How May I Serve You?

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I was born with a servant gene as were my mother and father before me and my siblings beside me. We have met and married other genetic servants and produced children with the same gene.

What does it mean to have the servant gene?

It means that helping others is as instinctive and integral to our being as being right- or left-handed. It means always putting our hand up when volunteers are sought. It means always looking for ways to relieve another’s burden. It means always seeking ways to be of assistance to others whether near or far, loved ones or strangers.

Why do you do it?

Not for gain, that is certain. A quid pro quo or obligation to repay never enters a genetic servant’s head when offering a service. Indeed, the very act of serving, the satisfaction that brings, is our payment. Any offer of reward or payment for service is viewed with embarrassment.

Do you ever tire of it?

No. Never. We may feel tired, as we are often trying to meet many demands, unable to say no to any request, but we never tire of it. In fact, it is often the opposite. A request for help from a friend and the ability to then fulfil that request is likely to be the highlight of the day and leave us in a positive state of mind for the rest of the week.

What are the downsides?

It’s true that we can become over-stretched as we try to meet as many demands as possible. This does not lead to resentment at the imposition but only sadness that we are not fulfilling our full service by being an effective servant to all who need us. Some people do not understand the mindset of a person with the servant gene and will reject assistance or refuse to ask for help for fear of imposing. This also makes us sad because being of service is what fills our hearts and souls with happiness.

How do children exhibit the servant gene?

They are always the ones to attend events to support their school, club, a charity or friends. They take on the bulk of the grunt work in group projects. They make friends with the otherwise friendless kids and invite them to their birthday parties. They stay behind to help clean up. They always help when asked and offer help unprompted.

How do I know if I have the servant gene?

Are you always looking for ways to help, especially when attending events? Do you usually find yourself in the kitchen doing the dishes or staying behind to help clean up? Do you notice when your friends may need help and offer a practical way to be of assistance? Are you always on the lookout for ways to participate in events to raise money for charities or awareness of important social issues? Most of all, does doing these things bring you great joy and satisfaction?

I used to sometimes think that I was cursed with the servant gene but I have come to know that it is indeed a blessing and that we are an important part of any tribe.

Do you have the servant gene? Is it a blessing or a curse for you?

 

 

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Empty Chairs

There were empty chairs at the Christmas table. Some temporary, some permanent. Some have been empty a long time. Some we are still getting used to.

Others might think thirteen around the table to be a grand-sized party. The table was full and crowded. But the empty chairs were obvious to me.

I sat in my father’s chair. It made sense, as the only one of his children present. But the burden of taking that place felt heavy.

The party was congenial but I missed my natural allies.

Little things were difficult. A discussion of family likenesses to those not there. The bottle of wine my father always bought for Christmas. Traditions replaced by new alternatives.

The grief has been hard this year.

Things were wrong and there was no way to make them right.

I went to the ocean. I felt the cold water on my body, the sting of salt in my eyes and I let the ebb and flow of the pounding waves carry away some of the pain.

But still next year there will be empty chairs at the Christmas table.

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A House Full Of Boys Doesn’t Equal A House Full Of Balls

Baby Boys

I am a mother of boys. As in, only boys. Outnumbered in the gender stakes, I have no female allies in the house. (Even the cat is male.)

Mothers of only boys are a unique breed. So much so, there are even clubs you can join to meet other mothers without daughters.

Mothers with both sons and daughters can get a bit narky when you claim special standing for having only boys.

“But we deal with that, too,” they’ll say when you complain of stinky bedrooms and an inherent ability not to notice a household task that needs doing.

Yes, but you also have someone you can nudge when the male offspring are suffering from man-flu and share an eyeroll. Mothers of boys can only eyeroll inwardly.

We will never be the Mother of the Bride or the Maternal Grandmother both of whom seem to hold a higher standing in society than the paternal equivalents.

