Monday, January 23, 2012

School holidays and coffee

I've two columns with Fairfax today - one in The Age, another in the Sydney Morning Herald.

In The Age, 'Embracing spontaneity helps make holidays child's play' looks at the ambivalence of parenthood, particularly in the school holidays.

I discuss how play - real play, not just watching from a bench or couch - can be healthy for kids and parents alike. A sample:
Much of adult life is implicit: ideas, impressions, values. When playing, children often ask us to explain ourselves. Fudging regularly fails because of the child's Excalibur of truth: ''But why?'' The colour of the sky, the meaning of irony, the importance of fighting etiquette - putting these into simple, clear language is helpful for my children, and me. 
Play also promotes innovative impulsivity. Lego, for example, is best off-the-plan: taking the basic bricks and making something new. Working with my son and daughter, the constructions change as we work: a palace for Odysseus, planetarium, ninja trap. Likewise for the sandpit, cardboard-and-sticky-tape or woodwork building: a play of artful whims.
Meanwhile, in Herald, 'Caffeine less vital than conviviality of a cuppa' explores the caffeine hit, and asks: Is the chemical stimulation really the chief point? A sample:
Obviously, most Australians do not have health in mind as they sip their ristretto. Caffeine is a stimulant - the silent partner in many workdays. But because it is addictive, its contribution is dubious. Once we are habituated, the miracle cup often does little but get us to ''normal''. What seems like a vital buzz is actually what regular ''up'' folks feel every morning. 
A more likely answer for caffeine's popularity is that it provides respite from boredom or harassment; some change of pace, scene or mood. Like the ''smoko'', the regular coffee break can offer a moment for peace or friendly talk. 
In other words, it is not simply the caffeine that is paramount; instead, coffee provides a focal point for some deeper psychological or social need. Likewise for energy drinks: they are more a ritual of excess and abandon than a necessary lift.


Christine McCombe said...

I enjoyed reading both of these pieces Damon and could see the connection between these two themes. School holidays are full-on and relentless, necessitating for me, at least, the occasional down time over a latte. I agree about the importance of play for parents - as a family we have taken to regular games of 'grip-ball' on warm summer holiday evenings - great fun. And I do enjoy sitting down with our 4 and 6 year olds to make things and draw and build block palaces. But after all that play time with children I do yearn for a coffee with friends - and really more for the company than the caffeine.

Damon Young said...

Sounds perfectly healthy to me. Plato is invigorating, but also exhausting. After a long session of Lego, drawing or cardboard box craft, I need some peace or adult conversation.