Pencil Sketch – My Baby Boy

my-baby-boy

While searching for something else this afternoon I found this tattered old pencil sketch of my beautiful baby boy in his Christening gown – he’s now 34, so it’s definitely been kicking around for a while!

I’ve never been great at portraits, neither in drawing nor photography, but this was drawn with love and I’ve kept it all these years for sentimental reasons as much as anything, so I just thought I’d share it here ❤

Thirty-Five Years Ago…

Thirty-five years ago today I first got married, aged 18, a scarily young bride who was in retrospect far more in love with the idea of being in love than with her 21-year-old groom. We were totally unsuited to each other, and should never in a million years have got hitched, but at that time in the world we lived in getting married was just what people did. Sadly, one way or another the reality of that unfortunate legal liaison was for me a thoroughly rude awakening to the best and worst of adult life to the point that five years, three children and one near-fatal overdose later I left him, never to return.

It may seem odd still to mark the anniversary of such an unhappy marriage after all this time, especially as I’m now very happily married to someone else – to my best friend, in fact – but how can I not remember such an important anniversary when the most tumultuous experiences I’ve ever had in my life were condensed into the relatively short space of time when my first husband and I were legally joined together. Giving birth to my three beautiful babies, being zonked out on valium for nigh on two years and then the devastating nuclear fallout of trying to kill myself has inevitably left its mark – how could I ever forget?

Confusingly I can’t find it in my heart to regret a toxic relationship that ultimately created life – well, three lives – during that same period of time it almost destroyed my own. Each year that passes takes me further away from those darker memories, and although the old hurts may be long healed the scars still remain. And divorce may have given me my legal freedom, but genetically the ghost of him lives on in my much-loved children and grandchildren, and like it or not in them we stay in part forever shackled together.

So I always consider the anniversary of that first wedding each year in my own way, depending on how I’m feeling on the day. This year I’m feeling quiet and thoughtful, eternally glad still to be here on this earth and still to have a good relationship with my children in spite of all our ups and downs and familial difficulties over their formative years. I love them all as fiercely and passionately as ever, and find I cannot simply erase the memory of their father from my new-and-improved life narrative just because it may suit me to do so, and as a result I still regard the continuing recognition of my first marriage as a relevant part of their birthright…

 

 

Songs from the Past: Taylor Swift – Shake it Off

A bit of a fun track for this week’s Songs from the Past – Taylor Swift from 2014 with ‘Shake it Off’ – my 5 year old granddaughter absolutely adores this song, so having spent some quality time with my family recently I’ve inevitably heard it a lot and I’ve found it’s been firmly stuck in my head since I got back on Monday.

Hugh has a theme of cover versions for this week, but as I’ve posted a few cover versions already in past posts I thought I’d share my favourite non-standard video instead. OK, so technically it’s not actually a cover version, but OMG it’s such fun!  🙂

 

Songs from the Past: Gina G – Just a Little Bit

This week Hugh is focusing on the Eurovision Song Contest for his weekly series of Songs from the Past. Although personally I’m really not a great Eurovision fan, I could hardly pass up the opportunity to join in with such a challenging theme – so here goes!

This particular 1996 Eurovision Contest entry for the UK (sung by Australian singer Gina G) remains forever etched in my memory, as at that point my two teenage daughters attended regular dance classes (both ballet and tap) and had worked out a dance routine which they practiced religiously – always to the music at full blast, of course, so one way or another I heard it such a lot that year! Do I like it? Well, I suppose I have to say… Ooh, aah, just a little bit… 🙂

Oh, and apparently the song came 8th in the contest, held that year in Oslo – not too bad a result! 🙂

Daily Prompt: Apprentice

The art of housewifery was learned, for me, from childhood onwards through an old-fashioned apprenticeship served at the knees of the closest adult women in my life; in particular my mother, my aunts, and my two beloved grandmothers.

I listened, I watched, I helped, I copied, and finally over the years I developed my own style of cooking, baking, cleaning, and home-making in general; a personal blend of the best of all, adapted and updated as necessary to suit my own familial needs and circumstances. It may have been a time when societal expectation meant that men went out to work and women kept the home-fires burning, but those traditional skills have proved invaluable nonetheless.

It is an inheritance I am forever grateful for, an oh-so-familiar ritual of home-making I have hopefully passed on in a similar simple fashion to my own children, both son and daughters. And in time, with luck my beautiful grandchildren too will find the same solace in absorbing those same familiar tasks by a kind of cultural osmosis, as already they watch and learn in their turn, the next generation of apprentices in the making…

Daily Prompt: Apprentice

Disloyal Daughter?

Sink or Swim…

What hurtful daughter writes such damning words?

Disloyalty grips tight as guilt unfolds

For years my childhood fears remained unheard

Confused unworthy failings stayed untold

Unquestioning complicity required

I grew up thinking I was all to blame

My fault I wasn’t someone more desired

My female gender always cause for shame…

But now my scapegoat days are gone for good

No longer will I carry all that weight

Two generations further than it should

I leave my parents’ needs to their own fate –

Disloyalty cuts both ways, don’t you think?

It’s time I learn to swim before I sink…

I’m not generally keen on automatically blaming the parents for all the faults of the child, but I’m finally having to acknowledge that however disloyal it may feel and however much guilt it generates within me, I have to accept that some of the continued attitudes and actions of my parents have inevitably caused me (and do still cause me) psychological distress.

