A Window into Life in the Suburbs

"Consider how the lilies grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these." Luke 12:27 (NIV)

Monday, April 9, 2012

Are modern parents overprotective?

It's a pity that this article from The Australian can't be more widely accessed but it raises some interesting questions about modern parenting.

Cassandra Wilkinson in praise of danger:
THE free and bountiful country we enjoy today was built by people who weren’t afraid to get dirty, hurt or disappointed. But as a society, we have been legislating against our natural appetite for risk as if the world no longer needed bravery, adventure or ambition.
I often hear people say, “I don’t want to live in a country that doesn’t make things any more.” I don’t want to live in a country that doesn’t break things any more…
Last year the 1.2m plastic slippery dip was closed at my son’s school because of safety concerns… Looking into the facts on behalf of my son, I realised that slippery dips are not the only symbols of my childhood being consigned to the recycling bin of history. Trampolines, skates and bicycles are increasingly regulated, and solitude, adventure and danger are as foreign to many kids now as adult supervision was to my peers.

There are good reasons to worry that we have got the balance wrong for today’s kids. The victory of caution over common sense not only takes the fun out of childhood; it’s taking the bravery and responsibility out of adulthood.
By this definition, I suppose I used to be one of those overcautious types. I recall with great clarity that when my eldest was about 5 or 6, I took her to Southbank for a get-together with my students. While my back was turned, she started rolling around the slopes with somebody else's children and I started chastising her in a disapproving manner... ie. freaking out. The father of said children took me to task, in a half-scolding, half-mocking fashion, suggesting that I needed to... erm... take the chill pill. His wife, bless her heart, gave him the evil eye.

I have come to see that perhaps I was a bit overprotectve because I was brought up in a different cultural context. And maybe more than a little fastidious about cleanliness.

Are we too protective?

Living in Oz

At our place, public holidays aren't properly utilized. Unless you considering sleeping-in (or any manner of slumber) and cleaning up a profitable use of public holidays.

For us, it is a must to catch up on sleep because well, the rest of time, we do it so poorly. As for cleaning up, it's a good opportunity to get rid of junk in one fell swoop. Ordinarily, we're just too exhausted to get the job done on top of everything else that we do.

Occasionally I get asked about the reasons why I live in Oz, where the cost of living is absurdly high and one feels compelled to DIY to save a few pennies here and there.
I suppose I'm one of those crazy people that value personal freedom above personal wealth (although it doesn't mean I decry the good things in life). I like the fact that it's a peaceful country and that generally, people take you as they see you.
I like the fact that I can dress in last decades's fashion and no one will raise an eyebrow.
And I like the spontaneous diversity of the population that is generally united under the banner of personal freedom.

So, yeah... I like it here. I like it where I live, and I like it where the children go to school. For now.
There are days when I despair over the increasing traffic in our suburb which is obviously related to the popularity of our local school. The increase in traffic lights don't seem to help either.

I know I don't have to live where I live and if things get intolerable, we do have choices.
That's the key word in all of this -- choice.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Freedom of Speech

Even if you find yourself generally apolitical, freedom of speech is a right/privilege we shouldn't take lightly. The Catallaxy Files posted this a day or so ago which is worth a read.

and here's Mark Steyn, with characteristic humour, reminding us why free speech is worth fighting for.

Increasingly, I see this as the most important political battle of our time. I can't see how we can have a fully functioning democracy without it.

Friday, April 6, 2012


I have adored Sherlock Holmes for as long as I can remember. In all probability, it was Basil Rathbone chasing a large imaginary dog on a tightly budgeted, smoke-ridden set that started my lifelong love for the residents of 221B Baker St. Obviously, I'm not old enough to have seen Rathbone romping around in his heyday but I developed a quaint fondness for watching old matinee things on weekend afternoons during my impressionable years.
For me, Rathbone was always the Sherlock Holmes... even when the great Jeremy Brett came into prominence as the Victorian sleuth.

Some days when I wake up, I still consider Rathbone as my Sherlock but other days, it's the mesmerizing Benedict Cumberbatch. Neither of which, I agree, is definitively Sherlock but there's something about their performances that grabs you and draws you into the story. Rathbone's Holmes is a clever English gentleman who is heroic and honourable. A man holding onto the ideals of his day. Cumberbatch's Sherlock is an obnoxious logician for whom sentiment is a weakness. He is an iconoclast and has the gift and weakness of not caring too much what people think of him. For him, sleuthing is a sport and a challenge, winning is more important than compassion. Athough that's not to say that he has no spark of feeling. Even with all the nods to Doyle's Holmes, the modern day revival is a cynical postmodern Sherlock who has few ideals and fewer friends. The sum of his existence is to find the next big kick.

