The world I would give my daughter

My daughter is asleep in her bed.

She lives a safe, secure life. I’m a stay-at-home-parent. She has never been left in the care of anyone other than her parents.

She cannot live all her life this way. I do not want her to.

One day I want her to venture out in this world. I want her to have freedoms. I want her to have choice.

I want her to be able to acknowledge that so many blessings and privileges she enjoys are due to the hard work of women before her. The right to her own money. The right to work, to own property. The right to an education. The right to control her own fertility. The right to marry and divorce, when and if she chooses.

I want her to understand that these blessings and privileges are not extended to all women around the world. I want her to believe in the right for all women to enjoy them. I want her to be unafraid to speak when necessary for those who can’t, and to listen and support those women who can.

I want her to live in a world where her right to exist in public is never questioned, where it will not make her a target for abuse. A world where women can be leaders without being called bossy, argumentative without being called shrill, annoyed without being called hormonal. A world where she can be a mother without being called slummy or yummy. A world where women are not judged by what bathroom they choose, or what size they wear. A world where women are not shamed for the natural functions of their bodies. A world where women are not asking for it. A world where women never have to be told to smile, or brushed off because it was just a joke.

She is too young to ask for things herself. She knows nothing of these troubles. So, while she sleeps, safe in her bed I will be her voice.

This is the world I would give my daughter. Tell me, is this too much to ask?

Just the way you are

Last week we had to take my oldest child for a check-up, and foolishly I took both kids on my own. I thought that my son knows what to expect, and his little sister is used to sitting through appointments too, it’ll be fine.

It wasn’t fine.

Actually the doctor was fine. That bit was fine. I’m a pro at doctor’s appointments. What I apparently can’t manage is taking kids to the toilet.  Trying to cram a toilet visit in was probably a bad idea, but it really looked like waiting would be a worse option. Instead of recognising my motherly wisdom my son just starts yelling
“No. I don’t need to go. Noooo”
And I kinda have to drag him in and practically pry his fingers off the doorframe. Eventually I hustled him in, with his sister toddling along and squeezing in with us. And the whole time he is yelling, and I’m trying to appear competent by remaining calm and collected and firm, not permissive, so I’m saying
“Okay, let’s just try before we see the doctor because we can’t go during our appointment.”
And I don’t know why I even bother because he is not listening, he is just yelling, and it is true he doesn’t need to go – anymore. At some point someone knocked on the door and I tried to hurry him up by pointing out people were waiting but it didn’t help. After resisting sitting on the toilet he is now resisting getting off and washing his hands. Then the toddler inexplicably decided to add to the experience by yelling ‘fart’ loudly and repeatedly. After what felt like a hellish eternity I opened the door, only to see a very tall young doctor about to knock, again.

Unfortunately, I blush very easily.

To be honest, I think I handled it fairly well. It was embarrassing, but kids are kids. The doctor was lovely and took it all in his stride. Too often though, people around you don’t react like that. Like that time when that old man shouted at my upset son on the bus. (To be fair, he was again behaving appallingly, but since he came down with a fever soon after, I think he wasn’t at his most rational. And I know my son well enough to know when yelling isn’t going to work, so I wasn’t yelling and guess what dude, you’re yelling didn’t achieve anything – did it?) Sometimes my husband says I must see the worst come out in people. Sometimes I think I’m just more observant than my husband. Or maybe I’m less competent at parenting than him. Or maybe I’m held to a different (higher) standard of parenting than him due to ingrained patriarchal values. Maybe.

