Sunday, 1 June 2014

Parenthood & Progress

(You'll notice a new style to my blog. I'll talk about that - & why - another time.)

I thought I wouldn't be posting again until just before Module Two of 'The Art and Business of Surface Pattern Design' course started in July. That has now been postponed until October as tutor Rachael Taylor-Davies is due to give birth to her first child in August. Having been there & done that bit of my life - believe me, Rachael, you will need the time!

Parenthood affects us in many many ways. I defy any first time parent to predict how with any accuracy. No matter that others describe and try to tell us in advance - the sheer difference between before and after is immense.

For the first few months your conversation is likely to contain little else (sometimes to the point of tedium for others - a bit like discovering patterning in middle age, really, now I come to think about it...  :-) )

Almost every waking thought has, perforce, to consider your child's needs & welfare in relation to your plans. BTB (before the birth) you think - "oh, well, yes, of course!", whereas the reality can be difficult to adjust to mentally, physically & emotionally. Everything takes so much time - nappies, feeding, washing their clothes, nappies, feeding, washing their clothes, nappies, feedin.......

I remember even with my second child, saying to my sister (whose children are a few years older than mine), - "I just want to know when I get my life back?" She laughed - "that doesn't happen for years, Cath!"

But would I be without them? Unequivocally no! With them, you experience such heights of emotion & love that I genuinely believe you cannot gain from other sources (not to say you can't experience great highs from other things - but the nature of it is different).

My boys are stunning in the sense that they genuinely sometimes stun me. When bathing my then two year old youngest, chanting some kind of counting rhyme, as you do, I idly asked "if you had three ducks and I took two of them away, how many would you have?" And he answered correctly. So I asked another and another. And he kept getting it right. So I called my husband. And our boy answered correctly for him too. Truly a breath taking moment.

And those moments when you can't keep a straight face for them. On holiday in the tent, trying to be firm about going to bed, he looked up at me and answered, stern faced, hand on hips, "Mummy, I am ver ver coss wid yooo!"

This same child is now 16 and I have to look up to him (I'm 5'2", he's 6'). It's very odd when that happens with them. My eldest (6'1") looked down, reached out & hugged me, laughing "it's really funny having such a little Mummy!"

Thanks, love! But truly, I mean it, thanks - because you are my wonderful child and I will always love you.

Our capacity to fulfil our dreams and whatever it is that we feel we were put on this earth to do (other than procreate and perpetuate the species) is affected by our children's existence when they are young (hence my complaint to my sister). After my last post some people thought I was being hard on myself; not at all - I just want to be the best that I can be, and as I replied - "that doesn't come without a little pushing". But also I think, without a little selfishness and determination in the way you allocate your time. And I personally don't think I would have done this well when my boys were younger. I would have felt constantly conflicted between their needs and the needs of my art. So I put them first then.

And now? Last week was half term and I am on a term time only contract. My son, being 16. didn't need my constant input (would have outright rejected it in no uncertain terms) and got on with his own projects. We met up from time to time, comparing notes, making each other a drink here and there. Twice in the week he made the dinner with very little direction from me. Occasionally he burst in to update me on something exciting and yes, I had to tear my concentration away from what I was doing. Once, when I'd come to a natural pause with my work, I went to his room, curled up on his bed and we chatted for an hour or so about his stuff. It was great!

And in between all that, with greater time available, I made steady progress:

Parenthood gets better and better. And less intensive.

Two more small things I have to add on the subject of parenthood and art:

  • although no-one encouraged me in art at school as such, my Dad always did. He seemed to see an artistic ability in me that he didn't necessarily see in my three sisters. On holidays he would invite me and not the others, to go sketching with him. I owe him & thank him for that and much subsequent encouragement.
  • when my eldest was six months old, I wept on my health visitor that I was "so lonely and so boooooored".  She sent me to the doctor who said I was 'in a rut' and that I should find a little time for myself. So I began painting every Wednesday evening. I won't claim that has continued unabated ever since: life and its rhythms change too frequently for that. At times my art has been only that thing you do on holiday. 
But it was the beginning. And while I am grateful I now have the time to develop myself without the conflict and pressures of sleepless nights and teething babies or sick babies who can't tell you what's wrong and all that goes with that, there is at least one thing I am envious of with my younger ABSPD colleagues.

You have discovered your passion early. The rest of your life, in which you can develop it, is way longer than the rest of mine.

Make the most of it - make some time for yourself every day.

Much love