Blog | The Parents Adviser

I’ve always loved to write, in the hope of encouraging people to think a little, reflect and smile. I’ve also always been a huge fan of Bill Watterson and his creation ‘Calvin & Hobbes’. These cartoons are the inspiration for my blog posts (blended of course with our experiences as an oncology family). I hope you enjoy them.

In many ways Calvin reminds me of our son Liam.

Try Not To Think About The End Result

Try Not To Think About The End Result

We all have a family tree. We all have a different history, one that led us to where we find ourselves today. As Financial Planners, and when see new clients, part of establishing a deeper understanding with them is finding out who they are and what their own tree looks like. There are many financial implications and consequences of this. Everyone has a story. We need to listen carefully. I enjoy helping parents with kids, and one thing parents love talking about is their own children – no matter how old they are. Having kids with medical issues, and particularly those living with cancer takes these discussions to another level again. As planners we are lucky we can have these conversations as part of our job as it’s pretty meaningful and rewarding stuff. As a dad, I’ve also recently discovered what it is like to have a teenager. Our eldest son Adam turned 13 not long ago. A while ago I started reading a couple of books, one called ‘The Making of Men’ (by Arne Rubinstein) and the other, ‘Raising Boys’, written by Steve Biddulph. These books enlightened me, but also scared me half to death. Our children have a big financial say in our lives. They also have a big impact in our emotional lives – and as they get older the ‘whats most important to you’ question often comes back to the kids and what is going on in their lives (and their partners) and how to be a part of it. I found an amazing statistic from one of these books, and I was talking to a... read more
There Are Many Things We Don’t Understand

There Are Many Things We Don’t Understand

Last weekend Camp Quality invited us to one of their family events. We feel lucky that there are organisations out there such as them, who continually find ways to make kids and their parents who have been through tough times, smile. They totally get the healing power of having everything organised – we just turn up, they add laughter and shared experiences. The best part is connecting with other families who have been through the cancer journey. Sharing part of that journey, no matter what stage you are at (even wordlessly at times) is pretty special. One of the families who was at the event with us was a mum and her 3 kids, similar ages to ours. When we meet with other families we often wonder which child went through treatment. Their dad wasn’t there and I thought maybe he was working that night and couldn’t get away. We had a good laugh and it turns out the event tickets were donated by someone who had cancer as a child. There always seems a desire to give back when one has been through a near death experience. Anyway,  while chatting I discovered that this family was an ‘offspring’ family. A family that the charity supports where one of the parents has died of cancer. An offspring family. Those words hit me hard. It never occurred to me earlier that this family had lost their dad, and husband. As a dad myself, sitting with my family around me, I don’t know how I felt. Lucky? Blessed? Grateful? Yet also very insignificant. A whole host of emotions really. I looked at Marnie and felt incredibly empathetic to the other mum. How could she get... read more
My Generation Doesn’t Absorb Information This Way

My Generation Doesn’t Absorb Information This Way

We, as advisers (and for our own sake as parents) can’t afford to ignore how the next generation – our future clients – think. I don’t want to sound condescending. I think it’s us ‘oldies’ that need to change / adapt etc. Disrupt or be disrupted they say. The Gen Y’s, Gen i’s, the 7 year old next door – they re all thinking, thinking, can’t stop thinking.  My 10 year old son can’t sleep when he goes to bed because his brain won’t stop – could be chemo brain though 🙂 He has ‘tons’ of ideas for designing games and things like that. He wants to make one but read that in Australia you can’t incorporate a company until you are 18. And we wonder why all the kids are going to the Silicon Valley where there is zero age restriction to do so. I’ve been seeing quite a few posts from those who attended the AdviserEdge conference in the last couple of weeks, plus a few more bloggers are now on Linkedin! Great to see. It was great to listen to Richard Arnold talk about what is in store ahead and how the world may look in the future. I liked his idea of a graph with a line across the bottom with an X in the middle – with arrows pointing left to the last 40 years and right to the next 40 years. He’s a futurist – and an inspiring one. He talked and we listened. My wife Marnie used to tell me when I arrived from England 20 years ago I used to look... read more
Too Much Stress Is Unhealthy