And if you just took these snippets of my days when my son is behaving poorly you might think he was this dreadful, out of control child. He’s not. He has been ill a lot lately, and that does affect his behaviour, but most of the time he is lovely. So I should also tell you about how much he loves to help in the kitchen, and how he helps his father chop vegetables, Child chopping vegetablesdiligently snapping broccoli florets up and even *gasp* eating some of them. Or his limitless curiosity especially when it comes to things like outer space or dinosaurs. Or how patient he is with his sister’s silly games, especially the one where she plays ‘bump, bump’ in her chair and we all have to ‘bump, bump’ along with her, and if he doesn’t bump she yells “Wah-wah bump bump” across the table at him until he bumps. (And no, Wah-wah is not his name, it is just what she calls him. Which is very cute, but as far as legal names go it would be a bad one and what kind of mother do you think I am?)

If you took the snippets of my days when I’m not handling things well, you might think I’m not a great parent. Things don’t always go well. I get cross. I get stretched too thin, especially lately, when I’ve frequently been stuck at home with sick kids. My kids can be infuriating, and it’s exhausting. I definitely, definitely, do not love every minute.

It is never as simple as a good day, or a bad day. My children are all quicksilver. The stars can be all aligned and then along comes a new gravitational body – everything wobbles on its axis. Can I maintain a steady course or will a terminal slide into chaos ensue? Tears dry just as quickly, their eyes sparkle again, and their mother better be ready to leave her own frustrations behind, because the fun is happening, now. They create joy in the most mundane events. A cold wet downpour is a chance to spring from puddle to puddle. Games are invented seemingly out of thin air, and you are all laughing, and life is good and the minutes fly by. Then there are the quiet joys. Like the joy of seeing your four year old intent, concentrating hard on his latest art project.puddle splashing

My hours are full of books and kisses and toys and cuddles and crayon on my walls and TV and chasing and trying to buckle a pram and jumping on the bed. Life. They are full of life.

These little lives feel like they came from nowhere to take over your own. Did you know, did you really understand, how much possibility there was the first time someone handed you your baby? Getting to know your child, to learn how they interpret the world and think and feel is the ultimate privilege of parenthood.

At this age my children’s behaviour can be ridiculous, and appalling, and embarrassing.  But they are four and one. Sometimes people act as though the process of civilisation is something that should take just a couple of weeks, in between weaning and toilet training at what is considered to be the proper time. As though our children are not individuals with their own needs and impulses and fully contained personhood. Instead they are to be controlled and whipped into shape and if you just do it right they will never yell fart at you while locked in a public toilet.

A few weeks ago we had another public argument with my son. Everyone was avoiding our eyes and hurrying past us. It’s funny isn’t it, how there is never anyone stopping to tell you to enjoy “every minute” in these really unenjoyable minutes? Tears dried and noses wiped, we arrived at the pharmacy we needed to go to.  There were long queues, but oh joy, a wooden track with wheels to roll down it. I took the kids to play while my husband waited.

This toy just happened to be in the euphemistically named ‘feminine hygiene” aisle. While the kids played happily a couple approached, and stood whispering in front of the pregnancy tests. There is a lot to think about when buying pregnancy tests. For many it is the first of the arbitrary and important-seeming hurdles that really don’t matter when you look back on them, but boy did you agonise about it at the time. Does the brand matter? And how many should you buy? One might give the answer you want – expect – but will you believe it? What if it is wrong? Perhaps you should buy two just in case. Five, maybe five. Just to be sure. Or maybe this is a false alarm, but what about next month, or the next. Should you buy extra so you have them? Just in case?

They stood, heads bent together and while I tried not to listen they caught my son’s interest. He wandered over, peering around them, cluelessly butting in as only a four year old can, and while I tried to gently re-engage his interest my daughter spotted her opportunity. Gleefully she darted forward, hands mussing shelves, then with a tube of something called ‘intimate soap’ in each hand she sprinted down the exit ramp. I followed the trail of laughter, and luckily caught her before she passed the security alarms.

By the time I had returned all the feminine hygiene products to their proper place the couple were queuing hand in hand. Trepidation, love, possibility spilling out of them, an almost visible aura of hope.

