Help! My Bubble Wrap Kid Just turned 40

by Kerry Cue

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‘My eldest daughter is 32 this year. So this is the one raised in the early 80s when Penelope Leach was the guru. Anyway, excuse me!

Bloody Penelope Leach where you had to be breast-feeding continually and everything was baby centered and child focused and you always had to stimulate the baby and raise their self-esteem.’

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     ………………………..Virginia, NSW, RN, Life Matters, ABC Talkback,28 MAR 2014

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Does Helicopter Parenting Harm Kids?

your-baby-and-child Penelope LeachOnce parents felt their role was to feed and clothe their children and wash behind their ears (for some reason). In the 1970s, however, a Parenting Revolution emerged. Suddenly, every stage of a child’s development (when they goo, poo, smile, sit, etc) demanded parental supervision and emotional support. The new era of Helicopter Parenting had begun. UK psychologist, Penelope Leach, was a flag bearer of this revolution.

Her book, Your Baby and Child: From Birth to Age Five (1977), became the child-rearing bible for many parents, myself included. She provided useful information about snivels and rashes, but constantly boosting a child’s self-esteem demands extreme vigilance. Children will fall over. They will come second in a race. They will get B in a test. So a parent had to stay vigilant and always cheer their child’s efforts (even the lamest pasta art effort).

Sibylesque Career Advice

Now it is time to ask: Does Helicopter Parenting Harm Kids? It can. In his book, How Not to Talk to Your Kids (2007), American journalist Po Bronson warned that constantly praising kids means ‘they never learn strategies to deal with failure’. Bubble Warp kids can become ‘risk adverse’ simply because they can’t deal with the emotional impact of failing.

We, Sibyls, were the first, if fairly moderate, Helicopter Parents. Our children are now adults so we can comment on some of the long-term outcomes as we observe the first ‘Bubble Wrap kids’ as they turn 40.

Bubble Wrap kids never have to share, never have to wait and never hear the word ‘No’. What would that look like when those kids are 40 years old. Ugly! Very ugly. Who would want to live with a Me-centric 40 year old who won’t share, wait, doesn’t take ‘No’ for an answer yet also needs constant emotional support? This isn’t just narcissism, it is needy, clingy narcissism. They will suck the emotional life out of any partner or mother (See Why are Feminist Daughters Angry with their Mothers.)

And one more thing. Will Bubble Wrap kids want to have children of their own? Maybe not. Firstly, children raised Helicopter-style have seen their parents hovering first hand. It looks like hard work.

And, secondly, having children involves risk. For ‘Bubble Wrap Kids’ the idea is terrifying. What if something goes wrong? What if the child is hideous? What if I can’t handle being a parent? Why do it? Having children is way, way too risky!

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Kerry Cue is a humorist, journalist, mathematician, and author. You can find more of her writing on her blog. Her latest book is a crime novel, Target 91, Penmore Press, Tucson, AZ (2019).

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Why you should avoid geriatric talk

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I’m not senile… If I burn the house down it will be on purpose.dark red quote 2

…………………………………..Margaret Attwood, The Blind Assassin

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Age makes weary, but words condemn.

senior hippies wrinkleOld age creeps up on us all, but we can stay lively all our lives. Old Age, however, has had a long history of bad press. As a consequence, it is very easy to develop a ‘geriatric’ mindset and start using geriatric language. This is how it works. One day, without realising it, you say ‘I had a fall’ rather than ‘I fell over’, ‘I had a funny turn’ instead of ‘I felt dizzy’ and ‘My mind is going’ or ‘I can’t remember a thing’ in stead of ‘I forgot’.

This is important. Research shows that immersing yourself in ‘debilitating’ language slows you  down. Scientists have actually measured the walking pace of subjects. Young and old. The reverse is also true. Using ‘energetic’ language will speed you up.

What more can I say? Go wild. It’ll do you some good.

Reference: How to Age, Anne Karpf,  The School of Life (2014), p48

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Why are feminist daughters angry with their mothers?

by Kerry Cue

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dark red quote 1We’ve given those girls everything.

We’ve raised them to be feminists.

And they turn around and they hate their mothers.
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     ……………………………………Virginia, NSW, RN, Life Matters, ABC Talkback,28 MAR 2014

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Is this a new syndrome?

