Reflections about Contentment: Who is poor and who is rich?
Kupulangu, Mozambique 2018
What about the local kids with less material resources?
They, too, can achieve happiness and knowledge! They enjoy the pure inspiration of happiness and contentment because they also can live in the moment, engaged and creative. While writing about “less is more,” the other day, a memory of a day at my friend’s beach house in Itacaré, Bahia came to mind. My Lorenzo was then about four years old. We used to spend our vacations there until he was six or so. One day, my friend, Thereza, arrived from town, with art-crafted wood pencils for Lorenzo and told me: “Vanessa, I found those things at the market for Lorenzo, because I have noticed that you do not bring any toys for him. I am impressed that he has never bothered us, he is always playing with whatever he finds around the coconut trees, and he is such a happy child.” In fact, it is true: I had never noticed, that besides the flotation devices for the Ocean and some books, I had not carried on any other source of entertainment for Lorenzo
We have always traveled light and carrying toys back and forth has never been part of our luggages, and he got used appreciating the moment and enjoying the curiosities of each place we visited. So, waking up with a yard and in front of the beach was everything he needed to start playing.
Lorenzo in Itacaré, Bahia, with "mamãe" e vovó Anna na casa da Tia The, 2008
My Birthday afternoon this year, with children from Kupulangu. After catching crabs on the beach, they went to the top of the Dunes for a sunset picnic. They were absolutely simply happy.
The Turtles of Machangulo and I: Rewarding
One day on the beach, after days walking in the morning and not finding any one, except for a family of Eagles, who accompanied me on my mornings walk for a couple of days, I met two native ladies whose laughs I will never forget. They were very happy catching any remains of plastic brought by the ocean. We did not speak the same language, but somehow we communicated with smiles and we laughed. When they left, I kept watching them walking, and immediately remembered a similar situation, a “deja vu afternoon” in Bahia again, when after a long walk on the beach, I met my son and my mother, laughing as well and very happy, like those ladies. Getting closer, I found out that their challenge was to catch the remains of garbage on the beach, to maintain the sand spotlessly. I blinked, my memories from Bahia vanished, I am back on the Indian Ocean Beach and I read on the back of the ladies’ T-shirts, who had walked away already, the title for a Turtle Project. Back to the house where I was staying, I asked my friend about it, to try to understand better while they were so happy catching garbage on the beach.
Later, I found out why. According to the Machangulo Project: “Our turtle conservation team employs many locals in monitoring and protecting turtle nests, a perfect example of both the environmental and economic gain that is possible from switching from the previous unsustainable practices of hunting turtles for meat and raiding nests for eggs. Snorkeling in the small protected bays and reefs along the coast reveals that the pristine protected sea is teeming with colorful tropical fish species whilst further out humpback whale, dolphin, whale shark, manta ray, sailfish and marlin thrive in the protected waters.” I think I have got it, Vacationing with less, is much more!
Oli and Lorenzo
Sustainable Changes: New Habits
Oliver is a eight years old child whom I have known since the first day of his life. His mother is a dear friend of mine and they are like family for me in New York. Some people say that he is my favorite, if such a feeling exist. But when I say that to him, he would respond: “ No, you have Lorenzo” - And I always say: “ There is a special place for everyone I love in my heart”
Everyone needs love and they all need opportunities to flourish. They also need time play!
Oli and Lorenzo are Brazilians and New Yorkers, always exposed to multicultural life, different cultural and urban activities, and many international travels. Such kids are pleasant to be around, and they are active in sports, curious about art, budding musicians, and have great gourmet taste for such small mouths. Every aspect of their lives seemed balanced to me, until a couple years ago they started to display similarly disturbing behaviors. And as an attentive mother and “Tia,” I paid special attention to this unexpected development.
My son stopped reading before going to bed, was going to bed later, stopped waking up in time for a complete breakfast, and most dramatically, he became extremely aggressive with me.
I was with Oli and his mother spending the weekend in the Hamptons, and he was constantly talking back to his mother, slamming doors, and complaining about being bored if his mother did not allow him to use the Ipad. There was another child at the house, Alex, same age, behaving exactly the same way. What happened? We parents all noticed the change and have been jointly working to remedy them.
Lorenzo lost his iPhone last year, and his poor social behavior became an excuse not to buy him a new one and limit his time on all electronic devices. I can really notice a difference in him between those days with full time Smart phone activity and now its absence. He is much more communicative and he seems much more calm and peaceful.
And Oli? Last month, I took a big breath of relief: He, too, is back!
Lorenzo and I spent President’s Day weekend together with him and his parents in the East Hamptons. One day, Oli and I took a long walk together on the bay beach. He did not get bored at all and could not have returned to the house with a happier face. What did we experience? Just nature and ourselves. It was a stunning sunny winter day and we just walked along the rocks and jumped over swamp areas. Oli later sang and told me very interesting stories about his young life.
I could not resist the opportunity to stamp my environmentalist mission and we started to collect some plastic garbage that we found on our way and brought to the house, for future projects. So far, we have managed to create a hat or casket, as you can notice on the picture.
We parent realized that we had to work together and commit ourselves with alternatives to change bad youthful habits, like being online addictively. We have limited the amount of hours our children have access to the iPad. They come up with activities that they can do together, indoors and outdoors.
Teenagers are a special kind of challenge and to accommodate the ones in my life, I have been promoting the idea of having more games family nights. It is a very old fashioned way of hanging out, where all generations play together and we can build unforgettable, deeply meaningful memories. This is a recipe that I suggest for all of us now: Homemade food, games, music, whatever. Of course, different formulas work differently for each family, for each person.
I suggest creating situations that are more appealing to group dynamics. That way, we avoid stressing out about parenting and lecturing; instead we show actions, give examples, and more importantly, we all live a full, positive life! Together!