Monday, March 02, 2015

"The Squeaky Wheel Gets the Oil" (finding my voice)

Something's changed in me over the past year or so.  I've always been a scaredy cat, never one to rock the boat, speak up or make waves. Ask anyone who knows me. Unlike so many other Lioness Mothers who would roar if anyone stepped out of line round her cubs, I was always more of a Mouse.

If I had to speak up, whether to a teacher, a bully or a fellow parent I'd be shaking so bad I'd lose my words and feel like I was going to vomit. I just hated "confrontation".

But over the past year or so I've noticed that I no longer procrastinate and avoid confrontation. I've become better at speaking up with teachers, family and coaches (it doesn't even make me want to vomit anymore).

Instead of staying silent and hoping for the best, I've begun asking for what I want, because I've realised this earth shattering truth: The Squeaky Wheel Gets the Oil.

It started when one of my kids was struggling at school, miserable. At first I felt powerless and overwhelmed; I didn't know what to do but I knew I had to do something, talk to someone, so I gathered my courage and headed to school.

I remember sitting in the office of the department head stammering out my concerns about my child's anxiety and bursting into tears. Right there in her office.

This lovely H.O.D. gave me an hour of her time, listened to my concerns, handed me tissues and reassured me that they would work to support my child in a number of new ways.
It wasn't so hard, this talking thing.

A week later I met with her and the child's teacher again and she presented me with two charts, depicting my child's progress so he could see in colour just how far he'd come. When I told the H.O.D. later that he was calling those charts "my treasures" and sleeping with them under his pillow, tears sprang into her eyes.

I was learning that a little bit of squeaking will get your wheel oiled.
A little bit of asking will get results. It's not that hard, once I get over myself.
And if I don't squeak for them, nobody else will.

After all, the H.O.D. has hundreds of kids to think about; the teacher has thirty. I'm the only one with just my own kids' interests at heart.

In the sea of faces my child's struggle might not be apparent to the teacher he/she is trying so hard to please. The teacher doesn't see my child fall apart at the end of the day, after using all their energy working so hard to stay on task and just keep up. The teacher doesn't have to drag my child out of bed as they wail, "I don't wanna go! I hate school!" The teacher doesn't have to wipe their tears of frustration and talk them down from the bridge of self-doubt, patch up their shattered self-esteem and send them out to face the world again... I DO.

I have to live with these children, so it's worth being a squeaky wheel if it means happier kids who know their mama has got their back.

I may not like "confrontation" or "making waves" but there's a nice way to do things.
Being a squeaky wheel doesn't mean becoming demanding or difficult. It just means becoming my child's advocate and speaking up on their behalf, which I can do with a smile on my face. Being pleasant and reasonable-but-determined will probably get me further than being antagonistic and bolshy anyway!

I've now lost count of how many times I've been up to school in the past year. I rarely used to go up there, relying on school reports, and the inadequate twice-yearly parent teacher interviews.

No longer.
Now as soon as there's a ripple I'm there. Talking to the teacher, clarifying the situation, getting information, helping them to know my children and understand their needs,
I'm now one of "those" parents... in the nicest possible way.

The more I talk to my kids' teachers, the better the relationships with the teachers become and the easier it gets to talk to them. (And the more positively they'll work with my kids too).

This worked to the point last year where I knew Miss Fab's teacher well enough to invite him to come watch her perform in the church Christmas production - and he came.

It's so freeing, not being scared anymore. Having found my voice I don't just use it to advocate for my kids at school, oh no.

It translates into other areas of life as well.
Like I noticed that with life being so busy, we were hardly ever getting to see my parents. There was just not enough grandparent-time and I worried that if we didn't set aside some regular time to connect, one day I'd look back and regret that my kids never got to know my parents before they were gone.

I could sit around feeling sad and resentful or I could ask for what I wanted for my kids and take the risk that I might get knocked back...

So I baked some muffins, took my coffee machine with me and went to my folks to ask for what I wanted: dinner with them once a week. Regular time for my kids to spend with them hanging out, getting to know them.

...I wasn't knocked back. As of last week, every Thursday night Nan and Grandad will come for dinner. I cook, they play. Last week it was Monopoly Empire, homemade spaghetti and stories after dinner. There are plans for bike rides with Grandad, card games and more.
We all said goodbye at the end of our first night with a warm fuzzy glow, with the kids agreeing "This was fun!"; I believe it's the start of a beautiful thing.

I'm so thankful that I've learned to speak up.
After all those timid years of being afraid of knock-backs or angry confrontations, it's a pleasant surprise to learn that I can still be me, but a bolder Squeakier version of myself.
After all, what have I got to lose really, by speaking up? If I ask for something and the answer is no, have I lost anything apart from a bit of pride?
No I haven't.
But I stand to gain so much for my kids when I lose my fear and find my voice.

I may not ever be a roaring Lioness Mother but I can be a Squeaky Wheel.


More Motherhood-Learning-Curve Posts

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

R.I.P. Ethel (and HELLO Zippy Mr Terrabyte)

You can't tell, but right now I'm coming to you live from a brand new computer.
Ethel, my old dinosaur, finally gave up the ghost and refused to stay on for longer than 30 seconds, so she had to go.

Ethel has been a part of the family since before Scrag was a twinkle in his daddy's eye.
I started my blog on Ethel, and wrote almost every single post in my lengthy bloglife from her (except the ones where I blogged from exotic destinations like England and China). Every article I excitedly submitted to parenting mag was created on good old Ethel along with my Christmas book, my Etsy shop and every party, printable and invitation  I ever created. I was rather scared that when Ethel died she'd take all my precious files with her... (but thankfully a computer whizz retrieved them and saved me).

I should have known it was time to put Ethel out to pasture when I got the warning from Microsoft that Windows XP would no longer be supported as of a year ago. Yeah, that's right. Windows XP circa 2006. Even my Photoshop was a vintage 2007 Trial version.

Ethel was eight years old - which is about a century in computer years.

After such loyal and lengthy service, Ethel earned her rest, She's now gone to that e-Waste site in the beyond... and I have a shiny new hard-drive with room for ALL my photos, all my Photoshop documents and a brand new version of Photoshop.
Eek! The luxury of having more than one window open at a time! The bliss of knowing your computer won't suddenly switch off in the middle of a sentence...

All this by way of an explanation as to where I've been these past days. I've been computerless, actually, while I waited for Ethel's younger, sleeker replacement.

Actually it's just the guts that have been renewed.

The kids came home excited to see "the new computer" and stared, disappointed at the same old screen and keyboard. (They'll be replaced when they stop working. There's no retirement before death round here).

I was happy to have a prime example to illustrate what I've been trying to tell them for years: it's what's on the inside that counts!

On the inside of my zippy new computer is a terrabyte of memory. I didn't even know what that was. It's a million megabytes, apparently. Should last a while...??!

Anyway I thought I'd just check in, say hi, Let ya know I'm back, equipped with a brand new story-keeper and photo-holder; stories are oozing out my pores, itching to be told.

Now where to begin....? (give me a couple of days to figure stuff out. I'll be back real soooooon...)


P.S. While I was computerless Instagram kept me connected (my favourite social media app). Photos up top include random gratuitous food shots, proud mama moments and the beginning of my foray in to SEWING. Follow me on IG here