The sins of the children

in tune with the shift of time
no foolish shame conceals their powdered age
their buttoned-up cardigans come in beige and pastel shades
their skirts, pleated or flaired, sensible and staid
a woolly coat and scarf keep the chill away

while matt skin is still a necessity
the perm and blue rinse have receded into history
these days grey, wispy hair is no sin

their possessive smiles iron out the shallower creases
as they show you proud pictures of anticedents
young faces aglow with a silent promise to succeed

if at night they seep shameful secrets
they carefully slough the stain away in the shower
and a sweet spray of freesia or carnation
which breathes clean air in my direction

I try but fail to discern
a whiff of the sins of their children
but quickly learn that if the offspring ever erred
they have dis-allowed the dirt to cling

I admire the gentle way they dance in partner to the days
though if their flowery fragrance wafts too near
I’ll turn aside or even back away,
for fear that they may intuit my disgrace

I played the game of mums and dads
brave soldiers and superheroes out to save the planet
and now in my little box I cringe
a whimpering child in the faded denim uniform of youth
still waiting to grow into it
and yet
like a physical thing
the build-up of second-hand filth
from the sins of my children
stubbornly adheres to the sticky folds
of my sixty year-old skin

Β©Jane Paterson Basil

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49 thoughts on “The sins of the children

    1. Thank you Lynn. You’re probably right – my neighbours are just like the lovely people of Sussex (or so I was told when I said how nice they all were) – outwardly respectable, but hiding slaves in the wardrobe and beating their wives while snorting cocaine up their noses…

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      1. It’s disturbing, when you think about it, how much of that goes all – all respectablility on show, drink, drugs and violence behind closed doors. A lot o hypocrisy around.

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        1. I’m going back to the drawing board. Sussex may not be the perfect haven after all. The woodland is lovely, but we’ll have to go shopping occasionally, and I only want to see genuinely lovely people around me…

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          1. Some days finding lovely people in this fair city is a pretty tall order. Good thing I know so many personally or I could become quite down about the human race. I’ll give Sussex a miss then, shall I?

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            1. They all SEEM very nice – they went to the right schools and learnt how to charm people and pretend they believe us to be the same kind of animal as them, but they don’t really.
              It is beautiful there, though, and it’s nice to pretend they are as sincere as they seem…

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    1. That’s a great sentence, and I’m flattered. I’m sorry I haven’t been keeping up with what you’re up to lately – I seem to have slipped into slow motion. I get up in the morning, just about have time to eat breakfast, and then it’s bedtime. That’s not quite accurate, but it feels that way.

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        1. I don’t know – it’s possible, and I’m not sure I want the public to read all those things about Laura. Her reputation and her future are in tatters as it is. Should she recover, it wouldn’t help set her up for the future. That’s my main stumbling block.

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      1. All I want to do is sort out my flat, write, and keep up with you guys online, but I can’t, because I have so many duties, and the expectations of others, that prevent it.
        I think it’s my youngest grandson who’s finished me off. My daughter went back to work, one day a week, about a month ago, so I’ve been looking after Alex for five hours every Monday, until his father comes home from work and takes over. I had a perfectlly good relationship with Alex until I began babysitting. He can’t bear to be away from his mum or dad, and he screams from the moment Claire leaves until his dad comes home, apart from the half hour when he’s asleep, and for an hour or so when he can be distracted by being taken out in his buggy. He’s so bereft that he won’t eat or drink when He’s with me, and if I see him on other days he looks at me distrustfully, afraid I’m going to take him from his mum. My life was already crappy, but this is breaking my heart.
        I can’t talk to Claire about it. I’m her only option, as she and Sarah have had to take a backseat for so many years because Laura and Paul have grabbed all the attention.
        Laura and Paul would have happily pushed me over hot coals to get the tiniest thing they wanted. I am prepared to walk over coals to carry out the tiniest service for Sarah and Claire.
        My children come in two sets – the Foolish, selfish and undeserving, and the sensible, unselfish and deserving. There is no other way to see it, no matter how hard I try.
        I’m stuck, and I don’t know what to do.

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        1. I work at Oxfam one day a week, and cannot take a break because the takings will go down drastically – but anyway, this is one place I like to be. It’s almost like a second home. This is an established fact.
          I’m committed to seeing someone one day a week, and she wouldn’t understand if I hid away.
          I have to care for my little grandson for five hours on a Monday, and he hates it – this is probably the root cause of my current feeling of desperation. It breaks my heart.
          My son is with me a lot of the time, and the last time I went for more than 24 hours without seeing him he told me he wanted to kill himself. While he is with me I can’t do the things I want to, as he brings a kind of organised chaos with him.
          In addition there are people who expect me to be here for them. Sometimes I pretend to be ill, or out, but I can’t do that all the time, and anyway, it brings on a feeling of impending doom, knowing I have to face them sometime.
          I’ve told my daughter, Laura, that i can’t cope with contact as long as she is committed to taking drugs,but she constantly harasses my, calling me up from unknown numbers, texting me with psychotic requests and demands, and trying to visit me. When my doorbell rings I have no way of knowing who’s there, so I have to speak through the intercom, and if it’s her I have to tell her to go away.
          I feel as if I am under siege, although I know it’s not as bad as I make it sound. It’s just that I’m overwhelmed by the smallest thing.
          I feel as if my shoulders, neck, the back of my head and my jaw are made of stone, and I can’t relax my muscles.
          Maybe there’s a simple answer to my predicament, but if so, I don’t know what it is.
          Sorry, I seem to have given you the super-deluxe version of my problems…

