Saturday, January 1, 2011


After my little grumble about New Years, I got invited to a barbeque. Brilliant! Truth be told, I had grumbled about it before that post.

This barbeque was a little off the beaten track. Mt Wellington. So I'd talked to a friend about sharing the cost of a taxi back - neither of us driving. It turns out, she was sick and so was a no show. Same no show as Christmas. And another friend was meant to come along as well. He was also a no show.

So it might have been a bit awkward if it wasn't for the fact that the people who did come along were great! Two families, a guy who left before New Years, and the hosts - expecting.

So you can imagine what the conversation revolved around. Babies. Children. Back to babies. Still, brilliant New Years. Kids running around.

I have to admit to being just a tad irresponsible. When I found the kids playing with fire, I had said to them "If you're going to injure yourselves, just wait until after I've gone back inside".

Sure I was at the edge of my seat the entire time. A few sparks would probably mean a few small holes in their clothes. Getting some sense of how hot a fire gets in a relatively controlled manner, invaluable in my opinion. Getting injured... sure it might teach them something but is it really the right message?

What was fascinating was the rules they came up with for each other - if someone has just thrown leaves in, you have to wait for it to calm down and then wait just a little while more.

One of them did try convincing me that she was just keeping the fire under control by dripping water into it.

What was probably more interesting though, was hearing one of the parents talking about how breaking an arm is a terrible lesson and how it could be worse.

My response to that is that I'd much rather a child be free to explore and test their limits. Finding out what level of risk they're comfortable with. Being able to push the limits.

And I'm back to personal experience. I liked to ride around on a skateboard. Only I wasn't allowed to do anything even remotely risky. Sure, at one stage my mother was having to pick gravel out of my head with a pair of tweezers after I'd come off due to a few stones on the footpath but if I'd asked to play at a ramp, the answer as always "No". I might have gotten hurt.

But isn't getting hurt a bit of a life lesson? We fall so that we can learn to pick ourselves up. Not falling means that we don't learn to pick ourselves up.

So while I wouldn't suggest going out to break a kid's arm, and I wouldn't suggest not warning a child against something that seems like it's almost certainly going to result in the kid's arm being broken, if and when it does happen, I don't think we should panic. Kids should be able to be kids without fighting against the swaddling placed on them by their parents.

And the funny bit about it all is that all if this sees to be more about the parents than the kids. Kids have gotten on through our entire history without so much swaddling. They're much more robust than you may think. Even more importantly, is that urge to protect the kids actually about the kids? Or is it about the parent's own anxiety?

Sure, playing with fire isn't the best thing to be doing. But then, they were looking after each other, creating a whole lot of rules aroud it and knew exactly where they could get water from if things went wrong.

So almost everyone left before New Years. Younger children and the like. When the fireworks went off, we were still wondering why the fireworks had gone off so early - as far as we were concerned, we still had 2 minutes left.

I eventually rang for a taxi only to find that the lines were busy. The hosts graciously offered me a bed for the night. So I'm still here. Writing this post on an XO (the computers deployed as part of the One Laptop Per Child project). It's a much harder feat than you might imagine. The keyboard is not made for fingers such as mine.

As a result, I decided to be as much of a "kitchen fairy" as I can. They've gone to bed and I decided to rinse off the dishes. This should make the clean up really quick tomorrow.

Anyway, the whole point of this post. It turns out that I may have the opportunity to go overseas to Micronesia as part of OLPC (One Laptop Per Child) for a couple of weeks. It's already feeling like this year is coming up aces.

So to everyone out there, Happy New Year and here's hoping this new year comes up aces for you. May your days differ and your enthusiasm never wane and your year be good.

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