I am not one of those mothers who wishes she’d had a daughter so she could buy pretty dresses and play with Barbies. I was never that kind of girl myself, preferring to climb trees and play with Lego and I had a passionate objection to wearing dresses. I hate clothes shopping and the pink-themed aisles in toy stores give me the heebie jeebies.

But sometimes I can’t help wondering what my life would be like if I had another person in the house whose brain was wired similarly to mine. Maybe I’d feel a little less like an alien in my own home.

So you can imagine how keen I was to open up an article in the weekend magazine of one of our national newspapers to read about other mothers like me.

Boy Oh Boys

Click on the image to read the article.

At the first line – “Neck deep in dirty footy tops, toy soldiers and cricket balls…” – I sighed. As I read on, I sighed some more. By the end, I was more than a little annoyed.

A household full of boys does not automatically equate to a household full of sporting equipment. I do not bond with my boys over football matches. We bond at superhero movies. I do not trip over basketballs in the house but over stacks of Japanese comic books. Our television is more likely to be tuned to the sci fi channel than the sports channel. I do not spend my time managing their sporting schedules but managing how much time they are spending in front of a screen. I don’t have to learn the rules of cricket scoring but I do have to learn how to use the parental controls on the wifi router.

It’s not that we didn’t give them the opportunity to pursue sports. Their father grew up in a sporting household and is a cricketer and tennis player. Cricket, tennis, football, basketball…we offered them all at various times to each of the boys. None of them stuck. It’s just not in their nature.

Boys don’t have to play sports.

Yes, they need activity, especially in the early years. So there were lots of trips to the park, the beach, the indoor play centre. And you have to watch them every second because they will take risks. But I’m more likely to be trying to get hair dye out of a costume shirt than grass stains out of cricket whites.

I suspect I was destined to have boys. My husband is one of three boys. His father is one of two boys. His uncle had two children who were, you guessed it, boys. Let’s face it, I was never going to have a girl.

And that’s okay. Because I consider myself lucky that I scored three boys who love things I love – fantasy books, sci fi movies and cosplay – and I don’t have to trip over cricket balls in the backyard.

Being a mother of boys is a challenge but a house full of boys doesn’t have to mean a house full of sports any more than a house full of girls has to mean a house full of dolls.

Boys are different – I’ll never understand the tolerance for a floor carpeted in dirty clothes and the lingering smell of rotten apples – and being a mother of boys is different to any other parenting experience.

But…

I wouldn’t change it for all the sonic screwdrivers in the universe.

And yes, that title is a sniggering play on words. I live in a house full of boys, remember?

 

 

 

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Just Enough To Wet Your Tongue – An Early Wine Education

“Just take enough to wet your tongue,” my father said.

“How big is your tongue?” my mother quipped.

Sunday lunch. A bottle of wine. And our wine education proceeded.

In my reflection on my father last week, I mentioned his late-in-life introduction to wine and the subsequent passionate interest he passed on to his children. It was interesting to note that each of his children mentioned wine in their reflections in the booklet of eulogies put together for his funeral. (Dad refused to have any family eulogies, stating that only the minister was to speak. He’d been to too many funerals where “every man and his dog” had to say something. Of course, we found a way around the rules. He taught us well.)

It seems to me that if I were to write a memoir, for a start it would be short and mostly boring, but it would undoubtedly be dominated by stories of wine.

My brother in his highchair with a liqueur glass of watered-down riesling. We graduated from liqueur glasses, to sherry glasses, to normal wine glasses as we got older.

Visiting a winery, the busload of tourists that came pouring in and the woman who asked, “Do you have any spumante?” I scoffed and did not hide my disdain. I was ten.

The cellar under our house that my father built himself with hand tools. The home-bottling that went on in there and the stacks of bottles with the hand-drawn label.

My favourite wine story, however, is the one most indicative of my father and is also linked to one of the greatest gifts my father gave me.

