Ponder this:

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Your tea is cold now. You drink it standing up, and leave the house.

Some of you are going to dislike me after you read this.


I did not have a good Natal Family Experience. I am not one who has ever had an urge to buy little pillows that say, "My sister, My friend," for example. I do not feel, as some others do, an automatic visceral bond with blood relatives. I have not found that blood is thicker than water.         
I subscribe to the belief that friends are the family you choose. All of that is, no doubt, part of my difficulty in understanding the unquestioning parental devotion to offspring.


My coworker's cellphone rings every day at four o'clock, her eighteen-year-old daughter calling to say she's safely completed the five-minute trip from home to work. No matter what's happening in the office, that call is taken joyfully. A short conversation ensues, concludes with "I love you, Sweetie. I'll see you later." It is proper to think well of  such a connection. It's a good parent who is interested in and available to a child's report of where she is, what she's doing, how she's feeling. After all, we are all familiar with the sociologists' reports on the result of parents who lack any involvement in their children's lives. It augurs well for the child growing into an adult to have someone who is always delighted to hear his or her voice, always interested in the little daily events in the adolescent life.


Here is my shamefaced admission: Overhearing that daily phone call annoys me. 


Intellectually I know that such a connection is laudable and healthy. My emotional reaction is that it's silly and treacly. An eighteen-year-old ought to be able to make a five-minute trip without reporting in for grateful congratulation. At some point, it seems to me, offspring would become simply Other People, and I would be hard-pressed to receive, daily, a solicitation of my attention from some Other Person for a report on his whereabouts, particularly when the whereabouts are within five minutes of both parties.
Emotionally I cannot grasp how major life decisions . . . whether or not to take a well-paying job far from home, or whether or not to establish a new relationship with a completely suitable significant other, for example, can reasonably be driven by the effect it has on The Beloved Child. 
"I'm not ready to ruin my child's life." 
"What? Let the kid roll with it!" I want to say. 
God knows I learned to roll early enough and I'm still here to tell the tale.
Definitely a symptom of arrested development on my part, and mean-spirited perhaps, and  but there it is.

My coworker told me once, "Having a child is not like having a pet!  From the time they're born, you're responsible for keeping them alive!" I don't know how that differs from having a pet, but presumably that's because I don't have children. It is a whole category of existence unknown to me, a proud private club to which I am not admitted. The Good Parent's attitude seems to be that the offspring never becomes a being apart; the Good Parent never sees that the offspring is no longer six years old.

I know from whence my reaction comes, and what it signifies: It is envy.  Having grown up without that solicitousness, even at my advanced age, I still want to be the child who has One Person who lives and dies by the continuation of my respiration. I always wanted that, and I never felt that I was. So I'm jealous of such a relationship. But for whatever reason, I just don't get it.

I'll stand right here while you gather stones with which to pelt me into unconsciousness.

Post title from Childhood is the Kingdom Where Nobody Dies by Edna St. Vincent Millay

15 comments:

SmitoniusAndSonata said...

No , I'm not going to pelt you with stones . Not even virtual stones . I think you're right . If every child phoned every mother to report every movement ever made the world might sieze up !
But , whether your family is nuclear .... or goes nuclear , to be replaced by friends and becomes the family you choose , it's definitely a good feeling to feel connected .
And , if all else fails , make sure your next cup of tea is just how you like it .

Friko said...

gathering stones to pelt you with?
Good God, woman, you and your mean spirit are like a breath of fresh air to me in this cloying, pious claptrappy, sentimental world. I am all for getting along fine as a family (I wish I knew how to achieve it) but I know of many family who don't.

Responsible for a child until the day you die? No way. It's a wonderful way out for the child and a crutch for the parent who might otherwise fall over.
Right, I am standing right next to you, let the stoning begin.

Betsy from Tennessee said...

Interesting post---and there's alot in it where we agree. I think where parents fail is NOT allowing children to grow up and make their own decisions and be on their own.. There comes a time when parents need to LET GO---and allow their grown kids to have a life of their own.

I have two good friends (my age --in their 60's) whose whole entire life is their ADULT children and those children's lives. Talk about being a MATRIARCH. These friends are IN CHARGE --and they totally control the family (all of their kids, spouses and grandkids). It just blows my mind. AND--because of this, the adult children never grow up... They just depend on Mom and Dad to help them constantly.

I raised my 3 sons to be independent --and that is what they are! I don't hear from them sometimes as much as I should, but it's just the way it is. They are FINE--and living their lives now.... That is a good thing...

Hugs,
Betsy

rachel said...

No, I won't be throwing stones either. I love my son dearly, but I would hate to hear all about every aspect of his life, just as I would hate to have to tell him mine - and I take pride in our mutual independence as well as our non-cloying closeness. Yes, I kept him alive as a child (and deserve a medal for not murdering him myself in his teens), but he's a grown up now, and is responsible for himself. Just like me.

I cringe when I hear those automatic "Luv-yew" endings to all phone calls to and from children, and - I'm admitting something here - found it astonishing when I was in Australia to find how many women, all bright, vibrant, intelligent, with good careers and interesting lives, could spend for EVER talking about their kids! And their audience would listen with rapt attentiveness! (Australian readers, you can throw kangaroo poo at me now.....)