My children were back to playing. These wilful little beings who have taken over our life. Who can make an afternoon or evening a tedious drag. Or make a mundane chore a hilarious adventure. Who test and defy me on a daily basis. Who embarrass and delight me in equal measure. Would I really have them any other way?

And maybe we came across as chaotic. Maybe if my children look willful and defiant that is because they are. But one day they will be adults who won’t throw themselves down to the ground in despair in supermarkets, or sob on buses because their favourite seat is taken, and one day I won’t have to worry about them accidentally shoplifting.

Until then, would I want my son to be less curious? Would I want my daughter to be less cheeky?

I’m lucky, my hopes for the future are already here, right in front of me.

I might not love every minute, but I love them. Every minute, of every day, I’m loving them.

The right sort of immigrant

I’ve watched with increasing horror as Trump’s first week as president has lived up to our worst fears for his presidency. Just days into his term and his administration have legitimised the feelings of those who harbour racism and xenophobia in their hearts. They have attacked the value of truth itself, trying to give it a shifting, subjective status.

I’ve felt sick, reading all this news, feeling so powerless.

These problems, they seem in some ways, so far away. Distant wars in distant lands. A distant president I had no right to vote against. In other ways they feel right in my heart. Families torn apart, grieving. Families just like mine. People who just like me live in a foreign country, speaking a language that is not their own, wondering who of their neighbours want them gone.

I live in safety. What have I to complain about? My whiteness protects me. My passport is for a country I could choose to return to at any time. No border control tried to strip me of my assets when I stepped off the plane and onto Danish soil. Nonetheless, sometimes I struggle, trapped between the local populace and the sort of the immigrant they fear.

If I add the years up, I have spent 14 years of my life living in countries that are not my own. Denmark is the fourth of these. It has also been the most difficult to live in. Perhaps that is because of the language. Perhaps that is because of the rhetoric stoked up by politicians who pander to the nationalists that live among us.

Worldwide the papers write about immigration, about immigrants. Words they want the West to fear. Meanwhile bombs fall on hospitals. Where will the sick people go we ask? We wring our hands. Meanwhile bodies wash up on the European coast. Tsk tsk, we say, those traffickers – shameless. A Dansk Folkeparti MP goes on TV, says we should shoot at the boats. His party put out statements – it’s not official party policy.

Sometimes the polite mask falls, and we see what they are really thinking.

If you are lucky, they will let you in. And they will tell you to integrate. You chose to come here, they say. Now you must leave your foreign ways behind too. Don’t they know, you have left enough of yourself already? Everything familiar, and everything you knew, and every place you can associate with memory. Reshape yourself and how dare you try to hold on to what you can. Be more like us or we will never accept you. Some will never accept you anyway. No matter how much like them you become, you will never be like them.

I see and hear criticisms of immigrants who live and socialise in enclaves. But how do we break out of these enclaves when we can’t speak to you? How many times has a stranger on the street dismissed me as rude? How often do they think I just want to keep to myself when the opposite is true. I’d love to have easy chats with them. Yes, the sun is lovely isn’t it? He’s four. The chemist? Just around that corner. Instead I nod quietly, mind racing, and the moment passes, they have gone, and the words have not reached my tongue yet. Every interaction I can’t avoid weighs heavily. I repeat myself over and over, hvad siger du?

I go to playgroups with other immigrants. We speak English to each other. It is the lingua franca. Our partners all have jobs. Some of the mothers do too. We talk – where can I buy…what are the best shoes for winter…did you know… Our children play. Many are pre-verbal, or only just beginning to speak. It hardly matters to them which language we use yet. They rely on the other cues we give, the tone of voice, our clapping of hands, the universal instinct to catch them as they fall.

My children are lucky. They are young enough to learn. If we stay they will at least have the privilege of looking like they belong. The only barriers to integration they will face come from those with hate in their hearts. I do not believe we have anything to fear from the next generation of immigrants. Unless we turn our back. Unless we mark them as other. As the Danes do of course; some believe you cannot truly be a Dane without Danish parents. My daughter was born here, but in their eyes she will always be efterkommer. How easy would it be, I wonder, for the tolerance we enjoy here to collapse? Could fascism rise to power in Europe again, and strip people like her of a vote?

