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 Post subject: Mothers or Best Friends
PostPosted: 12 Jul 2012, 21:21 
From Highland:

How anyone who was married , and the mohter of three daughters, could still lapse into schoolgirl gigglings, and behave as if she were fourteen instead of almost twenty-four, was beyond them.
'But don't you think my daughters would prefer it a mother who is all prim and sticky ... I hope I never come to that. As far as possible I want to be a chum to them. I certainly don't intend to be one of those bossy mothers who think that they can and should order their children about as if they were so many slaves ...'
...
'I see. And you play with them, and laugh and joke with Daisy and Robin and them so that they may think of you as a playmate. It is fery nice for them, and I wish ... I wish all parents thought like you. My own mother was fery dear and good to us, but I cannot remember her playing with us ... '

So, what do you think of this? Elinor seems to have a very black and white view of parenthood here, that one can either be a friend or a parent, and if that one is a parent, one will be bossy and treat their children as slaves. There seems to be no middle ground expressed here at all.

Shiena says that her mother was loving to her children, but expresses an idea that this isn't enough, however loving and mother-like the mother is. They will always be lacking and not a 'complete' parent.

Who else has parents who are either 'friends' or 'parents'? Doris Trelawney springs to mind. A good mother perhaps, but not enough.

What about fathers? Is it enough for fathers to be parents rather than friends first and foremost? And what questions does that raise about men and women in terms of completeness, I wonder? Is it another case of women having to be more, do more, in order to be as successful as men in parenthood?

And is ELinor correct in her view that, if there are only two kinds of mother - one who plays and those who are bossy (although Shiena exposes us to a third kind), of the two it's preferrable to be the first?

And what about mothers who are 'chums'? How woudl this work in handling all those problems that come up in children's lives? Would being 'a chum' be enough to address discipline issues, or complicated emotional problems? Or even everyday things that arise - would you always rather a 'chum' than a 'mother'?


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 Post subject: Re: Mothers or Best Friends
PostPosted: 12 Jul 2012, 21:58 
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I think it depends on the sort of "friend", and the age of the children. I can imagine Mollie and Peggy going clothes shopping together and discussing hairstyles and make up, which sounds like a nice sort of relationship to have, and with very young children - in Highland Twins, the triplets are only 3 - it's good to sit on the floor and play games with them, but the thought of a mother who wants to play slidey mats with you and your friends when you're about 13 makes me want to cringe with embarrassment :lol: .

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 Post subject: Re: Mothers or Best Friends
PostPosted: 12 Jul 2012, 23:33 
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Honestly, I think the person who had the perfect parent/friend balance was Copper Ansell's stepfather - she clearly listened to him with obedience as a father, but they just as clearly had a relationship where they could discuss pretty much anything with each other.

To my mind, if you act as a mother or a friend depending on the situation and using good judgment, you wind up being both. On the other hand, I think that a mother who pushes themselves as a "friend" above everything else, doesn't behave like a mother, and doesn't let a friendship grow naturally with their child, winds up without the child's trust AND without the child's friendship. It reminds me of that character in Dorothy Sayers' Gaudy Night...I can't remember her name offhand, but she was one of the tutors in the Oxford College who professed to be the friend of all of her students, and privy to all their secrets, and who in reality wasn't close to any of them and didn't really know them.


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 Post subject: Re: Mothers or Best Friends
PostPosted: 13 Jul 2012, 00:15 
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Miss Shaw, Genie :)

*is currently re-reading Gaudy Night*

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 Post subject: Re: Mothers or Best Friends
PostPosted: 13 Jul 2012, 08:41 
Interesting ... so how does Joey do, then? Alison mentioned the slidey-mats when the Trips were 13 as being an embarrassment rather than 'fun' with a playful mother-friend - does Joey manage the mother and friend swaps appropriately?

Genie's point about Copper Ansell's father is good, too. He wasn't her biological father though - does that make a difference in CS Land? How do fathers perform as fathers or friends? I suspect that they are all definitely fathers. I wonder what Jack would think about having to be a 'friend' (as described) to his sons? Are they ever 'friends' in the way Joey seems to decribe mothers-as-friends?

