Apr 29 2014

Allison

My sister Allison is dying. She is dying at the age of 40 in an aged care home, because the Queensland Government’s disability system is broken.

I always thought that we lived in a country where, no matter what went wrong – if I lost my health, house or job – there would always be a basic level of support; a net to catch me if I fell. I assumed that the systems we have in place, such as health care and disability services, were amongst the greatest successes of a modern democracy.

I was wrong.

My sister Allison is dying, and there is nothing I can do about it but write this letter.

Allison is disabled. She is 40 years old, and she has lived in an aged care home for the last two years. In that time, her neurologist has reported a deterioration in her condition which has nothing to do with the brain damage she suffered as a child. He says that it is at least in part because of the lack of stimulation in her environment.

I have watched my sister gradually lose the ability to move her hands, lift her head, stand and walk to the bathroom.

We have made noise. Youngcare, the national organisation working to get young people out of nursing homes, has advocated with us to the Queensland department of disability services. Our friends and family have written letters to the Minister. Madonna King wrote an editorial about Allison in the Courier Mail, which received over 200 email responses from people around the state, voicing their support and sharing their own stories of loved ones in situations like Allison’s.

My mother cared for Allison as long as she could. She is a war widow; my father was a veteran of the Vietnam and Malaysia conflicts who died of heart disease related to his service more than ten years ago. My family works in public service – teaching, nursing, caring professions. If we could look after Allison, then we would. But her needs require professional support.

So, naively, ignorantly, we looked to the system, the safety net, the social services which we have faithfully paid our taxes towards, the great success of modern democracy.

The system failed. There were literally no places for Allison in disability care. She went into aged care as they waited for someone to die in a disability home and free up a space.

Three months ago we heard that there might be an opening for Allison in a disability home equipped to care for her. But she is still in her aged care home because there are not enough carers at the centre to look after her.

Whilst we have waited, winter has approached, and Allison has contracted pneumonia twice in two weeks because she is so immobile – and that is because she is left in bed or in her chair, with no stimulation.

It is not the aged care workers’ fault. They do their best. But my sister needs to be in a disability home, where there are activities, stimulation. She needs to be somewhere where the focus is on life, and not the other thing.

I am afraid now that, even if the department does find the funding for the carers to help Allison live in a disability home, it will be too late.

What makes a life worth saving? Some might think that it is time to let her die. I feel certain that this is what the government is waiting for. I really don’t think they have KPIs for keeping young people alive in aged care. In fact, one fewer is one fewer in aged care.

I have thought about this for a long time and here is my answer. Allison is loved. We can see her in her eyes, and when she tries to talk and say “mum.” We read poetry and stories to her, some of which she wrote herself many years ago. She runs her fingers across the pages and we know she is reading the words with us.

What makes a life worth saving? Love. It is more than many able-bodies people could claim – that they are loved and loved well.

Please, Premier Newman. Don’t let my sister live, or die, like this.

Since I wrote this, I have had lovely people ask how they might help. There are a few things I can think of:

  • write to the Minister for Disability Services in Qld, Tracy Davis MP, ccsds@ministerial.qld.gov.au
  • write to the Qld Premier, Campbell Newman, thepremier@premiers.qld.gov.au
  • write to your own local member or state Minister, deploring the fact that there are more than 7,000 young people in aged care homes around Australia
  • consider supporting Youngcare Australia, which is a not-for-profit organisation committed to helping get young people out of aged care homes and into age-appropriate disability care

Thank you :-).


Aug 6 2013

To dye or not to dye

My hair is going white. It is skipping grey and going straight to wise old grandmother, and part of me is quite OK with this.

Most of me however, is not.

I want to be a bastion of feminism. But as my friend Jules put it, at some point when a woman stops dying her hair, she just looks un-groomed. It is sad but it is true – in a job where meetings are required and first impressions are part of the deal, grey roots make you look unprofessional.

Will not dyeing my hair help to change this preconception? Can I make a difference?

I am thinking of Susan Sontagging my hair – getting some white foils to let the greying process happen a little more gracefully.

But that is just stupid. it is more work than dyeing it all black.

And there is this: I saw my hair yesterday in the bright, radiant light of a Sydney day – you know, the kind of day where even black objects seem to reflect and increase the sun. My mirror at home is lit tastefully and forgivingly. This was not.

I saw my hair – dry, straggly, and with white bits popping out in unbecoming wires. This on a day where I was off to a meeting and so had ‘done’ my hair. I saw my face too – something else I try to spend not much time reviewing – and saw the telltale lack of elasticity that signals ageing. For someone who has always been young by default of being short and the youngest in the family, I was not prepared for this. I knew I was older – I welcomed it and I feared it, not because being old is scary but being mortal is. But I had not really seen it.

Vanity of vanities: I care about looking better.

