It’s been a while…

I know, I know…of late my blogging has been atrocious. This week for my local writer’s group I had the task of writing a letter to a dead relative/friend. Strange subject I know…and guess who set the task ??

Yes…it was me. I am learning there are few coincidences in life. I know from writing the following piece that I had a need to say these things to a father that can no longer hear them.

But the process of taking these thoughts from my brain and placing them on paper was very good for me. I can move on. I can love with open arms and no expectations, and not be afraid.

Dear Dad,

Earlier this month I took a moment to ponder what it would have been like to still have you here. You would now be 107 years old, and I wondered if time might have made you different. Seemingly out of nowhere came a thought. Common sense tells me that of course nothing comes out of nowhere. That our thoughts are simply pulsating deep feelings that we may try to bury, yet like an earthquake they will eventually erupt and arise to the surface. My thought was this. Love and hate are very closely bonded together. I realised that when I think of you in the quiet moments I waver between the two.

I remember and love the moments we shared. It was only as I became an adult I truly appreciated how you suffered through my learning to cook, never expressing what you must have felt about some of the awful missteps in the kitchen that still made their way on to your plate. You generally ate every mouthful, and for that I loved you. I also remember you teaching me to drive, and wonder just how you made it through that period without suffering a serious heart attack. There are many of these memories that pop up. Often they surface when not expected, but they give me a sense of peace.

I also remember how you broke me in to so many pieces that 20 years later I am still finding cracks. It was not until after you died that I realised how like Pop you were. I should have seen the signs; perhaps I did but chose to ignore them.

Family was in fact a burden to you. When it came down to it, like Pop, you were not above exploiting that family for your own needs. As I reflect, one memory in particular arises again and again. It was painful at the time. It is still painful. Conceivably that is why for many decades I buried it deep inside. I was an eight year old, getting to know her mother for the first time. Using guile and guilt you tried so hard to bring me to heel. When I take that memory apart now I see a selfishness I had refused to acknowledge in you.

Put that aside…and oh how I loved you. I still do. I always will.

You left this world in 1996. You left it leaving behind your signature on some papers that would do exactly what I believe you wished for. Papers and a signature that would tear me in to little pieces. I know that you had no way of knowing what a vulnerable state I was already in, because I kept from you the news that my marriage was falling apart. So for a time…even broken as I was by your action…I did not hold you to account.

When the news came to me days after your death of your decision to cut me so completely, at first I felt nothing. I moved from room to room in my newly rented house, and often wondered how I came to be standing where I was. I dressed and fed my two children, your grandchildren, yet a part of me was disconnected from everything in my world.

One day while I was cleaning out the pantry, my disconnection, the very thing that had held me together for those few weeks, dissolved. As did I. I lay amongst the tins and packets of food on my kitchen floor and piece by tiny piece cracked open so wide that feeling the world around me became a painful thing.

A hug from my children, seeing a butterfly land on a flower, a summer shower…all those little things that had once given me such peaceful joy now caused more pain than you can imagine. It was as if any pleasurable thing that touched me wore a coat of acid.

For years the pain of living with what you did seemed simply too much. The pain of knowing my father was the cause seemed simply too much.

In the following years many things happened, and the adulthood I had so longed to postpone found its way to me. My children were a large part of my learning about the world. I learned that I could love so deeply and so unconditionally that I was in truth…nothing like you. With that revelation came some peace. With that peace came some forgiveness. Not only for you but also for me. I forgave you. I forgave myself for still loving you. You who could consciously cause a child of yours so much pain, so much sorrow. I promised myself to learn to be everything you were not.

I would love my children…with no conditions applied, with no expectations that their lives were mine to control or to exploit. Love is often a surprise to me. Having never really felt secure in love I was a prime candidate to be like you. To seek it, to demand it, to hoard it. I imagine there is more of my mother in me than I will ever know. Because I have learned that love is not to be controlled. It is only when you embrace it with loose arms so it is free to leave when it desires, that you ever truly experience the peace and the joy of it. And I wonder if you saw the part of me like Mum, and that is what drove you to wreak such destruction. In trying to punish me you were also trying to obliterate her in payback.

