My younger son is now at a stage when babyish words, songs, cuddles, etc are an embarrassment. He has his smartphone which he uses to organise get togethers with his friends and his own time. He doesn’t need me to wake him up or remind him to do his school work. I don’t have to pick him up from school or take him there. He was the last of my babies- who has grown up.
Needless to say, it is sad for me. Although there is much more time I have for myself, there were many days, when I felt unwanted and abandoned. It took me many weeks to dissociate my feelings for myself from that of what was happening to my son. He had to grow up, of course and I knew that. Gradually I have learnt to be grateful for this time that has suddenly been released to me and be grateful for that independent young man he has become. Life is a series of losses- as we age, we lose people, we lose things and ultimately face the biggest loss of all, life itself. However, that is what life is and if we can accept that and learn to be grateful for everything, then all our love and humanity will be revealed in what we do.
We can have as many partners as we like but we will have only one set of parents. After having become a parent, I realised that there is no training for parents- you are simply handed a baby and that is it! No matter how much you read on parenting (and I should know as I read about 150 of them!) , your child will be unique and therefore no book can tell you how to handle him or her. It will be tricky and you can go along, sometimes winning, sometimes losing but as long as your child is happy and healthy, then you are fine. Parenting is a great responsibility- the responsibility to make a human being as as best as you can, with no prior training or knowledge! Can’t think of any other work that is so great and yet so under-valued.
Two days ago, I sat on the train, listening to three teenagers, complaining about their parents. It was clear that they were returning from some holiday, tanned and tired. They had fun and probably used some of their parents’ money to fund this holiday. Yet some of the stuff one the girls said about her parents made me sad. She seemed utterly ungrateful. She probably did not realise how it made her sound, how it made her look bad- not her parents.
Part of growing up includes having compassion for others, including our parents. If our parents made mistakes while bringing us up, we can be objective about it. Yet at the same time, we can keep in mind that they were subject to the emotions, mistakes and physical tiredness that parenting brings. We can identify the things in us that may be similar to our parents. Even if we don’t have any outer signs that we share some common features, we must remember that we are half of each parent. In my family, no one looks like each other. On the emotional side, my father suffers from depression and used to beat me and my sisters. I hated him for that. Now that he is a weak invalid, slowly counting his days, I remember that I am half of him. Although I am a happy optimistic person, I know that I could be like him because I share his genes. Something could turn in my life to make me depressed because the latent effect is already inside my cells. I feel compassion for him, although I remember my childhood clearly. After having overcome my habit of hoarding, for instance, I am very compassionate towards my mother who still hoards. This habit comes from her very deprived childhood and I feel compassion for her. If I did not, then I would still be a child. So compassion is not only a great healer but also helps you to grow up!
(photo of the sky from my balcony)
When I was child, I used to spend hours lying on the terrace and looking at the sky. The changing colours, the wind, the clouds, the planes, birds and sometimes the flying kites– all fascinated me. In particular I loved sunsets. As I grew up, my focus become more on the things in front of me- the book, the desk and later on, the computer- and inside the room. Many years ago, I think it was Mia Farrow, who was asked how she got her creativity. She replied that she always looks up at the sky. Someone also wrote that while we are stuck inside, we forget to look at the amazing drama of the skies going on. Again, I remember someone who photographed the skies from his window for a whole year- I think it is available as a book. All great thinkers and creative people used to take walks outside and look at the skies. John Constable said words to the effect that ‘light was his teacher’. Nichiren says, “There are trails in the sky where birds fly, but people cannot recognize them. There are paths in the sea along which fish swim, but people cannot perceive them. All people and things of the four continents are reflected in the moon without a single exception, but people cannot see them.”
I remembered then how I used to look at the sky so much as a child and sure, it increased my creativity. It was not wasted time but a time for rejuvenation, rest and reflection. We tend to forget what we did as children, when we were freer of constraints- free of having to do’s- instead we found our own natural, instinctive and low cost ways of being creative. Fortunately I always found the right house (or rather the house found me!), where I can look at the uninterrupted expanse of sky. I try to photograph these amazing scenes and they are on my computer or my camera for me to look at- even those are inspiring. However, nothing beats looking at the real thing!
So now go out and have a look at this amazing thing above you- it is always there and always changing. It will give you an instant creativity shot!
Here is a new one I found out- when out on date, never tell anyone your children’s age. It is bad enough to get a date sometime when you tell a man you have children. Even though you make look well and youngish, once they find out your children age, I can see it all on their forehead, trying to work out how old you are. Even though this particular man may 1. already have children and is divorced himself; 2. does not want a family; 3. told you that he does not care how old you are- the way his mind works is that you still have to be nubile enough for him. I still remember the shock and horror on a man’s face when he learnt that I was the mother to a teenager, although initially he professed a great love for children and dogs. Next!