But there is the other thing – I want to know I am getting old. I want to see the hair go grey and the skin thin and see that yes, I am getting closer to my estimated time of departure. I don’t want it to be a shock. I don’t want death to be a shock.

I will get my hair cut this week, but as for dyeing – well, I think I will wait a bit longer. Maybe my hair will cooperate and grow its own white slices. If not, well, with the passage of time I may just not care so much anyway. My confidence in my abilities and my person may start to outweigh my fear of making people think of me as a greying relic of the hippy days, back when green was the new black.

I think I will give my head an olive branch: a conditioning treatment to soften the dryness. White hairs, you have won a temporary respite; but springing from my head like crackling pieces of albino hay? Those days are numbered.


Mar 1 2013

A birthday present for Allison

As many of you probably already know, I have a disabled sister. She is my closest sister in age and heart.

To put it simply, she has been left to rot in a Qld aged care home by the Qld Disability Department. She turns all of 39 next week.

Do you know what would be a most excellent birthday present? If we could all lobby the Qld government to get her into disability accommodation NOW.

Madonna King will be telling Allison’s story in her column in tomorrow (Saturday)’s Courier Mail.

Let’s try and get as many people as possible to:

In your emails, please urge the Qld government to:

- give Allison proper disability accommodation NOW
- get young people OUT of aged care homes

Thanks everyone!

BELOW is the letter I sent to Madonna which she will be using in her column. Please feel free to reproduce.

Hi Madonna

I am getting in touch on behalf of my mother, Mary Bailey, who lives in Shailer Park, about the Qld government’s terrible neglect of my disabled sister, Allison.

I urge you to please use your journalistic skills to bring our politicians to account for their false promises of care for young people. The government has a commitment that young people will not be left in aged care homes – yet here is my sister, left to slowly fade away when she could be having quality of life in a disabled person’s home.

I will tell you a little about my sister Allison. She is 38 years old. She likes playing Scrabble and is known as the “UNO Queen” in our family. She is deeply religious, and has long inspired all who meet her with her fortitude and grace.

More than anything, she likes to care for others. She worries that our mother, now 77 years of age, doesn’t take her blood pressure tablets. She frets and tells me to stay warm if I have a cold. She loves her nieces and nephews, and kisses the photos of the babies she has pinned to the wall by her bed.

Last year, my mother finally accepted reality: she could no longer care for Allison. My mother, a War Widow, is too old and frail, and my sister’s needs grew too much for her.

For many years, we had applied to the Queensland government for an adult lifestyle package to help Allison stay socially connected, and contribute to the community as she so dearly loves to do, having spent many years volunteering in childcare and hospitals.

We were always refused.

Last year, when things got too much, Allison was placed in temporary care to wait for a place with Disability Services. In the first week, she suffered a major setback. She lost the ability to swallow and speak.

And so the Queensland government’s systemic neglect began. The government has forgotten her, conveniently shifting her care burden to the Commonwealth, first in St Vincents and now in Yurana aged care facility.

Whilst there, her condition, rather than improving, has slowly deteriorated. Before going into care, she could still walk to the bathroom and around the house. Now she can barely keep herself upright in a wheelchair, so long has she been left in bed by the “carers”.

An aged care home is perfectly good if you are old and about to die. Allison is neither of these things.
She is left in her room, or in front of the TV, with demented residents. There is no stimulation for her; no social interaction, no musical play, no activities for a young person like Allison.

This is simply wrong. We have made formal complaints and contacted the Department and Minister, to no avail.

Allison belongs in a disability support model, one which treats her as the young person she is, with quality of life to be cultivated rather than quietly forgotten.

Even so, Allison still smiles. She can still say, “Mum,” and tries to communicate with her hands and face. She plays UNO and Scrabble, and does her puzzles. She listens to music. When alone, for the many hour of the day and night that my mother or one of us cannot be there, she prays.

Allison is disabled, but there are people who love her and people she loves. She belongs in the disability system, with support for her to live as good a life as she can.

Thank you for reading. I dearly hope you can bring the situation of thousands of disabled young people like Allison, left in aged care homes, to the attention of the public and the government.

Yours sincerely,

Jackie Bailey


Feb 22 2013

The Moopet Files

It has been so long since I last wrote blog posts, that I want to get some Moopetisms down before I forget them.

She is now 17 months old and oh, so cute! She can stand up now, and looks at us with a wide grin, seeking our applause, which we readily oblige with. Walking is going to start soon – we don’t know when, but the elements are there.

She is very affectionate. She kisses babies, other children, people’s knees. She wants to pat them and it is my job to stop her from going for the eyes but still encourage her lovingness.

