I’ve recently ping-ponged back to Australia with a couple of little Vegemite-convert POMs in tow.
There have been heaps of changes during our five-year absence, including Opal cards and Uniqlo but one thing that’s stayed the same (like Jimmy Giggle) is how Australia physically and culturally enables the most awesome of childhoods.
Whoa there other nations, I’m not saying you suck! The British knack of instilling humility from a young age definitely appeals and let’s not dwell on the many ways those golden Scandinavians excel at parenting and, well, everything.
I’m just saying that we can all learn from each other in the universally-crazy gauntlet run that is raising kids.
And here are some ways that Aussies just nail it…
On This Glorious Mess, Brit-born Aussie Holly Wainwright weighs in on the debate.
I’ll never forget my first morning tea at a Sydney playgroup. The busy (and clearly loaded) rostered mum for that day had ordered in a huge platter of sushi. I waited for the separate kids’ food to arrive but soon realised there was none. Seconds after the platter hit the table twenty pre-schoolers dived on it, squabbling over California rolls.
Australian kids aren’t patronised with bland, beige, baby-fied grub. The Jamie Oliver school of thought rules, ie. kids should be fed fresh, diverse, interesting stuff. Mr Jamie ‘Woolworths’ Oliver himself even says “I think my energy is more Aussie than British if I’m honest.”
When my daughter was six months old and I talked purees with my health visitor, I was met with “don’t give her slop, poor kid, stick some avo and chicken strips on her plate and watch her go”.
Firm but Fair
My kids have ridiculously sensitive injustice radars. World war three broke out last week because my 10-year-old got a ‘superior’ Kinder Egg toy. Kim Jong Un has nothing on my six-year-old if I don’t use a protractor to cut equal size pizza slices. I’ve had it. Now we’re down under I fully intend to adopt the excellent Aussie adage “you get what you get and you don’t get upset”. Basically be grateful or be quiet.
More Than Test Scores
In the UK my daughter started school aged four and two months. She was forced to forgo afternoon naps for afternoons cramming phonics sounds in line with a government-set deadline. My son lived in Australia at the same age. He mostly spent his afternoons in sandpits. He didn’t start school for another 17 months.
Though following something similar to the UK curriculum, their Australian school seems to give as much weight to building confidence and tapping into individualism, as it does to test results. Currently their only homework is reading. Pommie education ministers take note: all work and no play makes kids into dull adults.
Parks and Recreation
Parks are proper people magnets here. Dotted around urban suburbs in surprisingly close proximity to each other, they’re green oases (well, quite brown after the last rainless winter) in which to picnic, play and party. Other nations often don’t get the need for green spaces for families. While the lawns of Hong Kong’s Botanical Gardens feature strict ‘Keep off the Grass’ signs, those at Sydney’s Botanic Gardens implore you to ‘Please walk on the grass’. Enough said.