Whilst we were at camp, my daughter, along with a few friends, built a den in the woods. They wove sticks into walls, tied a tarp to a tree, laid a groundsheet beneath it and built a fire. Their chosen site was on a slope which you could scramble up to, then slide back down on your bottom.
They had high hopes of sheltering under the stars, but the weather had other ideas.
The camp organiser is a veteran Duke of Edinburgh alumna. She is also a trained leader. In her experience, the outing would have been cancelled—rainfall and heavy winds do not make for safe expeditions.
Us parents took heed of the wise woman’s words. Disappointed after all their effort, the children spent the night in the field. Some huddled in a communal tent with a gaping hole in the front, determined to brave the elements. My daughter and a friend stayed up late around the campfire with revelling grown-ups and teens.
The next day, there was much to-ing and fro-ing to the shelter. They gathered more sticks, shored up the wood walls, tended the fire. This was their wild home.
As luck would have it, the weather gods were on their side. It was warm and clear with no winds forecast. They padded up the hill with their floor mats and sleeping bags; collected the necessary provisions and creature comforts. Armed with copious amounts of water, they’d designated a bottle specifically to douse the fire should they need to.
One of the teens had his mobile phone. Another had a whistle, with strict instructions to blow only in a dire emergency. Three blasts. Then another three. All bases were covered, aside for the slim possibility they’d be visited by the resident cowherd overnight.
It was a funny sleep, with an ear half-cocked towards the hill. A shout I heard in the middle of the night turned out to be an owl.
Bellies full of porridge, they tramped through the field the following morning, beaming, though slightly bedraggled. It felt as if they’d been gone an age, but my daughter’s hand warmer pack was still toasty.
Strops and Flip Flops
My twelve-year-old girl often surprises me.
Yesterday evening she quit her weekly maths and English classes.
During an uncharacteristically civilised family discussion after supper (the tone was nice and we listened to each other), I leant over and gently took the grey, cylindrical hoover pipe she was twiddling, out of her hand, and passed it to her brother who was speaking; and, without any preamble, the talking stick was introduced to our conflab.
The children delighted in taking turns to express themselves and the stick made it easier to remain calm and be respectful of each other.
One of the subjects broached was homework. It has been an onerous task of my husband’s for almost two years now. You’d think a couple of pieces of work once a week wouldn’t be too much to ask of our largely free range daughter, but she resented and resisted in equal measure. The gripes and groans took more energy than simply knuckling down to do the work.
The funny thing is, when she got her head straight and my husband sat with her, she was great.
Still, we offered her the option of continuing or opting out.
She opted out.
We respected her choice. We’d wanted her to be honest and speak her mind. When she said she’d like to stop, we saw all kinds of new learning possibilities and potential projects. New ways for us to decipher the hidden threads connecting the seemingly disparate interests of our children.
We left the conversation lighter.
Until our daughter exuded a touch too much elation for my husband’s liking. His mind went into overdrive, Thinking Things Through. None of the futures he thought up were of comfort, most pointed to us being slack failures as parents.
Correspondence with our daughter’s teacher, only sent him further down.
The good feeling of our family meeting rapidly dissipated, along with the conviction that our daughter’s decision was the right one. Snipping and stropping was back on the agenda.
Today, my daughter surprised me again.
I called to let her know swimming was cancelled and she said, Oh, that’s okay, I didn’t want to go anyway. My phone’s about to die. I’ll call you back in a minute; I want to speak to Lucy now.
Turns out my girl had been reflecting on the email her teacher sent us last night.
After the usual morning classes, she walked over to her teacher’s street, hovered by the corner whilst she garnered the courage to knock on the door.
Only Lucy happened to walk down the road first and invite our girl in.
They had a cup of tea and a chat about how hard work can be sometimes and how we might want to give up, but, when we have a gift for a subject, then maybe it’s worth pursuing.
Once again, I was blown away by my daughter.
Blown away that she took it upon herself to speak with her teacher.
That she displayed such maturity and consideration
That she had the courage to change her mind.
I love that when she was freed from thinking the classes were being foisted upon her, she was free to choose again.
May you notice your freedom to choose in every moment this week.
Much Love, Angela xo