Mamamia – when my 6-year-old used the C-word

Here is my latest one for MM:


Yesterday as I was parking the car, my 6-year-old (Tercero) happily informed me that he had learnt a new word. Now Tercero loves new words. At family gatherings his party trick is that he spells words such as unhygienic and unrealistic for adoring elderly relatives. I was expecting symbiosis (thank you Octonauts).

You can imagine my surprise (and understand my near parking accident) when he said the word…actually, I can’t even say it.

He said the C-word, and then he told me he could spell it – because he’s very proud of his spelling (last year he came second in his Kindergarten class for the spelling bee and I’m guessing this word wasn’t on the list).

So before I could pull the hand-brake, those sweet little lips of his proceeded to spell the word.

I was horrified (and later when I reflected on the incident I was also proud of his phonemic awareness, I couldn’t help myself).

But mostly, I was horrified.

I have a friend whose Swearing Policy is as follows: Time & Place – there is a time and a place for such words and all people must learn the appropriate time and place.

I think we can all agree the primary school playground is not the time or the place.

My parents’ Swearing Policy was simple: Never, Ever Do It (this was a policy they extended to a number of activities, but that’s another blog post).

So profanity was not something I became fluent in until I left home. Decades later, I can now swear in several languages, none of which I actually speak. Profanity is also something I’m not comfortable hearing from my children. I’m just not.

My Swearing Policy, which I re-iterated to young Tercero is as follows:

1. Swearing is rude – I actually don’t know why swearing is rude, it’s just something my parents told me and if my children ever probe me on it, I’m likely to swear in German and change the subject.

2. The English language is beautiful and varied – there are so many other ways to express the strong emotions you feel right now. Challenge yourself and find another way.

I also have an Annex which contains a list of words that are considered ‘swear words’ – including but not limited to: shut up (yes really), idiot, hell (unless we’re having a theological discussion), the phrase ‘Star Wars is boring’, the F-word and now the C-word.

After I’d covered the Swearing Policy with Tercero, I felt the need to say more – there was another issue at stake and I realise that many of you will disagree with me.

I asked Tercero if he knew what the word meant. He answered: ‘It means a woman’s personal bits.’

To which I replied as follows:

1.It does indeed mean a woman’s personal bits (yes, I used the word indeed, because in times of parenting trouble I nervously develop weird British verbal tics, although I’m pleased to report I haven’t said rightio or cheerio yet).

2. It’s important to use the correct terminology when describing anything at all. In this case we refer to a woman’s personal bits as her vagina (or vulva if you prefer but people might think you’re swearing in Italian). However, as you’re only 6-years-old, I’ll allow personal bits, but not that C-word you just used.

3. Finally, that word is the most awful way you could describe a woman’s personal bits, I mean her vagina. We always talk about people’s personal bits with respect.

Maybe it’s just me – but I hate the C-word. It has angry connotations. In my mind (and perhaps only in my mind) – when I think of its use in literature, television and film, there’s always some angry person spitting it out at a woman he/she does not respect. It’s intended as a term of great offence.

My vagina and I have been through a lot together – I just don’t want people describing it that way. And I’m prepared to indoctrinate my children on that one.

So your views please – what are your Swearing Policies and are some swear words worse than others?

DISCLAIMER: The author understands and respects people’s right to use any language that isn’t proscribed by anti-vilification laws (whilst she might draft those laws differently).

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7 ways being a teenager has changed in the last 20 years

This post is an old (sponsored) one I did for but at the time, I forgot to put it onto my blog (I was in the throes of re-writing my novel – the throes are over but the waiting continues – endlessly, relentlessly, anxiously…)


25 years ago (or so) I was a teenager. It was a time of complex cultural issues (my parents wouldn’t let me watch Dirty Dancing with my friends) and even more complex clothing (I was still rocking the ruffle skirt two years after the fad had passed).

My daughter, aged 11, is on the cusp of her teen years and I ponder what kind of teenage world she will enter.

I know I swore I’d never say it, but When I Was A Teenager, the Commodore 64 was a revelation. We crowded around it at a friend’s house the way homo erectus must have crowded around fire. The first time I used a computer for research was in my second year of uni. The first time my son used a computer for research was in his second term of kindergarten.

When I was a teenager, my dad’s mobile phone was the size of a bible, we were not allowed to ‘touch the screen’ and it’s functionality was not intuitive to him or a toddler.

When I was teenager, if I had a question about life, I asked my mum, not Siri.

