Betty Duffy


Thursday, September 25, 2008

Disposable Childhood?

Who ever ends up living the life they are groomed from childhood to live? I vaguely remember telling the orthodontist that I needed him to recommend braces to my parents because I was going to be an actress when I grew up, and I, with straight white teeth, did indeed perform in a few school plays in high school. At some point, however, I decided that being an actress was too shallow a vocation to pursue, and that I needed to concentrate on my career as a solo cellist. When I discovered exactly how competitive and unlikely that career would be to realize, I began to focus on writing. And ever since I have displaced that career urge alternately with reading, mothering, and trying to reach some sort of Catholic spiritual enlightenment.

Sometimes I think about all the money my parents spent on me and my various aspirations, and I cringe at the many ways I let that money go to waste. I also sometimes think of my parents as the victims of the “Free to be You and Me” culture that was popular during my childhood in the 70s and 80s. We were all supposed to become amazing individuals who would exceed any creative expectations if only we were provided with the resources and opportunities to do so. Conversely, having it all at such a young age made me not want any of it. By the time I graduated from college, all I wanted was to get married and have babies.

Consequently, at least at this stage, I don’t cultivate music or art in my children much (in the form of lessons and activities), because I cultivated them in my youth only to see them take on such a peripheral roll in my life. Religious art to me is useful and I hope will be appreciated by my kids—but I don’t see it as art so much as I see it as a kitchen utensil or something—a tool in my life, a vehicle through which I go about providing my daily bread. I see it for its purpose, and its beauty is a nice perk. Religious music is the same—it serves a purpose in my spiritual life. But secular music, pop or classical—which used to seem such a personality indicator when I was striving to identify myself as an adolescent—I could now take it or leave it. I don't often feel that particular brand of yearning anymore.

Maybe I’m depriving my children of a gift they truly deserve. I’m depriving them of so much. Right now, it's quiet time, and they are required to play in that abyss of tiny pieces and parts they call their room, or else go outside. I could call them around to do an activity together, but something has gone awry with the creative urges I had in my youth. I feel like my brain is going to dissolve, my head go liquid and melt down my shoulders when I contemplate children’s crafts and entertainments. I don’t understand the intricate cuttings and gluings and tyings and colorings to create some paper sculpture which will require a display for a reasonable amount of time before it can be put in the trash. I spend too much time doing things that are to be undone before the day is over to add to the pile of disposable creations the kids are already making and bringing home from school.

The best I can do right now is read to them, and write stories by their side, and I can write down their stories for them. But I am probably not the mother my children deserve. On one hand I want to save them from the feeling of wastefulness I feel as a grown-up who squandered my childhood advantages. On the other hand, I want to give them the gift of desire, of wanting something so badly they will do anything to accomplish it. And on a third hand, there’s a part of me that thinks living a humble life, getting a useful job, or “just being a mom” is a worthy aspiration that should be encouraged before they set their hopes on some unlikely goal that will leave them in a state of endless wanting. And it could be that this is just my way of projecting myself and my personal failures onto my kids. It was bound to happen somehow.


Elizabeth said...

but won´t this moment pass? you can´t be pregnant forever, which seems to be what is sapping you energy. and that is okay! we cannot be supermom all hours of the day and it is best for children to learn to occupy themselves in a fruitful endeavor, you can´t rely on another person to always alleviate your moment, you have to work at it with people and without people. that said, buy some glue construction paper, glitter, markers and send them outside, if there is a´s biodegradable! let them come to their own aspirations and own letdowns, that is life, that is the humaness in us, it is okay and it is good.

Elizabeth said...

larger issue of yourself though, rearing children is important. to dispense love in this mad world is more important than the applause of the masses from a stage. just imagine all the mothers in the world clapping for you when you feel restless, they really are! you are in the warm embrace of the mother and that is what is importnat. and yet so hard to calm the ego. and that leads me to my next blog...

Pedge said...

Snap out of it girl. You're starting to sound like a melancholic. (read with the humor intended) On a more serious note, remeber how you felt when you walked into that Church the other day. You are so unconditionally loved as you are sister, as you are. And you are the perfect mother for those children. I'll be over will a pack of smokes soon!

Jus said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jus said...

I deleted a perfectly good comment because I did not proof read. A grammatical mess indeed, and now I haven't the time - another day.

General point - I imagine your children are getting the very best of everything and they will no doubt thank you for the ability to entertain themselves - a very important skill rarely taught.

Emily said...

I just read an article about Richard Branson, the billionaire who is the founder of Virgin Atlantic, Virgin Records, and now Virgin America and Virgin Galactic that is supposed to take tourist to outer space, as well as a famous balloonist and adventurer, who said his mother made him walk three miles to his grandma's house when he was four. He's all for risk taking. So maybe your kids will be billionaires because they have learned self reliance.