When I was a child I was accustomed to going to confession, and to confessing my sins. We had to examine our consciences against a seemingly inexhaustible array of failings and, worse, actual evils.
These days it is easy to realise that many of the things considered to be sinful were nothing of the kind. Failings, perhaps, but generally they fell within the range of normal childhood development and understanding. Children scream and yell when thwarted, feel anger towards others, and are very bad at controlling their urges. They want to be liked, loved and praised. They hate being humiliated. At least, I did. They like to do well, to be good at things. When they do something parents consider to be wrong, children do not want to be found out, let alone punished. To be discovered, or uncovered, is like having scabs ripped off sores. Sometimes, to avoid worse exposure, one rips scabs off oneself.
I don't remember my parents dishing out much praise to me, or indeed to any of us. There is no one alive who can tell us how things were in any objective sense, so all I have to go on is childish memories, highly selective ones at that. We were good if we helped our mother, and the older ones, that is my older sister and myself, were expected to do so, and the younger ones, even when they grew older, were not expected to do nearly as much. If you were helpful, that conferred a sense of virtue, although indeed, being helpful was compulsory rather than optional. One strove to be good. Examination of conscience served to reveal defects of character and actions.
I was regarded as a clever child, and that was a source of praise, although it could hardly have been considered to be a virtue. So I suppose it is not surprising that I absolutely cringe if I make a mistake and am found to be wrong. If I mispronounce a word, it hurts excruciatingly. This does not stop me, mind, from pointing out to my children, as well as to the ambient air, grammatical mistakes, like - well, I had better not get started....But I was never as clever as I wanted to be, nor did I achieve as much as I thought I should have been able to. Eventually one comes to accept reality rather than unfulfilled desires and expectations. Reluctantly, perhaps.
Perhaps we all try to hide our defects, and to appear to the best advantage possible. It works for a reasonable per cent of the time. At this stage of my life, it is clear that I am never going to have a fake tan, breast implants, plastic surgery, or tattoos. I am as I am. The miracles of modern medicine have left their marks and scars on my body. But perhaps the dental treatment will serve both functional and aesthetic purposes. Hope springs eternal in the human breast.
And my children and grandchildren are all beautiful.