Category Archives: family
So my Mum…
This Mum of which I speak is my grandma, who’s raised me since I was 5…man I feel like the author of The Babysitters Club repeatedly explaining my backstory on here as I tend to do…admittedly if her series was being read by a tender but delicious few!
Anyway…I digress. Probably cos I don’t really want to write it: but here it is.
Mum’s cancer is back. It’s non-Hodgkins lymphoma again. Given the alternatives that were being investigated it is actually a positive outcome.
Still, it has rocked me. The past few weeks have been a bit of an emotional roller coaster. I’ve been seeing heaps of her though, which has been truly wonderful. I feel very lucky.
Lucky to have this time with her. Lucky that she has made it this far (she’s 89 in a few weeks and determined to make it past 90!), lucky that she has seen my wedding and met all three of my children, to the point where all of them will have memories of spending time with her. So, so lucky.
Back in 2007, deciding to move to Canada was a really tough call, given that I’ve spent most of my life worrying about her dying at any moment. It’s a hangover from experiencing grief early on. I still have to, on occasion, talk myself down from thoughts that loved ones will disappear suddenly. Then…three weeks before we were due to leave, she underwent tests for leukaemia. “Mum,” I said to her. “It’s okay, if it’s bad news, we’ll just cancel the trip and stay. It’s no big deal. Really. Canada will aways be there.” She called me a few days later: “It’s not cancer!” We all breathed sighs of relief, celebrated and off we trundled to the big beautiful red and white flag in the snow.
A few weeks later, a Skype call. Only in audio, as the computer was crap. “So they’re putting me on this new medicine for the thing.”
“What is it exactly?”
“Non, oh what is it? I wrote it down. Hold on a moment, oh non, non-Hodgkins lymphoma,” she says.
“Lymphoma?” I say. “But Mum, that’s cancer, isn’t it?”
“Well, no, not really.”
This is the Mum of which I speak. This woman.
I am astounded by her attitude. I feel so grateful to have been raised by such a strong, character-ful, positive, optimistic in defiance of life’s shittiness-at-times and truly magnificent woman.
She raised my sister (then 2, a toddler for crying out loud) and I (5) from the age of 60 (!), as a single parent AND while grieving the completely-out-of-the-blue death of her daughter.
She is something else.
She has made me who I am.
Of course, she wasn’t perfect, nobody is. But now that I’ve had my own kids, I FORGIVE EVERYTHING. I had no idea the extent of what she did for us – and I mean, everything, the feeding, the lunch boxes, the driving, the noise (dear God, the noise!), the money, the cooking, the cleaning (and she kept our home spick and span!) I understand this now a little bit more at least, and cannot even comprehend how she did it. She is almost beyond human in my mind. She’s my role model.
When somebody commented recently to her about my housekeeping abilities (or apparently infamous lack thereof), she simply smiled and said “Well, Jenny’s NOT a housekeeper! She never has been and she never will be. I used to walk by her bedroom and just shut the door.”
As she recounts this to me one afternoon, she stares me directly in the eye and smiles: “And you’re NOT a housekeeper!” Magically, she says this to me in a way that doesn’t feel like a passive aggressive jibe, but like a compliment. Hmm, I think. I’m not a housekeeper. Damn straight! “Thank you!” I say. “Thank you Mum! I’m NOT a housekeeper! Thank you!” We hug.
OTHER THINGS HAPPENING LATELY:
- have spent a stunning summer at the beach as often as we can get there. My kids have learned to boogie board, including my scrummy Cassidy. Boarding at age 3. I am so boasting about that!
- my new up-and-coming website (this blog is gonna be moving soon to http://www.jennywynter.com you see) has been hijacked and apparently is redirecting all mobile devices to some Russian porn site. If that’s your thing, then you’re welcome. For all others, my huge apologies, I am trying to sort it out shortly, comrades! Vodkas all round. The new site WILL be up and running pretty shortly!
- I live-tweeted my way through Labyrinth! It’s been on my to-do list for a while and was suitably fun. Some tweeps joined in who weren’t even watching the movie (other than in their head.) Hehe. Thinking of making it a regular tweetable movie club.
