Archive for the ‘Philosophy’ Category

Thoughts on Australia Day

It seems an appropriate time to announce I’m back, although since I don’t have any follow-ups organised I might regret it!

When I was a kid we went for barbecues on Australia Day and I didn’t really think too much about it – it was our national day, when we celebrated how lucky we were to live in Australia.  As I got older and learnt more history it started to bug me – the 26th of January is the beginning of a penal colony in NSW.  What does it have to do with the rest of Australia?  It wasn’t even a viable colony – that had to wait for the arrival of the second fleet which had the women on board.  And it certainly had nothing to do with the two thirds of the continent that isn’t in the East.  As a good little West Aussie school girl I was taught about the settlement of Albany – which was done in order to claim WA before the French could.  So obviously it hadn’t been claimed back in 1788 and the 26th of January is irrelevant in WA.

In uni I started learning more about Aboriginal people and it got worse.  I’ve lived and worked in Aboriginal communities for 12 years now, so I’ve heard a lot of first hand stories about the impact of white settlement.  The missions, the stolen generation are only part of it – I’ve been to the site of massacres and been privileged to walk the path of both people expelled from Moola Bulla station in the Kimberley and the Gurindji walk-off led by Vincent Lingiari, two pivotal events in the history of Australian race relations.  Interestingly, I’ve never personally heard an Aboriginal person refer to ‘Invasion Day,’ in my experience it is a phenomenon of the media and politicians.  However I sympathise with the concept.

So what to do?  I’m proud of being Australian.  I want to celebrate all it means to be Australian, I acknowledge that there are injustices and negatives in our past, but this is still a wonderful country that I feel lucky to live in.  But I don’t like celebrating such a negative date, which echoes with injustice to both those who were brought here and those who were already here, and ignores at least two thirds of our geography.

While researching this post I discovered an article from last Australia Day, when the Prime Minister respectfully refused the Australian of the Year, Mick Dodson’s, request to rethink January 26th.  I think the response to this was very sensible – no-one was surprised, as there is a huge weight of tradition behind it, but many people asked for a long and thoughtful conversation on what it means to celebrate Australia Day and when we should do it.  I agree that it cannot be a quick change, it is too important for that, but this is the beginning of my contribution to the discussion.  I hope that it will be ongoing and that reasoned and gentle resistance will eventually result in both a date and a sense of mature nationhood that all Australians can celebrate.  Let NSW celebrate the 26th of January in the same style as Foundation Day (WA), Territory Day (NT!) and the others, and let Australia have a new day important to us all.

Ideally I would like to celebrate Federation Day, for the day we became one nation, but I can see that the 1st of January is going to be a non-starter!  So here are my other suggestions.  I have purposely excluded Sorry Day, I feel this is extremely important but hardly a day of celebration and shouldn’t be a holiday.

  • While Australia officially became a federation on January 1st, our first parliament opened on May 9th 1901, so one candidate is Parliament Day, to celebrate the beginning of our government as one democratic nation.
  • The 1967 constitutional referendum did not, in fact, grant Aboriginal people citizenship, but it was an extremely significant event for both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Australians.  Aboriginal people successfully asserted themselves and non-Aboriginal people acknowledged their rights, at least symbolically.  So the 27th of May could become Referendum Day, a day to include all Australians.
  • Perhaps it’s a trifle ambitious to want two days, but it would be nice to acknowledge two of our strengths – free and open government, and working to become a united, fair nation.  Since two dates in May are a bit close together, my last suggestion is the day on which the Constitution Alteration (Aboriginals) Act, 1967 was proclaimed, the 10th of August.  This is the legislation made possible by the referendum; it was supported by both parties and passed all three reading for both houses in only one day.  So for me it represents the best our parliamentary system can be, working together carrying out the will of the people for the good of all Australians.

I hope you agree with me that Australia is a wonderful place to live.  I hope that, for you, there are more positives even while we acknowledge the negatives.  And I hope that, whether you agree or disagree with me, we have the maturity as a nation to engage in a positive and respectful conversation about when and how to celebrate our nationhood.  And if you agree with me, I hope that we can eventually move beyond conversation to action, and effect real change we can all be proud of.

(I do actually have something planned for tomorrow, but I’ll be a little busy.  You’ll have to wait and see why!)

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13 Steps to Making a Crown

My big girl wants a crown for Christmas.  It’s all she’s asked for, and she’s asked several times!  You could do this in less that 13 steps, but then how would I use it for this post?

1.

2. 

It’s made of felt.

