Shifting Sands

Certain recent articles (linked to throughout the post) have gotten me thinking about the way that society is treating children in this age. I haven't seen a lot of research on this topic, and I'd love it if someone could point me in the direction of some studies. In the Victorian age, children were treated more or less as short adults. Society quite happily sent nine year olds down mines, and even younger children into factories and other menial jobs. Shorpy has some brilliant photos of kids hard at work. Around this time, children were considered to be no more than adults who weren't quite grown yet, and mostly they were treated (and beaten) as such. As time has gone on the pendulum, as in so many cases, has swung and children have gradually received more and more rights, and been viewed by society in a changing light. By the fifties children were still expected to be 'seen and not heard' but they were also - in most westernised countries - protected by child-labour laws. Child abuse (in terms of beatings by parents as well in sexual terms) was still pretty much ignored, but there was a growing trend towards children staying in school longer, and most beatings occurred behind closed doors. And the pendulum has continued to swing in the same direction - now children are protected not just by minimum-age labour laws but also laws that determine how many hours and on what days they can work, minimum wage and other labour laws. There are ongoing campaigns to 'think of the children' (which segues quite nicely into Conroy's Folly, but I'm not going to go into that here) and a burgeoning desire for - and delivery of - crackdowns on 'kiddy porn', leading to such nonsense as the baby swinging incident and the Simpsons Porn bust.

When does the pendulum start to swing back? I'm not advocating a return to Victorian ideals, and I certainly don't condone the fifties version either, but surely we can strike a happy balance here? Why can't we recognise that child porn is bad, people making and distributing child porn ought to reprimanded, and paedophilia should not be tolerated, but do it with just a touch of reason? Child porn and paedophilia should not be accepted, but why do we overreact so badly? Do we rezone apartment buildings because a potential murderer could spy on a potential victim?

We need to stop and realise that a crime that involves a child is horrible, sickening even, but it is still a crime - just like any other crime. It's bad, yes, but it's no worse (and in many cases, quite a lot better) than what adults do to other adults. Punish the crime, but stop putting such a high moral judgement on the thing.

Oh, and as for cartoon porn? If anyone actually got off on it, they'd make magazines of it with non-see-through covers and put it on newstands, or the websites would want your credit card number. It's not porn, it's humour. Get it? No, I didn't think so. ::sigh::


The spirit of giving


She gave me a cardboard box with apples
To use when there were storms about
Because my cart it got knocked over
And she didn't think I should have to go without

This year has been a year of growth and reflection for me. Spending a quiet year in the cottage, thinking about life and where mine is going; relationships and personalities; who I am and who I want to be. Part of the growth was a personal dedication to helping people less fortunate than myself. Where I don't have money to give, I do have time, ability, intelligence and willingness. In a first big step towards this goal, I have today completed a run through Canberra suburbs to distribute toys, clothes, shoes and other bits and pieces that I have decided we can live without. T and I took a cardboard box full of grocery items in to her day care centre on Monday to be given to charity, and I have contacted the Salvation Army about helping out with Christmas hamper packing and delivery. I also intend to put a present under the Wishing Tree - with T's help of course.

Which brings me to the main thing. All this giving is obviously good for the charities we're supporting, and it gives me a lovely rosy glow about having done something to help out those people who struggle around this time of year. But the really important thing, to me anyway, is the opportunities it gives me to talk to T about what we're doing. She's old enough to understand the concept of "making people happy" and I think it's important to teach her that we make people happy in ways other than blindly throwing money at them. Naturally sometimes it's money that's needed, but crying poor is no excuse for not giving, for not helping, or for pretending that you are more important than anybody else on this planet.

This year, I'm making an effort to give more than I receive, to make more than I buy, and to recycle more than I throw away. It isn't just a gift for now, this year, but a gift to our children, and their future.

Life Updates

A couple of things have happened recently, all more or less related. Firstly, for anyone who remembers the Sheep Post, you might be interested to know that they have been shipped (sheeped?) off to stay out at my parents' place. Mum and Dad have about an acre and half and much better fencing than us, which means they can roam and munch to their little hearts' content without needing to be tethered. The other interesting story about the sheep is that a few days before they were due to be moved, we noticed something odd about Pixie - she's fat. And no, I don't just mean "I ate too much good grass"-type fat. I mean "I think I might be having little lambies"-type fat. I guess only time will tell. Mum and Dad seem reluctant to slaughter them, and have instead decided to breed off them and slaughter the offspring. Well, T will be happy anyway, and I guess I'll have to put away my carving knife for a little while longer. I wonder if mint sauce freezes well ...

Which brings me to the second piece of news. We're on the move again, which explains why the sheep have been shipped (why does the idea of shipped sheep make me giggle so much?). The Cottage has served us well for a year now, and we recently spotted this little gem online. We jumped in and grabbed it and we're moving four days before Christmas. Yes, I know, spectacularly bad timing, but you know what they say, strike while the iron is hot! In case you're wondering, it's a converted convent, complete with chapel (soon to become my new office), and housed the Brown Josephites order of nuns (that's the order started by the Blessed Mary McKillop) in between 1891 and 1975. It's privately owned now, and has been split virtually right down the middle into two dwellings, with the owner living in the other side. I'm hoping to be able to get some good pictures of the place - light streaming through stained glass and the like.

They are five

Last weekend, we endured what has become known in our house as The Great Weekend Dancing Extravaganza. And extravagant it certainly was! A dress rehearsal and three concerts over the two days of the weekend - hair gel, curlers, make up, costumes, tights, ballet shoes, rehearsals, performances, tickets, intervals and grand finales. There were laughs, tears, frowns, smiles and, of course, many late nights.

By Monday, there were more tears than laughs and more tantrums than excited hugs. Despite days off on both Monday and Tuesday to recuperate, the little dancer was still tired and grumpy today, although I'd finally had enough and foisted her back on to her teachers (does that make me a bad mother, I wonder?). The whole thing was almost as though it was designed to be stress inducing - from the gruelling schedule, developed to contain either stupefying hours-long waits, or nosebleed-inducing rushes between performances, to the multitude of do's and don'ts (do ensure that children have spare pairs of stockings, they will not be allowed onstage with laddered stockings; don't be in the vicinity of the dressing room during concerts; do be at the dressing room immediately after your child comes off stage; don't ... well, you get the idea) the whole weekend left me reeling, exhausted and thinking - surely there's a better way than this?

And then, in the uncanny way these things have, I stumbled across this SMH piece (linked to by the lovely ladies over at Hoyden About Town), and I had a sudden utopian vision ...

I want to start a dance school. I'd call it "Get up and wiggle". It would be dance sessions (not classes) for little kids where we have one big room with mirrors, coloured lights, and a disco ball. We'd put on some funky music - different stuff all the time - and all the kids and all the parents would get out on the dance floor and wiggle. No rules, no special equipment, and no talent required. We'd even have a concert - we'd all get up on stage at once, say "Ready, Mister Music!" and then wiggle to our hearts' content. And we would get the audience to join in. Sounds like fun, doesn't it?

Anyway, the good news is, the dancer has decided to do swimming lessons next year. You have no idea how pleased I was to hear that. I've done my dash with dancing, I think. Hopefully for 2010 she decides to learn an instrument - a nice one, that doesn't make any noise ...