Maddie Pulver just gets on with it

This month in a world where teenage thugs ruled the streets of London, a lawless 15-year-old led police on yet another car chase through Sydney and a young gang bashed an elderly man in a quiet country town, isn’t Madeline Pulver a breath of fresh air?

It’s not often you get to use the word `refreshing’ when referring to an horrific crime, but Maddie Pulver and her Mosman family have been just that.

Think about it. The 18-year-old was at home studying for her HSC trials when some lunatic broke into her house and strapped what she and everyone else believed to be a deadly collar bomb around her neck. For ten desperate hours she was immobilised, seeking comfort from police and bomb squad officers as her family waited helplessly outside.

Fortunately, the bomb was a fake and the alleged perpetrator has since been caught. But people are often defined by their behaviour after a traumatic event, and the only thing more extraordinary than this bizarre crime has been the behaviour of the Pulver family since the incident turned their world upside down.

Thrust into the media spotlight, this very private family has endured a fortnight of which Hollywood movies are made. Man straps bomb around teenager’s neck, dramatic tense ten hour rescue follows, girl saved. But that was just the beginning, because then the rumours surfaced. Maddie was in on the ‘bungled HSC joke’, so were the local Shore boys. Her father Bill was in ‘huge debt for gambling’, or had numerous enemies in business, all of whom wanted revenge. The hysterical media stalked the family desperate for a clue and some dirt to justify the theories being spouted.

They wanted a reaction, some irrational emotion from the Pulver clan. But none was forthcoming.

Instead, each and every time a microphone and a camera was thrust in her face, Maddie smiled and answered politely, as did her parents, brothers and friends. There was no limelighting, tears, wailing, nor anger, nor indeed denials. The rumours were obviously so absurd, Mr Pulver gave them no oxygen at all.

The media was left with no salacious angle about the family it could pummel to death, resorting instead to repeating Mr Pulver’s polite mantra that the family just “wanted to get back to normal”.

But that’s something the trauma counsellors couldn’t see happening in a hurry. Within hours of her rescue, they were crawling out of the woodwork telling us what Maddie would be thinking, feeling and fearing, and how her ordeal would affect her for the rest of her life.

I’m not saying there is no place for counsellors, and indeed, for all I know Maddie might be seeing one. But if she is, it’s someone who’s replacing hours of debriefing and rehashing with a sharp dose of common sense.

While the emotional experts were probably salivating at the opportunity to help her explore her suppressed anxiety and mentally writing reports about the anguish she would face, Maddie got on with her life.

Stressed Maddie? Thwack that hockey ball again! Teary? Embrace the hug from the schoolmate at the door with a bunch of flowers. Can’t sleep? Enjoy the camp-out in mum and dad’s bedroom with your brothers. Need a distraction? Hey, how about the HSC trials!

While other troubled teenagers are entrenched in resources and counselling, and parents turn to the government to solve their problems, think of the Pulver way of dealing with the unexpected. And don’t bring their money into it, wealth has nothing to do with level headedness and wisdom. Maddie’s inner strength and her dignified manner comes down to her parenting. Sensible parenting with lashings of common sense and loads of love.

Do you think sometimes counselling does more harm than good?

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