The whistling woman

Old Mother Hubbard

she went to the cupboard

to give her poor doggy a bone

but when she went there

the cupboard was bare

and so the poor doggy had none…

This nursery rhyme sprang to mind

when thinking back in time

to the many instances

when people have wanted something from me

and I had nothing to give

Where others had drained me to the point

where my energy

my love

my life

was bare

Caring for others

at the expense of yourself

makes you this way

it empties


which is when I step in nowadays and shout


They are not selfish things

They are not fences to hide behind

and anyone who stalks their edges

and screams “you are selfish”

should definitely be kept on the outer


Or at least until they learn some manners

Boundaries are something I lacked almost my entire life

But funnily enough – not as a pre five year old child

My role model in Mum was not a good one – in this regard

Wonderful person that she was, she gave to everyone

Until her interior was a wasteland of crumpled paper cups

That she could no longer fill up

Simply couldn’t remember how to

Selflessness was one of her teachings

She hammered it into me

“You are not the only pebble on the beach” she would say

“This is selfish, that is selfish” everything was selfish

Selfishness was the highest sin

But mostly I remember how she was

and how she gave to everyone until there was nothing left

So often as kids – we went to her cupboard

And she wasn’t there

She was worrying about her parents and looking after them

She was worrying about

Everything and everyone


Mum had several episodes – nervous breakdowns it used to be called – over her life

Charming term – like she was to highly strung and she broke

One of the strongest women I have ever known

I think


(now as a grown up)

She needed more boundaries

Adults are shitful rolemodels when it comes to self regard

They are either too selfish

Or not enough

In fact adults in general are shitful role models

or parents are anyway

And I include myself in this mix

I’m still learning

Or rather I’m unlearning

Because as a small child I was perfect

Kids are – or can be – naturally self re guarding

As a child

I remember who I was

Mostly I was gone

Out of the house with the dogs

Way down the paddock

Through tangled scrub

As far as possible from the house and all the onerous tasks and duties and people that lay therein

Though – according to the rules

Usually just within shouting range so that I could hear Mum when she called

From whatever cubby house and imaginary kingdom I was building

“Kath….ryn!” I would hear eventually after a couple of hours

Then the reply roar would come from my toes

Firmly planted in the dirt

Lift through my knees, thighs and come bellowing through my chest


And sometimes I would yell it twice – into the broad blue sky because she didn’t hear me the first time

Her querying voice fine and high with distance and a perhaps a drifty breeze would come again

So I would drop my kingdom and stomp back in the direction of the house

Because I knew if I didn’t she would worry I was lost – and I didn’t want to worry Mum anymore then she already was

I was always told not to worry my mother as a child because “Your mother has enough on her plate”

Which was true – she always did but she always managed to load more on there as well.

Mum had the fullest plate and the emptiest cupboard you would ever find in a nursery rhyme

(This is metaphorically speaking of course – my mother was not a compulsive eater – she was just incredibly selfless and over extended)

And when it came to me I think she was torn between knowing I was happiest out of the house and also out of her hair

And worrying I would get lost because we were in the middle of nowhere and there was a lot of horror stories of kids getting lost in the bush

Hence the rule of always answering and not straying too far

And while I was walking (at a cracking pace, mind) I would hear her call again

“I’m here” I would yell back mightily usually scaring whichever dog/s walked beside me

And I would get closer and closer to the house and we would still be shouting intermittently at each other

Then I would appear at the gate or the kitchen door probably with some frustrated look of “here I am, I am here”

I never got lost


I always knew where I was

And she never stopped worrying I would get lost – despite the fact that I never did

Perhaps because she was so lost herself she couldn’t fathom that I knew exactly what I was about and where I was going

And eventually that sort of worrying stole my confidence, though I wouldn’t see it for a long time into the future

As a small child I knew exactly who and what I was

Which is why therapists talk about returning us to our childhood – they are trying to take us back to where things went wrong

