Having children of my own has made me think about my own parents a lot over the last few years. They certainly for-filled different roles in my upbringing.
My Dad never took part in any form of child care. He had three children and changed 2 nappies in all that time, one of mine and one of my kid brothers. He wouldn’t do any cooking or cleaning and we were very rarely left with him on our own. When my Mum had a baby when I was 12 years old I was the 2nd caregiver. I would bath, feed and care for him in the absence of my mother. She often took him to after school clubs or playdates, and I would be the one to fix dinner that evening. He was obsessive about the house being tidy and would often accuse me of ‘treating the house like a hotel’ in my teenager years (this was never ever true!)
However he was brilliant at teaching me things, always talking to me, phisophising, passing on his wisdom. I thought he knew everything, and his opinion was the only one that mattered to me. When we visted a museum he would crouch down to my level in front of the steam engine and excitedly explain how it all worked. I loved those moments when he was engrossed in me, even if I didn’t care one bit how that steam engine worked. He has always delighted in my creativity. When I showed my Mum my clay creation I would be lucky for her to even crack a smile at it. I would seek out my Dad and show him and he would gush over it and tell me how clever I was. When I was a poor impoverished student I got into digital art and one day a parcel arrived and it was an expensive digital art tablet that he had ordered for me to use. He has always delighted in my photography and he is always impressed when I crochet something new.
He has also always been very generous with his money, but not with his time. We all find it difficult to tear him away from the things he likes doing. These things gliding, fishing, playing the piano, being on his computer and watching sports on TV. When I take his grandchildren around to visit, he stays present for half an hour maximum before he goes off back to his own world of likes. When Cleo was admitted for jaundice and we needed someone to come and look after Charlie and Rosa he wouldn’t come. I still harbor some hurt and anger over this. Emotionally, he isn’t really there for me. Actually that isn’t totally true. When I was at university I made myself very poorly with IBS which was stress related. I couldn’t even stay in lectures it got that bad. He offered to pay for me to have therapy or whatever I needed to help me cope with it all. Is that being there for someone emotionally? Not really is it.
My Mum and I are very close. We love to go shopping together and ‘have lunch’. She is content to be at home with us all day too. She is very generous with her time, and my children adore her. She does have some strong opinions though and very often not the same as mine. I don’t think we have ever argued….
But these relationships I have with each of my parents are very specific to me and me alone. My 2 siblings have very different relationships with the same two parents. Neither of my brother or sister are creative. Neither of them are yet to really be independent from them yet (28 and 18) Neither of them are on the same level as me with regards academic ability. There were always expectations of me, as the eldest, even if they were never actually said. My Dad would never ever EVER have expected my sister to cook dinner on those evenings my Mum was out. They never expected her to go to university. I don’t think either of them ever sat with Dad and talked about the world like we did.
My brother has an even stranger relationship with them. Up until he left for uni at the beginning of Sept he spent every spare moment in his room on the internet. He would slope off and we wouldn’t even notice. He is very distant from all of us.
Reading this back, I could talk for ages about my Dad, complex things, intricate details on things that shaped me. My Mum is rock solid, dependable, and I love her with all my being, but things are just simple with her. She undoubtedly did help shape me into the person (and parent) I am now. She is so gentle and patient.
Stacy and I are certainly also going to be quite different in what we offer our own children. It will be interesting to see how things evolve as they get older. We are much more equal in many respects than my own parents, this can only be a good thing.