When it came time to write this letter to you I was surprised to find that feelings I thought of as gone, were actually just in hiding. Love and hate. The two ends of the spectrum of emotions. I hate what you did. Still. But…yes, with me there always seems to be a but, I am also thankful for it, even if I can never grasp what drove you to inflict pain of that magnitude on your own child. No matter what you perceived my guilt to be.

Asking a pregnant woman to choose between the two most important men in her life was unjust. Clutching your perceived sense of being wronged when you were the one who forced the choice in the first place was unjust. Unjust and unkind. And once again I am surprised at myself. When I take my memories out and lay them before me I see that in fact you were not a kind man unless it suited you. A kind man would never have allowed the police to hold his 18 year old daughter responsible for a car crash, when he was the driver, and drunk at that.

Perhaps I am now the one being unkind, for the possibility exists that you did not fully comprehend the fall out from your actions. Yes the possibility is there. The probability and the likelihood of that being the case, sadly is minimum. The child that still lives on me would love to latch on to that possibility and therefore be able to imagine her father as a kind man, a just man. The adult in me knows better. The parent in me is uncompromising in her revulsion of the cruelty of your action.

So there in lies the hate part.

And the love, where does that come in to play? In forgiving you, and forgiving myself for still loving such a father. Through forgiveness I have learned to love and love freely. I have learned that even if love is not returned, as we would wish, the act of loving itself is a blessing. I have learned that a love that has no expectation except to be given is the purest form of love, the one that gives the most reward.

You Dad, with your love that was wrapped in expectations, and punishment should those expectations not be met, yes you, taught me how to love without expectation of any kind.

Your lessons though oft times uncompromising and harsh, were for me, lessons I now believe I needed as I went my way in this world. You taught me how love should be, could be, and luckily for me, is.

How can I do anything else but be grateful to you for teaching me what is the most important lesson I have ever learned, for handing me a way to learn the true value of love ?

Love freely given.

Love without expectation.

Love that compromises.

Love that is unconditional.

Love that seeks no reward other than the pleasure of loving.

So there in lies the love part.

Ever your daughter,

Love Joanne.

Related Posts

And if you are new to my blog, or just haven’t read some of these…a few posts that will maybe explain the crazy existence of me..

 

What happens after the moment ?

 

This morning I read a review of Anne Rice‘s Interview With A Vampire. It wasn’t a good review but then the reviewer is a Twilight fan. Yes I know !! I have said I like Twilight and I love Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles, but they are two completely different genres…it’s like comparing Brad Pitt and Justin Beiber.

I also went online to read the news. Which lead me to the Stewart/Pattinson saga playing itself out in the media.

Shock, horror…Bella cheated on Edward. Whoops, I mean Kristen cheated on Rob. It is a bit hard to seperate the two at times.

It must be awful to be that young and have your mistakes played over and over again to the public.

Which led me to wondering why it is the public expects these kids to always do the right thing? Because they are kids. Their brains aren’t fully formed. The part that makes it possible for us oldies to understand action and consequence is still trying to forge its links.

At their age I was a baby. Though God help you if you tried to tell me that. In love with a boy who would never love me back. Age has shown me that that was precisely the attraction. My unformed brain took me on paths that often led to bad decisions.

Yet isn’t that precisely what that age is all about? Learning to make decisions, good decisions because of the bad ones that teach us what happens when we get it wrong.

I started thinking about The Kiddywinkles. At 23 and 21 they are right there. Forging their lives, making choices, learning what happens when they make the wrong ones. Celebrating when they make the right ones.

Have you noticed how much of a hurry they are in? At times I just want to say: “Slow down…it will come.” But I think back and realise that I ran about my life just as much back then. I chased every opportunity, convinced that it needed to be caught at that moment or possibly be lost forever.

