Parenting from Afar

These last couple of weeks my kids, Master 16 and Miss very-nearly 13 have been on a bit of an overseas excursion with their mother.

It’s been a few months in planning – basically it’s around a trade show that my Ex needs to attend for work – so the opportunity to expand the life experience of my kids is fantastic.

However, where Miss very-nearly 13 has been excited and planning all the things (and yes, she will turn 13 whilst away), Master 16 has been incredibly anxious. For the three months prior to departure he was in denial. In fact he hadn’t packed up until a few hours before their flight out.

I have been worried about him. And I have been worried about how best I can support him.

Their first destination was LA. Master 16’s anxiety was summed up in a few text messages to me:

This of course was of concern. I queried him as to what he was feeling:

I do need to note here that LA isn’t that bad. I have many friends who live there. I suspect he plays too many video games.

That one was hard to read.

I challenged him to focus on and to tell me about ‘three good things’ that he saw or experienced each day, and to his credit he has.

This simple task changed his perspective on LA and his travels. Phew.

He felt a lot more comfortable in London. To him, it’s more like New Zealand and he was able to find a ‘normal’ breakfast. (My God, he has routines).

All this time of course, his mother and sister have been enjoying, seeing, exploring, shopping and telling him that they’ll be using his baggage allowance for the trip home.

Paris has been interesting for him. He wasn’t prepared for a country where English is not the first language.

It’s been good to see that they’ve walked and explored. They did do the Eiffel Tower for example. However, an upbringing in NZ does heighten the hypochondria somewhat:

I asked him about his feelings. Being in a place with much history:

I think he’s getting used to this travel thing.

I asked his sister about how it’s going, what she’s seen, what she has enjoyed etc. etc.

I get:

Sigh. Describing the Louvre as ‘the giant art place’ didn’t give me much hope, but they managed to see the Mona Lisa (small painting, big crowd) as they ran through due to time constraints. She has enjoyed the Architecture of Paris though, so that’s a bonus. She is seeing the bigger picture.

On to Germany…

The boy’s first observation was the Cologne Cathedral all lit up at night. Apparently my daughter was enthralled. He did make an observation about the locals:

They’ve managed to get some shopping and some eating done. By this stage he is feeling a lot better about things.

The man child clearly doesn’t yet have my adventurous streak activated. I’m sure it will come. I’m not too worried about the girl child at this point.

I do feel a bit disconnected though. Whilst it’s great they’re experiencing this, I know their experience of the world would be different with me alongside. Less anxiety more openness perhaps. I will add this to my list of things to explore with them.

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Thoughts: Dealing with Annoyance

It’s sure been an interesting time in my life.

Processing the passing of my birth mother has been a bit of a big deal for me. I was able to be in the moment as well as being somewhat out-of-body at the same time, dealing with the various stages of grief that one goes through.

And now I’m in the stage of Annoyance.

Annoyance is the feeling you get when someone or some thing makes you fairly angry or irritated.

My mother has annoyed me. Yes, it’s a purely selfish response but I’m annoyed. I’m annoyed that she’s gone. And what’s worse is that she hated to annoy anybody. Which is partly why she is now gone. She didn’t want to be a bother so didn’t call her doctor for three days when she should have. Sigh. Lessons learned.

So how have I been dealing with this particular annoyance?

Well, I recognise that the source of it is completely out of my control so all I can really do is focus on the good things. The little time we did have. The memories. The fact that I was able to meet her and that she was able to meet her grandchildren. This is pure. And it is healing.

On reflection, I have learned over the last few years that I have an incredible resilience. I don’t get stressed about things. I don’t really get angry. I have learned to keep my mouth shut and listen (mostly). And consider my response to stimuli rather than react.

Yes, I have been living through the consequences of decisions that I made in the past – owning it, accepting it, growing from it, moving forward.

Yes, I have been impacted hugely by the actions of others. But I recognise that I have no control over other people and what they do or what they say. I don’t necessarily know their stories. Their pain. Their stressors. All I can do is look for the good in the situation.

