PICTURE THIS WITH PETRA BAGUST
Budgeting a day's rest
WOnce again Petra Bagust takes us on a journey of discovery – combining words and images in a celebration of creativity, parenthood and everyday beauty.
ithin all the talk about money and budgeting, let me tell you about the day I was overdrawn – emotionally and physically. My eyes were puffy from crying the night before – you know the kind of crying that leaves you having to breathe through your mouth. My nose was so blocked with snot, or emotion – probably both – that I didn’t breathe properly all night, meaning I didn’t sleep well.
The kick-starter to all those tears was a late-night conversation with my significant other. The person whom I love the most, and yet the one I can be challenged by the most. I really was trying to hear what my husband had to say without being defensive or overreacting – to take it on the chin, so to speak, reflective listening and all that. And yet it went from seemingly good, to misunderstood, to hard, and hurt, and sadness, and tears.
particular situation – even though I knew he would have loved to. He made a real deposit with his attention and care. Baby Hazel was dropped off and all of a sudden I was invited to be present – to smile and play with small wooden animals. The best bit was when she rested in my arms – drinking expressed milk – just drinking and being. We were quiet together. There was more healing in this closeness. My account was gradually getting topped up.
Delightfully, I also found Foy Vance’s new album, The Wild Swan. There is always hope and joy in hearing songs that express a wide range of powerful emotions. I related to both the pain and the joy. I soaked in these new songs, just like I soaked in Hazel’s presence.
Today ended on the couch, next to my man – close and easy – we reminisced about some of the television shows we made 20 years ago as he digitised old VHS tapes. We had a cup of tea and began to watch a movie. We were reminded of our history, and then we rested in the present, together and peaceful. Sometimes a day is needed to reset and allow time and space to begin to be restored. I was back in credit.
"Not yet." It is cathartic to share our problems – to grizzle about interest rates, unfair bosses, in-laws, cranky neighbours – but measure the width of the shoulders we unburden on to. It is an adult’s job to carry adult burdens, and it is a child’s right to be protected from those cares as much as possible. They will have their own worries soon enough. In the meantime, childhood should be as carefree as we can make it. If you lack receptive ears to share with, buy a dog. (Cats don’t care).
My dad was a great storyteller and many of his best tales came from his time serving in World War II. I was 30 when he died, and I inherited his war diary and read stories I had never heard before. In one incident, he used the pages of the diary to think through whether or not to go to a brothel in Italy with his mates. (He remembered Mum back home and decided not to – I am proud of him). In another incident, he had a clear view of an enemy soldier who was firing on Kiwi soldiers, and Dad shot him.
Again, the diary recorded his anguished decision-making in that situation and the distress he felt afterwards. My dad and I were close, but while alive, he never spoke a word of these incidents and the many others in his diary. I wonder – as I assume he must have – how I would have reacted as a much younger person to these revelations. I can barely handle them even now.
So are your children mature enough to hear of your adventures and your mistakes? Maybe not yet, but I would urge you to share them one day, for two reasons. The first is that they can learn so much from them. Life has taught you many lessons and maybe some of the most valuable ones have been painful and embarrassing. Your children can gain the benefit of those lessons without having to pay the same high price if you share them as stories. The second reason to share your stories is that your children are going to hear about them one day anyway. After you are gone, there will be a line of relatives queuing up to tell your children distorted stories about you. It is far better they hear them from you so they get to hear the truth and also the wisdom that has composted down from the experiences.
Pick your moment, have tissues handy (you both might need them), and tell your story. Do not expect even a mature child to initially react well. It may have taken you years to process this event – it will take them a little time as well. Will they think less of you? It is a risk, but I am inclined to believe they will mainly see
the treasures of growth and character you have taken from those situations, and not the wreckage and failure. I know two former heroin addicts who each shared with their teenage children about their battles with drugs. In both cases, the children see their mums as victorious heroes and not ‘old junkies’. It was worth it. If this is all too scary, leave them your diary! A survey carried out in America shows only about 17 percent of parents tell their children how much they earn. There are a number of good reasons not to tell them. For a start, do you really want your salary blabbed around the playground? Notions of privacy tend to be displaced by a need to brag. Another reason – whether you earn $20,000 or $200,000 a year, children have no understanding of what those figures actually mean. If you've never had more than $20 in your pocket at once, even $10,000 sounds like incredible wealth.
If your children bluntly ask how much you earn, you can say that you do not want to say because it is private. But you can also paint a picture for them – “I’m getting a good wage so that we can get the things we need and put a bit away for later, but we do have to be careful and not go crazy.” Or, “Actually, things are very tight for us at the moment. I know you kids would like us to spend a lot more on stuff but we really cannot afford it just yet – but I hope it will get better.” However, whether you reveal your income to your children or not, they all tend to roughly work out where on the economic spectrum your family fits. They will generally know who is wealthier and who is poorer.