Too Much Stress Is Unhealthy

All parents with primary school age kids can no doubt relate to these two cartoon captions. I shouldn’t joke about kids and stress because sadly young kids in today’s society are more stressed. And not just about homework. In this context, we are a little stressed. We are moving house. When was the last time you moved house? It’s pretty stressful. We haven’t moved for 14 years. Those that have moved recently will know it’s an incredible rollercoaster ride of emotions, physical strain, testing yourself mentally, financially and socially. We are only moving 30 minutes away but it seems like another country. To try and somehow relieve my wife Marnie’s stress through this process I thought I’d google the ’10 most stressful life events’. I was sure moving house was up there in the list and thought it would make her feel better somehow. How wrong was I. Although the top ones were very obvious, some of the other events were quite surprising (and no, organising ‘Christmas lunch with the in-laws’ didn’t make the list). There is actually something called the Holmes and Rahe Stress Scale https://paindoctor.com/top-10-stressful-life-events-holmes-rahe-stress-scale/ and it measures (scores) these 10 events. They are, in order: Death of a spouse: 100 Divorce: 73 Marital separation: 65 Imprisonment: 63 Death of a close family member: 63 Personal injury or illness: 53 Marriage: 50 Dismissal from work: 47 Marital reconciliation: 45 Retirement: 45 ‘Imprisonment’? Surely in most cases thats your own fault isn’t it (so just deal with it?). Where is moving your whole life, possessions & kids from one community to another? No-where to be seen. So this exercise didn’t actually help Marnie... read more
To Live In Stupefying Security…

To Live In Stupefying Security…

Have you ever ‘risk profiled’ your kids? And I don’t mean if you’ve asked them if they have trouble sleeping at night when the stock market is heading south. I mean have you thought perhaps about how they perceive risk? We all know the saying that kids ‘have no fear’ (I hate cliches like that as all they seem to do is try and make us believe it whether it’s true of not). Aside from the usual things like the dark or spiders what do our kids ‘fear’? I guess it’s not something parents naturally want to think or talk about with them. Bill Watterson’s cartoon is simply brilliant, obviously inspired this blog and in my opinion is way ahead of it’s time (considering he drew it in the mid 80’s). It’s so good 2 captions don’t do it justice so I’ve added the full strip at the end of this post. Hobbes expression is simply priceless in caption 3. I found myself thinking about an experience we had as a family not that long after Liam had regained the strength he lost during his chemotherapy treatment. We took the boys go-carting, and the type of go carts that had real engines (and bonus we had to wear crash helmets). It was awesome. My wife Marnie could barely watch – her 4 boys each let loose behind the wheel of a small gravity defying mechanical contraption. The track even had traffic lights to ‘advise’ us when to stop, slow down and go faster. What I thought was fascinating was the track supervisors (acting for the safety of all the drivers) had... read more
Let’s Cruise at 10,000 Feet

Let’s Cruise at 10,000 Feet

I’m not sure if kids still pretend and do the magic carpet role play thing. Times have changed with the way they entertain themselves (although thankfully the imaginative aspect hasn’t left them). The reason for this post is I started writing it online sitting within a long metal tube 35,000 feet somewhere high above the Simpson Desert. While I was tapping away I was half watching the Wallabies playing England live. Wi-fi and real time World Cup rugby in the stratosphere – how times have changed. There was a little turbulence while I was writing. I think it is safe to say that innately all of us have a fear of flying. No matter how often we fly, or how often we hear the statistics that flying is safer than driving your car (true), there is simply something unnatural about being in a mechanical contraption that high above the earth’s surface. Although there are over 11,000 planes (and about half a million people) in the sky at any given time we ever so slightly can’t shake that nagging fear of a horrible death – one of nightmares and loss of control. Reading the news stories about planes crashing or being crashed, disappearing or being shot down does not help. Yet as I say it is actually one of the safest places to be. What I noticed was that Liam (now 10) was petrified when the plane was taking off, or turned in the air, or landed, or experienced even the slightest bout of turbulence. This is pretty much 90% of the flight. Holding your son’s hand constantly for a... read more
When A Kid Grows Up

