Joanna Lumley may be famed for her ageless beauty, but with her latest comments the 64-year-old has fallen into the most ageing trap of all: the myth of 'in my day'.
In an interview in this week's Radio Times, she launches an Enid Blyton-esque manifesto for childhood, leaving parents to wonder who spiked Joanna's ginger beer?
It's happened to the best of us. For me, the benefit of distance has turned those endless, horrendous nights when I was trying to establish breastfeeding into a hazy, dream-like memory that I must not inflict on struggling new mums. Quite simply, I've already forgotten. And the truth is, nobody really wants your advice anyway. They want it least of all when your ideas are formed from tabloid hysteria and pure fiction, then delivered fresh from the moral high ground, a zillion miles from the coalface of parenting.
"We are very slack with our moral codes for children these days," opines Lumley, the 'we' here quite clearly meaning 'you': her own son James was born in 1967. She then launches into a series of quite random statements such as, "Nowadays, children find it laughably amusing to shoplift and steal" and "we allow them to bunk off school and bring in sick notes."
Give the kids a break. Are these fictional children out stealing (and laughing about it) not the same type that were around in her day? Why tar them all with the same brush? Most of us – young and old – strive to do well and please others. Those aren't just the rules of civilised society, but evolution, too. Does Lumley imagine that survival of the fittest went down with the last episode of Ab Fab? Children are as ambitious, adventurous, lively and, of course naughty, as they've ever been. How could they not be?
And give us parents a break as well – the ones who are still working at it, day-by-day, I mean. For every mum who dumbly applauds as her offspring "download information from the internet and lazily present it as their own" there are 10 more who know that in the world out there it will be tougher than ever for their children to succeed. Yes, I made up my facts, too. We can both play that game.
Still, in a week when mothers are resisting the urge to breakfast on G&T as they await the thump of admission letter on doormat, the much-mocked pushy parent gets a moment's reprieve. "We have taken our foot off the education pedal," states Lumley, unwittingly stepping out in front of Alpha Mum's four-wheel drive.
But it is in her derision of technology that Lumley really demonstrates her ignorance.
"I think laptops should be banned from schools. Until you can prove you can add up on your fingers or think independently in your head, you have learnt nothing. I think we're leading our children into a false paradise." Come on Joanna, did you not have calculators in your day - or perhaps an abacus?
The fact is that our children are growing up in a world where they will never be a few metres from Google, although the person who imagines that the internet can be used without active intelligence is themselves the fool. Thinking independently has nothing to do with where you derived your knowledge and everything to do with what you do with it. That will never change.
The world is changing, of course, we all know that and we're doing our best to keep up. That false paradise is the one in your nostalgic imagination, Joanna – enjoy the rose-tinted memories, and then come and join us as we tackle the present.
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