She has lots of words and understands more. I give her relatively complicated instructions (yesterday afternoon: play with shapes? Go get shapes and the ball and we can play with them. And off she goes. Or she says “draw?” pointing to the high shelf where the crayons live. And I say: if you draw on the floor mummy will take the crayons away. And so on. Obviously a child genius ;-)

She sings. She sings especially on her way to sleep, but also at any other opportunity – if I start singing, or if there is a song on the stereo. She still mimics sounds as she has since we counted her age in weeks: dad’s cough, the car engine, the microwave, the seagulls….

Her favourite DVD (and only DVD) is “Baby learns Chinese.” When the green screen with the DVD warning comes on, she looks at me with a big smile, as if she can’t believe it is going to happen.

Who knew that it would just keep getting better and better? She is so much fun and so interactive! I can’t believe how much I love her.

We have started taking her to a music session, which she LOVES. The whole time she grins at the music teacher (from the safety of my lap or its surrounds), revelling in all the sound. She dances and sings along, and when the silky parachute comes out, it is all I can do to keep her from crawling right on to it to be buoyed up by all the mothers.

She is our delight. She is cheeky and wilful and a little bit complicated. She is thoughtful and perseverant and smart. She is manipulative and coy and thoughtful. She is the Moopet package, all in one.


Feb 22 2013

A room of one’s own

I have a new study. It is not large – but not that small either. For example, it fits me, my desk, and my books (my lovely, real paper books) neatly, and with room to swing around in my chair. I had hopes of a meditation corner, but that might become a meditation cushion, which can be squirrelled away next to my future shelves.

I have hopes of whiteness, cleanliness (in the sense of: blank spaces, open palates, free movement, excitingly understated decor). I have hopes of cosiness, familiar clutter – my papers where I left them, not too long ago so as to seem insistent; my desk top clear of all things but what I need for just today. I have tucked my filing cabinet out of line of sight so I do not feel I have to stand upon two headlands at once.

Importantly: everything placed just where I put it. Everything that speaks to me. Everything that fills a certain little cup in my gut I had no idea was empty: full of a smiling contentment, a snuggly, cat-like cushionness, which says: this is my place. Close the door (there is no door yet, but soon, soon!) Leave it all behind; all that which you didn’t even know you carried with you. At the door. Check it in. In here you have: you, your books and your unfinished thoughts, and your desk: and what are all these, but the luxuriant knowledge that in here you only have yourself to grapple with and answer to? In here your thoughts are your own, and about no one else. In here you can day dream, imagine spending lavishly on clean white desk tops; in here you can jot, and debate, and wonder, and calculate, and write.

In here you have only yourself, and what this room has inside of it is you.


Dec 11 2012

Playful cities

Last week, my husband and I attended a panel discussion at UTS entitled “The Future of Creativity.” It was hosted by the UTS Business School and brought together Sydney Theatre artistic directors Andrew Upton and Cate Blanchett with Prof Roy Green from the UTS Business School and Lisa Colley, Director of the Creative Industries Innovation Centre. Patrick McIntyre, the Executive Director of Sydney Theatre Company, was the panel host.

The discussion was about business and creativity, and how the two intersect. Despite Lisa’s attempts to get people talking about real world examples, the conversation never really got past the basics – ie defining “business” and “creativity,” and emphasising the importance of allowing for risk taking and failure as part of the creative process.

In the car a couple of days ago, I listened to another panel discussionon Radio National, this time about “Knowledge Cities.” This conversation had been recorded in Melbourne, amongst a variety of experts in innovation and information access. The panellists made some interesting points, about the need for cities to allow for “playfulness” and maker spaces which supported collaboration as well as spaces which allowed for quiet introspection, and ultimately, cities which supported investment in ideas.

The two talks got me thinking. How does a city support an innovative economy? How do businesses make sure they allow for creativity? We have all heard of Google’s HQ and its play rooms and giant, coloured balls. But how about public infrastructure and councils? Governments and agencies? And small businesses looking to make it in the tertiary economy?

According to Abraham Maslow, the oft quoted psyhcologist who came up with “Maslow’s hierarchy of needs,” creativity in self-actualising people is the type ofcreativeness you see in people who tend to anything in their lives “creatively.” An essential aspect of this type of creativeness is what psychoanalyst Carl Rogers called an “openness to experience,” and which Maslow describes as being able to see the “fresh, the raw, the concrete, the idiographic, as well as the generic, the abstract, the rubricised, the categorised and the classified (Maslow 1968: 137).” As a result, they live “far more in the real world of nature than in the verbalised world of concepts…and stereotypes that most people confuse with the real world.”

In other words, they live authentically. They see reality and they not only embrace it; the milk it for all it is worth.

Maslow alos observed that “self-actualising” creativeness was very similar to the creativeness of happy and secure children. Self-actualising creativeness tended to be spontaneous, effortless, innocent, and free of cliches.