This approach prevents me from burning bridges or removing people from my life on an emotional whim. Don’t get me wrong though – I am very good at recognising and understanding when a person is toxic for me and I have no energy in my tank to continue to give to them. Thankfully this doesn’t occur very often.

Someone once told me that their approach is to ask themselves ‘Will this actually matter in five years’? It’s tough to do when you feel the red mist starting to swirl but it is worth making the attempt.

Take a step back. Breathe. And get on with your life. You only have one.

S.

Thoughts: That Time When You Accidentally Join A Pagan Celebration

Today was decidedly odd.

The morning schedule was a meeting with the Solicitor to get Mums affairs in order and progress correctly. To make sure they had all my details sorted. From there to the Memorial company to order a new Headstone for the plot.

Side note: We learned that if we wanted raised lead lettering on the stone it would cost 8 quid per letter…

We opted against raised lead lettering.

As we were close to Glastonbury we decided to head in for lunch. Completely forgetting that it was 1st May – May Day. Beltane. Glastonbury was at a complete standstill.

(Glastonbury is known for its Tor and has a history rooted in mythology and legends including Joseph of Arimathea and King Arthur. More here. The Glastonbury Festival takes its name from the town but is held a few miles away in Pilton).

The whole town gets involved in this celebration. There was the Town Hall address. The Town Crier welcoming Summer. The menfolk bearing the Maypole.

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I loved the folk dressing up as Goddesses and Green Men. Some better than others to be fair. The guy in the ghillie suit for example, didn’t quite get it. Or the guy who was green all over and wearing his favourite green shirt (it was a Green Lantern shirt so bonus points for that).

Flower crowns/garlands were on heads everywhere.

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We walked in a procession behind the Maypole for the best part of a mile. Destination: a field near the base of Glastonbury Tor. We paused by the Red Spring and the White Spring – a place of significance and meditation – for the Maypole to be blessed by intermingled waters from both. (ask me about the guy bathing naked in public sometime).

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The procession continued uphill and as we entered the field we were welcomed and blessed. The church of Beltane was truly in session. Chanting. Entering the ring through the garland portals.

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There were Gaelic blessings, invocations and chants. There were Druidic blessings, invocations and chants. People were drawn in to a state of worship. Singing. Drumming. Cannabis…

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The May Queen and May King were joined. The Maypole was planted. The couples were paired. The merriment began. Summer has been welcomed. Fertility has been encouraged.

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It was quite an experience. Not something this lad from Palmerston North has experienced anyway.

(Local coverage can be found here).

I do like days where the unexpected happens simply because you follow your curiosity and say Yes to new experiences.

But what is my take-away from all of this? It’s not just something that a tourist can observe and say “That was good wasn’t it”?. I think there’s more to it.

Beltane is about new life. It’s about conception. So, for me, I will conceive that new project, grasp that fleeting idea and get on with it.

Life is not about stagnation.

Not. One. Bit.

 

^sd

Thoughts: RIP Mum

What a whirlwind these last few weeks have been. Out of nowhere I got news that my birth mother, Rachel, had passed.

It’s been a lot to process.

I have known my whole life that I was adopted. It has never really been a self-defining part of my life, and I always had in the back of my mind the motivation to track down my origins and see if I could get to know my biological family. Years came and went. Every couple of years I’d get motivated to progress things. I obtained my original birth certificate, located a name, located a home address from the 60’s. Then I’d hit a roadblock and have to park the search. Over time, the Internet evolved and around 2007, my mother (well, someone with her name and broad location) popped up on a genealogy website.

I had confirmation. She (I thought it was her) was alive.

I found someone with her surname in the local telephone book, and one night made the call from Auckland to Somerset, UK. I finally had a current address.

I had actually forgotten over the last decade who the person on the end of the phone was, and was delighted to meet him at Mum’s funeral. He’d kept the secret.

So around Christmas 2007 my mothers life irrevocably changed. As did mine. I met her for the first time in 2011. The memories from that occasion flood back with such clarity.

And now I find myself in Somerset, saying goodbye. It’s been hard. The grieving process has been brutal and now the healing begins. I am so grateful to my cousin who has been handling everything – I think we’ve helped each other get through this time.

