Parents are people, too

I am continually astonished at how, around me, I see people fail to identify children as fellow human beings. Teachers and parents routinely talk to and treat under-eighteens in a way they would never, in their wildest dreams, dare to treat people the same age as them or older. Adults approach young people from a position of “I should control you” rather than a position of respect for their self-determination as starting point, with interventions and interference a regrettable necessity (and I believe when children are not in their teens yet respectful control is neccessary – they must be secure in the knowledge that you’ve “got them” and ambiguity on your part is disastrous, but that’s another story). Societal rules made to try to avoid problems encountered in the past savage the rights of those under the age of eighteen. A child in this country can’t even seek advice or help without their parents being notified. How helpful is that, if your overwhelming problem is that you feel your parents control and monitor your every move? Surely even the act of asking for help is a private matter, can nobody understand the depth of violation it is to force people to share that?

I believe cases where teenagers are depressed, or do dangerous or reckless things, should always first be inspected for a sense of lack of control over their own lives.

I also believe that too many teenagers show the same staggering contempt for their parents, not viewing them as fellow human beings but instead thinking of them as something else, somehow. Some kind of other species. As much as your parents may have contributed to that view by casting themselves in such a role, here’s a piece of advice: overcoming that skewed view of your folks is called growing the fuck up.

If you want to be treated with respect, then treat your parents with respect. And with respect, I mean understanding that they are fellow human beings who are doing their best, who are living life to the best of their ability. Yes, people do exist who take pleasure from others’ misery, but chances are your parents are not among those twisted people, and in the rare case that they are, your understanding of the brokenness involved will be a foundation stone of the solution.

If you want your parents to realise and understand the pain or frustration they cause you with certain actions, then grow the fuck up and truly try to understand what your actions do to them. I am generally a very strong person, but let me tell you, my children are like a raw nerve connected straight to my heart. Nothing can either paralyse or move me like a threat to their wellbeing. Have you ever stood somewhere with all your weight on one foot, and someone came up and pushed behind your knee? That sudden collapse gives you some idea of what it feels like: you can have walked through fire in your life and think you can handle anything, then someone somehow reaches your children and you are nothing.

Especially if you are still living in your family home, you are like your parents’ hearts, walking around outside. Of course they’re nervous, anxious, because nothing can hurt them like seeing you get hurt. Imagine if you can let them know you understand that, as a starting point in a conversation about more freedom, more trust to be responsible out of their sight. Imagine how much more willing they may be to give you freedom if they know you understand what it costs them to do so.

If you want your parents to be kind to you, to do nice things for you, why don’t you start. Say one nice thing to your parent every day, and mean it. Think of one kind thing you can identify that you truly believe about them. And if you go: “I can’t think of a single nice thing to say about my parent” the problem is with you.

Common ground

Yesterday I visited a dear, treasured friend who happens to be a devoted Christian. We had a lovely time, a fantastic chat, and most of all, something I’ve learned since my convictions changed from Christian faith, was confirmed yet again. Common ground is not necessarily what we think it is.

Think of the term “common ground” in a literal sense. Imagine yourself, therefore, standing on firm earth. The place I picture when I think this way, is a rich green field surrounded by hedges and trees. When I look around me, I see my Christian friend there. I see other friends, too. We are not all bundled together in one spot, because you know, that would be suffocating. Instead, we’re spread out in this mindspace, but close enough yet to see each other, call a greeting, have a conversation.

Common ground gives enough space for different positions. What matters is the foundation under your feet.

The perfect engagement and wedding ring

An article in The Guardian this morning got me thinking about engagement rings, wedding rings, and love. The author questions the “tradition” of expensive diamond rings marking a commitment to marry, which is less tradition and more a very successful marketing ploy. Frances Gerety’s famous line Diamonds are Forever hit the bullseye, I think, because when we are in love we hope for the same for our relationship. Chatting on Facebook with friends about our wedding and engagement rings, it struck me that this fixation on big, fancy, forever diamonds can be used as a metaphor for a wider misunderstanding of love.

We want our love to be like that diamond, steady, shining and unchanging. That is not only unrealistic, it is potentially damaging. People change continuously, who you are today is very different from who you were ten years ago. We understand this when the difference is between 3 and 13, but have less of an appreciation for the impact of the passage of time when it’s a progression from 23 to 33. Yet in many ways the differences are equally profound. 

If we were to keep our love solid, shining, and unchanging as we ourselves change, we’re asking for trouble. The way we related to each other ten years ago will not work for us now. We may not even realise the interaction between us has changed, but no doubt if we were able to travel back in time and have a cup of tea with our younger selves we’d notice the difference.

Love should not be a dead, unyielding diamond. It should be a living thing. Knowing this may also help us realise that, like all living things, it needs nourishment and care to survive. 

I am unable to wear my pretty wedding ring (don’t laugh – it gives me a rash), but I have a pendant Micky bought for me when he visited his brother in New Zealand. It is so precious to me, because without too much ado he chose it because of the meaning behind it. To me, it captured what our relationship means to me, and I wore it every day; so much so that when one day I forgot to put it on, my daughter was unsettled (“You just don’t look like you when you’re not wearing your pendant.”). After a few years of this, I actually managed to wear my pendant out. The Paua shell started peeling from the sturdy backing it had been mounted on. So I got another one, this time with the Paua shell mounted on wood. One day I leaned on the back of a chair to reach the computer, and the tip of the pendant broke off. So now we’ll get another one. 

Love should be the same. It should change, adapt, renew. That’s warm, real, alive. Diamonds may be forever, but they’re dead. 

Hooking in Strange Places: Slieve Foy (in a near gale)

Slieve Foy, or Carlingford Mountain, is not that impressive, as mountains go. It would be dwarfed by many peaks in mainland Europe, and sports no sheer cliffs to provide a nerve-twanging ascent by super-people hanging from one fingernail at a time. Instead, the slopes of the Cooley range Slieve Foy is part of tend to have relatively gentle gradients, the peaks rounded. You need no more than a few hours, walking boots and a bit of determination to scale it. Even so, it is not known as a popular destination for hookers, which made it the perfect destination for me.

I’d never walked up Slieve Foy before, and because I can get lost in my own bedroom, I thought it prudent to go with a guide. Husband Micky is not only a lifelong rock climbing enthusiast, he also does a lot of hillwalking. On an unusually pleasant winter day, we decided it would be fun to tackle the peak. I tucked a ball of red wool and the 3.5mm hook I always used into an outside pocket of his rucsack. Continue reading