When this talkback segment came on the radio I nearly ran the car off the road. This was brutally honest comment, talkback radio at its best. I had to stop the car and listen. Here is Virginia, NSW, again:

‘My daughter is 32 this year …. Anyway, that generation of girls … all highly educated, all got degrees, very career driven young women … but I’ve noticed there is a real syndrome among my friends … I’m now 60 …those girls … are very critical and, I would say in some cases, downright abusive of their mothers. … We talk about it among ourselves and it’s horrible. Virginia, NSW, RN, Life Matters, ABC Talkback,28 MAR 2014

Sibylesque Mummy said 3What’s going on? Surely feminist daughters are independent, self-determining young women, who do not depend on their mothers. Or, could it be that Helicopter Parents – across the parenting spectrum from mild hoverer to tyrannical Tiger Mum – have created needy offspring? Helicopter parenting began in the 1970s when Penelope Leach and other child-rearing gurus urged parents to build their children’s self-esteem. Parent’s had to be hyper-vigilant in case their child missed out on an A, or an invitation to a party, or being picked for a sports team to make sure their child’s self-esteem didn’t collapse like a house of cards.

Mea Culpa. Many parents from the 1970s on are guilty to some degree of fretting over their child’s self-esteem. But this brings about another problem: EMOTIONAL DEPENDENCE. In her article, The Ties that Unwind (The Weekend Australian Magazine, 1 Mar 2014),

babies-and-their-mothersKate Legge explored the different expectations children have of parents across the generations. There has been a generational shift. People aged 60+, says Kate, grew up believing that children should be fed, clothed and schooled (and, therefore, loyal to the family.) Whereas younger adults between 30 and 50 want and often demand EMOTIONAL SUPPORT and if the parents are not forthcoming they will go elsewhere – to friends or therapists – to get it.

This is the Catch 22 of modern parenting. Children, obviously, need emotional support. (There. There. Did the big, bad thunder frighten you?) But children also have to mature into independent young adults. (Yeah! Life’s a bitch. Suck it up, Princess.) In his article on Slate.com, Teen Spirit: Helicopter parenting has crippled American teenagers: Here’s how to fix it, American psychologist, Dan Griffin, calls this parental role change as moving from the more cheerful, obviously, Cheerleader to tougher Coach. But how do parents get this move right?

Could the angry daughter syndrome be related to the feminist mantra: You can be anything you want to be. You can have it all? Mothers, teachers and career advisers wanted each girl to realise her full potential. This mantra was delivered with enthusiasm and the best intentions in the early days of feminism. (Have a look at Australian Content Magazine For Women Who Want It All)

the-tibertine-sibylThis is fine talk for a cheerleader, but as a tough coach, the possibilities are unintentionally overstated. A girl cannot be anything or everything she wants to be. She cannot become an A-grade tennis playing, ballerina, plumber, film-star-lawyer princess-bride, for instance. Maybe, just maybe, these daughters are angry with their mothers because ‘mum’ promised them the world and the world hasn’t delivered. Besides, mum is meant to fix everything, isn’t she? As paediatrician Donald Winnicott wrote in 1953, the Good Enough Mother must fail, eventually, to fulfill her child’s every need. Yep! That sounds about right. Suck it up, princess.

Then again, as the first batch of feminist daughters of stay-at-home mothers, we were often outlandishly critical of them too. And so the wheel turns.

Dance photo:Alice Murdoch Adams dance school in Calgary  from the chronicallyvintage blog

Kerry Cue is a humorist, journalist, mathematician, and author. You can find more of her writing on her blog. Her latest book is a crime novel, Target 91, Penmore Press, Tucson, AZ (2019).

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I’m not senile … if I burn the house down it will be on purpose!

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I’m not senile… If I burn the house down it will be on purpose.dark red quote 2

…………………………………..Margaret Attwood, The Blind Assassin

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Age makes weary, but words condemn.

senior hippies wrinkleOld age creeps up on us all, but we can stay lively all our lives. Old Age, however, has had a long history of bad press. As a consequence, it is very easy to develop a ‘geriatric’ mindset and start using geriatric language. This is how it works. One day, without realising it, you say ‘I had a fall’ rather than ‘I fell over’, ‘I had a funny turn’ instead of ‘I felt dizzy’ and ‘My mind is going’ or ‘I can’t remember a thing’ in stead of ‘I forgot’.

This is important. Research shows that immersing yourself in ‘debilitating’ language slows you  down. Scientists have actually measured the walking pace of subjects. Young and old. The reverse is also true. Using ‘energetic’ language will speed you up.

What more can I say? Go wild. It’ll do you some good.

Reference: How to Age, Anne Karpf,  The School of Life (2014), p48

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Fall Down 7 times. Get Up 8. Do the Hokey Pokey …

by The Sibyls

Midlife  can  involve many  stresses  including  career  demands,  difficult  teenage children, divorce,  lack of time,  lack of fitness,  parents’   failing  health  and  money  worries  with no simple solutions in sight. But one of the BIGGEST issues of midlife is accepting that you are not always in control. Unexpected things can happen to you despite the best plans.

An article by Tara Parker-Pope in The New York Times this week (How to Build Resilience in Midlife) gives some pointers that could equally apply at any age.