Now, lists of countries are deemed a security risk by America. Countries where bombs are falling, and famine is imminent and rapes are commonplace. And a sad, pathetic white man sits behind a desk, huddled with a nuclear code, and deems the children ‘dangerous’. Deems them ‘other’. Deems them ‘collateral damage’. Deems them anything other than simply people who will die because he is frightened, hateful man bullying his way through the world supported by other bullies.

Sometimes as a New Zealander it is hard to understand the nationalism they rely on. The white politicians who talk about keeping New Zealand for New Zealanders have always struck me as ridiculous. Embarrassments. They are all descendants from immigrants. How can they lay claim to a sense of exclusive identity when they are not the tangata whenua of our land?

Living in Denmark has opened my eyes somewhat as to why the far-right hold such sway in Europe. It is a view I vehemently disagree with, but we can learn from listening to those on the other side. For centuries Denmark was a poor, homogenous country, and existence here was tough. Agriculture was about scraping out a living, people ate cabbage and apples and potatoes, they worshipped at church, they spoke one language, and they all knew from birth the unspoken rules of what it means to be a Dane. When opportunities came to leave, Danes took them, emigrating to countries like America, and New Zealand.

Then, like places the world over, people began to move into cities, and agriculture became centred on exports. Denmark became prosperous. In the post-world-war period, the principles of egalitarian, educated Denmark we are all familiar with began to form, coupled with a rise in low-skilled manufacturing type jobs. Labour began to be imported, “guest workers” predominantly from Turkey. Naively Denmark did not anticipate that these guest workers would want to stay, but stay they did. And it changed the face of Denmark. The homogenous society of old was disrupted. So as much as it pains me to say it, when people here complain about immigrants bringing in their foreign ways and changing what it means to be Danish, they are not incorrect. Yet, Denmark would not be the prosperous country it is today without that continuing supply of labour. Denmark has a long history of civil tolerance and freedom, and it is hard to argue that the ugly rise in xenophobia is not in itself a change in Danish values.

Putting that aside, I cannot understand these men in America, so blind and removed from their country’s colonial history that they believe the land, and the power invested in it, is rightfully theirs. This anger they have, directed at people without their privilege or their power. Directed at people like me. People who are just like me. As long as people like Trump believe power and privilege is theirs by right, nothing will change.

Trump and the US administration are not the root cause of our current problems. Kenneth Kristensen Berth and the Dansk Folkeparti are not the root cause of intolerance here. Politicians like Phil Twyford and his ‘tsunami of Chinese investment’ comments are not the root cause of the racism in NZ. They are only the problem manifest. The root cause is all the people who sit at home and quietly nod. Those who label me ‘the right sort’ of immigrant. Those who allow these divisions to creep in and quietly, quietly dehumanise those on the wrong side. The problem is those who want all the advantages of trade and travel in a globalised world, but do not recognise that a globalised community will come with that.

Just like the useful labour brought to Denmark in the ‘60’s from Turkey, immigrants the world over contribute to local economies. Only yesterday a NZ public policy think tank released a report saying just that. Fears of immigrants taking jobs and driving up house prices are proven time and time again to be just that, fears, not facts. Being an immigrant is hard. By welcoming those who want to join our communities we can only gain. Keeping immigrants and their children on the outside is how we create problems for our future. That is where the real terror risk lies.

The current Syrian refugee crisis is a much bigger issue, though, than a question over whether they will contribute economically. What is at stake is our own humanity.

I read the news, and this is what I hear: build a wall and keep them out. Watch the boats sink, and watch them drown. Politics has become the gladiatorial sport of our age. Give Trump a chance we were told. It’s just rhetoric, he doesn’t mean it. The hate crimes count climbs. We discover he did mean it, all along.

