Truisms ii) Sad but true

Three of Jenny Holzer’s truisms get under my skin. I was talking to another father on Friday, who’s just become a grandfather, and they positively annoyed him.

They are:

Fathers often use too much force

A man can’t know what it is to be a mother

Children are the most cruel of all

Sadly, I find all three of these to be true. Perhaps they are related. As a father you have strength, the loudest voice and sometimes a short temper. I never hit my kids, but I do shout at them and I know when I am imposing my will upon them. Holzer’s truism hurts because as fathers we all know we sometimes don’t explain – we just impose. And in imposing we show our impotence and lack of imagination. Force is failure.

No man can know what it is to be a mother. I was at the birth of both of my children and could but marvel at the primal forces I witnessed. The stamina, then strength was stunning as the storm of labour broke in waves over my suffering, then triumphing partner. Carrying a child, giving birth and the bond mothers have is something men can try to imagine, but can never know. That is our tragedy.

Children are the most cruel of all. We have all been one and to have them is to be constantly reminded of what we all did to each other as kids. It is their way of testing, learning and searching but it hurts all the same. Children are the proof of Aristotle’s thesis that no-one is born with a moral compass. We learn – or not – from our upbringing. That’s why fathers and mothers feel such great responsibility and are hurt and lash out when they fall short.

I find these three Truisms sad but true. Two I can’t do anything about, one I can. Holzer releasing it to burrow into my subconscious will help make sure I do.