Sunday Territorian 20 Jul 2014
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Community newspapers -- Northern Territory -- Darwin.; Australian newspapers -- Northern Territory -- Darwin.
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Nationwide News Pty. Limited
18 OPINION SUNDAY JULY 20 2014 NTNE01Z01MA - V1 Lives made richer by poverty A child bathes in a plastic barrel in India, where daily life offers a different kind of education to Aussies Picture: AP PHOTO/RAFIQ MAQBOOL MY BROTHER, his wife and kids were visiting this week on their way home from living in India. While the four of them revelled at tap water wow, you can drink it! chocolate chip biscuits and the new Minecraft download, I asked my 11-yearold nephew what hed miss about living in Delhi. Charlie thought for a moment: Ill miss that nothing ever works. I laughed. My brother laughed too somewhat more wryly. Because for the last three years Charlie and his big sister Olivia have seen life at its ugliest: beggars with alarming deformities; slum kids fighting over food; police with machine-guns; raw sewage seeping on to the street; rabiesinfected dogs nipping at their ankles; officials asking for bribes; their Dad felled not once, but twice, by dengue fever; kids younger than them collecting plastic to earn money; people defecating on the side of the railway tracks; entire families living in a room smaller than a garden shed. At times my brother and his wife have worried. Should they have uprooted their children from their safe lives with their friends, pets, bikes and backyard to indulge their own yearning to live and work in the Third World? As my brother says: Its a truism that having children changes the lives of the parents, but its equally true that parents can change the lives of their children completely. It was a valid concern and certainly there were mutterings among our family when they made the decision. I, for one, questioned the impact it would have on the kids education. What about Olivias violin and dance lessons? How would Charlie play hockey when there was no green grass? Like so many of us, my view of what makes a good childhood was calibrated to what I call the Child Success Index (CSI) and the Child Talent Index (CTI). Not to be confused with the TV crime franchise, the CSI is the means by which you measure your childs accomplishments via tools like Naplan and homework, while the CTI is how close they are to becoming the next Michael Clarke or Steph Rice. Of course, Ive always known that what our kids really need is resilience but its such an ephemeral concept isnt it? And short of any decent guidelines on how to teach it, surely it makes sense that grammar and fractions are covered off in the meantime? But Charlie and Oli have taught me that were a generation thats talking the talk but not walking the walk. You see, Ive told my kids about Malala Yousafzai and how she was shot by the Taliban after campaigning for the right to education for girls. Ive cautiously informed them about Nigerias missing children and about Angelina Jolies humanitarian work. Ive made them write to our sponsored child and encouraged them to buy her a goat at Christmas. And when thats all done in the most earnest tones possible I go back to the real issues. Theyre the ones Im constantly commentating about on television: private v public schooling; access to childcare places; whether we should choose our kids friends; whether were over-diagnosing and overmedicating conditions like ADHD; tiger parents and the burgeoning tutoring industry; how many extra-curricular activities are too many; whether shared care is harmful. Its led me to wonder in lieu of real problems, are we simply creating them? And in manufacturing so much angst are we bequeathing it to our children? How else to explain the worrying rise in teenage depression and anxiety as recently reported in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry. Study leader William Bor, a child and adolescent psychiatrist at the University of Queensland, is unequivocal: There are changes in peoples value systems, theres evidence young people have a high opinion of themselves and are suffering increasing stress at school, and there is speculation that widening income inequality could also be contributing. There is also the large amounts of time spent on screens. Id venture that my kids in their safe house, in their safe city, in their safe country, are more stressed than their cousins. Perhaps its because Charlie and Oli have seen lifes dark underbelly and witnessed their parents overcome infuriating bureaucratic obstacles that theyre more resilient. When theres an expectation that something wont happen, theres jubilation when it does. Maybe a sound in maths doesnt matter so much when youve met street kids then never seen them again because theyve disappeared. My brother, once so concerned about the impact of his choices on his children, can now see how theyve benefited them. Before they left, Charlie carted a huge box of Lego into Old Delhi so the street kids could play with it. I know these years have made my kids strong, my brother says, but it has also made them soft of heart. They appreciate life and the importance not of things, but of people. That said, there is one thing Charlie wont miss about Delhi. You always have to wear shoes, he tells me. I miss having bare feet. Its led me to wonder in lieu of real problems, are we simply creating them? Searching for a new home? Dont miss Realestate in Saturdays NT News. 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