"Elijah's drowned. Elijah's gone.' These are the words that David Fisher allegedly greeted his wife Lauren and their four daughters with when he returned from taking seven-month-old Elijah for a walk at Brisbane’s Logan River Parklands almost a year ago.
The story made headline news at the time with the death of a much loved and wanted baby boy (allegedly at the hand of his father) provoking shocked, saddened and even angry responses from thousands of people who read about the tragic loss. But not from his wife Lauren. She decided many years before her son’s death to “deal with the parts of myself that are not lovely”
And this month Caroline Overington brings the story to light again with an astonishing (and beautiful) story in the February edition of The Australian Women’s Weekly.
Lauren and David were not your regular 9-5 suburban family. Both coming from religious Christian backgrounds they had left behind the trappings of a fixed address and work when their third child was born and in addition to a life on the road had chosen a free-range parenting style – instead of directing and ordering the children to do things, they would simply let them make their own decisions. The kids are also “unschooled” meaning that they aren’t sent to school but rather learn from the world around them.
Caroline writes for AWW: “Lauren had also been reading The Party’s Over – it was one of the first books to argue that the West has already sucked too many resources from the earth and that future generations will need to live more sustainably – and she says, “It had a profound effect on both of us. But I had begun questioning other aspects of our lives, too”.
It started with the children asking, why? “Often when you try to explain why we do things the way we do in our lives, it makes no sense,” Lauren says. “I was the kind of mother who liked to dress the children very neatly and all the same. Then, one day, Brioni came out in three types of stripes, none of them matching, and I said, ‘Oh, Brioni, you can’t wear that!’
“She really liked what she’d chosen and she could not understand. And I had to ask myself: why can’t she wear that? I was forcing them to conform to an arbitrary idea of what looks good, what’s acceptable. I was saying, you can’t wear that because I imagined that if my children were well-presented, it would say something about the kind of mother I was. “In the process, I was cajoling them to do it – to put on their shoes, to not wear their pyjamas when we went to the shops – but why? It was false and it was about me wanting people to say, ‘Oh, you’re such a good mother!’ ”
The Fishers live in their van, there is never anywhere they need to be. They camp by rivers and bathe in streams, grateful to farmers who occasionally come by with fresh produce to sell. Their life would seem to be ideal except for “that “incident in June last year.