As we approach the Festival of the Scorpio, I’ve been thinking about my parents. There have been a few things this year that have made me pause, and a little girl with her mother at the Farmer’s market last weekend was one of them.
After paying, the women turned to her daughter, and called her by a nickname my mother uses for me. It made me happy to know that I was not the only one to get that term of endearment, and thankful that I have the relationship I do with my parents.
In short, I have come to realise that my brother and I appear to have been brought up ever so slightly differently to most of my friends and colleagues. We are both incredibly lucky to have a close relationship with our parents. (This appears to be somewhat unusual).
If we need help or advice, we can call home and know that we won’t be judged or blamed, only supported and encouraged. Home is a place of rest and respite. A sanctuary: if you need to recharge, with no nagging, or any questions – just able to blob out and have your space – you can just be. They are there to talk when you want to, and if you don’t, then that’s fine.
My mother is an absolutely remarkable woman for the way she raised us. The belief she instilled in us to be whatever we wanted to be made us into strong and capable people. To achieve what we wanted to achieve, and to follow our dreams. That whatever makes us truly happy is what is important. The older I get, the more I have realised that she does actually know what she’s talking about (I think that may be a female thing), but there are times I just have to stop and marvel at how much I’ve done, and thank her for the quiet reassurance she continues to give me. And her honesty. My mother knows my quirks. She can read me, and she can call me on my bull when I need it. My mother doesn’t suffer fools, and I value her opinion. I may not always follow her advice, but I sure as hell listen to it. Still, she hasn’t said I told you so to me yet.
And my father is one of the best teachers I have ever had. Sure, I have had to share him with thousands of other children through the decades. Some of them even taught me, and all of those that I had encountered told me how brilliant he was. Three even cited him as a reason they became educators. And you know, they were all correct. Dad is an incredible teacher. Some of the lessons I had with him are still vivid – Hamlet, The Crucible, Walt Disney in suspended animation… I had the opportunity to teach with him as well, and to discuss aspects of the humanities that we both adore. Despite the fact that I was incredibly poorly behaved in his class, I am immensely proud of him. It was great to graduate with him in 2006 too – Two Gurneys, both with Masters Degrees. Both Gurneys also have 2 Masters’ degrees each. How’s about that?
My brother and I have been loved and wanted from before we were twinkles in our parents’ eyes. We were never pushed into anything we didn’t want to do. We were given the freedom to grow up and have what I could reflect on as an idyllic childhood. I still don’t believe I remain unscathed doing half of what I did as a white female tween at the end of apartheid in South Africa. Playing out in the veldt, and in construction sites, riding my BMX kilometres down the road to the beach along the highway, walking to and from the mall (or even further, the library) by myself… things some people just couldn’t do in other parts of the country.
We were allowed to question, and have our beliefs challenged. We were inspired to create and to build. To push ourselves and to explore. In that, we became our own people. We both work hard and have our passions. We are both competitive and supportive. We both have a strong sense of responsibility and morality.
So while a million little things I did growing up pop into my mind, and remind me of what I did, where I went, and how much I learnt to become who I am today, I really have to say thank you to my mother and father. Thank you for raising us as you did, and thank you for being incredible people.
I am so lucky to have you both.
*I couldn’t pronounce “penguins” when I was little. It stuck.