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Raising little Westies, and life as parent of a special needs son
Sport is a great metaphor for life, just as war is. My wife already discussed life through the lense of war, so I’ll think about sports on the day of the Grand Final for the Australian Football League.
What did the Swans and their opposition the Hawks teach us this year during the Grand Final?
Well done to the Swans. Keep chipping away, you might share some success like they just did.
Mounty County isn’t on any maps, it’s a bit of a local name for the aspirationally-named Mount Druitt. Because while Rooty Hill is an actual hill, Mount Druitt… well, it’s certainly not a mountain, although possibly there is a bit of a mound, somewhere.
While some of the other articles have been broader in scope, I think locally first. So I’ll stay close to home…
Ten Best Things
1. Cycling. Sure, the cycleways don’t particularly go anywhere useful, but the ones that are there, are great. And the Western Sydney Parkland includes a fantastic cycleway that goes from Liverpool to Castle Hill, straight through the middle of Mounty County.
2. Cultural Diversity. This is a two way street, but Blacktown and Mount Druitt (which is a group of suburbs in Blacktown) is a melting pot. A lot of refugees, migrants from a wide range of backgrounds, Aboriginal Australians, on the usual cultural background of christian white Australia. This certainly makes life interesting, and I am hoping, is helping my children grow up to be “colour blind” and very open to seeing the person. It’s certainly a lot more interesting than when I grew up in a homogenously white Australia with possibly only one person of some other race in my class!
3. School resources. This is a real challenge. Given the low socio-economic background of the suburb – which is more “welfare class” than “working class” – the level of engagement in schools is generally low, the absenteeism rate is quite high. This results in poor educational outcomes (as measured by programs such as Naplan, like them or loath them they are what we have). And in the bizzare world of public education, that has resulted in funding to turn those low results around. The result, for those kids that are at school, is some fantastic programs are implemented, allowing those children to achieve great things.
4. Transport links. Mounty County is at the crossroads to two of the highest volume roads in the largest city in Australia. One crosses the Western edge of the district, the other cuts between Mount Druitt and Blacktown. There is also a major rail link, which provides access to Sydney well within an hour. While we’re further out than Parramatta – it’s cheaper living, and only about ten extra minutes of travel time (which most Parramatta people will actually spend getting from home to Parramatta railway station anyway).
5. Low-cost housing. This is great, because money I’m not spending on a place to live, I can spend on my wife and kids. However, low-cost housing is a tradeoff.
6. Weather. OK so it gets hot, but hey, the Hawkesbury River isn’t far away, housing is cheap, blocks are big, and you can own a pool. It doesn’t get cold: the seven years I’ve lived in my home, I think we’ve had a frost about five times total. I think I can get cool more readily than I can get warm.
7. Sports. Mount Druitt is a bit sports mad. Druitters play so many codes of Football, we are nestled between the Parramatta Eels and Penrith Panthers, the Great Western Sydney Giants training facility is in the former Sydney Olympic Baseball Stadium at Rooty Hill, the former Sydney Olympic Equestrian Centre is just up the road, as is the facility where the rowing took place (in Penrith). The Soccer is not-quite national class, but does feed the A-League. Childrens’ sports facilities are all over the place, and while they are well used they are not over-used. We are within reach of a selective sports high school if our child has ability in that direction.
8. Parks. OK so they are not world class, but they are beyond “adequate” and there are plenty of them. The more they are used, the better they are looked after. Nurragingy Reserve is a great example, there are others that aren’t so developed but no doubt will be put to good use.
9. Religious diversity. A lot of Australians take it for granted, but around the world, if you’re not one of the majority you can be in real trouble. King George V of Tonga opened a church in his name in the area. With Castle Hill being just up the road, Hillsong is certainly present, as are the well established mainstream christian churches, and mosques. Missionaries passing on the word of the Mormon faith, and others waiting – patiently – to pass on the word of their God at the train station are all normal part of life.
