Yes, I really should be more generous to my parents. In a period of eight years, they had four of us. When I was born, my two older brothers were five and three. When I was three, my sister was born. That’s a lot of parenting to contend with — an unending stream of need. For eight years, the constant stresses raising and nurturing infants.
Then would come that long, testing period of our adolescence, as the two teens fought ferociously, and my sister and I bickered without pause. My sister would be just finishing junior school when my eldest brother went to university. I was just becoming a teenager, as my middle brother headed off to sixth-form college. All that stress, while simultaneously juggling part-time studies and careers.
Pondering my own interactions with our kids, I really must marvel at all my parents achieved. I must confess that our kids wind me up a lot these days. No doubt we wound our parents up just the same, only they had four of us to deal with. The pressures would be unrelenting.
Parenthood changes your perspective on a lot of things. Perhaps if we had been able to start a family earlier, closer to the events of our youth, we would have been much more able to understand our own childhood. Now we understand that our parents were just like us, with the same foibles and failings, simply trying their best. We never really think we’ve become grown-ups ourselves.
This period of our children’s lives seems to be the hardest. From their perspective, they seem to think they only need two things from us now: food and the password for YouTube on the TV. Other than that, we’re surplus to requirements, mostly held in contempt. The kids think they need a break from us; what they don’t realise is that we want a break from them too. And so it must have been for our parents, those stresses doubled.
So it is that I recognise that I should be more merciful towards my parents. They had their work cut out, raising four of us, attempting to address the needs of each of us. Perhaps my bitterness about missed opportunities to diagnose is unjustified; perhaps they tried their best with the information available to them at the time, while juggling the needs of four children, all demanding attention at the same time.
Parenthood is hard. It changes you in ways you never thought possible. It changes your entire world.