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Parents and children: Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant? By Roz Chast

My kids have suddenly started doing really grown up things.

LD#2, the 14 year old, has started a blog. to record the pictures she has drawn, and the films she has watched. I was really surprised when I saw it, because when she described it, I imagined that she’d just put up a picture and written something like “Here is a picture” on it.  Whereas it turns out she’s highly articulate and capable of documenting all her reasons for choosing to draw what she drew the way she drew it, and of describing her reactions.

LD#1, the 16 year old, went on a two day painting course over the summer, going off to study the sea for half a day, then going back to the studio where the course was held to paint the picture.  She dropped art at school two years ago, so I was a bit nervous about how she’d cope with the course, but she coped fine:

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although she came home absolutely exhausted both days.

Both of them went to serve tea at one of the Lewes Artwave over the weekend, which is something they’ve never done before.

My friends have this huge garden, which is great for displaying sculptures

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And also a large pond, on which their enterprising 10 year old son was offering boat rides

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It was worth £2 for the sales pitch alone, which went like this:

“If you want me to take you in the boat, I will.  Otherwise, I won’t.”  (Good start.)  “The life jackets are free, but if you want me to jump in and rescue you, it’s £3.”

I took my chances with the life jacket and was rowed round the pond, to enjoy a really lovely view.  I just think it’s so incredible to have the opportunity to row round your own pond as a child, and also to show such enterprising spirit.

I remember my mum totally underestimating at all stages what I was capable of, whereas by the time I was about sixteen (or even six), I thought that I clearly had a better idea of how to handle most life situations than she did.  Eg one of my earliest memories is of being at a party and eating some of those shiny sugar decorations, and my mum going totally ballistic when she found out, because she thought they were metal.

That’s still my perception, although now I look at my kids, I wonder how true it really was?  At the same time, I think I probably suffer too from what my mother did, which was not realising that my children (and my friends’ child) have grown up and taken in the world around it, and are capable of forming their own perfectly competent reactions to it.

Finally, at the other end of the parents and children spectrum, I got round to reading Roz Chast’s Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant?

This graphic novel is a combination of a memoir of Roz Chast’s childhood, and the history of her parents, and a brutally honest look at the realities of coping with extremely aged parents, who are dying very slowly.  The observations Chast makes about her past, her parents and their idiosyncrantic ways of bringing her up, and of interacting with the outside world, are very relatable and funny.  It complements the serious side of the book well – as her parents age, the funny sides of their personalities remain, making it a little easier for the reader to digest what is happening to them.  But the other side of funny, the parts that were always hard for Chast to cope with, get worse.  This is a very memorable book.

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8 Comments

  1. It’s interesting that you can now relate to what your mother was like when you were a kid, although I’m sure you’re much more in tune with your own kids. It must come as a shock to all parents, no matter how close they are to their little (or not so little) ones, when they start growing up. Would it be weird if I read your daughter’s blog?

    • Yes, all those years I thought she was just batty and now I realise I am a bit batty too. It definitely is a shock, and it’s a shock for it to be a shock, if that makes sense. Please feel free to read Isabel’s blog, thanks for clicking through. xx

      • From what I keep hearing from people with older kids, it sneaks up on everyone, so don’t be too hard on yourself lovely. I’ll definitely check out Isobel’s blog xx

  2. I’m so enthralled with this post! Your children show that you have given them what you have – an innate sense of who you are. I am thrilled with the painting (look I can dye fabric, but painting?) and I’m going to read your lovely daughter’s blog too.

    Your mother cannot be as batty as mine! Although I’m sure I’m also batty in totally different ways …….. just not mean with it! And it sounds like you all are loving your new home!

    • Yes, our new home is great. It’s lovely to see children emerging to be their own creative beings, like your son with his graphic art. I think you are right, that’s something that comes from giving them space to expand into.

  3. I’ve just had a look at your daughter’s blog – she writes really very well for a fourteen year old – good for her, interesting articles – I hope she keeps it up. Her reading pile is pretty sophisticated too (-apart from Harry Potter, but you know how I feel about that one! ).

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