When A Kid Grows Up

My thoughts have been with Brad Haddin & his wife Karina over the last 48 hours or so. In 2012 their daughter Mia underwent chemotherapy at the Children’s Hospital in Westmead at the same time as our son Liam. I read that Brad has withdrawn from the 2nd Ashes Test at Lords due to personal reasons, and the article goes on to talk about Mia’s original battle with cancer. I hope that all is ok. It is any oncology parents worst fear that the cancer has come back. It’s constantly in our minds and any niggling cough, ache, pain or fever only adds to that. The article I read was titled ‘Separate Brad Haddin the man from Haddin the wicketkeeper’ (but respecting them both). There was speculation about his career and why he is not playing and so on. This stuck with me for a little while. We know Brad as a great sportsman, as someone who is particularly good at catching a little red ball chucked at him from 22 yards away (that has hopefully nicked some wood on the way through). He’s worked hard. We love him for what he does. We watch him on TV, we cheer, we enjoy his success. He’s a role model. I know this is blindingly obvious but we have to remember he’s also just a dad, a parent, a husband. It’s the same for anyone finding themselves wandering the halls of  Camperdown Ward at Westmead Children’s Hospital for the first time. These parents are no longer cricketers, nor financial planners, business owners, nor a teacher, a marketing professional or a CEO. They are mums, dads &... read more
The Truth Is More Complicated

The Truth Is More Complicated

What do you remember of your childhood, particularly the ‘learning how things worked’ stuff? All those answers your dad told you that just didn’t quite sound right? Maybe on reflection the reality was that he just didn’t know the answer and the library was closed (pre Google & You Tube of course). I’ve mentioned in a previous post that it’s a pretty tough job being a parent. I’m going to talk from a dad’s perspective (as I’m a dad obviously) in this post, and a mum’s perspective is another story all together, one I’m not qualified to talk about of course. It’s not that I’m being discriminative. I do wonder what our kids really think of us at times. We know as business owners and financial planners we survey our clients to see what they really think. We see value in it and we get excited about the results. We send out questionnaires, hire firms to call them up, then we analyse the responses. We work to improve how we serve them better based on the feedback they provide. This is a good thing. It’s good to listen. We listen to our clients and then we go home to our families, our children, our future generations. Sometimes though I think we get lazy and we stop listening to our kids. Have you ever asked your children how you are ‘performing’ as a Dad (or a Mum)? Have you in effect given them a survey to complete, asked them for feedback as if they were a ‘client’? If there was an election, would you make it for another term? It’s a... read more
I Wish I Could Do This Every Day

I Wish I Could Do This Every Day

Today is World Wish Day. Back in April 1980 the first ‘Make-A-Wish’ wish was granted for a child with a life threatening illness. This was the start of many many more wishes that have spread happiness for thousands of kids around the world. Kids that have been through pretty horrific experiences, and let’s face it would probably not be here if it wasn’t for medical intervention. Their wish gives them something to look forward to, something to remember. Something to allow them to forget the horrible stuff. It is also more than that. The ‘Wish Effect’ (much like a ripple effect) flows through  to the child’s family – the parents, siblings, grandparents, even the neighbours kids, friends at school, the parent community in general. Those that were involved making the wish. They have all felt and been part of the journey, good and bad, and experience the wish in some way. In some cases the wish story goes national, viral and then global (you may have seen ‘Batkid’, who brought San Francisco to a halt in 2013). Moments like this can give the whole world a ‘feel good’ moment. A moment we all need on a planet where there seems to be too much hatred and selfishness – and media corporations that sadly love to focus on the bad stuff. Why am I such a passionate advocate of the wish process? My son Liam has had a wish, and we as a family have experienced the positive effects of the wish first hand. Hey I’m still raving about it 18 months on. It’s had a profound effect on Liam. It also shows the... read more
I Thought Grown Ups Never Worried About

