Nurture Vs Nature

My 13 year old went for a 3D2N camp with his school last week. It was his second year and the camps got tougher and wilder each year. This year they were brought to a remote part of the island and they slept in a 8 men tent for one night. It was hot and humid and he didn’t sleep well. On the second night, he had his turn to sleep on a bunk bed and he told me it was good to have a bed to sleep in. The camp was tiring but he had fun.

Last year, the camp was part of his Secondary 1 school orientation and parents were invited to join in for the campfire. I was impressed by how the school managed to bring a bunch of rowdy boys together within such a short period of time. The boys hardly knew each other but I witnessed unity and camaraderie when I watched them perform and chant their cheers. I fell in love with his school and it was a wonderful feeling to know that your teenage child was in good hands.

Recently, during our Western Australia trip, we climbed one of those giant Karri lookout trees. We did the 51m tall Diamond tree at Manjimup. The only way up was by a “spiral staircase” that snaked around the tree all the way to the top. The “spiral staircase” was essentially made of meter long steel stakes driven into the side of the tree. You climb the staircase like a ladder. There were no handrails, no safety nets, no harnesses. One slip, you will probably fall to your death.

The sign said “To climb at your own risk” but it also claimed that so far nobody had died doing so. This boy took a good look around the tree, mumbled something to himself and made his way up. He reached the top in a single attempt on his own. My husband and I were awe struck.

I made it up during my 3rd attempt but with him accompanying me because he was worried that Mom would freak out! (Geez, I wonder who’s the parent!) Every step up was more mentally then physically exhausting. The final step onto the platform felt amazing. I was so proud of myself having conquered my fear. Even prouder to have my child who actually encouraged and ‘took care’ of me all the way up.

He is still very much the quiet boy but now with enough courage and confidence to scale a 51 meter tall tree.

He has an appetite for adventure and values deep friendships over brief acquaintances. We joke that he’s like an old soul trapped in a 13 year old body.

He competes in an individual sport in school and goes for training 3 days a week. The training is tough but it is one of those things that makes him look forward to school.

Like most teenagers, he enjoys playing video games and is good at it. He has his idea what makes a good game and a good gamer. I must say I now have a newfound respect for gamers who work constantly at improving their gameplay.

At times, I do wonder whether the choices and decisions we have made as parents have shaped him into what he his today.

He pretty much has a mind of his own since young. All the art and crafts we did with him didn’t make him love the arts more. But he did turn out to be pretty good at making things that require precision and a good understanding of physics and mathematics. I realised that it was because of his innate interest in numbers and logic.

We tried sending the 2 boys for soccer lessons when they were younger. It was interesting to see how differently they behaved during the games. While his younger brother was running around the field tackling the ball, this fellow preferred to observe the game and watch how the ball was being passed.

We learned that while it may be good to send them for formal lessons with professional coaches, knowing their characters and interests can help save a lot of tears and struggles. My husband and I decided to go easy with such formal coaching.

We do outdoor activities as a family. The money that would have otherwise been spent on formal lessons were splurged on holidays instead. To date, both boys have experienced hiking in diverse places – from muddy hills to rugged coasts with rocky trails and steep sandy paths. With each peak they climb, they learned the value of perseverance and determination.

When we returned this time to complete the Bald Head Trail after a failed attempt 2 years back, we hope they learned about bouncing back after a setback and fighting stronger after failing. To walk and sustain a good pace for 5 hours under the scorching sun, they learned about keeping on a difficult task over a sustained period of time. These are valuable lessons that we hope that will help them in life.

So was it Nurture or Nature?

I guess we can never be sure but I think parenting without an understanding of the child is like fighting a war without knowing the enemy.

Every thoughtful action as a parent is like dropping a seed into the garden of time. We don’t exactly know when and how it will grow, if it would even survive. Sometimes one of the seeds will blossom into something that we never expected.

The ultimate beauty that the seed brings to the garden may never be fully known, but I do believe that the more care and attention we give to our children, the more likely they will grow up to become happy, well adjusted individuals, successful in their own right.

 

 

 

15

A Holiday – Hike, Cook, Eat, Sleep. Repeat

We just had a 2 week vacation in Western Australia. We found a house in the woods and went glamping by the lake. We hiked most days, tried mountain biking, visited a farm and hung out at our rental homes.

Our first stop was Denmark, a coastal town near Albany. We found a 3 storey house in the woods. It was an old house that was very well kept and comfortable. The furnishing wasn’t fanciful. They were basic yet functional. It was not too long ago that I had begun to appreciate the charm of a comfortable old home and the effort required to upkeep it. It’s a bit like being married for 50 years.

The Australian cockatoos were regular visitors to the house and one of the highlights of our stay there was the daily bird feeds. There were the pink and the green ones. They were so pretty and friendly! We could actually feed them directly from our hands.

