The great lies of childhood and a special old lady.

Bluemilk (Andie Fox) has just written another fabulous article, published at Daily Life, on The Great Lies of Childhood.  The title alone is excellent, but I loved the article.  If you are procrastinating enough from whatever else you know or imagine you should be doing now to be reading my blog, then I recommend you upgrade the nuanced analysis aspect and read her entire article.

This is my favourite quote:
"Longing for the simplicity of the past leads some of us to pursue a more traditional parenting approach, but even then you can fall prey to hyper-parenting. Throw away the flash cards and turn off the educational iPad games and find yourself just buying a different brand of unattainable idealism. Because now the kids can climb trees, but only while wearing the organic cotton clothing you sewed yourself. Grow vegetables, make your own bread and try to summon the energy to teach the children knitting. This revisioned domesticity can be just as reliant on an intensive and unsustainable kind of mothering as that of the hothousing Tiger Mum."

In the above paragraph, Bluemilk puts into words something I've been feeling and not quite articulating for a long time.  The intensity with which we parent is a wonderful reflection of the love we have for our children.  But the difference between the joy of packing towels and some food into the car and heading for the beach, and signing up for swimming lessons, is that one can happen when the inspiration takes us and the other, after the first week or three, seems to coincide exactly with a complete lack of inspiration for taking the children anywhere, or it coincides with when childcare arrangements or work hours or the other child's activities suddenly have to change.

As someone who worked part time with my first baby, and wore myself out almost completely working a long way from home and insisting on making home made food, using cloth nappies (i.e. including at the child minder's) and various other organic and home made projects, I find it quite a relief to read the phrase "revisioned domesticity".  Look!  There is a name for it!  The way in which my feelings of love for my child and the sense that natural products and traditional activities coalesced to do something both lovely and ridiculous.  Second time round, with a much more manageable job situation in terms of hours, geography, partner support and the older ages of my children, I've been more relaxed about some of my revisioned domesticity.  But a new kind has taken its place: extra-curricular activities.  Somehow, due to loving my children and figuring that I do need to occasionally say 'yes' to them on something more than whether they can have cornflakes for breakfast, they are doing what feels like 55 different activities outside of home.  They are enjoying them, while I operate in a state of despair, fuelled by my own intense desire to spend my non-paid-working life at home.  Not, funnily enough, watching 40 kids attempt to learn a ballet dance, or watching my kids bloody their noses on the league field (I did manage to miss that, but Fionn was rather proud of himself, like it was a badge of honour to end up with the blood which should be circulating around your inner body, all over your face, hands, clothes and presumably the grass as well).

But this afternoon I did find some zen.  People often offer me zen-like thoughts, and I mostly manage to suppress my profane, invective-laden first response.  But Mary K, 85 years old and now in a rest home, opened up the sense of pleasure in really little things just by hanging out with me doing some jobs.  I took her back to my place where she didn't care about the mess but she did care about the wonders of facebook, which enabled her to see a photo of her newest great grandchild.  Then I took her up to the primary school with me to collect the kids.  It took much longer than usual but it was approximately twenty billion times special.  When you live in a rest home you don't get to be surrounded by smiling happy children, or even snivelling grumpy children or really anyone youngish at all.  But when you get to go up to the school your sixty year old son was a foundation day pupil at and see the new developments and look forward to gala day, it turns out that ordinary stuff is fabulous after all.  My kids sat around for a bit talking to Mary and then we chatted to another very young lady she knows and eventually we all got down the hill and took Mary home.

I turned down the opportunity to get some more paid work done in order to visit Mary.  I also missed supermarket shopping which meant I had to go this evening.  I missed going to Brighid's school swimming trip because they had enough transport and I had so much on at work, but it may just be possibly time to admit that although I hate it when work stops me from going on the kids' school trips, they are not all rivetting and it ain't child abuse not to go to every single one.  I missed going home and doing more washing or burying the bokashi which has been overdue for weeks.  But that was the best thing, because with Mary I slow down and I smell the roses.  With Mary, the children and I look at ordinary things in different ways and we don't expect to go rushing around a-c-h-i-e-v-i-n-g things.  There is all this quite interesting and rather timely craze for slow living.  Old people know all about it, even without the internet, that fast highway I use to read up on slow stuff.


Sharonnz said…
Revisioned domesticity. Like, a lot.

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