Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Made by God, Fucked Up by Parents

Philip Larkin - This Be The Verse

They fuck you up, your mum and dad.
They may not mean to, but they do.
They fill you with the faults they had
And add some extra, just for you.

But they were fucked up in their turn
By fools in old-style hats and coats,
Who half the time were soppy-stern
And half at one another's throats.

Man hands on misery to man.
It deepens like a coastal shelf.
Get out as early as you can,
And don't have any kids yourself.

After posting Going Down, the first line of this poem kept popping into my head.

I would like to think that no parent deliberately sets out to damage their own offspring - although some of the tales in the newspapers recently have sorely tried that belief. I think you have to accept that, as in all walks of life, there are some people who are mentally unhinged and behave accordingly.

I can't and certainly don't blame my parents for my anorexia and my insecurities. I don't think I ever have. I just determined that I wouldn't do the same thing to my own children.

And, of course, that conceit was always going to trip me up and push me down. I suspect that the bizarre (in my view) behaviour of their Father is based upon his own upbringing and his determination not to perpetuate that relationship with his children either.

Unfortunately, by trying to be the opposite of our own parents, we still become monsters worthy of blame in the eyes of our children. That's how it works. Whatever we do, we cannot be seen as 'cool' parents by both our children and our peers.

And yet, I can't help wondering if our kids will they look back later and say 'I wish my parents had given me more boundaries, been more firm about what was right and wrong, taught me how to look after myself rather than waiting on me hand and foot and allowing me to watch what I liked on the television/computer/games console?' I firmly believe that there will be a backlash at some point against this 'ME, ME, ME' culture when the current generation experience the ever more strident demands of their own children.

Having come from a generation that spent its childhood doing as its parents ordered and its adulthood acceding to its children's demands, I sometimes feel as if I have spent my entire life waiting in the car whilst someone else enjoyed themselves inside. And, from talking to other parents, I know that I am not alone in this, but we just don't know how to break the cycle.

Because to do so means being disciplinarian - like our parents. And we don't want to become like them. So many parents today want to be friends with their children. They want to be admired by their children's friends as 'cool' parents, they want their kids to want to spend time with them. So they buy them everything they need without asking for anything in return... not even consideration in the form of good behaviour or help around the house. These parents just don't seem to understand that you cannot be friends with your children until you have taught them to be responsible adults, who can look after themselves and be good global citizens. Quite often, that cannot happen for many years. All they are doing by buying their affection is storing up problems for their future.

Far too many children from the 'seen but not heard' generation have over compensated for perceived injustices in their past to become the helicopter parents of today. Hovering carefully, ready to swoop in and satisfy all and any whim immediately. Disagreeing with teachers and other figures of authority who try to curtail their spirit and fostering a culture that has seen the ability to discipline of both school and society in general reduced to a shadow of its former power.

But, worse still, identifying those parents of their child's friends that they feel are too disciplined and colluding with those children in deceptions that permit them to circumvent some of the rules that hold them in check. To me, this is the ultimate conceit. The idea that your way of parenting is better than another's without knowing any of the facts and then working against those parents...?

And then there are those parents who are just too lazy to discipline or even entertain their children. They are the ones who allow the television or the games console to do the babysitting and the educating or who drop them off at a variety of after school clubs as a means of getting them out from under their own feet so they can get on with enjoying themselves. Obesity is often another side-effect as it is far easier to let them get fat as they overdose on crisps and chocolate than to argue with them and regulate the amount and quality of their food intake.

The most successful parents are those who are firm but fair. Who stick to their guns over respect and considerate behaviour and institute learning curves that involve achieving good results from small steps taken with guidance so that the big ones can be taken independently.

Our job is to make them ready to survive as adults in an unscrupulous and violent world and we cannot always be popular, whilst attempting to achieve this goal.

In retrospect, my parents did their best and, since I am still alive and vaguely sane, they must have succeeded in that regard.

The rest is just collateral damage that we all need to come to terms with and forget.

It's the hardest job in the world being a parent.

Originally posted by me on littlemummy.com


Cate said...

Fantastic post. So very true.

Cate xxx

Aunty Belle said...

Cakey-pie, how old is yore young'uns.

Even when ya discipline'em, love 'em --when they's adults they will be friends--not 'till then.

nitebyrd said...

So true. Children definitely should come with an instruction manual.

Ms Scarlett said...

You have the truth of it Joanna.

It is unfortunate that so many people parent reactively rather than proactively.

Champagne and Benzedrine said...

I remember having to learn that poem at school. Weird to see it again!

I just popped over because I thought you'd get a giggle at my latest post:


I know you're a Star Trek fan.

Joanna Cake said...

Thanks, Cate x

Aunty, I have teenagers. And I know you're right. Sadly, Im fighting a losing battle against their father.

Nitebyrd - And even then it would need ripping up and rewriting half the time, they're so contrary :)

Ms Scarlett - Yup, parents just want to be popular.

C & B - Absolutely delicious. Thank you so much x

Jackie Adshead said...

Phew, thats a whole lot of stuff. But I think we all have it, its part of life. If we can survive it, that's great, if we don't get too damaged on the way, that's great. If we can learn from it, and pass some of that knowledge on, then that's all we can hope for, and that's what you've done here................