Good post!

ladyhawthorne said...

If anyone throws stones at you then they have to throw them at me too. I once worked with a lady whose 17 year old daughter (who was adult enough to have a baby and a live in boyfriend) would call her mother at least 4 or more times a day for things as stupid as what color socks should I wear? Drove me nuts. I figured it was because I was an only child and had no children but now I think it was because the mother and daughter couldn't cut the apron strings with each other. I certainly never called my mother every day even though I was a latchkey kid. Lots love from Mom, but unless there was an emergency, you never called her at work.
Kids are not my favorite people, I once had a magnet on the fridge that said "Pets welcome, Children must be on a leash."

jinksy said...

Speaking as a once child myself (!) I found it a pain in the butt. As a Mum, I've always tried to love and let go, as that's how I'd have liked to be treated...

Inay said...

My children and I are so attached to each other....ever since their father left us...we were neatly close.....
My x left us when i was a month old pregnant with my youngest who is now 9 years old...
I never dated anyone because i am their father and their mother..
I have two teens and a nine year old bratzzzzz..
since i was born on a country who value family...i am so sad about what you have said..
In my country we do not put our oldies in a homecare...we take care of them.....
I take care of my father who died a month ago and now my mother has been a bed ridden for 6 years....
we the children takes care of them....my brothers and sister takes care of the bills....and i use my physical attribute cause am the youngest daughter from 10 offsprings....
Friend won't do that...
they come and go....
Family, clan stays connected no matter what...
blood is thicker than water....

no matter what the issue is..if the parents do their job as parent...we can build a nation of productive citizen...
charity begins at home...
teach your children to love, to be responsible, to trust..to respect..and to be generous....
teach them the word of God

Linda Granholm Myers said...

No stone throwing from me, either.

I know two grown women - in relationships with sons of mine - who have a daily relationship with their mothers. To me it looks like an unwillingness to shed the trappings of childhood and move into independent adulthood, and it makes me impatient.

I have a Facebook page and all these people are my friends. I've hidden one of the grown women and the mother of the other!

To say nothing of my three 40-something colleagues with preschoolers whose conversations about their phenomenal offspring drive me to headphones.

I wish I heard more often from my grown children, but we raised them to be independent, and they are.

Bernie said...

You bring up a very interesting topic and one that seems to hit home to all who read it. Such a fine line between those who hang on to their children in a non positive way and those who have an easy relationship who have let go but still remain a loyal and all for one and one for all sort of family. To me, family is there when needed but otherwise let them live their own lives as the grown and independent adults you hoped they would become.

Barb said...

Ahhh - June - I see I needn't have worried. You're back in full-flower. I just spent a wonderful 24 hours with 3 of my young Grands. After they left, my Husband and I smiled and sighed - the quiet was like a balm! I love being a Mom and a Grammy, but my own Mother raised me from a young age to have a conscience and take responsibility. I followed her lead with my own kids. I want them to have their own lives (while sharing my Grandkids with me occasionally). Neither they nor I have time for daily check-ins. (Though you may find me bragging about the Grands occasionally...) Also, when phrases are used as a matter of course - the "I Love You," for example - they may stop having the strong emotional impact they should have (imo).

Goodness - is this your blog or mine? Why have I written a book?

Barb said...

Oh for goodness sake - all that writing, and I forgot to mention that I like the Millay poem which I'd never before read. I think that's all I have to say. For now...

June said...

It's always gratifying to get a lot of well-considered comments, so thank you all.
I feel compelled to clarify, however, that I have no issue with familial closeness if it works for a particular family or a particular culture. It is the child-as-master, the child-as-center-of-the-universe behavior that gets under my skin.

And, just for additional clarification, my aversion to those daily check-in calls from a late adolescent/young adult does not necessarily indicate that I would throw elderly relatives under the next passing bus.

Von said...

As some of us know, kids are pretty good at keeping themselves alive and are far more resilient than we give them credit for.Parents need to know when to let go and allow independance, when to stand back and not promote co-dependance.
You can all pelt me with stones if you like but I think some parenting these days is horrendous and does not produce self-reliant adults.Isn't that the purpose of parenting?
An adult relationship with a grown up child can be a nightmare or a dream but whichever, it's real and something those who have never experienced it yearn for.If not having children hasn't been a choice it's so sad and hard to comes to terms with for many.
A relationship with a parent can be a nightmare too.
My recent experience of blood ties tells me many things but one is that's it's not always delightful!

Carolynn said...

Honestly, the most difficult part of my relationship with The Pirate, is having to step aside and accept that his children are his #1 priority (all five of them...). And, to still my tongue and let him parent the way he feels is best. I don't understand why his 18 & 16 year olds are unable to fend for themselves once in a while and make dinner, for example, or contribute to the smooth running of the household in some fashion. It boggles my mind, but I accept that there are lessons here for me to learn, as well, and I do my best to just breathe.

I won't be throwing any stones.

Kathryn said...

Pelt you? I totally understand you. I, also, did not have a happy beginning. I wanted children & that hasn't happened either. That phone call would be a daily reminder for me what i didn't have, what i don't have, what i'll never have. Envy? Yep, i'm right there with you.

(I'm not going to touch the parenting issue, the result would be so long you would be wondering, "WHO is this person?")