The need to breathe: The hidden impact of police brutality.

On Monday George Floyd lay on the ground with the knee of a police officer pressed down upon his neck. In pain and fearing for his life, he states “I can’t breathe”. Moments later he lay motionless. Not long after he is pronounced dead.

Although George Floyd was clearly the ultimate victim of this horrendous crime, the issue goes far beyond this one incident. It even goes beyond the problem of black men dying at the hands of police. This atrocity and numerous others like it are not just crimes against individuals. They are crimes against every black man, woman and child in the US.

Because it’s not just a knee in the back of the neck that can lead one to suffocate. It is also suffocating to live a life in fear of this brutality. Fear of jogging, fear of reaching into your pocket, fear of being pulled over in your car, or even the fear of what can happen sitting in the comfort of your own home. Fear of basic things that most of us wouldn’t even think twice about. Things that can and often do lead to death if you’re an African American in the United States.

And so they riot. They riot because they are tired of not being able to breathe unstifled. They are tired of having to prove themselves. To prove that they are not violent. To prove that they are decent. To prove that they are deserving of basic humanity.

They are tired of living in fear. Fear that they will make one wrong move, say one wrong word. Tired of the constant state of alertness they need to sustain. Tired of the fear that one day their sons won’t come home.

They riot because despite raising their voices, despite showing the world the injustice they face, this is the only approach they have left. They riot because despite speaking loudly and convincingly they continue to be unheard. They riot because nothing has changed, the deaths still occur and people still continue to defend the indefensible.

While I may not agree with their actions it is not difficult to understand why they have resorted to this. I understand why, after trying to use the proper channels time and time again, they now feel they have no choice but to take this route.

They have as much right to live a peacefully as any of us, to live a life without the constant worries and fears. They have the right to be treated with dignity and respect. They have the right to not have to worry about the looming threat of harassment and brutality. They have the right of the most basic of human needs: to breathe.

Ten things to keep in mind while our children learn remotely

On the first official day of remote learning in Victoria I thought I’d share some tips and things that I have learnt over the past few years homeschooling.

1) Remote learning is not the same for everybody. For some, it is a learning pack with little support from school. For some, it is online classes that follow a timetable and the biggest change is that class is conducted online. There are also many variations in between. It is important not to compare yourself to others during this time. Different schools have different demands on parents. Also, as parents, we have different circumstances, different responsibilities, and different children. Some parents work, some parents have more children, some parents have children who put an unusual amount of effort trying to avoid work. Just do your best, make dua, and don’t worry if your best looks different to somebody else’s.

2) Routine is key. Try to start school work at the same time every day and have consistent breaks, you can use recess and lunch for familiarity. Some have suggested packing a lunchbox. Make a basic timetable even if not required from school, it gives your child some direction and lets them know what to expect. Having said that don’t feel you have to stick to it 100%. Do not be afraid to be flexible, if something comes up, or if your child is struggling to focus, send them outside or let them read for 5-10 mins then come back. There is nothing wrong with a bit of flexibility as long as you don’t let them take it too far.

3) Don’t be surprised if your child does not take to learning at home and everything seems like a big battle. It is not unusual to take up to a month for your child to get into a good routine and stop fighting it, this is just how some children are and it is not a reflection on you. It is often the case with children who regularly push boundaries. It is also more likely when children have used devices regularly (which let’s face it, with the amount of time our kids have been spending indoors lately is quite common nowadays). Try to be patient and consistent. Avoid getting frustrated at your child or allow negativity and stress into a situation that is already negative and stressful. Choose your battles and if you are not initially happy with the amount of work completed aim to build up over time.

4) Focus on literacy and numeracy as these are the most important areas. As long as your child can read and comprehend at the expected level it is not difficult to catch up on other subject areas, but literacy and numeracy will require a much greater effort if a student falls behind. So if you are unable to complete the work assigned for an entire day prioritise these areas.

