Friday 5 May 2017

#192 My parents' impact

I'm not sure mother or dad would've got away with reviewing the influence of their own parents. I'm confident that I will, if I admit it's speculative and keep it balanced.

Both parents enjoyed serendipitously good health throughout their years. It's this inheritance for which, thus far at least, my sister and I can be most thankful.

Dad's arrogance houses a remarkable intellect. Mother's timidity shrouds her mastery of yoga. I inherited the timidity and some of the intellect.

His own father's lack of affection and militarily authoritative presence seemingly gave dad an unbound need to express himself freely and to be the centre of attention upon reaching adulthood. He meets these needs through music, sport and talking about himself.

Mother is the exact opposite. She seems to need to avoid the limelight and is modest about her accomplishments. She enjoys gardening, vegetarian cookery and rarely talks about herself without some reservation.

I was typically reminded that my upbringing was nothing like as unpleasant as that of the previous generation. As a consequence of this truth and the shyness of my mother, I avoided a portion of dad's need to be heard in person, preferring to write things down and make occasional attempts at wit. That said, I've always tested my parents' reasoning and patience. Both frequently handled disagreements with an inelegant brutishness and were entirely flappable.

I've dabbled amateurishly in fitness and music and have some biological predisposition to both. My metabolism and in my mid-twenties, a slender figure lent themselves wonderfully to aerobic exercise. I never experienced any pain or discomfort when running and tended to be limited more by cardiopulmonary capacity than anything else. I can generally identify if a song I know is being played in the right key and can sing an 'E' on cue without a reference note.

Neither parent was remotely academic. dad took little interest in subjects other than music or maths, which he aced at GCSE level despite breaking a leg in a motorcycle accident prior to the exam. In barrow boy-esque fashion, he left school at sixteen and headed straight to Barclays to become a banker. He remained there for over thirty years, invariably taking the 5:30pm train home and never having to worry about money. At fifty, he retired and would brag that he had never read a book in his life.

Mother enjoyed school even less. I was grateful that she worked part-time administrative jobs, as it meant she was able to raise my sister and me, rather than hiring a nanny. She relied on dad for money and he relied on her for childcare and housework, as was, I suspect, the norm for those born in the 1950s.

With some of dad's brainpower and some of mother's introversion, I happily read books across the academic spectrum. I lacked the mathematical prowess and bullishness that took dad into the city and like mother, was happy reading and being left to my own devices. I therefore had no intention of leaving school. I studied ten subjects and scored at least a B grade in every one of them. University was more normal by the time I reached adulthood, so I became the first member of my family to attend one.

After uni, I joined a large corporation and attempted to replicate dad's experience of working in financial services and never having to worry about money or work-life balance. I made some progress in these areas. Like mother, I was quieter and lacked dad's tendency towards and interest in project management, a skill that became increasingly necessary in my role. I decided to make a career shift and began looking for jobs in other areas.

When it comes to relationships, my parents did the usual house, marriage and kids combo at what was probably the average age to do those things at the time. I've taken longer to develop confidence in that area although I did start dating after moving to London.

Both parents have friends. Like mother, I limit my social interactions and take copious amounts of time to recharge in between them. Neither parent has enough political interest or religious pompousness running through their veins to turn their nose up at another human being based on their leanings in those areas. That said, dad will happily make fun of anyone for any reason. I occasionally join him in this. I suspect they both believe in climate change although I'm not certain. I suspect they both voted against Brexit although again, I'm not certain. When asked about either, I'm more likely to give an observation than an opinion.

If I had to rate my parents between extremes of 'worst parents in the world' and 'best parents in the world', I would put them somewhere near the middle, considering the relatively affluent area I grew up in. They are free to challenge me on that. I don't think either will. Clearly I had things better off than most people in the world at a more global level and have a lot to be thankful for.

I don't expect anyone will read this post and follow it up with their own analysis of their parents' influence though if anyone does, I'll happily take a look at it.


Jonathan Bandit Copping said...

9 out of 10 Dan. xxxx

Profound Familiarity said...

Cheers. I think it's hard to be objective. I know I can be quite critical and won't pretend that the above is anything other than an attempt on my part to create excuses for any areas of my life that I'm not happy about rather than accept responsibility for them. It nonetheless contains at least some truth and hopefully reads ok. Thanks for reading it and for understanding. I deliberately set out to balance the pros and cons in each case but let me know if you think I missed anything.

Running on empty said...

I think it is very hard to be a man. That having been said, a man has to step up and be a man, fullfull his potential, and contribute to the world, using his talents.

An excellent , and brave post, Dan.

Profound Familiarity said...

almost as hard as being a woman

Running on empty said...

I think in the 21 st c it's hard to be a man because the old expectations are mixed up today. In the past you went to work and provided for a family. Now there are all these subsets of men. Women's expectations of men have grown. Many want the impossible, an amalgam of all the subsets.

Kathy said...

Even though our parents are influencers of our future when we are young, it is up to the child to make the break and take on the world...however they decide to do it. There will be failures, but that is is better to try and fail than not try at all. The best reward of children is enjoying them as adults, where I no longer have to be the disciplinarian parent. I think a child's perception of parents is skewed because of the parent's attempt to raise the child rather than allow the child to just be. Just enjoy who you are...there is no other one in the world like you...