Recently, I spent a full month immersed in nature. Think towering pine trees, lush ferns, crystal lake waters, unhindered sunsets, a little log cabin and silence. Oh, the silence. The raw energy of a world without the electric buzz of daily life - it is something that must be experienced as its impact can't really be imagined.
Don't get me wrong. I am a city girl who loves mod-cons and we weren't actually 'off the grid'. But we were 'out of range' and while that took some adjustment, I'm not exaggerating when I say it calmed my soul. And, more extraordinarily, the souls of my three boys under 5, who normally have enough energy between them to power a small city on their own...
What makes a good politician? As a nation, we’re obviously still in some debate about the specifics, but there are some personal traits that any politician needs to have before anyone takes any notice of them. Could it be that there is something all of us could learn from our vibrantly diverse competing pollies? Could there be more to the rise in independents popularity than a distrust in the major parties? In particular, could our adolescence, most of whom can't yet vote, use this election not to focus on the specific words and actions of Malcolm vs Bill but rather look across the spectrum as to how all candidates promote themselves? Could they learn some ways to make themselves their first preference?
In a word - yes.
But what is it these people, regardless of their number of votes, all have in abundance? What is it that gets them on to the public platform and earns them pause in our scrolling? What are the personal traits adolescents can look to learn?
There’s been a lot of talk recently about the need for gender-neutrality in schools. Unisex toilets have been introduced in at least one primary school in New Zealand and the US media have been awash in controversy once President Obama stated gender-neutral bathrooms were, in fact, federal law.
More locally, the outcry has been directed at school uniforms as many in the school community would like for girls to have the choice of wearing pants, should they want to, just as their male peers do. The cries are for equality and the role heavy tunics or potentially exposing skirts and school-dresses play in the decrease in girls’ physical activity at school, particularly once they hit puberty - all fair points. It’s brilliant to see more and more schools opening up their uniform policies, some so open as to allow the boys to wear dresses, should they wish. Within much of the education section, thanks in part to the Safe Schools campaign and assertive parents, the definition of gender and associated expectations are, in fact, being redefined.
However, I want to take it back. All the way back to the early years.
“But mummy, I’ll never be able do it! I’m not good enough! The other kids will laugh at me!”
Sound familiar? Unfortunately, too many parents would say yes. And it seems younger and younger our children are becoming negative, anxious and even strung out. Perceived pressures, particularly by girls, to perform academically, fit in with the crowd and look ‘the part’ can overwhelm their young brains.
Worrying is a natural part of life. In evolutionary terms, it was a survival mechanism to help our early human ancestors prepare for what could be of danger and, you know, kill them. It is hard wired into our brains to be alert to what could go wrong. But that doesn’t mean we have to let anxieties rule the internal roost.