Monday, 24 March 2014

Janus in March

The month of January was named after Janus, I forget what he was the god of, Roman I think, but he was noted for having two faces, one looking back and one forward- back to the old year, and forward to the new. I've always liked the notion that in January I can pause and that it is alright to look back and think before facing into the new.

But this is March, sez you!

For one reason and another my girls are doing quite a bit of looking back and thinking at the moment, perhaps its a part of coming to terms with change- a combination of their parent's separation and Middlest getting married this summer with a lousy example of marriage to build on.
Whatever the reason, the girls have been looking back at the way they grew up, in East Africa and Ireland, two vastly different places with disparate mores and conventions, to say nothing of moral codes. I always tried to keep communications open and as a result have heard many admissions of hijinks, some of which I knew at the time but pretended ignorance as I felt lessons had been learned, and others I did not know! In East Africa we were lucky to live alongside several African families. I know that sometimes other adults kept my girls in check and also that they had far more freedom because they were with African children who were wise to local ways. We lived in some odd places, the Aberdare forest for a while, and on two coffee farms, one small and fairly urban and another a huge coffee farm surrounded by bush and Kikuyu cultivation. Eldest and Middlest had the sort of childhood freedom that children in western countries have lacked since maybe 1950s or before. They realise their good fortune and I believe it has made them stronger characters. (Youngest was six when we moved here so was still tied to my apron-strings.)
Their dangers were monkeys larger than themselves, hippos in the dam at the end of the garden, cuts that would go septic within hours, snakes, misusing machetes and losing a foot or finger, forgetting to bring a dog along (which was their early warning system for trouble), being within the compound by sunset no matter what fun they were having, getting off the grass airstrip when they heard Oscar Golf (the farm owner's plane!) coming in, finding their way home...a far cry from small West of Ireland when they were teenagers!
And that was with a careful mother!
My problem was always to figure what dangerous thing they would dream up next and forbid it without giving them ideas! Tough path to tread. But at the same time to give them freedom to explore their place and learn to be strong, independent and able to extract themselves from whatever trouble they get into- which was a lot! Among our friends were Settlers and ex-Pats and I know for a fact that some of the latter were horrified by the freedom and mischief the girls got into. The African mothers too believed that white girls should be brought up far more restricted. How can a person 'own' their time and place, as well as knowing their own strengths and weakness, if they have not been allowed the freedom to discover for themselves?
In Ireland they had other dangers to contend with, people rather than hippos, responsibility for others as opposed to independence, urban problems instead of bush survival. It came hardest to Eldest but they have adapted and despite the fact they would count themselves Irish I hope that the inner strength they developed in childhood stands them in good stead as they go on.

So, looking back in times of change in order to face the future with integrity, I think they are wise to take the time for this. Besides which, it is such fun listening to their stories of mischief and mayhem. Last week Middlest and I  spent a hilarious tea-time telling Car-Boy some of the awful things she had done as a child. Car-Boy's face was a picture and eventually he thumped his fist on his knee exclaiming: 'Our children will be very well-behaved!'

In one voice, Middlest and I shrieked; 'Good luck with that!'

I really don't think he grasps just how wild Middlest can be...

PS The post I began to write was nothing like this but I guess the old grey matter is entitled to occasionally dictate direction!


Amanda said...

Our lads were brought up in Surrey, so no great adventures there. But we always tried to find ways of saying 'yes' rather than 'no' and to give them as much independence as possible, whilst hopefully instilling in them the virtues of responsibility and common sense. They got into plenty of scrapes, some of which needed our help to sort out, but were never unkind or overly irresponsible. And they've both grown into wonderful young men who continually surprise me with their responsible attitudes and common sense, as well as their continuing sense of fun. It's always gratifying when you can feel that you got the parenting thing right isn't it?

Soggibottom said...

Er, soap box out :-) I know this will please you. ER... loads of stuff went on in Surrey, where did Amanda live in Guildford ?
:-) ha ha.. lovely post, loved every minute of it.
Some, take things too seriously and so pleased looking back at the things our kids got up to they were never half as bad as the things we got up to :-) xxxxx

Janice / Dancing with Sunflowers said...

I think your girls were very lucky to have not only that freedom but also the experience at any age of living in a different country and culture. I would love to have had that experience.

I have often thought of this difference in freedom - even between people of our generation and our offspring just in this country. When I was tiny the 'Moors murderors' were doing their worst on the borders of my county with Lancashire; when I entered my teens the Yorkshire Ripper pretty much held my home town to ransom for several years. And yet I had more freedom as a child than my sons did when they were little. And then there were differences between what was 'normal' in our previous village and in the town we moved to. In the former I felt isolated by my wild permissiveness in comparison with other mothers; here I was in trouble with my sons for not going far enough ... like not allowing my seven year-old to go to the beach with a friend without an adult - something the friend was allowed to do.

In the end, as parents we have to take the line we think is right. I'll bet your daughter will think differently about what's a good idea when she's the mother! I sense a period of 'payback time'!

Benta AtSLIKstitches said...

That sounds like an amazing childhood ! I am guilty of thinking the grass would have been greener ... If we'd lived where we holiday in Norway they would have had more freedom, if we'd lived nearer to town *I'd* have had more freedom, but do long as we can put hand on heart and say we did our best, and we never actually *lost* one then I think we managed to be decent parents!


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