- got some new headshots done. Just plain actory-ones for my actory-aspirations.
- WE BOUGHT A TELEVISION. Inconceivable. We haven’t had one for nearly a decade (by choice) and already I’m rather horrified by the amount we’ve had it switched on at home. I blame the Australian Open.
- my head has been turned to a pile of melting mush by the umpteen logistics involved in taking the new show PLUS Betties PLUS a set (still haven’t quite worked out how the heck I’m getting my giant gum ball machine down to South Australia!) down to Adelaide Fringe. It’s coming soon. And even better…tickets are actually already selling. So yes. I’m full of anxiety and excitement. Anxietment!
So next week I’m heading off on my second set of cruise ship gigs.
I actually really hate being away from my kids. I love them of course, but I also really like them. I enjoy their company. I love being together. Don’t get me wrong, I also have periods where a little break away is the stuff my dreams are made of, but for the most part, I actually really dislike being apart.
Yet sometimes the reality of my career means that we are. I’d love to bring them with me on each and every tour or festival I do (and I do whenever it’s financially possible) but the fact is, it just isn’t always viable. Or allowed. Take for instance, these cruises. I am DYING to be allowed to bring the whole family with me, but right now, as a comedian starting out in that circuit, it’s just not gonna happen. And the money is too good to say no to right now.
Whenever I’m about to head off on a jaunt such as this, I feel myself getting anxious. Fretful. If I were a dog I would be whining. I comfort myself by topping up the grocery supply and writing out chore charts with promises of big rewards for acts of outstanding family help in my absence.
And then I leave…and fret…and eventually settle into the time away by reminding myself that if I spend it being all misery guts, then it really IS a total travesty that we are apart. I need to make it count. I work. I write. I gig. I catch up on sleep. I try to relax and enjoy and savour and focus on all the things I COULDN’T be doing if the kids were with me. Last cruise after my final gig was done I bought myself a pina colada and sat on a hammock.
In other words, I try to make the most of it.
Do I feel guilty leaving them? Absolutely.
But…and it is a big but…I take huge comfort in my own experiences of having a mother who was consistently leaving to go follow her own passions.
I have distinct memories of my mum – a singer – leaving me to go off to gigs. I remember hating it. Missing her. Wanting her to come back. One night at the babysitters’ house I vowed to stay secretly awake in my bed until she returned. Which I did. When she got back the next morning, it was like I’d done a monkey-bar marathon.
But despite all this, I remember her as a wonderful mum. Namely because over-riding the memories of her leaving us to go strut her stuff onstage, are much happier memories of doing awesome stuff together. Baking cookies. Singing. Doing ballet in the front yard. Riding bikes. Going to the beach. Having picnics. She made a massive effort to engage with us. To cuddle us. She loved us and made huge efforts to show it by giving us her time. She left regularly to go sing, sure (and I should also point out that despite my sadness at her leaving, I also had the incredible pride of occasionally going to see her onstage and being able to point and say “that’s my Mummy!”) but when she was with us, she was really WITH us. You know?
I want so desperately to follow her example.
My aunt – a fabulous woman in her own right and a psychologist – introduced to me the concept of “the good enough” parent. The idea being that so long as your parent is “good enough” as far as you perceive it, you will emerge from childhood able to look past the negatives, and still see them as “a good parent.” Bottom line? We don’t need perfect parents. We can’t get perfect parents. Nor do we need to BE perfect parents. Which is lucky, because there is no such thing. We’re all stuffing it up somehow. But coming to terms with the thought that being imperfect is actually okay, so long as you’re being “good enough” in the right places, well, I find that hugely comforting. And liberating. Instead of beating myself up about the crap parts of me as a mother (and there are plenty), I can just get on with being awesome at the bits I think are the most important.
And so it is with the way I’m trying to handle this comedy/parenting combo.
I leave. I come back. And when I do, we bake. We sing. We dance. We go to the beach. We have picnics. We cuddle.
And I cling to the hope that this will be good enough.
I really want my kids to grow up knowing that they are incredibly privileged even just by way of having a roof over their head, food in the cupboard and a family that loves them and can be there for them and that they thereby have a responsibility to do what they can for people who aren’t so lucky.
