Thursday, 4 February 2010

Come round here, Sir Al.

This isn't news, is it? It isn't news to me. Maybe it's news if Al Green says it.

I think other folks have said this too. Probably since Victoria Regina. Is that when the upper classes taught everyone else how to shut kids up, prop them in a corner and berate them for not displaying the dour and serious mind they thought an adult should have?

But, from what I've experienced, I think Al's right. In this country, adults betray the idea that kids are your life sentence. The first cheerful words sang out to me after the near-death-birth experience were, That's it! You'll never leave the house again!

Well, they were wrong. But they were nearly right. Resolving to learn how to enjoy and break free with kids, I made it to the Co-op after a month's hospitalisation, pushing three micro preemie babies swamped beneath a blanket in a buggy made for two.

Incompetent baby pusher that I was, and gingerly learning to balance upright and smile, I blocked the narrow bread aisle. I was pushed out the way by a high heeled harpy: she beat her wings, clicked her tongue, and snatched the bread rolls from under my nose like they were hand grenades.

I guess I had to be grateful she hadn't spat at me and shot me with raisin buns. But it was an introduction to that sudden change in life. Once, you were an adult. Now, you have reproduced, and offered children to the world, when you should have birthed adults. Your admission of failure, so you asked for it. Now you get what you deserve. And wipe that smile off your face.

Of course not everyone in England is like this. There are always the tender hearted who happily help with buggies, bags and kids; always the back-broken elderly ladies who cheer Aren't children lovely! Even when one is covered in vomit and the others accidentally painted green.

But for every one of these soft-hearted, there are ten more who steal that parent and child car parking space and stride single to the shops; a hundred more who scowl impatiently because you dawdle to cross the road; a thousand who, grim-lipped, laser eyebeam your criminal child, waiting. Will they dare touch something you never knew before was never to be touched?

Underlying that - our institutions, businesses, society - a pervasive attitude that if you bring children, your job is merely to control them; to make sure they never intrude upon the serious minds of adults, to educate them that being a child is a hard-grind business, and preparation for work.

Bugger. In her bit of Britain, Grit is doing it all the wrong way round.

In Gritty Britain, adults and children aren't separated; they're not partitioned off to different day-stay institutions. They work and live together. They learn from each other. Children learn what it is to see the world as an adult: adults learn what it is to see the world as a child.

Dare I even whisper I enjoy the company of children? And, worse, children not my own? Because in these labourious days these words have been made to sound like an admission of pedophilia. Now beyond the pale, I'll admit. I introduce to my children other adults too, who, like me, wonder at the world, who think trees are brilliant, and say so.

I am probably lost. But anti-child Britain will have to excuse me. The children have come calling. So I'm running off, over the hills, to play.


sharon said...

Well I think you covered the ground pretty thoroughly there Grit. Mind you, it is becoming more difficult to be child/baby-friendly these days. Many young mums do not appreciate any contact from middle-aged ladies who smile at or otherwise attempt to communicate with them or their little ones. I don't think I look that scary - honest!

Grit said...

i think you are right about this sharon; be assured i always welcomed the interest of strangers. (then i could collar them and convert them to home ed.)