Via SMH, 15 September, 2018
So it turns out we’re one of those weird families you remember from school, where the mum came and picked up the kids at night from camp and then brought them back in the mornings. Yeah, remember them? I seem to recall they always had Volvos and the mums tended towards ratty hair and wearing slippers outside the house. Well, we’re not quite that eccentric. We don’t drive a Volvo.
My daughter was very nervous about camp from day one, so she made sure ours was the very first note back volunteering me to be a parent helper. Of course, I couldn’t think of anything worse. All I could imagine was being kept up all night comforting other people’s crying children – I’m only barely able to fake compassion for my own in the middle of the night.
Happily for me I was rejected, but my girl was devastated. As I tried to tell her, I have no skills beyond great make-up and patchy jokes – not very handy on year 3 camp! Some of the other mums are doctors and nurses and (I imagine) flying-fox technicians – much better suited to this role.
My daughter dug in her little heels and said she didn’t want to go to camp anyway. Actually, she said she “couldn’t complete the task”, which I guess is how they describe it when you can’t be arsed doing something at school. Naturally, various stickybeaks told us that I should force her to go. That it would “be the making of her” and would “cut the apron strings”.
This was interrupted by an interview I found myself recording for my podcast, Australian True Crime, with a woman called Sonia Anderson.
Sonia is an advocate for victims of crime and their families, because one of her two daughters, Bianca, was murdered at age 22. Sonia and her daughters had enjoyed a very close relationship: they spent a lot of time together, had a lot in common, and had never drifted apart the way some kids and parents do. I asked her what she put that down to, and she reminded me that relationships don’t just happen in a vacuum – we create them, in a million ways, large and small. She told me that the connection we have with our adult children isn’t something we should just cross our fingers for, but something we should think about and work towards every day of their lives from birth.
Sonia did that with Bianca because she’s a beautiful, present mum – and she was reaping the rewards in their relationship until a mentally ill young man took it all away.
So I made up my mind while talking to Sonia. None of us knows what’s ahead, and all any of us can do is our best for the ones we love. I understand the point of camp is to help kids start to get their independence together and all that, but this time, I decided to use it as an opportunity to build my relationship with my kids, particularly my daughter. To show her that I’ve got her back, that I’m a powerful force who can make things happen for her when she feels helpless and hopeless.
To teach her a valuable lesson: that there’s always another way. Stay calm, use your head, figure it out.