On the 4th January 2011, whales came to Mahia. It’s not a new event; often whales beach themselves on the sand. Partly this is because the gradient from the water to beach changes so gradually and partly it’s because Mokotahi Hill was once Mokotahi Island, and the gap between the hill and the rest of Mahia was possibly once a short cut from the bay into the Pacific Ocean.
The last ones that beached themselves were a mother Pygmy Sperm Whale and her calf. The lone (and now sadly deceased) dolphin, Moko (yes, named after Mokotahi) guided them back to safety.
This is how far off shore we were, when we first saw the pod. That’s Mokotahi Hill. From a different angle, this is what we saw:
There were the whales! They were only a few metres away from us. And they were playing: rolling on their backs, diving and generally having a whale of a time (hee, hee). The great thing was, this time, they wouldn’t beach. With the pod were some very bossy dolphins. One was leading them out into the ocean.
Others chased and hounded them until they did what they were told, and moved away from danger.
What’s more, later on that morning my sister-in-law saw a larger pod of dolphins headed toward the group. They were coming to help!
How’s that for inter-species co-operation? Particularly impressive when you consider that they are in competition for the same food.
Often I hear people arguing for and against children being involved in co-operative activities or competitive ones. Personally, I have no issue with spontaneous competition (let’s race to the gate). But when children are obsessed with winning or being the best or most beautiful – it’s a problem. Those children are caught up in what I call the self-esteem myth, and often have no other way of knowing they are ‘good enough’ except by measuring where they come in competitions. They live with the eternal hope that they will meet their (or their parents’) expectations, and often later develop eating-disorders, mistake sex for love, become binge drinkers or drug takers, and become a social-shell rather than a whole person. They are never content or satisfied. The difference, in personality, is obvious when we observe children who are self-assured. For them, winning doesn’t define who they are as people and the competitive drive is internal. These children are more likely to be gracious when they win and when they lose, and they are most likely to compete against themselves than others.
I’ve taught for years, and believe me no-one has to tell children who those are in the top Reading or Maths group – or who the best runners are, or who has the best singing voice. Even five-year olds, know. But do children need to have their sense of self caught up in their strengths? Or weaknesses? Aren’t they good enough – just because.
Life is competitive. But what’s the point of rising to the top in one’s field: if you can’t lead a team; or have no friends; or continuously fail at relationships? What’s the point of getting to the top in one area of your life, if it’s your only measure of personal success? All looks fade. All careers end. Many, many people die lonely. Personally, I’d rather our children were dolphins, competitive when truly, truly necessary but not worried about helping out the occasional whale.
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