Private lives

family & parenting / Monday, July 11th, 2011

What a world we live in. I’ve been astonished by recent events. By the revelations about News International. So much has happened in less than a week. The newstand is forever changed, although a passing glance still reveals what look suspiciously like tawdry comics are still on sale, to adults with their combination of gossipmongering and tits. Thundering indignation is everywhere, and splattered at walls along with quite a lot of shit. A couple of days ago I felt I knew what to think. I had my theories, anyway, which were a combination of 24 style baddies plotting out moves.

Now I think they may come down to a funny combination of the most complex and simple motives there are – love, power, protection. People ask what Murdoch feels for Brook, why he wants to protect her. They speculate on her hold over him. I know nothing of the bond, but suspect it is as complicated and as dreadfully, primal and simple, as love. Not sexual love, parental love for her and for his son whom she can perhaps (who knows?) protect. This pseudo protection is deep and strong and unknownable and simple. I think we inherit it from older mammals and carry with us. A touch of wolf, a bit of mother chetah, some lionish pride.
This blog is rarely political, apart from when I get a bit ranty pants and tribal – resorting or reverting to the values and beliefs I’ve had, in many cases, since I started wearing shoes in grown up sizes.
And I find myself speechless about the stories I’ve heard this week. I shudder behind my eyeballs about the false hope to Milly’s kin. I am appalled to learn of service personnel’s family tracked down and spied on. I can barely believe that the friends, parents, brothers, sisters of those dying in my city and others at the hands of terrorist were ambushed for the sake of quotes which must have barely moved beyond cliché. (Not because they were not heartfelt, but because I am of the view that in moments of dreadful unreality clichés are often a lifeline which cut to the simple heart of the matter and offer the reused love of many at moments where words barely do). Richard Madeley had it right: what did they expect to find?
I have no idea at all about the ins and outs of phone hacking and editorial policy. It is hard to feel actions could become so widespread and callous if the practices weren’t endemic. And I find myself imaging that, like with all bad behaviour, once the fear and bravura of the first ‘successful’ attempt (when they ‘got away with it’), the buzz must have died quite soon and given way to malaise and a new lower bar to judge themselves.
I am guilty of so much vanity in expression. I’m self-consciously ironic, I like to be witty. I think about what I say, feel pride when I carve something out and express thoughts in a way I think others will nod along with, or at least recognise as their own too. I like playing with clichés and expectation. I have a friend whose wit should be world renown who often quotes that human interest moral indignation phrase ‘as a mother’. It is a joke we share (me piggybacking on her original idea, of course). As a mother, I hate paedophiles. As a mother, I think this that and the other is outrageous/awful/terrifying/hateful.
I wish I were clever and smart and cool enough to move beyond that a bit. See the world broadly and not only through my own parenting goggles. But I must confess this news story, for all its fervour and interest to my previous selves – journalist, TV bod, meejah girl – rocks me as a mother. Although, it also rocks me as a thinking person too.
Today saw the news that details of Gordon and Sarah Brown’s child and his medical condition were perhaps gleaned from nefarious and illegal snooping.
We live in a complex world – from facebook and twitter and google+ to instagram and the endless hunt for discount voucher codes, we sell our information so we can gossip and swap pictures, chat to each other and the world, get ‘name’ products for less. Those pictures are often us, the comments purely individual and egocentric, but they often involve others too – pride about achievements, birth announcements, gorgeous shots of loved ones, party pictures, whines and celebrations. I blog, about motherhood and my children. I try to draw a line between musing and reflecting on them and revealing too much about them. I use simple pseudonyms but hope I would never release information which could alter the world’s view of them; labels which could define them, the complexities of their private lives. After all, they already have private lives, albeit small ones confined to the charm of their existence, and every crawl or step or new word or attitude is carving sliver by sliver their mark on the world.
I type this as Newborn sleeps in a travel cot in our lounge. Our ludicrous hunt for sleep taking new turns. I can hear his rasp and gurgle and watch his lips quiver a mm or two as his glossy eyelashes rest on his cheek. I am choked by his beauty but thinking too of Sarah and Gordon and their lad who I think had so much taken from them in that callous act of intrusion. Their poor son who, in the name of common or garden gossip, has had one aspect of his life stolen and made public on the timing and say so of people other than his parents. By doing this, having his health forever scattered across the intertubes, echoing through soundbites, lodging in memories as a matter of trivia, the ‘paper in question created a storm which will probably never dispel. The genie is out of the bottle. It is what so many people will always know, and perhaps, now his father is no longer PM, the only thing they will know. How cruel. How fucking cruel. Not that he should be ashamed, but because like all of us who have doctor’s appointments in private, he deserves his world to be his.
My son has medications, I wouldn’t talk in detail about those. You who read my blog are mostly friends, but even so there are huge swathes of my children’s life I keep to myself. Even those which would make hilarious anecdotes or beautiful stories: these stories, after all, are theirs as much or more than mine. I said in my last post, the genius trick of being born is to change the world in one wriggle and demonstrate your difference and independent potential as the cord still throbs awaiting cutting.
Sarah and Gordon’s son had that moment. He has a world and a life and a right to that, independent of other people’s views on his father or interest in challenging his parents in anyway at all. I have seen Brown questioned on prescriptions by someone citing his child’s condition. In retrospect this becomes more insidious. That baby, now a thriving lad I’m sure, who I hope they are watching now at bedtime snoring softly in his dreamworld, happily oblivious to the shit storm circulating with his name in it, has had something stolen from him. Something which should be special and important: his right to be just himself. That something, his himness, has been partially taken from him. It is less tainted but as directly complicated and simple as the love I noted earlier. And it should have been simply his.
I’m not religious, and I resent implications I have heard that those without religious views lack a moral compass for their journey. But I often find myself succumbing to words and phrases and ideas which come from religious literature and liturgy. And at the risk of becoming a cliché tart, I am beginning to wonder what is left that is sacred.

2 Replies to “Private lives”

  1. I don't think much is sacred anymore, apart from what we make so in our own little worlds! Just found your blog from Brit Mums, love your Cardigan post…. I can't walk past a shop without buying one! Nat

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