Years of therapy for depression, studying Psychology as part of my degree, and the experience of being a flawed parent and grandparent myself have all contributed to the growing realisation that perhaps I was not, after all, the reason for any discord within my family, but rather it may be that particular issues within certain individuals in my family have in fact helped cause the discord in me.

It’s actually quite a liberating realisation, even at the age of 53, and writing (and sharing) these poems about how it feels is really helping me process the emotional turmoil I’m experiencing at the moment. So please bear with me through the introspective doom and the gloom, and hopefully normal service will resume shortly 🙂

Daily Prompt: Avid

Beyond the Pale…

As avidly I read to understand

Why always I’ve felt never good enough

I find myself push further than first planned

Beyond the pale to landscapes raw and rough.

I struggle through harsh sentences revealed

Confront the urge to vent a latent rage

Bewildered I revisit wounds unhealed

Old hurts brought back to life across the page.

Deep narcissistic traits exposed and bare

My mother’s selfish game of life displayed

Manipulating facts; unjust, unfair

Invalidating every choice I’ve made…

I’m learning to let go of life-long guilt

As thankfully my world-view starts to tilt…

Daily Prompt: Avid

 

Daily Prompt: Symbiosis

Blah, Blah Black Sheep…

This is a difficult post to write, but today is Mother’s Day here in the UK and both my FaceBook Newsfeed and WordPress Reader are full of people extolling the virtues of their mothers, either because they are still best friends or because she is no longer with them and they would give anything to see her again just for one day. Each heartfelt declaration of love for the woman who first gave them life only adds further fuel to the fire of my guilty feelings deep down about being a really bad daughter.

Everyone loves the idea of the perfect mother-daughter symbiosis. But however hard I’ve tried across the years to reach out to my mum with understanding there is never any reciprocity. I simply don’t have a close loving relationship with my mum, who is still very much alive and very disapproving of so many people in life, including me. I say ‘simply’ but looking beneath the surface I suppose there is nothing simple about it. Sadly I am not, and never have been, the daughter my mum wanted.

In fact, my mum has spent my entire lifetime laughingly joking to all and sundry that she actually wanted six boys, but I came along first and spoiled it all. It’s a joke I’ve never really understood, and cumulatively over the years the irritating friction it has caused has created a problematic flaw in the fabric of our familial relationship which by now has worn exceptionally thin.

As well as being born a girl I was a quiet, moody child; ill a lot with a severe allergy condition over which I had absolutely no control, and I’ve struggled emotionally with recurring depressive episodes for as far back as I can remember. But because early on I was labelled ‘the difficult one’ seemingly intent on spoiling my mum’s idealistic vision of what constituted ‘happy families’, I’ve always felt guilty about being ‘not good enough’ as I am, and that is an unforgiving label that still rankles even today.

This post isn’t about apportioning parental blame, because I know myself from experiencing it from the other side just how difficult parenting can be and just how oh-so-easy it is to get it wrong. I know I’m mixing my metaphors here but in parenthood there’s no dress-rehearsal, rather we’re all dropped straight in at the deep end, sink or swim. We win some, we lose some – and that’s perfectly OK, as long as we recognise it as such, however uncomfortable that may be to accept.

But it seems that in my mum’s closed-minded world where she reigns omnipotent as the perfect parent, she is by default always right in all things so any point of view that dares to differ from her perspective is inevitably wrong, deviant and ultimately in need of correction. And by extension, in the particular circumstances of our forever-differing mother-daughter relationship I too must be inevitably wrong, deviant, and ultimately in need of correction.

Even now I’m in my fifties with three grown-up children in their thirties and five grandchildren of my own, my mum clearly still thinks of me (and talks to me) like I’m some recalcitrant teenager, deliberately antagonistic and always out to cause her grief, and it still hurts. I have to admit to feeling thoroughly fed-up of always being thought of and talked of as the black sheep of the family, just because I’m being… well… me.

But nevertheless I’ve learned a lot from it. I may be nothing more than an eternal miscreant misfit child in my mother’s eyes, but I am also a mother myself who accepts that I may not always have got it right with my children, and I have no qualms in apologising to them for my unintended failures as necessary. I understand implicitly from personal experience that mothers are not Madonna-esque saints, they are simply ordinary women with all their pre-pregnancy personal flaws and foibles still intact, who along the way have simply had a baby.

I do appreciate that at times it is indeed difficult for adult children to accept the fact that their mothers are real people too – but sometimes it should be recognised that it is the mother who cannot see that her maternal status does not necessarily give her the monopoly on being ‘right’ in her world-view no matter what. And that her children, whatever her personal opinions on their attitudes and behaviours, nevertheless remain valid individuals in their own right, albeit outside of her maternal preferences.

Otherwise what is being offered up is no more than a manipulated, distorted, calculated form of conditional love, with an in-built requirement to behave a particular way in order to be worthy of the maternal love most people might expect to receive as an unconditional right. Yet sadly that restrictive kind of parental love is the upsetting everyday reality for many of us that, on celebratory occasions like this, can sometimes feel just too much to bear…

Daily Prompt: Symbiosis