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Tuesday was Australia Day here in .. yes, Australia! More commonly pronounced “Straya Day”, this day was chosen for a reason I am not aware of. The reason I discovered I didn’t know was because of my kids, my son actually. He asked me. It was at this point I discovered I actually don’t have any idea what the significance of the 26th January is for Australia. I guessed it might have something to do with the European settlement of Australia, but I had to, of course, Google it to discover.
“Australia Day, 26 January, is the anniversary of the arrival of the First Fleet of 11 convict ships from Great Britain, and the raising of the Union Jack at Sydney Cove by its commander Captain Arthur Phillip, in 1788” Source
This may surprise those from other countries who have strong national identities. Australians mainly pride themselves to some degree on their rejection of a strong formal national identity but a strong informal identity. Hence, I know how to pronounce “Straya” with sufficient strine, but if I had to sit an exam on the basic political history of our country, I would fail abysmally.
This is my justification for not knowing about the origins of Australia Day and I’m sticking to it. I should be congratulating myself, however, on learning about Caroline Chisholm over the past year so I have at least a vague concept of life in the early years of settlement.
Australia Day is also the big chance for lots of barbecues, and we of course had one ourselves, although it was originally organised to catch up with some friends who had arrived back from overseas, and not intended to be a celebration of our national holiday. Not that I mind celebrating our national holiday, it’s just not really an expectation that we have to do something to mark the occasion.
Contrary to an old advertising campaign, Australians never say “throw another shrimp on the barbie”. It is generally sausages (because the kids tend to eat them and they’re cheap), and a smattering of other meat such as steak (beef) or chicken. Definitely not for vegans.
I did feel a bit bad that I didn’t even buy one Australian flag from the shops to get into the spirit of the day, but was saved by a friend who bought a whole packet of temporary tattoos with Australian themes, like flags and the Southern Cross. These were liberally applied to the numerous kids running around on their faces, arms and legs.
My kids are still scrubbing off the tattoos on their faces.
Very fittingly, one of our morning shows covered a story of 2 drunk blokes who foiled a robbery by taking the keys out of the ignition of the getaway car while the robbers were in the store. This is typical Aussie, the whole interview is smattered liberally with strine (including “pluggers”, which for the record are thongs or ‘flip-flops’). If you want a good laugh, here it is, and happy Straya Day!
Australia Day always falls at the end of our summer holidays and at the start of the school year, which can be highly inconvenient when you are trying to get back into the swing of school, but at the same time suits me perfectly as I put off the dreaded moment when the holidays end and and the nose must be put to the proverbial grindstone once more.
This year was the first in many years that we didn’t actually go away anywhere. While everyone else was posting beautiful pics of their beach holidays and camping trips on Facebook, I was sleeping in at home in my own bed (where I always have the best sleeps anyway), having afternoon rests, and cleaning out my cupboards which may sound strange to some, but really appeals to my OCD nature. Nothing like a bit of micro-management at the cupboard level to feel a sense of peace at home.
So now, we are into our third day back at (home)school. It was suggested to me by a veteran homeschooling mum to start the day off with a celebration. Not being a very creative thinker, all I could think of was food. So, I made the usual french toast and berries but added the never-before-seen-for-breakfast addition of ice cream (leftover from the Australia Day party the night before). That was my attempt at brightening up a somewhat bleak reality. This is my problem. I think it’s called “sugar-coating” literally. Like medicine, work (in this case going back to school) is good for you but it’s a drag to swallow. I know I have a bad attitude, but I just want it to stay holidays for evaaaah and evaaah. I scratch my head when I hear others say they can’t wait for school to go back. I love the holidays, the lack of structure, the sleeping in, the long chats with friends and no rushing to get from one thing to the next.
Over the years I have come to dread it less than I used to, but I really am the sort who would easily slip into lethargic indifference and just kind of check out on Facebook for the rest of my life, while eating ice cream and being blissfully ignorant of the origins of Australia Day.
Following the ice cream feast, real work began. Despite looking rather unwashed due to the hangover of the hard-to-remove Australia Day tattoos, I had thought we were going pretty well. I was, however, projecting my own expectation that things must go smoothly in order to prove to my darker side that the year wouldn’t be as bad as I usually anticipate. I generally have to deal with a truckload of panic at the start of the year.
What I hadn’t factored in was the withdrawal from technology experience. Being on holidays also meant that I had generally checked out of my monitoring the media time my son in particular was having. He is a big fan of 3D animation and has been doing a lot over the holidays, too much actually. But, all those sleep-ins and afternoon rests (for me) were coming back to bite me when I was faced with a very determined tech addict on our first day back. It was serious withdrawal. I had heard that it’s a new category in the DSM (Diagnostic manual for psychiatry), but apparently that is an urban myth, and the DSM only includes gambling and pornography as internet-related addictions. Having said that, there are a growing number who see this as a real addiction, so it may make it to this fabled tome in years to come.
School is a bit different for us this year as I needed more structure to ensure my kids were not having big gaps in their education, like learning about the origins of Australia Day, for example.
Lessons started in earnest and were met with various reactions depending on the temperament of the child.
While everyone else in the universe was posting pictures of clean-faced, smiling children in slightly oversized first-day-back-at-school uniforms, my children looked a bit.. what should I say.. different?? Maybe it was the tattoos or the everyday clothes. Perhaps next year we should go for a new set of clothes and get out the heavy duty cleaner to get those tattoos off before the first day back?
If you have any favourite traditions for the first day back, or for celebrating your national holiday, I would love to hear them in the comments section.
Have a great week everyone!