And I look at myself, standing on shifting sand in a country that is not my own, and I feel so lucky, and I feel so sick, and I feel so sad.

I am sure of one thing though – I would rather be as I am, on the outside of a society looking in, then at the core of something as rotten as Trump’s vision for the world.

A Good Enough Parent

Do you ever worry if your parenting is good enough?

I do. I think we all do. It would be strange not to question ourselves when the stakes are so high, when it is the most important thing we are doing. I reassure myself that other people aren’t judging me as harshly as I judge myself. Which is why I was so shocked last week, when a stranger criticised my parenting, yelling at me, and frightening my daughter, while we were walking home.

I didn’t for a second feel her behaviour was appropriate. I was, and still am, appalled. But in the face of such criticism it is hard not to question yourself, when really the only person we should be judging is the person who felt they had the right to judge me.

We don’t have a car. To move our children around this city we rely on our feet, our youngest, AJ, in a pram, although she often gets out to walk now. She is 20 months old, confident and fast, but with no ability to judge hazards. When she walks we need to walk close so we can grab her if she wanders towards the edge of a footpath. She’s little, but she’s learning.

When I collect my son from his kindy we walk along three streets, in a U shape, ending almost directly behind his kindy at our bus stop. We don’t cross any roads on this walk. Sometimes my son walks with us, chatting about his day. Sometimes he dawdles behind us, picking up sticks, or tracing letters on the signs we walk past trying to unlock their secrets. Sometimes he races ahead, a burst of energy that sees him running all the way to the bus shelter, where he sits and waits. I don’t, indeed can’t, expect him to walk with me all the time. His sister’s needs and pace varies. It is a balancing act.

He wasn’t that far ahead the other day when I saw a woman gesturing wildly at me. She was waiting at a bus shelter we walk past. She frowned as he walked past her, gesturing at me, as I trailed behind with our younger child. My son walked on, oblivious, in his own world.

As I got closer she started yelling at me, I couldn’t catch everything she was saying. Danish is my second language and I am far from fluent. I know my son is small for his age, so I told her ‘he is nearly five, and won’t walk out on the road.’

child hiding at bus stop

My daughter chose this moment to duck behind the glass shelter, making faces at me through the glass, a game I am usually happy to indulge. I went to collect her, as I wanted to move away from this woman and the brood of middle aged women hovering around her, beady eyes fixed on me. My daughter laughed and ran to the other end. As I made my way to collect her this woman stepped in front of me, bent down and scooped up my daughter.

This moment hangs in my memory. A breath caught in my throat. The woman, clutching her prize. My daughter, limp and shocked in her hands. Feet dangling in the air, staring at this unknown person who held her.

“No” I cried, as I snatched my daughter away “You can’t, that is my child” My daughter’s arms circled around my neck clutching me tight, “Mama” a frightened whisper in my ear.

Then this woman says these words

“You must look after your children.”

I was turning to collect my pram, I was stunned, I was angry and I stumbled into a linguistic trap of confusing whether I was telling her that I do, or I will, or I want to. All of which are true, by the way.

She screams in reply “So do it then.”

At which point I fell back on the time honoured tradition of swearing at someone as you walk away. Further confrontation would help no one. Least of all the child I held in my arms.

I’m still, days later, stunned and angry. Now, though, I’ve had time to pick apart her actions, my actions, my children’s actions. I have no regrets about the decisions I made as a parent leading up to that instance.

My daughter was at the back of a wide footpath. I was only a couple of paces behind her. There was no immediate danger. No one should pick up children without consent from the child and parent. My daughter has some stranger anxiety, which is developmentally normal for a child her age. It took weeks before she would be picked up by her Grandad when he visited. AJ would not have allowed this woman to pick her up if she had asked. I would not have allowed it if I had been asked. Therefore this woman should not have touched my child.

