Sunday, February 19, 2012

Old friends: nurture and nature

This morning, the boys and I popped out to the beach to visit some old friends of mine. Old friends. I've known them 20 years, which is around the half-my-life mark, so they qualify. I met them when I was living in London. In fact, I lived with them when I was living in London.

They remind me of a time in my life that was fraught with emotion - the highs and lows - and filled with the pursuit of fun. They remind me of afternoons spent playing 500 and drinking vodka and fresh lime. Scrabble championships. Sofas that were always full of Australian backpackers. A front door that was always open to friends (even at 4am).

They remind me of evenings spent in a smokey pub with a pint and a packet of crisps. Of music and comedy and films and even a rollercoaster or two. Of people who cleaned the bath three or four times a week and people who never cleaned it at all.

Of laughter. So much laughter.

"Who are we visiting?" asked the boys.

"I used to live with them in London."


"Did you used to live in London?" asked Mr8.

"Where's London?" asked Mr5.

It made me think about all the questions I should have asked my Mum and Dad by now. About the stuff we tell our children, and the stuff we don't.

Later, back at home, as the sun grew weaker and a storm began to roll in, we decided that we would go for a bushwalk. One of the joys of Fibrotown is the proximity of bushwalks. There's one right in the middle of town. I have memories of spending hours there as children, on our own. It was just up the road. Did we spend hours there, on our own, or did it just seem that way?

Going back there today was like visiting an old friend. As I followed the boys along the trail, I wondered when I would feel comfortable letting them spend hours up there on their own. I couldn't formulate a response, even in my own head.

Has the world changed so much, or have I?


  1. It's so strange when friends you used to know in wilder days meet your children and vice versa! I always wonder how my kids will think of them. The same way I thought of my parents friends - all knowing and pretty amazing? But these are the friends that - ahem.
    As for letting my kids go down to the park by themselves? I can't imagine it at the moment. I remember in primary school getting on a bike with friends and just riding. I remember playing relievo at night and crossing the railway line and crawling through dozens of neighbours backyards... My kids doing that? I don't think so. Anything could happen. My kids missing out on that kind of fun? I don't know. If it keeps them safe. It's a hard one!
    I don't know if it's the world or us - but I'll check back to see if you find an answer!

  2. Such big questions tonight. I need to ponder this post a little more...

    I too wonder about "the questions I should have asked my Mum and Dad by now. About the stuff we tell our children, and the stuff we don't." I know a lot, but there is so much I don't know. I share a lot, but there remains so much in the recesses my memory that even I only remember it when prompted by some little item, song, photograph, book, blog post.

    As for the other question... I know I will let the Munchkin explore the forest behind our house by himself. It's such a big exciting place, with cubbies to build, games to play, worlds to conquer and discoveries to make. I'm just not sure when. I know 5 is too young. But is 6, 7 or 8? Should he be with a friend? What limitations will apply to how far they can go? Of course, I know that the only reason I'm OK with it, is that pretty much nobody but us and our neighbours have access to the area. It's virtually our own back yard. Strangers can't go there. Is that why I'm so nonchalant(ish)?

    I hope you had a wonderful time with your friends... you didn't say.

  3. I honestly can't imagine let my kids do some of the things we did as kids ... we did a LOT of 'exploring' in the bush behind our house!! But then we also roamed in a pack of at least three, and sometimes five...

  4. Oh Al. We have shared a weekend with very old friends too. It has been a blast. One asked how old the kids would be before I let theeme out oef the back gate to the bush.

    My Mum and I have chatted more this week than we have in years.

    I love this post of yours. I love the image. And I love to hear tales of your youth.


  5. Thanks for the thoughtful comments! I had a great time with my old friends. It's always brilliant to catch up with them and, as is the way with old friends, it seemed as though no time at all had passed since I'd last seen them.

  6. Wait you lived in London and we never met..?? I bet our paths crossed at some point. I lived there from 1986 til 1999 ( bar the time I was at journalism college).

    We were just talking abiut this subject today - abiut how we used to go off for hours on end on our bikes and as long as we were back for tea it was okay. We're letting our 12 year old have more and more independence but I still cant quite relax until he comes home.

  7. Al, what a wonderful post, so beautifully written. For a moment I was swept away in your thoughts. Thank you.

  8. Oh, more same same.

    Lived in the UK for three years, twenty-some years ago, and still have dear friends from that time. Explaining who I'm talking to on Skype for so long, and why, has caused more questions from the boyo than were answered. 'So, if you'd married him, I wouldn't have been born...?' is my favourite (please feel free to answer that one for me).

    As for the wild days of our childhoods – I came back here, the place where most of my childhood and teens were situated, while pregnant with the boyo. This is the land I roamed over on foot, day after day, with dog and satchel and map and binoculars. I climbed through barbed-wire fences, waded creeks, rode my bike for kilometres, holed up in lantana thickets and read books perched on tree branches, living out my own dreams of Famous Five-style hideouts and cubbies.

    Would I let the boyo do the same, over the same landscape?

    I wish I could say Yes, but I sense too much change to be easy with that idea. He's clearly not as self-sufficient or independent as I was at the same age (my fault? personality differences?), and at the same time, there are new dangers.

    Or are there? Has the world *really* become more dangerous, or have we just become more timid?

  9. Hi there. First comment from me but I've been a fan for a while now. This post got some cogs turning in my brain too and it seems we're at very similar stages of our lives. The backpacking memories, the kids beginning to stray a little from the nest... My 12 year old will now happily pop up to the shops to grab me a bunch of herbs forgotten in the grocery shop - the same boy wouldn't say boo to his own Aunties not that long ago, it seems. He and his brother are getting used to spending time in the park over the road alone or with friends. I can sort of hear them from the kitchen (the big yells, anyway!). It's all quite amazing and quite scary but it feels right, all the same.

  10. Hi @Garage Girl - thanks for the comment. I take heart from your point that your 12 year old is quite confident now whereas he wouldn't so long ago. Sounds as though you're doing your job! Just have to hope that I'm doing mine!

  11. This must be a nice place for a walk. I absolutely loving the place. :)
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