Despite his overweening arrogance and peevishness, I find this modern day Sherlock Holmes quite refreshing. A man who tells it like it is so rare in this day and age, that he's called controversial. A man who doesn't act on sentiment is rarer still.

When one is responsible for other people, it's often difficult to maintain that balance between head and heart. Our culture, however, today does tip towards sentimentality. How many times have we heard/read the mantra... "follow your heart" as if the heart is a much more reliable guide to making decisions than hard headedness? How many people have done exactly that and gone down the slippery slope of no return?

The interplay of reason vs compassion in the "Sherlock" series is fascinating, nonetheless. Although as a Christian, I don't see them as diametrically opposed to one another because the Bible doesn't.  The problem is that we often lack the third party which governs both -- divine insight through scriptures.

We rely far too much on ourselves to discern reality.

Good Friday #2

We had lunch at a friend's place this afternoon out in Jimboomba. The thing one learns very quickly when residing in the great continent of Oz is that even a 40 minute drive out to more remote areas is not considered far. Afterall this is very big country. Not that Jimboomba is out of civilization's reach (although roads seem to be in a poor state of repair) but these days affordable large blocks of land requires a bit traveling to get to.
On average I travel 20 minutes to work and some of my students actually think that's far until I tell them that I used to do a 40 minute drive into the CBD, most of it spent idling and steering-wheel drumming on the freeway some time during 7 to 7:30 in the morning. Nope, I don't miss that. Did the bus thing too at one point but two buses each way plus waiting around in between =  one hour (if I'm lucky). But one should expect to travel some way to get to work.

So onward to Jimboomba it was...  and a large group (as it turned out) from church also turned up. And as it is always the case with our church, we were extremely well-fed. I, too, contributed to the festivities with my usual dumpling schtick.
Yeah, I know I'm typecasting myself. But it's a no-brainer and I can almost make them blindfolded. "Almost" because I don't really want to knife myself chopping the ingredients and lose bits of skin (best case scenario) in the process.

A couple of hours later we headed off, partly because I was beginning to get that nebulous yuck feeling again and partly because we had planned to go grave visiting.

A good plan. Yes. Unfortunately, we got... er... a bit lost... which is supposedly an embarrassing thing to confess to.
Perhaps it reflects our chaotic state of mind, but we never seem to remember where the grave stone is actually located and each year the occupancy status of the lawn in question increases and with that the floral content, making the exact spot harder to find.

After strolling a bit, the husband found mum's final resting place and then 5 year old wanted to know if grandma was really... you know... buried under her feet. For five long seconds there, when she started carrying on about wanting to know what grandma looked like, I was convinced that she was going to fall on her knees and start digging.

This year, as it happens, the anniversary of mum's death falls on Good Friday. It gives the occasion greater poignancy and doubles the meaning for me.
I'm not sure that it's the distance of years that makes the death of a loved one easier to bear. At least in my experience, it isn't. This year as I stood at my mother's grave, that feeling of lingering resentment that I felt when I lost her seemed to have lost its grip on me.
Previously even when I gave mental assent to the fact that she was in a better place, I always felt that it was unfair that she was taken from me at a time when I needed her the most. But this year, with everything's that happened to me in the past 6 months, I've come to see the hand of Providence in all things in a way I hadn't before. That part of the journey has enabled me to let go and move on.

Good Friday

It's Easter Friday and I've just woken up from a nap after a biggish sort of day.
The last few days have been a bit of struggle and I'm still not sure if I'm just dreadfully fatigued from work or it has been a prelude to something more sinister.
By sinister, of course, I mean something like a head cold as it seems the o'l sinuses are taking perverse pleasure in creating headaches.

The Good Friday service at church this morning seemed to have gone down well with the congregation, judging from the reception I received. Can't take any credit for it as I mainly did what I was told. Sang some beloved hymns and read relevant scriptural texts (that part was mine) while objects from the crucifixion story were passed around the room.
It was a sober time and the pastor led a spontaneous time of sharing from the congregants.

I have always liked the sobriety of the occasion but honestly, what else could one be?
Consider this: Our Lord, the God of creation allowed himself to die at the hands of men under one of the most brutal form of capital punishment devised by humans.
I can't take it lightly even if I don't ponder over the ramifications of our Lord's sacrifice enough.
When I think of the cross, I think of the utter gravity of sin on one side, and on the other, I think of love. Real love. Robust, self-sacrificing love.

It is the gold standard after all.