My girlfriend recently rang to ask if my husband would be prepared to take on an informal mentoring role for her teenage son. She is a single working mother and her son has limited access to positive male role models. This led me to thinking about how important it is to provide children with access to a rich tapestry of characters, personalities and divergent views whenever we can.
Last week my daughter’s Godfather came for dinner. He lives approximately 300kms from us, so we see him only sporadically but when we do, my daughter fairly wriggles out of her skin with excitement. She leaps on him like a wild woman and covers him in wet 6yr old kisses. I find this interesting because to my mind, they are so very different. He is a 58yr old farmer. His own children have left home so he no longer has ready access to a 6yr old squealing girl (and is probably somewhat relieved by this). He is loud, can be gruff and his language is blue, very blue. He always looks grizzled, with large ‘farmer’ hands – the kind that made Solvol a household word. But my daughter just adores him. She constantly circles about the dinner table and every now and then will sneak up and give him a gentle squeeze or a little kiss on his stubbly chin – expecting nothing in return. She delights in tut-tutting when his language gets animated and enjoys listening to his realistic tales of life on a working farm (think killing snakes, being crushed by a cow, having to shoot your own working dog, rolling your quad bike and having to walk 3kms home with a broken foot to name a few). Their life experiences could not be more different. What they do share in common, however, is a love of life, a rich imagination and a fierce loyalty to friends and family.
Then there’s (my soon to be 90 year old) friend. She has known both my children since birth. She is one of the most intelligent, articulate women I know but sadly she is now nearly completely deaf and quite blind. She still lives alone in a house she has owned for over 50 years. It has had only minor renovations during that time. It is full of “old-fashioned” things such as a wireless, dainty tea cups, lace doilies, funny figurines and magazines and books from the ’30s. She is incredibly thrifty, for example she can get 3 cups of tea out of one tea bag (ugh). Her cooking is reminiscent of the 1950s as is her taste in music and fashion. She took up Latin lessons a few years ago. I love her to bits and so do my children. They love her wrinkly skin, her love of animals, her Tuna Bake, helping her make a cake ‘the old-fashioned way’, her ‘funny views’ and even her determination to give them some kind of religious faith. They have learnt to speak slowly and clearly when with her, looking her in the eye and smiling. They have learnt about patience and interacting positively with older people. They revel in listening to stories of their neighbourhood from times gone by such as how she travelled around Sydney prior to construction of the Harbour Bridge and the introduction of high-speed catamarans. She teaches them things I could never hope to impart.
I don’t want my children to have a ‘same, same, ching, ching’ approach to life, filling it with people of similar backgrounds and beliefs. I want them to learn to independently seek out rich cultural experiences whenever they can, hunt for differing opinions and learn, with maturity and grace to accept that life is jam-packed with diversity and it is precisely this diversity that will enrich their lives. In fact, I see it as part of my job description as a mother, to provide them with access to unusual people, places and situations until they are old enough to do it for themselves.
Maybe this is why I like social media platforms like Twitter so much. There are MANY people I follow whose views are completely at odds with mine. However, I still value our relationship and what they are able to teach me. You’ve got to love that!