OPINION: Don't be alarmed if you are turning into your parents
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I think I was about 50 when I first spotted an image of myself in a shop window and mistook it for my mother.
What an alarming moment!
For a start, I’d never thought that she and I were particularly alike.
And secondly, it gave me an impression of how I was ageing.
It was a wake-up call!
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This, of course, happens to many people. More than that, it’s really common as we grow older, to believe we’re turning into our parents – and that definitely gives us pause for thought.
I must just say at this point, that I’ve done a lot of work with clients over the years who were adopted. And they never have this experience. I think this is part of the loss that so many adoptees carry around with them even if their adopted family have been wonderful.
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But for those of us who grew up knowing our blood relatives, there seems to be an increasing link with the past as we age.
I’ve certainly noticed this in myself, and have been somewhat surprised by it as I’ve had totally different training and opportunities from any of my extended family, and have tended to attribute the major influences in my life to the teachers, colleagues and mentors who have inspired and supported me over the years.
But despite that, I’ve been thinking a lot about family – and I’ve found it both grounding and heart-warming.
Now, much depends upon how happy or healthy your family life has been, but I imagine most of us can single out relatives who have made a powerful impact on how we live and who we are.
And I believe it can be therapeutic to reflect on these individuals and give some in depth thought to which of them had characteristics that you recognise in yourself.
Indeed, I’m coming round to the idea that we should all do this on a regular basis, as it seems to engender a connection with family members who have gone before us and generates warm feelings of gratitude and belonging, which are lovely to have.
My mental exploration has brought to mind two grandfathers and a very special aunt.
My maternal grandfather worked in the Glasgow shipyards. It was tough. He was seriously injured a couple of times, and was laid off – as so many were – for long periods during the Great Depression.
But he had a wonderful spirit and sense of humour. He also had an all-consuming passion for the theatre – and where that came from, I have no clue.
By the time I was growing up, his life was more stable, and he used to come every summer to our suburb of London for a fortnight’s holiday to see us, and – perhaps even more importantly – to go to the theatre as much as possible. He always had tickets for the best shows and must have planned, and saved, all year to get them.
So, it was he who first took me to the London Palladium and, even more excitingly, to the Theatre Royal Drury Lane to see the original cast of My Fair Lady.
I can still feel the thrill of that day. And I often think of him when I’m sitting in a theatre waiting, with happy anticipation, for the curtain to rise.
My other grandfather came from farming stock in deepest Devon, but despite having left school at 12, he had other plans for himself and after the First World War, he and his brother set up a football manufacturing business which did well.
Later, he tackled different jobs with determination, drive and energy. Funnily enough, his three sons were not very like him. But I know I am, and have come to realise that his genes and psychological make-up have shaped my life and career.
Then there was Marion, my favourite aunt, who had a genuine warmth and respect for people. I admired so much how she spoke to her husband and her children and how she always made the best of things.
She was my godmother as well as my aunt and one of the relatives I have loved most and learned from.
As for my parents, nowadays I seem to be turning into my father. I used to think we were so different – for a start he hadn’t an ambitious bone in his body – but he loved trains and the older I get so do I.
Also, he was forever telling us to wear an extra jumper rather than crank up the heating. And these days, if we have a chilly evening, I remember his words and don an extra layer rather than put on the boiler.
Mind you, I do now have a smart meter, which shows you exactly what you’re spending, and how quickly it mounts up – and I suspect that’s influencing my behaviour.
It’s very uncool to admit it, but I actually love this little gadget.
And I know without a shadow of doubt, that my dear old dad would have loved it too!