Six weeks in Victoria and New South Wales in January and February was coming home for Jason and I. For us we are back in churches where we know people, we know how things work and what to expect of situations. We understand how communion happens in church and how we need to interact and participate. We know what shops to go to for the things we need. We can ring up and make appointments and know generally what will be done.
We enjoy the scenery of southern Australia, like grassy hills, gum trees, Mount Dandenong and flowers. We love visiting places that hold special memories for us, Croydon where we lived for the first five years of our marriage, Marysville where we went on our first date and where later married, the beach where Kim spent time as a child, roads with gorgeous views, not to mention favourite restaurants and parks. We love the reminiscing and the enjoyment of these places we love.
We love seeing friends we haven’t seen for some time, catching up on life and family. We love grey cold and rainy Melbourne days, as we still find grey, hot and humid days an oddity. Nothing beats a good old Victorian cool change with rain and drizzle.
But we were more aware this time, that while Jason and I were revelling in being “home”, southern Australia does not have these same feelings, emotions or connections for Sam. “Home” for Sam has been Arnhem Land for most of his life, and more recently, he calls Timor home. Southern Australia is a fantastic, whirlwind of people, fun, parks, shops and McDonalds playgrounds, but it is not home. He does not know what to expect in various situations, he doesn’t know how to behave in all of the places and situations that are so familiar to his parents, and it took us a while to fully grasp this idea.
While we were in Australia I read a blog about “forward parenting”, which is basically the idea of talking with your kids about a situation you are about to face and what your expectations are for their behaviour while there. (Have a read of these blogs if you are interested! http://ourgoodwinjourney.com/2012/11/mommy-rules-for-parenting-ahead/ and http://ourgoodwinjourney.com/2014/08/parenting-ahead/ )
I realised this was a parenting technique i had begun to do with Sam, but needed to be more proactive in doing it more. So what were some of things we needed to forward parent, or prepare him for?
Behaviour in church – sitting still, talking quietly, not talking when someone is praying, not asking for the communion bread and wine – we are used to church that is loud in volume, so Sam’s questions and comments were often not able to be heard over the dogs barking, loud PA system or the communal singing.
Visiting people – except for our immediate families, most of the people we spend time with down south are “new” friends for Sam. Even though he has met most of them before, the memories are dim and need a little prompting and refreshing. “Remember the photos of you doing….” “These were the people we played in the snow with…” “Last time you came to church here you played with X,Y and Z in Sunday School.” So while we enjoy renewing friendships and relationships with people, for Sam this time was six weeks of meeting new people.
Long road trips across the state, where he was in the car nearly all day.
And then there were all the situations we didn’t prepare for adequately… for the visits when Jason requested that i should have prepared him for the meeting and reminded him of names and connections between people. …. And all the situations that we forgot that he wouldn’t know what to do in, which required quick on the spot parenting, otherwise known as damage control!