As such, each year before Christmas we get the kids to:
a) donate a good chunk of their toys to local op shops; and
b) do something that’s not about THEM! (Note, no moral highground to claim here, we do more than our fair share of shameless spoiling with far-too-much-crap as the next person!)
This year we’ve opted for the Kids in Care Christmas Appeal. It’s such a small thing to do, but I think, a hugely important one. For the child on the receiving end obviously, but also for our own kids to be part of.
Amidst the insanity of all the Christmas sales displays, we wandered into our local shopping centre and I explained to them that they were to pick out a present they thought would be awesome, and that it would be going to a child we would never meet but who it would mean a lot to, given that their life was pretty tough right now. They seemed to take it in, asked a few questions and finally agreed on a dinosaur playset (pictured above). Rock.
I really hope it sinks in.
If they grow up to be people who think, care and try to help out others, then I will be boasting from a rooftop. You know, if I can be bothered climbing up on one.
You can find more information on the Kids in Care Christmas Appeal and how to donate here.
So Caleb (my 8-year-old) came and saw my show for the very first time (at the Judith Wright Centre a coupla weeks back). I gave him a pretty good pep-talk in the week leading up to it, explaining that he had to show me he was mature enough to handle the fact there’d be some adult words and ideas, and that just because he heard them didn’t mean he was allowed to go ahead and use them!
Anyway, besides it being such a total rockstar joy to see both my kids’ beaming faces in the crowd (and Caleb cracked up particularly loudly, so will be forever noticeable on the resulting DVD!) one of my favourite parts of the whole experience was that they both got to feel like mini-celebs after the show. The post-show buzz was high, everybody was milling about, coming up to us, saying nice things, talking to the kids as well…Caleb beckoned me down so he could whisper in my ear: “Mum. YOU’RE FAMOUS!”
When I asked him if he liked the show, he nodded and said to me, “It was very emotional.”
So sweet. And since then, he’s been saying things to me about how the show made him laugh so much but also made him so sad, because it made him think about Diane (my mum) and how it’s so unfair that he will never get to meet her because he wants to, because she’s his grandma.
It was only a couple of days ago when I was talking to my sister about it all that I really let go and had a big cry. It’s probably been coming for a while. As we hugged each other, I blurted out “When does this ever stop hurting?”
I remember a few years back when I was in Boston doing solo improv coaching with Daena Giardella, this amazing woman. For some reason – probably a combination of jet-lag, missing my kids like crazy, having never been away from them before, plus the intensity of doing what was essentially a one-on-one masterclass in acting – I was an emotional wreck that entire week, with all this heavy grief stuff about my Mum coming up. I couldn’t believe it. I was so angry at myself. Because come on, wasn’t I over this by now? It was so long ago!
But then Daena said to me: “Grief isn’t like a staircase where you work your way up and that’s it, you’re on the upper level now. It’s an elevator. You’re constantly moving up and down the levels, you might stay up at one for a long time but it doesn’t mean you’re a failure if you find yourself back down a few!”
I’ll always remember that.
On the plus side, I know living with grief has made me focus on making the most of life while I’m here, a huge part of which is making sure that I appreciate the time that I have with my own kids, knowing that it’s more than she had with hers.
It does have its ups.
But it never stops hurting.
But today, I caught up. I always brace myself before I ever check these random commenters’ posts, readying for for the punch in the guts that could just be round the corner. But…the ones I uncovered today – and then sheepishly replied to these many months after they were originally posted! – were actually rather lovely.
This one stood out, re: last year’s home tour video: “Keep up the good work of sharing the truth of mummy hood.”
It struck a nerve because here’s the thing: half the time on here, I don’t feel like I do.
I share the good stuff. Some of the crap stuff, but not really the truth of what’s going on day to day. When people used to say to me “I don’t know how you do it!” I would shrug it off, but now if you say that to me in person I’m likely to actually confess the reality, that I’m on the verge of a nervous breakdown when things get beyond insane. But for some reason I’ve loathe to commit these confessions in the written form. So…while I’m freshly motivated but the lovely words of this dear stranger on youtube, I’m gonna share some truth. Dig.
