So the royal baby has finally arrived! Kate and William gave birth to a baby boy this morning, who weighed 3.8 kg or 8 pounds 6. I’m not going to have any trouble remembering the weight because that’s exactly the weight of my first child. I’m sure every parent remembers how wonderful, scary and amazing it is to give birth to your first child. Nothing really compares to that. So it’s lovely to celebrate with the royal couple as they enjoy their little miracle. But it’s also amazing that this particular child has come into the world, so welcomed, so loved and so showered with privilege.
By contrast there are still so many children in the world who lack the basics in life – good food, clean water, an education. A few weeks ago I had the privilege of hearing Tony Campolo speak on what was his last ever trip to Australia. He was out here for Compassion Australia, so I knew that his talk would focus on child sponsorship, but I was keen to hear him beause I also knew he would be lively, entertaining and spiritually challenging. Tony Campolo is a great storyteller and has always spoken out with great conviction on behalf of the marginilised and voiceless, including children, which is a cause dear to my heart.
The main thing I learned is that we’ve made a lot of progress in recent decades and child sponsorship has been an important part of that. Just a few decades ago, 45,000 children died of poverty related causes in one night, now that figure is down to 23 000. Almost halved. So that’s encouraging. Sponsoring a child really does make a difference to those children and their communities. But I think it also has a really positive impact on the person who does the sponsoring.
Our sponsor child is a little girl called Elda who lives with her family in the province of Papua in Indonesia. We deliberately chose a girl who is roughly the same age as Birdy to try to encourage a friendship between them. We also chose a child who lives in a country that my husband and I have visited to make it more real for her. We can show her photos and talk about some of their customs. We’ve also made a conscious effort to talk about Elda and pray for her.
It’s really only now, after about 3 or 4 years of exchanging letters, that we’re starting to see a friendship develop between the two girls. Just the other night Caillie drew a picture of her and Elda meeting for the first time. In the picture, the two girls were holding hands and my husband and I were quite touched by that.
Part of the value of child sponsorship is that it helps Aussie kids to develop a sense of compassion, although in our case it hasn’t come easily! We’ve really had to work on it. When we first started sponsoring her, I remember Birdy saying that she didn’t like her dress! Kids here just have so much that its very hard for them to understand poverty. But showing care for someone outside of your day-to-day world shows your kids that that you don’t just love them, you also care about the wider world. Love is bigger than geography or proximity.
Compassion have recently started sending a once a year letter from project staff to give sponsors a bit more information about the work they’re doing on the ground. One of the things our project manager said was that when they show care for the children, when they take an interest in a child’s welfare, health, education and spiritual growth, the parents start to take better care of their children too. They see someone else caring for their child and they start to see that child as more valuable.
So if you are sponsoring a child, be encouraged. You’re not only providing for their needs, you’re also helping to create a culture where children are cherished and nutured and invested in. Would it be wonderful if every child born into the world was as welcome, loved, safe and well-provided for as the royal baby?
Are you excited about the royal baby? Does your family sponsor a child? Have your children started to take an interest in or show concern for the sponsored child?
We’ve recently been away visiting family in the country. Can I just say there is no better family holiday entertainment than going to stay in the country and discovering there’s a real live mouse in the house! My little city kids thought that was very exciting. When Granny said she’d put out a mouse trap, Henry (my 3 year old nephew) picked up the board game Mouse Trap and gave it to Granny to catch the mouse with. Hilarious!
Every time we go away, I’m absolutely amazed at how much stuff you need to go on holidays with kids. At least Birdy packs for herself now, but she always wants to take a ridiculous amount of toys. Whereas all Molly needs to keep herself occupied is a baby doll and a copy of Where is the Green Sheep? by Mem Fox. We did a six hour car trip from Dubbo to Darlington Point (near Griffith) and Molly was quite happy reading Where is the Green Sheep? to herself for most of that time.
Is there any child in Australia who doesn’t have a copy of that book?
When Birdy was born we were given four copies of it, and we gave two away which I’m regretting because the other copies are now so worn out. When I was a kid, I think every parent knew off by heart the words, “Once upon a time there were four little Rabbits, and their names were Flopsy, Mopsy, Cottontail and Peter…” Or this one: “In the light of the moon a little egg lay on a leaf. Then one Sunday morning, the warm sun came up and – pop! – out of the egg came a tiny and very hungry caterpillar.” These days I think every parent knows the words, “Here is the blue sheep, here is the red sheep, here is the bath sheep and here is the bed sheep. But where is the green sheep?” It’s almost become a developmental phase that between the ages of one and three children become obsessed with that book.
