Tag Archives: It takes a village

Perhaps hitting children really is too horrible to contemplate

There’s a new parenting book out by Sue Edgerley, urging mothers to stay home, telling parents to run their families like army units, and advocating smacking children. It’s self-published: evidently no self-respecting publisher would go near it. The Murdoch papers are all running stories about it. Whatever, really. What intrigues me is the picture my local paper, the Adelaide Advertiser, has chosen to run with the story.

Small blonde girl, smacking her doll, which is face down over her knee.

Child hitting doll.

(Description: Small blonde girl, smacking her doll, which is face down over her knee.)

Click here for the story, and the comments. But I wouldn’t bother reading the comments if I were you. Seriously.

The picture tells its own story. Evidently it would be too horrible to see an adult hitting a child, even though it is not illegal for parents to hit children in South Australia. So instead of showing what Sue Edgerley is advocating, they sanitised it by getting one of her proposed victims a child to act it out. I wonder how many people would continue to support hitting children if they could see what it really looks like. It is *not* small, blonde and cute.

I don’t understand why newspapers are giving free publicity to this writer. What she advocates masquerades as “tough love”, but that’s a misnomer. Hitting children is not love at all. It’s violence, perpetrated by big people against small vulnerable people who are perhaps the most powerless group of people in our society. And by giving her air time, Rupert Murdoch and his papers are supporting her. It might be a little different if an established publisher was backing her book, but given that this is a self-publishing effort, otherwise known as “vanity” publishing, I don’t see why it merits any particular attention from the mainstream media.

The compleat pageant experience

Adelaide is really just a giant country town. Everyone knows each other, everyone goes to the show every year, and everyone goes to the annual Christmas parade, or pageant.*

The pageant is a long, long parade, making its way from one side of the old city to the other, and taking about an hour to pass. In our first year here, we headed down town about half an hour before the parade was due to start, and stood in the back row. The girls were entranced. Last year I flatly refused to go: the overnight low was about 25 degrees, and it was due to reach about 30 by the time the parade started at 9.30am. But this year, our last in Adelaide, I thought that I ought to take the girls to see the parade.

We staggered out of bed at 6.00am, got dressed, had a hasty breakfast, gathered up the cushions and chairs and blanket we had organised the previous evening, and headed off at 6.30am. When I say, “we”, I mean me and the girls. Mr Strange Land stayed in bed.** By 7.00am I had parked in the Central Markets car park, and the girls and I had gone down to Victoria Square, and staked out a spot behind the blue honour line. This is a special road marking that exists only for the sake of the pageant, delineating paraders from paradees. Woe betide any school boy who elects to sit over the line; a passing police officer will hustle him back. I had thought that this would be a good spot on the parade route: easy parking, easy access to toilets, not too far from the start (the dancers and marchers and walkers and clowns always look very, very tired towards the end of the route), the chance to sit right on the tramlines, the possibility of excursions to find coffee. The pageant wasn’t due to start until 9.30am, but some people arrived at 4.00am to find a good spot, and by the time we arrived at 7.00, there were only one or two front row spaces left. We were just in time.

We set up our chairs and cushions and blankets, and then I went and got coffee and hot chocolates from the markets. Bliss! After that, the girls engaged in the fine pastime of defacing the streets of Adelaide.

Three girls, drawing on the street with chalk.

Defacing the streets of Adelaide

I thought that this was their best piece of graffiti.

My mum is the best, in chalk, alongside the tramline.

"My mum is the best."

Drawing on the streets with chalk has become part of the pageant ritual in recent years, so much so that the community aid tents hand out chalks to children who have come without. They also gave out water, and sunblock, and balloons. The girls queued for half an hour to get a balloon each. Of the three balloons, two were lost into the sky, and one popped, very loudly. Some children had brought bubble mix and bubble blowers, and hordes of children chased bubbles all over the place. Alas, one bubble popped right in Miss Nine the Elder’s eye, but a very young St John’s Ambulance chap helped her to wash it out. At 9am, we took part in an attempt to set a world record for the largest number of people singing Christmas carols at one time. Ms Twelve has become interested in world records, so she was pleased to have her name recorded as a participant. We listened to announcements, and interviews with pageant participants. I swear that the Pageant Queen must come from Taranaki: her nasal rising inflection as she said, “Hello” was a dead giveaway. Or perhaps it’s just the country connection. I chatted with the people next to us, and did some crochet. The girls asked, repeatedly, “Are we there yet? Is it time yet?”

At last, the countdown began, and at 9.30am, the parade started. 10 minutes later it reached us. Four mounted police officers led the parade, riding stately grey horses.

