Personal


It’s been a long old time on this here blog.
I think I’m tired of the name.
I think I’m tired of the pattern.
The rut.

I think I want to start fresh.
Strip things bare.
Break out.

The name, the style, the blog was right, well-chosen a couple of years ago, but the time since then has been a slow metamorphosis of me.

Then, I was a slightly battered, still tottering girl-woman-newmother, writing essays to answer questions about questions, looking for certainties to cry out into the big void of the world, seeking – something - but without any clear idea of what. And that uncertain, rather diligent little creature has been quietly growing, changing – into – me – as I am now. And setting out in consciousness towards what I will be – when I get to infinity?

But as for now, the only thing worth grasping, how am I now?

Stronger, happier, better, freer. Crashing around the same as I ever did, but aware now more than before that I am crashing around and that it is me crashing around.

(Have I “found myself”? Is this what they mean when they say that?)

And that slow metamorphosis – where does it lead?
Not back here, surely not.

Time to move on?
to emerge?
and fly?

It would of course be lovely if I could be one of those amazing Gentle Parents who aim to act always by consensus, who empower their children to make good decisions for themselves, who never assume dominion or authority over their children – and all that.

Wouldn’t Ariel be lucky if she had a mother like that? A mother who would never shout or punish or say things like If you hit mummy again then mummy will hit you, and I’m bigger than you so it will hurt – let alone follow through with such a threat… A mother who would always be calm and reasonable, or at least wiling to apologise and admit that she’s wrong if she occasionally fails to practice what she preaches…

Well I do truly and genuinely admire people who can follow that model effectively, and in all honesty I do aspire to it, in my way. But I’m not capable of doing it, not all the time, if ever. It’s too hard. If I haven’t the energy or the time to discuss and negotiate, I just don’t. I assert my authority, I threaten, in the event of disobedience I carry out my threats, and I never (hardly ever) back down, even from the fights which in all honesty I wish I’d never started*. I do all these things, and I don’t even feel bad about it.

* Like the one over whether or not I’m going to get out of bed at 5am to accompany my perfectly capable Ariel to the toilet, just because she doesn’t fancy going on her own…

It would be so much better, I’m sure, if I could manage to be a Gentle Parent, but I’m not. I wasn’t brought up that way, I’m not made for it, I wouldn’t know how to do it and stay sane, and I’m not sure (now) that I would even want to try.

Yes, I am somewhat authoritarian. My name is Maia and I am an authoritarian parent.

It isn’t all bad. I am less authoritarian than my own parents and, if she chooses to be a parent, I am hopeful that Ariel will be less authoritarian than me. And I’m not, as the title to this post hints, the worst possible mother. For one thing, I am here: every day. Every day, I get up and I do parenting – some days I do it well, other days not so well – but every day I am here and I am doing it, I am being a parent. And that is not a small thing. It amazes me that so many people do it, because it is not a small thing.

Today is a day
to stand back and say
that this is okay.

So I’m making my peace with my mothering, authoritarianism and all. I’m accepting that there is only so far I can go in unlearning my earliest lessons in how to parent. I am steadily realising that I am not, never will be perfect, in mothering or in anything else – but that, as it turns out, this is OK. I’m OK.

It’s good to know. If nothing else, it’s one less worry to distract me from actually being the person, the mother, that I want to be.

What do you reckon? An abstract masterpiece?
Or – does it go this way up?

We felted by hand and then, because it was basically in shape but not “solid” if you know what I mean, it went through the washing machine and tumble dryer to see if that would finish it – which made no difference at all! Ho hum.

I think the problem may be that we were using alpaca wool and maybe some of it was – not kinky enough? The hairy bits sticking up are all straight hairs. We have a bunch of sheep fleeces to do next and they are definitely kinky enough! :shock: – the coloured merino wool felted beautifully, it was just the alpaca that was troublesome.

Possibly the verdict should be – not bad for the first attempt?

I have given suck, and know
How tender ‘tis to love the babe that milks me

“The trouble with the world is that the stupid are cocksure and the intelligent full of doubt.”

Something clicked while I was playing in the bath with Ariel this evening. We were pretending to be at the beach, making sandcastles with my trusty yellow bathjug standing in as a bucket. Ariel could barely even wait for me to lift up the jug-bucket before she was enthusiastically splatting my imaginary sandcastle and yelling with glee – “I broke it down mummy! I splatted it all over the place!”

And I remembered some theory I had read somewhere* about how young children destroy things because, not having the skills to create, they enjoy destruction instead as a way to feel powerful and thereby align themselves with the grownups. The idea is that children (unless they have had a very liberal education and a very sheltered existence) will generally see adults as powerful and themselves as powerless. Because they experience their powerlessness as oppression, they want to become powerful and so they enact power in their games, practising in earnest for the power they crave. An adult builds a tower, a child knocks it down.

If I remember rightly, the author proceeded on the basis that once the child has learned to create – to build wonderful towers of its own – the child will enjoy creating far more, as the more adult (and so more powerful) occupation, and leave off destruction as the mindless splatting of its (powerless) infancy.

