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The art of restraint

How far should we go when trying to create awareness for family-friendly environments? Parliamentary Secretary Julia Farrugia Portelli spoke last week how she was on the verge of boycotting the MPs’ swearing-in ceremony earlier this month after she was told she could not get her daughter as a guest.

She explained in Parliament how MPs were asked to submit the names of three guests they wanted at the ceremony and how her list included her daughter’s name.

However, she was told she was not allowed to bring her daughter. Because her daughter is four years old. And, of course, a parliament swearing-in ceremony is a ceremony for adults.

Of course, we all know the trials and tribulations we all have to go through sometimes to sort out child-minding for our children, but sometimes, just sometimes, we need to leave children at home with a relative or a friend, be­cause some events are not made for children. There are times when no one can really make it, and in that case, there is nothing to do but to call in a sitter.

Let us not make the mistake of fighting for family-friendly environments by asking for children to be allowed everywhere, even for one-off State occasions.

Being a public figure does not mean you have the licence to parade your children with you at events that are open only to grown-ups.

I am not one who thinks children should be seen but not heard; far from it; and I am also a firm believer in making workplaces more family-friendly, but for sanity’s sake let us, on State occasions at least, stick to protocol. And let us respect the fact that although you may think your child is the sweetest child on earth, it does not mean everyone else is interested in her or his goo-goo, ga-ga.

Everyone should know their place, and that includes children. And it is up to grown-ups to tell their children that.

▪ Those of you born in the late 1970s or early 80s belong to the Pollon Generation. This means you were raised on a daily diet of 20-minute stories about the gods of Mount Olympus in the shape of a Japanese manga cartoon, starring Pollon, the girl undergoing her god-status traineeship.

The art of not doing or saying everything that comes to mind immediately is being lost

“Sulla cima dell’Olimpo c’è una magica città / Gli abitanti dell’Olimpo sono le divinità…” went the soundtrack of the animated cartoon every afternoon. “Pollon, Pollon combina guai,” screeched along my sister and I.

We loved it because it was hilarious and crazy. When the god of love, a toddler-like boy with wings, was flustered, his cheeks (face and butt) glowed in equal measure. And when Pollon’s father, Apollo, the god of war, got upset, we howled at how his tears and snot came out in perfect synchronisation.

But what we did not realise back then was that we were absorbing a faithful portrayal of the stories of the gods of Mount Olympus, with their fallible human weaknesses, such as selfishness, temper tantrums, greed, laziness and vanity. And, patata barra aside, perhaps that is what made for compelling viewing – because they could easily be describing us, our relatives, our friends, our neighbours, and, err, maybe even some of our politicians.

It is for this reason that I strongly believe in the importance of exposing children to Greek myths. Amid their chaos and complexities, the eighth century BC stories are full of big questions: the legitimacy of war – was Troy worth it?;  moral dilemmas and difficult choices – do you choose to sail past the nine-headed monster Scylla or Charybdis the sucking whirlpool?; the nature of love – was Calypso’s true love or was it Penelope’s?

All these are universal issues that affect us just as much as the people of antiquity. Through these classics, children would have an opportunity to rehearse how they might respond to a similar situation, say, a dilemma, a difficult choice, by having felt their sting in the safety of a fictional hypothetical setting.

Moreover, I think the classics help us understand one crucial thing in life: that for every action, there is a reaction. Hence we need to be wise and consider our actions well, not just for us but for the benefit of the community.

Social media is making us forget the meaning of restraint. Everyone speaks out impulsively and is led solely by emotions. The art of not doing or saying everything that comes to mind immediately, and the art of building an argument based on logic is being lost, because we are no longer reflecting on the consequences.

Restraint is a skill we are losing fast, to the detriment of us all.

Res est magna tacere (Sometimes it is a great thing to be silent).

[email protected]
Twitter: @krischetcuti

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