Sunday, 13 October 2013

Senna and Me

I have a story. A brush with fame. A tale that my family and I delight in every now and then. Like the other night over dinner at my mum's.

Once upon a time, Adelaide hosted the Australian Formula One Grand Prix.

The year is 1986 and it's my second year in the pits. My mum had befriended the international Mercedes head the year before and with that friendship came many benefits during grand prix week including pit passes for the whole race.

This is during the era that young Brazilian, Ayrton Senna was driving the black John Player Special car - back when cigarette companies were sexy and allowed to sponsor everything. Mum's friend, Gerd, was incredibly close to Ayrton and, in fact, was possibly responsible for 'discovering' him. It's through him that I find myself visiting Ayrton in the pits before his races. I'm young, so I don't really get it all and it's car racing so I can't say that I'm too impressed, given that I'm years away from my drivers licence. But Ayrton is lovely and kind and cute in a grown up kind of way.

The race ends on Sunday. There are parties and celebrations but not for me. I go to school on Monday and when I get home the phone rings and it's Ayrton Senna. Calling me. On my phone. At home.

He says 'hi' in his gorgeous accent and we chat while I sit at the dining room table, twirling the telephone cord around my finger. He's relieved that the race is over and is looking forward to a break over the next week. He tells me that he's planning on staying in Adelaide for a few days and wonders if I would take the time to show him around the city. Grown-up me knows he was asking me out. Grown-up me knows how incredible that moment was. Grown-up me is sickened at the memory of what happens next, because 14 year old me was an idiot.

"Sure!" I gush "Let me just ask Mum"

"Muuuummmmm! Ayrton's on the phone and he wants to stay in town for a few days and wants to know if I can show him around. Can I?"

And what, the fuck, do you reckon Mum said?

"No Tania. You have to go to school" Just like that. Did not even pause to think about it.

And do you think 14 year old me had the nouse to COVER THE MOUTHPIECE ON THE PHONE while this exchange went on?? Well do ya?? 

Nooooo. Because 14 year old me was an idiot.

I turn my attention back to Ayrton to tell him that I wasn't allowed to go. And he asks, as charming as can be "How old are you Tania?"

And you know what I said, don't you? I told him. And then he said thanks and it was lovely talking to me and he hopes to see me some other time in the pits and though I do see him many times, he never called me again.

I was almost famous.

The End.

Thursday, 3 October 2013

I've made my decision

My day started off with my youngest on my bed, crying. With heaving sobs and snot. Begging me to allow him to have his Nerf gun present that has been denied him since he was given it over a year ago. I'm NOT a morning person and after working late last night did not have the constitution for that battle but have you noticed that none of that really matters when you're a mum? 

So as he screamed the sleep away my husband, who was getting ready for work [a little too eagerly I might add] did something never done before. He asked our son to leave the room and closed the bedroom door. 

"Tan, I think we should let him have the gun. Pete [his brother] and I grew up with spud guns and cap guns. Sometimes we played with them but not always. They didn't shape us into violent men. The more we say no to him, the more obsessed he's going to be. Why don't we let him have it and just be very clear about our boundaries?"

And just like that, I felt the pressure lift. 

I have struggled with this decision ever since Stefan ramped up his campaign for the toy. It's one of the things I find most challenging about parenting. Having to make decisions with and for my family that do not always completely align with my own values. It's been a hard lesson for me to accept that and, actually, I probably haven't really yet. Because I have always parented full-time, while Mark works, I have made the majority of the day-to-day parenting decisions. Being a 'bit of' a control freak, I like it that way. But this week has been difficult for me and today I am grateful to share that decision.

So today, with my husband's full support - I succumbed.

We called Stefan back into the room and explained that he can have the gun and these are the rules:

  • No shooting, aiming or pointing at anyone.
  • No shooting, aiming or pointing at any animal.
  • No shooting in the house.
  • Share with your brother.
  • No playing with it when we have friends come to play.

He agreed to all of them and repeated them back with a tear-streaked face that positively beamed.

Then he and his and brother set up a target outside and started shooting. The whole activity lasted 20 minutes and the gun has lay discarded on the kitchen table ever since they put it down to play basketball and look at their animal card collection.

And suddenly, I feel a bit foolish.

PS - I also want to say, you helped me through this process too. When I put this out there and asked for advice, I was so grateful and touched that you took the time to share your opinion and experience. I took on board all your wisdom about intent and values and gut feelings and boundaries and resistance. And I'm so impressed at what wonderful, insightful readers I have in my little online community! 

Thank you :)

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Boys and Guns

I’ve been locked in battle with my youngest for weeks. It’s passionate and exasperating and, just like him, unrelenting. We’re fighting over guns. 

This gun in particular...

On his 5th birthday he was given it as a present from a well-meaning friend. I watched his face explode with delight. 


He has been attracted to them from an incredibly young age, which has at various times both fascinated and confused me. We have an almost unspoken ‘no gun’ rule in this house. I never bought my boys guns, despite my youngest's imploring. We’ve had super soakers in the pool but no toy guns. My eldest has never really cared for them. Could not care less if he never uses one [though, thanks to being invited to some birthday parties recently has developed quite the interest in laser skirmish]. But my youngest has always been into them. He fashions guns out of playdough and toilet rolls and cricket bats and sticks found on the ground. It’s a fun game of make-believe to him that he must have seen SOMEWHERE. Maybe tv. Maybe through friends at play. Whatever, wherever – the boy covets the gun.

When he received the gift, my heart skipped a little. I was polite to the giver but swiftly put the unopened box away reminding my rapt 5 year old boy that ‘Mummy doesn’t like him to play with guns’. It did not go down well and though it has sat high up on the cupboard in the guest room ever since, he has not forgotten about that gun. 

And today he came out in full-force and threw everything he had at me. Tears. Screaming. Stamping feet. Storming out. Threats to climb up and get it. Declarations of unfairness. Promises to not point it at any people. Throaty, heart-felt pledges to only use it with a target. Begging. And the big question.


And to be honest, between you and me, I’m not really sure anymore. Is it really, that big a deal for him to play with a gun? He’s kind and loving and sensitive. His 3 year old cousin will reduce him to tears because he won’t even defend himself against him. He is not, by nature, an aggressive or mean child. But he loves playing with guns and I wonder... can they ever just be a toy? Can playing with guns ever just be about fun?

We went to the Royal Show last month and he won this big dog. 

He won it in a shooting game. The gun was a water pistol, aimed at a target which inflated a balloon but it was a gun. Am I being a hypocrite by allowing him to play that but not allowing him to play with a nerf gun that half the kids in his class have? Am I playing double standards when I let my eldest attend laser skirmish parties [where they shoot EACH OTHER] but not let my youngest shoot a foam dart at a target?

Where is the line and have I already crossed it?