Mistakes I made


I’ve
 often worried about mistakes I made when my children were young. The other day, my youngest daughter wrote a searingly honest post on her blog, prompted by the story currently in the news about a young girl who has run away with her teacher.

I’m sure that if my children sat down with me individually, they could all remind me of things I did that hurt them, or that upset them. I don’t think that will happen, but if it did, I would admit my faults, and apologise unreservedly for all the times I failed.

It occurs to me though, that we are all affected in some way by things that have happened to us during our lives. These things are part of what made us into the people we are today. Past hurts can make us determined to be better parents to our own children.

I was blessed with wonderful parents who loved me and brought me up to the absolute best of their ability. I never doubted their love, and as a young child I always believed that they knew best.

In fact as I grew and started to form my own opinions about things that I knew were not in line with theirs, I did so quietly. I’d learned that my parents had very fixed views about some things, and that it was probably easier just to keep quiet about my own differing views.

It was as a result of my upbringing that when my children reached the age of about sixteen, I started to trust them with deciding when they were going to come home. The question was always “What time will you be home?”, and never an order to be home at a certain time. It worked for us. They often came home earlier than expected, because they knew it was their decision.

It was as a result of the trust I placed in my youngest daughter at the age of sixteen that she got into the difficulties she talked about in her blog. This has affected her all her life, has contributed to the bouts of depression she has suffered from, and has ultimately shaped her into the person she is today.

Whilst I cannot say that I’m glad it happened to her, I can say that I think that it made her a more thoughtful parent to her own teen. She will always have in the back of her mind the problems that might arise if he’s allowed to be in the company of some other adults too much. She will be watching for problems. She won’t automatically trust other parents with her child, as I did when she was sixteen…. and she might not expect her teen to be able to cope with making his own decisions when he is that age.

Perhaps as a result of her experiences, my daughter will be more like my parents were …she’ll have learned from my “mistakes” just as I learned how to parent from what I perceived to be their mistakes. Who knows? Maybe that’s why there’s such a bond between Grandparents and Grandchildren!

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Set for life

I’ve been prompted to write this by something my friend said to me; that when we were teenagers in the sixties we thought we were set for life, and what shocks we both had ahead of us. She is right. At that time we were sharing a room, living away from home for the first time, and doing a very responsible job, looking after very young children in a Barnardo’s home.

The job, and the fact that we didn’t have parents telling us what to do, gave us a false sense of our own maturity. We felt grown up, we certainly acted like grown ups in our everyday lives. We were well behaved, stuck to the very strict curfew times imposed on us by the home, where even being two minutes late meant you were in the office the next day having to explain yourself.

Added to all this, things really were different in those days. They talk about the swinging sixties… the sixties weren’t swinging that much for most normal young girls in rural Britain. Yes, we had the wonderful fashion, and the excitement of a revolution in music, and all these things were reported in the papers and on TV for the first time. We teenagers were the centre of attention, and we knew it, and we liked it. It had started in the fifties, to be fair, with rock and roll and new fashions just for teenagers, but by the mid sixties there was an explosion in the fashion and music worlds, and we were lucky to be there and caught up in it, even if we were only on the edge, with our home made dresses and ultra short skirts.

Despite the label “Swinging Sixties”, and the advent of the pill, things really hadn’t changed a lot since our parents’ time. People certainly didn’t tell anyone if they were having sex outside marriage, and divorce was still very uncommon. I was shocked when my friend told me her aunt was divorced. I was even more shocked when I later discovered I also had an aunt who was divorced… I think it was some sort of dirty family secret.
For these reasons it was normal to get married when you were very young. People regarded themselves as “on the shelf” if they were not at least engaged by the time they were about 23.

And so, when I met my friend, and room mate, she was 18, and already engaged, and that seemed absolutely normal. She certainly seemed old enough to be contemplating settling down for the rest of her life. She wasn’t the only one. I got engaged at aged 19, absolutely certain that this was “IT”.

But as she said, we were both in for shocks. At the age we were, we were really quite naive and certain that the only problems ahead of us would be the odd argument with our devoted husbands. We would end up walking into the sunset with the men (boys) we had chosen, and everything would be sweetness and light. That is, if we ever thought about the future at all. I really don’t think I did.

Now, years later, we can look back at some of the horrendous problems we’ve had to face, and see how we were setting ourselves up for those problems in those heady days of mini skirts and The Beatles. Today’s teenagers have different expectations and problems. There’s no expectation that girls should marry before having children, and there’s no shame in divorce, and there’s not even a problem with allowing parents and Grandparents to know that they are having sex.

I think for that reason, people don’t tend to marry until they are older. there is no longer a need. There’s no shame if you get pregnant, and no shame if a girl ends up alone to look after the baby. Things have certainly changed.

One thing that hasn’t changed though, is teenagers themselves. however mature they feel themselves to be, they are still barely out of childhood. But ask any 18 year old now, whatever their circumstances, and I bet they still have the same attitude underneath, that we had… they are set for life.

The Shoe

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The brown shoe, distorted by the woman who had worn it

In happy times and sad

became my focus on the day I went to Belsen

With my Dad.

The massive graves which looked like houses

to a little girl of seven

Contained so many bodies it was difficult

to comprehend….

Like looking round a gallery at many famous paintings;

In the end they blur into one another

and you can’t appreciate any of them

as much as you would if you were shown only one.

And so, when we went in to the hut containing

belongings of the dead

I cried for the woman whose foot had distorted

the leather.

And now, 59 years later, I still remember that woman

and her shoe.

Ella-Mae

Ella-Mae

A baby in a photograph,

A child I’ve never met

Loved and adored and longed for

and impossible to forget.

Christmas Eve and time for kids

watching for Santa’s sleigh;

Parents too, gazing at the sky

but wishing for Ella-Mae.

I sit in my home and look at

the child I never met

I shed a tear for the baby

who is impossible to forget.

Tomorrow when gifts are opened

and children laugh and play

There will still be a moment taken

To remember Ella-Mae.