Free to have fun
I just love, love, LOVE the freedom my children experience living here in Buliisa.
Oh but Buliisa ranks near the bottom on the ‘access to good healthcare’ scales, even in Uganda, and it’s miles away from any really decent medical facilities. (And yes, Baby James died – in part because when we needed it, our local hospital had run out of portable oxygen needed for transporting him to more specialized facilities.)
Oh but those students from Buliisa don’t top score in national examinations.
Oh but your son doesn’t get the opportunity to do musical lessons. Or to participate in inter-school cross-country.
Oh but your daughter is missing out on good art classes, and she is actually quite talented.
Oh but what about dancing lessons. Afterschool basketball. Soccer. Swimming lessons. After school tutoring.
Yes, BUT – my girl spends 2 hours a day after school running round with her neighbourhood friends, playing jump rope, playing elastics, and playing with a ball (sometimes made of screwed up plastic bags). And she can walk half a kilometre up the road to their houses. By herself. With no restrictions.
BUT – my son and the neighbourhood children come and grab a ‘durable soccer ball’ (despised by ‘city kids’ because they aren’t quite like ‘the real thing’, but which are brilliant because they last for years instead of two days). And they all play on the school ‘oval’. Which may not be even. Or the correct size. Or professionally marked out. And they end up with thorns in their bare feet. But they can run around as much as they like, as long as they like, playing as roughly as they like. And they come home puffed out, but content.
BUT – my boy has been selected to ‘run with the big kids’ and he very proudly came in 3rd this afternoon in the school trials. He is running with no shoes. He is wearing a donated T-shirt. He is highly excited to be heading off to the Town Council athletics meet – where he will again run. On an uneven track. In bare feet. With no sign at all of the spit, polish, professionalism and world class facilities that would accompany an Australian athletics meet. And he will have a ball.
BUT – my children play 2 hours a day after school. Every day. And more on Saturdays and Sundays. And they don’t watch TV. (Well, maybe a couple of DVD a week, and only on the weekend or public holidays. Or on Kampala trips. And only if I’m feeling mellow!)
BUT – my children play Uno. And Ludo. And Pig. And Memory. And Junior Monopoly. And they play by the real rules. Then their imagination takes over, and they play by their own rules. Which might be a bit incomprehensible to me, but which they all agree on.
BUT – after a big rainfall (which doesn’t occur very often), my lot have a wonderful time messing about in the water and the mud. And they play on large piles of building sand. And they make houses and roads with rocks and broken bits of bricks and sticks and thatching grass. (And they may end up with bilharzia – river parasites – but the government mass doses the district on an annual basis!)
BUT – my kids get to see some of the harsher realities of life. Death. Burials. Friends going without food. Friends losing their parents to AIDs and other illnesses. And my kids are learning to be empathetic. And they share everything. With everyone. Two Fitbit watches get passed around between five of them. Food gets handed out to all and sundry (much to my horror when I come to make banana pancakes – about the only edible thing I can actually make – and there are no bananas left!!) I’m never quite sure which item of clothing will appear on which child. And of course, if a pair of slippers (thongs, to you Australians!) goes missing, they all deny liability because nobody is sure who was wearing them last!!
Do I sometimes wonder if I am doing the right thing by my son? Sure. Do I sometimes feel guilty I’m not putting them in a position that will nurture their talents and abilities? Sure. Do I sometimes get resentful that our children in Buliisa don’t have access to better facilities and resources? You bet I do.
But don’t feel sorry for my kids. Or me. There are pros and cons to living in Australia. And there are pros and cons to living in rural Africa. God has called me to Uganda, and hence, at this point in time, He’s also called my children. So He will deal with the ‘con’ bits, and in the meantime, we will revel in the ‘pros’!
(Marita – legal mother to an 8 and 10 year old, defacto mother to another 2 or 3)