When I was a teenager I saw my four closest friends at school and only during the school holidays if they lived down the street. Today’s teenagers are constantly connected to the internet and therefore each other. They tweet, facebook, facetime, instant message and text each other. Their lives are instantaneously tracked – everything from the banal to the sublime is captured by status updates sent to their 1327 Facebook friends.

When I was a teenager we deposited our birthday money into the green dragon, or the bank-shaped tin our local branch gave us. My mum then took me physically into the bank where I proudly received my first passbook.  For today’s teenager, going into a bank must seem a superfluous activity. Online banking is just a natural extension of Mathletics, homework online and Facebook. It encourages and enables young people to save, using the tools they are comfortable with. I was terrified the first time I banked on-line (seriously, I started sweating) but for my daughter, she will never know any other way to deposit, transfer and track her money.

When I was young, the first thing I bought with my own money was a cassette of Whitney Houston’s debut album, the self-titled and timeless Whitney Houston. I went halves with my cousin because back in the day, those cassettes were expensive. Recently, my daughter’s friend bought herself an i-pad with her own birthday money.

My daughter regularly asks me for an iphone like some of her friends.  Every week she asks me for slushie money and almost every week I say no. Yes, I’m a cow.

When I was a teenager, I remember my dad talking about life in his village in Sri Lanka. He told me once that he and his brothers would walk several miles to school, to save on the bus fare so they could buy a rose-syrup milkshake, which they would then share amongst themselves. There were seven children and they couldn’t have everything they wanted. They also seemed to want less.

When my daughter asks me for an ipad, I panic – not because she wants an ipad but because she has no idea how privileged that request is. She has no idea how much she must have in her life (not just money, but access to education, freedom from war, access to a legal system) – when her biggest drama is that everyone else can facetime each other.

I panic, and then I take a breath. She’s a good kid and I’ve got time to teach her. A friend at school suggested I keep it simple, try not to lecture her about global issues, and tell her to “spend a bit, save a bit”. Tell her one ipad is worth 600 slushies and ask her to start saving, budgeting and prioritising, like the rest of us. 

Let’s talk about money: What advice do you give your children about it? Do you give them pocket money and is it for spending or saving? What is the best age to teach children about financial responsibility?

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Kindergarten Conundrums (Mamamia!)

Hi guys,

Here is my latest for Mamamia. Today was a big day – my third one’s first day at school. And now I’m back to writing as school holidays are officially over. You know where to find me.


My three-year-old knows how to find Youtube clips of Lightning McQueen in German – also in Spanish and Cantonese – which he would happily watch 24/7, if left to his own devices. Let me assure you, he’s no multi-lingual child prodigy; he’s just addicted to the iPad.

He also throws himself on the floor and wails inconsolably, when he’s denied anything, such as…the iPad. And have I mentioned that when he’s not begging me for the iPad, he’s giving my tummy mouth-to-muffin-top resuscitation. He has a disturbing habit of ripping up my top (or my dress) and face planting into my belly, whispering the words “Oooh, tummy time.” At least I think that’s what he’s saying; it’s a little muffled down there.

All of this has me counting down the months (there are twelve left) until he can legally go to school with his siblings.

But should he? My baby is a March baby, which means that if he goes to Kindy in 2015, when he is able to go in NSW, he will be one of the younger kids in the class. Not the youngest, but one of the younger ones. I confess I hadn’t given this much thought – he’s the fourth child and it was on my list of things to think about in 2014 – but I recently read Malcolm Gladwell’s book, The Outliers, which got me thinking, perhaps over-thinking and then over-worrying (Me? Never).

Gladwell writes about the factors and environmental conditions that assist children to become exceptional achievers. He notes that Canadian professional hockey teams are largely comprised of players who were all born in the first quarter or the first half of the year. The selection year for competitive hockey runs from January to December in Canada, and scouts start selecting squad players at the age of nine or ten. Children who are older in their year will generally have developed before those born later in the year (duh, you say, keep reading): they will be bigger, stronger and have greater hand-to-eye co-ordination than their younger peers. Children that are older in their peer group, Gladwell argues, are more likely to demonstrate the qualities or “talent” that pro-hockey selectors are looking for. Those children are then streamed and given special or extra training opportunities, and they fulfil the prophecy that was in part created by their advanced age. Gladwell extrapolates this example across a number of other areas, arguing that being older in one’s peer group, gives one an advantage.

Now unless watching Lightning McQueen for endless hours becomes an international endurance sport, I don’t think my son will make it into any national teams. Who knows and who cares? The point I took from Malcolm Gladwell was that being older in the year is somehow better for children.

