Can’t they take care of themselves? – part two

Continuation of part one.

Throughout the year and especially leading up to these school holidays, I’ve had some frustrating conversations at work. Somewhere between the age of twelve and fourteen, the conversation shifts. By fifteen it’s like, well, why do you need to be there at all.

“Shouldn’t she be old enough to take care of herself?”

Mainstream Western thinking is almost implying that we are hindering her independence by not leaving her to her own devices.

Sure she can feed herself, but what about finding a balance of rest and meaningful activities in the holidays? Working through friendship problems at school – friends who are excessively needy or suicidal? Having someone to talk about their mixed feelings when a boy likes them for the first time? Organising calendars and routines? Negotiating rosters at the casual job. Time away from iPad and what’s difficult about face to face conversations. Starting to care for others, like our single-mum friend and her baby. Purpose, meaning, money, achievements. Deaths, ageing parents, regrets. Responding to people who are curious about your faith. Reflecting on why the monster and gore art is so attractive.

Every family situation is different. But if we have the ability to be present, why are we outsourcing these conversations to health professionals? Or letting social media have the final word? Or relying on courses to teach young people basic life skills?

It’s also lovely just to have fun together and be sisters. If I said I was taking a few days off to spend time with my husband no one will question his ability to care for himself. So – no, relationships can’t take care of themselves.

Can’t they take care of themselves? – part one

I don’t have a natural affinity for children or teens. Some teens have a perpetually cold and standoffish look. They know what’s important in life (what’s trending) and you don’t.

It’s school holidays and I took these two out. Usually you can barely get a “hello” response. But when you ask enough questions to find something that makes them tick, they can chattering away with great enthusiasm. The girls were pleasantly engaged in the youth art exhibit. Then practically squealed with concealed delight when discovering the new Lego place. Who would have thought our brief stop there would end up in being more than 2 hours of Lego play?

At the end of the outing I was reminded that even prickly-porcupine teens can be warm and loveable. More importantly, even porcupines are children who want to be heard and loved. And we have so little patience for that in our busy big lives, or their busy little lives.

On adaptations, on social media

On adaptations

Cafes started opening a few weeks ago but this is my first sip and read/write outing. That’s a change – I would have gone at least twice a week prior to this.

It’s possible to recreate the cafe experience at home. Any arrangement of bread and fruit on a cheeseboard looks amazing. Strings on the ABC Classic channel makes you feel like you’re in a fancy European cafe. Washing dishes afterwards is a pain though.

The bubble tea experience can also be recreated at home – what endless possibilities with an ice dispenser, a recycled Gong-Cha cup and a straw! So far I’ve been cycling between iced latte, iced matcha, iced chai (regular milk tea, sliced ginger, cinnamon), plain lassi (plain Greek yoghurt, honey), and some experimental drinks (chia seeds as mini tapioca replacements).

Speaking of cycling – we’ve also been cycling. Before gyms shut I hadn’t been on a bike for years. Rolled my eyes at the hippies using bikes to commute to and from work – like, what’s wrong with a car? Couldn’t tell the difference between a road bike and a mountain bike. Wasn’t quite sure how to cross the road on a bike and definitely haven’t considered going on bumpy dirt tracks.

There’s lots more. I’m learning that even our most rigid ways and routines are dispensable.

Some less desirable changes. I’ve always liked the office buzz and enjoy face-to-face interactions. I usually make a point to travel to see people – whether driving across town for a meeting, or flying across the country for friends. But recently I’ve had an unusual sense of social anxiety returning to office. I’m more reclusive and notably less tolerant of interruptions. Zoom meetings are more scheduled, after all.

On social media

To an unrelated topic. Of all the online platforms, blogging is still my favourite space. The relative freedom and anonymity to write on trivial matters at length is relaxing.

There’s a place to be aware of current events and publicly support good and just causes. I’m not saying that important issues are unimportant. But does everyone need to post, or re-post, a view on every issue that arises?

What I’m seeing on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook etc is this great pressure for each individual or organisation to say something. Say nothing and risk being burned at the stakes. Say something to demonstrate that you are intelligent, compassionate, and socially woke. An example is this #Solidaritea. How does saying nothing equate to not supporting the cause? How does a token post benefit people suffering injustices?

The 280 character limit and pressure to express outrage now doesn’t encourage considered views.

Fifteen

Hi lovely girl, your life is nothing like Taylor Swift’s “Fifteen” and soon you won’t be fifteen. If one fine day you stumble across posts like this and Thinking Thirteen, I hope you like them. Unavoidable that coronavirus, though not a featured character, still appears in the backdrop of these stories.

Looking up to big girls

“Little girls like hanging out with big girls. They look up to them.” Last week in the car I was explaining to C why the young girl was so excited to be at the beach with her.