I Thought Grown Ups Never Worried About

Last week we told Liam he was wasn’t going to have another pet. You should have seen his little face light up. Inside too, we as parents were over the moon. No more pets, hopefully. Ever. Liam already has a rabbit called Milo, however we were not talking about this kind of pet. Oncology families call it a positron emission tomography (PET) scan. It is an imaging test that uses a radioactive substance called a tracer to look for disease in the body. A PET scan shows how organs and tissues are working. A small amount of radioactive material (tracer) is injected and travels through the blood and collects in organs and tissues, which then makes it easier to see problem areas. Those having a scan will need to hang around (preferably very still and quietly) for about an hour until the tracer is absorbed by your body. Then you will lie on a narrow table that slides into a large tunnel-shaped scanner. Liam’s full body scans lasted about 30 minutes. He has had 12 of these. More than 1 for each year of his life. It’s a good job they have stopped as Liam was starting to ask questions. We are always honest with him but sometimes you just have to bend the truth a little for everyones sake. What is sad however is that as one kid steps away from things like pet scanners, another one takes their place. It’s a scenario parents have no idea what to do when they find themselves in it. Parenting is hard enough as it is anyway, let alone when life throws a curveball... read more
Who Is Out There To Inspire Us?

Who Is Out There To Inspire Us?

If you are wondering what Calvin is on about in the cartoon, it is relevant. I want to share with you a short story for those looking for some inspiration. It’s about a family I visited recently at Ronald McDonald House. The house is essentially a ‘home away from home’ for families from country and regional areas whose children are being treated at the Children’s Hospital at Westmead. It’s right next door to the hospital and is an amazing place. I’ve been inside a few times both during our son Liam’s treatment, and since I’ve been connected with families on the oncology ward. The families in there often find themselves checking in literally with 24 hours notice, hundreds of miles from home, shell shocked and confused with a child in need of serious medical attention. If you ever want to find a good serving of strength, resilience and hope, this is the place to go. Anyway, this particular family are from mid northern NSW and on mum’s 40th birthday (yes her actual birthday) found themselves whisked on to a plane to Sydney as their 3 year old daughter had just been diagnosed with a Wilm’s Tumour (cancer of the kidneys). If that wasn’t enough, mum was 8 months pregnant. Anyway, they had been meaning to contact me for a while and when I called them to confirm dropping in, dad let me know they had become parents some 15 hours earlier. They insisted I still come by. So I found myself in their room / home, chatting to their 3 year old (who was just starting to lose her... read more
Things Don’t Bug You If You Don’t Think About Them

Things Don’t Bug You If You Don’t Think About Them

3Saturday was exactly 1 year since Liam finished treatment (note this was originally written in Nov 2013). Not sure exactly why we marked it in our calendar – they call it the ‘Anniversary Effect’ and many if not all of us experience it in some form or another for something or other. We were well aware of it of course and we weren’t really sure if we should celebrate it or not. He’s got his PET scan next week so I guess we’ll wait until then. Anyway, we were talking about it at the dinner table over the weekend. Sometimes we bring it up to ‘test the water’ to see how the kids are feeling about it. It’s difficult as you don’t want to pretend it didn’t happen, but also don’t want to bring back difficult memories. Memories are funny like that, we all have good and bad ones, it’s how and when they resurface that is curious. Anyway, Ewan piped up as he always remembers when Liam couldn’t talk (because of the of mucositis, a side effect of chemo). He said ‘yeah Liam, when you couldn’t talk’. Guess that’s a weird experience for a younger brother to see. We delved abit further then had a laugh at Liam remembering his ‘first word’ (after 2 weeks of not being able to talk). Liam remembers VERY clearly. He said ‘a forklift’. I was looking at him when he said it, I remember very clearly too. He had just built a lego forklift (there’s not much else to do on a bed for weeks on end when you can’t talk –... read more
A Slave To Routine