5) Now that you are home educating you have more flexibility to complete things outside of school hours. If there is unfinished work, you can do it in the evenings as ‘homework’. You can even do it on the weekends. There is nothing to say it needs to be completed between 8:30am and 3:30 pm (unless of course your child is doing live classes online). Bottom line is you are no longer constrained by school hours, so do what works for your child and your family.

6) Make a ‘no devices for anything other than schooling’ rule for school hours. If you allow them to play the odd game here or there during their breaks trust me, it will not end. Then anytime you are busy with a chore or helping another child you will suddenly find them playing a game for “just one minute” which of course stretches out longer and longer. I don’t allow devices on ‘school days’ until all work is completed. If my son decides to drag his feet, I tell him that fine with me as I prefer him not to use devices anyhow. Having said that I do use my judgement. If I see he has made a genuine effort for most of the day, but something has taken longer than anticipated, or he had a stumbling block, I will make exceptions. For me, the effort is more important than the results.

7) Another idea is to let your child earn device time through other means. On top of the ‘no devices for anything other than schooling’ during school hours rule, I also make my son earn his device time (when I’m organised enough to follow this up which I admit isn’t as much as I’d like). This can be done through chores, reading, or any other activity you feel would be beneficial. I made a log to record this and some rules to go along which I am happy to share if anybody is interested.

8) Do what works to motivate your child. For some children this is a checklist, for others, it is a star char. You can invest in some stamps and stickers, young children love these! You know your child best, but feel free to experiment until you find something that works for your child. For my son, it was the timer. When he drags his feet and a simple task takes 10 times longer than it needs to, I simply use the timer on my phone and tell him I’m going to time and see how fast he can do the next problem/worksheet etc, All of a sudden he becomes super-efficient and the time-wasting disappears.

9) Be kind to yourself. Don’t forget to rest, sit down, put your feet up, have a cup of tea when you can. Do not expect your house to look like it does when they are at school, or even how it looks on the holidays. You have children around making mess and now that you are expected to help them with their schooling you have less time to do housework. Do not expect perfection.

10) Be kind to your child’s teacher. Just like the rest of us, they are trying their best in a situation that is stressful and very new to them. Just like us they are human and just like us they will probably make some mistakes along the way. Contact them if you are concerned or unsure about anything, but when doing so be aware that they are currently under an enormous amount of pressure, so as usual, be kind. And if you are happy with their efforts don’t be afraid to drop them a short email to let them know.

I hope some of you find this useful and let me know if you have any questions.

Perspective

While we sit at home during these uncertain times and reflect on how quickly our lives have changed, I hope that we also take a moment to consider those who also face uncertainty, but uncertainty of a different kind.

While we spend our uncertainty at home, trying to work out how to educate and entertain the kids, others spend their uncertainty in their homes, trying to work out how to distract their kids from the bombs that rain down upon them.

While we are forced to make decisions such as whether or not we should be relaxing our screen time restrictions, others are forced to make heart-wrenching decisions such as whether or not the family should sleep in one room….is it better to be all killed at once so that nobody has to live with the pain, or should they separate so that at least some of them survive?

While we worry about a possible disruption to our children’s education, others worry about the trauma of growing up in a warzone and the impact this will have on their children’s lives.

While we worry about running out of toilet paper and paper towel, others worry about running out of food.

While we panic when we see empty supermarket shelves for a couple of weeks, others face this for months or even years on end.  Not because some are hoarding and supermarkets can not keep up, but simply because there is not enough food to go around.  They watch their children get thinner and thinner.

While we worry about the possibility of spending the winter inside our solid homes with ducted heating and all the creature comforts we are accustomed to, others worry about spending the winter in flimsy tents that offer next to no protection against the elements.  They watch on as one by one other children die overnight from the freezing conditions and wonder if their child will be next.

While we worry about losing our homes due to not being able to pay mortgages,  others worry about losing their homes to bombs, along with their possessions inside of it, and possibly their entire families.

