It’s been a remarkably peaceful few days in my household and without too much statistical analysis, I’ll hazard a guess that this is as a result of the absence of one of the smallest members of the tribe who I shall refer to as Paddington Bear.
I’m not a huge fan of children’s films – they are usually too loud, too vibrant and too overwhelmingly active for me and result in me leaving the cinema in a state of frenetic exhaustion. A couple of weeks ago however, I found myself unwittingly in front of Paddington The Movie. I enjoyed it – but perhaps more importantly something resonated with me which took a while to recognise. I realised that somehow, completely apparently by chance, Paddington himself, he of the marmalade sandwich and hard stare – or at least one of his relatives, had taken up residence in my house a few years ago…..
The curious brown furry creature is one of the most endearing children you could imagine – but also one of the most exhausting, infuriating and exasperating. A wonderful mixture of affection, curiosity, individuality, logic and persistence with an insatiable appetite for almost everything food related, a special interest in the footpaths of Southern England and a hugely exuberant need to express himself physically and in words to pretty much everyone he meets.
I veer between immense reverence for his individuality and his sunny life view and complete despair at the task of bringing up one so at odds with the conventional quiet well behaved child. I have to admit that when things get really tough, almost always because I’m tired or some other life event has interceded to put the pressure on, I do end up rolling down the familiar victimhood root, why me? Life would be so easy if he was “normal”…. you get the picture.
The realisation that Paddington had taken up residence has had some interesting consequences, not least, there has been a shift from myself and the other younger members of the clan, in the treatment of our errant one. It’s as though our judgement of him has softened. Instead of interpreting his chaotic often clumsy disruptive behaviour as a problem we are tending to see it more as part of the idiosyncrasies of a large and furry mammal trying to make sense of a chaotic world not really designed for creatures like him. Instead of constantly chastising him for his eating habits – which incidentally closely resemble that of a particularly hungry chocolate labrador, we are more gentle, reminding him now and then with a half smile, that knives and forks are laid by the side of his plate for a reason.
So what to learn from this.
The biggest lesson is that it is a choice to see someone in a particular light. All too often an unconscious choice made as a result of hundreds of past encounters which have shaped our reality. A slight shift in perception can have dramatic results in terms of the quality of our lives and in particular in terms of our relationships with others. If we view life as inherently positive and people as trustworthy we will certainly have a very different experience from people who view life as a dangerous jungle inhabited by savages who are out to get them. Of course the reality in this situation is probably somewhere in between – but by looking on somebody as a problem, in your own reality this is what they become and since we suffer when we want things to be different from the way they really are, we then seek to solve the problem or suffer in our desire by wishing what is, was not.
As for my own personal Paddington. He has become less of a problem and more of a pleasure. The films underlying messages about tolerance and acceptance and the dry British wit with which it was delivered made it an unexpected favourite in my book.
I’ll leave the last words to the films eponymous hero:
“I’m not a criminal” said Paddington hotly. “I’m a bear” – Michael Bond. A Bear Called Paddington