Mounted police officers

Mounted police

From then on there were floats and marching bands and dancers and clowns. Some of the floats were very hokey indeed. I liked the bands; I loved hearing the snatches of music, and seeing the different people engaged in making music. The girls liked the fairy tale floats, but they were disappointed that the snail float didn’t appear this year (the snail leaves a watery slime trail as it goes). Nipper and Nimble came by – two model horses, each ridden by a very small girl in fairy clothes. Apparently it is a great honour to be chosen to ride Nipper or Nimble, and the politics around the selection is intense. Those who miss out can go and sit on Nipper and Nimble in Santa’s Cave in David Jones, but it’s not the same.

I thought that the panda float was a highly accurate representation of the wretched beasts: the papier mache models did absolutely nothing, just like the real things.

Model pandas, static, of course.

Why is there a kangaroo in the middle?

The nativity scene was much more interesting, preceded by three camels.

Three camels, each ridden by a "wise man".

Camels and kings

After an hour or so, Santa Claus came by, and then it was all over. There was an enormous traffic jam as 300,000 people all tried to head home, but that was to be expected.

So we experienced getting up early, the wait, sitting on tram lines, drawing on the street, takeaway coffee and hot chocolates, getting balloons, losing balloons, getting first aid, taking part in a world record attempt, counting down to the start of the parade, seeing the parade go by, and long delays in the traffic on the way home. Later on that day, I checked the photo gallery on the local paper’s site, and there we are in the background of one of the shots. It was truly the compleat experience.

* About 300,000 people, or nearly 1/3 of Adelaide’s population.

** And later got up to carry on with the mountain of work he has at present.


I feel so ashamed.

Protestors holding sign saying, "No to refugees."

Detention centre debate begins

We live in one of the richest nations in the world, and we cannot even behave with minimal decency to children whose parents have made a desperate journey to come here. Some people there wanted to offer welcome and support to these people, but most people wanted to have nothing to do with them, and certainly didn’t want to have them in their own comfortable community.

I wonder how many of these people go to church on Sunday, or send their children to church schools, where they claim to teach Christian compassion?

Update: Grog’s Gamut has an excellent post – The triumph over power, prejudice and bigotry…

To be honest, I doubt the 500 people who attended the meeting reflect the real view of most people who live in the hills. My suspicion is more than a few of those who attended the meeting don’t even live in Woodside. If Jamie Briggs wants them to be his supporters, then go for it – but he can then forego any crud about him being “a moderate”. My view is that the real majority of the residents is voiced by people such as Kim Galdigau who “said the Christian church community in the area wanted to know what it could do to help”.

Why Ms Eleven should be allowed to get a Netbook

Our elder daughter presented us with this essay. I’ve used her blog-name rather than her given name throughout, so one or two sentences sound a little odd, but other than that, I have not changed her work at all. What do you think? Opinions please.

A Netbook is a small laptop with a screen that is about 10 inches across. They have most of the same tools as a laptop. Ms Eleven is a girl of 11 (soon to be 12) years of age, who wants a Netbook for a present. There are four reasons for Ms Eleven receiving a Netbook.

The first reason for Ms Eleven getting a Netbook is that it would help her keep in contact with her friends in Australia. Ms Eleven will miss her friends a lot and having a Net book would help her keep in contact with them. Ms Eleven would also be able to use Skype instead of calling her friends, and so decreasing the family phone bill.

The second reason for Ms Eleven getting a Netbook is that it would free up the computer for parents and siblings. The main computer in Ms Eleven’s household is used for parents’ email, parents’ Tetris, mother’s blogs, children’s email, children’s games, parents’ work, children’s work, and children’s expositions about getting a Netbook. Because of all these different things the computer is used for, the main computer is very hard to get access to. If Ms Eleven had a Netbook, she could use that instead, and it would make it easier for parents and siblings to get to the computer.

The third reason for Ms Eleven getting a Netbook is that she could learn more about I.T. Ms Eleven is close to going to high school, and computers are used often for homework and schoolwork. After high school, is university and/or an apprenticeship. Then a job. All these use computers, so Ms Eleven will find it easier if she already had some past experience with computers. If Ms Eleven had a Netbook she would get to set it up, organise it, transfer information, practise touch-typing, and learn how to use it. Knowing how to do these would be a great life skill, and Ms Eleven can only acquire them if she got a Netbook.

The fourth reason for Ms Eleven getting a Netbook is that it will help with her schoolwork. If Ms Eleven got a Netbook she would be able to research and do assignments more easily. Ms Eleven would learn so much more from school if she wasn’t stressed about having a computer to do her homework on. She would get better marks and better reports, so getting her a Netbook is a great idea.

