You know when you grow up you say things like “I’ll never treat MY kids like that” and “I’ll let MY kids stay out MUCH later” and many other indignant things usually sparked by irate parents over-reacting (of course it’s just “worry” that they call it, and denying you access to going out with your mates is nothing more than a parental concern of being “led the wrong way” when we know it’s actually them being in a bad mood because we get to do things that they never did) anyway, we say a lot. Then we grow up. And in my case I have two daughters. Hmm …… that stuff I said in years past …. can I retract ?
We are very liberal with our two for probably quite complex reasons, and we impose very very few limits on them. No bedtimes (they’ll go when they are ready), no curfews (they’ll be back when they have done playing out – and this is sad in a way because they’ll never stand outside winding their watch backwards or popping the battery out so it looks like it stopped 30 minutes before they were due back. Yes I know it never worked but it was still something they should have done..), no censorship (I’ve pointed out certain DVD’s of mine – Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer, Chopper and said they really might not like it and they’ve never watched them), no net censorship (because it’s pointless) and we have had no problems with them – and still have none. But that’s easy when they are young. It’s easy when I – as a parent – have almost total control over them and their environment. And then they go to ‘big school’ Ahh …. hmm… all of a sudden it’s MY (little even though they are both over 12 and know what to do if strangers talk to them and not to take sweets and to yell and scream and run and all manner of other things we’ve talked to them about over the years) little girls wanting to do things. Things that I do while not worry exactly, I do think about that bit harder. So I have to ‘walk the walk’ don’t I ?
It would be so much easier if J was not as liberal – because then I could say things like “Well I’d let you go but your mother won’t….” and get out of all responsibility that way – but she is and I can’t. Liberal is the wrong word. I don’t know what the right word is… It would be easier if we had not talked openly and honestly to the girls as they grew up, and discussed dilemmas both to do with the fact they were girls and not. So I really am in a position where I am having to live up to both what I said I would do and what I want to do which sounds ideal but the reality does quite have that golden glow. There is still an element of worry – not about us doing things right as I think we ARE right and even if I’m not right by your standards I’m certainly not wrong (I’m no Dr Spock) and nothing I can do, or they can do will ever remove that worry (still talk to your parents ? ring them up and ask if they worry about you. Bet you don’t as the first thing they’ll say is “Why, what are you up to ?”) so I do have to walk the walk. The worry will never leave but pride and some indeterminate but positive feelings will slowly but surely overwhelm it.
A wee tale:
On P’s birthday the other sunday, we went to a pub of her choice. I went to the bar and got the drinks – Cola all round. While I was stood waiting though, I wanted a beer. This feeling / this ‘thing’ about a beer is increasing (I think I know why but more on that in a bit) and I saw some alcohol-free beer (Kaliber) in the fridge, so I asked for one. As time had it, D who was helping me with the drinks was not at the bar when I asked for the beer, or when it was poured into a glass. She was there when I paid. She saw the beer, shot me a look, again at the beer and again at me. “That’s beer” she said. Yes I replied as we wandered to the table. J saw it and didn’t seem bothered. P saw it. I explained what the beer was. She asked me, told me, said to me with a sad look on her face “Please don’t drink beer dad”. That’s why I mustn’t.