Sunday, 3 January 2010

Tough love?

Peter Mandelson has decreed that parents should be tough, and deny their grown children comforts and care in order to force them out of the home. He suggests not doing their laundry for example.

He's half right - and half badly, cruelly wrong.
Yes a child needs to learn that sharing a home involves duties of care and responsibility. That usually has to involve some tough struggles on the way. But it isn't in order to force them out. It's the parent's job to train a child to carry (practical) responsibility.
Do it and that child becomes a welcome companion to share the home. So there is no need to kick them out.

I suspect this is more of the Government agenda to war on families. We are not supposed to hold together, care for one another. Because separate lonely taxpayers will buy more to console their empty lives so that fuels this dirty economy.
The joke is the dirty economy is broke. There aren't the jobs for young people and if there were, housing is way too expensive.

I should be horrified and devastated if my son decided to move out.
I'd cope, of course I would. But welcome it as some parents say? I can't imagine that. I'd lose a strong, caring house companion.

I should be horrified and devastated if my son decided to move out.
I'd cope, of course I would. But welcome it as some parents say? I can't imagine that.

I'd have to struggle with huge loads of heavy shopping - miss his great cooking - do the washing up ... cleaning up ... cat care ... heavy rubbish bins ... local errands he now does .... one of the sweetest companions for shopping trips, cinema etc would be gone.
I'd be exhausted and lonely.

In other words he knows he's a respected adult. That carries with it duties of care and responsibility.
He learned from a tiny child to do his bit. Yes there was the struggle 12-16 when we had to be tough and insist. At one point we said no duties from you, no good food for you. Dinner would mean bread n butter for you, steak for us right in front of you!
We never had to do it but he got the point because he knew from other similar dialogues - we'd do it.

A child has to learn to be an adult. Sometimes that is brutal in its war. But do it and the result is a companion of joy.

I am reminded of when he was little and I faced the great bogey of the mother of a son. Should I keep pushing him away from me to "be a man"?
This was a really hard decision. As a strong woman I risked bringing up a mother-hag-ridden man. On the other hand, pushing him away, amputating his sweetness, risked him becoming a robot lout.

I went to look at other societies inanthropology. What I found was very interesting. Sons pushed away belong to societies when men HAVE to go away. Hunting. War. Long distance lorry drivers. Long faraway stints in the city while family live in the country. In these situations men are bred to be detached, and boys are pushed away from mothers.
Grown men too are taught not to touch small children. It is said that if a man cares for a plays with his small child he will not be strong enough to go away to work, to hunt, or to war.
Well I knew I didn't want that kind of son so my path was clear. I let myself hug away and the ectasy of the close bond flowed free.

But also I fiercely guarded his freedom and independence. In a hug I was alert to the slightest quiver of his body to move away. At that point I let me arms loosen and he had free choice and often did move away. Other similar situations followed that pattern.
There was the predictable message coming from other boys but we weathered that. My son felt sorry for them in what they were missing. (Being home educated was crucial here to building his independent point of view.)
All along I have never seen trouble signs of him being weak, wimpish, unable to stand on his own two feet.

"A lazy little git" as he himself puts it - yes.
During the years from 10 onwards we intensified the efforts to teach him to contribute to the house. There was never any problem with heaving heavy shopping or other heavy work. He likes displaying his wonderful strength.
But other jobs meant endless reminding, nagging, and sometimnes furious threats. (Very similar to getting homework done.)
During those years I always very much sympathised with his point of view even when it was infuriating as well. After all for him, the world consisted of a comfortable home where food, warmth, hot water, clothes, rubbish clearance, money all happened as if by magic. Legends like Beauty and the Beast, or Psyche, reflect our lost childhood world of pampering by invisible servants.
How unwelcome, how infuriating, that this pleasant way of life was being interrupted by nagging parents ... do this, do that ... Why should things change?

The child wants to be a pampered "lazy little git" forever. Naturally.
It is perhaps actually harder for a child like mine who has had freedom of choice handed to him early. By the teens there are few rewards to hand out in return for greater duties. We just had to insist.
It can be brutal as a war of wills. In that Mandelson is right. Tough love is vitally necessary.
But the aim is not to push them away, to drive them out by making the home uncomfortable. What a bleak, limited idea of a home or family that is.

However it does fit the Government agenda of families as no more than dormitories for workers. If both parents are out working full time (long hours working) then there is only the brief weekend together. Much of that is cut out by cfhores. So not much family time together. Just an efficient unit in the tax, debt servicing, consumer buying economy. Cash cow people in herds. MOO!

Teaching our children to be responsible, sharing, caring people is not about forcing them out. It's about helping them become someone lovable, someone who shares the load.
Once you get there they are a joy so why should you want them to go?
Of course if they want to - to travel, to do interesting work elsewhere, or in order to make a new home with a partner, that is their freedom.
But actively want them to go? Madness. Reminds me of that time at 5yrs when just as the child becomes a lot less work, but still lots of fun, I was expected to hand them over to a school. No fear. We went on enjoying each other.

The idea that helps as a guide is "flatmate." At 13 or even 10, start thinking "flatmate." By 18 he should be one.
What I mean is, when I feel he should be doing more, getting out of my way, that this is "my house" etc I check. Would I expect this of a flatmate?
The answer is always vitally educational.

Money is obviously not like being a flatmate. But flatmates do live on unequal finances. If it's not too unequal, one splits 50/50. If that is obviously unfair, then the contributions are adjusted in proportion to ability to pay.
In our case I have far more ability to make money. So I do little housework and he does more. I think we are both content with that.

One day perhaps I will have to grin and bear it if my son's life changes and he wants to go. I shall think of Spartan mothers and need my friends' help. I'm sure he will be kind to me about it.
But oh! how I joy in every day he stays.


Post a Comment