It's 12.00 midday and I have just sat out on the deck at my beach hideaway and finished off a very nice glass of Delatite Riesling while playing Gurrumul's second cd (thanks to Annie). Yes it's one way of surviving Abbott and his cronies but there is more. While it sounds a bit degenerate, however let me put it into perspective. I am old enough to have a seniors card. I have two grandchildren and two step grandchildren and contact with lots of others through my partner who has 9 grandchildren and 5 grands. So I am used to having kids around and having them stay with me.
Last night I had 4 ranging from 3 to 12. Children who I am related to but not any of the grands. Children whose parents love them I know, but struggle to show them that love or to provide them the care that all the grands in my life take for granted. They struggle to do simple things like have all their books and uniforms for them when they start school for the year, and in the case of one when she starts high school for the first time.
They are basically delightful kids who mostly have a reasonably positive outlook on life and cope very well with all the slings and arrows that life throws at them. And these 4 and their big brother have had lots of them over the years. But there were four of them, with me, overnight. I am used to having kids where I say it's bedtime in half an hour, and they say fine. I am used to having kids where I read them a story at bedtime and they fall asleep during the first chapter.
The slings and arrows they have all dealt with over their short lives have had an impact. For one the anger that she feels is always just below the surface, ready to bubble up. For another, the ups and downs just in the last six weeks have meant she is all over the place. Interestingly it is the girls who let their emotions show while the boys seem to hold it inside. Let me restate they are delightful kids, I love each one with their own funny ways, even the one who is contantly saying 'it's not fair' or 'I hate you (to her sister), I wish you were dead.....' Such raw emotion that comes to the surface. Such misplaced anger!
They love devices, give them access to facebook or instagram or Minecraft and they will be quiet for hours. But I feel uncomfortable about allowing an 8 or 10 year old to spend a lot of time on Facebook and hey Facebook, what is this rubbish about only providing accounts for those over 13 - what checking do you do? How do you cope with a 12 year old writing on her facebook account that someone is a cunt? Then when I challenge it explaining so sweetly that she didn't write it, she was just reposting what someone else wrote.
And the juxtaposition when I force them to turn off the screens and play outside and they climb the trees or swing on the slightly too high, slightly dangerous rubber tyre swing with such happy abandon. They have an amazing social life, all of them have friends who they spend nights with, go to the beach with, have a good time with. None of them could be described as socially isolated. Of course for the older ones it's all a bit fraught re who is their best friend, boy friend, girlfriend etc.
As I said their parents love them I am sure, but they struggle to be the parents I know they want to be. At the moment they live with their Dad who does his best as the parent of 5 children who are constantly in his care. So back to me. That's why I had 4 of them for the night. I respect so much what he is trying to do, he is the one who gives them some security and gives them a roof over their heads.
But my goodness it is hard. I only had 4. Four children whose pattern of behaviour is so different to what I am used to. Four children who have not known the security of always having a roof over their heads, food for their bellies, books and uniforms for the beginning of the school year and knowing if there is a school camp or excursion they will be able to go on it. I wonder how that can happen in this community where we all feel so self righteous about having such a good lifestyle that others risk their lives in order to join it. I wonder how we, as a community, can rest at night knowing how hard it is to put the safeguards in place to ensure that all children have the basics in life and access to a good education that does not depend on their parents using the money they get wisely enough to provide them with shelter, food, school uniforms, lunches and books.
How can Christopher Pyne talk about any level of equity in education when we have so many kids who start off behind the 8 ball? How can he talk about funding schools to become independent when we have schools that are in the lowest socio economic areas where, the year 7 coordinator says to me that my grandniece will not be alone in not having her books in the third week of the school year? How reasonable is to expect that parents will be able to find $800 or more for each child, just to support their children being able to participate in the classroom, never mind the addons of excursions and extra curricular activities?
And so I am reduced to drinking Riesling (very nice I would reccommend it) on the deck and using Gurrumul, who himself has had a few slings and arrows to deal with, to transport me to to a place of serenity and peace. I want everyone to have that ability to be able to find what they need to transport themselves to that place. I want everyone to know that feeling of security of having a place to live, to have not just the money but the motivation and the wherewithal to be able to provide themselves and their children with that safe place. Until then I will finish my Riesling (may even have a second glass) and get to work cleaning up the detritus that 4 children can leave in their wake.