All aboard the Petits Filous Express!

stained glass childhood painting kite comic

I’m hardly ever taken in by, or even mildly impressed with people who wish they were children again- kicking in the dirt, running through fields! Certainly, they must come face to face with modern childrearing once a year, and view it as a perma-beaming, icecream-eating , Mary Poppins’ish stroll through existence!

 Kanchan Char eating apples
By Daniel Simm

For us, the “you’re-in-it-for-the-next-20-years” parents, the reality of growing children up is something else! Playdates and school projects, swimming lessons and dance performances! Baby Yoga and carve-your-own Babybels!

Sigh! Wipes Brow. Drinks Tea! If you’ve made it unscathed past your own ickle-years, that’s where you should stay. Period! I’m not saying that I totally  buy into the clichéd viral posts that go around social networking, harking back to the past, polishing the halos of those who grew up with no Health & Safety and no constant surveillance by any Big Brother. High on glucose, watching Tele simply for the sheer joy of entertainment! But – thinking back, those were days we weren’t meant to learn a thing from TV, apart from how to get away from a determined cat, who failed for most part, but whose strength lay in his sheer grit! TED tells me that that is the true recipe for success! Grit – the strength to persevere, something our time-poor, technologically savvy children are in desperate want of!

Ours were truly perilous times, I’m told!! I’m often reminded of L.P Hartley and his ‘The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there’ from the book The Go-Between! Worth mentioning here are the nondescript pervs who hung around school gates unmonitored, and ornate Victorian Gothic fencing around grassy schoolyards that ripped up a chubby arm sooner than one could say Jack Robinson! Whatever your stance, whether you be one of the oldies-were-goldies brigade or one who delights over the proficiency their toddler displays operating their newest Nintendo; you’d have to agree that childhood is a changing social phenomenon, and one of equally repeated enchantment and alarm!

I recently got into a conversation with my neighbour, newly moved in from the US and very homesick for Ziplock bags, Twinkies, family-sized refrigerators and PBS; who said that she felt obliged, in the spirit of good parenting (the type that settles for vegetable stamps over plastic, made-from-scratch over shop-bought) to watch Boomerang , one of our imported, prime-time children’s channels, in a bid to pre-empt the evils of advertising.

I’m probably a bit of a softie here, having worked in advertising myself, I’m just that little bit impervious to it’s insidiousness!  Of course I know that the power of marketing means that purchasing behavior moves from the realms of choice into coercion! Pfft, I know that, but however else would I know how to differentiate between toys that are worth the next spend and those that are truly naff?!

Speedily, I thought that I must —  if only for the true and just sake of keeping up with the Joneses, watch Boomerang with my own children! Wasn’t all a waste, almost every advert was about loans, insurance or finance. My children now know the jingles to Debtbusters Loans, Ocean Finance and Sheila’s Wheels, (hitting the spot with pretty ladies in pink, who also have the good sense of insuring their cars. A life lesson there!!) Ultimately, the worst being the AXA-Sunlife over 50’s plan (that’s a life insurance company, for those of you who’re spared British Television!!) So, there!

doll-5623_1920 Our parents- my parents, had it different, their goalposts were different, so were their victories! Their foibles, no less upsetting than ours! Studies show that the term “ experience teaches us” also means that our neural pathways repeatedly choose the choices we made that gave us our raisins, Penguin bars  or whatever else we deemed rewards. And that 30% of it has become instinctual, not always the most reiable, if you ask me :P.  Given a choice, we would look back to what we knew, had and enjoyed.  It is the only tangibility we truly know! Would I want to go back to it and watch two sets of cartoons twice a week? Probably not.  Do I remember it as a pretty, if palavering picture, drenched in honey – well, I’d have to if I was a normative, well adjusted adult!!

The children we now raise are probably the most victimized by our constant comparing and assessing. We must choose for them in accordance with their framework, and know that we run the risk – as did our parents before us, to go that little bit too far! I know I would’ve crossed that line when I add Oboe lessons to our growing pile!!! 😀 For now, I shall load up our car with Ballet shoes and Tap shoes, Orange juice –with the goodness of pips, all to the sound of Edith Piaf singing in rising crescendo about having no regrets!

We survived our childhood, I’ll let them survive theirs, bruised knees and scratched tablets! Given one possible intervention- I’d probably choose reinstating Pluto!!

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