Growing up

“When I grow up I want to be…”

Do you feel grown up? Despite having clocked up many achievements over the course of my life thus far (acquired a degree, moved away from the parental home, built a career, bought a house, married, given birth to three kids) I still feel much the same inside as I did before I donned this cloak of adulthood. Perhaps I am more confident in myself, a tad cynical at times, mentally battered especially by my teenage offspring; but I still have the same questioning, insecure mind that I struggled with as a teenager.

As the years have passed I have developed as a person, learned more about our constantly evolving world, recognised that I will never know it all or be entirely right. Whilst I rail against injustices and in my own small way campaign for more awareness of issues that matter to me, I can accept the shades of grey and need for compromise. When I suffer the despondency that dogged my younger self I remember that moods pass. I have reached a point of self acceptance where the world may take me or leave me, no hard feelings either way.

But have I grown up? What exactly does that mean?

This last week I have looked in the face of a new challenge, the prospect of an event that was always going to come but which I have not yet had to face – the death of a parent.

Lest you feel the need to reach out and express condolences let me assure you that my own elderly parents remain upon this earth. The scare came from my husband’s side, involving ambulances, an emergency operation and a vigil through the night as we waited for news. Thankfully it was good.

Events such as this pull sharply into focus what is to come, if not today then in time. At an unknown point in the future the ties that bind me to my wider family will be weakened, the imperative to sustain links will be gone.

My parents have been an anchor throughout my life. At times I have found the chain that connects us frustrating and fought to lengthen it but I have benefited from the security that their love and support has provided. We now live in different countries so they are not a part of my everyday but they are undoubtedly the secure foundation on which my life has been built.

When my younger self was longing for independence, for the freedom to be myself and not the daughter my parents desired, I did not foresee that our connection, their demands and my guilt at not being as they wished would remain despite increasing age and geographical distance.

When others try to mould me I feel treated like a child. Is it possible to feel grown up without autonomy? I may rail against my parents’ expectations but wonder if, when the time comes and I am cast adrift, I will choose any change of direction.

Last days

This week’s ‘Remember the Time’ Blog Hop theme is last days.

Remember the Time Blog Hop

There have been many last days in my life, yet none of them stand out in my memory. At the time I was aware that they should be significant and tried to accord them the importance they seemed to deserve. Now though, looking back, I cannot recall the detail of what I did. I was living for the future, looking forward, eager to move on.

On my last day at primary school there were pupils who cried because they were sad to be leaving the teachers who had cared for them, the community they knew. I had the prospect of moving up to secondary school in my sights, I had no regrets about saying goodbye.

On my last day at secondary school there were so many pupils hugging and reminiscing about their days together and how they would miss seeing the friends who had become a valued part of their daily lives. I was looking forward with eager anticipation to escaping the uniform and seemingly pointless restrictions; the freedom of university beckoned.

I do not recall any students that I knew who felt sad on their last day at university. We had jobs organised, new careers to look forward to and were pleased to be putting exams and timetables behind us. I was finally leaving my homeland for the life in England that I had been planning for so long. I was filled with excitement and nervous anticipation as I contemplated the wonderful path my life could now to take.

And then there was the day before my wedding, my last day as a single lady. I had no wish to have a Hen Night, I wanted to get married, my wedding day was party enough.

The last night before I became a mother may have been significant but, as anyone who has been blessed with a straightforward pregnancy and birth can attest, by that time getting the baby out was all that I desired. No prospective mother can understand what lies ahead, the changes that are about to happen. I did not think of the years of sleep I was about to lose but of the joy of holding my baby in my arms.

Each time I left a job I had another to look forward to. I had made a choice and was eager to move on. The detail of each of these last days has faded from my memory as I did not mourn a loss but looked forward to what was to come. This has been how I have lived my life: looking forward, eager to move on, happy that change was happening.

Now, however, I am living through last days and I am not so sure of how I will be when they end.

Motherhood has been the most challenging and rewarding job that I have done. Yes that is cliched, but also true. I love being a mother. God willing I will be a mother for the rest of my days, but my days of mothering are coming to an end.

I have raised my three kids to the best of my ability. I have done what I can to instil knowledge and values in them that will make them kind, caring, competent, responsible, thoughtful, useful citizens. I have encouraged them to ask questions, to look at alternative points of view, to accept difference with grace whilst remaining true to their own, considered beliefs. I have done my best to raise my kids to be individuals, to be themselves in the face of a society that seeks to homogenise all. I have done my best to raise my kids to be independent, resolute and self reliant.

If I have done my job well then they will go out into the world with no need for me.

And we are almost there. We are living through those last days. Now, when I try to mother them, I am considered an interference. They want me to leave them alone to make their own decisions. They have a better understanding than I of the lives they are living day to day and where they wish to go from here. They are capable of considering their options and making good decisions on their own.

