What I’m Giving the Kids This Christmas? Nothing … Caro and Co
In Australia, for many December means celebrating Christmas, hot days, gifts, reconnection and relaxation, family, more hot days and approximately 9 weeks of holidays. We’re a month into summer and the heat can be oppressive. If you’re lucky and have access to a pool, beach or outback dam, the summer break invariably means much time spent cooling off in the water, perfecting the ultimate ‘bomb’ or dive, hunting for sea creatures in the sparkling depths of rockpools and seaweed forests or catching yabbies using nothing other than a bit of string and some pongy meat.
If you observe the religious or festive traditions of Christmas, however, it can be frustrating to watch the mainly European and North American media representation of ‘what’ Christmas is. Reindeer, snow (and the associated activities the white stuff brings), hot baked dinners, holly and mistletoe, mulled wine and egg nog all abound, to name just a few. I’ve only had the opportunity to celebrate one such december where the temperature dipped below freezing. That was in Scotland many years ago and it was brilliant. I’m determined that one day I will give my children the same opportunity. Meantime, here in Sydney, the Christmas “markers” in our mainstream media just seem plain silly.
So I thought I’d share what the summer break means to me and my family. Firstly, school has finished for the year. This means several things. No homework for up to 9 weeks (a personal favourite of mine); endless stretches of warm days, sea breezes and late nights attempting to avoid dive-bombing, manic and hungry mosquitoes, whilst watching reruns of ridiculous, yet highly entertaining B-grade movies.
It’s spending most of the day in our bathers eating mangoes, lychees, rambutans, strawberries and raspberries and then washing the sticky juice off arms and legs whilst running under the sprinkler (regardless of age). The rules are relaxed on who sleeps where and at what time one goes to bed. I often wake in the gentle, quiet hours of early morning to find my babies sleeping on the couch or verandah with our puppies – it’s a delightful amorphous mass of arms, paws, the occasional snort, whiskers, twitches and general loveliness.
It’s getting up early before the day becomes too warm to walk the puppies but forgetting to change out of your PJ bottoms. And then the flooding sense of relief as you meet other people on the harbour track who’ve done exactly the same thing. It’s the daily opportunity to head to the beach, and later that evening curl up in bed with the salt still scratching your skin; waking the next morning with a severe case of salt-encrusted bed-head. (This is another favourite of mine as I’m CERTAIN it has to be good for you).
There’s a BBQ to be had every other day, entertaining friends who casually drop in clutching a fine bottle of chilled wine whilst shaking the sand from their shoes. There’s fresh seafood to eat, books to read, summer quizzes to ponder in a newspaper that offers little else at this time of the year.
It’s watching with delight as my children take the “shortcut” and scale the backyard fence to go play with their mates. Summer break means that beach cricket will be played, Lilos will be burst, Aloe vera will be applied to “Coppertone” bums and bathroom scales will be pushed under the vanity until January 1st.
And whilst my family doesn’t observe any particular religion, this time of year will inevitably find us lying under a Moreton Bay Fig in Sydney’s iconic Botanic Gardens listening to Christmas Carols whilst flying foxes screech overhead.
What I like best of all though? Sydney’s summer break affords me the perfect opportunity to remind my children of how to do “nothing” and actually enjoy it. Without the distraction of school or work, the likelihood of over-structured time or play is reduced tenfold. With no formal learning, no rushing here or there, we find ample opportunity to unplug, reconnect with each other and spend way too much time outside in the sun enjoying all that playing outdoors has to offer. I am convinced that this is the best Christmas gift I can give my children.
To all, a happy festive break. Whatever it means to you and however you celebrate, I hope it brings much joy wherever on our beautiful planet you might be.
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