15 March, 2007

The Best Thing About Children

Perhaps the best thing about children is that they make you feel grown up. At 51, I still feel that I am ignorant, my ideas half-formed, my experience limited and my character immature and underdeveloped. Yet compared to my 20-year-old daughter I feel as if I have the wisdom of Solomon!

Not that she’s daft or uneducated or especially childish. In fact, compared to most 20-yer-olds, I’m pleased to say she’s pretty damned great. It’s just that she’s still growing and still learning. Her brain has only just finished its development and her experience has only just begun to accumulate. She is still making the kinds of mistakes that she still has an excuse to make because everything is still happening to her for the first time. She has barely begun to chip away at the great mountain of things there are for her to know.

I’ve tried telling her things, of course, and so has Wifie. Mostly, though, the light of our own condensed and refined understanding reflects off the surface of her shiny new mind. But I like to think that some small fraction is absorbed, to colour her new experiences and guide the learning process. Meanwhile, I have to watch and wince as she takes the emotional knocks that will eventually hammer her into shape. I can also smile indulgently (if anxiously) at her interest in Aleister Crowley and Robert Anton Wilson, her liking for beat poetry, and her choice of boyfriends, knowing (with fingers crossed) that she will eventually make it through all this to somewhere rather less fantastical and unstable.

The worst thing about children is that they remind you of your own youth. At 20 I was living in a run-down flat, in a disastrous relationship. I had just started university after taking my entrance exams at night school – having dropped out of high school to go to sea on the trawlers and then having spent a couple of years in casual labouring jobs. Without a doubt, I haven’t got a leg to stand on and I must take my place down here in the foothills of the moral high-ground. All I can say that isn’t entirely hypocritical is that it would be rather more efficient and far less painful and uncertain for my daughter to take a different approach to career development than her old man took.

Or maybe the worst thing is the conflict between wanting them to be safe and secure and wanting them to be happy. I’ve always told her how important it is to make a career out of something you really, really enjoy doing. The reality is, however, that almost everything that would guarantee financial security is tedious and boring. So when she tells me she wants to go to film school, or be an artist, or run an orchid farm, I’m torn between ‘Great! Go for it!’ and ‘What? You want to be poor all your life!’ I’ve always told her she should settle down with someone she really likes and gets on well with. So when she wheels out the latest loser boyfriend with career aspirations to be a rock star or a shop assistant, I oscillate between ‘Whatever makes you happy, darling.’ and ‘Oh my God, couldn’t you do better that?’ And, of course, that’s probably exactly what my own girlfriends’ parents thought about me when I was that age!

Anyway, she’s catching up fast. I suspect that wisdom is achieved exponentially. The curve climbs fast for a few decades and then starts to level off. In another ten or twenty years, there won’t be that much difference between us. By then, of course, I’ll be starting to slip into senility and it will be her turn to feel smug and superior.


Becky said...

Love you too :-)

~ Daughter.

graywave said...

Just as well, really...


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