It isn’t difficult to imagine a privilegedchildhood: we associate the term with a swimming
pool in the garden,
holidays abroad, lavish presents and outsize birthday parties – and
maybe someone deferential picking up the clothes from the bedroom floor during school hours.
Our ideas are plainly focused on money.© Tony Hoffarth
The idea has enough truth in it to convince the cynical parts of us,
but the number of
breakdowns and mental illnesses gnawing
at the upper middle classes should be enough
to force us to concede that money can not
on its own be the reliable guarantor of ‘ privilege ’
that it would, in a way, be simpler to imagine it was.
True privilege is an emotional phenomenon.
It involves receiving the nectar
of love – which can be stubbornly missing in the best equipped
mansions and oddly abundant in the bare roomsof modest bungalows.
It is true privilege
when a parent is on hand to enter imaginatively into a child ’ s world;
when they have the
wherewithal to put their own needs aside for a time
in order to focus wholeheartedly on
the confusions and fears of their offspring;
and when they are attuned not just to what
a child actually manages to say but to
what they might be aspiring yet struggling to explain.
It is privilege when a parent lends us a feeling
that they are loyal to us simply on the basis
that we exist rather than because of anything
extraordinary we have managed to achieve,
when they can imbue us with a sense that they
will be on our side even if the world has turned
against us and can teach us that all
humans deserve compassion and understandingdespite their errors and compulsions.
privilege when parents can shield us from the worst
of their anxiety and rage and the
full conflicts of their adult lives;
when they can respect that it is many years before
a child is old enough to face the full complexity
of existence – and when they are sufficiently
mature to let us grow up slowly.
It is privilegewhen parents don’t set themselves up as
perfect or, by being remote and unavailable,
encourage us to idealise or demonise them.
It is privilege when they can be ordinary and a little boring,
can invite us to develop
into a man or a woman
beside them – and can know how to let themselves be superseded.
It is privilege when parents can bear our
rebellions and don ’ t force us to be preternaturally
obedient or good, when they don ’ t crumple
if we try out what it feels like to call them
old idiots, and when they themselves reliably seek to explain,
rather than impose their ideas.
It is privilege when they can accept
that we will eventually need to leave them and
not mistake our independence for betrayal.
All of these moves belong to privilege sincerely understood,
and they are, at present,
about as rare as huge wealth, but at points more crucial.
It is those who have enjoyed years
of emotional privilege that deserve to be
counted among the true one per cent.
It canbe natural, when we meet with any sort of
privilege that has been deeply and unfairly distributed,
to seek to level the playing field.
But it can ’ t be a redistribution
of privilege that is required here, rather
a universal increase – and the assuranceof a decent minimum.
A truly fair society
would be one in which a yearly rise
in the degree of emotional privilege in circulation
would became a national priority – and where an abundance
丰富的爱 关怀 以及联系
of love, concern, and connection
was adequately studied,
encouraged and prized as the true ‘ wealth ’ it is.
The Joys and Sorrows of Parenting promises us a gentle
way of staying calm around one of the most arduous
yet deeply fulfilling jobs in the world.
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