Saturday, May 02, 2015

Some thoughts not really prompted by the occasion(s) but possibly timely with Mother's Day and then Father's Day coming up


by Ken

Let's say that somebody read you the genuinely lovely description E. L. Doctorow provides for the mother of Daniel, which is to say his fictionalized version of Ethel Rosenberg, from The Book of Daniel and invited you to write in response, in 25 minutes -- responding any way you're moved to.

I wasn't really thinking about the imminence of Mother's Day and then Father's Day when I did my responding, but I suppose you could make this up into card form for the occasions.
Better Luck Next Time

Nobody tells you, when you're a kid, that your parents don't know what the fuck they're doing.

First-time parents, of course, are pulling it all out of their butts, whereas parents who've had kids before you came along may be better at pretending they know, having already been through the process of piecing some strategy together, from the usual lousy sources -- from their own parents, and from certified "experts" in books and magazines and on radio and TV and now online, and from (God help us) their own crack-brained instincts. If they've done it before, they may think they're experts, or they may be resolved to learn from their mistakes and get it right this time. Either way, there was no proper training, as there would be for a postal worker or a cab driver or a nuclear physicist. I mean, they don't let just anyone off the street who happens to have working reproductive organs play with nuclear-fissionable materials.

But there they are, our parents, and kids figure they must know what they're doing, or they wouldn't have been allowed to have kids, would they? Oh, there are kids who work it out that their parents are incomopetent, the worst parents in the world, but I don't know that they're any likelier to be correct than the kids who assume their parents are the best in the world. After all, both kinds of kids are getting their basic information about the universe from that same suspect source -- their parents.

And, unfortunately, there are no do-overs in the parenting process. No matter how the parents in question may feel about the job they've done, once the job is done, it's done. Isn't this what makes psychotherapy such a booming business? Not to mention the criminal-justice and penal systems?

In theory love is supposed to make up for shortcomings elsewhere in the parental arsenal, and certainly lack of love is no help. But we all know plenty of cases -- from the experiences of other people if not our own -- where what passes for love does more damage than those nuclear-fissionable materials in untrained hands. Or maybe even in trained hands, come to think of it.

Maybe the wonder is that we don't come out of the process in even worse shape.

Eventually it's possible to look back at the whole mess with a bit of compassion and see that they were doing their best under near-impossible conditions, that they meant well. And that every now and then, contrary to what we thought at the time, they were actually right aboout some stuff.

Take my mother. Please. Sorry, old joke. Bad old joke.

My mother would never have any truck with the notion that what a person does for a living is something he should enjoy. (And since she had only sons, it would always be "he.") She knew in her bones that work is something you do just to, you know, make a living -- so you could have a home, a family, stuff to eat. Naturally, the more she insisted on this, the more that someone, like a hypothetical son of hers, for example, would insist that this couldn't be right, that of course a person should be striving to find a way to make a living which is at the same time personally satisfying and fulfilling. And that hypothetical son might look around him and see people doing just that.

Now, that hypothetical son may never lose his admiration for, even envy of, those fortunate souls. Eventually, however, he may come to realize that he would have been a whole lot better off if he'd never developed the cock-eyed expectation of enjoying what he does for a living.

Oh well, so it goes. Alas, the "no do-overs" rule applies to life generally. Better luck next time.



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