Rogers is taking a break this week to rest and recharge after last week’s fishing expedition. This week we have guest writer Rosalie sharing the wealth of knowledge she learned from young Eva in the weekend.
I was babysitting on Saturday night, when Eva, the ten-year-old who I’ve babysat since she was a baby, asked me to guess what topic she was doing for school. I quickly thought back to my own schooling years.
“Coastal tidal pools? Seashells?”
“No,” she replied.
Again the answer was no. I thought deeper.
“The medieval era? Captain Cook? Ruapehu? Volcanoes? White Island?”
No, no, no, no and no. She smiled at me across the kitchen bench top in her characteristic kind-hearted way.
“You’ll never guess.”
I gave in.
“We’re studying hauora. Wellbeing.”
I reflected on how far education had come that children were now studying abstract concepts compared to the solid tangible science, history or geography-based topics of my primary school days.
We’d travelled to Gisborne to witness the centenary of Captain Cook discovering New Zealand and learned about possums and pets; flicked over rocks in mudflats to look at crabs. It didn’t really mean much now, apart from giving me a warm glow remembering how my ten-year-old self had spilt Milo all through the bed where we were billeted. As an adult I’d contributed an artistic image to Dr Mason Durie’s presentation on Whanau Ora that had found its way into an international publication, and had found myself interested in his model of wellbeing.
“My friend Aleks and I are studying relaxation,” Eva continued. “Stress damages your heart and your mind. Relaxation helps you manage stress. And also relaxation improves your memory.”
Really? Clearly I need help with memory. Every day I’m meeting people I know, but their names often elude me.
“I’ve been doing a whole lot of research trying to find out about all these things,” says Eva, “and we have to present it in some way. So Alex and I are making a diorama in a cardboard box.”
Back when I was ten we collected shoeboxes and made peepholes to view miniature jungles with lions.
“Aleks is making a garden scene with a person reading a book in a chair, made out of origami. And I’m making a hammock. I’ve actually already made it, it’s at school.”
She showed me a second hammock she’d designed and sewn on her sewing machine for Aleks. Made out of fabric and ribbons, it was simply perfect.
I remembered back to when I was 11, how it had taken me nearly two terms to make an apron in ‘sewing class’ at Intermediate, as we had to line up to get a turn at the machine. I’d loathed every sewing lesson.
“I love sewing, it’s so much fun,” says Eva.
I was interested to find out what else Eva and Aleks were doing around relaxation? Were they going to be asking the class what they think?
“Yes, well I was just about to tell you about that,” replies Eva. “We’re doing a survey. We’re going to see what the teachers and our class do for relaxation, and present it in some kind of chart.
“Some people do exercise for relaxation. Dad likes to run in the bush, whereas I like to draw and read with music. My mum does meditation, and she really likes to walk around in nature.”
Eva’s younger sister Stella, aged eight, likes to read and dance.
“What do you do for relaxation?” she asked me. I found myself saying “drawing and painting”. When had I last done that? Maybe a year ago!
Mason Durie’s model of health is based around the concept of ‘te whare tapa wha’ which has four cornerstones or sides of health, similar to the strong foundations and four sides of a wharenui or meeting house.
There’s physical health – taha tinana, spiritual health – taha wairua, family health – taha whanau, and mental health – taha hinengaro. Should any one of these four dimensions be missing or in some way damaged, a person, or a collective may become unbalanced and subsequently unwell.
In the traditional Maori approach, the inclusion of the wairua, the role of the family and the balance of the mind are as important as the physical manifestations of illness. It was good to be reminded by a ten-year-old.
I asked Eva what other studies her class was doing around wellbeing.
“One of the boys is doing a running survey and it’s terrible! We have to do three laps around the field every day along with the other laps we do. They’re timing us to see if we get faster, but guess what’s happening to me? I’m getting slower and slower.”
I commiserated. She told me of others who were writing a book on sleep and nutrition and how hobbies improve wellbeing.
“Some boys in my class like to go out surfing in the morning early for relaxation. I’ve seen them with wet hair arriving late for school after surfing.
“My friend Gabrielle, she’s doing a very interesting question. It’s about who has a better wellbeing – an introvert or an extrovert?
“Being an extrovert might be better because when they have problems, it’s really good to talk about it with friends. I’ve noticed that really helps.
“If you’re an extrovert and have troubles you can talk with people and get good ideas, but if you’re an introvert then you may not be so good at talking with people, and just keep yourself to yourself. And you may not have that many friends and good relationships.
“But an introvert might be just better at working alone and it’s good to be able to do that sometimes. So it’s quite an interesting question actually.
“We also asked my teacher what she does for relaxation and she says she walks along the beach for relaxation.”
I can imagine. What teacher wouldn’t want to find a beach to relax on after dealing daily with such bright minds?