Wednesday, May 20, 2009

In which I am grumpy

Partly because I finished The Children's Book this afternoon on the way home from work. Although I should be quite pleased, because it lasted until the stop before mine which was excellent timing.

So now I am thinking about parenting and sentimentality and expectations and the things we steal from each other whether its deliberate or not. By which I mean our attitudes and beliefs and hopes and dreams rather than bar mats.

When I was a lassie, perhaps just starting high school, my dearly loved Dad said to me that it was lucky that people like him and me did not want to become singers and go on television talent shows and embarrass ourselves by singing badly in front of other people. Despite a lifetime of casual insults from other people, and many other oddly hurtful remarks from those who love me, that one sticks in my mind as a terrible moment of pain as well as disillusion. I can laugh at myself now, but it's only a very recent thing. For years and years it has hurt whenever it has come back into my mind. Partly because I do so love to sing, and it pains me that my singing pains other people instead of giving them the same pleasure that it gives me.

If I was AS Byatt I would take this feeling and do a bit or a lot of research and write a sharp novella or a 600 page dragging-you-down-into-the-sea novel about it all.

But since it's me I won't.

And maybe I can't quite forgive AS Byatt today, but I'm sure I'll be back on the horse again tomorrow.

7 comments:

ThirdCat said...

oh
which is the best way I can think of saying that has really struck a chord

ThirdCat said...

came back to say, I always think that if I could have a gift, a really outstanding talent for something, it would be to sing...even though I know I'm not good at it I do very much love to do it

and you know what else else, looking at that other comment, that 'struck a chord' thing, that actually sounds quite rude, but I didn't mean it...I didn't even realise I'd done it til just now when I came back.

Shayne Parkinson said...

A friend of mine in the US has been reading my books recently, and one of the questions she asked took me aback. She was surprised at a father who was reluctant to praise his son, for fear that the boy would "go getting ideas", and generally risk having a high opinion of himself. What we might now call self-esteem. She asked if such an attitude might have been common at that time.

I was taken aback because even during my childhood, this wasn't a terribly unusual attitude, and given that the father in question is a Victorian one, and harsh even by the standards of the day, this refusal to praise flows out of the character.

Her reaction was culturally-driven, I believe. I think New Zealanders have moved beyond this attitude, but I'm not sure that Americans ever did have it (the friend in question is a decade or so older than I am). People from NZ who visit schools there are often struck by how encouraging teachers are.

This is a typically long-winded response from me, sorry. What drove it was a feeling that parents these days are more inclined to think it's a good thing to build their children up, and to avoid knocking them down. This seems a good thing to me.

Courtney said...

And I'd like to say that no singing of yours has ever caused pain, distress or embarrassment to me or anyone I know. Please sing more!

Penthe said...

ThirdCat, I don't think struck a chord sounded rude, but it did make me chuckle. And yes, I would love to have an outstanding talent for singing. It's so simple and so mysterious at the same time, brilliant singing.

Courtney, ta.

And Shayne, yes, same here in Australia - I've always thought it comes from the whole British thing. But I fear that sometimes building your children up can lead to a different sort of hurt.

Penni said...

I want to read The Children's Book. Also I really, really don't want to read it.

I am complex.

Penthe said...

Complex indeed, Penni.

I feel quite the same having read it. I enjoyed it very much, but it's left me with some quite bitter feelings in some tender places - changed views of the time and people in the book. There's no turban though, I think. That's got to be a good thing.