Now that I know how hard this parenting gig is, I look back on my own childhood and am gobsmacked at all the wonderful things my parents did for my siblings and I. I think YES, these are some of the things I want for my own kids, these are the things I want to emulate!
Today my siblings, like me, are creative and imaginative, with a lust and curiosity about the world, and I have to believe a lot of it came from the way we were raised.
Even more amazing is that I was conceived while my mum was still a schoolgirl, and my dad a young Uni student. It was a shotgun wedding, with me as the facilitator of their union. 45 years later, these two though, (despite all the naysayers) are still in love, still married, committed, having adventures, travelling the world and learning. Pretty great role models to have, don't you think?
So please indulge me while I get a bit sentimental, and stroll down memory lane. I'd love you to come with me, really. I'll try not to bore you too much!
My early years were spent around Maitland and Beresfield,(on the outskirts of Newcastle). I spent lots of time with my Paternal Grandparents in Maitland, being spoiled with love, sung to sleep in a rocking chair and playing with their black labrador, Snoopy. My Nan also managed a cinema, and I have vivid memories of being in the candy shop, the thrill of sneaking peeks at the movies, and being given the odd sly treat. Later, living in Beresfield highlights included hanging at the local pool and walking home through the Beresfield crematorium on a dare! Then, when I was going into 4th class,at about age 9 we moved to Newcastle.
My parents are still there, still living in the family home, on the edge of a brilliant nature reserve called Blackbutt. It is a green, native bush oasis, with picnic areas and walking tracks. It's a great place, and gets better every year, even now. Perfect for my greenie parents and lucky us - as kids we spent hours exploring there, pretending we were lost in some wild jungle, or making cubby houses, collecting bush tucker and hunting down wild animals(!)
Then I moved away, far from this place, to where there is no beach and now I miss it. When we go back to Newcastle, my heart is never fuller than when I watch my own kids jumping off the very same rock at Bar Beach that I did, and playing in the rock pools that I did. We buy hot chips and sit at Nobby's and watch the ships, and I feel nostalgic about my childhood. I breathe in the salt, and realise this nostalgia will stay with me. I remind myself that I was born in a hospital right on a beach in Newcastle(no longer there though, demolished after the Newcastle earthquake of 1989). So in my first week of life I would have breathed in that same salty Newcastle beach air. But I still hate wearing swimmers!
We camped and walked through rain forests, sand dunes, rocks, bush, dry desert, coastal heath, gibber rocks and salt lakes in rain, hail and sunshine. We went spotlighting at night (with me driving!) had raging campfires and ate lots of deb(mashed potato rehydrated with water...mmmmm...nom nom nom) and sucked back condensed milk in tubes.
I remind myself though that we are doing the best we can. I remind myself that my kids are doing okay. That they do indeed do lots of the things that I did as a kid. We have travelled, including to Tassie numerous times, and Queensland. They go to their paternal grandparents and help Poppa in the garden, and pick flowers and go on swings. My girls go and raid their Nanna's garden. Just as I did, when I tenderly picked all my grandmother's geraniums, offering them up as gifts, graciously accepted despite me having denuded the entire garden! My lucky kids spend time with my parents too, who take them to zoos, galleries and museums, theatre shows bike rides, bush walks and mini-adventures.
We go camping too, replicating my own adventures. Around Easter last year we embarked on a road trip to Broken Hill with my parents.
Broken Hill is totally fascinating, and is Australia's first national heritage listed city, but what made going here truly meaningful to us, even more exciting, was that my maternal grandfather spent his own childhood here. As a family we discovered my great grandparent's grave, saw the school grandpa had attended, and found the location where my grandfather grew up between Broken Hill and Silverton ( Australia'a outback Hollywood!) I built a little sculpture there, and laid some bleached bones down as a tribute to them.
His parents, my great grandparents, did it tough in that beautiful, sparse, harsh place. Grandpa rode to ride to school on a bike with rope tyres, 25km each way! It really put it into perspectives how cushy my own childhood was, my kids childhood too... and they got it. We sat and watched the sun go down together, my kids and I, discussing what it would have been like to live there, with the bazillion flies, and heat and cold. And no screens.
A few days later we camped and hiked in the rugged Mutawinji National Park, rich in Aboriginal culture and dominated by the rocky Bynguano Range. The rusty cogs turned,jarring in my brain memories, sights and sounds... from when we did similar things in my youth. Seeing my kids here - No wifi, not a device in sight, grotty with red dirt, spotting roos, getting firewood, toasting marshmallows around the campfire... was awesome sauce. Brilliant.
But that's not the only thing we have done that harks back to my childhood. For example.. .
We've taken them overseas too, and are soon to head off on another trip.
We take them to the beach(okay, not as much as I used to go there as a kid...)as often as we can.
We take them to galleries, museums and on picnics.
I yell at them to "Shut that bloody door, you were not born in a tent!" the way my mum did.
I nag them continually to clean their rooms(oh mum, I am so sorry...guess you call this sweet karma!)
Perhaps the weirdest thing, or funniest, is that my Dad was a high school teacher. Guess what my husband is? My mum was a primary teacher. Guess what I do? Yep, same same. Freaky.
And yet... we live very differently my parents too.Of course.Hubby and I have chosen a different path in many ways, with different influences, and different choices. And that's okay. We are doing the best we can in our very own way. There are many many things about me that my parents do not understand, that are not part of the way I was brought up, as I have gone on to become my own person, still finding my way. Still stumbling through parenthood and life.
But in my heart, my soul, my bones... there is always that hankering to be in the bush, to travel, to camp, to have books around me, to fill my space with memories, to collect them, to have my family around me. And I know that my childhood is the reason I see things like I do. I know that.
And I am so grateful, so very, very grateful.
PS. On that trip to Broken Hill... we bought home a little souvenir. A puppy. A black labrador. Just like the one my Granparents had. Fancy that. And you know, I did not even realise until later. Sigmund would have a field day!