[DWJ] Attitude

minnow at belfry.org.uk minnow at belfry.org.uk
Thu Dec 28 08:12:10 EST 2006

In <Pine.LNX.4.63.0612271910510.29020 at suberic.net>, deborah.dwj at suberic.net wrote:
>On Wed, 27 Dec 2006, minnow at belfry.org.uk wrote:
>|Um... Might it be that whereas there is precious little likelihood of
>|anyone in her teens at the moment having any chance to free slaves and
>|become a pirate (and as for the cross-dressing female pirates, I think
>|very few people get the moral abdabs about women in slacks these days)
>|she might just meet an ellided homosexual?[1]
>Oh, probably.  But still -- it's the arguments with moral
>authority which  are far more fundamental than the window
>dressings, in my opinion.

Well, yes, but I was trying not to get too heavy about this!

I was trying to avoid saying that the real argument probably comes down
to whose property one believes that a child is.  I've always rather
stayed with the theory I developed in my childhood, that I belonged to
*me* rather than to my parents or my teacher or any other person, and 
that the same was true of any child.  Children belong to themselves, not 
to any adult even a loving and well-meaning parent, as far as I am 

As a child I didn't mind other people *making suggestions* about proper
behaviour or what I might enjoy reading, but I objected very strongly
indeed to them telling me what to do or even worse what to think.  I
noticed too that the people who tried to push me around and preach at me
were never people whose authority in such matters I might have accepted
readily because I respected them: my parents, my father's academic
colleagues, my uncles and my interesting teachers didn't, my silliest
aunt and my least interesting teachers did. 

So in my dealings with my own children I've tried very hard indeed to
keep it that way, because I didn't want to be one of the adults who
wasn't respected by them because I threw my weight around without good
justification.  It's a lot more difficult to say of a book "I don't
think you'll enjoy it because..." and give some decent reasons for one's
veto than it is to say "you may not read this book" or "this book is
Evil", and it's a lot more worrisome having to hope the dear bratlets
won't pick up some ghastly notion from a crap book than it is to feel
confident that one's own judgement is of course always correct (oh boy I
wish I had that sort of egotistical certainty that my judgement was
infallible!), but the nine-year-old me leans over my shoulder and
insists that I must at least try.

Then she mutters about "grown-up bullies" and "thought policing" and I 
know that there is no escape.

The consolation is that as they have grown up, my children have become 
people I can have interesting discussions with, rather than simply 
agreeing with everything I say.  That's the upside of not trying to own 
them: they have ideas I hadn't thought of, based on experiences I 
haven't controlled, and hey, sometimes they are even so obviously right 
that I have to rethink some cherished old prejudgement and admit that I 
might just have got it wrong at that.

Catch-22: sooner or later they may turn round and tell me that I ought
to have been more controlling when they were younger because they would
have far preferred it and been happier, at which point I shall have no
option but to fling myself off the bridge, but that's a risk one has to
take if one accepts that people start being individuals some time before
they are born, and *certainly* well before they have learned how to walk
and talk.


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