Driving home yesterday I was listening to an interview with the fantastic Steve Biddulph who mainly writes about raising boys and manhood. He may well be a tree hugging hippie and I may disagree with him in some areas but he generally makes a lot of sense to me on many issues.
Yesterday he was talking about his new book The New Manhood. The thing that jumped out to me the most is he spoke about the five things that are most important to remember in life and how most cultures, at least previous ones, focussed on these when raising children. The four I remember are: 1) People die 2) Bad things happen 3) We can't control things 4) Life is hard.
He talked about how these days we seem to bring up children with beliefs that are totally opposite to these life truths. He is so right.
We are a society and a culture of deniers. We believe that modern medicine can "fix" anything and when it can't we're both surprised and disappointed. We think we can control everything that happens to us and are surprised, frustrated and disappointed when we can't.
I was reading a blog this morning and F was writing about a friend of hers who is dying of cancer at the age of 37, leaving a husband and two small children. A terrible situation. One of the comments was that it's a reminder that we should be vigilant about getting things checked, medically speaking. So true and yet so not. We live in a bubble where everyday we are told that we need to exercise, eat right, meditate, avoid stress, get medical check ups - all to "guarantee" our good health and long term survival. Sure some or all of these things can make for a good quality life; but you know what, sometimes people just die or get sick and then die. And there is almost nothing we can do to prevent it in any real terms.
It's funny how in my family I can't even talk about my wishes for my funeral, including my already created funeral playlist, because I get shushed. Talking about death is bad luck, it's like asking it in. But I don't think that way. We need to talk about death; be aware of it, be comfortable with it, be prepared for it. Death is not a punishment; it's a fact of life. From the moment we are created, nothing more than a fertilised egg splitting into cells, we start our journey towards death. Nothing is more certain. Yet we are more scared of dealing with it than with our parent's sex lives.
It's easier to go with the flow. But I want to make a conscious effort to talk to my children a little more about the realities of life. I don't know how to find the words, but I really want to try. It's not a matter of fitting it into normal daily conversation: "Where's your lunch box? By the way, do you know that mummy is going to die one day and that you are too... what do you think about that?". I can understand why we shy away from life's difficult conversations but I want to find the mental strength to introduce these topics so that my children do not grow up fearing this spectre and that they do not grow up thinking when bad things happen in life that everything will fall apart.
Life is ups and downs, good times and sad times and difficult times. But most people will get through most things, especially if they have family and friends for love and support.