10 December 2016

On milking cows and international holidays

A part of me has a huge desire to take my children to Europe - to visit friends, to experience some of my favourite places, and to discover some new ones. My husband won't go again - he's sworn off international travel unless it's vital for work reasons, because of the greenhouse gases it releases. I worry about that too, but reckon the amount of meat we DON'T eat these days more than makes up for it. (Fortunately I've discovered some awesome bean and lentil recipes, which I'll share here one day.)

At my friend's cheerful doorstep

I've learned that what people choose to do depends very much on what the people around them do. So if your neighbours all suddenly start recycling, you're more likely to recycle, too. In that vein, my desire for an international trip is probably subconsciously fed by Facebook photos of my friends with their children in exotic locations.

So it was refreshing  recently when I went to visit my dear friend Veronica. She's not on Facebook, her house is full of children and animals (sometimes including lambs and pet rats), and I don't think her family's travelled more than two hours from home since I met her about nine years ago.

I can't keep my hands off this dog's soft, soft coat.

This is what I find there: smart, resilient hard-working children. Children who can speak three languages, change a nappy, make a meal, crochet, excel at their musical instruments. The barely-a-teenager does voluntary work, knows exactly which high-flying career she wants and is already working towards it, and can't wait to milk their new calf when it matures and make cheese with the milk. Children who can make do with what they have, but know how to get what they want.

The family's vege garden has old carpet between the beds.
Delicious peas, and waist-high grass in the background.
They are seeking more stock to eat it! The sheep can't keep up with it.

Their house is not going to be in Home and Garden anytime soon. But I love that the artwork was all done by the children (who are lucky enough to have private art classes), that the family allows their heart to be repeatedly broken when they hand over the dogs they train as mobility assistance dogs (you've never met such well-behaved dogs), and that much of what they have has been built, knit or sewn themselves (including their very house, which they virtually rebuilt after it was moved onto its site).

Veronica herself is kind, beautiful, even more likely that me to be in clothes scavenged from a dump shop, and fiercely intelligent.

So when a little whisper comes to me that the travel would be good for my children and they will better off for it, I just remember her family. Comparing children is probably not fair, but I do find myself spotting quite a few that spend a lot of time in front of screens and are learning more about gaming and social media than what I consider are basic life skills: growing food, managing money, cooking a meal, cleaning a bathroom, reading widely, working hard.

I still don't know whether we'll divert funds and energy into an international trip, but if we don't, Veronica's family is my reminder that my children will be perfectly okay without it.

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