People with this type of creativeness tended to be relatively unfrightened by the unknown, and may be attracted by it eg to puzzle over something. Their quest for truth however is not a dire stretching for certainty as it may be for the neurotic. They can live with the unknown, even enjoy it. They are also relatively unaffected by worrying about what other people think of them.

These self-actualising creative people also can’t be characterised as either/or. For example, they are both selfish and unselfish – these two are not incompatible but exist in a “sensible, dynamic unity” as in Fromm’s “healthy selfishness.” (Maslow 1968: 139). Similarly, these people also showed other unities, eg between cognition and conation, as instinct and reason come to the same conclusions – “Duty became pleasure…the distinction between work and play became shadowy.” (Maslow 1968: 140). These people also have the strongest egos yet are also most able to be ego-less, echoing the Dalai Lama’s exhortation to Westerners not to confuse understanding the emptiness of the self with negation of the self (Dalai Lama 2000).

There are innumerable, interdisciplinary tracts describing and defining creativity – if you are interested, take a look at Teresa Amabile’s work as a good starting point. I merely wanted to talk about Maslow’s because I like how it reminds us that creativeness in one’s everyday life can be connected to our wellbeing and ability to live authentic lives. Also, Maslow talks about the need to balance and integrate creativeness.

As a normal person “adjusts” to the “real world,” she may find herself pushing away those parts of herself which tend towards play, silliness, and creativeness. These parts of herself are now dangerous as she tries to adjust to a world which demands a “purposeful and pragmatic striving” rather than play and revery (Maslow 1968: 142).

Maslow reminds us that we need these parts of us to be creative. So how can cities and government agencies support this when a large part of what these authorities currently do is encourage conformity with the mainstream in the interests of public regulation?

Hmm. This is a dilemma. Playful cities could perhaps be encouraged through Council plans for “playfulness,” which does elicit a grimace but how else can a government agency do it except to plan? How does a city plan for playfulness, and encourage non-conformity, within the bounds of social acceptability?

Times of the year and spaces within the city could be marked off as period or places for playfulness – maker spaces, low-level acceptance of artistic graff and street art, as examples. Some areas could specifically be cultivated as creative clusters, which lots of cities have jumped on because it is something they can plan for. But how else can you encourage a playful attitude amongst your citizenry?

There is a role of public leaders encouraging play by being playful themselves. By being honest about their own imaginations and urges. By being visionary and daring in their language and then in their actions. There is a level of small funding or simply a willingness to not enforce planning requirements which agencies could give to disruptive arts, eg street poetry, flash mob collectives, guerilla performers.

Most importantly, it is about getting creativity – people behaving creatively and the outputs of their creativity – out into public spaces in spontaenous or at least apparently spontaneous ways. Things have to be a little less controlled. Cities have to open their arms and be seen to be opening their arms to a little bit of chaos. Just a little bit. In the open and not just in the galleries and regulated spaces.

A city needs to breathe an air of creativity; it needs to make it part of the mainstream identity, so people in the middle, who would be more creative if they thought it was OK, can feel comfortable with their own minds saying “What if?”

There are always going to be outliers who will be creative no matter what – we don’t need to worry about them so much. It is the vast middle ground of people who would live a little more fully and have ideas to offer their employers and their cities and themselves, but do not because it is just not part of their days, and it is not anywhere to be seen on their street on the way to work, so why would they think of it?

I am afraid I have offered no hard solutions. Only a call to action. Let’s play!

Maslow, Abraham, Toward a Psychology of Being, 2nd ed, Van Nostrand, New York, 1968.
Dalai Lama, Transforming the Mind, Thorsons, London, 2000.


Nov 9 2012

Sleep training

I have had a few friends ask about sleep training and emailed them my notes. I thought I would post them here too, in case anyone else finds them useful. I got a lot of advice from friends myself, especially Kate Pounder, for which I am eternally grateful. Also, I drew a lot of this from Baby Love, by Robin Barker, and Sleep Sense. And of course we nuanced it to suit our little bubba. We did the training at 12 weeks – some say to wait, but we couldn’t any more, as Ellie was refusing to sleep at all by then. Please add your advice too – every baby is different as we all know too well!

Here are some of my top tips for sleep training:

The objective is to teach your baby how to fall asleep on her own, in her cot. You want her to know her parents are never far away, and meanwhile, she is safe in her cot and able to fall asleep and go back to sleep, all by herself, from one sleep cycle to the next.

For the night time sleep: the book says that once the baby is about 6 kgs, they can sleep through the night i.e. 12 hours. Some babies may not last that long without a feed – you are going to be the best judge of this.

The following advice applies to the night time sleep AND naps. We found it was best to be consistent for naps and the night time sleep, so Ellie really got the message.