While we struggle today our brothers and sisters in humanity have been facing unimaginable struggles for years.  And while we rightfully stress the importance of being in this all together and helping one another out, our treatment of ‘others’ has not been so benevolent.  Over the past decade or so the Australian government has prided itself on its refusal to hold out a hand to those who are struggling, and our message has been loud and clear: do not bother coming here because we do not want to help anybody.  It shouldn’t take a disaster to recognise cruelty and harshness, but if anything positive comes from our current situation I hope it will be finding our humanity.

 

Preventing hurt: Are we harming or benefiting our children when we strive to avoid all pain?

The other day I was with my children at a local park.  It was a beautiful day and the park was unusually busy, the sound of children’s squeals and laughter could be heard all around.  It was then that I noticed the most adorable toddler nearby.  This toddler stood out as he had a balloon tied around his wrist and it was clear by the look on his face that he was absolutely delighted by it.  As he picked up his pace and the balloon flew through the air his toddler waddle became increasingly unstable.  And then the inevitable happened – he fell flat on his face.

Before he could even process what had happened his father immediately whisked him up, embraced him in his protective arms and comforted him.  The little boy, now realising that what had happened to him clearly must be a terrifying ordeal, was distraught.  He may have genuinely been afraid or hurt, but given the speed with which the father reacted, we can never really know.

Attempts to rescue children do not just occur with toddlers, they can be seen throughout all stages of children’s lives.  From completing homework when children start to find things challenging to dropping off lunch or homework at school and intervening in school issues, parents commonly try to safeguard their children from any difficulties.  They do so out of love and a desire to protect their children, but unfortunately, by doing so they deny their children the opportunity to experience natural consequences.

I get it, I really do.  It’s only natural for a parent to want to comfort and protect their child.  When they feel pain, you want to remove that pain.  When they are sad you want to comfort them.  You want to protect them and rescue them from everything life throws at them.  But is this really in their best interest?  In our quest to avert short term pain, are we preventing children from developing the very tools that they are required to deal with painful situations that will inevitably occur throughout life?  By constantly protecting and rescuing them, are we preventing them from gaining the skills and abilities they need to cope with such situations on their own?

How will children learn life lessons if we as parents shelter them from natural consequences?  How will they build resilience, if we do everything in our power to prevent them from ever being hurt?  When will they learn to understand that it is normal to experience ups and downs in life if we do not allow them to experience them as children?

I don’t have all the answers, in fact at various times I’ve done all of the above, and indeed sometimes it will be appropriate, sometimes we do need to intervene.  But often, when our toddlers fall over, we can casually say “oopsie daisy”, allow them to pick themselves up, brush themselves off, and continue to take those adorable unstable toddler steps.  They will look up, see us nearby, and know that if they truly need us we will be there for them. However, more often than not, they can navigate these small hurdles all on their own, and they will be better for it.

Profound words

When my oldest was five I overheard him utter some profound words. “Be what you want to be in your life,” he said.
I was so proud. Through these words, he demonstrated an understanding of things that were way beyond his years. I was pleased because this suggested a realisation that to be happy and successful in this world you needed to be true to yourself. I hoped that understanding this concept from such a young age would make it easier for him to resist the pressures that he would undoubtedly face throughout his life.
I then turned inwards and reflected on my own life. Had I succeeded in this? Am I what I want to be in my life? A million thoughts ran through my mind. How could I be more productive? There was so much I wanted to achieve, but I always seemed to have excuses. I was too busy…too tired…I didn’t enough energy…I had my hands full with the kids. These were all indeed true, but deep down I knew I could do better, deep down I knew I could accomplish more.
 
As I sat there with my new found determination to be more productive, I decided to get up to investigate and discover the context of my five-year-old’s wise words….
 