Life, or so it seems, was simple once. Now it is so complex.
Here are some of the ways to build resilience:

  • Practise Optimism
  • Rewrite Your Story
  • Don’t Personalise It
  • Remember Your Comebacks
  • Support Others
  • Take Stress Breaks
  • Go Out of Your Comfort Zone

We, the Sibyls, would add:

  • Seek joy

Joy will not just arrive on your doorstep. You have to seek it. Find out what makes you happy and what makes you laugh. Then do this everyday or, at least, when you can.

If you learn how to die, you’ll learn how to live

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BEING MORTAL: Medicine and What Matters in the End

By Atul Gawande 

Metropolitan Books/Henry Holt & Company, 2014.

Review by Kerry Cue

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Atul Gawande

The reason this book is so meaningful, so compelling and why it ranks as a rare must-read is because, in telling the story of how to die a good death, it slowly addresses an equally important question namely ‘how  are we to live a good and meaningful life?’

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Atul Gawande, surgeon and writer for The New Yorker, dreams of new ways of caring for the frail and old. He questions the bureaucratic nature of aged care institutions where the elderly are kept ‘safe’, but hardly ‘alive’. And he rails against the invasive, painful and ultimately futile medical procedures inflicted on the dying. Yet this book is no dry academic tome. Gawande tells the storxy of dying and death of his father, also a surgeon, from first discovering the tumor in the spinal column, through the family’s struggling with medical options – operate? His father might become a quadriplegic. Don’t operate, he may become a quadriplegic! – to his father’s final days.

There is one strong and clear message from this thoughtful exploration of the end stage. Patients could have good days even when dying. But to achieve this goal they must be asked, or think about, at least, ‘what are your greatest fears?’ and ‘what are your current goals?’ Simple questions but from the answers patients discover how they are to live in their final days and, eventually, die.

Gawande has managed to take the fear away from our modern, Western view of dying, which, in many aspects involves, an impersonal, sterile, ICU bed intubated with a tube down the throat and a total loss of control. Dying need not be like this. Gawande shows how the human spirit can flourish and life can be fully lived to the very end.

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Photo source: Unsourced book review blog, Tapestry held in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

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Welcome to The Chemo Ward

by Jules

Sibylesque Chemo Quote 2 As I walked into the chemo ward for the first time my heart sank. I was overwhelmed by the smell of medicines, and the sight of everyone tethered to their chairs by towering drip stands. I wondered how I’d manage 6 more months of this place.  It seemed like such a depressing sight. But immediately I sat in one of those ugly recliners I noticed people chatting, the nurses joking with them, someone offering sandwiches and drinks on a little tray.

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I felt an enormous mutual respect, and a complete sense of calm as my fellow chair people calmly as their ‘weed killer’ (as my partner refers to it) coursed through their veins. Gradually over the weeks I spoke to my neighbour – a different person each session. I met grandmas making books of family photos with their grandchildren, a man writing his memoirs with his grandson, another man who’d been coming in for chemo for 11 years after lymphoma with his lovely wife from Uzbekistan, all sorts of interesting people with all sorts of amazing life stories. I began to enjoy the atmosphere, if not the side effects that came on even as I chatted…

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 Various chemo buddies came with me from time to time- My friend Delores who has recently been through a leukemia journey insisted on coming, though I didn’t want her to have to go back into the chemo zone. My wonderful sisters came to stay and we worked on various knitting projects and crosswords together. One woman said to me, after we’d exchanged pleasantries, ‘If I get run over by a bus tomorrow after all this I’ll be furious!’ My sentiments exactly! And we laughed together. 

By my last session I felt quite at home there. It’s not the place, it’s the people in it that make the difference. Everyone has a great story to tell. And they are all battlers, battling to stay alive, just like me. The TV drones on in the background, ironically telling stories of war zones and people wanting to kill each other as we are fighting the battle to just stay alive.

Jules’ other insightful post, Chemo Journal I, can be found here.

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Jules is a perceptive observer and an irrepressible positive force as well as director and publisher for the Neuro Orthopaedic Institute, Adelaide, SA. 

 

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Chemo Journal I

by Sibyl Jules

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How do you describe the old chemo trip which, incidentally, I finished 2 weeks ago after 6 months of 2 weekly cycles? This is only my experience- everyone has different sorts of chemo and some are much worse than others. My side effects were horrible on one drug, which I was spared after 4 cycles because of weird stuff happening. I never wanted to know what the side effects might be beforehand- then I’d only get them! A useful tip shared by an oncology nurse friend was to keep the literature they gave me as a reference if something did feel unusual or bad, and just read it as you need to. This helped me avoid worrying about things that might happen and to respond appropriately to them if they did.

