Saturday, October 31, 2009

Knowledge November - Day One

As longer-term readers might recall, last year I had an Appreciative August, in which I blogged every single day about things I was truly grateful for. Fellow blogger Franzy was inspired (at least, that's my interpretation of it) to start up his own monthly blog theme, but had the wisdom to designate it Single Sentence September which he's done two years in a row now. This year, I've selected November. It's my birth month and often a time I reflect on what I've learned int the past year as I (increasingly) eye another birthday number with equal parts concern and relish.

Knowledge November will see me trying to write on this blog every single day about things I've learned, noticed or realised during my own participation in the hardest event of all - life.

Thousands upon thousands of other bloggers are throwing themselves into NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month in which the goal is to either write an entire novel or at least 60,000 words by the end of the month. The challenge is a mighty one and therefore it's understandable how a lot of blokes - or brave Frida Kahlos - are instead opting for Movember in order to grow a soup-strainer above their top lip for charity with the option of a shave on the 1st of December.
For me it'll be knowledge. Some silly, some wise, some sad, some profound. Or just some.

Today - the very first day of Knowledge November I want to share with you something deeply personal and troubling.

Being a middle child (yes, that could be a separate blog page entirely) and the only girl meant that I used to feel (or liked to imagine, in my more dramatic moments) that I was just the 'spare' kid in the family. Jan Brady was my soul mate; albeit ten years older, many thousands richer and a hemisphere apart.

To me it seemed like Mum and Dad had made a huge fuss about Robert's arrival because he was first and his album was bulging with photographs, christening cards and notations about every aspect of his growth.

Little David's arrival was a huge event because he was the last child. And sickly. And was returned to the hospital for a week because he screamed and made Dad decide to undergo a vasectomy as soon as he could find an available doctor.

The few photos in my baby album - and the fact that my family continually reminded me that my nickname of 'Bubble' was due to resembling a fat SANFL footy player and because I was a chunky-wunky boombah who apparently liked to ride around and around the house on hot summer nights with a bucket on my head whilst the family enjoyed their dinner peacefully inside - reinforced this view.

The other day I saw a two year old girl with her family. She, like me was the middle child with her brother of around four years old was perched upon his father's shoulders and a newborn was sleeping in the pram. My Mum was with me, spending the day in the city before she and Dad flew out to New Zealand for a Grey Nomad experience over the Tasman.

I looked again and saw what they'd done to their precious little girl and clutched Mum's arm. "Oh that's terrible - she's not a wild dog!"

Mum looked down at the ground, showing an uncharacteristic blush of embarrassment. Over a cacophanous shopping centre cappuccino she unburdened herself of something she'd kept from me for nearly 39 long years.

The knowledge I have to impart is darker than being left outside playing with a bucket on my head: much worse. Are you ready? Really ready? Here goes....

I was the only child of the three of us that they put in a harness.

A harness.....! Those awfully humiliating bridles that evil parents make their toddlers wear so that they can't go anywhere fun or further than a metre from the torturer holding the reins who then yanks them back to joyless servitude and submission. Ropes and pulleys disguised in bright materials but never able to hide the fact that they were designed by child-hating Dickensians and still elicit gasps of horror when spotted in public places such as the shops or agricultural shows today.

Dad tried to soften the blow when I rang him, full of accusations, questions and tears.
"You always had a crazy look in your eye and we never knew just when you were going to dash out across the street or shoot around the corner."

Yeah but I was two years old....! Robert was the one who used to ram his head against the asbestos wall when he threw tantrums and David picked white snail shells off the brush fence and crunched on them like cheezels, so how was I any crazier?

I could hear his sigh over the phone line. "Look, we did the best we could do in limited circumstances. It was either that or club you into unconsciousness."

Oh. Maybe it was the best of two options then.


drb said...

Was the 2 year-old girl you saw wearing a harness?

I would use a child/pram harness in crowded places (shopping mall, train stations) - better than losing the kid to all these pedophiles larking around and sloping platform and hearing stories about cruel teenagers stoning babies to death!!

Were you wearing harness around the time when the 3 kids went missing at the Glenelg beach and were never found?

Helen said...

Apparently I had a harness when i was little too - didn't stop me running off at any opportunity though!

ashleigh said...

The thing that brings terror to a parents heart is to watch their 2 or 3 year old running full pelt toward a busy road full of traffic.

We didn't ever use a harness but had a few nasty moments when it was contemplated. We knew other parents who had so many near misses that the harness was the only sensible solution.

Amazing how those kids grow up to be pretty normal :)

Louise Bowers said...

The harness makes perfect sense. You can tie them up outside the shop and they won't run away.

River said...

Hey! I'm also a middle kid! Well, I was until my mum had a baby when I was 10, but she wasn't living at home then, so, whatever. Anyway as a middle I was also left to my self a lot, with my older sister being born retarded and my younger brother being epileptic, they both required more attention than me, so I was the "good" one, always being quiet and staying out of the way.

Plastic Mancunian said...

G'Day Kath,

I am the eldest of three kids and it seems that the same pattern emerges.

I have two younger sisters and the eldest of the two used to be a complete rebel. She fought for attention and got it. She has the strongest personality of the three of us and, boy, does she tell me what she thinks of me.

She hasn't discovered my blog - yet - but when she does (and she will) I can expect some pretty unsubtle comments about what she thinks.




Kath Lockett said...

DrB, you're right, I know. I guess I was a bit surprised that it was ME - sensible, quiet-as-a-tiny-baby, ME who needed one! :)

Maybe we should start a club, Helen?

Ashleigh you're right too - I found the idea of me needing one kind of hilarious, sad and a bit humiliating - story of my life really!

Exactly, Lorna. If we do it to dogs, why not toddlers....

River you have had such an interesting life, I can't imagine what it must have been like for you and your parents. In comparison, my being the middle child just meant that I had two annoying brothers either side of me!

I was never a rebel, Plastic Mancunian. Actually, maybe I am now - at the ripe of old age of turning 41 tomorrow - in that I don't care what people think of me and will chat to strangers on trams.....

drb said...

Actually come to think of it, I actually did see more girls wearing harness than boys.
I think it si because of the notion that girls are more of a target for pedophiles than boys.

Lilize said...

i've always thought harnesses were despicable things to put on a child. i remember when i first saw a kid in one, in London back in '92 or so at the Disney store. I was horrified.

there is no excuse for that. if you're afraid to lose your child, keep a close eye on them, and that's that. if you can't manage that, then maybe you shouldn't have had a child in the first place. that's to whoever thinks is ok to put a harness on a kid.

I am the youngest of 3, my brother is the middle child and actually he's the one with the most pics... both my sister and I have 1 childhood album, my brother has 2 or 3 lol.

Rowe said...

gotta say i agree with drb about the safety factor. May seem cruel, but better than losing a kid to a creep. My daughter runs off and far quite quicky, quite often. I have thought about getting a harness.

Baino said...

Hahaa . . .looking at those photos you look like you'd run at anything! Never mind poppet, at least you weren't put onto one of those 'springy' coiled leads that I see toddlers enduring. Gives them just enough freedom to have hope before they boing back to their parent's sides!