On the North Coast of NSW, children run free. Their hair is dreaded from days of not brushing. Their clothes (if they wear them) are mismatched and recycled from second-hand shops. They wear amber necklaces and dance in circles around each other, or play the bongo, or jump in sandcastles…These are the wild spirits of the North Coast.

I have to admit, I love their untamed natures.

I also love to see a mum sit back, chatting with her friends, as her child shrieks – a happy shriek and she is unperturbed about what other people think.

There are several wild spirits in our mums and bubs yoga class. Even though people go to yoga to relax, none of the mothers care about the noise and the excitement. We accept this amazing gust of energy for what it is – childhood.

When did childhood become so rigid?

When did it become Not A Laughing Matter to throw food on the floor?

Or to stomp mud through the house?

Or for a child to drop their pants in the garden to pee?

Forgive me for a moment as I digress. I promise there is a point.

Although I have cantered around the occasional equestrian ring, I don’t know a lot about horse-riding and training horses.  Apparently you can learn how to train a horse on-line. The following are snippets taken from eHow’s “How To Break a Horse”.

…Carry your halter and lead beside your leg and slowly approach the horse…Slowly put the lead around his neck so he can’t get away.

Take the lead with your left hand. Hold just below the snap with the right hand…This forces him to move when you pull his head around. Your goal is to get him to move his feet when you ask…

Put a bridle on your horse. Slide it onto his face, just like you do the halter. If you are using a bit, you can encourage him to open his mouth and accept it by putting your finger in the very corner of his mouth. There are not teeth here so you can’t get bitten, but this will make him open his mouth…

Ride your horse as often as possible. This is the only way for him to learn things correctly…

I have obviously edited this for dramatic effect, but the gist is essential – to break a horse…well, the name implies it all. To break a horse is to break his spirit so he will be at your command and learn to follow instructions.

Reprimanded for not saying please or thank you, for snatching a toy from another child, for talking in a loud voice in public, for walking new pink suede shoes through the mud, kids are continually restrained and their little spirits broken. I notice myself throwing a hissy fit about something material and silly and two-year-old Elka can’t understand what I’m on about. In her world, broken egg cups aren’t a big deal, nor are muddy shoes. The Big Deal is whether she gets enough hugs in a day, or whether her slightly hopeless mother forgets to give her lunch, or whether her silly parents understand what the hell she is asking for. These are the things that matter.

Gregor and I have an unspoken agreement not to reprimand Elka for banalities, or to worry about things like manners. Consequently, when I do yell because I break a plate or walk into a cupboard, other than being concerned for my well-being, Elka doesn’t react to my raised voice. She doesn’t have an emotional connection to it. When I yell, Elka just thinks Mum’s gone crazy.

I appreciate that here, in these parts, spirited children are welcome. We don’t arch our eyebrows when a kid is ‘naughty’ or ‘noisy’. A kid is just a kid, and it’s beautiful to watch their spirit unleash. These spirited kids aren’t out-of-control or without discipline. They know the rights and wrongs of life. To the contrary of being unruly, these kids are very sweet with one another, respectful towards adults, say please and thank you and are affectionate. They just have muddy shoes.

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