As it turned out, he was actually issuing some friendly advice on which character my husband should select in a computer game they were playing.
And just like that, I learnt another important life lesson: Overthinking can sometimes lead you to take yourself a little too seriously.

Planting the seeds of hatred: The radicalisation of the Christchurch shooter

The ideas of white supremacists are not new. The belief that whites are superior to others has existed since time immemorial.  What is new, however, is the prevailing climate we have today. An idea, like a seed, in order to grow, must be nurtured.  Then, and only then, will the holders of this idea be so brazen as to act on it.  Whether it’s in the attack of Muslim women on the streets or the callous slaughter of worshippers as their pray, it all begins with a tiny seed.

So how did we get here? How was this white Australian radicalised? What induced him to become a brutal terrorist? What emboldened him to act on his twisted ideology?

It was our leaders. It was John Howard, who cultivated the land by making it easy for us to hate after his fabrications that refugees and Muslims are the types of people who throw their children overboard into raging waters for some perceived benefit.  Who after sending our military to war based on false intelligence, went on to belittle his mistake, describing it as embarrassing and by doing so relegating the loss of hundreds of thousands of innocent lives as a small blunder.

It was Tony Abbott, who planted the seed when he declared that “all cultures are not equal”. Who thought that Australia should stop “tip-toeing’ around the religion and that ASIO needs to be “open and upfront” about the danger in Islam.  Abbott, who stated that there are massive problems with Islam, that it needs to be reformed and who had no qualms about publically proclaiming this.

It was Malcolm Turnbull, who irrigated it in his famous phone call to Trump, where he reassured him that 80% of the refugees in a prospective refugee swap would be Christian, as if non-Christians, namely Muslims, were sub-human and born with an innate tendency towards violence.  Turnball, who later stated in a national security address that “our success as a multicultural society is built on strong foundations, which include the confidence of the Australian people that their government and it alone, determines who comes to Australia.”

It was fertilised by Hanson who rebuilt her political career on the back of Islamophobia as she warned Australia that we are being “swamped by Muslims”.  Hanson, who referred to Islam a disease we need to vaccinate ourselves against, and demonising Muslims whenever given an opportunity to do so.

And lastly, it was further nourished by Morrison who in late 2010 urged the then shadow cabinet to capitalise on the public’s concerns about “Muslim immigration”.  Who late last year, felt impelled to call out “radical, violent, extremist Islam that opposes our very way of life” stating that the “greatest threat….to this country is the radical and dangerous ideology of extremist Islam” and further claiming that Muslims, and in particular Muslim leaders are not doing enough.

Is it really surprising then, that a sadistic individual would be spurred on to inflict as much damage as possible upon those who he was taught to hate?  Is it really that astonishing that this fertile ground would give rise to an opportunist to create a name for himself? Is it any wonder, with our history of arousing hatred and Islamophobia, that a ‘cute little blonde boy’ would grow up to be a monster?

Late last year our Prime Minister said “There is a special responsibility on …leaders to protect their…communities and to ensure that these dangerous teachings and ideologies do not take root here.  They must be proactive, they must be alert and they must call this out, in their communities and more broadly for what it is”.

It’s not often that I agree with Morrison, but this an exception. I agree with him one hundred per cent, we do have to call it out.  Morrison and some of his fellow politicians have created the climate that allowed these dangerous teachings and ideologies to take root here and all we see now is the fruit of their labour.

The best toilet training advice I ever received

My first attempt at toilet training was an absolute nightmare.  As a relatively new parent, I took everything I read a little too seriously and I was keen to wait for the perfect time to avoid the dreaded regression.  Going through all that hard work, succeeding, and then ending up where you first began was something that I wanted to avoid at all cost.  So I waited for the perfect time.

The problem was that the perfect time took a long time in presenting itself.  We were looking for a new rental to move into and for some reason it was taking an unusually long time.  I also was pregnant with #2 and was acutely aware that yes, a new baby also caused regression.  So by the time we found a house, moved in, had #2, and I felt human again over a year had gone past.  Suddenly my son was 3 and a half years old and very set in his ways.  Toilet training was the last thing he wanted to do and he fought it every step of the way.

