We Do Best What We Like Best

The best kind of teaching is what we teach ourselves. Just as an acorn will grow into an oak tree and no other kind of tree, so we are all born with the seeds that we call genes. They make us who we are as we grow older. For example, painters, writers and teachers learn from within themselves. There is a long held mistaken belief that we can mould our children into what we want them to be. My husband’s mother came from Belgium and never learned English well. She often said to other people “Je ferais de Bobby medicin”, or “Je ferais de Bobby avocat”. She did not have the power to make him a doctor or a lawyer nor could anyone else. There have always been unhappy people who have been forced to do what they do not have the capacity to do. I cannot but believe, from my lifetime’s observation of all the people I came across, that there are many of us who construct false impressions of ourselves because we are afraid no-one will like us unless we “fit in”.

Despite what Bob’s mother tried to tell him, he was very much his own self and did not hesitate to tell anything but the truth as he saw it His strongest suits were brought to light by his unusual sense of humour: he had an uncanny way of spotting pretentions in people he had never met before. From everything he told me I gathered that he must have been a born soldier with his ability to lead and make decisions. He always said those years were very good for him, much more so than being a teacher or working in a big company.

Bob was the only one in our family who had no interests that filled him with enthusiasm. In that sense he was an outsider in a very close family. This had the effect of making him far too dependent on us, especially upon me. He had some great qualities but somehow he never was able to find an interest just for himself alone. He wasn’t at all interested in psychotherapy but nevertheless he wanted to help me, often in a way that was far from useful. In the last letter he left for us before he died, he wrote how proud of us he was for what we had achieved. We were reduced to tears.

My daughter is a painter. As soon as she could hold a pencil or crayon in her hand she was drawing with colours. She loved animals and insects, so that was what she drew. If anyone tried to make her portray anything else she would stoutly refuse. When she was in the Sixth Form she decided to study art. Before the first term was over, she gave up art. She would only draw what she wanted to draw.

Kate has always drawn and painted sporadically because she has done many other things. In her forties she has come to her peak and is a first-class cartoonist as well as painting small animals and birds.

“Compulsory” is the ugliest word for me and my children. I would go to any lengths at school to avoid group games such as Hockey. Miraculously I succeeded by various subterfuges. At least I learned some ingenious ways of avoiding what I did not want to do.

All three refused to go to university as I had hoped they would. Yet I need not to have worried. All three of them learned all they needed to know to develop the work they most enjoyed. In fact Kate, in her part time, completed a good degree in psychology with the Open University. She also worked for a diploma in psychotherapy. She intended to be a therapist. For a few years she used her skills successfully. At the same time she was writing a book about her experiences as a teacher’s helper. I was, of course delighted that she had chosen two of my favourite subjects. However, after a few years of very good work, she decided to end her career as a psychotherapist. Her book is of very high quality and no-one else has written anything important about this subject.

However, Kate continued with her art work and she got better and better. Despite the fact that she has three important skills she inevitably came to the conclusion that what she wanted to do most is her drawing and painting.

When we are multitalented people it can be very difficult for us to decide which is the subject from which we get most satisfaction. I have the same trilogy of talents that Kate has but our choice was different. After nearly twenty years doing my therapy work I found myself gradually verging more and more into research. Then when I looked back at my life I saw clearly that since I was a small girl, I had always been a writer. I did it so easily that I didn’t think of it as something special. Like all natural writers I had read all the best books in English literature when I came across them. I had learned to judge good writing intuitively and very quickly.

In our family, we have all put our creative interests before every thing else. We want recognition but only by people who are knowledgeable enough to recognise the value of what we are doing. Money does not come first. It must be earned by ourselves to please us. Plagiarism is anathema to us. All our work must come from us for us to be fully satisfied. not from copying someone else.