Teaching Our Children to Remember

Our family has just returned home from attending a local ANZAC Day service.

For my readers outside Australia, ANZAC Day is an Australian and New Zealand public holiday. It is a day of remembrance for those who have fought and died for our country, and especially remembering those who fought at Gallipoli in 1915. At dawn on the 25th of April, 1915, boats carrying young Australian and New Zealand soldiers approached the rocky shores and cliffs of Gallipoli. There was an intense battle while the men clambered from boats as the Turkish soldiers fired from the clifftops. Many men died before their feet even hit the water. Those who did make it to shore had to negotiate their way up the rugged terrain under heavy artillery and fighting. The casualities were high, but it is thought that the campaign at Gallipoli signified when our young nation reached adulthood.

So today is a solemn holiday as we remember not only Gallipoli, but all the brave men and women who have fought for our country and its freedom.

This morning Alex went to the dawn service with Trent. Unfortunately Jonty had gone to watch Daddy play futsal (indoor soccer) last night and was absolutely zonked. It was impossible for Alex to wake him. There will be other years though, as there are always services at dawn at war memorials throughout the country because it was at dawn when the Gallipoli campaign began.

Later in the morning there was another 10am service so as a family we all walked and rode bikes up for this commemoration. Our children are still young, but Alex and I still consider it worthwhile to participate in these services when possible. In time, they will grow in understanding of the history and knowledge of the consequences of war. For now, we encourage them to be respectful of soldiers and to know that there were many brave men and women who died so we could have a free country. We explain things in very simplistic terms. We whisper why the flag is at half mast, why the soldiers standing at attention, instruct boys to remove their hats during the national anthem. Although it is difficult, we encourage them to stay as still as possible throughout the service. It is important for them to learn there are times which require us to show respectful behaviour.

Because we were up the back, I found it alarming the amount of parents who let their children run around, rolling down the grassy banks and making a great deal of noise. I know it’s very hard to keep very young children still for long periods of time, and sometimes it just doesn’t happen, despite your best efforts. In those instances, I think parents should be applauded for at least making the effort to come. But letting children, especially those over the age of three run around with no mindfulness of the ceremony that is taking place, I feel is showing great disrespect. Mothers yelling at the kids in the middle of ceremonies or worse still, lighting a ciggy in the middle of the national anthem and having a smoke are not teaching or demonstrating to their children how to honour the dead and the sacrifice that has been made.

At one point, there was a group of children take leave of their parents and start to commando crawl up the grass banks. (At least their play was an indication of them being aware of the occassion!) It didn’t take long before the father realised his kids were on a mission and he re-directed them, as quietly as possible back to stand with the family. I think this show good parenting, recognising that kids will be kids, but quietly and firmly insisting on appropriate behaviour. I just wish a few more parents surrounding us had the same control over their children.

I think for the most part Australian are teaching our young to be mindful and remember those who have gone before us. Record numbers turn out to celebrate ANZAC Day every year, young and old. For the most part children stand with their parents, little fists clasping flags or little ones with tired eyes and heads nestled into a parents shoulder. For most Australian families, we will keep their legacy alive, we will not forget.

Our family at the ANZAC ceremony.
They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them.

How does your family remember on ANZAC Day?


PS. 

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