My son’s first reaction on hearing there was going to be an election was “You don’t like elections do you Mum? You never win”
And it’s true. He’s only 8 and the past 2 years have seen an obscenely swift succession of disappointing results.
The day after the Brexit result we had a family outing to the Black Country Museum, which was coloured largely by my husband’s constant refrain of ‘Welcome to your future, boys’ as we looked around the tiny houses and the workshop where they make nails. They were late for school so they could watch Donald Trump’s acceptance speech, whilst I tried not to cry or swear, or both.
Things haven’t got any better since the New Year, and they are often to be found, actually I have no idea what they’re doing, whilst my husband and I show each other articles on Twitter or shout at the radio. Breakfast is accompanied by John Humphries rather than Nick Grimshaw, with exasperated harrumphing on backing vocals. Last week I made them turn off CBBC so we could watch the Leaders Debate, or they could go to bed.
Son1 is 11 and suitably interested – mainly as an excuse to stay up, and asks questions, mainly about whether I like someone or not, and what my reasons are. He liked the look of Jeremy Corbyn and thought he seemed kind.
I wonder whether this is doing my children any good at all, whether they should be exposed to. There’s so much anger in the news, from all sides and it just makes us angry too. Are we just exposing them to frustration, and exasperation and misery which they don’t really need?
We spend our lives teaching them to be kind to each other, to be kind to others both less and more fortunate, but then seem to spend an awful lot of time discussing just how unfair and unkind the world really is. Maybe they don’t need to know.
I’m not sure it makes us pleasant parents. We’re just very cross about everything, or clutching metaphorical pearls about what David Davis has come out with now. I tried telling my children that they must not call each other stupid or idiots a few weeks ago. “You say that about Nigel Farage all the time – and Daddy swears” It’s a fair cop, Gov.
It’s hard to teach them that cheats never prosper, that being kind and charming will get you further in life than being mean, and then they see the most powerful position in the world occupied by an angry Wotsit who struggles with basic speech. It’s difficult to tell them that bullies will never win in the end when Boris Johnson is Foreign Secretary. I struggle to look them in the eye and tell them if they work hard, and are good people, then life will be fine – because, well Jeremy Hunt.
Maybe a news blackout and wall to wall Britain’s Got Talent would be better for them in the long run.
We’re not a religious family, and I’ve always gone along with the whole ‘they can decide for themselves when they’re older’ kind of thing. I suppose some families take that attitude towards politics, and just never talk about it, or aren’t really that bothered. I can’t imagine a household where that happens though, and I also can’t imagine my children having different political views to me, although they will. My husband said earlier, when we were discussing who to vote for “don’t let me influence how you vote” to which my only reply could be “it’s a bit late for that, before I met you I was a Tory!”
What happens if my children go off into the world and go the other way? Son1 will do it just to annoy me, and probably become a vicar to boot. This Daily Mash article was not too far off the money.
But no – on the whole, I think it’s OK. The often reported levels of political apathy amongst the young will not happen to my children, not on my watch. I will continue to try to explain complicated things to them, only for them to get bored and wander off half way through. And we’ll continue to discuss what is right, and fair, and decent. One day, they will start answering back, just as I did to my Dad, but at least they will know that it’s something worth thinking about. They won’t look back and think that we were never bothered. And if nothing else they’ll grow up believing that voting is not optional.
But we’re all tired, and we all need a bit of a rest.
I promise boys, after tomorrow, oh alright maybe Friday, we’ll turn Twitter off, cancel the wifi and the papers and try to talk about something else for a while – but your Dad still won’t let you watch Britain’s Got Talent.