Some people looked at us as if we were mad when we set off in a very small box aka campervan for a year, on the road to nowhere, as a family ie with our 2 teenagers and 10 year old. Even one of the UK newspapers which featured an article on our travels voiced that “you are crazy” thought by headlining a sub-article, “Rather Them Than Me”.
I’m beginning to understand that now but in a way I wasn’t expecting.
And I am laying the blame entirely at the feet of tiredness and routine.
I know there are people who work hard and are happy with what they do – more often than not because it’s a chosen and not a compulsory path.
Our kids are back to the fairly gruelling routine of up at 6.30, travelling to school and sitting at a school desk by 8am. Then getting home at 6.30pm, eating dinner at 7 and sloping wearily to bed at 9ish. Punishing but pretty normal. You may pat yourself on the back that you have chosen a place to live that has a shorter school day, but the homework time then generally increases or the holidays decrease. It’s basically much of a muchness everywhere.
And boy are our kids getting more and more grumpy as the term rolls on. Of course we love them as much as ever, but there is very little volunteered chat or communication, or smiling. It’s like the old cliche, getting blood out of a stone. Isn’t that normal for a teenager? No, (and this is the crazy bit) it’s NOT NORMAL. And how do I know? Because, for a year it’s been different.
Yeah everyone is different too. But with the exact same kids and the exact same parents, things have changed. We had no choice but to spend time together when we were in the campervan. The kids “studied” for an hour or so a day. They found out about other stuff. We played games that normally gather dust in the cupboard. We talked. We questioned why there were so many discarded plastic bags in Morocco or why absolute crap is added to our processed food. We did things in pairs, or threes, or fours or fives. We sometime did things on our own.
The kids read and researched more when they were away than ever before. It was self directed and they found out about thing that interested them or they were passionate about. That’s mostly stopped – not completely because once you see what’s out there it’s tricky to ignore it completely – but tiredness has restricted either the ability or the desire to follow their interests, certainly with as much gusto as before.
So my tentative conclusion is this. It may be completely wrong, and I don’t underestimate the power of hormones (gee, I have plenty of those myself). But with the self same kids, the self same parents, and the self same hormones, it was the re entry to the “system” that changed it. Little worker bees being moulded and formed to accept a life within the system from the tender age of 4 or 5.
And you know what? The hostility that has sometimes been directed at us for jumping off the hamster wheel is, often I think, anger and frustration. Anger and frustration at a situation which more people than would care to admit want to change or leave. Our life is no better or interesting or worthwhile than anyone else’s. But for those people who are not happy? What to do? Make out that those that choose a different path are bizarre or mad? Sometimes life is pretty fast and even stopping to think is a luxury.
For those that are already happy with the way things are, well done. And I mean, really, genuinely, well done. It’s what we all covet or crave.
Am I totally wrong? Should we all just do what we are told? Do you live in a country which has got the education spot on?