If we put that troubling aspect of the incident aside we are left with one of the more hotly contested topics of modern parenting: how much freedom to give your children, and how much of a right others have to interfere with that. There are some parents labelled as helicopters and others as free-range parents. The latter make the news when they are prosecuted for letting their child take a walk, or play in a playground, unattended. I don’t really agree with labelling parenting, but my own values are most closely aligned with the free-range movement. I believe children learn how to manage risk by experiencing risk.

MJ is headstrong and independent. Everything could be a battle if we let it be. He is also, in a way, fairly risk averse. He is thoughtful.  So I am happy if he is relaxed, and enjoying his walk, to let him make his own decisions about how fast he walks, and whether he wants company or would rather enjoy some mental downtime.

I’m not sure, at four, how I could make him walk with me if I wanted to. Am I supposed to collar him? Am I supposed to be strong enough to hold onto him and wheel a pram? I suppose I could try. Forcing him to walk beside me, clutching his arm as he pulled and frothed at the mouth to get away. Each tug tearing at our relationship, until either it or he were broken.

Would he learn more from walking next to me? How can we teach our children to be independent if we never let them make independent choices? Would he be any safer? Or would you just perceive him to be safer?

If I make MJ stay with me, stopping when I stop, walking when I walk, he won’t have better road safety skills than he does now, when he is allowed to decide for himself when to stop and when to walk, within scenarios that are both familiar and safe.

I believe this woman reacted so harshly not because she felt my son was in any real danger, but because she felt if something did happen it would be my fault for not being closer. This is ludicrous. If a car spun out of control and mounted the pavement I cannot protect my child be being there. I am no more or less at fault if I am 50m away or 50cm.

I cannot protect my child in this world. All I can do is arm my child with the right tools to protect themselves.

I’m not parenting anyone’s idea of a child. I’m not parenting the children this woman may have raised. I’m parenting the son I have, in the best way I see how. Our relationship is a two way street. Would other parents make different decisions than us? Of course. There is no correct way to raise a child. There is an infinite array of possibilities. A complex web of events that is spun every day. Every interaction a building block that has led my son and me to the path we are on now.

This woman, she doesn’t know me, or my son. She hasn’t sat stroking his hair while he tumbles into sleep. She hasn’t listened to the funny stories he tells. She hasn’t watched him draw, tongue sticking out of his mouth with deep concentration. She’s never pretended to be interested in his lists of dinosaurs and how big they are and how many claws they have. She hasn’t lain in his bed next to him, listening as he shared his innermost fears and troubles. She hasn’t watched him carefully, pedantically, slicing cucumber to eat (yes we let him use a knife). She hasn’t watched, a smile playing at her lips, as he runs and runs and runs, arms thrown wide with joy.

She has no idea of all the wonderful, amazing things he is capable of.

I do. My husband does. We aren’t perfect, but nobody is in a better position than us to decide how much freedom and responsibility to give our children.

It is too easy to criticise people who make different choices. Too easy to see things in black and white. But trying to parent a child is a million shades of grey. So if I could go back, and muster linguistic control I would say this: I want to look after my children the best I can. I will look after my children, as I see fit. I do look after my children. You just might not agree with every decision that I make.

That’s fine. I don’t need approval. I know I’m not perfect, but I am a good enough parent.

So I won’t call my son back to me. Instead I’ll tell him to run. Throw those arms wide and run.

child playing independently

A wish for the New Year

Janus.
The two headed god. The Roman god of transition.

The god of doorways, and boundaries. The god of births, marriages and deaths, who guarded the entrance to the heavens. The god who opened his temple gates at the outbreak of war, and closed them when peace returned. The god of beginnings and endings, in both space and time.

The god invoked on Kalendae Ianuariae. The first of January; the passage from the old year to the new. Romans made offerings of spelt cake and salt to Janus. To everyone else, they gave cheerful greetings of good will, an omen of hope for a New Year.