The Truth of Mummyhood: HOW I DO IT ALL.
1. I cut corners. Often. Religiously. The biggest one of these is housework. Which would be fine, except that I actually do happen to enjoy having a clean space. I find it difficult to ignore crap. On Saturday when cleaning under our bed (only because we were having my grandma over, who has an uncanny knack for looking at my post-clean efforts and saying “Wow, you really need to clean up in here!”) I found clothes I hadn’t seen in months, fluff, cups, a lost DVD from the library and a baby bottle teat. We don’t even have a baby. I had a moment and collapsed in defeat on the bed, while the kids gathered round, gave me cuddles and offered to clean the whole house while I slept. I felt like some sort of bogan Cleopatra. I HATE things being out of order, hate it. But…I hate it far less than I hate not getting any creative work done. So…there you go. It is my choice. And I choose a messy house.
2. Sometimes I ignore the kids while I work. I comfort myself with articles that talk about how the french do this and how ignoring them is actually a form of superior parenting. Then I get back to beating myself up about it. Then I inevitably compensate by taking them out for fish and chips on the beach. It’s basically a cycle of PARENTING FAIL, PARENTING WIN, PARENTING FAIL, PARENTING WIN, which goes in direct disproportion to my other cycle of WORK WIN, WORK FAIL, WORK WIN, WORK FAIL. This amazing article I read recently (which could spark off an entire other series of posts on here from all the thoughts and feelings it brought up in me alone), talked about this concept far more eloquently than I can.
3. I sacrifice sleep. It is not unusual to be still working at 2.30 in the morning. I actually really enjoy what I do (I’m lucky, aside from some of the boring admin details I’d rather delegate, I actually do enjoy the marketing, promo and of course, writing work that comes with freelancing as a performer.) The downside? It makes it really hard to pry my butt away from the computer when I should be. And it makes my back hurt. More.
4. I am a super-fast typer. Last time I was measured I was 103wpm. This is not really a confession in itself, but I think it’s important to be honest about how I actually can get a lot done in a small amount of time. I’m not saying that to boast, just to explain how it is possible for me to get through an absolute TON of works (emails, media releases, show blurbs, etc.) pretty quickly: typing fast. I honestly think it’s the best skill I’ve ever mastered. I am buying my kids this computer typing tutor (the very one I learned on) soon.
5. Some nights we have baked beans on toast for dinner. I’m not even sure what the kids eat*.
In summary, much of the time my home time feels like a gong show, but when I really think about what I want from life, I know that above all, I just want it to be full.
And it is.
Chaotically, messy, disorganisedly, crazy, loud, over-the-top, failure-riddled, at times just plain overwhelmingly, on-the-verge-of-a-breakdown FULL.
But, I know that:
a) this is my choice; and
b) I will NEVER do it all.
And today, that is the truth of mummy hood.
Feeling: Overwhelmed, anxious, out of control, like my house is never gonna look clean again, like I’m gonna crack one of these days and just rip the page that says “tidy” out of the dictionary.
Looking: Like a sweaty thyroidy wet patch. In fairness, this is cos I just got back from the gym. Yes. I am going. Again. Hold me. Not that close. I smell.
Doing: A ton of stuff. Gigs. Trying to work out how to crack this whole $10,000 target thing. Celebrating small victories. Fluffing my life away on Facebook. Beating myself up for not being more efficient. Getting lost in the vortex of visual candy that is Pinterest. Forgetting how to cook well. Taking comfort in articles like this.
Needing: Sleep. More arms.
Just stumbled across this at my local library: 5 Ways to Carry A Goat, a tale of how an Aussie travel blogger embarked on a trek of the globe relying purely on the kindness of cyber-strangers to meet, accommodate and entertain him en route.
As somebody with an insatiable travel itch – and one which I certainly hope to keep scratching throughout my life both with my children and without – I find even the thought of somebody doing this pretty damn exciting.
Could/would you do that with kids though?
Makes me think there oughta at least be a family friendly version of Couchsurfing.
This is Percy. At 97, he is – I am told – the most elderly deaf person in Australia. (I suppose I should qualify that by saying that I mean he has grown up deaf and using sign language, rather than losing their hearing in old age.)
