In seeking to persuade me to write a trip blog (not that she has ever had much difficulty in persuading me of anything), Kim showed me a surprising number of perpetually footloose young Australian families who have amassed extraordinary coverage in the social media universe. However, one thing that immediately struck me, in some cases at least, was how overt and overwhelming the product placement and commercial elements of these ventures were. I’m told that, for those in the know, it can provide a source of income (or the provision of free gear) equivalent to a decent full-time job. Nice work if you can get it, I s’pose.
And so, in the spirit of full disclosure – I too have ulterior motives in jotting down a few random thoughts for Kim to use however she sees fit. That’s because I have made a deal as well. To wit, it has been decreed that for every blog I write… I get to go fishing! Booyah!! There you have it, I’ve sold out. In response to a comment from a good mate (cheers) in a recent post regarding the apparent lack of fishing action on our trip to date, this situation will hopefully soon be rectified with such a hard won enterprise bargain now in place.
But to be perfectly honest, I would probably write this particular entry even without such brazen inducement. It is on a subject close to my heart: the ability for kids to be kids in 2018. I am often deeply saddened by the apparent lack of ability for children today to escape the protection of their parents’ shadow or the structure of heavily organised activity (ballet on Tuesday, gymnastics on Friday, swimming lessons on Saturday morning) and just run amok. To explore, get lost, discover nature and their surroundings, and (gulp) knock up a few bruises and scratches along the way.
I understand there are very good reasons for a high degree of parental vigilance in certain settings. Unfortunately, in my professional life, I see far too much of the constellation of serious harm that can befall innocent children in the absence of proper supervision, monitoring and communication.
Here are a couple of simple experiences over the past few days that have given me more than a pinch of optimism that one of the absolute highlights of this trip will be an appropriate spreading of our children’s wings well beyond that which would be possible if we remained in our ‘normal’ life.
A fantastic piece of advice we received some months before leaving from another set of parents who had done a lot of travelling in their caravan was to get a decent set of ‘Walkie Talkies’ (2-way handheld radios) and teach the kids how to use them. To my knowledge, these sage individuals were not sponsored by any company that markets such devices. Anyone who has spent time at caravan parks knows that squadrons of kids whizzing past your campsite on bikes, scooters and various other wheeled contraptions is an inexorable part of the landscape. So it seemed inevitable that Olivia and Mia, who are both now reasonably adept on their bikes, would soon enough be invited to join such a kids-only bikie gang. When it happened, they were freshly armed with their Walkie Talkie licences and Mia was proud as punch to peddle off with a handset clipped to her T-shirt collar. This gave Kim and I the piece of mind to be able to check in every so often (ok – initially it was more like every 30 seconds) and it was all part of the fun for the kids to respond in their sharply honed radio talk – ‘We’re almost back to the caravan, Dad. Over and out.’
That little slice of independence quickly graduated to an invitation the following morning to join a half a dozen or so other kids on a hike up a private trail to the Vlamingh Head Lighthouse for a whale-watching sortie. Olivia and Mia again left with 2-way in hand. Half an hour or so later, a transmission crackled through that poor-little Mimi had hit her limit on the return march, so I sprinted off up the trail to intercept them. She was fairly out-of-puff by the time I reached them, but her overheating and thirst seemed to be quickly slaked when a 9-year old member of the crew commented that she had never seen a pre-schooler complete such a tough bushwalk all by herself.
We have been able to share more closely in other ‘kids-will-be-kids’ experiences. Today, on our second travel day backtracking south to Monkey Mia, we pulled over for Baby Alice to have a feed and found ourselves surrounded by the stickiest, reddest and slipperiest mud imaginable. I knew that any attempted admonitions at cleanliness would likely be futile and, sure enough, after only a matter of minutes Mia was knee deep in the wet clay soil and cackling with unbridled joy. Olivia was a little bit more reluctant (in fact she was bordering on apologetic) but after I coaxed her into the action by assuring her that getting dirty was one of the best parts of being a kid, she was soon in the thick of it also. I think the photos tell the story far better than I can. Back in the car, with our upholstery taking a beating, half-an-hour or so later Olivia passed me a note without fanfare. I took one eye off the road for a second or two to read it. As I absorbed the contents of my eldest daughter’s spontaneous communication, this father’s heart was filled to overflowing. It read: “dear DaD being a KiD is amasing”.