A few months later I was with a group of mums who were discussing experiences with toilet training when I received some of the best advice I’d ever had.  My daughter was probably about 8 months at the time and she suggested that I start sitting her on the potty.  “Now?” I asked perplexed.  “Yes, just sit her on the potty when you change her nappy.”  I’m sure the confusion must have shown on my face, but after my first experience I was willing to try anything to make the process easier, so I did it.

The next day I dragged the potty out and was ready.  After removing her nappy and cleaning her up I sat my 8-month-old on the potty.  As expected nothing happened but I thought I’d persevere at least a few days.  The next change I did the same thing, removed her nappy and sat her down.  But this time something did happen, much to my surprise there was wee!!  Naturally, I was so elated! After all, there is nothing like toilet training to bring about a disturbing level of excitement for body waste.  I may have been a little over the top in my celebratory gestures, clapping and cheering like crazy but I wanted to make sure that my daughter knew how proud I was of her!  And she did, she was beaming; her little gummy smile as wide as can be, she was super proud of her achievement- we both were.

If I suspected that this could be a fluke, the next attempt proved otherwise – success again.  Over the next couple few days, she was weeing in the potty more often than not.  And it wasn’t before long before she also added #2’s to her repertoire.  I was over the moon!

What I most loved about this technique was that it was completely stress-free.  If she did something in the potty that was great, but if she didn’t that was also perfectly fine.  Because she was so young there was no pressure on either of us to progress, any improvement was a bonus.  She was able to slowly, at her own pace build up her control.

This was not an all or nothing endeavour, there was no need to do this at every nappy change.  When I was free and had the energy I would just take a few moments to sit her on the potty.  While there I would maybe tidy up a little for a minute or two before removing her and putting her nappy on.

When she was older and we were both ready, toilet training was considerably easier.  I won’t say it was it was a piece of cake, but because she already had control half the battle was already won.  The physical hurdle had been accomplished over time in a steady fashion, devoid of stress. Now all that was left to do was tackle the mental hurdle.

I have no doubt that over the years and through my journey of toilet training an additional four children that this advice has saved me countless hours of stress and frustration.  I am forever grateful for her simple words of wisdom.

 

 

 

 

When KonMari doesn’t spark joy: Five lessons learnt through decluttering with KonMari

KonMari and decluttering in general seems to be the latest fad.  Fueled by the current show on Netflix people are lining up to throw out their possessions.  There something oddly liberating about getting rid of things, perhaps only matched by the joy of purchasing them in the first place.  When we release this clutter, along with them we release years of frustration.  The frustration of not being able to find objects,  seemingly forever lost in a sea of clutter. The frustration of not knowing where and how to store excess goods, moving them in desperation from one place to another, unable to find them permanent homes.  And finally, but perhaps most significantly the frustration of not being able to keep our homes tidy.  In this way throwing things become therapeutic, and indeed makes us less anxious and stressed.

I first came across the KonMari three years ago. I had a clutter problem and wanted to use the extra time I had in the school holidays to tackle it. Through my attempts of using KonMari on and off for the past three years this is what I have discovered:

1) It’s not always wise to throw everything out that doesn’t spark joy:  My toilet brush, for example, doesn’t particularly spark joy, but it’s not something I necessarily want to let go of.  On a more serious note, even if we’re dealing with clothing, for example, I don’t recommend throwing out everything that doesn’t spark joy, at least not initially.  There are some things in my wardrobe that I don’t really love, but they do fulfil a function. If my budget had no limit I would consider replacing them, but even beyond money, it would also take valuable time to find something that fulfils that same function that I really love.  Truth be told, I’m so fussy that it’s possible that it does not even exist.  So I recommend that unless you have unlimited time and money, maybe hold onto those practical things, and consider replacing them when your circumstances permit or as you find a replacement that you love.