To broaden things out, what are CS characteristics of ideal mothers and fathers, and who are they? And who are bad mothers and fathers, and why? What is it that makes them 'bad'? In the remit of this discussion, it's not so much about being an out-and-out cad like Juliet's father, more about fathers (and mothers) who are lacking in the way Joey describes - like Doris Trelawney. Perhaps 'bad' is a bit too strong a word to use, but I hope you get what I'm trying to express?


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 Post subject: Re: Mothers or Best Friends
PostPosted: 13 Jul 2012, 09:50 
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In They Both Like Dogs, Mollie is just 14 years older than her 14-year-old nieces, and wants to be a friend rather than an authority figure. She soon realises she has to be a bit of both although I don't think that's ever spelled out - we just see her tighten the reins a bit when required (sometimes unwisely).

I think EBD presents all sorts of parent/authority figures as having good qualities; some of these are very different to each other (Bill versus the Abbess; Jo versus Doris?), but I think they all have kindness at the bottom. That seems to me the most important characteristic as it comes through in EBD's writing anyway.


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 Post subject: Re: Mothers or Best Friends
PostPosted: 13 Jul 2012, 09:51 
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Genie's point about Copper Ansell's father is good, too. He wasn't her biological father though - does that make a difference in CS Land?

I think again it depends on the age of the child. Copper didn't remember her own father. Insp Letton had been her father since she was three, I think, and she'd always used his name. I think EBD said that most people didn't know he wasn't her biological father.

Whereas Roland Carey, for example, doesn't become Mary Lou's stepfather until she's fourteen, so they're never going to have the same sort of relationship as Copper and Insp Letton, and it wouldn't be appropriate for him to try to insist on her obeying him. I thhink EBD uses the term 'friendship' to describe their relationship.

And we have all sorts of other step relationships from Elfie's love for 'Marmee' to Rosalie's friendly but distant relationship with her stepmother to Grizel's outright dislike of hers.

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 Post subject: Re: Mothers or Best Friends
PostPosted: 13 Jul 2012, 13:44 
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This is definitely somewhere where I think EBD triumphs. She could have easily just decided to paint all the step parents in the same light as Grizel's stepmother but instead she decides to show how the relationships can vary dependant on circumstances (age etc.) something that rings true to me seeing as I have recently acquired a stepmother myself.

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 Post subject: Re: Mothers or Best Friends
PostPosted: 13 Jul 2012, 13:58 
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I think Mrs Grantley's a very poor mother. She resents Ted because Ted was born years after the Grantleys had decided not to have any more children, and at a time when their financial circumstances had changed for the worse, and also because she likes the idea of having good-looking trophy kids whereas Ted's quite plain. Ted is clearly well aware that her mother doesn't care about her, and that's very sad. Ted hasn't even, as far as we know, got a grandmother or aunt or other relative who gives her some affection.

I can't imagine Jem and David sitting down and pouring their hearts out to each other, but I can imagine them getting on well if they had common interests to talk about. David's decision to go into medicine gives them that in common, and if they were both into a sport (isn't it mentioned somewhere that David's on the school rugby team?) then that'd be something else.

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 Post subject: Re: Mothers or Best Friends
PostPosted: 13 Jul 2012, 14:44 
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I've just finished reading Highland Twins, and had also noticed that passage.

I must say, it lay very uneasily with me, knowing that in years to come Joey would micro-maage her children's lives to the extent that poor Len doesn't even dare to have a pony tail, the triplets are guilt-trippped into having Melanie come along on what was suposed to be a family holiday and are expected to come home to look after their siblings when Joey has her operation.

Joey may have her 'fun' side, but she rules the family with a very strong hand and expects an awful lot of the triplets.

Mollie Bettany seems like a lovely mother, but then she missed out on a huge part of her first four children's lives. Carola's father is great when we see him, but he's one of many absent parents who have very little thought for their children, to the extent that one does begin to wonder why they had them in the first place. Not to even know how old his daughter is is completely appalling!
Doris has always struck me as being terribly nice, but as dull as ditch water.

The nicest familes I think are the original ones we meet in the Tirol, and also Elisaveta's father, who takes a genuine interest in her well-being, despite his lofty role.

