Sometimes I feel I’m living with a wild animal.
That sounds horrible I know. And it is. For both of us.
My nearly thirteen-year-old is reconstructing her brain and her body and it can be awful for her and for me.
I understand that she is full of hormonal angst, I understand that she needs to distance herself from me to become her own self, I remember feeling full of fury at her age.
But when the first ‘I hate you’ was screamed and the first banging door was shut in my face I felt deeply wounded. Somedays I can hear my heart crack.
So I decided we should take a trip together – without her brother – to have a break from the everyday pressures of life and to reconnect before the teenage years pull us further apart.
My daughter likes animals far better than people. She is passionate about the Orangutans of Sumatra and desperately upset that they are being poached, kept as pets and killed because their rainforest home is being destroyed to make way for Palm Oil Plantations.
So passionate is she that she gave up Tim Tams for years and stood at the supermarket saying to people as they bought them “those biscuits may as well be dripping with the blood of orangutans.”
Subtle. And typical of teenage righteousness. But I admired her commitment. She wrote to Arnotts biscuits, she spoke at school about Palm Oil, she talked to the canteen, she helps me shop for goods that are Palm Oil free.
Thankfully we are now eating Tim Tams again because Arnotts Biscuits signed up to sustainable sources of Palm Oil. But chocolate is not enough to get us through these tricky times so I decided to engage with her passion.
We signed up for a small personal RAW Tour of northern Sumatra to see the Orangutan preservation program and their diminishing habitat. We've just returned from a journey into the jungle and into my own heart of darkness. It was a wonderful relaxing holiday that utterly confronted my perspective on life and my relationship with my daughter.
We visited a Quarantine Station that looks after rescued Orangutans; babies who have been orphaned, fathers who are full of gun shot pellets, mothers who have caught Hepatitis and Meningitis from biting their captors as their babies were being taken away to be pets.
While it was heart breaking to see animals in cages we watched babies drink from bottles and learn to stay high in a play centre that is their trainee jungle. Most will be released. Those who cannot will hopefully be released into a safe sanctuary that our trip has helped pay for.
After a hot, dusty five hour drive through endless Palm Oil Plantations we spent days in a small village called Tangkahan. We watched elephants swim and then helped scrub their ancient hides free of ticks - the giant male almost purred as he wrapped his trunk around my daughter's leg in gratitude.
We watched a mother and her baby come down to the river. The baby so skittish, almost tripping the mother up in its desire to stay between her legs. I nearly cried remembering those days. Now my daughter was so teenage cold she hardly let me touch her. But when she was utterly transfixed by the baby, I almost got a hug without being pushed away.