1. Make sure her room is quiet and dark. You may need to put up a blanket over the blinds. Make sure there is nothing in the cot apart from the mattress and sheet – no toys, no mobiles. No longer use dummies or any other pacifiers. If you need a sleep prop because the baby doesn’t suck her thumb, then use a small soft cloth or blanket, which the baby associates with sleep. But nothing that you are going to have to replace every hour (like a dummy) – use something they can get hold of themselves if they wake during the night and need it.

2. Make sure she is getting sleepy but is still awake before you put her in the cot. This means if possible, no falling asleep whilst feeding – I used to tickle Ellie’s feet so she did not fall asleep while feeding!

3. Have a simple routine pre-nap and night-time sleep. Eg for naps, we would always pick Ellie up, rock her a bit by the window saying “sssh” for about 30 seconds. Then we would put her in her sleeping bag and put her in the cot, all the while saying “ssh” and using the same words, e.g. “nap time” for naps and “sleepy time, night night” for the night time sleep. The night time sleep routine was a bit longer – i.e. when we thought she had about 20 minutes left of her awake time, we would do dinner, then bath, then feed, then the rocking/sssh ssh. We would always make the living room relatively dark before the night time sleep too – so when she came out of the bath, she understood that it was now night time.

4. When you put her in her cot, just give her a quick pat and ssh and then leave. Don’t linger. She is now learning to go to sleep by herself, without your help. If she starts crying once she is in the cot, wait for about 10 minutes if you can, before you go in to soothe her. If 10 minutes is a bit too hard on you, then try for 6.

5. When you go in to soothe her, just pat her a bit on the chest, whilst ssshing. Don’t spend too long there – less than a minute. You don’t even have to wait until he has stopped crying.

She will probably start crying again (if she ever stopped!). Try to wait a bit longer this time before you go in again. The books recommend you give her 10 minutes, then 20 minutes, then 30 minutes and so on. I say, just try to wait a bit longer each time – but do what is best for you. DO NOT PICK THE BABY UP unless there might be something wrong – e.g. poopy nappy – then you address this and put the baby straight back to bed. Do NOT feed the baby – if you really think she is thirsty, then give her some water in a bottle. She has to learn that crying, when you can reasonably assume she should be sleeping, will not lead to rewards any more.

6. Do the same things for naps. The key with naps is, DO NOT pick her up until she has been asleep. You now only reward SLEEP with being picked up, and nothing else. She might wake up after one cycle, and make some noises. Try and gauge whether these are “I am up and awake!” noises, or tired noises. If you think they are tired noises, you can ignore her and see if she re-settles. If she doesn’t resettle and actually starts full-on crying, but you think she should still be asleep, you can repeat the above process of patting, then leaving her for 10 minutes, etc. Personally I found this a bit hard to keep up for naps, so I would let her get up after one cycle if she seemed to be awake. This sometimes meant the next awake period was a bit cranky, but once she is up, she is up – no going to sleep on mummy, or ANYWHERE but the cot.

7. Once you start this training, try to stick to it as much as you can. Otherwise you are putting yourself through all sorts of agonies for nothing!

Tired signs:

Here is some stuff you probably already know, but anyhow…

By about three months of age, babies can really only stay awake for about 1.5 hours. Ellie could sustain a bit less e.g. about 1.25 hours, but some babies can last longer. You are the best judge. Basically, by around 3 months, I would wait for the first yawn after an hour. As soon as I saw the second yawn, it was nap time. Other tired signs are not wanting to hold eye contact any more; grizzling; balling hand into fists; arching back. Once they start arching their backs, there is a good chance they are overtired and might cry a bit when they are put down. So be prepared for that :-).

Make sure the baby has expended a bit of energy whilst awake – e.g. wriggling, rolling, crawling, bouncing…. Otherwise they might not feel like sleeping even though they are tired (we have all been there…)

Night time waking:

You know best if your baby still needs feeds during the night. With Ellie, she didn’t really need night time feeds after 3 months. I knew this because once or twice, she woke up crying because there was a thunderstorm, so I went in to comfort her (I thought that was a reasonable reason for waking up, and warranted a cuddle) and offered her some milk, which she wasn’t really into. This happened twice, so I knew she wasn’t waking because she was hungry – so I knew I could leave her to sleep all night, even if she woke up and cried.

For night time waking, if you don’t think it is because of legitimate hunger, then repeat the same process outlined above in steps 4 and 5. Only get the baby up if you think there eight be something wrong – e.g. the baby has a cold and might need a drink of water, or has a poopy nappy, or a thunderstorm scared them awake. If you do get the baby up, don’t keep them up long, and don’t give them milk (unless you really think they are hungry). I would check Ellie’s nappy, keeping her in her room and keeping the lights low but bright enough for her to see me or Yen (for reassurance). Once we checked the nappy, offered her some water, and checked she was OK, she would be straight back into the sleeping bag, rock rock, sssh, then back in the cot.