Waiting, patience, was for people who couldn’t move fast anymore. I didn’t think beyond the moment.

Because in that moment of making the choice there is a certain euphoria. You have picked the path and take joy in planting that first step in your new direction.

Being young is a bit like running around a rabbit warren. Racing forward, crossing paths, turning back, getting lost, and getting lost again. At some point however you will find the right direction and sunlight will be waiting for you at the exit.

It is the getting lost that creates the sustenance for us to live and survive. It takes us from babyhood to adulthood. And we need to remember that.

Us I mean…the adults who have made the mistakes and lived with the consequences of our own bad choices. Because sometimes it is those bad choices that will later define who we are…in a good way.

Mine did. The boy I mentioned earlier – one of my bad choices – was the reason I left Australia to travel overseas.

And just look where that has taken me !!!

 

Alone is not the same as lonely.

Borrowed from Google Images

I was never alone as a child.

Until I was eight there were aunts and uncles, cousins, grandparents, a sister, a brother, Dad – that I remember.

From eight until twelve there were new brothers and sisters, cats and dogs, budgies, ferrets, Mum.

Later there was Dad again.

And friends.

Then there was a husband. And a new family – his family, then our family.

So no – I was never alone – even as an adult.

But I was often lonely.

I didn’t fit you see.

Square peg – very round holes.

As a youngster I had trouble at school – not making friends, that I knew how to do well. It was keeping them that was difficult. I had learnt, from changing schools at a rapid rate, that you needed to fit in to a certain mould for people to like you. But after a few weeks I always found it hard to maintain the facade.

You see I was odd. I saw the popular girls all wearing the same clothes, listening to the same music, liking the same boys. At every school there would be a different set of guidelines to follow to acceptance, but basically the rules were the same.

Blend in, don’t show your individuality or brilliance at anything too soon – actually don’t show it ever.

Never dance to a drum they don’t hear.

So that’s where I was doomed.

Because I was very much an individual (no matter how hard I tried not to be), and I had a brain that flew on a very different astral plane to all the rest.

I was also intelligent, another trait that I tried to hide, but my damn arm was the problem. When the teacher asked questions I knew the answers to, it had a life of its own. It started off with a twitching feeling, then my elbow would bounce outwards from my side, where I was busy desperately trying to hold it against. Hanging on to my hand with the other hand never worked. It was dying to wave about in the air as well.

I think it was the unicorns and fairies that were to blame for the worst. They inconsiderately followed me from house to house. Their presence wrecked any chance at maintaining other more normal friendships.

It is hard when you are continually having to push people out of their way (unicorns take up a lot of room turning around), because they choose only to reveal themselves to you.

The fairies were – pesky.

Their shenanigans cost me more than one budding friendship.

It is hard not to laugh out loud when they play hide-and-seek in someone’s hair. I have learnt to keep it to a polite smile, but the corner of my mouth does twitch a bit at times.

These days there are not so many people around – and I often find myself alone, by choice. Except for the unicorns, Wraith in particular spends a lot of time here – and he is a big boy.

Wraith - Artist Corina Ravenscraft a.k.a. dragonkatet

His movements are particularly graceful, but something that size – always causes a few problems. Oh and let’s not forget the fairies, and D. Who is D you ask ?? He’s the protagonist in THE BOOK.

D - as he appears to me...only his clothes are much sexier in my imagination - if that is possible...hehe

D and his brother Z have come to stay at my house. At times they are worse than the fairies and unicorns combined. They argue a bit when they are not dashing about trying to save their world.

Then there is Joe. Joe is in his fifties, looks a little like this.

Any wonder I don't mind Joe waking me at 3 am to discuss his issues...

He is Catholic, ex-Army, and in love with a Brad Pittt look-alike. Joe has issues. Issues he likes to discuss at three am – around the time the Grumpy Cat is trying to flick the window catch, to escape all the insanity, she mumbles as she dives out the window.

