Sunday, April 20, 2008


They fuck you up, your mum and dad.
They may not mean to, but they do.
They fill you with the faults they had
And add some extra, just for you.
Philip Larkin

Writing about my mother inevitably brings up thoughts about my parents, my childhood, and all sorts of paths leading in and out of that territory, partly factual, partly selective memory and partly buried emotion. The first line of Larkin's poem is so famous because it's so true. It echoes with everyone, or nearly everyone, who has had parents. Some of the things we are fucked up about do not come from our parents but some do, that's undeniable.

Being a good parent, or a 'good enough' parent, is a talent which doesn't necessarily pop up the minute a baby lands in the arms and the life of a formerly baby-free woman and her mate (if a mate is present). Some people are hopeless at the parenting art, some struggle to learn it and a few - very few, in my opinion - take to it like ducks to water or cats to kittens.

I feel very fortunate to have had the parents I had, not because they were good parents (they were not) but because they were two interesting, complex and marvellous people I got to know very well by virtue of being one of their children. As a child - and sometimes far into adulthood - a Parent is seen only in capital letters. Those letters might spell love or rage or need but they are always capitalised. It takes a lot of growing up to finally accept that Parents are only people, ordinary humans just like us.


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