A quick search on the internet resulted in me getting lost in various parenting forums for days. I was directed to Kathy Walker, an education and parenting consultant who has written a book about the topic, Ready, Set, Go? It was published in 2011 but as with many things that happened in the first 18 months of my son’s life, I missed it back then.

Walker writes about school readiness and emphasises the importance of this, rather than simply age as an indicator of when a child should begin school. So what the heck is readiness – my head was ready to explode and there are times I am ready to drive my son to the local primary school and beg them to take him now.

Apparently school readiness is about emotional and social maturity – it’s about being ready to thrive at school rather than just show up and cope with it. Walker provides a checklist of questions that help you determine if your child is indeed ready for school. The checklist is referenced in this helpful Kidspot article by Fiona Baker, here. It includes questions such as Can your child recognise and express their feelings and needs?

If the iPad is a need then yes, my child can recognise his needs and express them regularly.

Checklists aside (and don’t get me wrong, I LOVE a good checklist), I turned to the school playground for advice too. Parents told me they never regretted holding their child back from Kindergarten. Some (but not all) parents said they regretted sending their children when they were younger in the year. All parents said that each child is different and what works for one does not necessarily work for another. As far as empirical, longitudinal education studies go, it’s not awesome but it’s all I’ve got to work with.

I started investigating my options: I called local preschools to see if any would take my child for an extra year of preschool. One director said the following: “Unless you have to send your son to school for financial reasons, you would do him a great service by holding him back. Delaying his kindergarten start allows him to further grow, socially and emotionally. Whilst it’s hard to imagine your three-year-old as a teenager, he will be one in the blink of an eye, and he will have to make decisions about drinking, drugs, driving and sex. Holding him back will give him an extra year of maturity with which to make those decisions.”

Yikes. The thought of my child having sex is an image I can do without (don’t think about, don’t think about it). The thought of him getting drunk and going anywhere near a steering wheel fills me with cold fear.

The director said all of the above without judgement or criticism of parents who make different choices. She recognised she was making generalisations (“every child is different” etc) and she made some more generalisations (“boys are less developed than girls and they need the extra year of maturity in particular”).

The comment about finances was very relevant – all parents I know are working hard, in the home and outside it. We are trying to provide financially and in other ways, to meet all our children’s needs. Preschools are expensive and keeping him at home for another year has its own complications. Everything feels like a trade off of competing and sometimes costly priorities.

We have about a year before we need to make any firm decisions, during which time I will be scrutinising my youngest child’s school readiness (rather than the likelihood of him ever playing professional hockey for Australia or Canada).

When do you think is the better time to send a child to kindergarten? Have you also had the “do we hold him back” dilemma – and what has your experience told you about the best time to send children?





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Me Time

Hi guys, I hope you had a wonderful Christmas,

Here is one I wrote recently for Mamamia about Me Time:

My sister-in-law recently invited me to a girl’s weekend in Melbourne. “Come on,” she said, “When was the last time you had some ‘Me Time?’”

I haven’t peed alone since 2003 so it was a good question. That night, as my three-year-old thoughtfully handed me four pieces of neatly folded toilet paper, I asked myself: What do I do for Me Time?

This is what I came up with:

1. Reading – Most nights, I read, even if it’s just for 5 minutes. It’s a dangerous habit (obviously not like cocaine or extreme base jumping in a wing-suit, but dangerous for this suburban mummy) because sometimes I find a book so awesome I desperately want to give the kids an iPad and a box of muesli bars whilst I keep reading. I don’t – which is why I read at night.

A whole weekend away with people would require, you know, social skills and energy. If some one gave me a weekend away for Me Time, I would go to the Chatswood Public Library (or the Darwin Public Library) by myself, with a six-pack of water, 5 kilos of trail mix (ok, a family size box of Lindt balls) and a good book for sustenance.

2. A State of Motionless – I stop moving. Like all parents, I feel like I am in a constant state of motion, going from the fridge to the washing machine to the car to the school to the Lost & Found Box to the dentist to the grocery store to the post office to the school again…

Every Thursday – the day there are no children in the house – I need to sit down and drink my morning coffee slowly, instead of skulling it standing up. I like to breathe it in and think about it, instead of burning myself on it, or forgetting about it and drinking it later, reheated in the microwave (three times this morning people, three times, what the hell is going wrong with my mornings?).

