but it’s never too late to change the path. We, as humans, can learn and grow right up until we take our final breath, so it’s never too late to start.

Unfortunately, the risk we take by not listening to our children is this: they may grow up believing they are falsely flawed, invisible, unworthy and not to be trusted. When important things fall upon deaf ears, children withdraw. They will believe no-one is listening and no-one believes them. They feel of little value and their self-esteem begins to dwindle, so they lose hope. They stop trying.

According to Doctor Jonice Webb PHD,  http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2013/08/24/childhood-emotional-neglect-the-fatal-flaw/ , this is called, Childhood, Emotional Neglect: “Fatal Flaw.” Although the actual “flaw” doesn’t exist, children that go through life feeling as though no-one is listening to them can actually develop deep emotional problems. That is the last thing any of us wants when it comes to our children.

So, in the efforts to prevent this from happening to our little people, let’s all take a moment each day, to sit down with each child and have a proper conversation with them. Even a few minutes just before bedtime or the car trip home from school, could save you and your child from years of pain.

There is nothing more challenging than being a parent, so make sure you have your combat boots and tiara on and get on with this thing we call life. Don’t we all say our children are precious? So, aren’t they worth listening to?- J.B.

 

Labels That Fray.

label

Labels that fray.

 

Australia truly is a remarkable place. We are surrounded by wild untameable oceans, yet blessed with a landscape dotted with flourishing trees. We have the privilege of fresh water and our soil is some of the healthiest in the world. We truly are the lucky country.

However, if we’re so lucky, why do we complain so much? Why are we so ungrateful for the beauty in its abundance? Why is everything never enough?

I believe our disruptive, ungrateful attitude comes from allowing ourselves to be “labelled.” We have evolved where everybody wants to “fit” somewhere. Everyone wants to “belong.” Well, do you know what? Whether you are gay, straight, white or black, religious or not religious, if you are a vegan or omnivore, rich or poor, whether you are a feminist or an equal opportunist, or even if you are young or old. YOU belong! We all belong! We are ALL members of the human race!

Let’s think about that for a minute. Even that label; the human race, leaves a lot to be desired. What are we racing for? What do you win at the end of the human race? Death? Is that what you’re truly racing for? Well, I’m not. I just want to be me. I just want to love and be loved, because at the end of the day, that’s the greatest gift life can give us.

We all need diagnoses for the times in our lives when we are unwell, but truthfully, that’s about as far as “labelling” should go. Labelling, to me, is rather dangerous. The words we speak to ourselves become realities. They bind us to a contract with ourselves. We take away our own right to free choice. We limit ourselves to the “labels” we’ve so eagerly accepted.

Our government, once gave me a label, a label I tried to wear with pride. However, not too long after my acceptance of this label, the edges began to fray. I was told that I was known as a “Forgotten Australian”. I was one of the 500, 000 plus children that the government forgot about, locked away from the world like the scourge of society that they believed we were back then.

The more I explored my “label” the sadder I became. The further I fell down that pit of reality, the harder my life became. I began to feel like I truly was “forgotten”. I felt like I had been left behind. I felt the helplessness of my childhood once again wrap its evil claws around my tightened throat.

Then one day, just out of the blue, it came to me. I’m going to cut my “label” off. Isn’t that what we do when the labels on our clothing become frayed and annoying? I for one, will not allow the “label” I’ve been given to define me. However, if I’m forced to wear a label mine will be the “UNFORGOTTEN AUSTRALIAN.” I refuse to be a “Forgotten Australian.” I will not be forgotten as pieces of me will live on through my children, my grand-children and my writing. I will not be forgotten as I have loved and been loved!

So, if you want some advice from an unlabelled, very loving and caring person, live the best life you can live. Be the best YOU, you know how to be. And, above all, do not allow yourself to be labelled. Remember; all labels eventually fray. – J.B.

What are they running from?

judge

Carefully watching over the Facebook page, Missing-Children-Australia-Tiahleigh-Alert, I am utterly amazed, at times, by some people and their automatic reaction to a new listing of a child.

“Stupid kid! It’s always running away.”  Or, “here we go again, this kid ran away last week too.” Or, ” I’m sure I’ve seen this kid on here before.”  All of these comments are quite typical responses.

