Last week I was lying in the bath listening to the radio whilst the Abel was at nursery and Freida sat playing in her high chair at the door (mum life). I’m a self confessed Radio 2 fan and at that particular time it was the Jeremy Vine show, Floella Benjamin was on for “What Makes Us Human”. She spoke of the long term effects that society is having on kids, the importance of childhood and equality. You know when you see or listen to something and it just totally hits a spot of “I totally get this”, what she had to say really got me thinking.
I’ve found myself noticing or realising things so much more now… how adults interact with kids, the choices kids have, the hurdles they face. One of the first things Floella mentioned was how kids often get treated as second class citizens and it’s really stuck with me and made me realise how true this statement is and it is bothering me. From how they get pulled up by a disgruntled stranger in the post office to the beige crap on most kids menus in restaurants there is so much that kids have to deal with daily that if we as adults had to we would be straight to Facebook for a moan.
Society is squeezing the emotions out of our kids and what is that doing for them? Mental health issues are on the rise, kids have no idea how to deal with or express how they feel. Of course there are parents out there like me and you who try to embrace emotions and encourage the naming of and coping with them. But I feel that society has made it more acceptable for everyone to just expect kids to “stop crying” and behave. One thing that I read when I first had Abel and it has always helped me was if we think of all our worries (bills, work, relationships etc) and how huge they are… kids don’t have that. Kids have toys, choices of cups, clothes, TV. So that is their world and those are huge deals to them, it’s not right to downgrade them just because they aren’t a big deal to adults.
My main question is why? Why is it socially acceptable to shout at/be rude to/ignore kids? Why should kids put up with it? Only last week I was doing a food shop with Freida and Abel myself and Abel (being his usual 4 year old self) was jumping about and interacting with every single person that passed us. This one woman in particular took one look at his cute little face gazing up at her waiting on a reaction and instead of a polite smile back she turned to me and gave me a look as if I had just shat in her kettle. WHY?! I get some people are just “not kid people” and that’s fine, I’m in no way saying everyone has to love kids and want them but when a human being regardless of age interacts with you, be polite.
“Childhood lasts a lifetime” Floella mentions this quote a few times in her essay and it is so true. What kids experience stays with them. I’ve been thinking about how the world would be if kids were given more respect in society. No one was bothered by a mother breastfeeding or bottle feeding. They were seen as worthy of a decent menu in more restaurants. No one parked in the bloody parent/child spaces because they would understand why they are where they bloody are and how hard it is to get from the middle of a car park with a toddler and a car seat with a baby in it (and breath…).
Here’s to those of us letting them be crazy, loud, curious, make mistakes, have a meltdown, stay up late, eat good food, sing in public, wear what they want, pick their nose, feed when and where they want, take 20 minutes to pick their own lunch order, wave at strangers from a cafe window and whatever else kids should do.
If you want to listen to Floella here is the link….