…but she’s spot on here:
Last week was half term; streets teemed with children, offices were parent-free zones, and the airwaves throbbed with indignation about Jimmy Savile, Welsh children’s homes and the stratagems deployed by high earners to keep their child benefit… It is at such times that I want to grab the ear-muffs, shout to everyone to shut up, and take one of these child-free flights that travel companies talk about – but don’t provide – to a resort catering to grown-ups only.
Oh, I well know the feeling! A child-free commute on my C2C train in term-time as well as half-term would be sheer heaven!
What is it about Britain and children? In most continental countries, children have a place, but it is not a political place, as it so often seems to be here. Nor is it one that treats childhood as the be-all and end-all of existence rather than less than a quarter of most people’s lives.
When did we start allowing children to be elevated above adults, to be cosseted and given the ‘rights’ to make demands we often wouldn’t entertain from other adults?
It seems to me it was the same time that the rot started setting in…
But in none of these countries is such a stark line drawn as there seems to be here between children as little angels (potential victims) and children as little devils (already despoiled). Nor is there anywhere that seems to suspect men of being more interested in children (in quite the wrong way) than in the opposite sex.
Oh, I don’t know. I think Australia (with its ludicrous Quantas ban) is fast approaching our levels, and as for the US, well, that’s a pretty hopeless cause…
I have little doubt that many other countries manage this better; that parents elsewhere have more time – if not more money – for their children, and that, in their early years at least, their children are more secure, less unruly and better attuned to their place in the predominantly adult world. The endurance of old-fashioned social codes may also mean that depravity is either less prevalent or less likely to be exposed. Those parents brought up in traditional families may also know, from their own childhoods, that parenting does not have to be perfect; good enough will mostly do.
It’s certainly true that other country’s children tend, on the whole, not to be the ghastly little brats that can always be found in the UK, and I’ve been struck many times, on travel to France and Belgium, by the manners they often display. Sadly, very much a rarity over here, even in the better areas.
The Coalition may be surprised at the popularity of its plans to reduce child-related benefits. Some even think them too tame. But it should not be. Somehow a healthy consensus has survived that, while children are an essential – and, at best, a delightful – part of life, their rights have been progressively elevated over parental responsibilities. For all the hue and cry over deviant stars, it is established that most abuse is committed by someone known to the child. It could even be said that it was a misplaced desire to make children’s dreams come true that gave Savile his chance. The most productive outcome of the latest witch-hunt would be a counter-reaction that put childhood back in its proper place.
Yes, yes, a thousand times, yes!