Tuesday, December 09, 2014


Someone once said that men are just boys with money. If true it means that boys are just men without money.

There's a big point here, I think, because the main problem in dealing with children is insisting they are different from us adults. And paying no attention to how they are the same.

You see it all the time. Everyone seems more interested in our differences than our common qualities.

It's an attitude that leads to misunderstandings, conflicts. Fights, court cases. Wars. Holocausts.

Blimey. Calm down dear, calm down.

Many adults are confused about bringing up children. They don't understand their needs, don't know what to do for the best. It's not only a problem in chaotic families.

I was in the supermarket yesterday. Waitrose actually. It's the chain that thinks it's the Harrods of the "pile 'em high, sell it cheap" brigade. It's nothing special now that Lidl does lobster, but you get ladies in twin suits and pearls who want their shopping packed by someone else, that sort of customer.

It was about 9.15am, I was getting milk and some bits for the school Fayre, the aisles were quiet. I came across a young mum and her matching 3 year old daughter. The mother was pushing a trolley, mobile in her hand, the child was lingering on foot. I say 'matching', they both wore identical bonnets with turned-up brims at the front. Paddington meets Little Miss Muffet.

The bond between them ended there. Neither had a clue who the other was. Totally understandable in the child,  but in the mummy?

Mummy: "We discussed this when we came in. Either you ride in the trolley or you walk. You decided to walk, but it was on condition you had to keep up. Mummy has a tight agenda this morning. Now come along."

The child had very, very red cheeks. Teeth coming, probably. Painful. Maybe a cold. Whatever, the poor child was clearly in discomfort. She looked up at me as walked past and I swear her face said "Can you help me out here?" Her mummy was using adult negotiation, guess what, she had the upper hand. She was loudly savouring an argument she was going to win. Flaunting to passers-by to that her child tended to be impossible, and mummy, though understandably exasperated was fair but firm.

"So what's it going to be? Do you want to walk or shall I put you in the trolley? You have your options.And put that Lenor back please. Put it back. Did you hear?"

Bloody hell.

Look, I expect the mum was harassed, tired, maybe had other issues. But standing next to her she came across as clueless. She was 3 years old once. Each of us can remember being 3yrs if we put our minds to it. When you are 3 shopping is a frightening yet tedious ordeal. When we were 3yrs we would always choose to walk rather than be pushed around strapped into a metal chair. Adults can, and do, walk faster than our legs will go, and ignore us while they tick things off their list. Scary. Is mummy going to lose me? 

When we were 3yrs we understood certain words but not others.We had a limited vocabulary. We didn't know what "discussed" means. We sure didn't know what "agenda" means (I swear the mum used that exact word).

Mummy should have made the decision to put her child in the trolley seat. Buy a pack of grapes, open them, give child a grape every time mummy puts something in the trolley. Turn the trolley round so the child is facing front and can pretend being the driver, if they want. Sing "The Wheels On The Bus". Say "Wheeeee!" when they swing round a corner. Go "Peep peep" and pretend to "bump" into a counter "Ooops!" Pretend that Father Christmas might be in the shop. Make sure the Calpol dosage is up to scratch. 

Get you and your child in and out of that miserable supermarket and back to the security of the child's home asap.

I wanted to say something to the mum, but obviously didn't. I said something to a man once on the beach who was swearing at his little boy and shaking him, and got a mouthful.  That was many years ago, my effort didn't do any good.

I wanted to say that mummy should try to remember being 3 rather than try to force her daughter to hurry up and get to 28.

I hope I'm not coming across as one of those people who think they know best about everything, I'm generally off the pace. I once ordered my supermarket shopping on the internet and clicked for 1 grape instead of 1 pound of grapes. They delivered 1 grape, in a paper bag.

But when you foster it really sharpens your mind about parenting, you turn it over in your mind all the time. We can't summon up the experience of say a 14 year-old foster child, and what she's been through. But we all know what it's like to be 14. Unless you're aged 13, in which case if you are reading this you're very welcome.

As I got to the end of the aisle, my back to these two, I heard the child start to cry. I heard mum sticking to her executive approach  "That's not appropriate under the circumstances. You have to learn that..."

Like I said, bloody hell.

How are people going to understand and care for people who are different from them if they can't understand and care for the people that they used to be?


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