Thursday, May 15, 2008

My Rules of Life---Part Three


Photograph of Philip Larkin by Jane Bown



DO NOT BLAME MY PARENTS

I used to. With my handy hatchet in hand, I'd scream to the skies I wasn't loved enough, was abused, wasn't encouraged, was laughed at for my aspirations. Wasn't good enough, was too tall, didn't look like them, was a bad example to the younger sibs. And on and on and on and on. I even bored myself with it all. Until it dawned. The only dysfunction around was the face staring back from the mirror. I could remain a perennial victim or I would take full responsibility for my life.

And that was a process in itself, a long process, still ongoing. And now and again a cloud of blame settles over me and the finger starts to point outward and I am reminded that when that index finger points out, lo and behold, there are three fingers pointing back at me.

And I read, and re-read, this powerful poem by Philip Larkin, I am a major fan of his work.

This be the Verse

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.

But they were fucked up in their turn
By fools in old-style hats and coats,
Who half the time were soppy-stern
And half at one another’s throats.

Man hands on misery to man.
It deepens like a coastal shelf.
Get out as early as you can,
And don’t have any kids yourself.

— Philip Larkin (1922 - 85)

14 comments:

  1. I couldn't agree more, but sadly enough, I've passed the depression genes on to my daughter. It seems to run in the family, much to my disgust. If only we knew at 20 what we know at 50. We wouldn't do half the stuff we get away with.

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  2. Ah but to live life in reverse, Irene, how smoothly the answers would come and the pitfalls to avoid!!
    XO
    WWW

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  3. It's an excellent poem, it hits the nail right on the head. And yes, most people's parents screw them up in so many ways but it's up to us as adults to try and reverse the damage and become more enlightened individuals. Sometimes we succeed, sometimes we're left with engrained vices. The main thing is to enjoy all the healthy parts of ourselves to the full.

    BTW, with several of your pics recently, there's only a tiny strip visible and the rest is blank. Is that a technical glitch at your end or at mine? (I have to click on the photo to see the full version)

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  4. Hi Nick:
    I suppose a lot has to do with personal strength too, however we find it.
    thanks for letting me know re photo. I thought it was just my end and the dial-up doldrums.
    I tried re-loading the photo and it's still the same :>(.
    I will be in hotel for weekend with (I hope)high speed so will try reloading the photos that are foo-barred.
    XO
    WWW

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  5. WWW - I'm a great fan of Larkin too. Reaction to this poem, above all, can only be personal, out of our own experiences - since it is so personal for him - speaking out of his experience of his own parents, I guess. Personally then, I have to say it, sorry, - I hate this poem with a venom - it blames without offering the possibility of forgiveness and reconciliation. All children are different. All parents are inadequate in some way or other. Most try their best, as their children do in their turn. And we all blame our parents for something - it goes with of the job. But, in a large families then and in families now where both have to work, Mams and Dads are spread around too thinly to supply everything their children need. I can't blame them for me. Except where there is abuse, children are better off in families than not.

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  6. Ah, the images are now behaving themselves!!

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  7. I commented a bit forcefully earlier. I much prefer the alternative version of Larkin's poem which begins:

    They tuck you up, your mam and dad

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  8. OF:
    Funny that, I don't get the blame thing at all in the poem, I do get his understanding of what parenting is about though, how inherited it is, how parents were victims too.
    Like your fresh interpretation, BTW ;^)
    XO
    WWW

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  9. Your response is kind. Thank you.

    If you replace 'fuck' by 'mess' or 'muck', the blame element reduces. But Larkin has chosen his words carefully. He has chosen 'fuck' to capture his own resentment - and blame. Then there's the self-justificatory last two lines. He too got out early. He hadn't the courage to commit himself to any of the women he loved (so-called)- he rejected them.

    There's no justification for him here. He's the one to blame, but he hardly acknowledges it; he stops before he can admit it. So his blame becomes generalised to mums and dads all over.

    From someone I so admire, I hate it and resent him for making me feel this way.

    Apologies for the rant.

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  10. LOVE this poem. Cracks me up, actually. I get a sense of someone who has made their peace with the imperfection of parenting (whether being parentED or doing the parentING) and is having fun with it. Then again, maybe it's just that I got to that place long ago so I'm seeing it through that filter. I think that most (not all, obviously, but most) parents do the best they can with what they have, and no matter how much they love you, they cannot parent you perfectly. It's that human thing ... try as we might to get it all 'right' we're only perfectly imperfect.

    I used to tell my step-son that I was putting a dollar into a jar for every week that I knew him, so when he'd come to me and say that his parents and step-parents screwed up his life I could hand him the cash and say: We did the best we could ... here, go get some therapy. So far, he's been pretty well adjusted and isn't pointing any fingers for how his life is going, so I might just add the bucks to the senior year in college fund instead. We'll see.

    :)

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  11. OF:
    To each his own on the poem. I think he is tongue in cheek a bit here tho, his mother was one weird woman and probably did f*** him up. He was wise not to have any children of his own and I am truly amazed at how the three women in his life knew about each other and tolerated the situation.
    No offence, OF, but it seems to me as thouhg something very deep in you has been triggered by his words.
    XO
    WWW

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  12. Deb:
    It took me years to get to that place of understanding and even being amused at my parents parenting and then to get to a point of accepting my own lack of skill in that arena. And laughing at the whole sorry multi-generational mess of it all.
    I love the dollar in a jar. Brill!!!!
    XO
    WWW

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  13. We are given no training for parenting, so we all blunder our way through the minefield that it is.

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  14. so true GM, and only hope that our kids turn out Ok in the end, in spite of us!
    XO
    WWW

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