My parents took my younger brother and me to Europe for 10 weeks when we were 9 and 12 years old respectively. It was what started my love affair with travel. When I was asked to choose a symbol to place on my father’s coffin at his funeral to represent who he was to me, I chose my passport from this trip. Travel has become a major part of my life and it is an opportunity and love I have passed on to my children. They have travelled because I have travelled because my father took me travelling.

But what about the wine?

I’m getting to that.

On this trip, my father had arranged a private tasting at the Pieroth Winery near Bingen am Rhein in Germany. While my parents tasted wines, my brother and I drank fruit nectar (three whole bottles) and ate Ryvita crackers (or whatever the German equivalent was then).

It was growing dark by the time we finished. (It wasn’t that big a session – we always travelled out of season so this was in late October.) The winemaker offered to call us a taxi but my father refused declaring that it was close enough to walk. Just around the corner really.

Off we set along the side of the autobarn with no path, no streetlights and the sky turning darker by the minute. As we stumbled along and the familial air grew increasingly tense, my mother began to make noises about a taxi being a good idea. My father continued to insist that it was just around the corner.

After several kilometres, Dad at last conceded that it was further than he had anticipated. Approaching the first house we could find with lighted windows, he knocked on the door and in his best non-existent German, asked to call for a taxi.

The taxi soon arrived, we piled in and the car took off like a rocket, throwing us all against the back of the seat.

Around the corner and up the street and we arrived at our destination.

It really was “just around the corner”. We just had to get to the right corner.

(Daily Post Weekly Writing Challenge – Memoir Madness)

Pieroth

From the Pieroth website. Non-existent when we went there. All communication to set up the tasting was done by snail mail.

 

 

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Born That Way

I have a theory. It’s that people go through life in the manner in which they were born.

I’ve come to this theory through exhaustive research. Which means through watching my three kids. Who are, you know, exhausting.

Child Number One arrived a week late and has been running late ever since. His birth was steady and predictable and that’s pretty much how he approaches each day. He gets there when he needs to with a minimum of fuss.

He goes through life like this:

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Child Number Two arrived early and quick and has been in a hurry to do everything ever since. He just got up and walked when he was ready, he toilet-trained in one day and we’ve had to put him in a school with a vertical curriculum so he can zoom through the subjects he’s interested in before he gets bored.

He goes through life like this:

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Child Number Three. Sigh. Child Number Three took his sweet time arriving. First he was coming, then he wasn’t. Then he was, then he wasn’t. This went on for 29 hours. Then he decided he was coming and arrived in a rush. So how does that translate into his life? He will show all signs of having caught onto something (sleeping through the night, for example) but then some time later decide he hasn’t (driving his parents mad waking several times a night, for example). He’s got it. No, he hasn’t. He’s got it. No, he hasn’t. And then one day, we’ll realise that he got it permanently some time ago when we weren’t looking. This is also the child who one day will get himself up, dressed, breakfasted, make his lunch and be sitting on the couch ready for school by 7.30am. The next morning he’ll get yelled out of bed at 8am and even then he will stand staring into the pantry wondering what to do next.

He goes through life like this:

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Me? Yes, well, I’ll admit that writing this post did prompt me to contact my mother and ask about my own birth. Apparently it was pretty straightforward and boring. I was disappointed. I think I was hoping it was a bit radical or at least interesting. However, it turns out that while my birth was uneventful, the pregnancy was memorable. My mother suffered from contractions on and off through most of the pregnancy. That’s definitely me. As a wanderer and Jack of All Trades, I am always looking out for the next new thing, always wondering what lies around the next corner. I can imagine myself, having been in the womb a few months already, thinking “Okay, I’ve done this womb thing. What’s next? I want out. What’s next?” 

I go through life like this:

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But, you know, it’s just a theory.

