Just Kids…?

On the drive to the Farm from Montreal yesterday afternoon, I listened to a CBC interview from five years ago (we’re in holiday rerun season) with great interest and something like relief. Eleanor Wachtel was talking to Patti Smith in Toronto, where she had an exhibit of her photos, I think..? Or maybe it was because of the award she’d won for her last book? Either way, it was an engaging conversation between two very smart and accomplished women who I admire.

Near the end of the interview, Smith hesitated while replying that although she’d love to be able to say it was wonderful working with her two children, they actually made fun of her shortcomings as a guitarist – she sounded hurt and embarrassed. Then she fudged a bit and said but no, it was great working with them, etc, etc. A reworking of her first gut reaction. Oy, did I empathise….

I was raised by two brilliant minds and a mother who could do Everything, so I believed my parents were omniscient and infallible – they certainly had all the power –  and rebelliousness was my own personal failing. It took me ages to see them as whole and complex people rather than cardboard role models. I think this is likely true of many generations of us…

So, as is our wont, I tried to do something else when I became a parent, raising my own kids as equals, destined to surpass me in all ways. When they were little, I made it clear that I had to keep them safe and teach them what I knew about the world as it had presented itself to me, but that they needed to connect to and trust their own inner guidance and wisdom. They were “unschooled”, staying home and learning according to their interests and abilities, but most importantly, remaining curious.

I only realised later that what is learned at home is absorbed without our necessarily being conscious of being taught, so many of the skills that I worked to teach my children, they feel they just innately Know, and they know much better than I…  They are all amazing, knowledgeable, creative people who do know lots of things that I don’t. Surrounded by the four of them, though, I feel spotlighted for what I do not know and am unable to do, especially as I’m getting older and apparently on the brink of decrepitude… My feeling of worth has to come from heart-connections with others, from sensing the shifting Earth energies when I do ceremony – they have to come, in fact, from that inner Knowing that I’ve tried to nourish in my kids. Ironic, I guess…

Smith – I’m going to call her Patti out of kinship – left NYC and her musical career at its peak to live and raise her kids in the mid-west. She says it pisses her off when people accuse her of doing nothing during that time – she took care of her husband, raised her children, and continued writing anyway. A little defensively, she said that this was a period in which she grew a lot as a person and was perhaps at her most creative.

But “just a mom” has been scrawled on our foreheads in indelible ink, scratched deep with knives and forks and laundry detergent into our hearts and minds… it’s no wonder our kids believe it, too.

Patti, I feel you…

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