I guess

I’ve never been to one

Though quite a few do read my blog – probably analyzing me 🙂

And I don’t mean parental supervision which of course we need to do

Somewhere on the way through life we start handing big chunks of ourselves to other people

We start listening to other opinions

We start worrying either because they are worrying and it seems to be like a virus that we all catch as we grow older

That virus has symptoms that are quite spectacular and we learn to deal with them by suppression

And we suppress by dozens of different ways rather than tolerate that nervous, lost feeling

But at some point I stopped suppressing and started directly addressing things and now I have very little that I tolerate or have to

I don’t drink alcohol, my eating is ordered and plain, I do escape into reading a bit but not to the extent that I would call evasive

I simply have no mechanisms for escape from my life – so I had to face up and make it the way I wanted

Because I made the necessary changes – I built a new kingdom – an adult one

I’ve spent a bit of time shouting into my interior “Kath….ryn!” in the last few years trying to find that kid with the sunburnt nose that knew everything and was never lost

And she has come stomping and muttering under her breath arriving out of patience but with a grin because she knew I would need her one day

Little smart arse knowitall that she was

And that is what re parenting ourselves properly is all about I guess and its an ongoing process

I’m all here now mostly

All those bits and pieces coming together

That kid who knew exactly what she was doing – the fearless brave little thing with an internal compass like a beacon and a sense of who that never got lost

Is here, home. I can see her, feel her, listen to her whistling and singing to her dogs and herself

We all need that


Original building block



Re parenting is important work and it isn’t saying your parents were wrong or bad or didn’t do a good job – if you’re healthy and here then they did the best they could at the time but maybe they needed re parenting themselves too

We are raised by humans. Being a human is difficult – being the best human you can be is the personal responsibility of each adult and the ones that keep blaming their parents need to literally grow up and start doing the internal work themselves.

Boundaries. Get some.

And that nursery rhyme at the top of the page – it doesn’t send shivers anymore

It isn’t selfishness and anyone who says it is – has become far too used to using you as a convenience

Shut the gate

Draw the curtains

Whenever the need arises

And let them all stomp around the edges

Keep your cupboard full and your plate half so (and piled with veges)

Look after yourself like you’re someone that matters

Because you damn well are ❤️

Header photo: red country – “Pitherty” one of the roads on the property where I grew up.

It’s a long path from where we come from to where we are, my birthday approaches and usually by now I’ve been off on the bike – this year is certainly different.

But it’s a good year too.



9 thoughts on “The whistling woman

  1. Wow! What a wonderful post. I agree, setting some boundaries are important, if only for our own self-preservation but it takes a lifetime to learn how firm those boundaries should be and when to re-draw that line in the sand. I always remember that Oscar Wilde quote about judging one’s parents and there is some truth to it, I think. I did it and I’ve saw my kids do it to me. Life’s rich tapestry eh!

    • It is a very rich tapestry indeed. I always thought my kids were born perfect and my job was to try and not stuff them up. They seem pretty good so far though like my Mother, I used to worry about them dreadfully. Our children are so precious and we are so attached, we give birth to bombs that could blow up and break us into a million pieces. They don’t get that of course, maybe one day when they have their own they will understand that peculiar type of love.

  2. That was a powerful piece, Kate. I read somewhere ” that if you want to get on in life, the first thing you have to do is forgive your parents”. I always found that a true statement. We do the best we can, with what we have and that is all we can do. I’m very impressed with your lifestyle and dedication in giving up alcohol and eating right. I still like my beer and chicken wings……..and cross my fingers that indigestion passes quickly.

    • Thanks Len. My husband would stand in solidarity with you on both the beer and the chicken wings and keeps me grounded whenever I may risk becoming too saintly (read sanctimonious) I believe each to their own – we live how we see fit so I don’t interfere with his beer and he doesn’t sniff at my Tofu…actually that’s not true he frequently sniffs at my food and calls it “goanna food” but he doesn’t sniff at me so we get along in a very balanced fashion 😊

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