Saturday, January 28, 2012

"Mum, I'm bored"

The summer school holidays for many children, heralds the arrival of long sunny days of relaxation, no homework, more flexible bedtimes and routines in general go out the window. A week away to the coast is usually on our summer agenda but for the rest of the holiday period work continues as normal. The near abandonment of routines during the school holidays does wonders for reducing my daily stress levels.
Most mornings during the school term I feel as though I’m the head of a highly disorganised SWAT (Special Weapons And Tactics) team. The mornings are chaotic as the boys and I rush to eat breakfast, make lunches, find school clothes, brush teeth, (occasionally hair), locate school books, sign crumpled school notes containing important bits of information and rummaging around the house for gold coins to send in for various noble causes. This morning routine culminates with my voice booming out, “It’s eight fifteen GO GO GO!!” and Max, Sam and Henry head out the door for their bicycles and school.
Hooray for school holidays, for a few weeks the pressure is off. No school lunches to make, no weekly panic to bake muffins or biscuits for play-lunch, no incessant questioning along the lines of, “Have you done your homework?” or demands of, “Come back inside and do your homework….. NOW!”
Rather frustratingly for parents the school holidays are also a time where we may hear far too regularly, “Mum/Dad, I’m bored. There’s nothing to do.”
One evening only a few weeks into this year’s summer holidays and nine year old Henry came and sat next to me. For a brief moment I thought we were having one of those lovely mother/son bonding experiences… well, up until he started talking that was….
Henry: “Mum, what are you doing tomorrow?”
Me: “I’m working tomorrow Henry; what are you doing?”
Henry: “I’m bored tomorrow Mum”
Oh great, I thought, now we’ve evolved a step further up the Boredom-o-meter; we are now into the realm of pre-meditated boredom.
My remedy is a hefty list of jobs that need attending; it’s amazing how boredom disappears when you suggest perhaps the bored child in question would like to tidy their bedroom/clean the bathroom/mow the lawns/cook dinner ….or maybe they could just go outside and play.
My parents circumvented boredom by arranging the annual station program around the holiday dates. General shearing, crutching, lamb-marking etc… were all coordinated to commence at the start of each school holiday. We also had the advantage of the seemingly endless Hay Plains to run around on unsupervised, ride bikes, horses, build cubby houses and forts.
Are we just far too over-protective these days? Over zealous and hyped up media reporting of accidents and crimes can cause unnecessary anxiety in parents, making them overly anxious when children are out of eyesight. It can be tempting to hover over our children and make sure they’re okay but this isn’t all that helpful; children need space and time to solve their own problems. Children will struggle with responsibility as adults if they aren’t given opportunities to be responsible as children.
Are children today more bored than generations past? Are children losing their imagination and ability to amuse themselves due to an over commitment of extra curricular activities? In our quest to offer our children every opportunity are we denying them the time to develop and use their own imagination and actually think for themselves?

Saturday, January 21, 2012

2012: The Year of the Farmer

2012 is the Australian Year of the Farmer. A whole year dedicated to celebrating primary production and bridging the country/city divide. This is good news for those of us living in rural Australia who may feel our city cousins and people living in the larger regional centres take our locally produced food and fibres for granted.
There are approximately 136,000 farms across Australia all working to provide Australians with the high quality of life we enjoy in comparison to many other parts of the world.
Here in Australia we are in the enviable position of being self-sufficient when it comes to feeding our population. As a nation we feed ourselves and we are also able to export 60% of our total agricultural production. Our farmers produce large amounts of high quality food and fibre for the benefit of us all.

Thanks to the sheer size of our country and the different climatic regions we can produce blueberries through to bananas and everything in between. We are able to enjoy a diverse range of food and the opportunity to nourish ourselves with a well balanced diet.
It is wise for Australians to stop and think about agricultural production and where our food comes from. We are the “lucky country” but luck usually involves a fair amount of hard work. Luck is rarely found where complacency dwells and I wonder if we are becoming far too complacent as a nation.
Food security has become a global issue as the world population increases.

Countries such as China with their huge growing populations and decreasing viable farmland are planning ahead for their future by investing in countries outside of their own. Already China has made significant investments in Australian farms, mines and energy production. No doubt the Great Famine that occurred in China between1959 and 1961 where an estimated 20 – 43 million people starved to death is still very much in their memories. Australia on the other hand has never known a famine and it would appear that we are selling our own future for short-term gain. If we sell large tracts of our best agricultural land to other nations such as China, does this mean that potentially in the future we may be reliant on buying food back from China?
Of course all these musings maybe due to my overactive imagination, which this week seems, focussed on doom and gloom. On a brighter note, according to data gathered by the Australian Bureau of Statistics up until 31st December 2010:
• 99 per cent of Australian agricultural businesses were entirely Australian owned
88.6 per cent of agricultural land in Australia was entirely Australian owned
• 91 per cent of the water entitlements for agricultural purposes in Australia were owned by entirely Australian owned businesses.
This is all most reassuring so long as you don’t recall too often the famous quote about statistics, "There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.
Take the opportunity to celebrate the Year of the Farmer in 2012 by thinking about where your food comes from, talking with farmers, sharing your knowledge with city-based friends (invite them to our monthly farmer’s market in Koondrook) and buying Australian owned and grown produce.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Today is the first day of the rest of your life

Today is the first day of the rest of your life.
Every day, each of us has the choice to continue as we’re going, or to do something new that will take us closer to making our dreams come true.
There is nothing like the annual arrival of the New Year to prompt us to reflect on the past and motivate us to dream about our future.
With the arrival of the New Year I began my annual list of goals for the next twelve months. It is an easy list to begin because it always includes a few standard goals that I make every year like: Be a Better Parent; Learn a New Skill, Save and Invest Money; Get Fit and Eat Healthy Food (read: lose festive season weight gain); Plan Excellent Adventure to Somewhere New…
Once I have my stock standard goals down then it’s time for the nitty gritty… what do I want to be when I grow up and what do I need to do to achieve this?
I think I’ve pondered these two questions since I was about eleven years old and here I am heading into my 42nd year and I’m still pondering them…. at least I can say with confidence that I am now through the wanting to be an astronaut phase.
Along the winding pathway of my life so far, I have experienced lots of different occupations in my quest to discover what I want to be when I grow up: trail riding assistant at a holiday ranch; nanny; jillaroo; student at business college; telesales person (a short-lived career…I lasted one night); waitress in Lygon Street; mail/fax clerk for stockbrokers in Collins Street; contract musterer; tourist officer; mother (an ongoing career); fencing contractor; investor; supervisor for a work-for-the-dole project; Austswim instructor; book-keeper. I love and get a lot of satisfaction out of my current careers: being a mother, remedial massage therapist and columnist for The Bridge.
When it comes to achieving goals you are far more likely to succeed if you take the time to actually write your goals down on paper. Not only does this force you to think clearly about what you really want; the simple act of writing your goals down frees up your mind to work on solutions on how you are going to get there.
Striving for new goals can also be daunting and often generates fear and anxiety. Stepping out into new territory can be unsettling and will hold most of us back most of the time until either someone gives us a push or we push ourselves. It can be helpful to remember that indecision and procrastination feeds fear. Whenever I feel stuck I remind myself that action cures fear.
Happy goal achieving in 2012.