In conclusion, I strongly believe that Ms Eleven should receive a Netbook for a present because it will help her keep in contact with her friends, free up the computer for parents and siblings, advance Ms Eleven’s I.T. skills, and help her with her schoolwork.

Of families and earthquakes

My brother rang me early on Saturday morning, and told me that there had been a massive earthquake in Christchurch. We’re a North Island family, and we don’t have family down south, but as it turned out, my beloved uncle was there on Friday night, staying on the eighth floor of a hotel. I was able to contact him by txt and confirm that he was okay, but after that, I stayed off the network.

I spoke to him by phone on Sunday morning. It was terrifying, he said. He woke to his bed rocking and shuddering, and only by clinging on tight did he manage to avoid being thrown out. Many of the other people staying in the hotel were tipped out of their beds. He packed up and got down stairs, and then in company with the other guests, assembled outside. It was bitterly cold. After a while, the hotel staff brought out sheets and blankets. There was no information: the hotel did not have a battery-operated radio. All of the guests were badly frightened. Eventually my uncle made it to the airport. The building was closed, so together with other travellers, he spent most of the day perched with his luggage on a traffic island. People helped each other out, sharing food and water, looking after luggage for each other, supporting each other. A nearby hotel made its bathrooms available for people to use. By mid-afternoon the airport re-opened, and late in the day, he got a flight to Auckland, and from there, home to Wellington. On Saturday, he coped, but on Sunday, in the safety of his home, he has been very, very shaken.

As the plane took off from Christchurch, the people on board clapped.

I’m sure people functioned on adrenalin on Saturday. There had been a disaster, by who knows what good fortune there had been no direct loss of life, and it was a matter of everyone doing what they could to check on their neighbours and families and friends, to look after people who were injured, to pull together food and water and shelter for the day. But by today, I’m guessing that the longterm nature of the damage has started to become apparent. My uncle and the other people on the flights out of Christchurch will have gone home to comfortable beds, clean water, power at the flick of a switch. Many people whose homes are in Christchurch don’t know when they will have access to such basic goods again. A problem for adults of course, but so much more of a problem for people with others to care for. Parents will be worried about food and shelter for their children, adult children will be worried about caring for elderly parents, caregivers will be concerned about the people they assist with daily living. Some people with disabilities may be in extra difficulty too, especially if their ability to live independently is predicated on functioning public services. Things will be all the more difficult because at this stage, there will be no end in sight.

My thoughts are with the people of Christchurch.

Some other thoughts: The old buildings in Christchurch were damaged, badly, but the new buildings, built to earthquake standards, survived. Not only are the building codes excellent, but they are administered by a corruption-free inspectorate. This weekend, we New Zealanders have good reason to take great pride in our corruption-free public servants.

As people in Christchurch are coping with the earthquake, people in Victoria, Australia, are coping with floods.

Dear friends of ours lost lost their mother and mother-in-law today. Our thoughts are with them too.

Cross posted

The market as judge: good for baked beans, not so good for childcare

Cross posted

As has been widely discussed, New Zealand’s National government decided that one of the best places to save a bit of money was in Early Childhood Education. Childcare centres would no longer be required to 100% qualified staff (with grandparenting provisions for existing staff who were working towards their degrees); instead, only 80% qualified staff would be required, and centres would be funded at that level.

It’s a downgrade. And it’s a downgrade that means that parents will have less assurance about the quality of care and education that their children are receiving. We all know that good quality early childhood education is critical for children, and all the more so for children who don’t come from privileged middle class homes. There are plenty of children who turn up for their first day of primary school, having never held a book in their hands, having never had a book read to them, not even knowing that in European writing systems, we read the left hand page, and then the right, and then turn the right page over. One way to give these kids at least half a chance, to ensure that in our supposedly egalitarian society there is a minimal semblance of equality of opportunity, is to ensure that they get good quality early childhood care. We need to make sure everyone has a chance, that everyone can get a good education, if we want the children who are in childcare right now, to grow up to become citizens, people who are part of our society, people who have a stake in it, people who want to make a contribution, instead of forever feeling that the bosses and the big important people just don’t give a damn.

As a society, we should be deeply concerned about the quality and availability of early childhood education. We rely on having expert and well-qualified teachers and carers in our childcare centres and preschools, because we are concerned about the future of our society. On top of that, most parents want to be sure that their children are in good care. So they rely on having expert and well-qualified teachers in childcare centres and preschools.

But the National government has decided that early childhood education just doesn’t matter all that much, so that’s where “savings” can be made. As for quality assurance, well, Granny Herald has got a solution.