What a devastating sight that must be to the parent/caregiver when they see such comments written about their beloved child.

We all know that some children can be mischievous and even at times, act quite recklessly. Only too often their immaturity can lead them to not think clearly, or in fact, not to think at all. However, regardless of age, race, religion, or background, that missing person is still somebodies child. And, the fact remains, that anyone who has had a child run away, even if it is only briefly, has suffered that experience, that heartache, of not knowing the who, what, when, where and how of their child.

Rather than judging, society, as a whole, maybe we need to rethink our first impression of a missing teenager? Rather than jumping in quickly and making such harsh comments, wouldn’t it be smarter to stop and ask  a few questions before forming a rock solid opinion? Perhaps we could ask some questions like: What is the child running from? Where is the child running to? Or even, Why does this child run away so often? Does this child need help? Maybe by exploring these questions, truthful answers would be forthcoming.

The purpose of this post is not to pass judgement, nor is it to finger point at any particular person. Instead, it’s about putting a more positive approach in response to these problems. If a child you know or know of, is in trouble, get them some help. If it is a serious police matter, call the police. If it’s a normal teenage problem, that you have no idea on how to handle the matter, have the child call Kids helpline. Maybe call a parent or the school?  There are some great resources available for us all to use. The time is now to start using them. If we work together, as a united community, things can change.

A runaway child is a missing child. A missing child can be a grave situation. Not all missing children will end up in a tragic way, but unfortunately, it can and does happen from time to time. We have all seen this way too many times before to pretend that it doesn’t happen.  So rather than snubbing your nose at that next problem teen,  let’s work together and help stop tragedies from happening to anyone else.

“It takes a village to raise a child.” -African proverb.

Perfect Parent.

.perfect

After so many years, through so many tears, and what compares to trudging through mountains of worry, I finally woke up one day and realised; there is no such thing as being a perfect parent!
Let’s face it, having children is risky business. From the moment you decide to fall pregnant, your mind is filled with crazy thoughts. Will I be a good parent? Will my child like me? What will my child be like as an adult? And, so on and so on. The questions are endless and the answers are never forthcoming. Everything is a gamble really. It’s kind of like going to the biggest casino in town, with every cent you own and throwing it down on twenty-one red and hoping you will come out a winner. However, despite the odds being against us, we slog on through the maze of pregnancy and cross our fingers we will come out alive on the other side.
Once we’ve managed to overcome the morning sickness, the mood swings and the aching body, we are greeted by, hold on for a minute, wait for it; usually hours and hours of excruciatingly painful labour. As we hold our breath as they stitch us up and stare down into the face of pure bliss, we foolishly believe it’s all over. Sorry, but I’ve got news for you; your reality is now truly about to begin!
Over the coming years, you will pray for the night crying to stop. You will be grateful to anyone who can pop in and have an adult conversation with you and for the first time in years, you will all but beg for your mother to move in with you; even if it is only to change those endless dirty nappies. But, never fear, it doesn’t last too long. In the next few years, most of these habits have stopped.
Then comes the school years. The first part of schooling is not so bad. You do have the odd problem here and there but, they generally work themselves out with big cuddles and gentle kisses to make all the problems seem better.
Sorry, everyone, I can’t tell you the same thing will happen in high school. Secondary school is usually where the real problems begin. Your kisses and cuddles now embarrass the life out of your beautiful bundle of joy and quite frankly, you are honoured if your teen even admits to knowing you.
Doesn’t this all sound like bliss? Maybe not. However, there is one big consolation prize in this grand game of life; one day your little tyke will blossom either into a full grown man or woman. When this happens, despite what you tell them, they too will go to the casino and throw everything they own down onto twenty-one red. That’s when you will know your worth.
The message here for you parents is; there is no such thing as a perfect parent. The job, the most important job in life, often seems unrewarding, if not downright deflating at times. However, if you do your job right, if you do it right by loving, by caring, by listening and most importantly, keeping your children safe, you will be rewarded at the end.
When the day comes for your child to have their own child, your child will say to you, “Oh my God! You didn’t tell me it was going to be like this. It’s so hard being a parent. Thank you for everything you did for me. I love you. You were perfect to me.”

JenniferBrockie(c) 2016.