A Slave To Routine

I’ve just read a book called ‘The Age of Miracles’ by Karen Walker. No it’s not about miracle cures for cancer or anything, but about the slowing of the earth’s rotation. In a nutshell, each day gets longer and what we know as a 24 hour day turns into 30, 45 hours and so on. Eventually the lunar day just keeps lengthening, half the time day and half the time night. Bizarre concept but an interesting read. Makes one realise how finely hinged society is on simple things we have no control over. It’s amazing how we all expect (and have grown accustomed to) that each day will pretty much be the same as the one before. We then build our life around it. Society and Governments make rules around it. In the book, some kept to ‘clock time’ (the 24 hour day we all know so ended up working at night etc) and others (the ‘non conformists’) moved to ‘real time’ and slept for 40 hours and were awake for 40 hours. It all gets abit messy in the end as gravity and tides are affected and no-one can play cricket anymore. Not only was the book an escape from reality but made me realise at the moment that Marnie & I only really know ‘hospital time’. Living like this made me think a little about what ‘routine’ is. In practice we can’t live without it for too long whereas what we all really want is to remove ourselves from it at the first available opportunity. Much of my ramblings are also inspired by the kid in the... read more
Where Does the Bread Go?

Where Does the Bread Go?

Today is a new day. Today is a good day. We all took the day off. I didn’t go to work, Marnie didn’t either. The kids didn’t go to school or kindy. We felt slightly sneaky, but not at all guilty. We felt great, emotionally and physically shattered, but great nonetheless. You know when you have been looking forward to a day for, like……ever. A day that you know is out there and you just can’t wait for? We all look forward to things, we have to. It keeps us all going in this stressful, busy, connected to everything world we live in. This was our day. Liam had his central line out yesterday. It was almost like having a limb removed but he was so excited. He’s jumping around the house like it’s no tomorrow, without any hindrances, or without us worrying about it getting caught on something and him bleeding to death as a result. Without worrying what toxin they will put into him next to make the cancer go away. Last night was the first night in ages he didn’t come into our room because his dressing came off and needed patching up. We got some sleep (more than afew hours anyway). In a week he can get in the pool with his brothers. He can even have a proper shower. We don’t quite know what to do with ourselves. The cartoon above is brilliant and we grown ups need to act like this more often I think. Kid’s are great at that. Everything is so innocent. They seem to just accept and move on. Liam... read more
When You Look Into Infinity

When You Look Into Infinity

Every night before I turn my son Liam’s bedside light off I sit with him for a while before he goes to sleep. He has asked me to do this pretty much every night since he finished chemo and came home. I’ve promised myself never to say no. I ask him if he has any questions, about anything at all. 7 year olds ask really good questions. Sometimes silly, sometimes clever, sometimes surprisingly philosophical, and sometimes just plain simple (and those of you reading who have kids know these are often the hardest ones to answer). It got me thinking. Have you ever sat still for a moment and thought about what is happening right now around the world. At this very moment in time, as every second passes? And I don’t mean in your street, your suburb, even your country, I mean on the entire planet, all 7 billion of us, in every single time zone. Try to visualise it. Why? Because its mind boggling if you think about it too hard. Right now, as you read this think of all the people reading a blog, talking on the phone, drinking a fine wine, singing 80’s karaoke music (badly), swearing at the driver that just cut them off, glazing over during a lecture at university, shoplifting from a store, leaving their phone in a cab, falling off a ladder, finding out they passed their driving test, having their bank card swallowed up by the ATM machine. Billions of people living and breathing in unison on this tiny planet. We get caught up in our own lives and personal... read more
A Brave New World

A Brave New World

That word ‘Why?’ An adverb meaning: for what? for what reason, cause, orpurpose? We often ask this in the context of ‘Why did this happen (to us)’? It’s the first word our kids use when questioning something (everything). It’s a word all the forward thinkers, philosophers and astronomers used centuries ago when pondering the meaning of life. In modern society maybe we ask less so but there is no right or wrong of course. Can we change our future with the decisions we make or is everything mapped out for us, ‘meant to be’ so to speak? Does everything happen for a reason? Regardless of the ‘why’ though, we all want the same thing – happiness, security and to love and be loved. We want our kids to grow up safe, get married, have a good job and not get caught up in the wrong crowd and end up on the wrong side of the tracks (whatever that may mean). We go to work to earn a wage (some of us are even lucky enough to enjoy our job) so we can pay our bills so we can eat and live another day, pay for the latest fad, our next holiday and even occasionally think about funding our retirement. Instant gratification is commonplace now, because everything is so easily accessible. The one thing every human being has in common is that we all have dreams and aspirations, what we want out of life, where we want to be in the future, what is important to us and how we make it happen. We all ultimately want the best for... read more