2) Take what she says about books with a grain of salt:  Marie Kondo recommends limiting yourself to 30 books. This one area that has been widely criticised recently and rightfully so.  Reading and books should be central to every home.  Ideally, children should grow up surrounded by books.  Being read to and seeing their parents reading is invaluable, as a former English teacher I can’t stress this enough!  Even just having books around for little ones to flip through and ‘read’ before they are able to, is something you can’t put a price on.  My oldest daughter, now an avid reader, at the age of three, carried approximately five books around the house with her at a time.  She would pile books up so high on her bedside table that I was afraid that they’d fall and crush her when she slept.  Was it annoying? Yes.  Did I love having books scattered throughout the house? Not at all.  But I was raising a reader, and that was more important to me than aesthetics, so I encouraged it and quietly placed piles of books on the floor beside her after she fell asleep.

If however, you have a ridiculous number of books, no children, and you don’t even read, then yes, its probably a good idea to get rid of most of them.  If you are not a book person, as I suspect is the case with Marie Kondo, then keep what serves a function, or what will fit in your bookshelf.  There is probably no need to keep your university textbooks from decades ago, or the highly outdated book on how to make a website.  Be realistic and practical; if you don’t love it, will never use it, ditch it.

3) The KonMari method of folding is not as great as it seems:  Don’t get me wrong, I do really like her folding.  But its not the magical solution she makes it out to be. Suffering from a severe lack of drawers I was unable to utilise this method for my own clothing, but I did trial it for two of my children.  While I loved it to begin with it was more time-consuming.  Furthermore, I found that when in a rush or one of the kids got something out of the drawer, it quickly got messed up and had to be tidied up fairly regularly.  This tidying process was also more difficult and time-consuming than usual.  So although it may work well for an adult, it does take a little longer and it needs some regular maintenance when it comes to children’s clothing.

4) Don’t feel the need to talk to your possessions:  In her book ‘The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up’, Marie Kondo suggests communicating with your possessions.  I can love some of my objects, I can appreciate them, but I’m not about to talk to them because somebody says I should.  It might work for some, but I’m just not a talking-to-things kind of person, and that’s ok, I don’t have to be.  As with everything in life, I adapt things to suit my personality.  I don’t believe in trying to be something that I’m not and I don’t believe it will make me more productive. On the contrary, I feel that it’s so much more difficult to do things when you are not being genuine, you’re much less likely to persevere.

5) Don’t insist on doing it all in one lot if you feel it’s not possible:  One of the first things I knew when I started reading Kon Mari’s book is that I wasn’t going to be able to do it in one go.  Despite being on holidays, I still had kids that I had to care for.  I had to feed them, deal with their toileting and break up fights.  I also had to do some basic housework (dishes, washing and general tidying).  With 7 members in my household at the time, just the clothing category in and of itself would take me a week.

I understand her reasoning for trying to do it in one go.  It’s a great idea to ride that initial wave of excitement, to put in the hard yards early on and then enjoy the fruits of your labour.   However, for me, this all or nothing mentality was damaging. It was damaging because from day dot it set me up as a failure.  This is not only the case for mothers, but anybody trying to fit in KonMari with a full-time job, or other major time constraints will face the same dilemma.

In a response to this problem some, such as members in this FaceBook group, have generally adhered to the KonMari method but developed a program that can be done over an extended period of time.  This is very useful for those of us who can not spare so much time in the initial decluttering phase or those who have an overwhelming amount of clutter.

Systems such as KonMari offer hope.  The hope of a beautiful home, full of only well-loved possessions.  The hope of greater productivity and organisation.  And the hope of a simpler and stress-free life. It does not have to be all or nothing, take what suits your values and lifestyle, and tweak it to suit your circumstances.

