Posted tagged ‘hong kong’

Do you love your child or partner more?

February 6, 2015

If you’ve got to choose who you love the most, could you? Thinking about a recent terrible choice for a NZ dad who had to pick son or wife, here’s my own family tale about the time my Dad was parted from his mum. For more ideas about thrifty, creative and eco-friendly ways to raise children follow this blog or get my book Homemade Kids, out of the library. This post is by Nicola Baird, also see www.nicolabaird.com

This beautiful box has a collection of my grandfather's letters from the time he was stationed in Hong Kong in 1937. Some of those letters are dynamite.

This beautiful box has a collection of my grandfather’s letters from the time he was stationed in Hong Kong in 1937. Some of those letters are dynamite.

As it’s close to Valentine’s day is it OK to ask ‘who do you love the most’?

This isn’t a fairy tale asking you to decide which child you favour.

No this is the big love question – do you love your partner more than the children or vice versa?  For most of us there doesn’t have to be a choice but just recently a New Zealand man was told by his Armenian wife that if he wanted to keep their newborn Downs syndrome baby she would divorce him. He chose the baby, Leo. And she filed for divorce.

The full story is (Daily Mailified) here.

You have to think good for the Dad, making the right choice – however hideous. And how terrible for a new mum to be under such family pressure that her only choice was to set up a contest between husband and baby. Whatever the result, it would be sad for her.

Rewind to 1937
I’ve just spent a sunny winter afternoon at my kitchen table reading the letters my grandfather received when he was based in Hong Kong in 1937. The experience is amazing – though I do wish everyone’s handwriting was easier to read.  Because Grandpa was a solider there are a lot of letters from soldier friends talking about their posts in Nigeria and Somalia. There’s gossip about bad weather and poor fishing in Newbury; the make over of London’s Leicester Square – “the Alhambara and Prince of Wales Theatre have gone” and a lot about illnesses – cholera, infant death, scarlet fever and the humble cold.

At first I thought my Grandmother – writing from her father’s home in Wiltshire – was expecting twins. Gradually I realised she was trying to organise a bargain priced twin-bed cabin for a sea passage to Japan, where she hoped he would meet her and then they could go on to Hong Kong.  She is desperately missing him.

She’d already been in Hong Kong – just her and her soldier husband – but and had come home because their children, a little girl and her younger brother, my father, were being raised in Wiltshire.

I cried when I saw her write that their three-year-old son had asked the nanny where is “That lady from China we call Mummy?”

“We did laugh,” writes my Grandmother (I think bravely) “it’s good enough for Punch“.

How attitudes have changed in the UK. Few women admit to being willing to park their children for six months in another country, just so they can be with their husband. When Ayelet Waldman confessed “I love my husband more than my children” in a national newspaper back in 2009, she was pilloried.

And in 2015 Armenia it’s clear disability is shameful to some: in NZ it’s not.

Perhaps in the 21st century UK we do let our children take centre stage too much. But it feels like that’s the right way to err. My poor dad. My poor, brave Grandmother – “that lady from China we call Mummy”.

In the end the little boy did know his mother very well. It was his father he barely knew – first busy as a solider in Hong Kong and then once World War Two kicked off incarcerated in a prison camp until 1945.

What do you think?
Would you swan off to Hong Kong leaving the kids in the UK for the next six months? And how much do you think it would affect you and those motherless/fatherless babes?

 

 

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In praise of missing things… like Year 6

July 16, 2012

A fish-eye view of the school we’ll miss. Can you spot the boat and tree house in the playground? pic by Martin Woolley.

This blog post is by Nicola Baird sharing ideas about thrifty, creative and eco-friendly ways to raise children. This post is not about lost socks. For more info about my book Homemade Kids, with lots of ideas about parenting click here.

Lola, 14, came home early from school this week. It was raining again. What could we do that didn’t involve Facebook? I found the lovely carved cedar box that is kept locked with the most ingenious device (a sort of key). She’d never been inside this family treasure box before and was amazed to see hundreds of tiny envelopes with old-fashioned stamps from all around the world.

Inside are letters and receipts kept by my grandfather George Baird when he was stationed in Hong Kong back in 1937. He seems to have had friends and family corresponding from Sudan, Nigeria, Kenya and Scotland. Many are from soldiers just like him, writing about the countries they are stationed in – often critically, but they were clearly developing a fascinating world view. Nigeria for instance was producing ground nuts, palm oil and tin – and “we are doing pretty well from it”.

Most of the letters are written in such hard-to-read ink scribbles, so different to emails. But together Lola and I could read aloud and unpick most of the words. Time just flew as we found out that naughty William (whoever he was) was at last at boarding school (“god willing he’ll stay there”); that it’s risky going home to a cold house with scarlet fever and that my grandfather’s mother’s house had just suffered from the “ceiling falling in”. The builder was apparently on his way. Good thing too as this was December even though “the roses and gentians are still flowering”.

My Grandmother’s writing was always tough to read, even when she was in her 20s. She sent one from the steamer when it stopped to refuel at a steaming hot Port Said – there’s even a stamp covered in pyramids. She was going to join her husband in Hong Kong.

Didn’t she miss the kids?
I’ve always puzzled about this trip because it meant leaving her two children, Diana, 6, and Angus (who was so little at the time, 2 years perhaps) behind with their Granny for a year. The implication was that their mum didn’t mind at all, and it was all stiff upper lip and no family affection. But this letter shows this is not true. It is full of longing from Catherine, who hopes to soon see her husband and the horribleness of leaving the children behind. She called it “dreadful”.

In contrast my little hiccup about saying goodbye to the primary school Nell has enjoyed for the past seven years is nothing. It’s really just a change of routine.

Other parents keep saying to me, oh it’s your last summer fair, your last concert, your last term, and now your last week. And that’s right. It’s all that. But I think seeing my grandparents’ letters has helped put it all in perspective. Nell, 11, is moving on to a secondary school; she’s still going to be living in the same home with me.

Moving on
Missing her old school will simply be a chance to relive happy memories of a fantastic primary school experience. Thanks to everyone who has had a hand in that. And good luck to all of you whose children are moving on whether from nursery to reception, into middle or secondary school, or sixth form, or a gap year, or university… Or something different entirely.

Over to you
What are the things you’ll enjoy missing most about your child moving on? (For me it’s going to be the walk to school through a park, with the dog, utterly lovely).


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