What a guy.
The other night, I had the great honour of performing some comedy at the ASLIA Queensland awards night, a celebratory occasion for interpreters and the deaf community. It was such a great vibe, lots of laughter, wine flowing, a funky photo booth resplendent with rocking props (why have I not thought of this before? Note to self: install one in the lounge) and of course, signing galore!
It was when I was onstage – with my beloved interpreting partner-in-crime Ruth Sullivan – and surveyed the audience to discover who’d been married for the longest that I “met” Percy. He and his wife were together for…get this: 70 years.
A new record! For my comedy surveys thus far, if not for marriage itself!
When I asked how they met, he began signing from the audience, only as it was difficult for him to be seen from there – and thus, understood – he was assisted to come up onto the stage, where he took a seat and proceeded to tell us all virtually the entire story of their life together!
While it took up a lot more stage time than I would normally ever want an audience member to take charge of, I truly felt this moment was something important. To have this gentleman at such an occasion open his heart up, in the spotlight, with an attentive audience, at the age of ninety-seven years old…he told of how as a young chap he’d been a total flirt, always having girls on each arm, in fact, he’d had no less than twenty-seven girlfriends (27!), never being serious about any of them. Then one night in South Brisbane, he went to a dance and there across the room, stood this beautiful girl. He was instantly besotted. Her name was Nelly.
It was around this point that my heart melted.
He then told the audience of how after seventy years of marriage, she very sadly passed away.
It was at this point he left the stage for me to make up a comedy song.
I called it “Number Twenty-Eight.”
He loved it.
Afterwards when we chatted – thanks to a very attentive interpreter who saw me struggling to try to understand Percy’s signs (given that the only ones I do know are “thank you”, “hello”, “f*** you”, my contributions to any conversation are limited, if not passionate), and ran to my rescue!
He told me that they had a very happy marriage, that they very rarely fought because they respected each other, and that he was very sad when she died and he misses her but they had a wonderful life together. He showed me a photo of her that was in his wallet. I felt truly, truly honoured and moved.
Then he said this: “No matter where we went, we went together. If we went to Adelaide, we went together. If we went to Melbourne, we went together. We were always together.”
I really felt like I was being prophesied to.
One thing Tim and I have been mulling over this year is how to do just that: to stay together.
And I think the answer for us lies in Percy’s words: to stay together. Physically.
Which is a huge challenge for us, when the hard reality of this business I’ve signed myself up for (which I LOVE), is that you have to travel to do the work.
So we’ve gotta work on either how to do the travelling together, or how to re-design the career stuff so that I can build my little comedy empire from home.
It sure is nice to think that Tim might speak of me one day with the same fondness, tenderness and love that Percy summoned up when speaking of his Nelly.
At this point it’s probably more likely he’d speak with exhaustion. Assuming of course, that I haven’t burned him out so badly he can barely talk.
We can always get him a bell.
Thank you once again to everybody who took the time and effort to give me some feedback on the blog. I’m so inspired, tremendously so actually, to give Comic Mummy HQ an overhaul both in design and content. THANK YOU!!!
One thing I found really interesting was that there seems to be a FAQ about how to do this creative/parenting combo gig. I’ll do my best to share some thoughts on this more regularly for shizzle! Very cool. If you do have a SPECIFIC question/thought you’d like me to blog about, then please do send it through and help me fulfil my childhood dream of being an agony aunt.
We just got back from our outback trip which was a fantastic time to catch up with my dear high-school BFF Lou and her gorgeous fam. Some big decisions are being made over here on the personal and business front, so it was a brilliant time to chat with her about it all, she who has known me well for over twenty years now and get her take and I feel glimpses of clarity! Such a bonus to the trip. The rain did absolutely nothing to deter my munchkins from riding their hearts out on the four-wheeler motorbike. I wish I had one. I think I could convince my kidlets to do anything I asked if I had that little carrot to dangle in front of them as a reward.
“Eat your veges and you can take it for a spin.”
“Clean up your room and I’ll let you take it into third gear.”
“Bow down and sing ‘My Heart Will Go On’ and you can go practice wheelies.”
Every home should have one.