When we had children, my wife and I vowed we would not make the same mistakes that our parents made. I, for one, would be a friend to my kids. I'd be open. They would discuss their problems with me and I'd discuss mine with them, which indeed I do in a way that my parents wouldn't have dreamed of doing.
My parents didn't have problems, at least not in front of me.
And maybe they did me a favour. Just recently I was being my usual fun self, when Ginny asked again about skiing this year. "You know how much money Dad's owed by those publishers," Sarah butted in. "It's not fair on Dad for us to pressurise him." Instead of feeling relieved I felt suddenly superannuated. Had I been confiding too much to my offspring? Surely if children have a right to put pressure on anyone, it's their parents.
After all that's how the relationship begins. No baby wakes up for its 2 o'clock feed and thinks: "They're pooped, it would just be sheer egotism for me to start crying now." While I agree we should teach our children to show consideration, surely not at the price of self abnegation? Attractive though the idea is of being a child with your kids, the parental line has to be drawn. My recent concern over Sarah Jane's prurient interest in her parents' sex life is a good example. Always my best friend as well as my daughter, Sarah has grown up not really aware of a distinction between the generations. And that isn't healthy. Remember Jean Brodie and the detrimental effect that particular Fun Teacher had in the end?
There are times when we need parents to be parents, just as we need teachers to be teachers. Both have to risk unpopularity to do their job properly. I'm beginning to see that I haven't made the same mistakes as my parents. I think I've made my own.