Saturday, January 17, 2009

In praise of daughters

Those who read this blog on a regular basis will know that I love my daughters with a passion.

My decision to take on the primary child care role, to largely work from home, has cost me dearly in a professional sense. At the same time, that decision means that I have been greatly blessed because of my closeness to my girls.

I am terrified of getting old.

I am not talking about physical aging here. That is inevitable. Rather, my fear of getting out of touch with current trends, of getting locked into the past, of getting old in a mental sense.

Tonight I watched a teen chick flick, a ballerina movie.

I was cooking tea for oldest (Helen) - Clare was at work - so missed the start and do not know its name. Helen left to play pool with friends at the nearby pub, so I watched the rest on my own with tears dripping down my face.

I would never have watched this movie by free choice. I watched it because it is one of Helen's favourites.

The length of standard family folk memory is around three generations - grandparents, parents, children.

In my case, this takes me back to industrial England of the second half of the nineteenth century or to Sydney of the 1880s boom and 1890s crash. The distance between this and the life of Sydney's Eastern Suburbs' young of 2009 is enormous and growing.

Sometimes its difficult trying to bridge the 142 years between Grandfather Belshaw's birth and today. I want to try to preserve the past while living in the present, yet the two are so different.

My daughters force me to keep in touch. However, I am conscious here that as they grow older there is yet another generation coming through.

Just before youngest left school, both girls complained that those coming into year seven had different attitudes to them. As a social scientist, I was fascinated by this. What did they mean?

As best I could work out, they were referring to attitudes to authority and discipline. They saw a quantitative change between them and the new cohort.

As best I can, I try to listen to my daughters and their friends. I want to understand how they think. I am also honoured to be included as a Facebook friend. There is no way I would have allowed this with my own parents or their friends, the gap was too great.

Sometimes I have to gulp and hold my peace. The current young are so frank on-line. It's worse where I have background and hence the capacity to fill in gaps. There are some things that I simply do not wish to know.

In all this, I am conscious that there are some things that I do not understand. The gap between experiences is simply too great.

I am also conscious that the gap between Eastern Suburbs Sydney and other parts of the country is great. I cannot assume that the attitudes of my girls and their friends are in any way representative.

Sometimes I know that they are because there is evidence to support this. At other times I know that they are not, again because there is evidence to show this. In the middle is a broad expanse of unknown territory.

Now that my daughters are growing older, how do I maintain contact with the young coming behind? I do not think that I can.

Earlier this week I got into an argument with someone over women's liberation. The crux was the attitude of the young towards gender roles. I find this nuanced and complicated.

My views here have been formed by watching my girls and their friends, listening to multiple conversations. They simply accept the successes of the women's' movement and have moved on. They are not interested in past fights, in many cases they do not even understand what they were.

To conclude, I think that I have been lucky to stay in touch as much as I have. Time for bed and a new set of thoughts.


Anonymous said...

I believe, they know that you really love them.

Jim Belshaw said...

They do, Tikno, and that is really a key thing.

I was in my early forties when I married. I had no idea of the joy my children would bring me.

Anonymous said...

I married at the age of 35 years and have the first baby (woman) at 38 years old. Next March I will be 39 years old. Sometimes when I saw her sleeping, passed in my mind of what can I give her in future. Indeed, I have been thinking about her education, but at least I do not want to see her fail in later life.

I have created a post about it.

Jim Belshaw said...

Good morning Tikno. It's 7:34 in Sydney - a lovely morning - and I have to get to work. Will respond tonight.