Wednesday, 11 August 2010

The Parental Slave - or How Kids Are Ruling the World.

Joan Collins (who is on my list of People-I'd-Like-to-Be-When-I-Grow-Up, right next to Sue, the sociapathic cheerleading coach on Glee) wrote an article in The Mail on Sunday colour supplement last week, commenting on how spoilt her grandchildren seemed. You can find it here

The magnificent Joan says "The quiet of my rural idyll in the hills of the South of France is punctuated by the sound of children’s voices raised high above the entreating voices of their parents, who follow them around the pool and garden with a suppliant air."

Yes. I've noticed it too, Joan. The hills of West Yorkshire are also reverberant with the squeals of indignant four-year olds and the exhausted platitudes of their weary parents.

When did children pull off this coup and manage to swing the balance of power so firmly in their favour? Once upon a time, when I was a child and Starburst were still called Opal Fruits and Maggie Thatcher was snatching milk, children took a secondary role in life to their parents. Mummy and Daddy did what they wanted to do and the kids fitted in with them.

It wasn't quite as draconian as Victorian Britain, but there was still an element of children being 'seen, not heard'. Complaints of boredom were quickly counteracted with 'only the boring get bored', bedtimes were early - as early as the parents could get away with - and grown-ups could rely on the fact that their children would entertain themselves at least for a few hours.

I spent a considerable amount of my childhood waiting for a gap in grown-up conversation. As interrupting was absolutely banned, one would have to poise oneself with an increasingly anguished countenance, desperately trying to get a word in at a break in conversation before the adult chat veered off in another direction. From time to time some kind person might notice my despairing face and ask me what it was that I wanted, but this was rare. It was a grown-up world. When I was an adult I would get my turn, but until then, I had to lump it. Grown-ups ruled the roost.

Well what the bloody hell happened to my turn then? Somewhere between shoulder pads being fashionable and shoulder pads coming back into fashion, the rules got changed. It is no longer considered acceptable to make a child wait until the conversation has stopped. One is considered cruel and un-parental for telling one's offspring that a bumped knee really is just a bumped knee and not a opportunity for prolonged caterwauling.

Children are deified. They are lauded and pampered, cossetted and idolized. Their needs must be dealt with immediately and without complaint. Never must there be a moment when they are left to their own devices - to get, God forbid, bored. Every whim must be met, every minor injury treated with desperate concern. Telling a child to stop blubbing is tantamount to Child Abuse. Muttering that children might actually be a bit of a pain in the bum is practically blasphemous. When did this apotheosis take place? When did parents become mere servants in their own households?

Well not this parent. I hold no truck with this servile parent thing and caring very little what people think of me, I make no apologies either.

There is a reason why my daughter is considered such a brave, cheerful little person. She has been taught from a very young age that crying is not a default reaction to anything that does not make her happy. Sometimes we bump our knees. The pain goes quite quickly and then we are able to continue bouncing/running/scootering or whatever activity we were doing. Sometimes we do not get to do what we want. This is irritating and sometimes unfair, but so is life. Often we will have to wait to get something we want. This is also irritating but will also happen a lot in life. Best get used to it now.

And I brave the curled lips of the 'super-mums' and the mutters behind my back because I know that Arabella and Alexander are being shaped into conscientious, polite little people who know the value of patience and understand that in life not everything goes our way. There will be no great disappointments, no terrible shocks when they reach adulthood. They will not have slaves when they are older and they most certainly don't have one now.


  1. Great post and thanks for the link to the original article.

    I think people need to listen to their heart instead of the so called "experts" when it comes to their kids. Too much of Oprah or Dr. Phil or whatever is the dime-psychologist of the day could easily twist your mind.

    We also have a culture where we are bombarded with conflicting information, don't eat this, but wait - yes you can. Video games destroy minds - oh, wait - they're actually good for hand/eye coordination. Don't surf the net too much, but you better teach them how to use computers and find stuff on Google.

    I also think it's important to pick and choose your battles. Let your kids win a few but stand your ground on the important stuff - but you have to realize, that at the end, they'll do what they want anyway.

    However, the one most important aspect, I feel, when raising kids is for the parents to present a unified front.

  2. Oh yes, definately have to have a united front. My daughter is only five and she has already realised Daddy is a pushover! He's very good though and always backs up what I've said.

  3. This is a great post!!!! Oh how we can all relate. I found you through Bloggy moms and I love your blog! I am now following you and would greatly appreciate a follow back!

    Thank you!