Showing posts with label children. Show all posts
Showing posts with label children. Show all posts

Saturday, 30 April 2016

Choices

I had finished my morning swim at the rock pool and was enjoying a few moments of peace, sitting on the slatted wooden bench at the end of one of the lanes. To my right, a long stretch of pristine sand; to my left, a rock platform abutting a cliff, from the top of which I knew there were panoramic views up and down the coastline. I registered that there were sounds ... gulls, waves... but they were not intrusive, just faint, familiar background noises. Unlike Mediterranean beaches, this beautiful place was not crowded, I had not had to pay and there was not the slightest indication that I was in reality only kilometres from the busy Sydney CBD.



A lady came up beside me. We exchanged the inclusive smile of early morning swimmers and she got on with the job of readying herself; goggles, swimming cap, towel ready for the exit from the water. An elderly man swam up to us both and mid-turn, he addressed her briefly.

"G'day."

"Hey, Dad", she answered back, before he disappeared and she slid into the water beside him.

I watched them both for a while longer and then headed back to my car, reflective, and a little sad.

My own father was hundreds of kilometres away. There was no chance of us bumping into each other during our morning rituals.

We have not had that privilege since I left home for my first teaching job, several decades ago. Then, I gave it no thought. In fact, I was driven - to leave, to explore the world, to do things differently, to experience - and what I left behind was simply unavoidable collateral damage.

My oldest daughter left home a couple of months ago. She was just about to turn 19. Since then, she has thrived in her new independent environment and I am proud, very proud, of the choices that she is making. Of course, I understand better what my own parents might have been feeling when they put me on the Overland train from Adelaide to Melbourne, with my one suitcase filled with a limited collection of clothes and novice teaching materials.

My husband and I chose to go and live in France with our children. We chose to absent ourselves from family and friends and struggle through unfamiliarity and loneliness. Several years later, we also chose to come back to Sydney. For us it was another new city, another set of challenges. We were still a long way from my family.

But, despite the occasional twinges of regret about how life could have been lived differently, closer to my first home, closer to my parents and sisters, I am witnessing for myself the benefits of the lessons that my children have already learned from the choices that we have made for them. What are they? A deeper awareness of more than what would have been their own little world; an interest in people, that allows them to want to communicate with others, a desire to do, to see, to experience, to be independent and to know better how to cope when times are tough.

What is interesting is that my parents chose to take myself and my three sisters overseas to live for a year when I was twelve. The person that I became grew from this experience ... just like my own children are growing from theirs.

Does this mean that in years to come, I will be far from them, wishing that I, too, could glance up at them from the water, as our daily paths crossed?

Probably.

But, I have made a choice to give them the freedom to see the world differently. I can't go back on that now.




Friday, 15 January 2016

Between children


It was the same for my daughters growing up in Australia. They went through a period of questioning the existence of Father Christmas. My son came home a few weeks before Christmas and announced that only he and one other boy in his class believed in Le Père Noël. They had had a conversation about this amongst the students and he had felt strongly enough about his convictions to not be swayed by popular vote and had voiced his belief out loud.

He had found an IPhone application that asked a series of questions of children and on the basis of their answers put them onto Santa’s naughty or nice list. He came out with a B+, which placed him on the nice list, although the final application message was a warning to remain on his guard, as Santa’s elves would continue to check up on him. He was chuffed about this and got his older two sisters to do the same test to see if they would be lucky enough be put on the right list with him.

A week or so later he came home and said that he didn’t believe any more as he had been called a ‘baby’ for still believing. He looked crestfallen and unsure about whether he had made the right choice. After all, he had written a beautiful letter to Santa, had included pictures cut out of magazines, of the toys that he wanted, and had wrapped it all carefully in a special piece of fabric. Independently, he had found an envelope for his offering. The envelope had simply been addressed, on the back, in his childish handwriting to Le Père Noël. It broke my heart to think of him sadly having to turn the page into a logical rational world instead of being allowed to remain in his magical fantasy one.

Then again there were no age limits to children being hurtful to each other, unintentionally or deliberately. My middle daughter at high school had participated in an inter-school cross-country event and on this occasion had mixed with students from her school that she had not come across before. One of the girls after having chatted with my daughter for all of a minute said, ‘You look like Polly Pocket. I think I’ll call you Polly.’ This annoyed my daughter more than upsetting her but my older daughter who had been listening to this story being told in the car on the way home, and who was usually so quiet and so polite burst forth with, ‘You should have said to her, you look like a dog. I think I’ll call you dog.’ I laughed all the way home.

Of course, she never would have said such a thing and I would have been most upset if she had, but occasionally it did them good to get rid of some of the inevitable antagonism of the schoolyard by speaking about it. A program on French television called ‘Fais pas ci, fais pas ça,’ centered on the daily lives of a few families. In one episode, a family was attempting to work out a date for a birthday party for the teenage daughter. Unexpectedly, the birthday girl had flounced out of the room and it was left to her older sister to explain to the mother that the date that she had proposed coincided with the party of the most popular girl in the class. No one would choose to come to her sister’s party.

Later in the same show the sisters sat the mother down and went through with her the different categories of students at the school; the popular ones, the semi-popular ones (the dangerous ones) and the bozos (stupid, not popular). Once a bozo always a bozo, they went on to explain to her, and unfortunately that was where the younger daughter had placed herself. She was still to learn that some of the most interesting people fitted comfortably into that last category and usually the most intelligent were those that simply did not care about being there.