Wednesday, 19 January 2011

My Sister Reminded Me

What with her sweet new baby (right), and all, we've been talking a lot about attachment... and by natural extension, attachment disorders, and how easily you can find examples in the wild.

She asks, rhetorically, 'why is it that the parents who spent the kid's whole childhood pushing the child away, arranging daycare and babysitters and ordering the child outdoors, or at least into distant rooms, are also the parents who complain endlessly that their adult children don't have time for them and never call or write?'

Cue the smirk.


Is that not the apparent goal of every parent who celebrates the first day of school, and the first day back to school after any break or long weekend, or laments the cost of boarding school, or threatens that social services or the police will come and take the kids away and give mum a 'break,' to keep the children as far away from their parents as possible, for as long as possible? 

Does it strike anyone but me that it's a tragedy that so many 'normal' parents, doing what all the rest of the 'normal' parents seem to be doing (and what all the 'normal' parenting experts are extolling the virtue of and demanding all parents adhere to, lest they fall prey to permissiveness, arrested development or, horror of all horrors, 'losing themselves'), are working diligently toward goals they do not wish to achieve? And daily, moment by moment, walking further from the goals they do wish to achieve.

Even way back in the dark ages (1974), when Sandy Chapin wrote the poem, which became the lyrics to Harry Chapin's Cats Cradle, at least one person recognized the path taken when the son's need for his father is dismissed for decades only to be supplanted by the father's need for the son.

Richard Carlson, author of Don't Sweat the Small Stuff, had a brilliant insight as a father, regarding the insidious idea of 'me-time': why would I actively avoid spending time with the people I love most in the world?

How is spending time with the people we love anything but me-time? And, because I'm in a noticing kind of frame of mind, I just noticed that this whole 'me-time' necessity has been created entirely by the current generation of parents and parenting experts who are bleating on about how this generation of youngsters have the most outrageous sense of entitlement ever... hmmm...

Spend a week pushing a child away because you have more important things to do, and you'll have some work to catch up on when you're free --to re-connect and reassure and just be together to establish a relationship with this child who has now had 168 hours of development without your presence. Spend a month 'too busy' and you find yourself facing a changed child who is no longer someone you can predict accurately, and whose cues and communication have changed from the last time you met. Spend a year away from a child and you will encounter a different person. Spend a child's lifetime away and you will be facing a stranger, who you might remember used to like a particular colour or didn't used to want to eat a specific food, but who you don't know at all.

From the child's point of view, the week is a serious problem, the month is traumatic, a year is everything he can remember and his whole childhood: even if he feels a bit guilty about his natural resistance to approaching his parents, his natural resistance is based entirely in a lifetime of rejection.

Barbara Coloroso so neatly explains: spend time with your children while they're still young and want to.

In my experience, doing so results in adult children who still want to.


  1. I loved spending time with my kids when they were young! Consequently, I now love spending time with them now that they are adults. They don't seem to mind spending time with me either!

    "Me time" was something I needed when I was working full time outside my home in addition to working in it, raising those two fabulous people mostly by myself. I got it right at the end of my far too long and way too exhausting day, by telling my son that he needed to be in his room by 10pm (He was around 13 at the time.) even if he wasn't sleeping. It wasn't a happy time. When someone as extroverted as I am needs "me time", there has been way too much day in her day.

    I resolved the issue by quitting my job, getting us out of debt so we could live on one salary and being at home. Either I didn't need "me time" or I got it without realising it because I don't recall feeling overwhelmed at all.

    If you feel like you need "me time", maybe you need a shorter list of stuff to do every day; the "me time" becomes unnecessary because the overload never happened.

  2. That's very true... I see the difference between the relationship I have with my mom and the one I have with my dad. My mom and I often speak each other's thoughts; my dad and I are on a whole different playing field. He has no idea who I am, but my mom does. Why is that? My mom has put in the time and effort into me and our relationship that my dad will never know. Sucks for him.