• How To Bring Up Brave Hearts

    I forget where I heard it, or when, but the words have never left me. Fear stands for False Evidence Appearing Real. As a mum, it’s easy to give in to it, to the false evidence, to project our minds into moments that may or may not happen, moments in the future that appear not only real but large and haunting like an evil shadow puppet in a dimly-lit room.

    It’s easy to give in to paranoia, because suddenly we have more than our own lives to protect. We have these precious little beings in our hands and unlike the antelope and elephants of our Animal Kingdom, we need to stay by our offspring’s side long after they learn to walk – an act that itself takes us humans much longer to master. We suddenly have not only our own hearts to protect, but also those parts of our hearts that now pulsate outside of our bodies.

    I have always refused to let fear rule our tribe. At least I have tried my very best. I have tried hard not to let the shadow puppets loom over us. Not only for my sake, for my own peace of mind, but for that of my boys. Living in the wild as we have for many years, and travelling frequently into wild spaces, now that we’re city folk, the possibility of danger has never been far from us. They have often shown themselves, those shadows… in the shapes of crocodiles and hippos lunging at our boat, scorpions beneath the pillow, black mambas chasing our safari vehicle, wild elephants flapping their ears. And then there are the sneakier, less easily detectable threats… like malaria.

    I have never denied that these threats exist. Our tribe is well aware of them. But, from experience, we know better how to predict an animal’s movements. We know which channels in a river to avoid, when it comes to the Zambezi. Mosquito spray accompanies us everywhere. We don’t walk alone at night – although if I keep up my treadmill training I might just be able to out-run our Zambezi hippos one day (a girl can dream). We don’t deny it all, but we don’t let that which has yet to happen, that which is unlikely to happen, take over our imaginations.

    To spend our entire lives in fear of that one accident would be a dishonour to this great blessing of a life on Earth.

    The same way stress is caused by being here, but wanting to be there, fear removes us from the present, from the moment where life resides. It is natural for us mothers to try to predict the future. Constantly. I’m not really sure we can escape that entirely. But the last thing we want to do is pass that stress on to our sons and daughters. Watching them in a playground, running wild and free, is all the lesson we need in being present and seeing the real not the false.

    For my sons, the wilderness has been as much of their playground while growing up as the jungle gyms of the suburbs. And because of experience, because of the freedom I (try) give them to play and explore, they treat both the same. Both Renzi and Carlos are as at home with a wildebeest or elephant herd or a soldier holding an AK47 (oh, the joys of African border crossings), as a flock of penguins on the beach at Boulders or an ice-skating rink in a mall.

    They’re still young. There are more choppy waters to cross… like asking a girl out or speaking in front of a crowd for the first time, because it isn’t only the wild animals of our adventuring lives that they’re going to face. There are those matters of the heart. But I believe that it’s all the same, ultimately. In the words of Eleanor Roosevelt,  “Do one thing every day that scares you.” Eventually… nothing will.

    And is that not the best we can do as Mums? Prepare our little ones for the world while letting them enjoy it, wholeheartedly, at the same time? Without holding back. Without fear.

    Below is a glimpse into the wild things of our recent safari at Wilderness Safari’s Seba Camp in the Okavango Delta in Botswana, with images taken by our friend at Lubella Photography. Follow us on Instagram for more pics.

     

     

  • The Language of the Wild and Free in Madagascar

    If I think about a time on our travels when my boys have been, and felt, the most unrestricted, the freest and most wholly themselves, it unequivocally has to be the Easter we spent in Madagascar. The holiday Renzi took on the nickname, Frenzi.

    It becomes clearer to me with each new adventure, each new destination, how utterly important it is for children to be allowed the space to run wild, both physically and in their imaginations. To not be shushed. Madagascar did both for us.

    We began our journey at Vakona Forest Lodge, in Andasibe, close to Andasibe-Mantadia National Park – land of the lemurs. Very few wild animals scare Carlos anymore, but Renzi, who was four at the time, was a little unsure of these strange people-monkeys at first. Perhaps it had everything to do with the fact that one lemur attempted to nick his banana and nothing to do with fear at all. Renzi doesn’t part with food easily. But after a minute of sizing these new creatures up, the giggles returned to his sweet face. He even let the lemur take his only snack.

