Friday, November 17, 2006

Re-post: "Look how far we've went!" - Sept 06

From Friday, September 22, 2006

Quoted from an article called "Trust me, life DOES begin at 60," by Virginia Ironside which appeared in yesterday's Daily Mail:

"In a magazine survey recently, more than 70 per cent of people admitted that being a grandparent was better than being a parent. There is something about the relationship with a grandchild - the total purity of the love you feel for a tiny person , unmuddied by anxiety, resentment or guilt - that is more special, for me, than any other. There is something heartbreaking about the size of his hands, the smell of his hair and the certain knowledge (that I never had with my own son) that this small person is growing and will one day be as old as me.

"Most parents are trapped in a permanent state of anxiety about their children. Should they have brought them into the world? Will they grow up happy? Are they peculiar in some way? What schools should they go to? Is it best to be firm or liberal?

"I remember hours with my own son when he was tiny, going crazy with boredom. But time spent with my grandson is far from boring. I just have to watch him potter down to the end of the garden and pick a daisy and I'm overwhelmed with gusts of love and sentimentality. I could sit there forever, just watching him."

I'm glad Virginia's sorted her head out now, but is it really so common for parents to feel "anxiety, resentment and guilt" towards their children? My mother certainly resented us, but until I read the above I thought this was extremely unusual. Virginia Ironside seems to think its the norm. If it is, what a tragedy!

Maybe I'm the oddball, but I can't see why anyone would resent their own child unless they had some mental damage or disorder that needed urgent attention. And this guilt thing - it's just an ugly way some people have of trying to control one another. My mother brought us up on guilt, for sure. She had it down to a fine art - I could feel the guilt in my solar plexus like a physical thing - a hard, burning ball of acid destruction. But then I saw it for what it was, thank goodness, and have been blissfully guilt-free ever since.

Guilt is such a pointless, illogical emotion. People tend to feel guilty when they've done something they think they shouldn't have done, or think they should have done better, or differently. So the cure is simple: don't do those things in future! Change the way you do things, or change the way you think about the way you do things, until the guilt disappears! When you really think about the standards you're using to judge yourself (Are they your own or someone else's? Do you really believe they're true?) you can adjust them until you are always happy about what you do, or adjust what you do to fit the standards. Guilt arises when there's a mismatch between the two. Get rid of it! It's horrible.

If I ever get anywhere near to resenting my children, (which sometimes happens when I'm exhausted and I see that yet another room has been 'trashed',) I quickly remind myself that one day I won't have these amazing people by my side every day. They'll grow up and go off to live their own lives, and so they should, and when they do I'll be delighted for them and I'll swell with pride in whatever they do - but right now they're here with me, and I'm determined to cherish every minute of it. It's connected with the guilt-curing thing I suppose, it's all about avoiding regret. At some point in the future I will gain great comfort from these memories, so I have to make sure they're good ones.

Lyddie and I walked to the field yesterday in the warm sunshine. She likes to run about naked outside (though we do have the Garden of Eden Complex - I make her wear clothes when the neighbours are around) and her skin was warm with the sun. We got to the end of the neighbour's field which we must go through to get to ours: "Look how far we've went!" she exclaimed, looking back to our house. Of course I didn't correct her, I find it fascinating the way a young child develops its understanding of grammar and in a year or so she'll work out the right way and the wrong way will be just another sweet recollection.

I looked back to the house through a little child's eyes. Remember when everything was so big and far away? My childhood was mostly unpleasant and I had nobody to share those kind of moments with, but I'm making up for it now. My children are healing all that damage for me.

We picked big juicy blackberries and sat in the field sucking them. Lyddie got purple blackberry juice on her face and body, until she looked like a little tribal child, who'd been covered in war paint. We could see horses in a field below. "When you grow little and I grow big I'm going to take you to see some horses," she told me encouragingly. "And we'll take some helmets and ask the farmer if we can ride them! Then I'll take you to see some trains and even some aeroplanes at the airport!" "Wow," I said happily. "That'll be fantastic."

She's got a funny circular view of time, and keeps talking about a time when she was big and I was small. The tenses she uses are interchangeable - future or past, it's all the same. And who's to say she's wrong? A four-year old has such a deliciously elastic sense of perception, you can't help being fascinated by it.

Happy, happy days. I wake up happy every morning and go to bed happy every night. Someone please explain to me what on earth Virginia Ironside is on about?

posted by Gill at 10:06 AM 3 comments

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