The fireplace was another attraction where the boys spent many hours figuring out how to set up a good fire. From collecting twigs, leaves, branches to setting up a tinder nest and carefully kindling the fire.

Our second stop was at Cowaramup, a quaint little town 12 km north of Margaret River. We rented a good looking tent next to the lake. No, we didn’t set up the tent. It was all set up when we arrived and we had all the comfort of a home! It had a bathroom, 2 beds, 2 sofa chairs, coffee table, dining table and a small kitchenette. I felt so pampered and was embarrassed to call ourselves campers.

My elder son enjoyed hanging out by the the lake with a book while my younger boy spent most of his time playing with his new friends (a pair of siblings). They were into butterfly hunting and told him that they could catch 2 butterflies a day.

So while my boy introduced them to ‘spearfishing’, they taught him how to hunt for butterflies. He came back with a glass jar lined with sand, rocks and bits of grass, a home ready for the butterflies.

Then they got together to build a ‘house’. They were probably planning to build one big enough for themselves but realised it was too difficult to find branches and twigs as tall as them. They made a mini one instead.

Shortly after we became parents, we discovered that the best kind of family vacation would be to park ourselves somewhere surrounded by hiking trails (if it’s summer) or ski slopes (if it’s winter). It’s a little embarrassing to share our travel itineraries which usually revolves around hikes, skis and supermarkets!

We hardly eat out and we cook our meals most of the time.

During this trip, the boys learned to cook rice and steam vegetables using a microwave because that was all we had in our tent. We don’t have a microwave at home so they were quite impressed that they could cook a proper meal using the microwave.

With a communal BBQ hot plate, we cooked fried rice, stir fried spinach, chicken, and grilled steaks, pork chops and sausages. We had quite a spread.

While I find it stressful to cook in an unfamiliar kitchen, my husband relishes the challenge of it. He is the ‘adventurous closet cook’. I guess being outdoors and being surrounded by trees made it even more fun!

While I complained about not being able to take a break from cooking even when we were on holiday, I realised that such moments were part of our holiday experience.

I like the warm and fuzzy feeling of being together in a foreign land. Experiences that brought us closer and filled up our memory jars.

For good or bad, these are the experiences that we have gone through together and the boys would probably grow up remembering that holidays are supposed to be like that – camp out, hike/ski and cook improvised meals. 

 

26

Goodbye 2017, Hello 2018

Gosh. It’s been raining since we landed and we woke up to a gloomy 2018.

We had spent the last day of 2017 unpacking, washing and clearing the boys’ wardrobes. We cleared out 4 bags of their old clothes, most of them too small for my elder son yet too big to fit his younger brother. I have been hoarding these clothes thinking that one day my younger one could fit. But most of the time, it never happens! I would forget about them and start buying new ones!

Perhaps the biggest word to sum up 2017 is Simplify.

Between my husband and I, I am the hoarder and he’s the thrower. He’s a minimalist and through him, I’ve seen what it’s like to live with the essentials. I witness that every time we travel.

From the things we pack to the itineraries we plan. He can travel with a bar of soap and 2 days worth of clothes, because according to him, you can always rewear or wash them! I am secretly glad the boys take after him and they would make fun of their Mom who needs a BAG of toiletries!

I am your typical tourist still learning to be a more adventurous traveller.

Our December last minute holiday in Australia was planned (or should I say unplanned since it was so last minute!) around simplicity. The main itinerary was to explore new hiking trails and get close to nature. We basically parked ourselves in one place for a few days and hiked. I actually felt relaxed, despite all the strenuous hikes. I got to contemplate between my wants and my needs. It was kind of liberating when you got that figured out.

We packed our books and a deck of poker cards. The boys finished all the books they brought and we played cards almost every night. I was so happy that they could actually live without their gadgets and electronic games!

While my elder boy was happy lounging around with a book, my younger one was always finding things to play. He was constantly on a look out for sticks. He collected those which were shaped like ‘guns’ and carry them everywhere we went so that he could shoot ‘enemies’

Then he found a long straight stick and spent many hours sharpening it with rocks. It was sharp enough that if you threw it like a javelin, it would stick into the ground !

At the glamping ground, he made a couple of friends and they would play till dusk.


They wandered off to the remote part of the lake and ‘spearfish’ with the spear he made.

He told me that there was no fish so they decided to see who can throw the furthest rocks. They surprised a flock of ducks swimming in the lake which flew off just before I snapped this picture.

This picture sort of round up 2017 and a reminder for me to strive towards simplicity for 2018.

“In the tapestry of childhood, what stands out is not the splashy, blow-out trips to Disneyland but the common threads that run throughout and repeat: the family dinners, nature walks, reading together at bedtime, Saturday morning pancakes. ” ~ Kim John Payne, Simplicity Parenting (one of my favourite parenting reads)

Here’s to a new year with less things and less clutter but more space for experiences and memories with the people we loved.

Happy New Year.
 
 

27