10. Food. We’re in Australia. If it is edible, you can probably get it. Well, that’s not quite right, there are edible things that aren’t sold to be eaten in Australia, but there is no shortage of great food, and if we complain that some of it is more expensive than in other parts of Australia – it’s only by comparison within Australia. Overall, food here is cheap, there is plenty of it, and it’s good.
Things we could do better.
1. Tolerance. People could always be more tolerant. Some of us, think the whole world should be just like us, and Mounty County is an equal example of that. Racism and religious intolerance are as much trigger points of the negative press that Mount Druitt receives as any other aspect of life.
2. Food! Locally, food – other than fresh food bought to prepare at home – is pretty squarely at the bottom of the culinary food chain. If you want a gastronomic explosion, you have to travel, probably to Parramatta’s “Eat Street” (the Church Street – or is it a mall – no it’s a street again).
3. Education. Something has fallen down in the education area. Migrants seem to be engaged, but there are elements of the community that are not. It is the children of a disengaged generation who will suffer.
4. Public housing ghetto. Said it, unfortunately, because it’s true. But the policies of the past are being revisited, public housing is being redeveloped and sold to private ownership. Public housing is important, great big clusters of it just don’t work.
5. Transport. Yep, that’s right, it’s great and it sucks too. There is an addiction to cars, local families own more cars than the average across Sydney, and it’s chocking the place. I went as long as I could as a one-car family, relying on a bicycle and the train network… unfortunately I’m in the minority, and the carparks around the rail corridor are choked.
6. Crime. Blame whoever you want, but the police in the St Marys Local Area Command are far too busy. Why is it that I have both the local police station, as well as the Police Assistance Line (non life threatening emergencies) saved on my phone? Because I have used both (as well as 000) too many times in the last seven years.
7. Culture. Unfortunately, you have to travel from Mount Druitt to have a cultural experience, like visiting an art gallery, or a museum. There are events, but they are more entertainment then “cultural.”
I’m stopping at seven, because on a world scale… I’m really nitpicking to find things to complain about in Mount Druitt. Complaining rarely fixes things, being positive and championing specific improvements makes the world a better place.
Well it doesn’t take too much to work out i haven’t been writing much lately.
I’d like there to be at least an excuse, or even better a reason – but no, I’ll have to come clean and admit i just haven’t made writing a priority like i had planned to.
Since my last blog, i have now been to New Delhi in an effort to gain some certifications. I’ll leave myself a bit of scope to write more later – flying with Air Malasia, the confronting nature of poverty in New Delhi, and studying with Koenig Solutions.
While the Autism Marathon continues, I’m very happy to point to success – we all attended football presentation and there was nothing which happened to make that a bad idea. Regardless of my early concerns, my son is tackling reading with grate enthusiasm, and is currently loving Suess classics such as “The Diggingest Dog” and “Go, Dog, Go”. Family life presents us with the same type of challenges i recall from my own childhood, and does not seem vastly different to what I have watched my brothers going through with their own children.
So, red-faced and feeling sheepish, all I can suggest is I’ve written again today. And I’ll be aiming to do more, soon!
I am here gently touching on the edge of the blogosphere. I’m a bit comfortable surfing on the edge of the tide, while my job is in a chaotic state, but already I notice good things.
Like if you add ASD to a google search for Collingwood… you end up here! Well, within the first dozen or so links anyway. Or if not here, at Autism United! God bless JAFL, and Magpie, for the weirdity that is google pagerankings.
Which is A Good Thing®©(TM).
I’ve created a facebook page (still a WIP). And I’m trying to work out where to host imawestie.com, or imawestie.com.au, or something. I don’t know if that will end up on wordpress, or google, or… somewhere.
And other than flanno shirts, or bogan acessories… well, what’s a website like that going to be for? But not till at least August. From then on, anything goes. Kids, Bec, and work, willing.
Gently, gently I am pushing myself further out from my comfort zone. Writing more. Writing, no matter what. I guess I’ll be needing pictures, or videos, or something, next.