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 Post subject: Re: Mothers or Best Friends
PostPosted: 13 Jul 2012, 14:55 
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I get the impression that Doris was dominated by her mother-in-law. Gran is clearly devoted to Mary-Lou, but it seems as if she's the one who decides whether or not Clem and Tony are suitable friends for her, and I would think she took the lead in deciding which school to send her too as well.

It's interesting that when two of the triplets come to making the biggest decisions of their lives - Len to get engaged to Reg and Margot to become a nun - neither of them talk it through with either Joey or Jack. Len speaks to Hilda about whether or not 18 is too young to be thinking about marriage, but not to her own parents. A bit OT but I always find it rather sweet that David tells Sybil he wants to be a doctor: it suggests that they had a close sibling relationship.

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 Post subject: Re: Mothers or Best Friends
PostPosted: 13 Jul 2012, 15:14 
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I think a good mother (bearing in mind that I'm not one!) has to be in between the boss and the friend - I don't think either extreme is very good.

Kathie Ferrars has the same issue to deal with - she's advised not to be too friendly and to keep her dignity, and ends up in bother because she can't deal with Mary-Lou being what she thinks of as too friendly... although that's pretty much the advice given to all teachers, with reason, I think! "Don't smile till Christmas" and so on. A teacher who was trying to be your friend all the time wouldn't be very effective, any more so than a parent.


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 Post subject: Re: Mothers or Best Friends
PostPosted: 13 Jul 2012, 18:38 
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I think Madge had it right with Joey - she's her sister, but to quote Joey: 'She's the only mother I've ever known'. She can be friends but also the strict parent when she has to be with her younger sibling.
You need to draw the line somewhere - after all there is a generation gap between parent and child - a parent would not be able to punish a child if they were too friendly with them - as the respect would not be there. (I'm not explaining myself very well, but I think you'll get what I mean!). But on the same respect, the parent/child relationship should be fun and not all control. Therefore respect will be earned both ways.

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 Post subject: Re: Mothers or Best Friends
PostPosted: 13 Jul 2012, 20:42 
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The early Austrian fathers (Herr Mensch etc) seem to be more the 'father' type than friendly - expecting instant obedience etc. Frau Mensch doesn't seem to get much fun with the children at all as she spends so much time on housework.

I've been watching 'Turn Back Time' and it was notable that the mother who had (to her own surprise) ended up in the upper class household, where the children were looked after by a very efficient nanny, didn't see her children at all, except around 6pm for what was more like an 'inspection'. In the UC and MC families the children and parents didn't seem to mix and act like modern families until the 1940s when the drafting of women to war work meant the mothers looked after their own children. Joey was probably slightly ahead of her time in the early books. I think you see this well in 'Jo to the Rescue' where their lives are more like modern stay at home mothers, with limited help.

I have a 2 year old and I have to be both playmate (lots of imaginary games, cooking together, art, 'yoga', music etc) and a mother (discipline). It doesn't seem hard to combine them well (I'll report back in 16 years as to effect!). My own father was very busy in my early years but he was generally a playmate, having water fights with us, messing around etc until we were at the age of having a glass of wine and a conversation. All our friends thought he was really cool, so we weren't embarrassed at all (well, apart from one charity show he did (pink tutu), but I'm still too traumatised to talk about that).


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 Post subject: Re: Mothers or Best Friends
PostPosted: 13 Jul 2012, 21:17 
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I find the way mothers are drawn by EBD really interesting, because of course it's very much of its time. Certainly towards the beginning of the series, there would have been plenty of mothers who didn't see very much of their children except for a bit of an inspection after tea, so there would have been quite stark contrasts.

I think EBD works quite hard to make her favourite characters warm and loving mothers. I like the mentions of David and Sybil as toddlers in the early books, and we often see them playing while Madge is around and helping to greet the various girls who visit.

Yes, Joey becomes a bit bizarre later on but that's partly a reflection of EBD's increasing control freakery, also shown by the much more strictly managed school. Although, I've just started wondering, does she make Jo more strict as they reach the 1950s onwards as part of EBD's own reaction to changing behaviours? I can imagine her being worried about the state of the younger generation and struggling to come to terms with the advent of the 'teenager'. Is Jo's strictness a projection of how EBD thinks parents should respond to a more permissive society?


