Monday, February 16, 2015
Has the world changed and I haven't changed with it? I'll lay out my sorry little tale and you can let me know. I serially need feedback on this. I agreed to travel almost five hours by car to address some combined book clubs on my new memoir, Coming Ashore. It is my own fault I agreed to go so far. I was lulled by the Ontario Address and had no idea it was so far from Toronto. It felt like I circled Algonquin Park at least twice. All I know is I kept seeing the same trees.
The book club was arranged for 1:00 in the afternoon so I would have time to get back home on the same day. The host offered to put me up for the night, but that seemed more trouble than it was worth.
When I got there I realized the woman giving the group was a grandmother. This is not unusual since I have written three memoirs, the first one dates from the 50s', the second, the 60's and the last one is the 70's. It is common for me to have an older audience for they remembered those years. I myself am sixty-seven so it is not rare to have grandmothers exchanging pictures of their grandchildren.
The unusual thing at this event is that the grandchildren were there with their mother who was visiting. They were two lively preschool boys ( age 4 and 5) who ran around during the luncheon preceding the talk, knocking over glasses, grabbing food with their hands and crawling under the table, etc. I guess this is what kids do today. I have no idea since I have not been in contact with children since I had my own thirty some years ago. Their behaviour seemed neanderthal but I shrugged it off.
Then it was time for me to give my book talk and for the club to begin. We moved to the living room where forty chairs were set up in a circle. I could tell there were some serious readers there for they had post-its in their books and some of them had taken writing courses in Banff and wanted to write memoirs themselves. Also several of the women, like me, had travelled a long way. The daughter did not remove the two boys. They shouted, crawled around, played gun games, and generally disrupted. They also whined and constantly demanded food from the mother, however they hadn't eaten their lunch. No one corrected them or told them to leave the room. I assumed that the mother would take them out when she saw how disruptive they were. As time went on and they were not curtailed in any way they became more disruptive.
Finally, I couldn't take it anymore and said, "I'm sorry I can't hear any of the questions, nor can I concentrate on what I am saying. The children are too disruptive." No one said anything. Someone asked a question three times and I couldn't hear them. The kids kept going and finally I said, "I'm sorry either the kids leave or I have to go. This is an adult event." The grandmother looked stonily at me and the daughter said, "We are a family. The kids are having a wonderful time. I said "I have no doubt about that, but I am not, nor is anyone else in the room." I looked around the room for support, but everyone just looked down. Finally one woman said to me, "Cathy, that is how my grandchildren act. No one even sits at dinner. It is the new parenting called child-centred. I guess we are used to it." I got the feeling those present thought I was an old fuddy-duddy who didn't understand modern times.
I said I was not used to it nor did I approve of it, packed up and sped out of that driveway as fast as reverse could carry me. As I drove past their picture window I saw them all sitting there in a circle held captive by two pre schoolers. Better them than me I thought as I headed for the velvet quiet home.
Is this how children are supposed to act today? Is there no disciple? This can't be normal or remotely good for children. I wonder if others have run into this. What surprised me was no one came to my defence. Am I that out of it? I felt like I was on Mars of some troubled planet that resembled the book Lord or the Flies.