Repeat:

Ellie got the hang of this after a few nights initially, but would keep crying for up to an hour some nights, for the next month. We just kept doing the same thing. Every few weeks, she would cry for up to an hour at the night-time bedtime, right until the age of about 12 months. This would happen if she was overtired, or if she was going through a “wonder week” (developmental phase). Sometimes she would wake in the middle of the night and cry for up to an hour. We just kept doing the same thing.

Self-soothing:

At about 10-12 weeks, Ellie started sucking her thumb. That was fantastic. If your baby doesn’t suck her thumb, she might like a security blanket (a small soft cloth) to hold or suck which she can associate with bed time. If you give her this, make sure it is something you can easily get a replica of in case you ever lose it. Do NOT give her a dummy or anything you will have to keep putting back in her mouth. Giv her something she can grab for herself.

Sleep cycles:

Again you probably know this, but babies have sleep cycles of about 45-50 minutes. The first 20-25 minutes they are sort of dozing, so they can be accidentally woken really easily – you need to be fairly quiet! They will grizzle and cry and grumble too, or sing and coo. Ignore it unless it becomes proper crying, and then you start the 10 minutes, 20 minutes etc routine.

At about 20-25 minutes, they will fall asleep deeply for about 10 minutes. Yay!

hen they start coming back out of this for the remaining 20-25 minutes – sort of like dozing.

At about 45-50 minutes, they wake up fully and need to be able to get themselves back to sleep – this goes for naps and night-time, if the nap is meant to be longer than one cycle. This is where all your hard work pays off, because they have learned to get themselves back to sleep and don’t need your help.

Ellie went through a phase, at about 6 or 8 months I think, of only napping for one cycle at a time, four times a day. Before that, she had been having 2 hour naps or thereabouts. Eventually she consolidated again and had one or two longer naps of about 1.5 hours. I used to get her up when I thought she “sounded” awake – a bit hit and miss, but I wanted her to learn that she does get picked up after sleeping, if she is genuinely awake.

Naps:

They are all different of course. Ellie was a good napper after she did the sleep training – I think she had a lot of catching up to do! She used to nap for a couple of hours at a time, with a shorter nap in the late afternoon. I think she used to nap four times a day, until she was about 6 months, then 3 times a day until she was about 9 or 10 months, and then 2 times a day (she still lodes this, but is in the process of dropping a nap).

The transitions to fewer naps can be tricky – when Ellie was dropping her late afternoon nap and going to 2 naps, I kept putting her down for the third nap because she was tired, but she would cry for about 50 minutes, not wanting to sleep. This left me in a bind because it was getting too late in the day to wait her out until she fell asleep, but if I didn’t, I would be rewarding crying and getting her up before she had fallen asleep! This was tricky because we started to undo some of the training – she started to cry before her night time sleep again.

So we stretched put her awake times for the morning and midday sessions, and dropped the third nap altogether – better to keep her up rather than undo her sleep training. So that worked.


Oct 29 2012

Why Apple will fail without Steve Jobs

It’s not so much that Apple will fail as a company. I mean, they have a massive amount of cash and they will probably carry on as a strong player in technology.

But when they lost Steve Jobs, the Apple products lost their heart.

Here is the thing about consumer goods like Apple. Like all art that touches us and speaks to our souls, Steve Jobs’ Apple products connected to us on a person-to-person level. Steve Jobs spoke to us through his products. He said, this thing is beautiful. Remember how dismissive he was of consumer complaints about the fact that the earlier models of the iPhone didn’t work as a phone unless you used a special case on it? It was like telling Pollock that Blue Poles was too big. It’s as big as it needs to be, would have been Pollock’s response. It is art.

Lewis Hyde’s book, The Gift: How the Creative Spirit Transforms the World, first published in the late 1970s, describes how works of art contain a spirit which has nothing to do with the price of the ticket at the door or the barcode on the novel. This spirit, Hyde argues, operates in a “gift” economy – an artist receives some part of her talent as a gift, perhaps from her own soul, in what University of NSW professors Ann Game and Andrew Metcalfe would call a “gift-relation.” This is a time and space that an artist carves out of her day, which allows for moments of grace.

Hyde’s artist must on-give her gift through her art, which then circulates amongst us, replenishing souls as it does so. We have all probably got memories of books which have made an indelible print on our hearts or minds, or a performance which seemed to speak directly to us, or a painting which transcended speech the first time we looked at it.

I think that the iPhenomenon is a market example of the same principle. There is a core group of Apple followers who line up at the stores, buying everything that Apple puts out. This kind of lust goes beyond fandom and consumerism. Sure, there is a lot of simple consumer manipulation at work. But terms like brand loyalty are also hiding something else which is also going on, something more personal.

