In the days of my peripatetic childhood, my mother, Mary Taylor, was a diplomatic hostess and stay-at-home mum of five children, as deft with foreign dignitaries as she was with scraped knees. She is British by birth and has often told me the story of how she returned to her native Scotland to see her dying father. In those days before affordable airfares, let alone Skype, I was left at home in Ottawa with my father, my two older siblings and a lady from the babysitting agency.
So the first question is what one regret you have raising me.
My one regret is that I had to leave you for something like five weeks when my father died. I didn’t have much choice because I was an only child and my mother really needed me, but you were about 21/2 and you took it very hard. After I came back, you never wanted me to leave you.
Many children today seem clingy at an older age than ours were; maybe that is effected by how much time they spend with their parents. If you spend all day with your mother, you are less likely to be clingy than if you go to daycare.But Anyway, by the standards of the day, you were considered very clingy. You probably don’t remember this …
I remember crying going to kindergarten.
Until the age of 6, you always seemed timid; that seems the reverse of how you are now. It continued for several years, but it doesn’t seem to have had any lasting effect.
So what advice would you have for me, raising my child?
A lot of parents of my generation feel that your generation is too focused on your children. It’s understandable. Most of my generation had much larger families. I had five children.
I have one child.
We had emerged from the war. The risks our children ran seemed very minimal compared to the risks we had known. We had known people who had a 50-50 chance of surviving, whereas children, maybe there was a one in a thousand chance they might get run down or something. We focused less on them.
If I was to give one short piece of advice, I thought I could give it in the form of a Chinese proverb …
That sounds good …
Which always begins less, and then more. Eat less meat; eat more vegetables. I think the advice I would give, which you may not appreciate, is give less, ask more.
That’s a very firm piece of advice.