Café Crem

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Child & parent

I am in the awkward position (may this position last longer and longer!) of being a child for my parents and a parent for my children. So I can understand now both sides… and it may not be in the spirit of Christmas and in the general optimistic note but I would say a shocking thing: if I would have today a choice, if I had the power to choose again, I would probably choose not to have children…

Not that my children are any worst than others. Not that I don’t love them so much I would trade anytime, in a second, my life for theirs.

But there is so much anguish, so much pain and moral suffering in the parent situation (if he or she is not a careless, selfish bastard) that I consider I can do without all that overheated feelings. It’s hard enough, after a certain age, to take care of yourself and of your life partner (if you are lucky enough to have one…) To be permanently anguished, to worry all the time because you still care about your children, even if they are big now (or exactly because of that…) is a situation which worns you out to the bone… Of course, you can always try the “don’t worry, be happy” approach (oh, how I wish I could!) but in reality you will always, I mean till you die, always be on your guard for them…

Being a creator (whatever you create: pottery or novels, paintings or jewels, music or whatever…) might help a bit. You can put some of your anguish, some of your fear into words, into clay or into paint. But it will always be on the back of your mind…(How are they? what is he doing? has she enough healthy food? will he take care how he drives on the snowy roads? )

The Zen buddhist say – I think – that you have to ACCEPT everything as it comes, good and bad, so that nothing would really bother you any more… I still try to do that…

But then, we don’t really have a choice. The hot blood of the youth, when no reasonable choice is the right choice, make it happen so fast that your head spins. And then, there you are, a young father, on your knee before a joyful and inconscient toddler, programmed to enslave you for life… And they grow old and you grow old and there are no other choices but to worry and to anguish for them. Till the day you’ll die. And if sometimes they are selfish themselves and forget about your feelings you still cannot turn your back on them because there will be grandchildren, your blood, other toddlers who will make you feel diapers don’t stink. And so on, and so forth…

Maybe Him (or Her) Who Are in Heaven is right after all. Otherwise, how will there be such a successful – at least considering only the numbers – specie out there ?

danu

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January 2, 2008 - Posted by | Art, books, death, family, life, love, men, painting, Parents and Children, personal, religion, writing

18 Comments »

  1. Wow! ‘This is different’, I like your blog entry,
    I’m not a parent myself but I do have both my parents, and have moved back in with them temporarily, to be honest i’ve always been a bit distant with my parents, never really liked depending on them, and when I have asked for something I felt like I was imposing on them and had no right to, being the middle child, I think thats the norm, we’re not the apple of the eye like the ‘responsible’ eldest or the adorable ‘spoilt’ youngest, yes I am ”so over that complex” but it doesnt mean I dont feel a twinge every so often . Family will always be a bother, there will always be issues, gold help me when I get kids of my own!

    Comment by supersizeme | January 2, 2008

  2. Danu, your words and thoughts are so profound.

    No, we don’t have children of our own so a part of your equation is unknown to me – the part of always worrying about how the children are doing.

    From the other side of the equation – as a daughter having cared for my mother as she grew older and less able to look after herself – your words are equally true.

    As caregivers for our parents as they age and retreat from the world, w must take on more of the responsibilities for their life as well as our own.

    My mother could no longer make decisions for herself. Not about her house or legal matters, and increasingly not about her health. So I do know what is to always worry: is the new doctor the right doctor? Should we try a different medication? Your thoughts are always on them, whether they are your children or your parents.

    The relationship between parents and children never ends, but they do twist and turn and take on different dimensions. We forge strong ties that hold fast to our lives even after they are gone.

    Comment by Bonny | January 2, 2008

  3. I can tell you from my experience, supersizeme, (I’m an only child, just like my wife but we had 3 of our own) that you will need all the help you can get, even with the ideal children (I suppose…) and I’m not the totally obssessed father, overprotective etc.

