Monday, May 18, 2009

Tough love

Parenthood is one of the toughest career moves one can make - courageous even, Minister.

I imagine that the term originated in the Americas somewhere: I have no intention of researching it. I simply do not want to know any more: tough love is letting your children fend for themselves until they see the light and come around to doing things (living their life) your way. What sort of love is that? You withhold affection, discussion, consultation to show you love them. You insist that it is your way or the highway to show you love them. Huh? This is not tough love; this is self obsession.

I get given this advice frequently: don't help him move - he lost his licence and must learn the consequences of his actions. Don't subsidise his rent - he can still afford to go to raves. Don't take him trolley shopping - he still smokes and drinks, and the choice is his. He needs to get a decent job with a future rather than rattling around hotels as a barman until the early hours. There is a lot of talk here and not much listening.

I go back to when my children were growing up. I guess they were always different from each other in their reactions and personality - but not their character. Personality is nature; character is nurture. One is a rule follower; one is a rule bender. Breaker even. One is a pillar of the community; one is a rebel, moreso than that. One takes after her father; the other takes after his mother.

My daughter is in a stable relationship (married even), has three degrees and works in the management of one of our top law firms. She owns her own apartment in a swish suburb. She has a cat and tries to grow herbs and fails miserably. She is taking evening classes to realise her desire to write: last week I was asked to look at a draft of a children's story.

My son goes through relationships quickly: there have been two of substance. He is currently in his third attempt at a degree. Having excelled at Maths, Physics and Chemistry at High School he is currently enrolled in Psychology and Religion. It is this latter that he actually enjoys. That is what he is looking for: things he enjoys. He shares a two storey terrace in Glebe. He has a cat. On Saturday I was asked for assistance with a photographic issue which resulted in me lending him my camera. He was down near the Fish Markets under the old tram viaducts with a bunch of friends doing a clothing shoot. I could hear the doof doof doof as I pulled into the cul-de-sac.

As I drove back up Ross Street, I wondered what on earth I had done - and WHY?? I was sick to the stomach. He is forever losing things: he places little value on possessions. He is very aboriginal in that sense. He shares everything. It is like when he told me a couple of weeks ago that he had been fired and accused of stealing all in the same conversation. I did not ask whether it was true. I knew it wasn't true. I had no need to ask. We sat on the floor of the stairwell in the student union. He talked and I listened. So on Saturday. He had a problem; I had a means to solve that problem.

I did not notice the text come in whilst I was at Shirley's for dinner on Saturday evening. I did not notice it until Sunday morning. It had been sent at 9:19 Saturday night: "Your camera is home and we're just getting the photos off :) Thanks".

I forgot to add, that as I handed it to him under the viaduct, I looked him in the eyes and asked: "Al, do you value your balls?"


freefalling said...


Julie said...

oops ... how about I actually write something ... mmm ... me got sidetracked ...

Martina said...

Yesterday, when the headline came up in my feedreader and no posting, I was thinking: Oh, Julie has some tough time. I better be quiet and do not ask, because - at last - I don't know her at all.
Today, while finally reading the post, I thought: Oh okay, these things are tough. Life is tough, having children is tough (not that I know anything about that, ;-))
Today, when I read the last paragraph ... not really spitting on my keyboard with laughter again ... but almost. That's cool.

Joan Elizabeth said...

I've been thinking about this one for the past day or so. I like your insights into tough love ... the concept has always made me squirm when I hear about it on radio and TV.

Having no children we have just been watchers of our 20 nieces and nephew's development ... it's a fascinating thing to see unfold but it all seems much easier when they blossom in their unique way while staying within cooee of the family track.

Julie said...

I am looking forward to being a grandparent - not that that has been bloody flagged as yet!! All care and no responsibility - yee hah!

The thing about parenting is that the blossoming is out of ones control - as it should be. But one does have hopes and dreams, which are difficult things to put aside. To keep adult children within cooee of the family track requires a lot of hard work, a lot of swallowing the tongue and a lot of listening.

And yes, I acknowledge that this post in particular, is a challenging one to respond to.

altadenahiker said...

I missed this one. Let me think about it. (My initial response is, lucky you have one of each.)

Z said...

Hm, you're rather hard on the daughter, aren't you? Well, I'm assuming she's the one you're always referring to when you bring up the topic of grandchildren (was there not some reference to them also in a description of yourself that you had on one of your blogs sometime ago?)

Learnt a new word today: cooee.

Julie said...

Karin: Keen to hear your take on tough love.

Z: Tough in what way? Give Joan's blogs a try: they are your style.

Z said...

I do visit Joan actually. Swooned over the lake photo.

Tough in the sense of having enormous expectations of her to deliver (oops, a pun) upon. I'm just projecting what my own feelings would be if my parents made grandchildren remarks, that's all.

altadenahiker said...

You know how many times I've tried to phrase this or think this?

Love isn't easy, but you can't make it tough even if you try. Love, or walk away. And if you love, you can't walk away.

Julie said...

Z: Yes, I can see that is undue pressure. I have learnt not to even discuss the topic in her presence.

Karin: You have to give yourself over to it totally, I agree. And love is not waiting for the tide to turn. Love is a continuing process of learning about the beloved. Blows the brain at times.

altadenahiker said...


freefalling said...

It's a life lesson that can be applied across the board really, isn't it?
To accept and even appreciate the differences in others.
It's a life lesson that is particularly hard to come to terms with and one that took me until 30 to get.
Sometimes, it just is, what it is.

Julie said...

"To accept and even appreciate the differences in others"

This progression is so important; important to me, anyways. It is such an emotional journey to appreciate those differences, but once appreciation arrives, the relationship is immensely valuable.