Why the hell does each new generation of parents seem to get it so wrong with their kids?
So the little wretches tell us anyway.
As the bedroom doors trembles on its hinges behind them.
Not long after we have handed over that latest fiver, and long enough before that gig they will be wanting a ticket for.
Calculated spontaneous combustion.
Bloody Mums and Dads, eh?
Me? I was going to be different:
I would learn from the mistakes of my own Mommy and Daddy.
Get it right.
No sneering at the back, please!
Now I know it’s a peculiar job, in that the better we do it, the worse it can be for our kids.
Soften the hard line, and our snowflake darlings might flutter around helplessly after they leave the nest.
If they ever bloody well do …
Harden the soft line, and they might end up with a uniform penchant for licking up and stomping down.
Sooner or later, we parenting proles happen upon Philip Larkin’s famous lines:
“They fuck you up your mum and dad
They may not mean to, but they do”
In the actual poem This Be The Verse, the famously childless Larkin goes on to advise his generation not to have any kids at all.
Not great if you wish to continue as a species …
Neither should it be forgotten that the poet’s words were dipped in his own disillusion and sharpened on the bitter deprivations of his own post-war, cold war British existence.
But powerful words in a powerful poem, and words every parent might consider.
And strive to do better.
Or at least limit the damage.
Here’s a thing.
I love my teenage kids, but I struggle with their selfishness.
Their reluctance to take responsibility for their own deeds and inactions.
Which I see mirrored in society.
And the little moppets aren’t so keen on my self-righteousness either!
But rather than criticise this teenage self-absorption, I wonder how could we make it work — for them; for us, their parents; and for the world?
I’m thinking of the world we actually live in, that space between what people aspire to be and how they actually are.
And captured so brilliantly by the Emo Philips gag:
“When I was a kid I used to pray every night for a new bicycle. Then I realised that the Lord doesn’t work that way so I stole one and asked Him to forgive me”
I’m thinking maybe self-absorption is a vital part of growing up, a period of incubated thinking, and once the hard outer case drops from the chrysalis of self-conscious adolescence, our realised self is ready to step up.
Truth is we need a bit of a hand with all this stuff.
It’s why we have referees in sport … the police … the law … governments . schools …
Without these nobody’s bicycle would be safe.
We have radio panels full of pompous windbags telling us every day how the country should be run.
And idiots jamming the phone-in lines showing how things actually are.
And they’re not great.
Every country has their own cause celebres and national embarrassments.
Here, it’s homelessness, overcrowded hospitals, gangland violence … our dangerous over-dependence on foreign companies for employment … take your pick.
So how does this tie in with getting our teenagers onside?
Well, I have always felt we should be looking much more closely at how our schools and education system might positively channel youthful vigour and candour …
Teach them the real connection between taking responsibility for their own actions and electing accountable politicians to run society as it should be run, for everyone.
The principle of enlightened self-interest: like, for example, how a cleaner, greener environment could also mean more jobs them when they leave school.
How, as a society, we are all better off if houses are built for people, not for profiteers, and more green spaces and sports facilities in housing estates would mean more play areas for them and their friends to hang out in.
Now I could waffle on about my idealised classroom full of idealistic adolescents learning how to get that bicycle without either praying for it or stealing it, but I would really love to share people’s thoughts.
What do you think?
What would work for our children, and for ourselves, in the long run?
We could kick some ass, or at least kick some ideas around!
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