The market will provide!

It is easy to insist little children deserve nothing but the best. And working parents who place their infants in childcare want to be assured on that score. But “the best” at this level might not require professional training. The best could include people with an aptitude for caring but not for academic study and tests. Checks on their performance can be reliably left to a competitive industry that must constantly satisfy observant parents.

Editorial: Preschool Budget cuts right move

Oh good grief! Early childhood education, indeed, any education, is not like a can of baked beans. For starters, it’s not as though there is a whole shelf full of childcare centres, from which you can pick one. The supply is limited, especially if you are constrained by other factors, such as needing childcare near your home, or your work, so that you don’t spend hours every days commuting between one place and another, with tired children in the back seat. But more importantly, it can take time to work out that a child is not thriving, time to work out that for all its glossy brochures a childcare centre doesn’t really have the resources to care for your child, time to work out that some of the staff who looked so lovely don’t in fact know how to manage children, and have only taken the job because there is nothing else they can do. One of the great guarantees that comes along with demanding degree qualified staff is that you know they are genuinely committed to early childhood education, committed enough to slog their way through a degree, because this is where they want to be.

But the time you have been able to work this out, your child is six months older. Six months is not such a long time for an adult to endure a poor job, but it could 10% or 20% of your child’s life. Time enough for a child to lose out, to slip behind developmental guidelines, to miss out on critical early learning experiences. You buy one can of baked beans and it turns out to be not so good? Well, you can always go buy another brand the very next day. But “buy” the wrong type of childcare, and the consequences could be much more severe than a meal that isn’t quite as good as you would like it to be.

I know some fabulous women and men who have worked in childcare – my mother, a cousin who is doing her degree, a former male student who was a qualified nanny, the wonderful, gorgeous, Jackie Clark. What distinguishes these people is their commitment to children, exemplified by the qualifications they have worked hard to get. Those are the kind of people I want to see in early childhood education.

I would like to see the National government think a little harder about what it wants to achieve in education, and why, and how, instead of simply thinking that it can be trimmed and cut without anyone much noticing the difference.

As for where the money is going to come from? I hear there’s a cycleway that isn’t being built. Perhaps that might be a good thing to trim.

Children are people too

Cross posted

Over at Feministe, there’s a monster thread concerned with policing children’s behaviour. According to some people on the thread, children shouldn’t be allowed. Our public spaces should be free of them for fear of them ruining the grown ups’ day.

That’s a bit of an exaggeration. But only a bit. Mostly it’s about children being kept out of restaurants and movie theatres, and how parents are necessarily bad parents if their children cry, or run about, or create any kind of disturbance. In short, if they behave like children.

There’s a lot to not like in the thread, and given that it’s now over well over 300 comments long, I wouldn’t bother with it. I think the thing that disturbs me most is the assumption that many people make (both in the thread, and in real life), that my children will be noisy, and disruptive, and they need to be KEPT UNDER CONTROL. The effect is to treat children as though they were smelly, slimy bugs that have crawled out from under a log, and are objects of disgust.

It’s a commonplace way for children to be treated. Years ago, because another child had cried during a wedding ceremony once, we were told that we could not bring our 13 month old daughter, from whom I had never been apart for more than a few hours, to a wedding ceremony. The assumption was that she would cry, and that I wouldn’t have the sense to take her out. One of the local inexpensive family restaurants we go to on occasion serves drinks to children in nasty plastic mugs, not even mock glasses. We have to ask specially for our sensible and careful daughters to be given glasses. When we got onto a plane with the kids, people roll their eyes, and look put out and angry to be seated beside children. Yet our girls are quite capable of managing a few hours in a seat on a plane without creating any more trouble than any other passenger.

I do not understand why my children, and any other children, are treated with suspicion. Not all the time, by any means. Not everywhere, by any means. But often enough, instead of making the same basic assumption that applies to adults in public spaces, that is, the assumption that the adult will comport her or himself in a way that makes the space easy for everyone to be in, the reverse assumption is made. People assume that the particular children they see right in front of them will do something that disturbs the adult, before even giving the children a chance. It’s a nasty prejudice. And yet it’s one that many people (see that thread at Feministe for example), seem to embrace. It seems that it’s okay to say, “I hate children.”

And even if the children do “misbehave”, so what? Lots of adults do that too. They take calls on their mobile phones and sit bellowing at the restaurant table so everyone can hear them, they talk at the tops of their voices full stop, they fart in crowded lifts, they neglect to wash, they abuse the waiting staff. And yet, they are still allowed to go out in public.

Enough with hating children, with treating them with contempt. Children are people too.