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I can’t say chemo was easy, but when I meet with any of my ‘cancer club’ as my partner calls them, he always comments how happy we all are. We are, after all, alive, and eating, drinking (albeit a modified beverage of choice) and laughing with friends. I think that the last 6 months of chemo has taught me to enjoy and savour every tiny joy- cooking and sharing food and wine with good friends and family has always been an important part of our lives- so when chemo flattens me for a week, being able to eat and drink and meet friends again- or go to WOMAD, the happiest 4 days of the year as I know it- gives me much to be happy about. Every tiny joy helps…Look for them- they make you feel safe and help to stave off the anxiety and fear.

Sibylesque Apparition of the Visage of Aphrodite of Cnidos in a Landscape, 1981

Oddly, chemo has also reminded me how much I love my work. I’ve been able to work two or three days a week, throughout chemo. I found that focusing on thinking and working, surrounded by busy people doing interesting things has helped me to avoid the pitfalls of the ‘poor-me-illness-behaviour mode’, which I might be prone to without the focus! I’m lucky I can choose when I go to work and if I feel too bad I crash and burn, but usually I get some days in each week. I’m also fortunate I love my work. And having a supportive and loving family and partner has helped too of course. I’ve loved having old friends call up out of the blue, and have been overwhelmed by the incredible generosity and thoughtfulness of people around me. Totally unexpected and humbling.

On grumbling about chemo prior to treatment starting, a surgeon reminded me that I am very lucky to be offered chemo- a treatment that may help keep me alive. For some things there is no such treatment and for that reason I knew I’d just have to go with it, knowing that every 2 weeks, just as I’m beginning to feel a bit ‘normal’ again, another bus will run me over.

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 Picture 1Jules is a perceptive observer and an irrepressible, positive force as well as director and publisher for the Neuro Orthopaedic Institute, Adelaide, SA. And here is the Chemo Fashionista post of the fabulous Jules at WOMAD, Adelaide.

Why We Cannot Imagine Ourselves in Old Age

by Kerry Cue

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One thing that Diski (Restricted link: The Screaming Gynaecologist, London Review of Books, 4 Dec 2014) had not anticipated was sudden death. As we age we fear debilitation. We also fear having to – even if willingly – look after a severely debilitated partner. Diski is in her late sixties and has a tumour in her lung. After bouts of chemo the results are uncertain. The tumour was no bigger … nor had it shrunk in size. She had to adjust to living with not only a tumour, but uncertainty. Death hovered a little over 12 months away. Maybe extra time was bought with chemo.

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Suddenly, she was confronted with juggling fact and speculation, certainty and uncertainty. How does anyone do this? Diski offers no solution. But her situation is extreme. Her certainty is clear. She has a terminal cancer. Her uncertainty is extreme for she found herself tumbling back to the lacerating uncertainties of her youth. At 12 she’d been placed in one foster home after another following her mother’s catatonic breakdown. She never knew the rules of each new household. Is it OK, for instance, to go to the toilet during the night? She learned to make herself ‘invisible and inaudible’. When Diski was 15 years of age author Doris Lessing became her guardian. This brought it’s own complications.

We can all learn from Diski’s thoughtful piece. We cannot anticipate the troubles of old age. In Diski’s own words:

‘I will continue to live with uncertainty and my inability to do anything about it, the condition I’ve been trying to wriggle away from all my life.’

And so say all of us.

Photo: unsourced

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Train your brain to ease PAIN

by Kerry Cue

Sibylesque  Pain Quote

The Brain's Way of HealingNorman Doidge, the author of The Brain that Changes Itself has a new book The Brain’s Way of Healing out this week (Scribe). An extract titled Brain Heal My Pain was published in The Australian, 31 Jan 2015, (paywall link) here.

You can find another extract at The Daily Mail (UK)

The extract tells the story of Michael Moskowitz, a psychiatrist turned pain specialist, who suffered from chronic pain for 13 years following a serious accident when he fell off a blow-up ring being towed by a speedboat. His pain was 8 out of 10 on the pain scale (10 is being dropped into boiling oil).

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Moskowowitz began to realise that the areas that process memories, thoughts, movements, emotions and images had been pirated to process pain. He drew 2 maps of the brain one for chronic pain and one with no pain and he visualised the area dedicated to pain in the brain shrinking. He believed that he could reclaim the ‘visual areas’ of the brain where images are processed by forcing it to visualise images of the brain.

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He was applying the theory of brain plasticity first brought to public attention by Norma Doidge. After one year of persistent visualisation, he was pain free.

There, at the bottom of Pandora’s Box is one word. HOPE. Something we should all visualise, perhaps.

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Photo Source: From Geurnica by Picasso  representing the pain caused by the bombing of Geurnica by the Germans in 1937.

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