If I had been responsible for only myself there would have been nothing to consider. I would manage whatever the circumstances. But I had three children with Linda and didn’t want them to grow up in a home that was hidden away, didn’t want them to believe that hiding was an acceptable way of engaging with the world. All I could give them was what I was giving them now, and this wasn’t given through what I said but what I did. I wanted them to be surrounded by people, I wanted them to become independent and fearless, able to develop their full potential, by which I mean to be as free as possible within the unfree limits of this society. And, most important of all, I wanted them to feel secure in themselves, to like themselves, to be themselves. At the same time they had the parents they had, I thought, and we couldn’t change our personalities in any fundamental way, which would have been both senseless and catastrophic: having two parents who pretended to be something they weren’t would obviously just bring more misery. This was about our living conditions. They were fixed, but not immutable. The way I had behaved during the first three or four years of having children, when, much too often, I took out my frustrations on them, must have affected their self-esteem, the one thing in them you, as a parent, mustn’t fuck up. I had got out of this, it hardly ever happened any more, we never argued in front of them now and I never lost my temper, but I said a silent prayer almost every day that this hadn’t left any marks, that what I had done wasn’t beyond redress. Oh, I imagined that their self-esteem was a beach, I had left my footprints there, but then the waves washed ashore, the sun shone, the sky was blue and the water, so fantastic at adapting to its environment, covered everything, erased everything, salty and cold and wonderful.

I thought about this, but I knew I should never intervene directly, I should never let these concerns, which all parents feel, take on a form that they would notice and react to.

— Knausgaard, My Struggle, Vol. 6 (tr. Bartlett and Aitken)

Advertisement

Comments are closed.