They fuck you up, your mum and dad.They may not mean to, but they do.They fill you with the faults they hadAnd add some extra, just for you.
It’s really unfortunate that Philip Larkin’s words are echoing round in my head after a weekend with my parents! It seems super-ungrateful, because in truth we had a lovely time together, a belated Mother’s Day celebration. Yes, I know the rest of the world hasn’t got to this Hallmarked celebration day yet this year, but in UK it was last weekend.
I love my parents’ company and in turn they are so full of love for me, it can sometimes be almost overwhelming. It can feel like a responsibility to live up to it, to meet it, and of course not to wish it otherwise — even when it takes a form I don’t quite like. For they were full of scrutiny and questions about my current choices. I know it’s because they care for me, because they worry about me and my health, and because there is some genuine curiosity about the choices I make now. But it still feels like an interrogation and I have to take care not hear each question as a criticism. Some are, but some (most?) aren’t.
Of course there were the usual questions about daily trivia — holiday plans, new clothes I was wearing, news of friends of mine whom they know or know of. More difficult were the oblique references to our finances, job security, local property market, all of these perhaps subtly suggesting that we weren’t quite matching up with their expectations. And most funny was my mum’s ongoing curiosity about yoga, her flirtation with her own practice and her questions to me about various aspects of mine…
All in all it made for a bit of a svadyāya moment as I looked back on the weekend after they’d left. I’m doing a bit of reflection in my yoga work at the moment about what changes I would like to make in my sense of self and my engagement with life. I’m not trying to point the finger at the preceding generation, but it was all too easy to identify some traits and tendencies that I naturally perpetuate. I feel at the point in life when I can choose to move out from under their influence and be what I really want to be. I see my brother doing this too, perhaps because he is now a father himself — in that role I see differences and similarities between him and Dad and I can see something of what he will in turn pass on to his child as he nurtures her and does the best he can.
As my parents near the end of their lives, as I try to take stock in the middle of mine, and as my little niece starts out on hers, I see how interconnected we all are and that there is an inevitability in the influences we have on one another. Children will always turn to blame their parents. There is always something, even in the most loving of families. And I find some strange reassurance in this. There will always be work to do. If I am a yogi, it’s for me to face this work with as much patience and love as I can, finding some equilibrium between cultivating acceptance and inviting positive change.
My mum gave me a sweet thank you card as she left, and her well-chosen words summed up how she is towards me. She constantly shows me what devotion and unconditional love are. Even as the balance in our relationship changes through the years, she is still showing me this, and bowling me over with her model of motherhood. All the other stuff is easy to pick at, easy to get all Larkin-ish about, but it’s as nothing compared to the depth of her love, the power of that, and the reassurance I draw from it that pervades my life. This love is her real legacy to me.