3. 

4. 

I’ve never used a hot glue gun before, this cost about $5 from a $2 shop and was very easy, although the glue comes out really hot!

5. 

I used a darning/embroidery foot to sew them on just to see how it went.  You could easily hand sew them, especially if you wanted it neat.  I was after a more casual look.  The needle picked up a fair bit of glue as well.

6. 

I hand sewed the beads with bead thread which is far stronger than normal cotton, then glued them as well.  Probably paranoid, but I’ve seen the way my toddler treat things!

7. 

Another play with the hot glue gun, I had some glitter glue.

8. 

Cut out a large piece of material for a head band (remember the measurement?).  Make sure it is a few centimetres longer than your head measurement and double your elastic width plus a couple of centimetres.  This one is about 57cm long and7cm wide.

9. 

Sew along the long sides to make a tube and turn it right side out.

10. 

Sew the tube to the crown, leaving a couple of centimetres at one end.  I glued it first so I didn’t have to pin it.  This material has a bit of stretch so I stretched it out when I was gluing it down, so when it is being stretched around their heads it doesn’t pull the felt.

11. 

Sorry for the horrible composite photo.  It is trying to show that I have threaded the elastic into the long end of the headband up until the crown, then sewn it down at that end.

12. 

Stretch the elastic comfortably so it goes the length of the headband, then sew the end and cut off the spare elastic.

13. 

Fold it around to those spare couple of centimetres you left on the other side and attach.  I put it inside the other end of the tube and sewed over it lots of times.

Tahdah!  Little sister wouldn’t try it on, so no photos of it on until Christmas!

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13 Little Luxuries

  1. A long, hot shower.
  2. Sweet, fresh grapes.
  3. Buying a block of the good Swiss chocolate.
  4. Wearing perfume.
  5. Sitting still and watching my children play together.
  6. Sleep for longer than a 3 hour stretch.
  7. Having the house all to myself for half an hour.
  8. A trip to the library.
  9. Not cooking dinner.
  10. Filing and painting my fingernails.
  11. Getting my family all dressed up to go out.
  12. Buying fabulous fabrics and imagining what to make with them.
  13. Slipping off baby girl’s mattress and sinking into my new mattress and feeling my whole body relax.

The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your Thirteen in others’ comments. It’s easy, and fun!

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MONDAY MONEY – Something Special

Having fallen foul of the flu this week I have been pondering what I would write. Whilst the head is still a little foggy I thought it best to look at something that I managed to do with my daughter in a couple of days as a gift for her cousin.

It is not an expensive thing to do, making a gift for someone, it is something very special, with time and love spent in making it. The commercialised side of Christmas has really taken hold. I would say for most people it is a case of what is the latest gadget that I can get, what piece of technology is there out there that I don’t have. The one that leaps to mind for me is the IPhone. My son has told me that I don’t need an IPhone as I only need a basic mobile, I would never use all the other bits and pieces attached. He’s probably right!

Anyway, I move off the subject. I drew my daughter a picture onto a piece of wood, coloured it in and then cut it into a puzzle for her. Yes you need to know how to do this sort of thing, but there are many gifts to be made. Without prompting she wanted to know if she could make one too, for her cousin we are going to visit at Christmas. She is 4 and I looked at her and said of course, thinking that I would end up doing all the work. How wrong was I, she helped search the internet for pictures of a tractor (her cousin is into tractors), then I drew it onto her board, and she coloured it in. Not the idea I had. Her cousin is going to get a brightly coloured tractor puzzle that she spent 2 days making. How much more special can you get (photo here).

So on a somewhat shortish note, think about the latest gadget you’re thinking of getting. How much love and thought is there in this? I love my gadgets and toys that I have, and yes it is great to have an excuse like Christmas to go and ‘upgrade’ again. At the same time though, isn’t it nice to have that little something special, the thing that says I really thought about you at this special time of the year.

13 Reasons I Like Dora

I’m not into commercialisation, I really don’t like most of the kids shows and groups or at least the way they’re marketed.  However we have managed to amass an extremely extensive Dora the Explorer collection and I’m actually pretty impressed at how she stacks up as something I’m happy for my daughter to watch.  So here are 13 Reasons I Like Dora.