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          1. Jane, I’m so sorry for being presumptuous! You can give me your super-duper deluxe version plus any time if it helps at all !! I wish with all my heart that things will turn around for the better for you. You are so giving, courageous and selfless. For what it’s worth I send you all my love and blessings – and a virtual head, neck, shoulder and back massage with some exquisitely beautiful oils πŸ™‚

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                1. Wednesdays are usually taken up by Paul, but his probation officer and case worker are both trying to get him active. He’s been at meetings and filling in forms today, so he didn’t turn up until mid-afternoon. Things are looking up.

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      1. That tablet is a pain in the butt! I so get what you’re saying about having two sets of kids. In so many ways we feel that with just two! Stef is very self-sufficient, Bran is very dependent on us. It feels like it’s always a balancing act on a tightrope. She says we’re enabling him by allowing him to live with us. But what should we do? Put him out on the street? At least he has enough of a job to pay his bills. It’s a constant stress. A monkey that sits on your shoulder and chatters in your ear all the time.

        But Raili’s advice is good for both of us. No, we can’t walk away from obligations. That’s for sure. But, speaking for myself here, I’m not nearly as apt to commit to doing something for myself as for someone else. And maybe in a way that’s what hibernating is all about. I’m discovering that setting aside a time in the week when NO ONE CAN GET AT ME actually gives me a feeling of power. It doesn’t last long, mind you, though the more I do it that one day a week, the more I feel like I could maybe do two.

        When Bran heads out the door Monday morning for work, I take the phone off the hook. It’s as simple as that. In some strange way it feels like taking my power back. And I DO think it;s made a difference for me at other times as well.

        So maybe try to just take a BITE of the elephant instead of shoving the whole thing in your mouth at once? Make an appointment with yourself and KEEP IT. Even if it means running away to somewhere that the kids wouldn’t think to look. Just for a couple hours. What do you think? Could you manage that?

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        1. I don’t know. I don’t know anything at the moment.
          But aI’ve finally managed to build my new addiction blog, and publish my first post, and that makes me feel a lot better. You won’t be seeing any addiction poems here from mow on…

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  1. Grandmothering edges us into our past so very much more then mothering did. I can feel it. Funny, I did not expect this. I had two sons, but now I have a precious 6 month old granddaughter-so tiny and vulnerable. I see my son, so protective, loving and good. I know she will always be safe from all that…know it as well as I know I was not.
    Thank you, Jane. You are courageous, full of Truth, Beauty, Love for all of us-then and now and to come. I have not been to motheringaddicts, but will, with eyes wide open…

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    1. For some reason I thought you found this blog through mothering addicts, but I just checked, and found it was someone else.
      I love being a grandparent, although I agree with what you say. I feel I have been completed by the creation of that next generation.
      I noticed a reference to Woodstock in one of your posts. Were you really at Woodstock?

      Thank you for your kind and generous words. I will try to live up to them.

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      1. I love, love it as well. We have an 8 moth old grandson as well.
        I wish I had been there-was in spirit! Totally!
        I will be following you and reading what you have written so far. So glad I found you! Keep writing!

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        1. I’m glad I found you,too. As soon as I saw your blog I hoped that we would be friends.
          I’ll admit now, that when I saw you had liked my comment on your About page, and you didn’t immediately send a reply, I was disappointed. I didn’t think you wanted to connect with me.
          I’m a bit paranoid πŸ™‚

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          1. Jane, I turn my everything off to nap in the afternoon-Southern thing-You have no reason to feel that way that I can tell. From what I see so far, we are kindred spirits. What year were you born-I am 1969.

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            1. I didn’t think you looked anywhere near old enough to have gone to Woodstock, but then I thought perhaps your photo was a very old one.
              I was born in 1955, which makes me about 200 years old.
              An afternoon nap sounds good – but I don’t do that, and in the UK it’s nearly 2am, so I’m off to bed, as I work in our local Oxfam shop on Thursdays.
              Goodnight – we’ll talk again soon…

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                  1. Jane,you know what-I graduated high school in ’69 I was born in 1950 for goodness sake!!! It was late here, too!!! πŸ™ƒ

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                    1. I’m glad you explained that. I read a post of yours which said that you would be sixty five, (or somewhere round about there) in a few days, and I was a little confused by 1969…
                      That’s a recent photograph? I’m impressed. I bet you’re going to tell me that you only ever use soap and water on your face, and never moisturise, but I won’t believe you πŸ˜€

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                    2. That photo was taken 4 years ago. I was 65 in Dec. do take care of my skin/good genes I guess? Who cares? Inside counts!! I moisturizer to death!
                      You work near Oxford? OMG-my dream!!! Tell me more! πŸ˜†

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