Thursday, April 29, 2010


"Adventure is something that has become a swear word to a lot of people. As soon as you say adventure, they say rescue and there's a lot of people that sort of question the values of it, but the bottom line is if we keep wrapping up our society and our young kids in cotton wool, which is what we are doing, we're changing the culture of Australia. Australia needs heroes, Australia needs adventurers and there's a lot of real, serious positive benefits for anyone that's getting out there and having a go, and chasing their dreams and really pushing themselves to the limit."

Don McIntyre, Adventurer. Transcribed from "Young Sailor Prepares to Set Sail" THE 7:30 REPORT. ABC TV. June 18 2009.

These words spoken by Don McIntyre, were in connection with JESSICA WATSON'S planned circumnavigation of the globe in her yacht "ELLA'S PINK LADY". Right now, Jessica at age 16, is maybe only days away from sailing back into Sydney Harbour and completing her dream to sail solo around the world. She will be the youngest person to ever successfully complete such a feat. An extra sparkle in her crown of achievement will be the fact that she has done it "unassisted" - meaning that "during the journey no other person is allowed to give her anything and she must not moor to any port or other boat, although advice over radio communication is allowed" (Jessica Watson Wikipedia). [You may wish to Google and follow Jessica's trip via her blog site -www. , or the trip of American Abbey Sunderland a younger 16 year old, see her blog here, or Laura Dekker from the Netherlands -see her site here, who is at 14 is preparing her circumnavigation trip, due to depart in September 2010 when she turns 15].

You may think, along with a number of people, that such a trip for a 16 year old girl is ludicrous!
You may think, along with a number of people, that such a trip for any aged person is ludicrous!

Don McIntyre, as a supporter/backer of Jessica Watson, knows her very well. I don't know Jessica or Don McIntyre, but I like his comments on our society. Not just in Australia, but in many parts of the world this changing trend in society can be seen. We are "wrapping up" and putting children in "cotton wool". They are missing the "serious, positive benefits" of true challenges, of "chasing their dreams" and "really pushing themselves to the limit".

In the past, people in the age group of 'youth', worked full-time, some being responsible for situations most teenagers couldn't handle today! My husband tells the story of his grandfather who created and executed his first business venture of buying and importing a shipment of apples from Australia into New Zealand at the age of 14, in the early 1900's. ANZAC Day has recently reminded us that in the past, boys who were 'youths', went to war. They were considered to be men 'defenders of the homeland'. In the past, most children took responsibility to care for younger siblings, getting them to and from school on public transport. In the past, children had responsibilities at home. The whole family depended on each doing their part. I don't think that all teens should work full-time or go to war, but the facts above show that our expectations for children and teenagers have changed, and as McIntyre says - our culture has changed.

In what way has our society "wrapped up" our children in "cotton wool"? McIntyre has obviously seen a lot of over protection of children in sport. Here are some areas of life where commonly children are in "cotton wool" -
* parents picking up kids from school when they could independently walk or catch public
transport home.
* parents financially subsidising or in the case of some, fully financing children who actually are
adults themselves. These adult-children sometimes work, but are not given the full
responsibility of life their age qualifies them for.
* grandparents intruding, at times actually stepping-into the role of parent, usurping their own
children's true role.
* parents allowing children to give-up a job, self control, learning a musical instrument, a
project . . . when the parent knows it is an issue of laziness or selfishness on the child's part
and that the child could and possibly should keep going. The attitudes that grow in a child
in this situation, are very harmful - I hope to write on this topic in the future.

Many people have commented on the physical, emotional and mental danger for Jessica, both as she travels around the world and the aftermath. I personally understand this situation with our children's long involvement in gymnastics. We have been at the crunch point in conversations with our children many times. The physical danger and difficulty of routines testing them, plus the pressure of the Russian coaches on them. Add to that tired growing bodies, blocks with certain moves and their general frustration, and at times even unhappiness with themselves. I've been the mum wanting to pull them out - wishing to stop right now. But if the child is not ready to quit, has unfinished business, want to, in McIntyre's words, "really push themselves to the limit", then I believe we must listen to their call. I touched on this point a little in my previous blog - listening and watching our children. Better to finish when the child is ready, rather than leaving with hopes not fully tried, challenges never embarked on. Tons of blogs today carry comments of regret, of dreams not actioned and sadness or anger that opportunities were cut short or withdrawn in childhood years.

McIntyre said, "there's a lot of real, serious benefits for anyone that's getting out there and having a go..." I know that to be true in our family. It is true that in pressing to our limits, the gain is not just in that area but transfers into many other areas of life. The 'greats' in sport do this along with the 'great' people throughout history in science and all the arts. I agree with McIntyre - we need 'great' people today - heroes.

To NOT live "wrapped up in cotton wool" involves commitment, some hard work, routine and order and at times giving up self pleasures and comfort. But in the process of moving toward the dream, what has been given up is not so dear. A growing satisfaction becomes thrill and excitement as you master the move, or in Jessica Watson's case, as she takes the turn into the home harbour of Sydney.

I hope you are truly challenged. It may not be that you have a "hero" or "adventurer" in the making, but THISWEEKWITHTHEKIDS, inspire them to "have a go" and "really push themselves to the limit" on a regular basis.

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