Raising 'Never Mind' Kids.

Yesterday I flew for the first time on my own with the two littlest and it was good. Really good. At the moment I feel guilty about providing little excitement for Anton, so travelling, which we both enjoy, is sort of relaxing. He is so delighted by the different phases of long journeys that we have for sometime recited  them like a mantra when he has moments of fear or frustration. He loves to ask "And then what did we do?". Yesterdays relaxing string of words was used last night to get a very tired boy to sleep: taxi to Taksim, coach to Sabiha Gökçen airport, plane to Luton, shuttle bus to Luton train station, train to Gatwick, bus to Grandma and Grandad's house (yes, my parent's live 10 minutes from Gatwick and easyJet fly to Luton, thanks easyJet).

I love watching other parents at airports. I love the grace with which they enable their beloved children to sleep by holding impossible (and no doubt uncomfortable) positions. I love to see whole families fast asleep with little ones warm and open-mouthed across laps. Its a time when all the family pull together in order to save the rest of the plane from an unhappy child, and they perform wonders.

Anton is a seasoned traveler and behaves as such. He explains to me that he is a bit scared of the landing but it is all right because the "bumpsy bumpsy" doesn't hurt. He plays with his cars until he sleeps and resumes his game as he wakes. As Neve spends hours a day in her Ergo Baby carrier she relaxes as you lift her in and is asleep within 10 paces (good on a plane as you have to pass a stewardess every 4). I am suddenly, as there is no where to go, no meal to cook, no house to clean, left to sit still and think.

My first set of thoughts is about this blog. Here we have a man and a woman writing a blog together. The man's writing is often abstract, it has variety and is academic at times. And the woman, me, writes about the small details of life with children.

When I was travelling in Israel in my late teens I read a poem by a female Jewish writer in which she bemoans the fact that the men have recorded her history while the women's arms were full of children, making it hard to write for themselves. I decided I would always carry a notebook. But it turned out not to be so simple. Its not just my arms that are full of children, but my heart and head too. There is no denying that the children have completely pervaded Ville's being, but it is I who feels the details and is involved in the minutiae of their every waking (and half-awake) need. It is I who provides an unbroken blanket of emotional security. This is my privilege but it comes with a price that is made all too apparent here. Its not ideal for Ville either, as having to be in Turkey, where I am so far unable to work, has created gender roles for us we might not opt for in more favorable circumstances. Yet I am so grateful for this life that contains so little heartache, so few goodbyes. I have had the opposite and it hurt. 

I also think about how, whatever our children choose to do, there are certain qualities I want them to have. I want them to be great travelers, I don't want them to find petty things stressful. Spillages, small changes in plans, little losses should always lead to an inner response of  'never mind'. I want them to be the soft places when others are struggling. I want them to use these skills to see lots of places, to embrace differences and have experiences wider than ours.

I realize that my parents basically raised us with these same objectives in mind. There is not one of the nine of us that does not travel, is not gentle when it is needed or greets petty mishaps with anything other than 'never mind'. So how did they achieve this? My Mum did it by hitch-hiking round Europe, by marrying a Brit, by moving to the UK and making it work. My parents did it by never making a mountain out of a mole-hill, responding to our childish disasters with warmth and perspective. They did it by packing us in a VW camper every holiday (even the short ones) and hitting the road. My Dad just put on Nick Drake sort of loud. Just love him. In short they successfully raised nine 'never mind' children in the only way possible, by never minding. By never losing their immense openness, generosity and cool. They gave us emotional self-sufficiency by never holding back on love.

So I am well aware that our children follow our example. And we already have a 15 year old that thinks nothing of flying alone, laughs about taking wrong trains, pops detours down to experience, chatters to whoever he meets along the way. So in this context I was talking to Ville last week about Anton's painful shyness and unwillingness to interact with people in Turkey. And Ville said 'well he is picking up the cues from you' and I knew instantly that he is right. Not speaking Turkish puts me on guard. I might smile and wave, shout hello across the street, but I do not want to stop. Because three sentences into a conversation I am lost for words. I do not share hugs and laughter with people who do not speak English to me and, not so surprisingly, neither does Anton. I feel mortified by this realization.

Having children with me all of the time has had a dire effect on my determination to learn Turkish quickly. Getting out your notebook when you are carrying one child, watching a toddler and have a pushchair piled with shopping is hard. Immersing yourself in anything makes you less willing to enter into play or conversation with your little ones, and I have chosen to just be with them. But it looks like I have some thinking to do because, notebook or not, I am writing the future in the hearts of my children. 

Anton playing with cars on a plane.

Sleeping on a plane.

Anton sleeping, holding a car.

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4 thoughts on “Raising 'Never Mind' Kids.

  1. Alison Braganza12:08

    "But it looks like I have some thinking to do because, notebook or not, I am writing the future in the hearts of my children."

    This warmed my own heart. Keep going Julia, you will get there with the turkish, I am sure x

  2. It is lovely to read your thoughts even as you are not here Julia my love. And seeing the photos of the children makes me both miss you all and feel close to you.

  3. I have decided to just pick and choose rather than read all of your posts right from the beginning! I loved this and I can totally see your dilema but I know, Turkish speaking Mama or not, Anton will be just fine. He's just a little boy and he has everything he needs from he adoring family right now...he will become more confident and adventurous as he grows. Some children are just that way and some are not. Zac only left my side in the school playground for the first time today. He is three and half and we have been taking Gabe to school since September last year. Zac just wants to hold my hand while the other little brothers and sisters run in groups from one end of the playground to the other. I knew the day would come when he would feel safe and happy enough to run off while I spoke with other Mums and it was today.

  4. Thanks so much for this lovely comment Nicola. Really helpful. And great about Zac :-)


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