Sunday 19 February 2017

The best gift at Christmas is a hard kick in the pants

Parents must pass on to their children a mental capability to manage themselves, writes Emer O'Kelly

Published 18/12/2011 | 05:00

When do you stop loving your children? Never, one hopes. When do you stop taking responsibility for your children? Now there's a tricky one. Even trickier is that question of when you sit your little darlings down and explain to them that they're on their own now. And we certainly aren't very good at that in Ireland.

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One of the reasons is that moral cowardice is one of our national defining characteristics. We don't deal in absolutes.

I watched an old television programme a few nights ago in which an alcoholic was told in a recovery centre that he was "selfish, immature, and irresponsible". Having more than a passing acquaintance with the effects of alcoholism on its victims (and I don't mean the alcoholics themselves), I felt like cheering. Except that very few people are prepared to say that to an alcoholic, and tell them that enough is enough ... and mean it. Instead you hear that they really are the warmest, most generous people, and it's because of their generosity and warmth of spirit that they can't cope with the stresses of life, and so take refuge in the bottle. They're not: there is nobody more selfish or more brutally uncaring and manipulative of other people's feelings and welfare than an alcoholic. And the only salvation lies in their taking responsibility for themselves. As long as somebody is there to bail them out, financially, emotionally, and physically, they'll continue to batten on the people who love them and on society at large.Because they're "selfish, immature and irresponsible".

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