What is it about that book? Why do toddlers love it so much?
I think it’s the perfect combination of the everyday and the absurd. It’s full of things that even babies recognise – the sun, the rain, a car, a train – and yet the pictures are also portraying something outrageous, like a sheep dancing around a lamp stand with an umbrella in the rain. Yet the pictures are so simple and iconic that even Molly at eighteen months will point to the umbrella and say “ella”.
The first time I read this book, I found it very strange and I wasn’t the only one. I was a bit surprised to read Mem Fox using nouns as adjectives. Lines like ‘Here is the bath sheep’ are a little grating at first, because we’ d normally say ‘Here is a sheep having a bath’, or ‘Here’s a sheep in the bath’. And yet somehow it really is perfect for little kids. The other day I discovered that it won the Speech Pathology Australia Book of the Year Award in 2005. I can see why. It is literally teaching my daughter to speak. She now points to the moon and says ‘moo’ and at the star and says ‘ta’. So even though we might get a little bit sick of reading the same book over and over and over again, it is actually the best way to encourage speech and literacy in little ones. Of course, once they get older, it’s good to read more widely, but for a one-year-old all you really need are three or four copies of Where is the Green Sheep?
(PS. If you’re looking for other great books to encourage your toddler’s speech development, why not check out the Speech Pathology Australia Book of the Year 2013 shortlist and past winners.)
Have your children enjoyed Where is the Green Sheep and made you read it over and over again? What do you think of it?
My daughter had her first major dancing concert this week. She does highland dancing, but it’s not just the traditional highland flings and bagpipes. This concert included contemporary dance, hip-hop fused highland, and a very fun Celtic Bollywood Extravaganza, which my daughter was part of.
Now I realise highland dancing is a bit of an unusual choice, but there is a good reason behind it.
My Dad’s originally from Scotland, so that’s part of it, but the main issue for me was wanting to find a form of dancing that was active and fun, but also conducive to a healthy body image. You don’t have to be a stick insect to do highland. Too often you see little girls in skimpy outfits, plastered with makeup, doing really inappropriate moves to really inappropriate music.
It’s like they’re 6 going on 16.
I remember taking Caillie to a toddler dance class at the church around the corner and they were playing stuff like “I’m too sexy!” That didn’t last long! There’s a lot of reasearch now suggesting that little girls are growing up too fast, wanting to wear make-up, getting conerned about their appearance and body image, so I’m really grateful to have found a healthy, fun dance school for my girls, where the costumes aren’t too revealing and there are lots of positive role models among the teenagers.
Psychotherapist Collett Smart once told me that it was important for kids to have hobbies outside of school so they have a range of role models beyond just their school peers. I’m certainly seeing the wisdom in that as I see my daughter starting to look up to some of the older girls there. As a mother of girls, I’m also really aware that they take a lot of their cues from us. So we have to take a good hard look at ourselves. If we’re always dieting or trying to change ourselves then how can we tell our girls that they’re beautiful as they are? In a culture that’s becoming obsessed with physical perfection, how far is too far?
I’m okay with decorating, but not with trying to change how I’m made. That’s where I draw the line in the sand. So wearing nice clothes, jewellery, nailpolish, and a bit of make-up is just decorating, but doing things to try to change the way I am made is not okay. So for me, that rules out fake anything, crash dieting, botox, collagen injections, cosmetic surgery, anything in which we’re trying to alter our bodies or unrealistically reverse the ageing process, because that says we’re not good enough as we are. Exactly where we draw that line will be different for everyone, but for me it’s about accepting that we come in different shapes and sizes and that we don’t have to strive for physical perfection.
Social media has a lot to answer for in this area. I recently attended a talk by Justine Toh from the Centre for Public Christianity where she talked about how the i-generation is using social media to create their own image. Every time we post a glamorous selfie, or un-tag ourselves in an unflattering photo, we’re building this culture of perfection, which is causing our young girls to feel inadequate. (Obviously some people do need to look professional on facebook – I’m not saying we should all be trogs!) One time I got sick of all the glamorous profile pics you see on facebook, so I took a photo of myself with no make-up – I hadn’t even brushed my hair – it was just me how I actually look most of the time. Anyway my husband saw the photo on facebook, put a filter on it on his i-pad and emailed it to me, as a favour. And it did look better, but I was like “Noooo.” I deliberately wanted a photo that’s completely natural.
Let’s teach our girls how to deconstruct those enhanced images they see on the bus stop billboards and show our girls that we’re happy with ourselves, just as we are. Then maybe they’ll have a chance of being happy with themselves too.