KonMari is not the first program I have attempted in my pursuit of organisation.  From Getting Things Done to FlyLady, I have tried a few different programs, but the promise they initially held never came to fruition.  Each system was useful in its own way, but none of them was the perfect fit for me.  They provided inspiration, motivation and the proverbial kick up the backside but little more.  They each included some good ideas, some I have adopted sporadically over the years, but I have yet to find a perfect system, particularly one that would work for everybody.

At the end of the day we all have completely different lifestyles and circumstances, it is not surprising that there is no method of organisation that is suited to everybody.  Is it really that remarkable that I, a homeschooler and mother of 6, will not find success in the same methods as, for example, a single executive?  Naturally, these things will be influenced by the amount of free time one has, their responsibilities and the resources they have available to them, just to name a few.  So instead of getting excited by one particular method, I think a far more useful approach is to ask yourself what you want to achieve, do some thorough research of various methods and techniques, trial different things and incorporate that which best suits both your personality and your circumstances.

 

 

 

Nigh terrors

She sleeps like an angel.  Her blond hair covering her face, her big blue eyes gently closed.  She is so tranquil and so very beautiful, far cry from the bundle of energy she is during the day. Watching her sleep warms my heart.

The peace is short lived.  It begins as a whimper. I hear it and a feeling of dread creeps into my heart.  Should I go comfort her?  Will she fall back asleep if I do?  Or will I just wake her more?  I hesitate for a moment, unsure what to do.  Then I realise that she is at the point of no return, she will not fall back asleep on her own.  I’m still unsure, deep down I know but I still pray it isn’t the case.  I go to her bed and she comes to me, but as soon as I wrap my arms around her I realise.

She is not soothed by my presence as she should be, on the contrary,  it excites her more.  She pushes me away, at first yelling, but slowly her voice rises to a scream…a piercing scream.  Her eyes are wide open, a look of horror on her face.  She looks startled and confused.  I don’t know what to do. The more I try to hold her the more afraid she becomes.  The more I try to understand her the more she pushes me away.  She stiffens her body, every muscle tensing up.  I can’t hold her, I can’t comfort her – I am powerless.

I sit there stroking her beautiful blond hair as she screams out “MUMMMYYYYY”, “NOOOOOOO”.  I want nothing more than to comfort her.  What is she so afraid of?  What is she saying “NOO” about?  What does she dream that is frightening her so?  She pushes me away again, I don’t know what to do.  Maybe I’m scaring her?  Maybe she’ll sleep better without me?  I get up….”NOOOOOOOOOOO” she pulls me in near to her again and tightly wraps her arms around my neck, only to push me away again.  I’m desperate to know what she wants, to know how I can help her, but from experience, I know that this is not possible.  All that is left is to try my best to comfort her.  I know it’s not good enough, but that’s all I can do.

Eventually, she wears herself out.  Her screams slowly quieten down till they are nothing more than a quiet moan, and then eventually nothing.  Every now and then she still lets out a sigh until she is fast asleep.  I lay there for a while, exhausted and relieved. Afraid to get up prematurely and squashed in her tiny bed.  Finally, I slowly remove her hands from me and when she does not move I know it is safe.  I quietly raise myself up and walk away, thankfully she is still asleep.  I look back, she is my beautiful angel again.

Many years ago my daughter was one of the 10-15% of children who suffers from night terrors.  This episode was played out in our home on a regular basis. Initially, I didn’t think much of it until as it wasn’t unusual for her to have periods of waking and distress throughout the night. It wasn’t till I mentioned it to my maternal child health nurse at the time that she casually said: “that would be a night terror”.  There is nothing casual about it!  It’s so horrible to see your child so scared and confused like that, especially when there is nothing you can do to make it better.

I had initially learnt about night terrors years earlier as a psychology student at university.  I had naively thought of it as something that happened to other people, to other people’s children – not to my baby.  Contrary to what every parent who faces this feels, night terrors are actually a normal part of the normal range of development of deep sleep patterns and apart from immediate distress they bring they are nothing to be concerned about.

