Sunday 2 October 2016

Classy Childcare

Poor little mites
Upwards think they are excused having children who behave like children.

Middle classes of all stripes despise babies’ dummies.

If children are “resilient” we can be as cruel as we like to them and it won’t matter. And there's always some reason why we should be cruel to them:

Thomas Mann justified spoiling his eldest child over his 5 others with the line, "One should get the children used to injustice early." (AdamNathanielFurman @Furmadamadam)

The Fortean Times ran a piece on the abusive way the Greeks and Romans raised their children. Someone commented: “No wonder the Romans were cold, callous, sexually precocious and impulsive.” (Paraphrase.)

Middle class parents have a strange impulse to teach very very small children “how to grow their own crops” (and try unfamiliar foods, know where food comes from, eat with a knife and fork, manage risk, say please and thank you, understand money, and generally behave like a middle-aged adult). They really do wring their hands over the fact that “children today don’t know where food comes from”. It comes from the supermarket, you noodle. But they have to reinvent children + food x angst = guilt every few months so that they can keep ahead of the other parents. Turning up at parties with boxes of unsweetened vegan food which are all that poor little Milo is allowed to eat is sooooo five minutes ago.

David Cameron said we need “tiger mothers” to encourage children to study, and “character” modules to teach children “resilience” and “perseverance”.

Letter to Times Jan 2016-01-14
Sir, Whatever happened to having supportive parents? Mine were supportive and encouraging, and I seemed to turn out all right. Tiger parenting does not help children as adults: it usually results in low self-esteem, failure to cope when life doesn’t go right and an inability to be independent. What happens when children fail to meet David Cameron’s “high expectations”? Tiger parenting is a short-term solution to the long-term raising of a child. Bronwyn Molony, Dublin

Even during the holidays I saw very little of them: They would be in another part of the house while I would stay upstairs... My mother hardly ever came to my attic floor, but I could hear her running her bath... my world was the staff. They were my only friends. (Redeeming Features, Nicky Haslam on his “privileged” childhood in a stately home)

As a new biography of Evelyn Waugh is published (Philip Eade, Evelyn Waugh: A Life Revisited), a former Times theatre critic tells the story of the novelist’s first wife, his mother, Evelyn Nightingale (Times June 2016)

Her troubles began with her birth in Charles Street, Mayfair, in 1903, since she was meant to be a boy and heir to a new title in danger of becoming extinct... She was the last of four daughters.

As she always said, it was a different era with different ideas about upbringing, yet seldom can a girl have been so neglected. Evelyn never went to school but was semi-educated by a series of mostly German governesses, one of whom, she recalled, stuck pins in her arms if she rested them on the table. And she seldom saw her father, who died when she was 17, remembering a benignly aloof figure...

But then she was kept away from him by a mother she found terrifying. “One could never explain one’s presumed misdemeanours because the words froze in one’s mouth or didn’t get as far as freezing,” she wrote in an informal memoir many years later, adding that Lady Winifred never came into the nursery or schoolroom. “There were no goodnights, loving or otherwise, or prayers being heard at bedtime.”

Her greatest friends, she wrote, were the servants, who were “kindly and understanding”, though she was forbidden to play with their children. And her greatest love was for her nanny, a tiny, gentle woman who was sacked when Evelyn was seven...

[In her own words:] I felt “as it were in a cage with no knowledge of the world or the real behaviour of others.”

[She became a Bright Young Thing – no wonder they were so aimless and self-destructive and amoral. After her two divorces, her sister cut her off almost entirely.]

The four Johnson children mostly just had each other. They read constantly. Rachel can’t remember any playdates. It sounds as if the parenting regime was one of benign neglect, which is perhaps why all the Johnsons so crave attention now. “Our parents provided us with the essentials, then got on with their own lives,” is how she puts it. (Times on Rachel Johnson, June 2015)

Middle class neglect is always called “benign neglect”. There’s nothing benign about it.

It’s a Tory trope at the moment that children must be taught to “take responsibility”, otherwise they’ll grow up to be “victims”. Apparently there are no perpetrators, only people who think they are victims, when actually their plight is ENTIRELY their own fault. (If this is true, why aren’t assault victims prosecuted and sent to jail, while their attackers go free? And when someone breaks into your house and steals your stuff, why don’t you just turn yourself in?)

More here.

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