Of course, it may not work like that. Maybe the child is encouraged to enjoy destruction and not to reach towards creativity. Maybe destruction is modelled to that child in the home, in the school, in the media, in the world. Maybe the joys of creation are never even seen or approached, let alone taught. Destruction is so easy, there is such a satisfyingly powerful thrill – perhaps it is an addiction – and creativity is a slower, more careful, more patient activity, taking time and skill and effort. A slow pleasure, with pride and joy to be had, but no dramatic climax. The difference between midwifery and Caesarean – or something like it.

And I began to wonder, in the warm water, in a flight of monthly connectedness, whether it is as simple as this: as simple as the possibility that men** have – to borrow from an old, old saw – womb envy. They feel that they cannot create life, they see that women can create life – the ultimate creativity. Lacking the ability to create, they take pleasure instead in destruction… especially in the destruction of the creatrix… because it makes them feel powerful, because by destroying us they are stealing our power for themselves. Maybe the child that is/was mankind feels that it has been always kept out of creation, maybe it has felt that way for thousands of years…?

Obviously it isn’t as simple as this. But suddenly, in the bath, the connectedness of creativity, destructiveness and power come together, in a viscous glob – as the destructive powerlust of those who cannot create. Of those who cannot create – life.

Which all leads to the obvious question: would men be happier if they used compost toilets? What comes from their bodies, nourishes the land, and food grows. Could compost toilets change the world?

——————————–

*I am pretty sure it was in Bertrand Russell’s “On Education” (1926) but I don’t think I have the book any more so I can’t check the reference.

** Tiresome, I know, but I feel I should point out that I don’t mean “men” etc as meaning all men or any particular men but only as broadly referring to constructed masculinity. Or something.

Look what we woke up to this morning!

Ariel and I went out to make a snowman and chuck snowballs – I don’t think she’s ever seen or experienced proper snow before, and she was completely delighted. After we built the snowman we knocked it over and jumped up and down on the snow.

It has been very strange weather today. One minute it is warm and sunny, the next minute the sun goes behind a cloud and everyone’s shivering – sun comes out – starts snowing – sun back out again – chillly for a bit – sun – hail shower – snow – sun – and so it went on. Talk about April showers!

This is what we all got up to on the allotment yesterday – although I took the picture *today* during one of the sunny spells (my camera battery had run out yesterday):

We finished clearing, digging and manuring the third bed.

We also dug over both the first two beds, planting potatoes in the far one, and starting off some asparagus in the middle one. There is one row of asparagus, leaving half of that bed free for salad or something this year, with the idea of possibly adding more asparagus in that space next year. We also put a tayberry (nearest camera) and blackcurrant (farthest) in the “bit” left over from where we dug the asparagus bed too big. Everything we planted got covered in straw because the weather forecast was for snow and frost and things so we wanted to keep their feet warm. :)

Meanwhile, back at home today I’ve started mangetout, purple sprouting broccoli and pumpkins for the allotment, all from seed – and I’m having a go at some thyme from seed for my own garden, as well. I have a bunch more seeds which I haven’t yet started including “normal” (green) broccoli, dwarf beans, baby carrots, brussels sprouts, and okra (and, again, a variety of herbs for home). I also have calendula – marigold – which I bought on impulse because it is pretty and I had heard somewhere that it is a good one for companion planting because it attracts the nice insects or something. I’m not sure we will have space or energy to do all these for this season, especially as we also plan to do courgettes, normal carrots, sweetcorn, runner beans, peas, leeks, tomatoes and probably some other things I have forgotten.

It’s all so exciting!
Yesterday I was even hyped up while digging the trenches for the potatoes…

Oh, and tonight I made a veggie lasagne and (apart from courgette, tomato, onion, non-stringy celery and aubergine, most of which Ariel pretty much refused to eat) loaded it with home-sprouted mung beans, and garnished it with cress and rocket thinnings, both also home grown – super yummy. Ariel sucked off the sauce from a bean sprout and pronounced that she liked them because the bean end looked like a nipple, and then proceeded to hunt through her dinner saying “oh look mummy I found another nipple” every 15 seconds. She had me doing it after a while, as well, so I think mung bean sprouts might now be renamed nipple sprouts in our house. Oh dear.

What else? I planted my own potatoes at home (and covered them with soggy cardboard as a temporary frost protection). My american land cress, perpetual spinach and spring onions have all germinated, along with some of the mixed salad leaves – although now I think about it, maybe the onions haven’t. The others definitely have though! And I made a raised bed planter for my blueberries and planted them out. I’m experimenting with coriander too – apparently if you just chuck the seeds from your kitchen onto some soil and water them, coriander will grow. I’ve put some in the ericaceous compost in with the blueberries and some in another planter nearby, one I’ve had for ages and never given any TLC (it will become home soon to the herbs I am growing). I suspect that neither of these is especially suitable for coriander but I didn’t have anything else prepared so that’s where it ended up.

I feel – quite literally – full of the joys of spring.

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