So Fi, Jo, and Val, and especially Nicole who dragged me into this idea. Thanks to Felicity Moore , and Sacha Molitorisz too – for getting me online, talking about being a parent, before I knew I had anything like a problem to talk about (and to Felicity, for showing me that there is content for a parents website in Australia – I just gotta do the Dads one now). Thanks. I hope this can keep moving on. I hope I keep hitting these keys and just keep writing.
You all know I define my own success. I don’t need #TIGERBLOOD to be #WINNING. So my success will be:
That looks like enough of a list for now. It might have to be bumped to its own page so I don’t lose it. But now I’ve written it, I can hold myself to it.
Thanks to my spectrummy parenting community, for giving me a direction to go in.
Yesterday, again, we ventured out to the “Land of the Giants” otherwise known as “Rooty Hill” or “(the) BOP”.
We had a great day with Princess P playing in her Junior AFL game, then joining Magpie and a bunch of Auskickers for a skill training session with some help from the GWS Giants. Almost every parent there looked around at least once during the morning and said something like “it’s a waste if they leave this place unused any weekend of the year“, in no small part because it was so darn well run compared to events at random local council playing fields.
The day even started at a moderately civilised 10:00 am.
Which left plenty of room for the evil mischief genies to run riot between getting out of bed, having breakfast, and getting into the car. In fact by the time we were in the car I was starting to wonder what the devil we were leaving the house for. But the option is staying home.
It turned a bit chaotic when the kids weren’t both at the same place, back-to-back, but this meant I got to really watch how much better Princess P is now than she was last year – or even, at the start of this year. Apparently the coach noticed too, because she got a coaches award (again)! It’s great because, although her skills might not be the same as some of the boys she’s playing with, her attention to what the coach wants each player to do is fantastic, and she thinks more about her game than a lot of the boys do (who’d rather just kick the bladder right out of ball , no matter where it goes).
So there I was, with Bec having headed some other direction with Magpie (to the other field for Auskick), with BTB Fan on the side of a footy field. With no convenient play area, he did what boys do and turned some random thing into a toy.
He happened to choose “the fence” – which I’m guessing was at least 2m high. His game consisted of climbing to the top, then letting go.
So I spent the morning alternating between watching footy, and assisting someone who didn’t want assistance to not fall down a fence. Then when the Junior game finished we wandered over to the skill session, which was not so spectacular for Princess P’s age group but really good for Magpie & his team-mates. This gave BTB Fan the perfect opportunity to do something that he hardly gets any decent opportunity to do: roll down the hill.
Clearly there’s some sensory seeking going on there, and I know it was the type of thing I loved doing at that age too. So why is it so unusual and why did so many people give us strange looks that he is allowed to “play“?
For anyone not already knowing: The GWS Giants are the newest team in the AFL due to join the main competition in 2012.
In case you missed it, the Westies live in the Land of the Giants. No I don’t mean Brobdingnag, I mean we live near Blacktown Olympic Park, or Rooty Hill. Which has now taken on a new life as the home territory of a national sports team so new, it hasn’t actually had it’s maiden match yet.
We are also fully into our junior Australian Rules Football.
This week we have been told that as our club is wonderful, we will get to play at the Giant’s home training ground – both the under 8’s which Magpie plays in, and the under 10’s which Princess P plays in. This will be followed by a bit of a fan-session with the players. Hopefully this will include Israel Folau but only time will tell.
I say that because he has probably had a fair bit to do with quite a few of our teams players having any interest at all in Aussie Rules instead of Rugby League or Rugby Union.
As luck would have it, the same day we also have a birthday party to attend. It’s at exactly the kind of place spectrummy parents love to loathe… an indoor cafe play-centre. At least everything is padded, but it’s also contained noise. Contained excitement. All one room.
But, the birthday boy loves Magpie, and Princess P, and his brother loves BTB Fan to bits. So it should be a good day.