Monday, January 05, 2009

Oh, nine?

Yes. It is '09.

This year Frederique will start school and I feel deeply ambivalent about it. I am pleased for her because I think she will be happy in an environment composed largely of kids and the early years will suit her, where there is still some freedom to wander and giggle and chat and play. I am excited about all the things she will learn, I am excited about her life opening outwards, away from us, I'm relieved that some of the pressure of how her time is to be passed day in and day out is to be taken off us. I am looking forward to her developing a deeper relationship with the 6 girls who are going from kinder and with the two new girls in her class. I am looking forward, with reservations (reservations being that I don't want it to take over what's left of my social life), to becoming a part of the school community.

But I am also grieved. Not just about the fact that Fred's moving onto the wider world, though I am aware that she'll be bringing home some big kid concepts that I'm not quite ready for (words like dickhead and everything having germs - 'There are no germs in this family' I tell Fred firmly. I always hated the prissy kids who wiped the tops of the bottle with their hands before they had a sip - and for heaven's sake, what do you think is all over your hands anyway, germ freak?) My sadness really comes from the loss of freedom. Fred is the first one in the family to tie us to the school year. Next year Martin becomes a teacher and the year after Una goes into prep. As much as I'm looking forward to all that alone time to read write, I am sad about losing all our loose and easy, non-prescriptive, spontaneous time. I also wonder if St Andrews will start feeling further away from the world when I'm tied to the 9am drop offs and 3.30 pick ups.

I am also sad for Una, who will be spending long weeks at home. We still have no childcare for her and the competition in this area is only getting fiercer with two ABC centres closing down. I am going to be home with her for 3 days and Martin will have her for the other 2 (yes, during which time I will write novels and do speaking gigs and generally keep the family afloat - insert weak laughter that may turn into torrents of tears here). We are also down to one car - we had been borrowing a second car but its owners needed it back. We're investigating getting a second car, but even so, I think Una will have a lonely year - we don't have many kids her age in our lives, and most of them have parents with insane schedules.

For the record, for anyone who has been reading for a while, we finally opted for the local school, after Martin saw the whole school on excursion at the Museum, and observed the relationship between the biggies and the littlies (I was convinced by an excursion as well - they caught the train into Collingwood and walked from the station to the children's farm, that's a pretty impressive journey). We figure we chose this area for our kids for better or for worse, we owe it to them and to the area to support the infrastructure here. Plus I read something compelling about how kids in small schools LIKE school better than kids in big schools. And to be honest I couldn't get my head around sending Fred anywhere else. I think both Fred and Una are very self-motivated learners and I hope a small school environment will be nurturing for them. My one big fear is that Una won't have any other kids in her class (there was only one girl prep in '08 and just three boys), so far all the kids in the area we've met in Una's age group are going to one of the other schools.

Round Up.
'08 brought a new nephew into our lives. I become a great aunt. The Indigo Girls was a bestseller in Angus and Robertson and I was invited to appear in the Melbourne Writer's Festival. Drift was rejected by the American publishers. Sale figures for the second and third books of the trilogy have been, frankly, disappointing and I grieve for Undine, because she is so real for me. Sales figures for The Indigo Girls have been exciting and before Christmas it went into reprint - it has sold over 10000 copies. I wrote Little Bird (which will be another Girlfriend novel) and I think it's a really, really good book. I traveled with Fred. I went to Paris. I totally surprised myself by falling in love with Hong Kong. I went to New Zealand with Kate. I lost about 8kgs by being French. I wrote half of Only Ever Always - and I think it's the best writing I've done - and promptly got stuck. I finished my Masters. I toured the Wimmera. I toured Tassie with Lili, James and Kirsty and hassled the Hutchins boys ('it's not pink, it's magenta') and had a fabulous time. I watched my beloved father-in-law come to terms with his diagnosis and fight it and marveled at the strength and resilience of his wonderful wife, my husband's mother. And I parented Fred and Una and loved them fiercely, even when I sucked at being a mother. We had a beautiful Christmas with Martin's extended family (my family too now of course) and then drove up to Mildura and saw some members of my family I hadn't seen for years, and it was wonderful.

I am going to make some New Year's resolutions. I resolve to. I'll let you know when I do.


  1. That's all you did? What did you do with the other 37 seconds of the year?

    Good luck in '09, I'm sure the school choice will be a good one - in one short year I've become a big fan of the small school. Although, I suspect your fear of school swallowing up time is entirely valid.

    My theme for the year is optimism - it will all work out in the end - for me, you and everyone else! :)

  2. What a beautiful post, Penni. I hope you have a wonderful 09, you and Martin and the little 'uns. And the books! (PS I also feel better that you're a great aunt because you're much younger than me and I'm bound to be one in the next couple of years!)

  3. My you did so much in 08'! Congrats on the book sales as well,that's wonderful. I'm a lurker here on your blog:) But wanted to say, I went to both a small and large highschool, as well as a small and large primary school. And small wins hands down, even without the fancy infrustructure.

  4. Anonymous12:20 AM

    Hi Penn,
    I have a 4yo ready and willing to play with Una. Thursdays are best .. I also need to have a good chat with you about the 'Local School' have much to share, and almost all positive.
    Back from a road trip with the kids, 12 hours today from Central coast NSW so should be sleeping it off but too wired.
    A good year for you, and a greater one ahead. XX

  5. Anonymous8:25 AM

    Deeply ambivalent. Absolutely. That's me. This sending off to school thing is a big ol' bag of mixed emotion.

    I have an (almost) three year old who would love to play with Una. We have Tuesdays and Thursdays free from about 10.30ish.

    Funny how the year of angst of school choosing resolved itself for us both. I feel so calm, content, happy with our choice whereas this time last year I was in a state of absolute turmoil.

  6. It's funny how school both chains you down and sets you free at the same time. It sounds like you are already the queen of time management, given your list of achievements in 08!

    Hope your Fred loves it with the other kids and the learning and suchlike.

  7. To echo the others, Quinn would love a regular playdate with Una. We have Weds afternoons or Friday mornings 'free' (in that I don't work and he doesn't have kinder).

  8. Yay to all the playdates!

    My days with Una are Mon, Tues, Wed. Now I just have to get a car so I can meet you all!

  9. And you knit a horse. Don't forget the horse. ;)

    Sounds like a really amazing year, and all the best for the next one!

  10. It was a big, bold, brave year for you Penni.

    I wish you many more big adventures this year too. I'm glad to be in your universe to hear your great stories.

    I'm going to buy "Why French Women Don't Get Fat" today too - along with my holiday reads. I've dropped 1 kg in a week, but I think that's just guilt - I need something a bit more reliable.

    Wishing you all things fabulous always.

  11. If it's a consolation, somebody nicked the second Undine book from our school library and I had several kids saying it MUST BE REPLACED, Miss, because WE WANT TO READ THIS WHOLE SERIES.

    So if the Americans don't like it yet, some Australian kids certainly do. Some of them are the Twilight crowd, looking for new fantasy fixes with strong female characters, so maybe the Americans should think of that angle.

    All the best,



  12. And I knit a horse.

    Thanks Ms B! Lovely to hear.