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Anzac Day, our way

Words by Deborah O'Ferry

 

Growing up, I was a Brownie and a Girl Guide, so marching at dawn on ANZAC Day went with our pledge to the Queen to do our best.

 

We'd stay for the traditional RSL breakfast and had pea shooting fights with the sugar stirrers. As an adult, I cringe at what the diggers thought.

 

When I became older, but not old enough to drive, I still woke for the service. In the dark, I climbed the hill that looked over our city and watched the lights where I knew the park to be. I'd imagine the scene because I'd seen it enough times.  I'd hear the hauntingly beautiful  Last Post that had been tattooed into my memory, and feel my way through the service.

 

When I could drive, I started going to the dawn service again.

 

But then I stopped going. When I had kids.

 

I had seen more dawns than I'd ever imagined by then and I simply couldn't do it. I see images of the boats arriving at Gallipoli and those of the frail prisoners of war and I hear the backlash of a poor mum too tired to show her respect. But me making choices that get me through days that impact weeks, is not me being a bad human.  My lack of participation means nothing about my care factor.

 

 I take my kids to the later morning march and try to drip feed them information about the relevance of the day. I was taught too much when I was too little and I'm cautious about how much my own kids know as they grow. I will teach them and take them  to a service in their own time, but too early I think is more disrespectful than not attending. My kids are not able to understand the magnitude of the day and it' s not fair to those that do.

 

ANZAC Day has always been important to me, but often there is a guilt that goes with it. About what we should be doing, where we should be, what we should be teaching, how we should be feeling. But I need to say no, I'm going to do it my own way.

 

One  ANZAC Day I saw a man pick a flower from the park and place it at the memorial. He bowed his head and went on his way.  When he spotted  the perfectly-made wreaths, laid out ready for the service, he hurried back to the shrine, collected his lone flower and walked on...

 

ANZAC day is about respect,  acknowledgement and remembrance, but it doesn't have to be manicured. It just has to be genuine. If all we can offer is a picked flower, it is as good as a perfect wreath by groomed SRC students. If not better.

 

If we can't get out of bed because we are absolutely exhausted, it is okay for the other generations to represent us. If our kids are too young for us to go to a service, it does not mean we don't care. Sometimes traditions can become unachievable or unrealistic, and new traditions can be just as meaningful if they come from the right place.

 

This Anzac Day, if you are limited, but wish to show your respect,  say a prayer, if that is your thing. Plant some rosemary with your kids. Make ANZAC biscuits and teach their history. Take your kids to a march at a time when you can get your kids to a march. Point out the pictures and the poppies down the main street and start to tell your kids what they are about. Pick a flower any day of the year and put it on a memorial.

 

Of all the things we forget as parents, remembering those people who sacrificed for us, often without knowing what they were getting themselves into, is a pretty simple one. It doesn't matter how we do it, where we do it, or when we do it –  as long as we do.

 

Lest We Forget

Deborah O'Ferry

 

Deborah O'Ferry is a mother of two. She attempts community work by day and staying calm by night, as she trips about in the crazy and beautiful world of parenting. Writing is her way of staying sane and she hopes to reach other tired parents by being honest about her own not-always-successful experiences and try to level out the ideas of perfect parenting to just trying to be good people. You can follow Deborah at Deborah O'Ferry on Facebook.

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