Yesterday I jumped off the 5m high diving board at Lake Calembeen in Creswick. 

This might not sound like a particularly monumental event, especially considering I had to line up with a bunch of 13 year old locals to take my turn, but it was one of the most terrifying things I’ve done in a long time. This is really saying something because this time, last week I was zooming through the Alpine treetops of Queenstown on a 250m long zipline suspended 40m above the ground. 

We’ve been taking the kids down to Lake Calembeen in the afternoons as a holiday treat after Matt and I both work from the AM till lunch time. The school holidays are always a really stressful time for us as a family, for most families I can imagine. Starting back at work this year after 10 days in NZ has hit like when you fly off the end of an old school, steel slide way too fast and land hard on your tailbone. It’s jarring. 

I have never worked from home very well - ever since we we’re forced to during Covid. I can’t separate looking after the kids and working effectively while occupying the same space. Luckily the kids are more easily entertained now with Nintendo's and iPads but that in itself is a problem as they sit there for 4 hours straight every morning with their cute little eyes glued to the screen. 

They’re happy as hell of course.

What kid wouldn’t want to be told to go play on devices for hours on end while their parents are completely preoccupied and paying them no attention at all. The problem is they get bored with the streaming channels (who doesn’t really). The amount of times I’ve had to get up because I can hear the kids watching some shitty YouTube video that managed to make its way onto YouTube kids is extraordinary. The kids aren’t meant to be watching YouTube by the way, it is the bane of my existence at the moment. I’m ashamed of the amount of times I’ve yelled at the kids that is ‘Netflix or nothing’ as if watching unlimited kids programming is a form of punishment compared to watching YouTube.

The BULLSHIT the kids want to watch on YouTube is one of the first official cultural rifts in our family where the older generation (us) simply can't comprehend the value the younger generation (the kids) sees in it. Frank watches run throughs of Minecraft and Zelda that are narrated by the most annoying American ‘dudes’ I’ve ever heard. They don’t swear so it makes it onto YouTubeKids but they are fully grown men talking like jacked up, delinquent surfer punks about glitching in Minecraft. It’s so irritating and again I end up yelling at Frank to play the bloody game on his Nintendo rather than watch someone else do it - as if it's a form of punishment.

Alice on the other hand has found her very own niche of ridiculous videos of girls opening new toys and playing ‘make-believe’ with their strange parents. There must be some rule that kids can’t be in YouTube videos without an adult so awkward parents are ‘acting’ like buffoons in the background. They’re just stupid - the videos and the parents. I fear Alice will think that acting dumb is a good thing - they go against everything we’ve taught her about girls being able to do anything - and she absolutely bloody loves them! She’d almost take a YouTube session over an ice cream these days.

Even as I type this, Frank had just come up to me and asked if he could watch a YouTube video. This is the bit I hate about working from home. If I wasn’t working (in this case writing) I’d say no to YouTube and I’d suggest we sit down together and watch another episode of Planet Earth III (Nature documentaries are excluded from all viewing restrictions). 

If I sit down with the kids, they’ll watch a whole movie. If I don’t their attention span is so short they’ll flick through and half watch half a dozen shows in session. This is the problem with unlimited streaming services. They’re doing nothing for the kids' attention spans (or ours). This is what I find so frustrating - I’m making decisions I don’t agree with just so I can work.

I often brag about how good Matt and I are with balancing work and family. During the school term we work our butts off from 6 till 6 but always keep the evenings and weekends as family time. Separating space is the key to our success. Home is for family and the factory is for work. During the school holidays we lose this routine as one parent (ie. me) has to be at home with the kids the whole time.

My goal for the end of 2024 is to be able to take 12 weeks annual leave a year and not work any school holidays. This is a bold and maybe unrealistic goal but the frustration and stress that trying to do both brings me is worth any loss that not working would bring. I’ve been in a foul mood all week and it's because I’m having to work from home. It’s because I’m having to work at all. Every year I promise myself I’ll take time off and every year something comes up that I need to take on. Being the bread winner takes its toll. 

The terrifying experience of jumping off the 5m high diving board at Lake Calembeen was exactly what I needed to snap myself out of my grump. It really was a mind over matter moment. I had to spend 3 minutes up there just reminding myself to breathe. 

Deep breathe in. Deep breathe out. Deep breathe in. Deep breathe out. 

Matt is getting quite good at the 5m jump and was encouraging me from below. I went for a run up and my body wouldn’t physically go past a certain point. My legs just stopped running, that's how scary it is. Eventually I did it. Twice no less and it reset all the emotions. There is nothing quite like a near death experience to make you appreciate what a great life you have. Maybe this is even more important to remember when things aren’t quite going your way.

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