When someone buys an iPhone, they are receiving a little bit of Steve Jobs. He operated like an artist in his designs, putting some part of himself into them. He did not think exclusively of the marketplace when he made his phone – in fact sometimes he didn’t think of them at all, as the complaints about the phone’s faults have attested. But he did see creating something which could behave as a computer in people’s pockets, transforming how they lived their lives, as a life work. He communicated some form of personal truth through his Apple products. A phone made solely with buyers in mind could never command the kind of loyalty that Apple does. A phone which combines savvy marketing and technological merits with the final ingredient – the precise vision of an artist – can.

There is a similar phenomenon at play in the world of the TV personality, which I call the “Oprah-effect.” People literally love Oprah, although they may never have met her. You can see why – she is personable, friendly and warm. She is loving. And so people don’t just like her – they love her. You could get 10,000 people to like a TV personality. But if you can get just one viewer to love that person, then you can get a million people to love her; and then you have a multimillion dollar business.

Love. Yes, love. We talk about brands and money and consumers, but ultimately we are talking about the mass distribution of things or personalities that people can love. Just as in a work of art, but perhaps more direct, a TV personality who can communicate some part of their true selves to a camera and a live audience is imparting something which is more than the sale price of the TV set or the cable subscription. If they can speak from their soul to yours, you are touched. You are grateful. You and they may operate in the consumer economy, but you are also operating in the personal one – the economy of the gift between people. You have shared something which is inalienable; something in other words, which cannot be bought.

Perhaps Oprah and iPhones are ever more popular because of this – because in a world where productivity and self-interest are preached as the core goals, we are grateful for instances of real contact. It is perhaps sad, or perhaps shoddy, that such instances come mediated, and with all the impurity of money attached. Some would call it an indictment on the current condition, or the failure of community. But we could also see it as a new direction for human flourishing. We could take heart from it, knowing that the human soul will always find a way to grow, and share, and love; no matter what the disincentives.


Oct 29 2012

Abandoning Moopet to Childcare

My arms and shoulders ache. I imagine it is from abandoning, deserting, throwing Moopet into the baby jail, behind the playpen bars of her new family day care place.

Actually, my husband did the heavy lifting of Moopet into the playpen, as I have bronchitis – and it may be this making my muscles ache rather than metaphors.

But nevertheless. My husband and I drove home in silence, which I intermittently interrupted with a status update on my emotions. “I am sad,” I announced, as we joined the main road. My husband squeezed my hand. “Now I feel depressed,” as we climbed the hill towards our house. My husband in response tried to fill the role of the jocular, rational one, but then said when we got home, “Poor thing. I am sorry, I shouldn’t start. But when she cries, I just want to pick her up and cuddle her too.”

We both plucked up as we thought of the benefits to Moopet. As an only child, she likes being around other kids (but can’t I just take her to more playgroups?) And it is good for her to spend time with other adults too and learn how to nap somewhere that is not her own room. And – what was the other thing – oh yes, we remembered how awful we felt when we sleep trained her, but how beneficial that was to her and us. We told ourselves that, back in tribal days, babies would have been cared for by a few adults while the rest went off to hunt, or gather (But couldn’t that adult be me? To which my husband asked, “Do you want to start a family day care centre here?” And I said, “No.”)

It is a bind you see. I want to work and do my PhD. Taking care of five kids in my home so I can be with my Moopet would be a step too far.

I hate, have always hated, these calculations of benefit. I have done them all my life. With a disabled sister, you ask yourself: what would be the benefit to her of me staying here in Qld versus the emotional cost to me of doing so? Always I come out on the side of me. There is an arrogance to assuming you can make a person happy.

Now here I am, back at my desk, writing about it while my Moopet plays with someone else’s mum. Here is the heart of it: I am jealous of others being loved by my Moopet. I want it all to myself! Also, I want to do the best thing by her. And finally, she is growing up, and I just seem to have sped that up, sending her away from me before she was ready to go of her own accord. I like to hold on to people until they wrench themselves away so I can always be the one saying good-bye.

I dramatise. I do it because these are words, you see, words to fill the gap between heart and the outside world. Maybe I should have stuck to describing the body blows. My chest hurts – I have strained a muscle in there, I am sure of it – the one which stretches the further away your baby goes. I reassure myself that I love my Moopet, and all this will work out.

A final note: I called the carer when we got home. She told me that Moopet had stopped crying as soon as we left. She is now eating some raisin toast. So I have taught her two good things to see her through this next stage of her independent existence: one, that there is always solace to be had from warm bread; and two, that we would never leave her with someone who did not know this and other, simple truths.


Oct 15 2012

Childcare take 2

It’s been about a million years (in baby time) since I last blogged. Bubba is now 13 months old, and such a different little proposition to how she began. I think I need to find another bloggy pseudonym for her, seeing as she is not going to be a bubba for much longer. How about Moopet?