When a path is to be chosen it is good to mull over possibilities. We will each choose those we trust and respect to advise us when that is what we require. Others, who take it upon themselves to offer unsolicited advice, are an irritation. Just because we mention a decision that has to be made, it does not mean that we wish to listen to an opinion about what we should do. My children may keep me informed but they do not always want me to get involved. There is a fine line between offering support and interfering.

I am finding these last days hard. Perhaps it is because I cannot yet picture where I will go from here. Of course it will be lovely to be able to spend more time alone with my husband. I have many interests and activities to which I would like to devote more time. These last days differ from those which have gone before though because the path beyond is so wide and unclear.

I hope that I never stop learning, there is still so much out there to explore. Just as my children have the rest of their lives in front of them so do I, so do we all. I can use that time to grow as a person if I put my mind to it. These last days make me feel sad because I am losing the close bond that has tied my children to me for so long, that has given my life purpose and so much pleasure. I know that I must let them go, that I have no choice.

I have taught my children to fly and they will, ultimately, leave the nest that I have built and tended so carefully for their comfort and safety. When they go though, I too will have the option to spread my wings. It is that which I must remember.

These last days will pass all too quickly, but life goes on. For me, it will only be as good as I choose to make it.

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Read the other posts in this Blog Hop by clinking on the link below. 

Local council elections

Yesterday evening, after a day of recovery from the previous night’s delightful celebration, I walked across our warm and sunny village to cast my vote in the local council elections. Our polling station seemed to be pleasingly busy and I will watch with interest as the results start to come in later today. I am rather hoping for a bit of an upset when the votes are counted; the political system in this country could do with a major shake up.

I rarely go out in our village in the evenings and was surprised by how quiet it seemed. There were a few children playing in the field and a small number of dog walkers taking their evening exercise, but the most notable change from my regular, daytime excursions was the number of cars on the road. Most of them appeared to contain local residents heading towards the centrally located polling station. It still perplexes me that so many drive from one end of our small village to the other, especially as it was such a lovely evening. All will happily fill their recycling containers, and the visual blight of solar panels on roofs has not escaped our picturesque location, but still they feel comfortable using their car for such a short journey. Many of them even choose to drive to the local gym which I find bizarre.

It seems to me that elections have become more frequent events in recent years, or maybe this is just time appearing to pass more quickly as I get older. When I was a child I used to enjoy the seemingly rare election days as the primary school that I attended was used as a polling station, meaning that I got the day off school. This also used to be the case in our village but, since the new village hall was completed at the turn of the century, the primary school opens as usual and it is the pre school and other local groups who must close for the day to allow the hall to be used by voters. Unlike the joy of a day off school, my youngest son was most put out when his badminton club was forced to cancel their planned session yesterday evening. Despite the lovely weather, he used the unexpected free time to play on his Wii. I was still feeling too weary to remonstrate with him over this choice.

Local council elections do not, understandably, induce the same level of excitement as national elections. As London was not involved in this round of voting there has not been the coverage that can be expected when the media capital is included. There has been much comment about the possibility of a fourth party gaining enough seats to oust the comfortable incumbents of our established, three party system. If this happens, it could make next years European elections and the following year’s general election much more interesting. I think that this is what I am hoping for. Too many people seem to have given up on the possibility of changing the way the country is being run. A little more interest and participation may be the only way to sort out this situation and orchestrate improvement in the lives of the many rather than the privileged few.

Despite my interest, I am not a political activist. I am not convinced enough of the merits of any particular candidate or party to be willing to fight for their corner. I am generally suspicious of anyone who chooses to put themselves forward for an elected role that provides an element of power over others, particularly those who wish to run for national government. I guess that there must be some honest politicians but they seem to be few and far between. The current crop seem more interested in pursuing their own pet projects for the benefit of friends and relations than in improving the lives of the constituents they are handsomely paid to represent.

Local elections are, of course, a very different power game. There still seems to be that element of corruption though. In my area there are particular land owners who seem to be able to get anything they want through the system while ordinary people are charged exorbitantly for every change they wish to make and are thwarted at every opportunity. The cosy relationships and fawning attitudes do not suggest a representative fighting for improvements in individuals lives but rather an attempt to improve numbers and statistics while being photographed beside those who will show due gratitude for favours.

I do not expect a sea change this time around but hope for enough of a disturbance in the comfortable, status quo to make more people believe in the possibility of change. The denizens of power will not wish to be ousted and will switch their allegiances if they think that this will allow them to keep their positions. Those who are entitled to vote may do so in greater numbers if they can see that doing so may actually make a difference.

For today though, I have slept well and woken to another lovely, sunny day. I plan to walk to the local gym for a light work out and a swim before spending some time this afternoon in the garden with my chickens. We have a bank holiday weekend to look forward to which I hope to spend relaxing with my little family. Sometimes it feels good to shut out the rest of the world and just be.

Nouormand: Êlections au mais d'Octobre 2008, Jèrri