Friday, 10 January 2014

What's the point?

Recently I read again an article that I first read about three years ago. At the time the subject of the article bothered me and I was incensed. Now in rereading it, I am saddened by the attitude of the parents in the article. 

The article covered the story of two Melbourne couples who were suing their hospitals for failing to diagnose their unborn children with Down syndrome. 

Originally I was incensed because they were looking at their children as a problem and I wondered how they could possibly look their children in the eye and tell them honestly, "we're suing because we were denied the opportunity to abort you". 

Now I look at the article and as well as the above I look at the reasons they give for wanting to sue. They went through pain and anxiety because their child was in intensive care and had heart issues etc. They are upset because they had the opportunity to experience negative emotion. What is that? 

It seems to me that we've reached a point in our over-litigious society (which, thankfully, is much less so than some) where we expect life to be pain-free or we get compensation, as though we buy our life experiences in a shop with some happiness guarantee attached.

My parents used to throw around that old gem, "respect your elders", from time to time. I think it was a kind of last resort, "just do what I say", kind of thing. I used to think it was a load of bollocks and that no-one much knew better than me. Of course, I was seven.  Then I was eight. Then I was nine. I kept being much righter than most people about things. I really couldn't see how age made you worthy of respect.

Then my father died, when I was 20. I learned a few things from this experience and made a few key decisions, such as never getting myself into the situation where single parenthood was likely, because I realised how good I had had it when I didn't need to feel responsible for my parents' happiness or health or wellbeing.

Then his brother died, which somehow reinforced the loss of my father and made it worse.

Then, once I was married and we decided it was time to have children, the first time I was pregnant it was confirmed because I had started to miscarry. The following two years taught me how it is when you fear you may never have children. The constant wondering about where you are in your cycle. The simultaneous grief at the beginning of a new cycle when it is certain that you aren't pregnant but at the same time relief that you don't have to think about it for a couple of days. Those years drove me half mental. Actually getting pregnant was one of those impossible things that defy the tenets of medicine but, you know, I don't care!

Then I found out a lot of things about myself (turns out I can do a really scary Mum voice - it scared my husband when he got a dose) as I changed all my ideas, one by one, about how a child ought to be raised. Here and now I apologise to my eldest for all the things I let her do that I ought not to have and all the things let her have that I ought to have said 'no' to. I also apologise to my second for any other errors of a similar nature that I have made on her part. I don't think I've had a chance to really start stuffing Jacinta up yet so I'll leave her for later!

And there have been discoveries, too about how far you can let things go before they'll really blow up in your face - not so much gas leaks as relationships - with your husband, or the landlord….all sorted now!

So then Jacinta arrived, and man oh man, was there a lesson or two to be learned. Looking at the big picture, prioritising better, chilling out about so many inconsequential things, stepping up and making myself heard, confronting dire consequences and possible eventualities, entering unknown territory without balking.

And then there was an election, and I saw these candidates who were younger than me - some of them in their early or mid-twenties, and I just couldn't take them seriously. Where had these people been? What had they been doing that so qualified them to make decisions on my behalf? I simply did not believe that they were able to do the job properly. I couldn't believe that they had seen enough or experienced enough, and it's these things, these tough things, that teach you something. It's not easy times or comfortable surroundings.

So when I hear about parents expecting to be recompensed for having the opportunity to grow and learn, I laugh a little on the inside, because the joke is really on them. By doing this they are actually robbing themselves of the opportunity to grow. They will probably always resent the situation they're in since that's what they're being paid to do. They couldn't honestly take the money if they started enjoying themselves, could they?

But that is what makes it the most sad. If they have asked for money because of pain and suffering, they have to make sure there is pain and suffering. Heaven forbid their child turn out to be healthy, charming, funny, the life of the party and well-loved by his peers. That poor child will always know, at the very least, that life is meant to be hard because of what his body has.  I hope, at the very least, that he or she learn some valuable lessons from this life they have arrived in. 

Do not spare me the pain lest I should miss the bliss of sublime comfort.
Do not spare me the riotous screaming of children lest I should expect serenity and concentration in every moment.
Do not spare me fried liver lest I should think nothing of a delicious meal. 
Do not spare me fear and anxiety lest I should take for granted peace of mind. 
Do not spare me a good drenching lest I should fail to notice the magic of a warm, sunny day. 
Do not spare me interruptions lest I should not appreciate the relief of the opportunity to do a wee in peace.
Do not spare me poverty lest I should be ungrateful for an abundance.
Do not spare me a bad hair day lest I should miss the exhilaration of the day everything goes right. 
Do not spare me moments of despair lest I should think that hope is a constant. 
Do not spare me failure lest I should view each success as though it was never wonderful. 
Do not spare me tragedy lest I should believe that happy endings are a God-given right. 
Do not spare me any of these, lest I should coast, shielded, through life and never grow or learn a thing.


  1. Love this post. You are so right. So many experiences for growth in this journey, as hard as they may be at the time x