You don’t know
what you are going to get …

by Tina Reiken

For all the parents who ordered a different child to the one they received
For all the parents who believed they were right and the teachers were wrong.
For all the mothers who trusted their instincts … and God….


The moment our eyes first met – seriously, I got a bit of a fright. Well not a fright exactly – but I was a bit taken a-back. At only two weeks old, and unable to speak yet, Nick made intelligent contact and sized me up with his bright blue eyes.

So you’re the mum. Right…That’s OK.

And nothing has changed my opinion about him since then. He did everything they write about in the baby books - in the problem chapters. He:

  • had colic for months.
  • cried night and day for the first three months.
  • never went to sleep without first crying for at least 30 minutes each night.
  • never wanted to go home when we took him out.
  • banged on the toilet seat with his toy hammer to wake us each morning from 4.00 to 5.00am between the aged of 18 months to two years.
  • woke up at 4.00am (too early for us); learnt how to get the cereal, milk and sugar, and made his breakfast while watching Sesame Street when he was 2 ½.
  • shot out questions one after another, constantly, from the back of the car, in peak hour traffic; eg, Mum, who was the first Queen? Where did she live? How did she become Queen? etc. (He still hasn’t stopped this habit.)
  • found the children in primary school too immature and silly and expressed this sentiment in front of them.
  • wasn’t invited to birthday parties.
  • didn’t have any friends in primary school.
  • wet the bed until he was twelve.
  • made history at his boy’s grammar school by having the first Saturday detention for a Grade 5 boy in 100 years.

At eight, we decided to take him to music classes. Mothers sat with their children at small electronic keyboards. But Nick wanted to play his own notes. The arguments between my son and I often caused the teacher to interrupt her lesson and announce Will Nick and his mother please be quiet?

At nine, Nick decided to reposition all the pebbles from my garden beds on to the next door neighbour’s perfect green lawn.

At high school, we dreaded the parent/child interviews so much that my husband and I tried to get out of going. His teachers’ comments were along these lines:

English teacher:

What does Nick say about me?



English Teacher (disturbed):

He has a strange expression on his face all through my class. This really disturbs me.

Biology Teacher (angry):

Nick is difficult and not interested in learning.


Why do you say that?

Biology Teacher (precious):

He purposely provokes me by wearing fluorescent socks (not part of the uniform) and sitting in the front row with his legs outstretched, so I can see the socks. Why is he doing this?

Nick dropped biology the following year and took up computers instead – and set up the school’s web site in his final year.

After the year nine annual school camp, the school counselor requested an appointment with my husband and me to discuss our son’s behavior. We walked with the counselor while he got the courage to tell us the bad news.


I believe Nick is anti social.

Me (anxious):

Why do you say that?


He caught a dead jelly fish and put in a boy’s sleeping bag …

My husband and I tried to keep a straight face because the counselor looked so concerned. We said thanks and ignored his extreme advice about what we should do with our son. We talked with him at home, diffused the situation and moved on.

Almost each Friday, my son had school detention for silly things. This always meant an extra drive for my to collect him from school in Friday afternoon peak hour traffic, since he had missed the school bus. During his teens, each month, I would search his room and remove all the small weapons he had made/collected e.g. slingshots, soda bombs etc.

In his final high school year, Nick decided to sell an un-official version of the school’s farewell T Shirt. The official T Shirt featured the school’s Viking emblem with the logo – class of 1997. Nick paid the school’s top art student to design his own version of the school emblem – a drunken Viking holding a bong. His T Shirts outsold the official one by hundreds. His samples were confiscated by the Head Master and he was suspended for a week. He made enough money to finance a computer business that he started at 18 years of age.

Without borrowing a penny, he taught himself how to design and build computers – (in his bedroom) and sold them - one at a time - out of our lounge room. He made enough money to finance himself throughout university. He finished an Information Technology Degree and invented a new software for SMS Mobile Phone text messaging – helping pioneer a new industry in this country. He has clients throughout the world.

At 25, he employs around twenty people and turns over millions of dollars per year. He has employed the top (and better behaved) students from his school as programmers and engineers. He has just launched his product in the US market and is just about to move his product into India and China.

So to all you parents in despair; trust in your own instincts. You know your child more than anyone else – and school is just one aspect of growing up. We kept everything our child did in perspective. Rules are great on paper and we do need them but my husband and I chose what to ignore and what to react to. If we had listened to others, Nick would have his spirit crushed by teachers who didn’t know how to handle him or become involved in the spiral of counselors and therapy. Teachers and counselors are not perfect. We listened to others but made our own decisions and backed our child as much as possible.

Focus on the important things: Is your child healthy? Growing? Does your child talk with you? Does he/she smile and laugh? Good luck.


© Tina Reiken

“A gender-equal society would be one where the word ‘gender’ does not exist: where everyone can be themselves.”*

I’ve always been aware of gender conditioning and actively tried to combat any lingering prejudices or stereotypes in my own parenting, even down to encouraging dolls with my boys when they were little. It’s great to read people writing about gender issues they’re experiencing with their kids. For too long these subjects have been discouraged or silenced. I’d love to publish some more creative writing on this topic, especially if you are struggling with a child who actively tries to move away from gender normative preferences. A society where everyone can be themselves thanks Gloria for those aspirational words.

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* Gloria Steinem