Monday, July 28, 2014

How to cut down a school tree

Before you cut it down, get two opinions. Ensure you can’t save it before arranging to have it felled.

While it’s still standing, visit each class. Explain what is going to happen, and why. Let the children ask questions. Answer them. Send a letter home to each family and let them know. Offer to answer their questions, too.

Hold a short ceremony at the base of the tree. Let the children tell stories. Honour the tree. Name the gifts of shade and clean air, and the place for birds and bugs and butterflies to rest. Acknowledge the countless times children have played among the roots, leaned against the trunk, and gazed into the branches. Say good-bye.

Have it felled. Have the branches sawn into six foot lengths, and scatter them around the grounds. The children will build them into cubbies. Have the trunk sawn into logs, and leave them in the schoolyard, too. Children will walk, climb, balance and sit on the logs, and watch the shadows dance.

Keep a special disc. Sand and polish it, and hang it in the front office for all to see.

Use a good arborist. He will leave a five foot trunk, and carve it into a throne.


A large old tree had to be removed from my daughters’ school recently. This is how it happened. Given the deep connections that many children form with special trees, it seemed just about right. Thanks Trevor and Chris and everyone else involved in the process.

Monday, July 21, 2014

We wasted money on a family holiday...

Hats off to all those parents who love the school holidays! Me, I enjoyed the first week. My daughters’ friends came and went; we spent a lot of time outside; and I was pretty calm. But the second week was something else. Because there is nothing my husband likes more than to go away As A Family, we went away As A Family to the goldfields. It was freezing, it was raining, and we were mostly trapped inside with no other kids to distract ours. My kids bickered and I sniped and it really wasn’t pleasant at all.

On the seventh day, I threw a tantrum. We were walking down the main street in Kyneton when I suddenly stamped my foot on the pavement and told the kids to go away. They shuffled off, then looked on anxiously from half a block away while I asked my husband why, exactly, we had had children. ‘I hate kids,’ I moaned into his chest, ‘I should never have had them. I was born old. I’m an adult’s adult and I like adult things. I like to look at pretty things in shops. I like to sit round in cafés and eat nice things that I didn’t cook and not have to tell anyone to sit down. I hate being kicked by careless feet under the table. I want to wear good shoes and have nobody step on them and I’ve had my toes stepped on eight times today already and I haven’t even had lunch yet and anyway we’re going to that stupid café because the kids keep jostling each other and I can’t trust them in the smaller one and why can’t they just leave each other alone…’ and blah blah blah blah blah.

He held me close while I pulled myself together, and then we went to that stupid café which is really quite okay. I ordered a double shot latte and hot chips with lime aioli and Spanish eggs. I had my toes stepped on two more times and was kicked repeatedly under the table and my kids clattered their cutlery onto the floor once or twice but thanks to the coffee, chips and eggs (such a classy gal) I almost felt okay.

It’s not that I don’t love them. My kids are terrific people, funny and gentle, creative and kind. And it’s not that I don’t love children; I enjoy chatting and playing with other people’s kids. But when it’s just me and my family, we squabble. The kids are at each other’s throats and I ignore it for a while. When I can’t stand it anymore, I give them options. Then I separate them. Then I explode. Then they get even grumpier and the cycle begins again.

As a family, we rarely bring out the best in each other. We need other people for that. Neighbours and relatives, work, family, church and school friends: when we’re with other people, we all thrive. We spend a couple of weeks each year holidaying with a family of six. With the five of us that makes eleven people in a house with one bathroom, with children aged from a young baby to a teenager – it should never work. But the last time we spent a week together I realised on day six that I was yet to rebuke a single child. Somehow, in the crowd, everyone just got on with things. Sometimes I did stuff with kids; sometimes I did the shopping and cooking; sometimes I went for a walk by myself. At the end of the week, I felt like we’d all had a break. My kids were lovely people, and all was right with the world.

Maybe the nuclear family works for some people. My husband certainly seems to enjoy it more than I do. Me, it’s something I’m stuck with, so I try to find ways to live differently. We eat with neighbours and relatives; we spend time with other families; we holiday with friends. But a couple of weeks ago we travelled As A Family, my kids bickered endlessly, and I blew up.

I reckon you could say I went nuclear.

PS – And yet again, The Idle Parent is shown to be right. From the Manifesto: ‘We don’t waste money on days out and family holidays.’ One day I will learn. Sigh. For my response to that most excellent book, click here.
The Idle Parent: Why Less Means More When Raising Kids

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...