Oh, for smelly teens and those “breathe-out” February days

Remember when February was the “breathe out” month?

Feb 10, 2020, updated Feb 10, 2020

If you are a working parent, you will know what I’m talking about.

December is not so bad. The kids are exhausted; by the end of the year, they need a break as much as you do, and Christmas and New Year are, for most of us, a chance to celebrate and unwind for a while.

But by the second week of January, desperation sets in. Those exhausted kids have now recharged and they’re bored. Restless, irritable, looking for distraction.

The real circus begins when we have to return to work. If you’re lucky, you might be able to keep your kids from running feral by using a mix of vacation care, sports clinics, visits with grandma, and a rotating roster of friends who happen to be at home with their own broods.

But it feels like a precarious, high-wire act. In rare, quiet moments, you occasionally consider running away to join Cirque du Soleil.  They may juggle plates and fire while balancing on a ball that’s on a chair that’s on a seesaw six metres above the ground, but pfffft … have they ever tried to make it across town from a 3:30pm cricket clinic pickup to a 5pm band camp pickup, while conducting a work conference call in the car and picking up 1kg of chicken thighs for dinner on the way?

And so, February arrives like a sigh. Sure, the weather in Queensland at this time of year can sometimes feel like you’re re-living a bad teenage romance: the daily build-up of tension; the smothering heat; the sky brooding, sour as a sulk before an explosion of noise and waterworks in the evening. Brief, sweet relief – and then it starts again the next day.

But what I love about February is the return to routine. New lunchboxes, pressed uniforms, pristine books, neat haircuts. And silence. Oh, that blessed silence. The hours each day that are delivered back to us, those pristine packages of time in which we can once again read or write, create or plan, or simply finish a thought without Mu-uuuum, he hit me no I didn’t you started it he’s had too much time on the PlayStation you said you’d drop me at Fred’s I can’t find my sneakers why can’t I have Ultraboosts but everybody else plays Grand Theft Auto you’re stupid you’re embarrassing I hate you I’m BOOOORRRRED.

 True confession. The true sweetness of February is handing all of that – that maddening tangle of teenage surliness and egocentricity and disorganisation and energy – over to someone else for a while. It’s probably not the parental attitude most teachers and principals welcome but at this time of year, I don’t have the energy for pretence. So, teachers, if you’re reading this: I’m done. You’re the professionals. You’ve got this. And if you don’t, you always have detention.

But meanwhile, this February has presented a problem. I haven’t breathed out yet. That restorative silence, the quiet, calming rhythms of the day – both are yet to arrive.

The house still hums with the angst of fractious teenagers. The tension and aggro seem to have seeped into my muscles, barnacled itself to my bones.

InQueensland in your inbox. The best local news every workday at lunch time.
By signing up, you agree to our User Agreement andPrivacy Policy & Cookie Statement. This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

For a while, I couldn’t understand why. But then I began to pay attention to the news I was consuming, and the other material delivered on my social media feed each day.

For example on Twitter yesterday, men’s rights activist Bettina Arndt attacked Griffith University for a pamphlet they had produced, encouraging students to set boundaries and show respect when dating, socialising and being sexually active. Arndt, who received an AM in the recent Australia Day awards, claimed the university was teaching young women “to be uncaring, demanding bitches.”

Last week on Sky News, host Chris Kenny labelled newly elected Greens leader Adam Bandt “just as extreme and nasty as his predecessor”.

In December, the ABC concluded an internal review into Q&A after guest and feminist activist Mona Eltahawy asked “how many rapists must we kill until men stop raping women”, prompting a protracted panel discussion about violence against men. Author Clementine Ford defended the program vehemently in a column for 10Daily, pronouncing the review: “an absolutely rancid, steaming pile of bullsh**.”

You get the gist. Across the political spectrum, journalists, authors and public commentators descend daily into the name-calling, bullying, foul language and generally obnoxious behaviour that we decry in our smelly teenagers.

At least they have their hormones to blame, while we try to educate them to be better versions of themselves. But if we can’t discipline ourselves to have grown-up debates and civil conversations, we shouldn’t be surprised if our political processes remain as messy and unpleasant as a teenager’s bedroom.

Local News Matters
Copyright © 2024 InQueensland.
All rights reserved.
Privacy Policy