Saturday, January 7, 2012

What we'll lose in 2012

Does anyone else experience nostalgia proactively?

This photo is the essence of the boy that Elias is today.  He's dressed up in his cowboy hat, cowboy shirt and cowboy bandana, about to do some trick riding on his hobby horse, Purple Pony.

That's what he says - I'm going to do some trick riding.

One of the very best things to come out of raising Elias on a sailboat is that it has, counterintuitively, given him the gift of a very traditional childhood.  He hasn't been saturated with electronic entertainments the way that most five year olds in Australia and the US have been.  His imagination is his own.  When he's in a good mood on the boat, we'll hear a constant murmur from him as he spins out endless stories for his toys, without reference to any corporate narratives.  (It's always a shock to hear kids his age reciting endless loops of DVD dialogue.)  And, being on the boat full time means that his social life has been limited to us, kids from like-minded families on other boats, and kids in completely out of the way corners of the Pacific, like Penrhyn or Iluka.  So he doesn't get second-hand exposure to the corporate stream through his playmates.

He has also retained a delightful innocence through the age of five and a half.  He will hold hands with us anywhere without embarrassment, and when the trick riding pictured above elicited amused comments from passing adults, it was like he didn't hear it - having fun for Elias isn't something that's yet limited by what others find amusing.  

But it's ultimately impossible, and to some degree likely destructive, to try to isolate your kid from the larger society.  It's time for him to branch out from the family more and more, and he'll be starting primary school in Hobart next month.

I'm expecting that going to school will accelerate his already rapid development, and, in the natural course of things, that this stage of being an unadulterated little boy will soon come to an end.  So for now, I'm savoring every time he goes ashore clutching a stuffed animal, every unprompted "Daddy, I love you so so much" as we're walking along the waterfront of some strange town, every explanation of how he will live on a ranch with horses in Tasmania once he's 21 so that he can be a cowboy, and did we know that we're invited to live with him?

This too will pass.

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