At a recent family holiday, my cousin suggested we do burpees together. Burpees. The words “It’ll be fun,” followed by “drop and give me 20” should always be treated with suspicion. I like to be still, preferably in my PJs, holding a book and a coffee.

3. Hence Book Club – Hanging out with the girls is vital for me. However, shopping with girlfriends fills me with fear. Yes, I hate shopping. I’ve never liked it. It involves nudity, small changing rooms with multiple mirrors and decisions about colours and styles.

Last night, after years of piking, I attended my first Book Club with a group of local women. It was wonderful. We ate cheese and biscuits (note to self, I can not be trusted around soft cheese); we scoffed chocolates (see previous note to self, ditto) and we talked about The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion. It was a new kind of clubbing and I can not wait until next month’s meeting.

4. Pedicures – I love a pedicure with the girls – not with the kids in tow, I tried that once, and please God never again. I have unnaturally long toes. They’re almost like fingers. Seriously, you should see them. They look so much better when scrubbed, polished and painted. I love sitting with my friend Bek, having a pedicure and comparing foot deformities, whilst reading trashy magazines.

5. Movies – at the end of the school holidays, after listening to a litany of complaints from my children about how they hadn’t had enough play dates, I decided they were a bunch of ingrates. Husband came home early, expecting to be lovingly received, and instead I vented bitterly. He suggested a massage – bless you Husband, I love you deeply but I’d spent the day being manhandled by our four children. I had a better idea. I left him with the kids and I went to the movies, by myself. I even had an over-priced choc top. It felt decadent and oh so good.

How do you take time out for yourself? Are exercise, massages and shopping your thing – or your nightmare? Tell us your Me Time activities.

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In vaccination veritas


This was my first sponsored blog post for Mamamia – it is about vaccinations and the things we do to get through them:

xx and best wishes for the season,


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Physical activity in the age of the ipad

Hi guys,

I wrote this for Mamamia as a sponsored blog post for Springfree Trampolines. I hope you like it (and have a great day tomorrow). x:

Fun ways to keep your kids fit (and outdoors) without them even knowing

One day soon, the iPad and other screen-based devices may replace all forms of play previously known to mankind.

Now I am not completely against screen-based devices for children. There are times when I am outsmarted or simply ground-down by my four offspring, and ‘screen-time’ as it is now known in modern parenting parlance, is my only lifeline. I use it as a reward, a threat, an education tool and a distraction*. There are times when that screen is my best friend (God bless you Steve Jobs).

However, in our house, screen-time is also in danger of becoming the default play (and exercise) option for us. The challenge for me is finding fun ways to keep the children entertained, fit and outside, rather than simply playing Wii Sports. Here are some of our attempts:

1. The International Chandran Handball Federation (ICHF)

Every generation has its thing. When I was nine, my girlfriends and I played elastics. I am super-uncoordinated so this game always ended painfully for me.

Handball is The Game of the Moment – it has its own rules, language (“Intoes!!”) and cult of celebrity. Everybody wants to eat lunch with the reigning champion at my kids’ school. It’s so cool it has its own international federation (not to be outdone, I created one of my own). Line disputes require impartial adjudication and rights of appeal – bad line calls are never forgotten. At our local primary school and in our back yard, handball is a very serious sport that masquerades as a really fun game.

2. The Classics

Despite the passing generations, some things never change. When Husband comes home, he puts on his trainers and plays Tips with the kids in the back yard. He looks so darn cute it makes me want to have babies with him all over again. Then one of the children falls over and hurts themselves, wails annoyingly and I get over it. Variations of the game include Hide and Seek Tips and Stuck in the Mud. As the non-athletic member of the family, I get to be “Homey” which involves standing in the middle of the maelstrom, like a static and aerobically-challenged beacon of hope and safety. When you hug Homey, you can’t be tipped “it”.

3. The Trampoline

This fine piece of recreational engineering could fall into the category of The Classics but it’s so much fun it really should have its own, separate category. A few months ago we bought the Springfree Trampoline and the kids are on it constantly. When Husband announced that he wanted to get the children a trampoline, I had my concerns.

“What about falling off?” I asked him – to which he said “Aha – the Springfree Trampoline has a wall of fall-proof mesh around it, and even you can’t fall out of it.”

To which I replied, “I can fall out of anything.”

To which he replied, “No really – it is the World’s Safest Trampoline. I can zip you in. It is Shankari-proof.”

To which I replied, “But what if they pinch themselves on those awful springs?”

To which he replied in a surprisingly unpatronising voice “It’s springfree – it doesn’t have any awful springs.”