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 Post subject: Re: Mothers or Best Friends
PostPosted: 13 Jul 2012, 21:56 
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I think that in some ways she's quite strict from early on. In Rescue, when the triplets are only three, we see that they have this confession ritual whereby they're supposed to admit any sins to Joey before they go to bed.

What would be interesting to see would be Jo (or Madge or Mollie)'s reaction to rebellion. Margot gets into a lot of trouble, but it's mainly at school and therefore it's Hilda, rather than Jo, who has to deal with it. Jack is brought in over the Ted blackmail affair, but Jo isn't told as she's not well at the time. We don't get to see how she'd react if, say, Margot decided to borrow some of Joan's clothes and make-up, or Con started exchanging letters with an unsuitable boy like Elma did.

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 Post subject: Re: Mothers or Best Friends
PostPosted: 13 Jul 2012, 22:57 
lipstick wrote:
I find the way mothers are drawn by EBD really interesting, because of course it's very much of its time. Certainly towards the beginning of the series, there would have been plenty of mothers who didn't see very much of their children except for a bit of an inspection after tea, so there would have been quite stark contrasts.

I think EBD works quite hard to make her favourite characters warm and loving mothers.


There's even quite a bit of lingering Victorianism in her depiction of Joey's early relationship with her children, ven though she stresses how 'modern' it is on the surface. I noticed it (in relation to the other thread where we were talking about Joey's use ofthe word 'girlies') particularly in that scene in Gay when Joey takes the visiting CS girls upstairs to the nursery where the triplets and Stephen are. The triplets shriek 'Mamma!' and run across the room and fling themselves on her and cling to her, and she asks questions about whether they've eaten all their spinach and folded their bibs at dinner, because they've clearly eaten it in the nursery under Anna's supervision. The fact that their mother's arrival is such a big deal in their day does suggest the lives of small children were quite separate to their parents, and that time spent with Mamma was something of a treat - very much of her time.

ClaireK wrote:
I must say, it lay very uneasily with me, knowing that in years to come Joey would micro-maage her children's lives to the extent that poor Len doesn't even dare to have a pony tail, the triplets are guilt-trippped into having Melanie come along on what was suposed to be a family holiday and are expected to come home to look after their siblings when Joey has her operation.

Joey may have her 'fun' side, but she rules the family with a very strong hand and expects an awful lot of the triplets.


And the Victorianism sits quite easily with this more authoritarian side of Joey, more than the fun slidey mats side.


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 Post subject: Re: Mothers or Best Friends
PostPosted: 14 Jul 2012, 01:17 
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Jack Lambert's parents seem to be a nice combination - they shut down her whining pre-CS but at the same time support her interest in engineering and things mechanical.


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 Post subject: Re: Mothers or Best Friends
PostPosted: 14 Jul 2012, 09:53 
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There is a bit in one of the books when the Triplets are little and Joey remarks about how much they are picking up things from what is said around them - and then uses this as justificiation for the fact they will effectively be 'segregated' from her day-to-day life by being confined to the nursery upstairs. That's very much the authoritarian mother coming to the fore, and one who sees children as something other than an integral part of her life.

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 Post subject: Re: Mothers or Best Friends
PostPosted: 14 Jul 2012, 09:55 
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The triplets shriek 'Mamma!' and run across the room and fling themselves on her and cling to her, and she asks questions about whether they've eaten all their spinach and folded their bibs at dinner, because they've clearly eaten it in the nursery under Anna's supervision.


In this particular instance, I don't think that's unreasonable. Jo had quite a big crowd of girls to lunch, and IIRC they did quite a lot of the preparation themselves in the kitchen. She couldn't really have had the triplets underfoot then. The alternative I suppose would have been for Anna to stay in the kitchen getting lunch for everyone while Jo gave the triplets their lunch and tried to attend to her guests properly at the same time.

There's a bit in Highland Twins, when Jo is in shock after the telegram about Jack, when Robin, I think, says she must let the triplets come to her because she's been away from them for hours, and they would be wondering where she was. That suggests she did spend quite a lot of time with them, if they would notice her absence after a few hours. (They were two and a half here, I think.)


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