Watching some predictably dreadful American TV last night – now, I do want to share my US experiences but I want to be careful about engaging in American-bashing – North America is hardly a single entity and while most of the TV we’ve seen so far has been horrendous, some American TV – The Wire, for example – is some of the most amazing stuff I’ve ever seen… Where was I. Yes. Watching some predictably awful TV last night, a real life couple were encouraged to write letters to their dead son, expressing their grief to help them avoid drowning their pain in corn starch. They both read out their letters.
‘Everything they just said were cliches’, Michael said.
‘Yes’, I said, ‘it’s hard for people who aren’t used to writing to avoid cliches. They just write what they think is expected of them. There are quite simple workshop exercises you can do with them to snap them out of it.’ Not that I can think of any specific examples right at the moment, but I remember going to several writing workshops that succeeded in doing just that. I think long list-like poems are particularly good at it.
Anyway, I realised I was guilty of exactly that when in my last post I tried to describe what it feels like to watch my son roll over for the first time. ‘I’m so proud of him’. ‘He gives me so much joy’. These are true, but… I was thinking about it, and it really is a new emotion I feel when I watch my child learn, practice and master new skills. Or emotions, to be precise. Wonder is one. How this little creature, who four months ago couldn’t even smile on purpose, has after much persistence flipped over onto his belly. There’s this sort of happy joyful excitement as I cheer him on. I feel a warm ball of light in my chest. And it is a different, particular experience because he is my own child. Working in the kindergarten I’ve been amazed and delighted by the progress of the little ones, almost to the same extent. It is different not only because he is my own, but because with each new skill he acquires he becomes somehow less my own, and more his own person. Our relationship shifts. The little creature who could say ‘agoo’ but not ‘ahwaaaaaaha, googoo brshhhh!’ has in some sense gone. At the same time, his new skills give me ways of getting to know him better. So each new skill is a gain and a loss, and that is exactly how I want it to be.