But – here’s the thing. I don’t try anymore to hide them, the friends that only I can see that inhabit my world. And no-one seems to think me certifiable.

Maybe they’re just not voicing that – but I don’t care, because these days I’m not lonely. Both of my worlds have come together.

It had to do with accepting myself. I needed to do that before anyone else could.

Then I saw her face...now

There are still the naysayers, these days I sense them as they round the corner and quickly cross the road.

I have time only for the embracers of fantastic. There are a lot of them out there.

For now and the future – I will weave my dreams into new worlds…

 

The Doll – part 2

It was not that she wasn’t familiar. But THE DOLL had taken all my attention. After all I had seen her before, not that I remember my birth, whatever the new age greenies think. Little too traumatic an event to want to remember if you ask me.

And I had lived with her until she and Dad split up – now how long was that ? Oh yea, about the time it takes to take a deep breath. then Dad had taken me (now that’s a whole story on its own) and I’d lived with Auntie Rita until…

One day, I was about three I think, Mum turned up at the door. Apparently she had already spoken to the local police and what they told her was this. If Dad was not at my aunt’s house and I came outside to her, there was nothing they could do to stop her taking me.

At three I must have still known exactly who she was. I was having a nap when I heard her voice. Running at full speed I dodged around my aunt at the door and flew into her. Mum picked me up and stated her business to my aunt – she was reclaiming me – and waited patiently while Auntie Rita phoned the police.

Now you may not believe this – but I remember every moment of this. Well, not the words – but the sound of her voice, the running, the arms, the trip back in the car with Mum and my brother.

So how was it I didn’t recognise her now – well it wasn’t long before I was back with Auntie Rita, and she (Mum) was a very distant memory to me at eight.

So there she sat – with the THE DOLL – smiling at me. I was quite an articulate eight-year-old, but not at that moment. And Auntie Ed’s fingers were hurting as they dug deeper with every passing SILENT minute. The adults were not saying a lot, but I guessed my aunties were none to thrilled with Mum’s presence.

Mum looked, well, uncomfortable doesn’t describe it. And she kept smiling. Now you think silences are awkward for adults – let me tell you they are worse when you’re eight and you’re not sure what to do or say. Adults are supposed to give you direction. I guessed I was on my own on this one.

Besides it was starting to become apparent to me that I had a good chance of claiming THE DOLL if things went well.

Long lost mother + large doll + eight-year-old girl = present.

Right ?

“Mum?’ I wanted to check to be sure.

“That’s me,” she said. And I felt the tug of a memory in the tone of those words.

“I’m Joanne,” I said, tugging, to free my shoulder from Auntie Ed’s grip. It wasn’t easy, but I did it and walked forward with my hand held out to shake hers.

I know – she knew who I was, but hey I was brought up with manners being a big priority.

She took my hand, her grip was almost as tight as Auntie Ed’s. After a minute she seemed to realise that fact and let go.

“You’ve grown, ” she said.

Nothing passed Mum’s eagle eye…she took them from me to look at both my aunts. To my surprise Auntie Ed mumbled (I had never heard Auntie Ed mumble in my life) about making some tea, then they both went out to the kitchen.

“I brought you something,” she said. And then she pushed THE DOLL toward me.

Now most other eight-year-old girls would have grabbed her with glee. And oh how I wanted to. I was the very girl I had envied a little while earlier as I walked away from the door, but my hands remained at my sides.

“Why?”

“I missed your birthday,” Mum pushed her further toward me.

“You missed a few.”

“Yes.”

“And Christmases.”

“Yes.”

“Why?”

“Why what?”

“Why the doll? Why now?” I was eight, not stupid.

“Because I missed all the others – I thought…well, I thought I’d need something big to make up for them. And because…”

“What?”

“Because I want you to come home and spend the rest of the holidays with your brothers and me.”

It was time to take THE DOLL…

Part 1

The Doll

I was eight.

