By Francis H Powell —
Child bonding problems. Parental mishaps.
When you bring a child into this world you have this incredible responsibility thrusted upon you.
When I take my toddler to the park, I watch him like a hawk, sensing any dangers and hazards. Millions of people become parents, but this doesn’t mean parenting is easy, far from it, and when you are a “first time parent” there is a steep learning curve. There are so many things you could not have anticipated beforehand. If you use “We need to talk about Kevin” (a film and a book) as a barometer, you might think very carefully before entering into child bearing.
It is a story that is about bonding. The Mother of Kevin can’t bond with her infant, it becomes excruciating. It’s a two way thing, it’s not just down to the son. Most parents expect to naturally bond with their children, but with Lionel Shriver’s story this is not the case…the Mother’s anguish boils over and Kevin turns out to be a pure evil person, with great repercussions. It is like the Mother’s son is constantly trying to provoke and punish her, perhaps because the Mother, does not show all the joys of motherhood and has such muted enthusiasm about being a Mother. Many Mothers would empathize with the Mother in this story–how do you deal with a constantly crying baby?
In my book, a man tries to ease his wife’s burden by taking his newborn son out for a walk in a local park. What could go wrong? His mind is preoccupied, like many a parent with a new infant, he is bereft of sleep. It is only when he returns home, that he makes a terrible discovery…There is a great void in the pram [stroller]…the baby is missing. He rushes out the house, questioning passersby; of course it is a parent’s worst nightmare…imagine the panic and horror rushing through his mind.
His immediate search yields no profit and he goes back to his wife, whose shock soon turns to anger and bitterness. The Police naturally become involved and the parents of the child broadcast an appeal. The man is brandished as an appalling Father…who would lose an infant in such a manner. The whole world has judged him and hung him already. One day, his wife, whose behavior has become more and more irrational, announces that the “Baby” has returned. Of course the father is overjoyed and naturally wishes to see the infant immediately. His wife has other ideas, he is permanently banned from seeing the infant, on account of his terrible misdemeanor. In a way his nightmare get worse…his wife more vicious towards him and this lack of access to his child, drives him wild with frustration and anguish.
Here is a short exert from “Snatched.”
One evening his wife came out of Baby’s room, displaying a black eye and looking tormented. When he interrogated her, she claimed she had slipped on an errant toy. Sitting together later that evening, his wife said calmly, “Baby’s still angry with you.”
He looked at her with astonishment. “What do you mean? I can’t imagine he could convey such thoughts at his age,” Renton said, shaking his head in disbelief.
She looked at him angrily. “Are you saying Baby is stupid? You don’t show enough interest in his development.”
“How can I?” he protested. “You won’t let me near him!”
“True,” she conceded, “but this doesn’t hide the fact that Baby is most displeased with you. I don’t suppose you will ever be free from his displeasure.”
“Is there any way I can appease Baby?” he ventured.
“You’re simply going to have to live with the fact he can’t be appeased, and will probably hate you until your dying day.”
“That’s not much of a father-son relationship,” mumbled Renton dryly.
I wrote this story long before my son was born…was I already in fear of what parenting involves? Was I questioning my own aptitude to parenthood?
In another story of mine “Bugeyes,” the story begins with an obvious example of a mother being unable to bond with their child from the start.
Bug-eyes was destined to a life of toil. As his mother, Lady Harriet Lombard, remarked gruffly when holding her swaddled firstborn, “He has disproportionate eyes,” adding tersely, “the child’s abnormal.” As she handed the squalling reject back to the doctor, she decreed, “Drop it down the well for all I care.”
Of course the beginning of the story is very much tongue in cheek…how could any woman be so callous?
However, in the past some British aristocratic families were involved in giving birth to many offspring to keep the dynasty going, commonly they had a very distant relationship with their offspring. Their paths sometimes only crossed on Sundays, when there was a visit to Church, but their upbringing rested more in the hands of nannies.
What are some of your favorite stories featuring parental bonding issues? Let us know in the comments.
This article is written by Francis H Powell. With a degree in painting and an MA in printmaking, he is an artist, musician, writer, and video maker. He currently lives in France. Find Francis on his blog or on Twitter.