ANTONIA ROLLS ARTIST EXTRAORDINAIRE NEWS. An account of an Artist and Mother in Bognor Regis. Worthwhile, but exhausting, so pour the tea and make yourself comfortable...(this painting is a family portrait, about 2'x 3', oil on wood. It is the Ross Family, each family member with items that describe them best. And at the front, on the grass on the right hand side, is a photo of Grandma, sadly missed.)
Thoughts From A Mother Who Is Watching Her Children Try And Grow Up
I am watching both my Man Children try and grow up. Both are convinced that they are right and that I know nothing. Both are interesting characters and both drive me potty. They also think that I don't know what they are up to. Ha. I was pretty awful myself at that age, I can guess at least some of their plans.
Man Child no 1 is full of fury and self discovery. He is determined not to stop doing exactly as he wants when he wants because he knows he is Someone. Don't, he says, interfere in my life. Anyone tells me what to do, he says, and I will do the opposite. He goes on to explain - If, he says, I want to give up college, my family and any social boundaries and go and live in a Caravan and work in a tin mine, then that is my right. I am old enough to be Myself and I know who I am.
Man Child no 2 is full of frustration and bravado. I, he says to himself, am Rambo and Rocky all rolled into one. I am also, he says, going to make sure my name is known as a Rebel. And I will gain notoriety by making people laugh at innapropriate times. Yes. And because I can't hear and I mumble, I will get away with not being clearly understood and it will never be my fault.
Both Men Children have an aversion to Fault. Unless it is someone elses, which it has to be because they are Faultless. Both Men Children have a half formed notion of responsibility. Responsibility is for them something I have for making sure they get their favourite foods and nice dvds to watch. It is what I do to make sure they catch their trains and most of all it is mine if anything goes wrong in their full and furious lives. Responsibility is an abstract thing that has to be argued about and then handed over fully to someone else. And then resented.
I have thought recently too that having children is like having employees. I am an Artist. I go to my studio and office every morning in order to do Art but before I can do any of my own work I have to sit down and sort out my employees. I have to do their paper work, check on their timetables and catch up on any messages to and from and for them. I have to open and file their official mail. Then I have to do their personnel files, and make appointments, make appologies and sort out any difficulties. Sometimes I have to have meetings on their behalf because they are busy elsewhere and I am the Boss. I have to check their uniforms, their canteen requirements and their laundry needs. The most time consuming is their Payroll which never completely adds up and is Infinite. After all this, I can get on with the business of being the Artist.
At the moment, two of my employees are unhappy with their work rota and job descriptions. Man Child no 1 is very ovewhelmed with his new duties as an almost-adult and is kicking up a fuss. He is not yet sure of his role, and is doing the only thing he knows how, which is to fight. But I love him in the kind of way you would love a particularly sweet looking rattlesnake as it plays on the motorway and can't see the bigger picture of fast moving cars not slowing down for him. This young Man Child Rattlesnake is consumed with fear and anxiety that we (adults, family, etc) will sabotage his very core by disagreeing with him and arguing our case.
I love Man Child no 2 too. He is not happy with his new job description as a 14 year old in a new school. This Employee has had health issues and has had to take sick leave for months with a broken foot and then an operation to create him a new eardrum in his deaf ear. He is behind everyone else at school and at a disadvantage from having only started the school in September and most of the time absent for one reason or another. He, though full of passionate energy and unable to sit still, has had to sit out of games and PE until he is cleared by the Ear Consultant. So this Man Child no 2 follows his instincts and goes mad. He misbehaves, he thumps boys and he plays up in class. I won't be accepted, his brain tells him amidst all the hormones going bonkers, unless I am Badder than the Baddest. So that is what he does.
As boss of both Man Children, even though a) I know nothing b) don't understand anything c) am responsible d) am not responsible e) obviously prefer the other man child and f) am plain wrong and very old - even though all of those things and more are part of most of our conversations, I love these ridiculous Men Children to bits and am very proud of all their oddness and potential. And when they get what they want they are excellent company.
I do have a Daughter too. She is past all this and is truly sympathetic and understanding. She is also, unlike me, fearless. She is good at telling her two brothers just what she thinks of their most recent adventures, whatever they may be, and takes the fallout like a Prima Donna. Daughter has been utterly without boundaries when a teenager, and has come through. The fact that she got herself out of her mammoth and hedonistic rebellion has to be acknowledged. I was totally unprepared for Teenage-hood with her, but now, with my two Man Children, I am more prepared. I may, as Queen Elizabeth 1 kind of said, have the body of but a weak and feeble woman, but I have the mind of a truly on the ball Mother and boy, I am not going to give up.