The funeral was lovely. In a setting steeped with history and legacy. I was proud to be able to address the congregation with some thoughts. I have posted this below for posterity.

So now I continue to sit, and to think, and to process.

 

 

Pieces of the Puzzle

Good morning everyone,

We are here today to celebrate the life of Rachel, my mother.

Everybody here has memories of Rachel. Each memory is different, each memory personal. Each memory is a piece of the puzzle that when collected together presents a picture of who Rachel was.

That’s the great thing about life. People, all of us, have the opportunity to impact others and leave behind a lasting memory.

My story is a little different to most here and I’d like to share some of it.

Rachel was an adventurer. She went to New Zealand to have an overseas experience decades before that became a common thing for young people to do.

I was an outcome of that adventure.

Growing up with my adoptive family, I always felt… different. I think differently to them. I see the world differently to them. I certainly have a mischievous streak and a wanderlust that did not come from the nurture I received. It was always in the back of my mind that I needed to find out more about who I was.

It was around 2007 I think, that I tracked Rachel down. All I had was a name on an original birth certificate and a very basic Internet. I remember finding a Somerset Sealey (I can’t remember who it was) and making a telephone call to locate Rachel’s current address and to ask if he thought it would be ok if I wrote.

Mum received that letter shortly before Christmas Day. And I know her world changed. I like to think for the better.

It wasn’t until 2011 that I was able to come out here to meet her for the first time, and meet many of you here today. My blood relatives. I remember arriving at London Heathrow and seeing her in the arrivals hall quite clearly.

Thank you Mo for being there at that time also.

That moment in 2011 was a time where some of the missing pieces of my own puzzle were located. And placed.

Rachel and I were able to get to know each other as adults without the angst of a parent-child relationship getting in the way. She was desperately proud of her family here and she loved telling me about all what you were doing. She was delighted to get to learn of her grandchildren, my son Aidan and daughter Caitlin, their strengths and interests, and to see her heritage passed on.

Rachel and I realised early on that I am definitely cut from the same cloth as her. My extreme curiousity comes from her. My off-beat sense of humour comes from her.

At this time I would like to acknowledge my birth Father, Phil. I am so grateful to him as he made it possible for Mum to come to New Zealand in 2016 to see me in my habitat, and also to meet Aidan and Caitlin and give them an opportunity to meet and get to know their grandmother. He sends his condolences to us all.

Rachel reflected to me that she felt that she and Phil were incredibly selfish when they gave me up for adoption. I told her that far from being selfish, her actions at that time were completely selfless.

Because of her, I have had a good life, raised by great parents, knowing nothing but love.

And now Rachel is gone.

But she also continues.

In me, in her grandchildren.

I know that she wouldn’t be comfortable with all this attention but I also know that she would be ‘right chuffed’ as to what is happening here. I feel a strong sense of responsibility to ensure that this connection grows and strengthens. That this connection endures.

The puzzle that is Rachel may be completed today, but there are more puzzles to complete.

More pieces to find and to place.

I hope that you will help me as I honour her memory through living and in some way, perhaps, I can help you also.

Thank you.

 

Thoughts: I need to get my words back

It’s occurred to me that I haven’t written anything for some months.

A lot has happened. Christmas, for example.

Many ideas of posts of extraordinary value to my readers are swirling in the void. They get close. Really close. And then just get taken out of my reach when I become aware of them.

I suspect that so much has been going on in my life that I’ve been reeling from one thing to the next without being able to put focus on a thought properly and with consideration. Simply having to deal with life has been enough.

I’m going to change things up. Watch this space.

^SD

 

Diary of a Shore Thing #7

And it’s happened again.

The people who own our home have decided to return to Auckland from overseas. Clearly our country is doing ok.

So, once more we search and plan for a move. For me it’s the third in three years. For KT it’ll be the 12th in 13 years. It’s tough being a renter, in what I consider to be an adolescent rental market.

I actually don’t mind renting. However the time when renting in New Zealand is more European can’t come quick enough. Long term (generations rather than years), and the ability to decorate to your taste and treat the house as yours.

But that time isn’t here yet. And so we move.

Again.