PARENTHOOD is worry. And guilt.
On a good day it can be both.
For real luxury you can feel guilty about the worry. Or worry about the guilt.
I’m going through a worry phase – one I’ve cleverly constructed out of my daughters’ (I have three) apparent happiness.
I say ‘apparent’ because it could be a trap. Not for me, but for them.
I mean, they seem happy but who’s to say it won’t collapse like a house of cards when you breathe on it.
They are all in relationships. And these are not casual relationships.
Oh that they were!
You can walk away from casual relationships with a shrug and an insult. You can even be happy that it’s over. Breathe a sigh about the narrow escape.
I used to worry about those, too, of course, because I knew they wanted something more meaningful; more permanent. Something deeper.
But at least they’re not likely to get hurt in a casual relationship. Not emotionally anyway. (You can always end up with your head through a car windscreen as happened to my youngest daughter).
But these relationships are the Real Thing. Some weird alignment of the stars has taken place (according to my wife) and all of them (my daughters, not the stars) have slid into powerful, earth-moving relationships.
That’s suspicious for a start. I mean, how do they know it’s the real thing? They haven’t known each other more than a few days.
“We only knew each other a week when we decided it was forever,” said my wife.
“Well, yes – but this is just a few days!”
“A week is a few days.”
“Yes, but they’re talking about marriage!”
“You only talked about having children,” she said. “I knew I should have listened to my mother.”
“But aren’t you frightened. I’m frightened! And worried.”
It’s because I don’t want them to be hurt. I don’t them to be hurt because they’re not in a relationship and I don’t want them to be hurt because they are. I don’t want them to suffer any hard knocks at the hands of fate (or in the car of an halfwit who drinks and drives). I want them to sail through life doing everything right and in complete control.
“No you don’t,” said my wife. “You wouldn’t like it if they were in complete control. They’d frighten you.”
“But I’m already frightened!”
“Yes, but it would be different. They wouldn’t need you if they were in complete control; and that’s what you’re really frightened about – not being needed.”
Well… yes, perhaps, that’s a part of it. But you get used to not being needed as you get older. One of my daughters changes her own washers. All of them are now crying on someone else’s shoulder. Except they’re not crying. They’re laughing and holding hands and generally fondling one another. I feel as if I should drop handfuls of cutlery before I enter the lounge room in my own house!
And it’s not all about being needed, anyway.
I don’t want them to suffer. Not in cars nor relationships. It’s every parent’s greatest fear.
But they will suffer of course. It goes with the territory. If you don’t want your children to suffer, the answer is simple – don’t have any.
Great god – in their early years most of the suffering is inflicted by us!
“Give me a lolly.”
“Gimme, gimme, gimme!”
“Go to your room or I’ll skin you alive.” (threatening to skin a three-year-old alive will, of course, do no psychological damage whatsoever).
Indeed, it’s possible that most of our children’s emotional baggage is our fault. Like the kid said when his dad abused him about the bad school report: “D’you reckon my problem is environmental or inherited?”
Parenthood is guilt. And worry.