It was the Christmas holidays which meant Nana and Pop’s house. Nana was blind and Pop – well when they retired him from working at the mine he went home to bed. Literally. Stayed there for years. Nana and Pop had two daughters. Rita was the oldest, and Edna, the baby of the family.

Since I could remember I had lived with Auntie Rita. We were just the two of us – her husband had been killed and she had no children. Dad came down once every few weeks for a visit to Bellambi, he stayed for the weekend then went back to his life.

Christmas holidays (in Australia they are for 6 weeks from December until February) were spent in the Campsie (a suburb in Sydney) house of my Dad’s parents. I loved those holidays, for my Auntie Ed fascinated me. She had never married, but stayed on looking after her aged, and infirm, parents. But Auntie Ed was a firecracker.

Not much taller than me as an eight-year-old, that woman was full to the brim of EVERYTHING.

As usual I was wiping the dishes after dinner when there was a knock at the door and Auntie Ed got me to go to answer it. I am not sure if it was intentional on their part. Maybe they didn’t know she was coming that night. That seems more likely to me – neither of my aunts were ever intentionally cruel to anyone, especially me. And looking back – letting me answer that door, ignorant, would have been cruel if it was done intentionally.

A woman was standing in the porch. But it wasn’t her that drew my attention. In front of her was the biggest doll I had ever laid eyes on. It was almost as tall as I was. It took all of two seconds to want that doll with every fibre in me.

I never took my eyes off it as the lady asked to speak to one of my aunts. And it was painful to walk away from the door to get one of them.

What if she left and took that doll with her?

In truth I was never a covetous child. I didn’t have a lot in the way of toys and games, but that never bothered me. The only thing I can ever remember asking for until then was a sewing box. Things were just not that important – not then – not now.

But it was as if I was joined to that doll by some thread of possessiveness. Oh how I envied whoever that doll actually belonged to.

“Auntie Ed, ” I said.

“Yes,” she was still washing up, so in hindsight I guess she was oblivious to who was standing at the front door.

“There’s a lady at the door to see you. She has a really big doll with her.”

I wasn’t intuitive at eight, so if there were undercurrents going round I usually missed them, but only a dead person could have missed the undercurrents in that house after I made that statement.

I was ushered into the bedroom that I shared with Auntie Rita when we stayed, and given a book to read. My aunts weren’t silly, put my nose in a book and I was a goner for hours. Auntie Rita was hauled out of the room. Auntie Ed might be small but she was strong.

I don’t remember how long I stayed there, once I was in a book, time became irrelevant.

“Joanne,” Auntie Ed was at the door. “Come with me will you?”

In the dining room the lady was seated, still holding the doll. She smiled as I walked in. Auntie Rita stood near her, as if she was making sure she didn’t make off with the family silver. Auntie Ed’s hand was gripping my shoulder, squeezing the blood out of it it felt like.

I looked from one to the other.

“Joanne,” Auntie Ed was the only one doing any talking. “This is your mother.”

Well that sure got my eyes off the doll…

Part 2

The Letter.

Mum

Hello Mum,

Each day there is a moment, and in that moment, I find myself talking to you. Unquestionably a one-sided conversation, it soothes me to imagine you hear it, as it eases me imagining you out there, watching, and guiding me.

I lived with Dad once you left. He wasn’t equipped for the erratic behaviour a 12-year-old can manufacture in less time than it takes to breathe. Thank God he was the sturdy stoic type; it’s probably what saved him from a long list of stress-related complaints. Living with Dad taught me about independence. He was a busy man; work, bowls, drinking with his mates left little time for supervising a daughter, so I learnt rapidly to look after myself.

I didn’t finish high school. At the time, I couldn’t see the wisdom in having an education. I’ve come to realise teenagers of every generation can be short-sighted, but at that stage short skirts were essential, as were boys and partying. Besides, having spent less time in school than out of it, there was little likelihood I was going to pass any exam.

