Yippeeh! 2012 is here!

5 January 2012

Happy 2012! We’re back in Lyon and I am today writing my first espresso–fuelled post of the new year. Let me tell you, 2012 feels good so far. I am so pleased that 2011 is over – it has been a year that has, for half of the time, sucked. Big time. (I that’s not just me, I have talked to friends and family who share the feeling). But there’s always most learning in tough circumstances, I think. And 2011 taught me a few things.
I am now, a mere week into 2012, kind of grateful for the past year, partly because it ended so well. The last 10 or so weeks were really, really good for me. They catapulted me with energy and a healthy (or so I hope) amount of stress into the new year. So no sluggish beginning-of-January-feeling and worrying about extra pounds and how to lose them! I am working like mad and enjoying it loads.

We also had a wonderful Christmas and New Year with the family in Germany – much more relaxed and enjoyable than it used to be in recent years. But then, maybe that’s just a change in perception, me mellowing and becoming a bit soft with age… (Now there’s a worrying thought, if that’s the case, what will I be like in 20 year’s time???).
Which leads me (almost smoothly) to something I have been contemplating recently: Raising softies. Wrapping kids in cotton wool. Avoiding change, because it will be oh! so harmful for children. And … They won’t be able to cope!!!
Is this true? I think not. Because, as always, there is a cultural dimension to this. And as you know, I get awfully excited about those!

Take Germany for example. Young children wear bonnets or caps about 360 days of the year. If it’s not to protect them from harmful sun rays, then it is to shelter them from wind. If there is no wind, then there will be a chill in the air that could potentially cause an ear infection…. (You know I am talking about parents who get it right all the time and are not afraid to talk about it).
These things are pretty much unheard of in England or Scotland. Kids wear … thin clothes? T-shirts in winter are acceptable if your child says she’s warm. A coat is not compulsory. My kids were both (and Lucy still is) like that… always happiest wearing a few layers only.
So, are German kids healthier? Are English kids more resistant? Or do they get the dreaded kidney infection in Spring when sitting on the ground without the special protection that only hand-knitted woolen knickers, lovingly fashioned by your own grandma, can provide? (Yes, I had to wear these scratchy things decades ago…)
I honestly don’t know whether kids are healthier in Germany because they wear more layers. But what I do know is that I grew up with the notion that children should have a very stable environment and they should ideally grow up in the same place and within a set circle of friends. Otherwise they would be harmed. You know, change damages children emotionally.

While I have always assumed that this way of growing up is something to aspire to (although we have miserably failed at providing this kind of environment for our own children), I am now starting to think that maybe this is not such a superior way of growing up.
While providing a secure family environment for children is no doubt paramount, I reckon that exposing children to new social situations (i.e. changing schools) might be very beneficial.
You see, here in France, at our kid’s school, classes are jumbled up every single year. Children are assigned to different groups, sometimes even split up with their best friends. Admittedly this can be very hard for children, and Germans never fail to point out just HOW tough this is. But unless your child has been the victim of prolonged bullying, it’s easy to ignore the potential this fresh start may provide: In groups that remain the same for years, unpopular children will be unpopular, or worse, bullied, for a long time. For those children, it can be such a relief to suddenly find themselves in a group where they are appreciated and valued.
If you have to find your feet in a new class every year, you can move from unpopular to popular (and vice versa!). But that’s what life is like. Things change! Moving from one social group to another keeps you from convincing yourself (at a very young age) that you are popular/unpopular/ middle of the road/… , because it gives you the opportunity to experience that you may take different positions in a group: your role as a loser/ hero is never static. So if you are an underdog in one group, it’s not necessarily your fault, but it might just be that the group is not right for you and you might be perfectly fine in a different group. What a liberating thought!

And this takes me right back to the beginning of the post… Tough experiences help you grow. Parents are naturally inclined to wrap their children in cotton wool. To keep stuff away from them. I’m no exception. But I have now come to realize that you don’t do them a favour. There is a big bad world out there after all. And it’s only a child’s family and close friends that care enough to provide a safe haven and a nest snugly lined with cotton wool. So the opportunity to prove themselves outside the nest, socially, intellectually… is essential for growth. The wooly hats and knickers should be reserved for those dangerous days in Spring that could give you bladder/ kidney infection.

… Gosh, this was a long post. The caffeine had me on a roll… Got to go, got to start knitting wooly pants now, Spring will be here in a few weeks’ time … Take care!

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2 Responses to “Yippeeh! 2012 is here!”

  1. Marion Says:

    HI ihr,

    so schoen, dass ihr wieder blogged. Ich lese eure blogs wirklich sehr gerne. Euch ein superschoenes neues Jahr, und ich hoffe, dass wir uns diese Jahr sehen…

    xxx

    • birolilu Says:

      …Und schön, dich wieder hier zu sehen! 🙂 Euch auch ein fantastische, inspirierendes und wildes 2012! Lass’ uns bald mal telefonieren?! Bx


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