I have often moaned about the topics covered in ante-natal classes. We talked a lot about 'feelings' during pregnancy. What would have been really useful is how to raise your corpse from your bed, having had three hours sleep in four days. I would have liked to have learned how to apply mascara in the car with three kids screaming in the back. Useful information - maybe a first aid course so that when the 6 your old brought me his arm hanging limply by his side as I was bathing the three month old, I would have known what to do. My medical skills are generally - if I see blood, it's a bad thing. Unless of course it's coming out of the nose. That's just a nose bleed.
I thought it would get easier as they get older but it doesn't. They ask more questions, have opinions and need to discuss their feelings. Ante-natal classes covered how I felt. Not them.
I am trying to bring up caring individuals who will stand up for themselves and others. Who will go the extra mile to make someone else's life better and who is aware how lucky they are to be growing up in this part of the world. Just through an accident of birth, they have access to clean water, food on the table and women are permitted to work, vote and drive. (I struggled with the order of importance of those but there you go..that's what I think). They know it's not the same in other parts of the world.
This just makes it all the more difficult when someone like Donald Trump comes on the news, spouting his vitriol and bigotry and his stupid hair and they turn to me looking for an explanation and I don't have one. How could I possibly explain that this sexist moron has a chance of becoming the next president of the free world, purely on the basis that his dad was rich? It doesn't make sense. The man can't even choose a decent wig. Until 3 months ago we laughed at him like we laughed at Borat. The 11 year-old suggested Borat might run next and we couldn't laugh about it.
They are in school in central London. They have friends from all religions. They are confused by Trump saying he's building a wall to keep out immigrants when they know - as we all do - that if you are not a Native American, you are an immigrant. It's bizarre.
We encourage them not to bully and to call out bullies at school and yet we watch programmes like Gogglebox and Britain's Got Talent. Yes it's funny but it's at the expense of someone else. The biggest shock about Susan Boyle is that everyone thought she was a crazy lady but she wasn't. She was a slightly troubled woman with an amazing voice. It's still not kind though is it?
They older two watch the Brexit discussion and panic. They feel like it's going to be like a bitter divorce, where the mummy and the daddy are going to be really horrible to each other and the ones who suffer are the kids. I did point out that if it went that way it could be a really reasonable divorce where everyone gets along a lot better. As they are my kids and they know me really well, they know I don't really believe that. I'm not sure if it's all kids, but mine certainly have trouble distinguishing from imminent threat - crossing the road, stranger danger, fire - with other threats - global warming, the economy and now terrorism. It really worries them. Any expert I consult on the matter tells me to keep them talking. Keep them talking.
Two days after the attacks at The Bataclan my eldest son and I had tickets to see England versus France at Wembley. He is a massive football fan and was very excited. Understandably, when match day arrived he was anxious about going to Wembley. We had a long talk about the nature of terrorism and about how it's all about trying to make people scared. Then he went off to school. As he left for the day his (helpful) friends joked to him: "See you later. This is the last time we'll see you alive."
To be honest we had a laugh about it. "How jealous are they?" I said. He laughed but was still a little reticent. After a while he decided he would go. We talked about the extra police horses there and the burgers and the CCTV and he felt a lot safer. We thought it might be a good idea to try and feel sorry for people who do terrible terrible things. Those people are troubled and sad and it's easier to hate than it is to try and understand. We have been making pretty good progress. They feel less anxious and didn't mention a terror attack at all when we went to the summertime ball in Wembley. So - you know - we are getting there.
There weren't exactly shouts of joy when I mentioned I was heading down to Soho for the vigil for the victims of Orlando but they understand. The idea that someone could be attacked just because of their sexuality is ludicrous to my children. To judge someone on the basis of who they love baffles them and that makes me proud. They understand. They understand that little acts of solidarity and kindness have to be done by everyone else to try in some small way to combat the ridiculous world we find ourselves in.
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