 

(Final Image – Creative Commons: http://www.flickr.com/photos/mymollypop/3511904343/in/photostream/)

 

 

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A Member of the MOB

A friend of mine recently gave birth to her first baby, a boy. I was inordinately excited not only because it was a long-awaited child but also, I soon realised, because she’d had a boy.

“Welcome to the MOB!!” I exclaimed excitedly in an email reply to her announcement.

Mothers Of Boys. We’re a unique…um…mob. I’m sure mothers of only girls have their unique challenges too but there’s something about being the one outnumbered in the household gender stakes that makes life more interesting. (Any fathers of girl-only households reading this are welcome to write their own blog post perspective.)

It’s quite possible that my friend, down the track, may become a Mother Of Boys And Not Boys but for the time being she is a part of the club. A club in which I am a more-than-paid-up member.

A Member of the MOB

A Member of the MOB

After my first two boys were born and I was pregnant with my third child, I lost count of the number of people who asked “So, are you hoping for a girl?” It got a bit boring so I took to looking at the enquirer in horror and saying, “Oh, goodness, no! Why would I want one of those? I wouldn’t know what to do with one.” (I still don’t.)

Do I sometimes wonder what it would have been like to have a daughter? Of course. Do I ever wish one of my boys had been a girl? Never.

Besides, from listening to my girlfriends, bonding time with daughters seems to mainly involve clothes shopping. I’d rather be poked in the eye with a blunt stick (I believe it’s more painful than a sharp one). Give me a Joss Whedon movie outing with my boys any day.

In the hospital, after the birth of my third son, a cleaner told me that when my children were teenagers, I’d be glad I had boys. I held on to that promise through the years of small boys running amok in playgrounds, picking up any remotely pointed object to be used as a weapon, through the three-year-old penis obsessions and the pre-teen biffo and insults. And now, with two teenagers and one on the cusp, I can honestly say she was right. As I watch mothers of teenage girls struggle with the hormonal nastiness, psychological bullying and body image issues, the full-on early boyhood years seem worth it. Boys – my boys at least – are so much more straightforward. Well, as straightforward as parenting any teenager can be.

I can’t wait for the possibility of a cuddle with this newest member of the male race and to recall those thrice-heard words,

it's a boy

 

 

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Parent v Teenager – The Internet Wars

If you’re lucky enough to live in the Land of Unlimited Downloads, you won’t have heard of the Internet Wars. It’s shaping up to be the biggest battlefield between parents and their teenagers this world has ever seen. Well, maybe the biggest this country has ever seen. City? Well, okay, so it’s only my house but it’s definitely big.

Here in the Land of We’ll Screw You Over Every Chance We Get, unlimited Internet downloads are a luxury and an expensive one at that. Well, not so expensive if you’re prepared to sign up with an ISP with an unreliable performance record. So you can download all you want, provided you’re happy for it to take a week on snail speed.

Choosing an Internet plan in Complex Country takes a PhD in mathematical analysis. I’ve been told that in some countries, the decision to connect to the Internet comes down to “Will we have the Internet or not?” If only.

The decision here is “How much download do we need? How fast do we want it to go? What do we actually have access to? How reliable is the ISP? How much will it cost?” That last question is hard to quantify as all the other variables come in a dizzying array of options. It’s like comparing apples to toasters.

I’m told we are also paying through a Cyrano-sized nose for Internet access compared to other countries. I don’t know why. It’s a general trend across most technology in this country. Perhaps it’s just a carry over from the days when it took 3 months to deliver the post via ship. “All communication must henceforth be slow and expensive.”

So, why the Internet Wars? The battle comes into play when demand outstrips supply. Or, in other words, when the 12-year-old downloads half your monthly allowance in the first week. Cue Parental Rant.

If you manage to survive to the end of the billing cycle without getting shaped onto dial-up speed, there’s a chance the UN Peacekeepers could go home. But beware the last minute Charge of the Light Brigade as they charge through the last of your download in two hours, leaving you to update your blog later in the evening in a ‘hit Save Draft, go make a cup of tea’ cycle of pain.