Night terrors occur when children partially wake from a state of deep non-REM sleep.  During these episodes a child’s mind is asleep, but their body is awake.  Often, as was the case with my daughter, their eyes are open and they are talking (or more often the case screaming), leaving parents such as myself very confused.

Perhaps the most difficult part of witnessing these episodes is that there is very little that you can do as a parent.  Since the child is not awake any effort to comfort them should be gentle as waking them is counterproductive, often just confusing the child and aggravating the situation.  The best thing to do is to gently comfort the child, making sure that they are safe and not in danger of hurting themselves until the episode subsides, at which point they are likely to fall back into a deep sleep fairly quickly.

For the most part night terrors are just a phase that some children pass through and often there is nothing you can do about it.  But there are a couple of things that you can try.   Firstly, do your best to ensure that your child is sleeping enough.  Having a good bedtime routine and regular sleep times can help if this is an issue.  If this doesn’t work or if your child already sleeps well you can try ‘scheduled awakening’. Night terrors usually occur round about the same time every night, if you wake your child half an hour or so before it is due to occur, it may reset their sleep cycle, and by doing so hopefully avoid the night terror.

If these attempts do not help do not hesitate to seek further assistance from your doctor.  Especially if the night terrors are violent and you feel that your child may injure themselves, that the night terrors are happening frequently and significantly impacting on the families sleep, or if your child is very sleepy during the day.

It’s been over 10 years now since we last experienced night terrors, but once you’ve gone through it you never forget the feelings of powerlessness and helplessness in the face of their anguish. As with all phases it eventually passes and one day you wake up and breathe a sigh of relief with the realisation that night terrors are no longer a part of your life.   But the experience of being unable to comfort your child is one that rears its head time and time again, after all, life is full of hurt and disappointment.  Sometimes all you can do is gently hold them knowing that you can’t do or say anything that will make things better.  And as with night terrors, sometimes, despite all the will in the world to make things less painful, all you can do is be there for them and wait for them to feel better on their own.

 

 

 

Turning a blind eye to threats of violence: The problem with Facebook’s ‘community standards’

A couple of days ago suggestions of violence were made towards a Facebook friend. This included the address of this person’s workplace and a call for others to join him. The reply directly below this was an image of a gun being held to a figures head at point blank range, blood spluttering from the victim’s head. This post was reported on Facebook repeatedly, but all who reported received the same message. Apparently, it did not breach “community standards”.

According to Facebook’s so-called community standards, co-ordinating harm is not allowed. They “prohibit people from facilitating or coordinating future criminal activity that is intended or likely to cause harm to people”. Further, they claim to disallow “Statements of intent, calls to action or advocation for…..acts of physical harm committed against people”.

Despite this, time and time again we hear of breaches of these community standards. The most serious of these has been the use of Facebook to spread hate speech and incite violence against Rohingya Muslims. UN human rights experts investigating in Myanmar were even concerned about the role Facebook played in the genocide. Even after repeated warnings and promises to act, hate speech and calls to violence still remained, and possibly still do.

The question becomes if these call to arms are clearly prohibited, why is Facebook allowing them to occur? Why, even after being reported time and time again, do posts such as this remain? Why do clear breaches of their community standards go ignored? What is wrong with the system?

The best case scenario is that its incompetence. And as much as I’d like to believe this, given the regularity with which it occurs, I’d say this is highly doubtful. A more likely scenario is that Facebook’s community standards represent a very specific part of the community. It goes beyond the noble and just sentiments suggested in their policies, to a shameful code set by those who are happy to turn a blind eye to bigotry.  A code which empowers those who fear and seek to persecute those who are different from themselves. 

In short, their community standards represents the worst among us. How many people have to be harmed by their double standards before they adhere to the standards they claim to espouse?