Weaning Moopet

It had to happen, and so we did it. Over a period of a month, I weaned Moopet, and Moopet weaned me a little slower. I gradually dropped feeds, until we were down to one a day, and she started to reject the boob entirely at that point – obviously there was not enough in it for her any more. I felt OK – I had done it slowly enough to feel like it had been my decision. It was just before she turned one. I was needing to go do more meetings, and wanting to be able to claim a day to myself again – a whole day, with no need to be any place to feed her within a few hours.

And then there we were. My husband took over four of the seven morning shifts, and I slept in for the first time in a year. The first day, I still got up at 7 am. I just couldn’t help it, and it felt like such a sleep in as it was! Now, two months later, and I find it hard to get up for my early morning shifts at all, and often I go back to bed for an extra nap when Moopet does. Unbelievable – the sleeper in me was just biding her time all along, waiting to be reborn.


Second babies

I held a friend’s newborn a few weeks ago. He waved his little fists, and tried to focus his eyes on the light from the window. Whilst I was extremely happy for my friends, I did not feel the maternal rush I had expected. I had imagined I would be swamped with a hormonal urge to have another baby. As soon as I weaned Moopet, I had desperately wanted another child, even though my mind wasn’t convinced. This is how it went: my husband wasn’t keen on the idea of a second baby, although we both thought it would be good to keep an open mind and see how we feel in a couple of years. But I wanted to be the one who was being refused, so I could retain any copyright over regret and blame when we are old and grey.

In reality, it was like this: I didn’t want, I don’t want, another baby. That’s not strictly true – I would LOVE another baby. But I do not want to have a life which involves having two children. I don’t want that life. I can see it now for what it would be: busy. I always thought I would have two kids, and I may still (and if I do, it will be because I dearly want you , second child, so if you are reading this, know that this was just what I was thinking for a short period of my life, before I met you). I thought for about a week that I was pregnant, last week, and that as when I truly realised that I don’t want another child. I am totally in love with Moopet – I am besotted in a way I could never be with anyone else. I look at her al the time – I can’t look away. I get bored, and annoyed, and often anxious that I can’t do it – but I repeat the same songs over with her and it is still fun. I don’t want her to grow up, and leave me. I know the day will come when she won’t look back, and i want that day, and I want her to be so well grounded that she does not need to look back. But I don’t want that day to come.

And yet I do not want to have a second child. I feel kind of like a big wuss – like, everyone has two, so we should too. But also, I think of it like this: my husband and I have a great life right now. Families of yore used to have too many kids (8, 9, 10 kids) and the stress was too much for the family. We have jobs with no security of income. and we don’t want jobs with security of income. So maybe for us, two kids may be the equivalent of 8, 9 or 10 in the olden days. Two may be too many. We are keeping an open mind and all may be different in a couple of years and if I did fall pregnant I would be overjoyed. But I also relinquish all rights to blame and regret. Equal partnerships have no room for people who are not making decisions for themselves.

Childcare Take Two

We just got a phone call that we might have a place in family day care for Moopet. This is good news. We are currently paying more than we can afford, for nine hours of babysitting a week. There is no rebate for this, but we need it to get a minimum of work done. We have been hoping for a place in one of the day care centres which have a higher carer to child ratio, but that is not looking likely. And with the phone call, came all the attendant fears and preparations for regret. She is bigger now, and more robust. She likes other kids now. But how will she go, one amongst five? And will she get enough attention? And will she nap or will she be ropable by the end of the day? Our little Moopet, into the world without us. Too soon! My husband and I are both already sad. So we revisit our work. Do we really need to do all of this? Can we survive on less for another few years? We will look at it, but I already know the answer.

Moopet-isms

Having a baby is so much fun. Moopet does lots of cool things now.

1. She comes in for cuddles. My heart melts whenever she does and I hold her for just a bit too long, and kiss her a bit too hard, hoping that she will always want to be near her mumma, yet also hoping she will be OK without me.

2. She has words. She has a whole bunch of words, and is trying to say a whole bunch more. Moopet was always a sound and music and word baby, not a walker. She is still crawling, as a matter of fact. But she can say nom nom, for food, and nana, for banana, and pe, for pear. She just started saying no, for nose, and mo, for more, and for a long time she has said No and Mumma and Dadda. there are a range more but I don’t want to sound boastful. She is doing fart kisses like there is no tomorrow, and like her parents, she laughs at her own jokes.

3. She is really, very cute. Her hair stands up in an Astroboy peak. She sings and has favourite songs and games. She plays with her baby doll, saying “baby,” and patting it and kissing it and cuddling it, just as we do with her, which makes me feel like a (relieved) good mum. She crawls to people after a few minutes of getting to know them, and taps them lightly, before crawling back to mumma or dadda and facing the other way, sucking her thumb furiously, taking a bit of time out from all the excitement before going back for more. We love her and we tell her so and it is so easy to start a new way of loving which is open and free because she doesn’t know any other way, so we can be new too.