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We were waiting in a queue for a table at a busy family restaurant.
With a swoop the dining room door opened and a woman burled out clutching
high the arm of a crying toddler - she stopped, grabbed the child by the
shoulders, and screamed in her face
"What do you want? what do you want? what do you want?"
- no breathing spaces for the child to answer, just a wave of out of control noise.
That mother in the restaurant lobby was my vision of the type of parent who
messes up their child's mind.
Or perhaps it is the constant drip, drip, drip 'never good enough' type criticism
that you hear - especially around teenagers - about laziness,
school marks and clothes.
Or - just as bad - the "you're just like your father/mother/that mean girl
in High School" remarks . . . . the comparison to perfect friends . . .
the picking of family favourites.
I thought of myself as avoiding all this - giving my daughters a
cheerleading wise woman as an inner voice . . . . and then I thought
- "what a smug fool you are Jane".
Now it is true that I have never really screamed at my children,
I hate noise, it takes too much energy and means I would lose all arguments.
I don't belittle them or compare them to their friends.
Indeed I am constantly enthusiastic about them - they are my daughters
. . . . I am naturally overflowing with the feeling that they are pretty
damn brilliant human beings.
But . . . . since last week when I saw the quote that heads up this post,
I have been listening to myself and I think that often the "wise woman"
is drowned out by someone wholly more petty.
When I posted this quote on Facebook a friend said that when she is
shoe shopping she still hears her Mum saying " They're too high /
too pointy / you don't need them" and I thought of how I often say to
my daughters "How many nail polishes does one person actually need?".
And then I thought of how I comment on their beauty
(the "Oh you look great - that jacket looks brilliant and I love your hair")
much more than I comment on their resilience or their kindness or their
Which is odd really when I think that resilience, independence and
kindness are way more important to me, and them, than looks.
So now I am making an effort to give them something as an inner voice
that is a bit more useful - not just all the rubbish, unthought through
words that get flung about - it may be too late of course, they are into their late teens.
They may be shopping in 2036, gathering a beautiful rainbow of little glass bottles,
and they will hear me intoning
"How many nail polishes does one person actually need?"