A snapshot of childhood

We ventured again  into Macedonia today.  We lunched in a lakeside restaurant, after parking in front of it and collecting the key from the owner, in order to visit the 14th century cave church of Michael the Archangel.  We dined on homemade chips, Ohrid trout, salad and grilled peppers, and watched  a group of kids on the tiny jetty, playing.  They were deciding the best method of water entry, one girl demonstrating how a dive should be commenced, only to have the two boys opt for the nose holding pin drop.    The other girl liked the flippy skirt on her bikinis so much she was loathe to enter the water at all, but eventually did, to the great joy of the boys.   The diver girl commenced with a practiced stance, and then executed an impressive face plant dive, which I really think should be considered for an Olympic event.

These kids were eventually joined by the children of a family dining at the restaurant, who had cajoled their father into purchasing a small net for the purposes of extracting and examining the multitude of small fish swimming around the jetty.    There was a great deal of interest in the contents of each dipped net, and the kids were lying, tummy down on the jetty, watching the proceedings.    Another threesome of kids joined the throng, after having perfected their jumping technique from a nearby rock, although their smaller brother baulked on each occasion he approached the jump station.  A smaller girl, around two/three years old,  then decided that she would like to be part of the action, but after tiring of the dipping net, amused herself by traversing the half meter gap in the jetty planks.

We watched the play whilst we ate lunch.  It ebbed and flowed, kids came and went in the way they do.  No voices were raised, no one was berated or pressured.  No parents hovered.    They just got on with the business of play.

I read an all too tragically common story today of a 12 year old who killed herself as a result of bullying.  I wondered whether these kids ever experienced such misery.    They were certainly in a good and happy place today, but life is simpler here.

My wish for kids is to have the time and luxury of being a child, the freedom to be a kid and play.  To make mistakes, to learn their limitations,  to be able to do this without pressure from others, and to be able to put hatefulness of some into proper context.  To have courage and resilience, to know that  we’ll be there to pick them up, with love.

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Is it too late to have a gap year in your late 50s? To take back some time from our day to day working life to travel - unplanned, unescorted, unfettered? To take that leap? It was a defining year - liberating, challenging, humbling, scary. It was many things, but it wasn't a holiday.

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