During a conversation with an old family friend we reminisced about our respective families’ Christmas traditions, including the usual tensions when either of us pilgrimaged interstate in farcical anticipation of festive family harmony.
While nothing says “peace on earth” like Christmas day discord about who bought or brought what and who didn’t -AGAIN-, or who did or didn’t attend the most recent family gathering, we both howled with laughter at each snippet of gossip or tale of strife as we quipped, “…because that’s what we do!”
Every time I fly into a city I wonder what people are doing at home. What times do they go to work or school? How do they connect as a family each day? And what makes them choose here to call home? Forever curious about traditions and why…
My first overseas travels as a teenager taught me “it’s not good, it’s not bad, it’s just different.” I love people-watching and vowed that if I ever had children I would teach them about other cultures and traditions, and to choose to enjoy and celebrate what matters to them.
I also decided that I would introduce my children to norms, hopefully consciously, to set them up either with skills, curiosity, awareness or at the very least, a zest for learning that would allow them choose their own ‘normal’ consciously.
One of those norms on which I insisted, was that my children learn to swim. “Swimming is not negotiable until I know you’re competent and safe!” I proclaimed.
They started winning or placing in races. And wanting to race and train more. At first I was aghast that I had spawned winners, ever the outcast loser in my own school years… When my daughter was ahead in her first race I nearly elbowed two other parents into the shallow end of the pool as I hurled myself towards the edge to get a photo whilst screeching
“OH MY GOD, SHE’S W.I.N.N.I.N.G!”
Well ‘safe’ and ‘competent’ backfired, didn’t it?
Sending my kids to swimming galas was never about the accolade or any potential winning of races.
I still get a lump in my throat looking at this photo and all it represents as I realise that the connections I have are everything. She may never know the background struggle to get her to training and carnivals.
It took a fight my family lawyer had never seen to ‘win’ my children the right to be allowed to participate in their chosen sport.
“This is the system we’re in right now.” she said.
Ahhh, institutionalised bullying at its most insidious, ‘because that’s what we do!’
“Well it’s time the system represented the best interests of the children instead of defending the convenience of those with the vested interests in maintaining the status quo. I’m paying you to advocate for the best outcomes for my children!” I retorted, fierce mamma-bear to the fore.
The fight wasn’t about making anyone wrong, but standing up for a child’s right to be part of her community, follow through with her commitment for something she enjoys, ultimately investing in her ongoing good health.
This was about her right to choose and be supported in that.
The medal and award are but the glazing on top of the cherry on top of the icing on top of the cake.
This kid turns up to training of her own volition, pestering me to get her there early. She sets alarms and gives me a countdown to leave in order to arrive to training 20 minutes early, lest she be late. And if she’s only 10 minutes early, she’s late.
She chooses this.
She earned this.
She doesn’t need to know what it took to get her these opportunities, she just needs to keep showing up for herself.
There’s nothing like that feeling of mutual delight, having someone support us in our goals and successes. Our children are worth teaching that tenacity wins every time.
In our family that's what we do.