Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Meri Christmas

We've been to Leeds to see Meri Christmas this evening. The play is set at Christmas in a retirement home run for and by Asian people. The two main characters - an old woman and an old man, had been ignored and abandoned by their respective families even though they had devoted their lives to their children and providing for the future for them.

It's very zeitgeist: M and I had been chatting in the car on the way to Leeds about the breakdown of family life and the farming out of the care of society's young and old people. We were commenting on the recent increase in the number of laws being passed and the extent of police powers, and I said we should be looking at the causes of the problems rather than seeking to force people to behave themselves. We agreed that the breakdown of family life was to blame.

I think we disagreed on the blame for that. I tend to hold social and financial pressures (including compulsory schooling) to blame for keeping the generations apart. M, ever the Prussian, is still in favour of social institutions and blames feckless selfish parents for the situation instead. I was roundly told off at the end of the evening, for not being sufficiently cheerful or flexible ;-) In the 1930s East Prussia of M's childhood, there were strict rules about conversations and social niceties - as there probably were in this country at that time. Not too much politics, no religion. No saying things like they are. We must all appear to be cheerful and happy in case we depress the other person.

I suppose I have changed. (She says I have.) At one time I would have thought one thing and said another. Nowadays I tend to think one thing and say it. I prefer the more genuine me. She obviously doesn't ;-)


Blogger Rosie said...

I like the genuine you ;-)

12:17 am, November 23, 2006  
Blogger Gill said...

LOL thanks :-) Nice to know someone does!

12:25 am, November 23, 2006  
Blogger Tim said...

I do firmly believe that children benefit from order. I mean that children need to be surrounded by certainties, certainty of parental love for one, certainty of tea-time for another.

On the other hand, the only discipline worth having is self-discipline.

1:23 am, November 23, 2006  
Blogger Gill said...

I guess the moot point is how do you develop self-discipline? I'd argue that it's by being allowed to make your own decisions. M, I'm pretty sure, would say it comes from having other people tell you what to do. Whereas I think being constantly dictated to disables & thwarts the ability to make good decisions for oneself.

Oh and mealtimes. We don't have set mealtimes here, and consequently my lot know when they're hungry and go foraging (in the fridge lol, I do buy food!) Not to say we don't have family meals, but they're more impulsive, unfixed affairs and the children seem happy with the unpredictability of them. They are fun.

Now when we have children's friends staying who do have fixed meals, they don't know when they're hungry. We have to run about trying to stuff food into them or they just don't eat. We had one boy go home starving hungry after a weekend here because he just couldn't eat our way. He refused to admit to being hungry! And I'd gone out of my way to find out what he eats and buy that - I just didn't put it on the table every 4 hours and we asked him "Do you want food?" regularly instead. He always said no thanks.

It wasn't until talking to his mother afterwards I realised I needed to actually put it on the table for him every 4 hours rather than giving him a choice in the matter. *sigh* *Mutters about rods for own backs*

9:26 am, November 23, 2006  
Blogger Tim said...

I don't think there is necessarily only one right answer. In your example, the certainty is there, your offspring "know" that hunter/gatherer Gill will keep the fridge replenished and the fridge is itself a certainty. :-)

As to self-discipline, that is, I am sad to say, a mystery to me, I have very little of it.

The reason I think self-discipline is important is that I beleive it is the thing which makes people achieve. No self-discipline means no books get written, no great musicians, no creative science, people only doing what they are told to do, so long as the person telling is standing over them. And no self-discipline means no people like Paul Rusesabagina who just go ahead and do what they believe is right, regardless.

But how do you inculcate self-discipline, or nurture it?

11:05 am, November 23, 2006  
Blogger Gill said...

Well I think self discipline comes from finding what you really want to do and doing it. Then you love it so much, or are so obsessed with it, that giving up isn't even an option let alone a difficulty.

I think all laziness, procrastination, half-heartedness and giving up is a result of people having made choices that didn't suit them. Or having choices made for them that didn't suit them. Either way, its often the result of coercion, in my opinion, however well-meaning that coercion may be.

1:41 pm, November 23, 2006  
Anonymous Elderfaery said...

In our family of five we have Willow and I who have a particular type of energy (we'll just call it that shall we?;) I am impulsive, spontaneous, creative and humerous and that's great but it is very soul destroying to have a zillion half finished works of genius scattered all over the house and forgetting stuff like bread in oven and's like the usual absent minded stuff..but just constant and more so. So, because of that..Willow and I have had to impose order into our lives..we struggle with it..but feel better for the routines (rhythms whathaveyou) we aim to adhere to. A routine/order/self discipline has become just like throwing a few shapes on the dance floor for us...then we are not just living in our natural state which burns out after a while cos we are so zippety zapt. Different courses for different horses I would say.

V. interesting about the meal times Gill....sounds lovely at your house:)

3:31 pm, November 23, 2006  
Blogger Allie said...

Hi Gill,

I'd be really interested to hear when you think 'family life' existed, what it was, and how/when it broke down.