    Comment by iondanu | January 2, 2008

  4. Bonny, you have something there: when your own parents become like your children… But, you know, with the parents the worries aren’t so sharp, it’s only natural that they get older and older (etc)…in fact, the same is true for your children but then you cannot EVER treat them as your parents… It’s very complicated but one thing is certain: most of the pain and the suffering will almost always come to you from a member of your own family. No wonder melodramas and dramas and tragedies have almost always as subject the relation inside a family…

    Comment by iondanu | January 2, 2008

  5. Oh my God! Your words hurt me deeply.
    I find in your writing so much sadness and anger somehow but yet I cannot understand why you would have chosen not to have kids.
    I will talk from my perspective.
    My dad (before getting married) used to tell my mom that he didn’t want to have children, but not ’cause of what you are describing but ’cause he was afraid of not being able to take well care of us. My grandfather abandoned the family when my dad was 3 years old. He grew up with my grandma and my grandma’s parents (his great grandparents), but although they tried to give him as much love as they could he suffer a lot not having a dad. He grew up and developed a trauma, he was afraid that he might do the same to his own children. So, having suffered a lot himself, he didn’t want to cause suffering to anyone else. This is why he didn’t want to have children. But then, some years later, I was born and things changed. And he is the best dad I could ever had. He is totally the opposite of his father. My dad is a great dad indeed (and I’m not just saying this cause he is my dad), full of love and care for my bro and I. He regrets now ever wanting not to have children.

    It hurts me so deeply your words ’cause somehow I see my own mother in there.
    I will explain this in my own entry.

    Comment by Mary | January 2, 2008

  6. Mary, I think you misunderstood me. I am very sad my mother is gone, not angry. I never begrudged her a moment of my time in caring for her. In fact I quit work in order to be with her full time and so she could remain at home instead of in an institution.

    I miss my mother every day and never more so than at this time of year. We were very close.

    I don’t see how my post could hurt you, as you don’t know the full circumstances of her illness and passing. I feel no need to go into those kind of details here.

    My comment was just simply that, a comment to say there are two sides to the relationship of ‘parents and children’. This was not meant to hurt you or anyone else. I am sorry if you read something else into my comment.

    Comment by Bonny | January 2, 2008

  7. Danu,

    I am also both a child and a parent and the same time. My mother died a few years ago, but my father is still alive. He chooses to have nothing to do with either my brother or myself. For the first few years after his decision I did not understand what was going on. But now I think I do. I think once you are a parent (and now that I am a parent myself I can see that this IS true), you never stop worrying about your children until the day you die, no matter how old you are, and how old they are. Parenting is a job for life. I now am certain that my father thought his job was over when I left home at 18, and he thought he wouldn’t have to worry about me any more. Instead, I’m sure he’s found that he does continue to worry. So, by cutting my brother and myself out of his life, I think this is his attempt at not having to worry about us!

    Madame Monet

    Comment by wpm1955 | January 2, 2008

  8. Bonny, my comment was refered to danu’s entry. Not to your comment. Sorry for missunderstandings.
    It hurt me the fact that he said that if he had a choise he would choose not to have children.
    Sorry once again!

    Comment by Mary | January 2, 2008

  9. You know, danu, I remember quite well, 32 years ago (!) holding my first child in my arms and thinking: Oh my God. I am now so completely vulnerable now that I have you.
    And we are, as parents, aren’t we? For me, the vulnerability comes in three ways. First, loss of the primary connection as they evolve through different life stages. New ones are formed, but they are different…it is never the same…the connection weakens as they form new ones away from us…as they’re suppposed to… Change always involves loss, doesn’t it… And loss is pain until we make some meaning of it…
    Another vulnerability is the pain of watching them make choices that hurt them and having to stand by and do nothing….because if we try they won’t listen anyway! Not that I listened to MY parents as I made various choices in my life! But then, that is THEIR learning experience, isn’t it…wouldn’t it be nice if we could just inject them with all our painful life experience!
    Finally, the vulnerability we have to their suffering and pain, both physical or mental….how it hurts to watch our children suffer….what does it mean? I don’t know…but I think that’s part of the whole journey of life…to make some meaning of it all…for me that meaning is faith….

    Comment by psychscribe | January 2, 2008

  10. I think most people, if they knew in advance how difficult being a parent was would be dissuaded from becoming one. Good think none of us realize all the difficulties in advance! That doesn’t mean that being a parent doesn’t have it’s rewards.

    For someone to say they might not have had children if they knew in advance all that was entailed is no different than saying they would not choose to build a house themselves, or do any other number of things in life, if they knew in advance all that it entailed. I don’t think a comment like this is meant to hurt anyone’s feelings, or is meant to be taken personally! My father said the same thing to me, when I asked him that question as a teenager.

