Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Up close and personal

I felt smug in a parenting course once. The advice was to place squabbling children CLOSER together, not separate them.

I felt smug because my children share a bedroom despite us having one spare; they are left to fight their own battles (within reason); they share the toys and negotiate 'who holds what right now' themselves.

Of course, I have no right to be smug. I am a (very flawed) parent of squabbling children. And I am one of those children. I fail to apply the lesson to myself.

We all need to get in each others' faces more. If we avoid proximity, we avoid squabbles and intimacy. We 'unlearn' community.

Both parents might choose to work simply to afford the best home possible. If not, one might endure long, stressful hours, for money and status. 'In your face' time as a couple and family is lost - there certainly isn't much left for outsiders.

We form our views in isolation or with the like-minded. We look at our screens, facebook feeds, newspapers and, more rarely, chat with people who agree. Even in churches and such, where you might expect to see obvious difference worked through, there is a great fear of disagreement.

Hospitality has become a skill rather than the norm. You are only invited in on my terms. I decline invitations that don't appeal, making up the reason why. Friends punctuate our individualistic lives, rather than people communal ones. Gone are the days of dropping in unannounced for a cuppa. Of feeling bored in someone else's company.

We hide everything we're ashamed of. Mess. Ragged eyebrows. Tiredness and irritability. Microwave meals. Tears. Rows. Cigarettes. Chaos. Incompetence. We arrange 'dates' for times and places where we feel confident. We schedule in expensive, time-consuming haircuts and gym sessions to stave off image anxiety. We walk away from challenging conversations. We shun unexpected or long-term guests.

Parents (while we're under their roof), children (again, while at home) and spouse might see us warts and all. But, increasingly, work, obsessive domestic management, full diaries and screens-for-relaxation mean even they fail to get to know us properly. Or lose sight of us.

I have no idea how we fix all this. It's hard. I try to be authentic online. (Yes, I can be smug. Yes, the blog proves I like the sound of my own voice too much. That's me. You can reject it if you like!) I think obtaining less than the potential money, stuff, house and screentime are freeing. Time spent figuring out who we are and trying to accept and be that is worthwhile. Practising and receiving imperfect hospitality is helpful.

I am scared of my flaws. I am scared of squabbling. I'm pretty sure I overcome that by letting people close enough to witness both.

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