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  • Writer's pictureSonya Leeding

Our new kind of normal

It’s Monday morning, I get up early, as I do five out of seven days at present, and then I go to the gym. I train my heart out in that space to set myself up for the day. It’s all part of my routine and my mental health suffers without it. It is all about looking after myself holistically, and training has become a necessary part of it. It’s part of my new normal.

I arrive home, walk down the side of my house, and as I round the corner into the pergola I can see inside the glass sliders’ window, as I walk past. It’s a scene that instantly warms my heart. My parents, in their sixties, still dressed in their flannelette pyjamas from the cold night before, steal a good morning kiss as my kids busy themselves getting ready for school, buzzing around my Mum and Dad, as they all share in that lovely good morning joy. In that tiny, brief, precious moment, my heart is full, watching on as this perfect scene unfolds. The four people who mean the most to me, all full of love and happiness for, and with each other, in perfect harmony.

I open the door and say, “What is this, an old people pyjama party?” Pouf, moment destroyed with a few giggles from the kids chiming in with their two cents worth, slanging my parents for still enjoying a little smooch at their age. Such is the life we live, but it works for us.

Our new kind of normal
Our new kind of normal

Since losing Damian in 2011, I have struggled to find and maintain that balance and adapt to my new normal, although at present things are looking very solid. So how did I manage to find this new normal?

Losing a partner is rated as one of the worst experiences life has to offer. Not only did I lose my right-hand man, so to speak, I lost a lot of things, including my identity, but I also gained a lot of things. The immeasurable support from my parents is unwavering. I know not everyone is lucky enough to have this and often the loss of a partner causes rifts in families, people disagree, and grief amplifies people actions and reactions, but I am lucky enough to have this kind of normal in my life.

Let’s start with the two people who have been my solid rocks the whole time. They are my undying supporters, my levellers, my sounding boards and my housemates: my Mum and Dad. Sounds weird, right, housemates but technically they are, or I guess you could call them my neighbours. You see we dual live.

Our new kind of normal
Our new kind of normal

This came about in 2015 to enable me to go back to work full time in my dream job, a detective in the Child Protection and Investigation Unit, investigating serious criminal offences committed against children. Prior to these living arrangements I had just built an amazing, architecturally designed home at Eagle Heights on Tamborine Mountain and my parents lived two hundred and fifty metres up the road. This worked for a little while, but I found myself, depending on which shift I was working, often sitting in my big, new house alone, while the kids stayed at my parent’s house. My son, Hudson had just started school at Southport, and my daughter Grace commenced Pre-Prep the same year. We would shuffle their school supplies, uniforms and lunch boxes between the houses and just make do. After doing this for a few months our life became taxing and disjointed with the constant upheaval of sleepovers. For example, I would finish an afternoon shift at 10pm at Runaway Bay and make my way back up the mountain to an empty house. It was a lonely existence.

Originally, I toyed with the idea of attempting to make my custom-built dream home into a dual living property so that my parents could be with us permanently. Had I not rushed into buying that block of land and building a mini mansion and really thought about what the kids and my life looked like now, I may have considered it back in 2012, but being the stubborn, independent woman I am, I thought I could do it all on my own, raising two kids and working. Eventually push came to shove and both, my parents and I, decided that we needed to reside together, for the kids’ sake, and also that we should be closer to the kids’ schools at Southport. And so, the search began for a dual living property. The difficulty being that the majority of properties claiming dual living status were in fact large homes with a little studio or granny flat attached. Although my parents are older, they are by no means invalids with no life. They are active retirees who thrive when they have things to do, not four walls to contain them.

Eventually we found the property we settled on. A proper dual living, two houses under one roof. It works perfectly for our lifestyle. Now that I work full time shift work, and by that, I mean anytime in a twenty-four-hour period, our living arrangements allow me to fulfill my obligations as a shift worker, this living arrangement allows the kids to be in their own beds each night instead of having to shuffle between two homes. This is our new normal.

As it stands my parents pick up the slack where a second parent would have, and for that I am forever grateful. I couldn’t possibly do all the things I do without them being right there and for now it works for us. The kids have become reliant upon my Mum and Dad as much as they rely on me, and each of them have developed their own special relationship. My Dad often volunteers to take Grace to dancing for two hours twice a week and claims that it is the best two-hour nap he gets in in the day while waiting for her. My Mum, oft the disciplinarian, happily laments when the kids pop over to her house first thing in the morning to give her a cuddle.

The morning, best part of the day, where good things happen, and intentions are set for the unfurling day. This is what our new normal looks like. It is definitely no nuclear family, or traditional set up. It is what it is, and it enables the kids and I to do all of the things we set out to do. The kids frequently mention that this is not ‘normal’ to which I argue that it is our normal and in this ever-changing world ‘normal’ is what you make it. I guess that they compare their home life to that of their school colleagues and for the most part, they are in the minority living with their grandparents, but they don’t complain.

Our new kind of normal
Our new kind of normal

So, what does ‘normal’ mean? Conforming to a standard; usual, typical, or expected. I guess when you look at the traditional meaning maybe our living arrangements are not normal, but they are our normal.

It’s been like this since 2015 and we have all thrived in this environment. It’s created a balance in our lives, well mine mostly, which allows us to maintain a semblance of ‘normal’, the everyday things that we do.

I suppose it comes back to me being brought up by two people who created a stable upbringing for my siblings and I, and a life I have attempted to emulate since I was a child. The benefits for the kids are immense and without my parents being with us, there would be no normal in my children’s lives. I can vouch for the fact that even when we are away from my parents, on holidays, the kids have to ring, just to check in.

So back to that morning and walking into the chaos of our normal. Not many people can say they have that at home, so even though this is our ‘normal’ which to some might mean a plain, ordinary, mundane day, it is something extraordinary to be celebrated. Me, along with my parents have created a safe, secure space for my two kids to thrive in. Let’s celebrate the simple everyday moments that make life normal, whatever that looks like.

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