Sunday, February 27, 2005

The bright side (...not)

I'm sitting in the car, watching the boys at the playground. It is a bit cold and I am more interested in listening to Fresh Air on the radio than freezing on a park bench. Rees is doing a great comic act for his brother: riding on the bouncy frog and then sliding down its back in an exaggerated fall, frog left bouncing back and forth on its spring. Kadin laughs, egging him on, and he is off to his next performance.

Meanwhile I listen to Terry Gross interview Eric Idle, known for his nudge-nudge-wink-wink Monty Python skit. He talks about the genesis of the song "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life" and how that has now become a sort of British national anthem for their sports teams when they underperform. For the movie, he says, "they were all going to be crucified and it was looking pretty grim, so we had to do something." He wrote the ironic song to fill the gap.

Then he discussed the tragedy of his father's death. Eric was only two and his father---who had the very dangerous job of rear gunner in the RAF---was returning from his tour of duty in the war. Back in Britain, it was the holiday season and the soldiers were encouraged to hitchhike home rather than take the train, because the trains were too crowded and could also be a target for bombers (don’t quote me on the details here, but something to that effect). The lorry that gave him a lift was in a serious accident. He died on his way home on Christmas Eve. Eric was only two. He said he didn't remember it, but he did remember the impact it had on his mother, and she fell into a deep depression from which she never recovered.

Rees is performing on the frog again, its wacky wobbling the finale to his artistic fall. Terry is asking Eric about the connection between comedy and growing up in such tough circumstances. Eric Idle replies that he has thought about that a lot and researched some of the psychology behind it. He thinks there really is a connection. "When I take my 9yo daughter to the playground, I can tell," he says, "the kids who are being funny are the ones whose mothers aren't there."

Ugghhh! Ouch! Rees is being funny, performing for and entertaining his younger brother, and I love it. But I AM THERE! Great. I wonder how I have abandoned him. And yes, I have had my urges to be a more distant mother, but really, I gave it my all. I was there for him at every opportunity. And now he has to go and be funny! He is making me look bad!

Maybe because I just heard that, maybe because he just asked me to, I get out of the car and chase Rees around the playground for a bit. Then my train of thought turns to how, if I am there for him, I am stifling his comic genius, so if he has felt abandoned at times, it's a good thing as it will feed his comic potential. You know, I’m trying to look on the bright side.

Back in the car, I think about how well the boys get along, and I remember my friend Clare's theory about how chronic family crises actually have the happy result of decreasing sibling rivalry and bringing the children together with a strong bond for life. I comfort myself with this thought when I feel the kids are fed up with me.

Then I look again and see that I have happy, funny children, who like to play together. Period. There are so many ways we crucify ourselves as mothers! I decide not to believe everything I hear on the radio.

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