“Oh really?”

“Yeah, maybe you don’t notice too much of that because you always have a big sister around. Although when you were young you did try to make your hair long and straight like mine!”

“My hair is straight now that I don’t do swimming.” Then a minute later, “I admire your organisation.”

“Which organisation??” What organisation?

“Your organisation and focus when you work. And that you can plan things.” Sweet but surprising – she typically rolls her eyes when I try to get her to prioritise her assignments, or think through and plan tasks for the coming week.

“When did you see me at work?”

“When we were sharing a room!”

Ah, so it was a side-effect of school being closed for two weeks or so. It’s hard for children to imagine parents (or older siblings) at their jobs. But for a little while we shared the home office. I sat at one table and she sat at the other. Occasionally, she was dodging the webcam and my multiple wardrobe mirrors during teleconferences.

Universal truth?

The preacher on Sunday was talking about conflict and forgiveness. He was talking about when “an issue becomes the issue”.

“Ooo, universal truth,” C comments.

The story goes that a few days prior, C was agonising over how to write a conclusion for her English assignment. The texts she was comparing had common themes of survival.

“Some people conclude with a universal truth. Like… people are survivors and will overcome. Or, we grow through struggles. A bit optimistic though,” I remark, “so think of your own.”

Optimistic like the narrative played over and over again that everything’s going to be okay. All the lovely COVID-19 story books for children about how things will go back to the way they once were, or that we will surely overcome… It’s nice to help children to understand what’s happening. But let’s not simplify the issue. How can everything be okay for families of the dead?

“How about this – in a dangerous situation you might survive? ” She offers. A bit grim. So we turn to S.

“Dangerous situations are dangerous.” Dang. Teacher won’t like it. Dad’s turn.

“Yeah dangerous means you have more chance to die,” says dad. “Lucky if you survive.” How’s that for a universal truth?

Reading the Bible without reading

I would like to say that COVID-19 has brought us time to bond and reflect. But it hasn’t.

The homebound experience has been difficult and church is a particularly trying experience. I think my dad has been avoiding all things church-related for years but suddenly, we are there doing church in his living room. So he hides in his room and when he can take it no more, comes out and makes a racket in the kitchen, starts shifting furniture or equipment from here to there, banging doors as he moves in and out of the house…

Then there’s my teen sister with a particularly short attention span for reading, and listening to sermons. We’ve found some of these resources helpful over the years. They would probably be useful for youth ministry too.

1. Reading the Bible

Without reading!

  • Manga Messiah (books) – picture Bibles doesn’t necessarily need to be simplistic. We liked this series that takes readers through Old and New Testament books, not only the popular stories but also challenging books. Dialogue is creative but faithful to the Word.
  • Bible Apps (audio) – there’s many out there eg. YouVersion. Helpful if seeing words on a page makes you dizzy. Good for “reading” while driving or walking.
  • Lumo Project (videos) – word for word reading of the 4 gospels with modern videography. In many languages!

2. Overview of the Bible

Adults have books like God’s Big Picture and The Goldsworthy Trilogy. How about visual big picture overviews?

  • Bible Project (videos) – we love the drawings and animations. The big-picture overview of individual books of the Bible is helpful, as is the videos on specific Biblical themes or words.
  • Bible From Scratch (book) – similar concept to above but shorter, and more of a “lightning sketch” through the whole Bible. Good for putting the whole story together.

3. Miscellaneous topics

  • Easter in Australia from ABC Religion & Ethics (video) – this month we were pleased to see “mainstream” media present this documentary with a surprisingly respectful and clear explanation on the meaning of Easter to Christians, both Catholic and Protestant.

  • Liked (book) – we don’t typically go for pink covers but this was an important book on addressing friendship complexities and the desire to please Instagram followers, through knowing our identity in Christ. How big a deal it was for C was made clearer on our holidays where she downloaded 5+ VPN apps “just in case” to get around the firewall. Plus one evening she partially faked having tired legs so that I could get a taxi back for the 1km trip, which allowed her to get back to Wifi and Instagram sooner!!

4. Questions about faith

“You didn’t answer my question about the dinosaurs!” Of course the dinosaur question doesn’t just stop at dinosaurs. Related questions are whether the Earth is young or old, and ultimately, whether the creation account is true.

  • Got Questions (videos) – an extension of the Got Questions website, which has a great repository of FAQs with thoughtful and Biblical responses.
  • Alpha Youth (videos) – engaging 20min videos on the basics of Christianity – who God is, who Jesus is etc. Good conversation starters and we like the interviews of random people off the street.

And finally, a great video we discovered – not just for teens, and not just for Christians.