I came across this short piece of writing in our filing cabinet today. I had almost forgotten that it was there, tucked away in a folder with several more. The year of writing is 1996. I used to write a regular column for our county paper when my children were small, entitled “A Slice of Life”. Whilst reading my 1996 scribblings, it occurred to me that my life has changed completely over the last 13 years, so I decided to post up the original, and then examine quite simply if I was right or wrong back then. How have things panned out considering I had strong views on most things, and also bearing in mind that hindsight is always a marvellous thing? Your comments are welcome as always:
A Slice of Life (March 1996)
This week sees the beginning of a period of chaos in our house, more chaos than usual that is. Our younger daughter is busy rehearsing for a part in a local production of “Annie”. The bathroom will constantly be ringing to the sound of “You’re Never Fully Dressed Without A Smile” and “It’s A Hard-Knock Life”. The chaos derives partly from the temperamentality of a stage-struck eight year old, who deviates back and forth from being supremely confident to a bag of nerves at least once every day. The added dates and times scribbled on the already overflowing kitchen calendar also contribute. Not to mention the extra taxi service required of me and our car by the blue-eyed starlet.
I’m not complaining exactly, just a little tired is all. You see, my belief is that by allowing our daughters to take part in theatrical productions; do dance classes; play musical instruments; go to Brownies and so on, they will become confident and well-rounded individuals. That way they won’t have time to be bored when they’re teenagers. Then they will be less likely to fall prey to the temptations that society puts before them, which every parent dreads. That’s the theory anyway.
“You must be mad,” says my mother, as she coolly observes me frantically juggling my business and family commitments. “You didn’t do all those things when you were a child, and you turned out alright!”
Of course I did, on the whole. But then I wasn’t offered Ecstasy tablets as a teenager – I hadn’t even heard of it until recently. The biggest temptation put under my nose was whether to smoke a No 6 behind the bikesheds. And yes, I did accept, just for the devilment, and yes, shamefully, I do still smoke. So there you have it in a nutshell. I was easily led, incapable of asserting myself and applying common sense at 15.
My own children are much more aware of social and political issues than ever I was. They have strong opinions already on the environment, world poverty and government. They have access to a broad base of information at school, in the library and from the TV. They even have their own early evening television news programme. I feel that a broad experience of social skills is necessary to balance the scales of their development so to speak.
Another thing which worries my mother is the cost of all these activities. She’s not the only one; I fret about it too. But then as I point out, we did plan to have our two children, and yes, we did foresee raising a family as being expensive. Most importantly, we owe it to them to provide a happy and secure framework on which they can build their future. If this means making sacrifices, then so be it, even when it involves giving the butcher a miss for once. It’ll have to be egg and chips instead, because younger daughter’s feet are becoming malformed in those size 12 tap shoes.
“Anyway, what’s the point of having a fridge full of food when there’s no time to cook it?” I jokingly ask my concerned parent.
I’m sure she has nightmares about talented, but half-starved grand-daughters, and whole families suffering from burn-out in this madcap world of ours. She somehow can’t quite see that times have changed since I was a girl, and that we all have to adjust our lives accordingly, and make the best of it we can.
So I continue to ignore my mother’s protestations, and doggedly plough my chosen furrow. Most of the time I’m convinced we’re on the right path. It’s usually when I’m turning out on dark winter nights, forsaking the warmth of hearth and home to take or retrieve our socially active daughters, that I have grave doubts about the motivation behind the theory. It’s all well and good producing self-assured kids who can turn their hands to most things, but when I’m tripping over clarinets and music stands, sewing costumes at midnight, and running a taxi service, I sometimes feel that I’ve bitten off a bit more than I can comfortably chew.