Part I: The Awakening
Chapter 8: Up-bringing proficiency
If there was something which connected each day spent over there around Alice’s, it was two-folded: James being a dear, a really well educated three-&-a-half-year-old…and…Ladyhawke. James kept being a darling but he also kept playing his mother’s favorite band (probably not so favorite anymore, from all that replaying over and over and over…). I wasn’t into it, at first, but it grew on me. Songs such as Manipulating Woman or Magic were played incessantly in the house. Oh my, you kids, don’t you have a threshold beyond which you begin feeling plain sick from all those repetitive actions you do and enjoy? The answer is no. Oh no, children don’t have such ‘limitations’ as adults have. So the three adults in the house had to adapt & survive…or fail to adapt &…still survive.
Me & Alice, we talked on a lot of occasions about James and about the up-bringing of children in general, which was only natural, of course, I was to be his babysitter. One day, to make it more official, we sat down around the kitchen table and talked about the awesome way, method, strategy or whatever it was that she used and kept using (and perfecting) in order to make James so…tame. And wonderful.
“Alice, I just don’t get it,” I said, starting the ‘inquiry’. “I’ve seen lots of kids, but most of them, even if they had great parents, they still acted nowhere near as terribly nice as little James here does. He’s something, you know? And you’re something else…if you get my meaning.”
“Luck, I have to admit, I’ve read quite a lot about how to best handle kids. All sorts of books, part of which I’m sure you’ve seen lying around here. They did help, to a certain extent, but they’re mostly general stuff which can’t possibly fit to every possible case. Each kid, each family, each environment, they’re all different. Very different. I think…”
“Yeah, I realize that, but still…”
“… I realized that too, even before reading all these books,” she interrupted me, just as I had done to her. “I’ve read most of ’em ’cause I’d nothing else to do while my belly was growing huge and my mood was forever changing. It’s not like I expected to find some extraordinary wisdom hidden inside them…’cause, well, I’m not that stupid,” April said…as if I could ever have considered her stupid. “Those books happen to be well written and easy to read, but that’s pretty much it,” she said.
“I thought as much, but I asked you how you managed to do it, you know, your methods & stuff, not if or what you took from some ‘brilliant’ book. I’ve a pretty good idea as to how those books work, how they’re written, and, well, I don’t really trust them,” I said, wanting to clarify it to her that my opinion on up-bringing books was quite unenthusiastic. “In fact, I don’t trust them at all,” I added, for further clarification.
She gave me some long looks, as if she wondered how come I had already a strong opinion on such books. “I didn’t realize you had an opinion about books of the sort…” she said. “It’s not like I expected you to’ve read this kind of literature.”
“My mother used to have some lying around and they were pretty boring…for her and…for me…so…,” I said.
Fact is, when my little sister was born, such books were the new rage. People thought that some ‘experts’, nothing less, could explain the whole children up-bringing’s complexity to parents, advising them better on how to raise their kids. People stopped asking their parents or the elderly. They had the opportunity to be on their own, completely independent from the old, ‘outdated’ ideas about child-up-bringing their fore-bearers had. It was time for something new, for the third millennium. The Internet started blossoming, it as well full of such advice, but books were still at large, waiting to entice mummies and teach them the “real secrets” about babies and children; such is the reason why these freshly trained mothers knew ‘exactly’ how to tackle each situation in their children’s lives. Of course, most advice was bullocks, even I realized it, as little as I was. Why ‘the adults’ did not, I had no idea whatsoever. But ever since I kept regarding such advice-books (in fact, on most such subjects) as a waste of time and money. Too bad most mothers did not. And still do not.
