No Easy Answers…

It would be nice to believe in easy answers, but I don’t think there are any. The imposition of capitalism on nearly the whole world is at the root of our problems. The idea that money is what the world revolves around is central to how most people live to ay. We have lost sight of so much that is central to making us feel worthwhile, making us feel good about ourselves.

If we were to remove the current government from office, what would they be replaced with? We have seen the disasters that have followed revolutions in the past. And always in violent confrontations the most violent wins out. This is not what we need.

If we were to disband the IMF (oh please, I wish we could) how long would it be before the governments that it has infected with it’s capitalist corporatism realise that it has sent them down the wrong road?

What we need to do is not be violent, nor be passive and accepting, but to educate… to work to get people from as many walks of life as possible to see that there is nothing more valuable than a human life (or any other animal); that we need to value each other for who we are; that economics is just a way of trying to understand the movement of money, not a value system to run the world.

Empathy, kindness, compassion, love and understanding are what we need. The ability to see that people make bad choices, not because they are bad people (most of the time), but because they don’t understand what is happening for others, or why other people are important. They lack the emotional maturity to understand that other people are both real and important, not just tools to be used and the discarded.

We don’t need money to have a good life, an abundant life, full of love and laughter, we need people for that!

On Being A Parent

Being a parent is the most difficult job you can ever do. I am no expert I have only one child, and two step children. When I had my child I was aware that many people don’t think about parenting, they just repeat what their parents did to them.

My parents thought about how they had been parented (bear in mind they grew up during the world war 2). They tried to be better parents than their parents were, I tried to better them.

I started from the belief that no child asks to be born, and, whilst not everyone who becomes a parent wants to be one, they do at least have the advantage of having some knowledge of what’s going on (though I doubt that anyone fully understands just how demanding a job it is until it’s too late). So, as I had consciously chosen to become a parent, it was only right that I put my child’s needs before my own.

This doesn’t mean that I didn’t take care of myself, but that I did so in ways that I hoped would be helpful to her. I was very lucky to do a ParentLink course (before it got muddied by outside pressures). It reinforced some of my ideas and challenged others.

I learnt that saying “no” is sometimes the most loving and supportive thing you can say to a child. I learnt that I didn’t have to be a perfect parent, just a “good enough” one. I learnt that I didn’t have to know everything, or be right all the time, I just had to be honest (congruent).

I already knew that the most important thing for my child was for her to know that she was loved. I also knew that a certain amount of structure in her life was important to give her a sense of security. But I learnt to think about what I wanted her to learn from me (through my behaviour, as well as what I thought I was teaching her), and what would be the best way of helping her understand.

I already knew that many parents have little understanding of their child’s age and how this impacts on both their behaviour and what they are capable of learning. It was a steep learning curve for me, to work out just what was appropriate to expect from her. I saw mothers shouting at their children for being to young to understand what was expected from them. I had to stop myself from intervening.

I also saw mothers who had handed over all control to children too young for that level of decision making. I found that scary, I wanted my child to know something of the freedom of childhood. I wanted to allow her to be a child, and to see that I valued her play at least as much as I valued her work. I wanted to give her the time to grow up at her own pace.

I also realised that I had to provide her with a role model. There are so few positive role models, especially for girls, that I had to show her that she didn’t have to conform to anyone’s stereotype, she could be herself.

I struggled with all these things. I made lots of mistakes. But I tried.

I love my daughter very much and I am immensely proud of her. Every now and then I apologise to her for the mistakes I made, for the fact that I was also trying not to succumb to depression all the way through her childhood. And I am so grateful for all the fun we had together, and for the joy she still brings me.

And I wish I could have done more of these things with my stepchildren. But things don’t always (ever?) turn out the way you want, let alone expect, them to. I will have to live with the feeling I have let them down.

And I remind myself that very few people have a wonderful childhood. Most of us wish things could have been different. But the past is gone, and, whilst it’s shadow may still hang over us, all we can do is make the best we can of today – and make sure our children know we love them.

Balance, ah, balance

Gandhi said that we should be the change that we want to see. It’s a wonderful sentiment. I love Gandhi for his strength and his gentleness. But it asks a lot of a person to live up to his pronouncements. He is not offering any of us an easy life, and maybe that is part of his attraction. We know we aren’t really meant for an easy life. It makes us nervous and uncomfortable when that’s what we choose.

I’m not saying we all should have difficult lives, too many people have to struggle to survive awful situations. I’m just suggesting that maybe, as a risk taking, problem solving, species, we need a taste of risk, a grain of difficulty, to keep us feeling right with the world.

If you look at children who are brought up in risk free, sanitised homes, what do we find? Are these kids well adjusted, happy, great examples for their peers? I suspect not. We need many different forms of experience and stimulation to make us well rounded human beings. These children are deprived of some essential opportunities.

To grub around in the mud is a wonderful play time and learning experience for any small child. To meet people from different backgrounds can give huge insight and humility. To be exposed to normal human interaction, in (nearly) all it’s glories, helps us realise what is important and what is not. But we need a safe place to retreat to to analyse and absorb these lessons.

Our home should be that place. It’s very sad that it frequently is not. Too many people have children because they had sex, rather than because they thought about the risks and rewards of parenthood. Too many people have children because… they want to… with no thought of the responsibilities of parenthood. Too many people repeat what their parents did with no thought of the effect it had on them and their siblings.

No child asks to be born. If you did not choose to be a parent, you need to think about why you allowed yourself to become one. If you have chosen to be a parent you need to think about why. To my mind it is a privilege and a responsibility to be a parent, and once you have become one I think you should put your child’s needs first.

That’s a lot more difficult and complicated than it sounds. Your children will not be learning what you think you are teaching them. They will be learning something you do rather than what you say, so it’s important to be a role model as well as a parent. It’s important to think about just what your behaviour toward your children is really teaching them.

Privileged children learn that many things can be bought, but they struggle to learn the real value of anything. Parents who spend huge amounts of money on gifts for their children without spending time with them are teaching their children a variety of things, firstly that they think money is more important than spending time with people, that spending time making money is more important than relationships… do you see what I’m driving at?

It is our responsibility to give our children what they need, not what they want, not even what we think they want. What they need is our unconditional love, but NOT our unconditional indulgence. They need to be respected as individual human beings, but they also need to learn that we deserve some of that respect as well. It’s all about balance.

Life is all about balance, give and take, win and lose, being centred and happy with who we are without being self-satisfied and self-serving.

Ah, balance.