Us human beings – we like to big ourselves up. We embellish our roles in life and exaggerate our achievements to curry influence and gain respect. But very few people have genuinely important jobs. I mean jobs that really matter.
When Nikki had an ectopic pregnancy, she was rushed in to an emergency procedure. When she was in recovery, I thanked the surgeon. An Indian bloke who appeared fairly non-plussed. Just another day at his office but not so for my wife and I. We lost the baby but without his intervention and his know-how we would have lost much more.
Like I say, a very important job. Or the bomb disposal bloke who makes a device safe in a shopping centre. Nice work and more important than say being a comedian, photographer, a teacher or a carpenter.
But this statement misses an important point because it seems to me that the most crucial job in any successful society is a role that the majority of us will have, that of being a parent; for which there is no training or qualifications. Just get on with it and good luck.
The primary role of parents is to create independent adults. Self-sufficient individuals capable of becoming successful parents themselves and so the cycle continues – which brings me to Britney Spears, in the news this week for all the wrong reasons.
Over the last couple of years, anyone with a remote interest in the world around them will have seen their vocabulary swell to include words otherwise unknown…
Furlough, lockdown, pirogue, woke, non-binary… and now, courtesy of Britney and her dad, “Conservatorship” – a legal term referring to…
the responsibilities of a conservator over the affairs of a person who has been deemed gravely disabled by the court and unable to meet their basic needs of food, clothing, and shelter.
At this point I should confess that I know almost nothing about the law and even less about Britney Spears.
I do recall however, when she first appeared in our lives with her hit, Baby One More Time – a video that put Britney at the top of the charts and the top of my only son’s affections also. He was two at the time.
That pop princess is now a 39 year old, mother of two and deemed necessary to require a Conservator because she is ‘gravely mentally disabled’ – incapable of caring for herself, although thank goodness, still able to sing and entertain the masses and add to her already considerable fortune.
I have some sympathy here with all concerned, albeit in varying amounts. It must be bewildering to have one’s life so openly scrutinised and to be the subject of discussions across the world by people who don’t know the family and never will.
I have some experience of this of course given that my 2 year old whose eyes popped at the sight of Britney in long socks is now himself the object of people’s fascination.
And even though Britney and Tom are both famous adults, I suspect that their childhoods and adolescent experiences have been very different. In Tom’s case, more normal if there is such a thing. With Eclipsed, as well as having a funny story to tell, a considerable incentive to writing the book was to explain the unusual circumstances of how Tom was found and that we are not mad parents who craved fame for our kids.
Having a very successful child is definitely unusual and is almost always confined to show business and sports. Both arenas where the pressures are commensurate with great riches and why parents have the biggest role to play and more so than any of the young star’s ‘people.’ But the rogue temptations are obviously too much for many and explains why so many child ‘stars’ have successfully ‘legally emancipated’ themselves from their parents. Money might well make the world go round but it can also bring things to a halt and including normal family life.
Maybe I am being glib and smug. Perhaps a letter from Tom’s lawyers is yet to arrive, explaining that I am to leave him alone. I hope not. We speak too regularly (almost every day) for a man planning to extricate himself from our clutches.
And I am pleased to reflect on this now and particularly so in lockdown when everyone has had time to consider their place in the world and what might lie ahead. I have been busy writing books and trying to arrest a career in decline but it also highlights a point I make throughout Eclipsed, that I have been a far more successful dad than an entertainer and I would have chosen this outcome when I set out on my adulthood.
Because parenthood is the most important job of all. The only job in our lives that is never ending and for good reason.