Head of Janus

I imagine this ancient deity looking back, and looking forwards. I wonder what he sees.

For so many people 2016 has been a tragic year. Around the world people are fearful of what 2017 will bring.

We’ve seen a demagogue voted into power in arguably the most powerful country in the world. We’ve seen a Middle Eastern city torn to shreds, live on our television screens. We’ve wrung our hands, many of us have donated money, we’ve asked our politicians to speak, and to what avail? We’ve watched migrants drown in record numbers in the Mediterranean seas. Arctic temperatures have climbed. My old home town has been rocked by earthquakes – the destabilisation of the world made physical. Meanwhile political alliances have been torn apart by words and ink ticks on paper.

The world feels on the brink of something. But what?

Janus. The carved pillar, a head facing forward, a head facing back. Immovable he stands and watches. The world so different from the one he ruled over. Millennia of change and yet the image – the idea – he invokes still carries its power. We understand his meaning, even if we no longer understand the Latin prayers offered in his name.

We pass under his threshold. A New Year.

Here in the north the days will grow longer. Winter still has its grip on us. Cold winds blow. The real snow has yet to hit. It will come, we are confident in the predictability of this. One day soon I will look outside and see the white ground, grey sky. The world will be cold and still, but for the ice blowing through the air.

Change is the only constant in the universe. It creates the ancient rhythms of the world. From ice, to water. From winter, to spring. From dark, to light.

Here in Denmark we will begin the year surrounded by fireworks. Each New Year a cacophony of light and noise. Fireworks that last from early evening to long after midnight, as each party will have their own. The crackle of fire, then the boom and the light that will rend the dark. Colours spread through the night, ephemera in the sky. The following day will smell of smoke. But that too will pass.

Last year we huddled inside as the old year was blasted away. Our children were terrified by the noise, the unpredictable but constant explosions. We soothed them, confident these blasts brought no danger, our walls would remain intact. A luxury not everyone in this world shares.

I was not sorry to see the end of 2015; it had been a difficult year. I looked back, and I looked forward, holding onto a hope that the next year would be better. And for all the destruction 2016 has wrought worldwide, it has been a better year for us, for my own small family. Sometimes with the dark, there comes the light.

This Christmas Eve we wandered through the quiet streets to a playground. My son ran ahead to the swings with my husband. The sun hung low in the sky. As I followed up the hill he swung back and forth, eclipsing the light as he passed through it. I felt my breath catch in my throat as my children laughed.

By the time we walked home Danes were on their way to their traditional evening gatherings. At the traffic lights I could see men in ties, and women with jewellery burning brightly in their ears and around their throat. Faces lit with joy, smiling at us as we passed in front of them. The usual social barriers have been broken down; we are reminded of our commonalities. The desire to mark the passage of time, the ritual celebrations, is the human constant.

Small children change daily. Milestones passed as they march towards that great transition: from childhood to adulthood. Each achievement incremental, sometimes hardly noticeable. We need the rhythms of the year, the seasons to remind us of where we once were – last birthday, last Christmas, last Year.

Many of us feel that bit more fearful for the world our children will grow up in than we did last year. Yet still we celebrate. We mark the change from the Old Year to the New. Because that is all we can do. Because this time, however fragile it might be, is all we have.

The world will swing through space, from light to dark, from winter to spring to summer. As it always has and as it always will. We carry on, and sometimes we hold our breath, unable to see what lies before us. As we all swing our children laugh; even in the darkest winter there is light.

Sometimes I think that all we can do in this world is nurture that light at home. Love and laugh and hope. There will always be suffering in this world, but we have faith in our children, that in small ways or perhaps even big ways, they will make the world a better place.

This is my non-religious prayer to a god no-one believes in anymore.

This is my wish for you in the New Year.

May our children be the starburst of colour that lights the dark.

New Year Fireworks

 

Image Credit: Head of Janus by Loudon dodd licensed by CC BY-SA 3.0