Everyone has their place in the family. Mother, father, child. It all starts there. Our memories, our emotions and our dreams are formed early on and whether we were basking in love or surviving trauma, these days of our lives stay with us forever.
One of the joys of my life was growing up the eldest of 4 girls. I still remember each of my sisters as babies and toddlers. Three and a half years younger was G, an adventurer, who always wore her heart on her sleeve, she lives in Sweden now in the land of the midnight sun. Then came M, with beautiful big brown eyes, and a love of playing post office and making stationary. When she grew up she continued to make beautiful things. Little A came last, always to be the youngest, our baby. She adored dogs and animals, was a wild teenager and still works with compassion for the world.
Now I know their children too, and one little Swedish Grandson who lights up the place with his smile. My family.
We didn’t have it easy growing up. Although my parents started off in love and with great plans, my Mother developed cancer during her last pregnancy. She died aged 33 leaving my Father and all of us bereft. Although he did his best, family life became chaotic. I remember our home as being a cold place without her and being drawn towards neighbours houses where there was still a smell of cooking and warmth.
Something helped us all to get through it. We developed a strong bond and to this day we are a tight group of sisters. Being all girls might have helped, and although we fought over clothes and peeling the spuds, we shared a lot of common territory.
What allows some children to survive trauma and why do others simply fail to cope? I’ve always wondered. Recently I’ve been reading a lot about the latest buzz word “resilience” a word to describe what helps us to bounce back when we are thrown the kitchen sink of troubles. Apparently to develop resilience we draw on our nearest supporters, our own sense of self confidence and our ability to view of the world in a positive way.
Although in our house things could be tough, in those days there was very little fuss about grief and loss. Everyone just got on with things. I remember the last thing we wanted was to be different from other kids. We wanted to blend in, to have fun, to be loved.
Years later I would cry for Ireland but at the time I think I survived it all by having this resilience. My Mother probably prepared me in some ways, as the eldest I was encouraged to take on responsibility and to look after the other kids. Unfortunately many girls in my position become little Mothers themselves. My Father had a positive view of life and believed that everyone deserved happiness. All through his life he travelled lightly and when he woke up in the morning he would say he felt blessed just to have another day. I’m sure his love of life was passed on to us in spite of everything.
Are we too afraid of allowing children to face failure and pain? We try to make life perfect for children but maybe we should be working more on trying to help them develop resilience? There is no doubt that they will face great obstacles, illness, death. Like all of us they will fail and fall flat on their faces. This is inevitable. The trick is being able to get through it. Getting support from loved ones and friends, understanding yourself, developing a positive world view.
Do they know that it’s OK to cry? That it’s part of life. That things won’t always go to plan, that sadness is a part of the human experience. That it’s good to talk about it. Maybe not , if we keep telling them to dry their tears and pull themselves together!
Getting older offers some protection. We become more grateful and value our remaining years, moment by moment. While the world may seem to belong to the young, older people have the benefit of experience and insight. In research people over 55 tend to be the happiest age group.
A friend died recently and although he wasn’t a close friend, he was a life loving one. Parkinson’s Disease took him and his last 10 years were hard. Myself and my peers were broken hearted for him and his family. But very quickly our chat turned to making the most of life, making better choices, doing all the things we love. Life is too short. Cry your heart out, open up to some one you can trust and find your own way to get on with living. It’s an ongoing project.