  1. She’s child shaped, not some distorted miniature model.
  2. She’s a girl doing all sorts of active, non-traditional things.
  3. She’s adventurous and goes all over the place, including the jungle and fantasy lands.
  4. She goes outside and gets lots of exercise, but it’s not just organised sport.
  5. She’s independent, confident and a problem solver.
  6. She’s dark skinned, not a cute little white angel.
  7. She’s imaginative and creative with a rich fantasy life.
  8. She has all sorts of friends, male, female, cows, monkeys, trolls, …
  9. Swiper isn’t purely evil, sometimes he’s good and sometimes he’s bad, which is realistic.
  10. They celebrate and acknowledge good things.
  11. I like iguanas, I just have a thing for reptiles.
  12. Her mother is an archaeologist, professional, female, scientist, how many great role models in one.
  13. She interacts with adults, it’s not just a Neverland full of children.

The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your Thirteen in others’ comments. It’s easy, and fun!

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13 Practical Things That Would Make the World More Kid Friendly

They are our future.  They make up almost 30% of the population.  And yet we ignore them and make no provision for them.

1.  Children’s public toilets.

We manage to have disabled toilets, which is great, and there are more kids around than people with disabilities.  So how about a slightly larger stall so they can deal with their clothes or Mum or Dad can fit in with a lower toilet, toilet paper they can reach and a low, big, easily turnable lock. My husband has just informed me that men’s toilets usually have one lower urinal, which says some interesting things about women’s toilets and designers.

2.  Children’s cutlery and plastic cups at cafes.

It’s hard to eat with cutlery that’s too big, no wonder they drop it all the time!  It’s not that hard to give them teaspoons and dessert forks, or even get some actual kid’s cutlery. Even better than plastic cups, plastic cups with a narrow mouth.  Wide mouths just end up pouring out the side.  How would you like to eat your meal with salad servers and drink out of a bucket?

3.  Play equipment and feeding chairs in shopping centres.

I remember when shopping centres used to have little garden areas, before they realised they could stick stands in there and get more rent.  I know sometimes privacy is good, but then you have to entertain the older child while feeding the baby, or use a hard wooden bench.  So how about providing some comfortable chairs with basic play equipment, even simple things like floor mazes or moving pegs on boards if you’re worried about kids getting hurt and suing you.  A place where both kids and parents can have a break before heading into the next shop.  You may miss out on the rent for the floorspace but you would get a heck of a lot more customers, and ones who are more relaxed and can look around.

4.  Menus that include something other than chips.

Need I say more?  My kids like chips too, but it would be nice to have some choices!  They also like dips and crudites, or salad plates, or eggs, or risotto, you get the picture?

5.  Miniature shopping trolleys.

Sometimes I only want a few things, and why should kids be cooped up in a trolley?  It can be hazardous in a shop, getting hit by a full trolley is both likely and serious when you’re only 3 feet high.  I see this as a win/win – give them a little trolley with a flag sticking up so everyone can see them and they get to be included and have something to do, which means a whole lot less whining and tantrums!

6.  Steps they can stand on at counters that are meant for kids, like icecream shops or food courts!

I confess, if there is a bench at counter height I let them sit/stand on it and bad luck anyone who doesn’t like it.  It’s not fair that in a shop that allegedly caters to children they can’t even see what they are ordering, let alone gasp! order for themselves. Some of them might even like to hand over the money and pay for themselves.

7.  Matinees or afternoon shows, or ones late at night.

Wouldn’t it be nice to take kids to see something like Cats?  Or Starlight Express?  Cirque de Soleil?  I’m probably just showing my age here!  I’ve got nothing against the various kid groups, but my kids would love to see other shows too.  A show where people sing and dance and rollerskate – they’d sit through it.  What are tweens supposed to see – too old for the Wiggles but really too young for pop, they’re stuck with growing up too quickly or nothing.  But unless you live somewhere like London they’re always on at times that are no good, when they are winding down and tired.  Or as a parent I’m barred from going because they are right in the middle of bedtime.  If I could get them to bed first then go out later it would work much better.  Don’t complain that teenagers and young adults don’t appreciate ‘culture’ when they have never been given the opportunity.

8.  Roped off kid areas at places like cinemas or sporting venues

Notice how cinemas always have huge waiting areas?  How about roping a bit off so kids have a place they can jump, roll around on the floor, and generally do those things kids do when they’ve been waiting a long time.  They’re not in anyone else’s way, no-one is going to walk into them.  Sounds good to me.  Obviously parents would still have to keep an eye on them, but it would be a much more relaxing wait for everyone concerned.