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    When I ask them now, months after the holiday, what their favourite part was, the boys talk about lying on the forest floor in Vakhona and looking up at the wild indris playing above us in the ylang ylang jungle of Jurassic vegetation – delicious monsters, mammoth elephant ear plants and some of the most unique orchids in the world. Totally unhabituated to humans, the indris seemed to speak our language – the language of the wild and free.

    We took a bus to Antananarivo, a plane to Nosy Be, overnighted at the Vanilla Hotel and then hopped on a two hour boat ride to Tsarabanjina, a small island off the northwest coast of Madagascar in the Mitsio archipelago, land of seafood, luminous mangos and a snorkelling heaven. So heavenly it was that the boys only remember how salty and blue the sea was, how we floated on our bellies, face down, snorkelling for the first time in our lives. They’ve forgotten about the plankton that stung their nether regions. Probably because it hardly made a blip on their radar, they were too excited to get back in the water, to continue playing.

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    Renzi’s fear dissolved within a minute and he let go of my arm as we flippered along the seabed. On kids, at least these two, fear stands no chance – whether it’s canoeing over the rapids back home on the Zambezi River, or trusting the snorkel to be their breath, on an island in the middle of the Indian Ocean. Fear stands no chance because their enthusiasm for fun outweighs it. Their desire for all that is wild and free too strong. A desire I hope will endure.

    At Tsarabanjina, I was convinced I had lost the boys to the call of the ocean. They didn’t call for me. They simply, peacefully, joyously, spent hours, canoeing, snorkelling, swimming, teaching themselves the ropes. We entertained the Easter Bunny one day, with an Easter egg hunt on the beach sand, celebrating old ceremonies in new lands, and we ate together every night, uniting again like the ocean tide, coming in after its journey out.

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  • Through the Desert on a Horse Named Carrots

    We were in the middle of the Makgadikgadi Salt Pans when the endorphins began to take hold. I remember saying something like, “I could ride on forever!” This wasn’t Fear & Loathing but the desert of the Kalahari isn’t too unlike the Mojave in Hunter S Thompson’s novel.

    Instead of a red convertible, our vehicles were horses that hailed from all over southern Africa – Malawi, Botswana, Zimbabwe and South Africa, including a steed named Carrots (originally known as Dupree, but Renzi had other ideas for it). You see, we are horse people. And by that I mean, true hackers. Before life in Zambia, we lived in the town of White River in South Africa and rode often at the local stables. Now, many months had passed without one ride.

    In the saddle again, in the expanse of the Kalahari, that whirling sense of freedom that being at the reigns instills took over, along with images of ourselves as, please forgive me, cowboys in the Wild West. Pocahontas and sons. The lipstick came out and war paint was applied. We were at home.

    But time is not without its effects. Much had changed.

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    Renzi who once fell asleep each time his horse broke into a canter was wide awake throughout our desert outride. When our guide, Livious, tried to clip Renzi’s horse to his own while we sped up, my little cowboy huffed and puffed. The little five year old wanted to run with the big guys. When it was time to disembark and head back to our home at Camp Kalahari, among the acacias and Mokolwane palms of Brown Hyaena Island, on the edge of the pans, Renzi took over as horse hand. He led the horses to their boma, for a drink, and helped them undress, before standing back while they let loose in the dust of the hot earth. The student had become the teacher.

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    Now seven, Carlos was even more of an esteemed rider and I couldn’t help but wish for him to stop growing up while he rode ahead and left us in his dust. I could hear his voice trailing off as he told his stallion, Socks, “I love you.”

    Things seem to change so much faster with children. As they grow into their own people, more independent, more emotional, more worldly versions of themselves, you have to keep a constant watch on them, on their blossoming, or you’ll miss it all.

    As for myself, the missed months felt more like decades and after a fierce gallop with my thoroughbred, Griffin, who ached to go, go, go, the endorphins were soon accompanied by pangs and throbs. But not replaced. Because, in my opinion, while everything else might change, once a horse person, always a horse person, whether you’re five years old or forty, in a suburban stable or the wilderness of Botswana.

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    Look out for our next blog, when the boys share a few lessons from cowboy life in the African outback.