Things have changed. A transcontinental move with school-aged children, now first and second graders, means new territory and new worry. We’ve scouted potential neighborhoods with schools in mind, bus routes, test scores, cafeteria menus, and extracurriculars. But here’s the main difference: the boys know. Perhaps they don’t remember our last move, but they are old enough to anticipate this one. And every forecast they contrive stirs both excitement and uncertainty.
I had things to do, so many things. I had to write this column, finish a book proposal, edit two reviews and write another. The Easter Bunny required provisions and the daily tasks called — the groceries, meals, homework, laundry. I also needed to hire a moving company, buy a house on the other side of the world, and figure out how to ship our cat across three continents. We’re moving back to Canada in June; I’ve a lot to arrange, kitty included.
With varying levels of dedication, I’ve been an “enviro” my entire adult life. Before we moved to South Africa, before the twins had even turned two, I bought a thick manual called Teaching Green. I intended to continue green living in Cape Town, and I intended to give my children a precocious environmental education. After that morning at the drop-off, however, I knew my lessons would need some revision.
Do children need to face stress and hardship to develop resilience? In other words, do you have to test the system, does suffering (a little) really build character? More to the immediate point, is sending an apprehensive child to camp at the age of six “good for him?”
Compassion, generosity, gratitude–these are basic principles of uBuntu and, one might argue, of the holiday season. Scan the headlines of any newspaper, read of violence, corruption and greed (South Africa is certainly no exception) and it’s easy to be cynical, easy to believe an ethic like uBuntu can never stretch beyond kin, and too often doesn’t stretch that far.
I’ve heard many South Africans say that they’re tired of news on HIV/AIDS, tired of hearing their beautiful, diverse country equated with disease and tragedy. I agree. On the other hand, I cannot live in South Africa, write about South Africa, and not acknowledge HIV, for it continues to shape this society.