If there had been a test in forgery, I’d have got A’s. In important matters I was diligent, I spent days getting Dad’s signature just right – It took years for him to find out. When he did, he sat on the end of my bed and cried. Nothing else he could have done would have punished me more than those tears, but it was not enough to change my behaviour; as I said, boys were more important, and the important boys spent their days at the beach. School never stood a chance!

I did ultimately revise my estimation on education and its merit. So far, I’ve revisited the schooling system twice. Well, let’s be honest, I was pushed. It was either retrain or become one of those who bemoan the unjust treatment life has accorded them. Bitter and twisted as I can be – on occasion – that didn’t seem the best method to survive.

I live in New Zealand now, so Kiwi jokes are no longer considered funny, and all windup toys to do with sheep go straight into the bin. I left Aussie bound for the northern hemisphere, hmm, makes you wonder about the validity of those women navigator slurs.

I got married along the way. Yes. Me. Married. Just once, that was sufficient to put me in counselling for years. Like all good love stories, our eyes met should say it all. But, like all good love stories, the truth is a little different. Our eyes did meet, in a hotel in South Africa. He was getting his  bath plug from the office safe. No more need be said about the type of hotel it was.

We spent the next six months crammed with 19 others on a bright orange truck. We travelled north on dusty roads until no quantity of scrubbing would remove the grime. Rationing water, digging holes to shit in was expected, but falling in love was a shock. God, he was beautiful! Tall, blonde, slender, and with an accent that made my fingers actually move to touch him. However, being the perverse young lady I was raised to be, I resisted all attempts at romance for a good month. But while I had perversity on my side Willem possessed perseverance. Let me illustrate; where the jungle met a shanty town, he managed to find a French restaurant. I’m serious, white table linen, silver cutlery, crystal glasses. The food was awful, and we ended up discarded by our taxi driver in the bush. But what I remember most is the warmth from his hand when he slid his fingers between mine.

He was the first person who didn’t have to, that loved me – really loved me. Perverse, bad-tempered, impulsive, insecure, it didn’t matter. He was there, beside me, behind me, fighting for me, fighting with me, loving me. We had fun roaming the world. Through Africa, Holland, Australia, New Zealand, we kept looking for the place to stop.

It’s the little things I remember now. Teaching me to ride a bike in the football club parking lot, curled up in bed talking and sipping Baileys, the sight of his hand cradling our daughter’s and son’s heads minutes after they were born. These are the moments I choose to embrace, the memories I choose to pass on to my children. For, like many other love stories, the ending sucked. While it started in a burst, in dying it went quietly.

At the finish we lived beside each other without ever touching, both too afraid in case we’d see pain in the other. Like polite strangers conversing for the first time, calmly arranging the end. The leaving was a relief.

The reality of life as a solo mum was however, quite different to the romanticised version I had envisaged during those last months. Days were about staying busy. As long as I kept moving, I felt safe. Safe from those moments where your hands begin to shake or your back seems to lose its ability to keep you upright, safe from the incessant dialogue that echoes in your head about your ability to cope.

The children’s bath-time became a long and unhurried ritual in the evenings. Storytelling could be prolonged with a little effort on my part. Night-time wasn’t safe you see. It was so quiet I could hear my breath, and that meant hearing the echoes. Those hours I filled with too much alcohol and too many sad songs. When the tears came, they left my skin sticky.

Those years were busy. Afternoons spent trying to offer advice about homework, Saturday mornings on soccer fields that all looked the same, cheering whether they won or lost. Late night TV on weekends watching infomercials on how to obtain a six pack stomach in minutes a day waiting for the phone to go so I can play taxi driver.

Education comes in many formats. In the years between then and now, I’ve learnt a great deal. As well as the mundane things in life, such as how to change a flat tyre or a blown fuse, there have been bigger lessons. I know that there are always going to be problems, as there are always solutions.

