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Life with Lavendar in London town

Thursday, 21 July 2016

Parolitics

It's Dragon's last day of school today.  Her first year at school is soon to be over and I find myself unexpectedly emotional. Maybe it was wrapping the large quantities of alcohol I had purchased for her teachers that did me in. Thinking about all they have done for her in the past year. Or maybe it was the epic meltdown she had yesterday due to her sadness at school finishing. Or maybe it is the fact that time is flying and she is growing up.

Dragon's first school year has been a big eye opener for me and the Husband. We have discovered the meaning of a 'school community.' We have met and gotten to know our neighbours because our kids all go to the same school. I have embraced the mum's Whatsapp or Facebook messaging chat group phenomenom. I drink more coffee than I thought possible during mum coffee catchups. I have a new collective of small people who I can chat with just as easily as their parents. I have met some great people who I like as people, not just because we are all parents. In a place like London, it is rare to find this type of solid community and so we embrace it.

Reflecting on all that has happened within the last year has made me think about the politics of parenting or, parolitics. When Dragon was a baby and I was venturing out into new playgroups, baby meetups, activity days, it dawned on me that negotiating your way through the world of parenting is a political act. In fact, I wrote a short piece about it during Dragon's first year:

There are many secrets to parenthood. Things that remain unspoken and once experienced are tucked away, not for discussion. Once the baby is here, it is too late. You have opened the door to the other room, and the room within that. On a good day, this exposure feels infinite, sublime even. On a bad day, endless.

You discover these secrets, one by one but you don’t speak of them, or rarely, for there is some social contract it seems, which forbids us to speak truthfully about becoming a parent.

Once you become a parent, you become a politician.  Parenting is political. Friendships may crumble. Allegiances change over cloth or plastic nappies. Your new parent friends believe in the death penalty and vote for UKIP but it doesn’t matter because your kids are friends and playdates take priority over execution.

Who am I?

Where do you draw the line in this new world of relationships lived through your offspring?Unwittingly you are bound to this group of men and women whose children will be invited to your home for playdates and birthday parties. Whose faces you will recognise over time from pick-up and drop offs at the school gate. These people are your people now.

This is your parenting community.

Is this what you choose? Not necessarily. If you had a choice, you would choose your old-life friends. But they have disappeared from your daily life for they are far away, geographically or philosophically. Some old-life friends become unrecognisable once they have children. Some return, as do you, to a semblance of your former self but some are lost forever; their identities forsaken in the fog of parenting.

Friends without offspring miss you too. Some cut you loose. This is devastating.

‘I am not a leper,‘ you think, ‘but I am a shape-shifter.’

I have grieved the loss of friendship due to children. No-one speaks of this but it happens. 

Five years in, I am still earning my stripes as a parent. But I have ventured far from those early days where I struggled to make sense of the incongruencies inherent within parenting life. Nowadays I love the contradictions. I don't need to understand the whys and wherefores as much anymore. It just is the way it is. I like this new world order, far more than I ever thought I would. 

It's reassuring to be surprised by your own life on occasion. 






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