Cue Parental Rant. Again.

Parental regulation rarely works. Let’s face it, most six-year-olds know more than we do about technology. They’re wizards at getting around restrictions. Throw a technologically-advanced, propeller-hat-wearing 17-year-old into the mix and you’ve lost the war before you even get out of boot camp.

But just as it seems time to pull out the white flag, free-market forces and self-regulation can come to the rescue. The day after one loud battle in which the words “unreasonable”, “selfish” and “if you want more download you can pay for it yourself” were at the fore, this appeared on the wall next to the computer:

Internet Rules

The war is probably not over but at least there’s a temporary ceasefire.

Postscript: I haven’t even touched on the battle to control what they’re actually accessing on the Internet. That’s like my own private Waterloo. With me as the short Corsican.

 

 

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My Life Next Door

Next Door

Dear mother of small boys next door. Yes, I hear them. All the time. No, don’t apologise.

“Mummy, look at me! Mummy, look at me! Mummy! Look at me!!

It’s been a while since I was called Mummy. It’s just Mum now. I don’t get told to “Look at me!” any more. Sometimes, they ask me to look at something they’ve done. Maybe check over an English assignment or a maths problem. And my heart swells a little as I feel needed again.

High-pitched little voices and giggles.

It’s all deep rumblings and explosive laughter on my side of the fence now.

Bouncing on the trampoline, chattering in the sandpit, rattling around in the cubby house playing make-believe.

The trampoline is neglected. The sandpit is long gone. Cosplay at scifi conventions is as far as make-believe goes in my house these days.

Words you don’t understand because he’s still learning to talk.

Words I don’t understand because he talks about stuff far beyond my knowledge.

Arguments and tears. “He did…” “They said…”

Well, I still get those. Less, but still. The arguments are louder. The tears more heartbreaking.

Dear mother of small boys next door. Yes, I hear them. All the time. No, don’t apologise.

Because once your life was mine.

And I still remember.

 

A response to the Daily Post Weekly Writing Challenge – Blog Your Block.

 

 

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My Child, My Teacher

I taught you how to walk but I learned from you the meaning of persistence.

I taught you how to read but I learned from you that a good book can be read a hundred times and still make you laugh.

I taught you how to cross the road but I learned from you that sometimes you have to stop and marvel at the shape of the clouds first.

I taught you how to write but I learned from you that made up words can hold the most power.

I taught you how to tell the time but I learned from you how to spend time.

I taught you how to handle conflict but I learned from you the true nature of forgiveness.

I taught you how to do algebra but I learned from you how to be patient.

I taught you how to ride a bike but I learned from you how to conquer my fears.

I taught you how to be safe but I learned from you that sometimes you have to take risks.

I taught you how to use a computer but I learned from you that I will never know as much as you.

I taught you about the world but I learned from you about life.

 

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Written in response to the Daily Post Weekly Writing Challenge – Student, Teacher.

 

 

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A War of Expectations

War of Expectations

I expected to be there. After walking this long journey with him, how could I not?

They expected me to be here. Commitment required it.

A war of expectations. Meet the expectations of others or the one of my heart?

A choice seemingly easy. Except for my own expectations, born of a sense of obligation and of high standards for myself.

If not here, I risk failure, letting down others in the process.

If not there, I miss the culmination of a decades-long journey, a moment that will never come again.

A war of expectations.

The expectations of others wins out. Consideration of the needs of others outweighs the yearning of my own heart.

We may be slaves to expectation but so often the expectations of our heart are not the ones we serve.

A war of expectations.

May my heart find peace one day.

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(Congratulations to my brother-in-law who today was ordained as a Minister of the Word after a long and difficult journey. Wish so much I could have been there but the show must go on.)

Written in response to events that timed with the Daily Post Weekly Writing Challenge – Great Expectations.

 

 

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