To which I replied, “Are you sure, because one time in high school I even got my leg hair stuck in a trampoline spring.” (Puberty wasn’t kind to me people).

To which he replied, “It’s springfree – really, completely springfree and completely safe. Plus, none of our children will ever be as hairy as you.”

Our Springfree Trampoline has been an absolute revelation. The children play on it together, they play on it with their friends and they play on it alone. They even play on it with me – it’s something sporting and fun that I can do with them too. They are building stamina and strength. It uses muscles – all of them (you have no idea how hard I have to clench my pelvic floor when I’m on our trampoline).

It’s a piece of play equipment and a piece of exercise equipment. The children laugh hysterically whilst they give themselves a work out, and they don’t even realise it. When we’ve finished playing on it, we lie on it and look up at the sky together. They like to roll on top of me and I am reminded how much I like our trampoline, and how much I love being Homey.

4.    The Obvious

There is the obvious one which I’ll state anyway because it’s so obvious I completely forgot about it – bike riding. Yes, I forgot to teach the kids how to ride a bike and only remembered when my cousin sent me a clip from England, of him teaching his four-year-old. The next day I took my eight-year-old to the park and conducted a series of parental-guilt-ridden riding drills. Other obvious activities include walking to school and play-dates in the park rather than in the living room.

5.  The Underhanded

My son had a play-date last week and his lovely friend brought over a backpack brimming with Skylanders figurines. It was 26 degrees and sunny outside.

The boys asked for Screen-Time and I negotiated a deal with them – they could have Screen-Time if they had Sun-Time first. They slipped, slopped and slapped appropriately, and once protected from all forms of UV radiation, they went outside to earn their right to come back inside. Despite the self-negating premise for the outdoor play, they had a wonderful time playing many of the above games, and kicking around a football, for hours.

Do your children sometimes prefer Wii Tennis to real tennis? Do you struggle to get them playing (and exercising) outside – how do you help them keep fit without them realising?

* No children were distracted by an iPad during the writing of this post.

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Dear Kate (Middleton),

This one was about the Royal post-baby bump:


Dear Kate Middleton,

Thank you for being a friend. I’ve had four children in seven years, and an untold number of family size Kit Kat packs. The Kit Kats were for medicinal reasons, prescribed by… myself. My youngest child, now aged three, frequently pulls up my top and buries his face in what can only be described as a post-post-partum muffin top. Recently, at swimming class, I asked the three-year-old not to do this any more.

He asked me, “Why?”

As I struggled to reword “because it’s embarrassing for mummy”, my other son (aged four) leaned over and said, “Because it’s lumpy.”

Yes, it is lumpy. At night my two youngest boys take turns in rubbing my tummy. It’s just this thing they do. I don’t recommend it as a sleep cue but it’s all we’ve got at the moment. And, as you can tell, sometimes they rub my tummy during the day. In public.

I should exercise more but beyond running after pre-schoolers, there’s just not a lot of time for it in my life. I will get around to it, I swear. It’s on my list. As I stand in the checkout at Coles, clenching my pelvic floor and visualising my core (no, not really – I’m trying to remember what vital food item I’ve forgotten), headlines glare at me: How Kim Kardashian lost 10kg in a week, Kim says “I love my post-baby body”.

Although I’ve never thought of Kim Kardashianas a role model (please God, let her never be a role model), the post-baby photos are annoying, unrealistic, unfair and some of them are airbrushed and carefully staged. I don’t need to see it – and I feel sad that so many of those celebrity women who have just had babies, feel the need to do it.

After each of my babies, I have left the hospital looking pregnant. My mother-in-law tells me it’s trapped wind. I love my mother-in-law so I just nod. She may be right. She makes me eat buckets of cooked garlic which she swears is the remedy back in her village in Sri Lanka. Sure enough, it makes me pass the most garlicky gas you can imagine. Actually, don’t try to imagine it, it’s noxious. After a few weeks of alienating loved ones, my tummy has “deflated” a little and then my body and I step onto a path familiar for many women. My tummy’s not awesome, it doesn’t look like Miranda Kerr’s did post-baby, but then neither do I.

So when I saw you leave the hospital with the baby, William and your baby-bump, I just wanted to fly over to London, push through your security entourage, risk arrest and high five you.

Thank you for wearing your bump, not hiding it. If the weeks and months ahead are hard, feel free to take a break, and have a Kit Kat.

Much love and all the best with the baby,

Shanks xx

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