Moving to Australia from Denmark has provided us with some stark opportunities for comparison. Most notably, in the way our kids – mini- and maxi-CBRbound, now aged nine and 12 – become assimilated into the Aussie way of life. As this happens, it’s understandable that we idly compare how they might have turned out if we’d never made the move. It’s like a personal version of the movie ‘Sliding Doors’ is constantly playing in our heads.
One thing that has become apparent to me is that Australia has a markedly different attitude to violence when compared with our experience of Scandinavia.
The so-called king/coward punch has achieved mass public consciousness here, whereas I would have to explain the concept from scratch to a Nordic visitor. Incidents of overt aggression on Canberra’s roads are not just confined to newspaper and Facebook posts – we’ve seen them for ourselves.
But all of this was still wallpaper to us until earlier this week, when mini-CBRbound came home with ripped trousers because he’d been in his first schoolyard fight.
I don’t know if it’s unusual that our boys have reached the ages of nine and 12 without ever having been involved in a fight, but it didn’t seem out of the ordinary in Denmark. I don’t even know whether mini-CBRbound was in the right or wrong when the fight broke out, and anyway, such things are rarely black and white.
What I do know, is that our little nine year-old, goaded by taunts of ‘wuss’ and other such things, felt that a fight was an accepted way of resolving the issue at hand. Cue a ‘Sliding Doors’ moment. Would this have happened in his old school? Almost certainly not – I’ve written before about how personal safety and the rarity of recourse to violence was one of the most wonderful things about living in Denmark.
Is this normal for Australia? And should I come to expect regular similar events for both boys? It’s too early to say.
But what I can say is that when your nine year-old comes home telling you that a fight has taken place, and that his whole class were cheering and whooping for the other boy; when he tells you that he has no friends, and that he is sad because his brand new school trousers have been ripped in the process, there is little you can do but bundle him up in a hug, tell him that there will be better days, and encourage him not to compare his old life with his new one (even though that’s what you are doing in your own head).
Mini-CBRbound bounced back admirably. He showed no signs of school-itis the next morning, and bore no grudges towards his playground adversary. But he is stung by the feral cheering of his classmates for the boy who isn’t an outsider, the boy who is ‘one of them’, and the message that sends will take a little longer to counter.