I know that there is little I would change. The face you see in the mirror depends on experience. I’ve often wondered what face you saw when you looked in the mirror Mum, and what you’d make of mine. Would you like what you see? What I can say to you is this, it’s what I wanted, and it’s what I chose. But the 12-year-old left behind that night – she hopes you approve.

Your daughter.

Me

Teenagers – A Generation Apart

My beautiful daughter and handsome son !!

Being a teenager is often a bewildering and complex time in a person’s life, as much today in the 21st century as when I experienced it in the 1970s. There are new experiences to make sense of, hormones to deal with, and boundaries to test and expand. It can be a time of immense fun with parties, concerts (good music being a pre-requisite, of course) or just hanging out with friends, on the other hand, dealing with personal safety, sex and drug issues can be perplexing and difficult. Although there will always be similarities, as each new generation evolves, they face challenges and experiences that those from the past have not encountered. That some experiences such as personal safety, music, drug usage, puberty, and sexual awareness are pertinent to every generation is true; nevertheless, there are challenges in these experiences that are generation specific.

Safety is an issue that is of more concern today than for teenagers 30 years ago. Sydney Australia, where I grew up, was an exciting place to spend your teenage years. My friends and I felt safe to roam, people were friendly and we enjoyed a good deal of freedom. Days were spent at various beaches, while at night we cruised the streets. Moving from one pub to another, often using our thumbs, hitch-hiking being the favoured means of transport.

The innocence and freedom that my generation took for granted 30 years ago no longer exists. Although my teenage daughter enjoys the relative safety of growing up in a small rural community in New Zealand, she is aware of the need to consider personal safety issues to a far greater extent than I ever was. She wouldn’t consider hitch-hiking anywhere, as she has told me frequently: “That is just too dumb a thing to do Mum.” Stranger danger is something we now drill into our children; even kindergartens operate programmes to educate those as young as four on this subject.

In the seventies, as well as today, music formed a platform for teenagers to express themselves. The seventies was a time where some truly great music was born. Glam rock appeared with bands such as Queen, rock was taken to a new level with the likes of Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple and Joe Cocker. Musicals took on the new era, with the likes of Jesus Christ Superstar and the infamous Hair, the first stage show to have full-frontal nudity, bringing with them controversial change.

Another controversial teenage issue has always been experimental drugs usage; however, teens today are more at risk than my generation was. While marijuana, LSD and speed were readily available in the 70′, today’s teen are bombarded with an ever-increasing assortment of drugs. As well as what was available to us, they now have everything from the popular so-called ‘herbal’ party pills to the highly dangerous drug P. Sadly today it is not uncommon for teens to have drugs offered to them even in schools, to the point where some teens are routinely drug-tested in schools and colleges.

Puberty has become a dangerous time for today’s teens to negotiate their way through in comparison with teenagers 30 years ago. While 30 years ago we too were concerned with pregnancy and catching STD’s, the teenagers of today also face the existence if AIDS, which has altered the sexual revolution altogether. On the other hand, we now have more sexual education available from many differing agencies. It is no longer considered the place, or the right of parents to be the only ones to teach these matters to their teenagers.

Sex is no longer the taboo subject it was when I was younger; on the contrary, colleges have nurses available to discuss issues. Doctors protect teen’s privacy, making it more likely that they will seek help. Advertising constantly reminds them of the need for them to be safe and protect themselves.

In particular the ‘no rubba, no hubba hubba’ campaign, was specifically targeted towards today’s generation of teenagers. Television and radio programmes, magazines such as Cosmopolitan, as well the internet, have brought sexual issues out into the public arena for teenagers dealing with puberty. And discussions in our house are certainly more open and lively than I experienced while a teenager.

No matter when people experience their teenage years, there will always be challenges. But, so long as the preceding generation is willing to stand behind and be willing to listen as well as offer help when asked, hopefully the good will outweigh the bad. With luck, my son and daughter will also smile when they look back over these years, just as I do.