I studied the way parents brought up their offsprings from as far back as I can remember. It was not like I’d planned it, but I just happened to see stuff around me. I began to analyze it involuntarily. And it sure as hell did not seem as though the really ‘good’ parents, the ones who kept studying the ‘issue’ assiduously, were any better off than the rest. In fact, more often than not, the reality was exactly the opposite. Try too much to stick to some stupid up-bringing schedule a book implanted in your head and you may fail too see the big picture. The bigger picture. Each kid is different and each must be handled differently. Such books only inhibit one from adapting to their child’s needs. At the same time, parents who cared not for such advice, they seemed to fare better. Coincidence? I don’t know. I just saw it so. It’s not like I held (or hold) the key to the absolute truth, but still…
Alice was different, though. She felt amused by such books, so obviously, she was not in the least obstructed by them. She adapted, continuously and restlessly. I never quite understood what exactly she did in order to be such a good mum. That is because she did nothing special. We sure as hell talked a lot on the subject, but it was not like she could write a book about it. I felt rather disappointed by her not being able to really clarify her ways to me, but at the same time, I felt really good for seeing that worked. ⇒⇓
After some quick recollection in my head, I told her the (above lying) ‘story’ of how I got to have a strong opinion on the subject and she said:
“I’m glad you realize it’s not all black and white when it comes to raising children. We do our best, Mark and I, but we don’t really have a certain strategy. We teach James to do stuff, but most of it is involuntarily, we don’t plan ahead. You know how kids imitate everything they see you doing, right?” she asked, rhetorically. I nodded wholeheartedly.
She continued: “We eat vegetables all the time, James does the same. We put anything we use back to its place, James does the same with his toys or anything else he touches. We don’t go around yelling through the hallway, in shops or wherever, he does the same.” She enumerated a couple of more such situations, but these sufficed to prove her point.
“It’s like there’s not much we actually strain ourselves to do in order to get him to do the same. We just have to keep doing stuff in front of him, stuff we expect him to learn and keep as a habit and he does just that. It’s that simple. Simple, but efficient. If I were to abide all the advices and follow all the rules those up-bringing books kept splashing into my face, or if I were to listen to everything my mum told me (or would tell me, if I were to ask), then I don’t think we’d be talking about the same James. It may very well be that we’d be yelling at him, at one another, stuff like that, instead. God forbid that happened!” she added, trying to convince me there was no magic trick involved in James’ up-bringing, even though Ladyhawke’s Magic kept resounding from the living room where James was at the time.
We spent quite a lot of time in the kitchen talking about children, and before we knew it, it was late afternoon and Alice suddenly realized that she had to cook some dinner. I helped her the best I could till around seven-ish, when Mark returned from Sheffield. As he stopped for a minute before going up to shower, he asked us what we’ve been doing that day.
“We talked a lot about children, you know, how to educate them & stuff…” Alice answered, not before kissing him dearly.
“My dear, I hope you don’t plan to leave me and run with Luck into yonder. You never talk to me as much on this particular subject and I feel…betrayed,” he said, laughing.
“Oh come on, darling, you know I’d never leave you. Unless I’d find someone rich and handsome. Much more rich than you and…handsomer than you?…what am I saying? Anyways, there’s little chance of that. Where we’re going in two weeks time…”
“Yeah, that may very well be true, but you do know that in Somerset it’s gonna be awesome, don’t you? Even if you ain’t gonna find some Prince Charming over there…,” said Mark, pulling her leg.
“Of course I know, I was just kidding, just as you were,” she said, kissing him again, even more passionately than the first time.
“Well, aren’t you some charming love doves,” I said, enjoying their little play. “You may kid around, but do any of you realize that your kid’s been playing silently for more than two hours? By now, I think his wooden-railway’s grown to be quite similar in scale to the UK’s actual train network! We should check up on him. You’ve got a great kid, that James of yours, and you seem to deserve him, from what I’ve been able to put together out of what Alice told me today. I’m positively envious, you know?” I added, enviously, in fact.
“Thanks for your vote of confidence, Luck…we’re doing the best we can, but you never know, James may stop being such an angel at some point. You’ve seen that happen, haven’t you?” Mark asked me.
“Yeah, I’ve seen it happen all right and it’s a hell of a thing to fall on the back of the parents. I can’t say it’s enjoyable or anything so I hope you won’t have to experience that,” I replied, thinking about some past events which mirrored just that.
“Love your children painstakingly and if they’re to become good persons, they will!” I though, leaving them to themselves, sort of trying to synthesize all that Alice had said to me that day.