9. Family/parent queues

Wouldn’t it be nice to move those kids through before they get to the stage of whingeing?  And seeing there aren’t that many adults who choose to do kid type activities if they don’t have kids, it’s not as if they will take anyone’s ticket by going through first.  But even if they do, I’d hope that the adult would be able to express their disappointment in an adult way.  Of course if there was a designated kids’ area that parents could see while they waited in queue, …

10. Playgroup for big kids

We have a brilliant play group, with amazing toys, dressups, play equipment and craft gear.  But it’s only accessible until they start school.  Once they are at school there are organised activities like sport, scouts, or music, or they are supposed to have friends over.  Now there’s a place for organisation and competition, but there’s also a place for creativity, imagination and co-operation.  It would be really nice to have access to the same range of gear and large groups of children so they can continue to play creatively.

11.  Flexible school hours.

Work with me on this one, it’s a bit harder.  Our school hours are a product of a society where kids went home in the afternoon to do chores or help out on the farm.  They needed summer off so they could work.  But is it the best distribution for a modern society?  What if teenagers could go to school from 11am – 5pm?  What if primary students could go from 7am-12pm then go home for lunch?  Or what if they did 9am-5pm but with a 2 hour break in the middle of the day when they could rest, play, do art, sport or something completely different?  It might be a great option for working parents.  What if school holidays were rearranged to have 4 blocks of 3 weeks?  In the NT we have 1 week at Easter, 4 weeks in the dry season, 1 week in October then 6 weeks in the Wet season.  Wouldn’t it be great if school districts could make these decisions?  It would be difficult logistically – if you had kids in different schools for example, but isn’t it worth exploring a bit creatively?

12.  Public transport

How about designated seats on public transport that had flip down booster seats? Not that hard to do, then kids don’t have their feet dangling and can see out the window, which automatically makes it more interesting. And they could even have harnesses attached!

13. Attitude!

Everything I’ve suggested so far is practical and do-able. But it will never really change the way society views children without a change of attitude. Children are human too, with exactly the same right to respect and dignity as adults. So adults need to be aware of this, respect them and allow them their dignity. Give them time to process questions and answer. Accept that they won’t walk as quickly as you do. Enjoy the fact that they have so much fun playing and smile at them. Assume that parents know a bit more about the context than you do and support them in their decisions. Understand that their sense of time is completely different to yours and they live at a much faster pace.

And if you can’t do that, remember what your mother said: If you can’t say something nice,don’t say anything!

How about some more suggestions?  And how do we take these to a higher level – lobby shopping centres? Councils?

The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your Thirteen in others’ comments. It’s easy, and fun!

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A Happy Post

Just for SquiggleMum!

The other day I tweeted:

“I definitely have the most adorable, special, cute, wonderful, happy, loving children in the whole house.”

Someone else, the wonderful Wonderkarin, asked me why not in the whole of Australia?  I joked a bit, then amended it to ‘the whole world,’ but I’ve been thinking about it since and thought it might be nice to post about it.

I adore my kids, and they’re pretty special.  Apart from the ongoing sleep issue, they really are adorable, special, cute, wonderful, happy and loving.  There’s some normal toddler bickering, and big girl really doesn’t get that other people have a say too.  But she works so hard at listening and loves her little sister so much and is so caring that it’s easy to overlook.  And she’s just turned 4 for goodness’ sake!

Some of it’s luck, the whole genes/environment and personality thing.  Some of it’s circumstance – they have two parents who love them and can give them anything they need and a stable, nurturing environment.  Some of it is hard work on their part, especially big girl.  But I’ll also put my hand up to say some of it has been hard work on my part.  I’ll go against all the cultural conditioning that says I should be modest and say I’m really proud of the job I’ve done so far and I hope I can continue to do as well.

But they’re not the best kids in the world.

There isn’t really any such thing.  What I consider traits to cherish and nurture, someone else will consider bad manners.  What I consider minor annoyances or just being a little kid, someone else will consider mortifying.  And there will definitely be lots of people who think baby girl’s sleep (or lack thereof) disqualify her straight away.  We all have different values we want to pass on to our kids.

Which makes the whole competetive mothering thing absolutely pointless, doesn’t it.  Why would I compare my kids to someone else’s when I don’t want kids like theirs?  I don’t mean that in a bad way, just that I will guarantee that we have different priorities of what we want our kids to be like.  And that’s the other reason I don’t like saying my kids are the best in the world – I’m not competing with anyone and I don’t want to.

My kids are the most gorgeous, caring, kind, smartest, funniest, cuddliest, cheekiest, most confident, curious and just plain fun kids in this house.  They always will be, and that’s all they need to be.  Are yours?