I remember reading something very interesting about myths and family life, when I studied sociology. Unfortunantely I can't remember name of theorist or much else! But the gist of it was that we tend to believe all kinds of fiction about 'family life' as it existed in the past. What I do remember is that the most common family unit was nuclear - older people weren't cared for by their children - even in Victorian times. It was poverty among old people living alone that led to the first state pension provision in about 1906, I think.

Are you talking about 'family life' pre-industrial revolution?

3:37 pm, November 23, 2006  
Blogger Gill said...

Horses for courses, as you say EF

Allie yes I suppose I mean pre-industrial revolution. Not that I think family life would have been ideal in many cases then, and I'm sure that in some respects the present situation is preferable.

But there's real pleasure to be had in spending time with one's own little children and elderly relatives, if natural bonds are allowed to develop and if there isn't some kind of psychopathic family trait!

It seems like those natural bonds just don't get chance to form now in many cases and that people are perhaps weakened because of it.

Also an extended family, spending all its time together, would work well I think, if the older ones wanted to enjoy the young children's company. Though obviously this would depend on the people involved and obviously I have no first-hand experience on which to base my opinion, so I might be talking rubbish.

But there seems, in my family and some of my acquaintances at least, to be an ethos of 'getting time off' or 'escaping' the family, which seems a pity when, in an ideal world, there would be so much for people to gain from spending their time in a good strong extended family unit.

Not ideal for everyone in all situations, but even the option of having it seems to be gone now. Certainly our conventional working and living arrangements don't usually encourage it to happen.

And there's that general pervasive attitude which says looking after 'loved ones' is hard work - when it's actually often the opposite, in my experience.

4:00 pm, November 23, 2006  
Blogger Rosie said...

I agree about social and financial pressures leading to the breakdown/change in family life and seperation of generations: One or both parents being forced to go out to work and leaving the children and old in the care of others. And then it is the parents who are blamed when things go wrong! (I am trying to make changes in my life so I am not forced to be part of the ratrace and leave my children).
Also agree that the only way to develop self discipline is to be allowed the freedom to make your own choices. But I think with children this happens by degree as they get older: some decisions they are not ready to make- they need the security of someone making the big ones when they are younger. (I try to operate a sort of sliding scale, according to needs and abilites!).
Mealtimes: we always have family meals together every day, but not at a set time, and not every meal, and not always everyone at once. I want my children to know what home-cooked food is, and then, when they are older, they will hopefully want to learn how to make it! Meg just eats as and when and what she likes, but then, she is capable of making her own. Three meals a day is enough for me to make so everyone else has to eat together or have it cold. it's just a matter of practicality here, anyway- the kitchen table is used for other stuff so I like to get the food over with in one go so we can get on with the rest of it (no, we don't have 'work surfaces'!)

10:16 pm, November 23, 2006  
Blogger Gill said...

Yes if we had closer family bonds (which worked well) it would make more sense to share out the money-earning, housework and childcare. Seems mad to have a ready-made complete social system there and not have it in common use.

I guess it gets complicated though when there are personality clashes, divorces and in-laws involved, sometimes. I couldn't have shared a house with either my mother or my MIL, to be honest.

But I think that's partly because of the alienation process that goes on with children going to school etc. By the time we're having our own children we often barely know our own mothers, let alone are intimate and comfortable with them in the way we'd need to be.

Again, could be me being the oddball or expressing my 'personal hell' or something here though! I'm sure someone will point this out quickly enough if it's the case

Sometimes I wonder if school, work and family life are just peachy for everyone else and it's only me who's had problems with them. Then I look at the divorce rate, the simgle parent rate, the increasing numbers home educating and the amount of people who willingly admit they hate their jobs and are worried sick about their finances and I think no, I am on the right track with my opinions.

But, horses for courses, exceptions to rules, different perspectives and all that. I guess we're not always going to all agree about it all. Ali says I write as if I couldn't ever possibly be wrong, which puts people's backs up and maybe I do, but hey - it's my blog, so I'll write as I like :-)

Rosie, that wasn't aimed at you btw! xx

10:09 am, November 24, 2006  
Blogger Rosie said...

no, Gill- you do right. I like the way you put things. I certainly don't feel like it is aimed at me in particular ;-) I hope you don't mind if I rant a bit in my comments- hopefully I'm ranting with you, not at you ;-)
I, too, feel isolated from my parents due to not seeing eye to eye with them (to put it mildly!) so don't have that extended family network. But I see this as having gone on for generations- my parents were also isolated geographically and socially from their families. I think war has had a lot of destructive influence on families(after reading Doris Lessing).

10:27 pm, November 30, 2006  
Blogger Rosie said...

no, Gill- you do right. I like the way you put things. I certainly don't feel like it is aimed at me in particular ;-) I hope you don't mind if I rant a bit in my comments- hopefully I'm ranting with you, not at you ;-)
I, too, feel isolated from my parents due to not seeing eye to eye with them (to put it mildly!) so don't have that extended family network. But I see this as having gone on for generations- my parents were also isolated geographically and socially from their families. I think war has had a lot of destructive influence on families(after reading Doris Lessing).

10:27 pm, November 30, 2006  
Blogger Gill said...

I've never felt ranted at by you Rosie! xx

Good point about wars. They are a definite key factor.

8:58 am, December 01, 2006  

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