    Madame Monet

    Comment by wpm1955 | January 2, 2008

  11. Madame Monet: Of course things are a lot more complex that I could myself write them in just a short post… and of course being a parent has its rewards – and even very important ones…

    As for your father (whom I don’t know, of course) it could be some other explanations too…I can think of one or too: pride and him not wanting for you to see what old age can do to a person. Old parents are, also, extremely susceptible, very easy to hurt their feelings, I think…like teenage children…

    Comment by iondanu | January 2, 2008

  12. psychscribe: you understood my point much better that I could have explain it myself…

    Those are my experiences, too. Of course, I couldn’t put in a 1000 words post all of it and there are things I won’t tell (let’s say that one of my children have special problems – but that only AMPLIFIED my understanding of all this, did not change it essentially…) And it’s also kind of naive…I’m a relativelly inteligent, grown up man, I should know, by now, that things changes all the time (and there is nothing to do about it), that suffering is the essence of life (well, it’s Bouddha and Christ whom discoverd that more than 2000 years ago…) That we are all, from birth, condemned to die (melodramatically put but not less true, eh?) And that we do that to the children we bring into this world…

    Mary: it wasn’t ment to hurt your feelings or anyone’s else, mary! I just said what I feel at this moment in time. And I have to tell you one thing: I had a very happy childhood myself for which I’ll be grateful to my parents till the day I die (that included!). I tried to do the same thing for my children and I don’t think they can say I didn’t do my best… But that doesn’t change the basical facts: parenting is, after a while, love & suffering (it seems one without the other isn’t possible…) and we all die, parents AND children. One of the worst suffering is to see your child die before you – always a possibility! otherwise, why would you worry? I can only imagine what Paul Newman, for instance, felt (and Joanne Woodward) when their son OD… I’m sorry, Mary, I do not – I cannot – tell soothing lies or half-truth… That’s the way the things are, to cite a very good writer, Kurt Vonnegut Jr.

    Comment by iondanu | January 2, 2008

  13. Thanks, Mary. All clear. No hard feelings!

    Comment by Bonny | January 2, 2008

  14. Danu, I know you didn’t ment to hurt anyone, I’m just expressing what I felt when I read your entry. No one said life isn’t hard nor that it is always hard. So life in general is hard or as you said a mixture of love and suffering not just being a parent. I think that being a parent (mother or father) it’s just a part of life, not all. And of course, as in everything, there will be tough times that you will have to bear.
    We all die, you are right. And I’m well aware that the worst suffering for a parent is that his children die before him.. but is that a reason enough to regret having children? Or to wish you had had a choice? No offense, but I personally don’t think so. Think about your own children… how do you think they would feel if they know that their father said something like what you said?

    I’m sorry if I was harsh, didn’t mean to.

    Comment by Mary | January 3, 2008

  15. Wow! this subject is a biggie! I can tell you, as a father, and an absent one at that, it has been, and still is, a rollercoaster of emotions. (Beautifully illustrated in the movie “Parenthood” with Steve Martin, where the two parents were portrayed riding an imaginary rollercoaster as a metaphor for their trials and tribulations) As Ive explained in other comments, Miki and I are struggling to get our connection back online down here, and its SO frustrating, as we have a lot o say on this topic!! But I´ll be posting several entries soon, rest assured.

    Comment by kevmoore | January 3, 2008

  16. Mary, I do not have regrets. I do not regret having children. All I said (I think) is that, IF I had again the chance to make a reasonable choice I would probably choose not to have… And I don’t think my children would mind because they NEVER look at what I paint or write or whatever…At least not right now…

    Comment by iondanu | January 3, 2008

  17. The movie I recall mostly when evoking children (not only mine) is more the movie “Kids”…I wonder if anyone have seen that one, Kev? ?Good luck with your connection.

    Comment by iondanu | January 3, 2008

  18. Great entry, Danu, so honest and courageous! I always admire people having the courage of their opinions, above all when they are “against the trend”.
    I have no children myself, but I can see everything you say in my own parents. We are 3 children, 2 brothers and me, 60, 56 and 52, and I can confirm that my parents never stopped to care and worry for us. 2 of us are quite extreme (the youngest brother and me) in our life styles and character, and my parents are constantly under tension because of us. I can see and feel it, and I think all the time that they don´t deserve it, they have been wonderful parents for us, they should rest now with their 82 years and simply enjoy their old days, but no! And really when i see all that, I think that perhaps I did well not to have own children!!! I am totally aware of the great incomparable moments of mother- and fatherhood, but it seems so many times such a hard price to pay for it! And not only for the parents… I have met many very unhappy children, because of the way their parents are… there was even a time when i said to myself: I don´t want to be a mother, because I don´t want to see my children suffer because of me!!!

    Comment by Miki | January 15, 2008


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