Friday, December 22, 2006

Children and adults: sworn enemies

Yesterday morning, a visiting teenager was with us, facing one of our esteemed elderly relatives. She's an adult: a kindly, friendly, but elderly adult, so he had nothing to say to her. This teenager has plenty to say to other teenagers and children, whether he knows them or not - I know because I've heard with my own ears - but sat and looked blankly at this adult, making no attempt to say anything at all. For over an hour. Our relative can't help being an adult; it comes to us all. But she was blanked and ignored on the grounds of her age only. If she had been 14 instead of 72 she would have been included in the conversation by him and entertained.

In the afternoon we went to the park. There was a crowd of older children, 10-11 year olds I think, who looked like they'd just finished school early for the Christmas holidays. They saw me - an adult - approaching and quickly and audibly arranged somewhere else to go instead. Within 10 seconds before they'd even looked at my face properly or heard my voice, they'd all gone. It was blatantly obvious that they'd only left the park because they couldn't relax and have fun in the company of an adult.

Early evening found us in a busy cafe, on a table surrounded by other tables with families and young children. We were happy with our drinks and snacks and a new Disney magazine to read but Lyddie struggled to hear me reading the stories to her. All we could hear from the other families was:

"Sit up straight."

"Don't slurp your drink."

"Behave yourself."

"Oh look, now you've spilt it. You're so stupid."

"No you can't have a toy. You're not having anything."

"Get your homework out and get it done."

"Stop running around."

"You're not having crisps, you've just had your tea."

"Stop kicking your legs."

And more and more and more, like a nightmare going on around us. Suddenly the earlier two incidents made perfect sense to me.

Today's adults here in the UK mostly see all children as being the Problem, to be manipulated and controlled, mistrusted and somehow made to behave itself. Today's children mostly see all adults as being the Enemy, to be ignored and avoided at all costs.

All the children involved in the above events (except Lyddie of course) go to school. I know this because, even if I didn't know them, they were wearing school uniforms.

What happens when they reach 18? This is what I fell to wondering last night. Do they go to bed on the eve of their 18th birthdays on one side of The Great Divide and wake up on the other?


Blogger Nic said...

I was explaining to someone the other day that in never having been 'taught' that adults are a different species to them my children seem blissfully unaware of it. They are also pretty ignorant of gender and ages of other children barriers too.
It does seem to be a very weird concept for people to grasp (and actually I confess to sometimes panicking in the company of children I don't know far more than in the company of adults I don't know, but I think that is more to do with the look of suspicion on their faces than anything else!).

10:38 am, December 22, 2006  
Blogger Gill said...

I think my children are like yours in that way Nic - we did go through a phase in the couple of years they were at school when they were quite anti-adult, but that seems to have passed now and Lyddie's showing no signs of it, thank goodness.

I felt really bad when the older children left the park yesterday. It was horrible to be so obviously avoided just because of my age.

11:02 am, December 22, 2006  
Blogger HelenHaricot said...

It can't just be school though . I went to school and always felt I had more in common with adults than children [ a natural odd child out me!]
But I do think home ed encourages parents and children to interact as they are 'meant too' [ifswim - as friends/family sometimes working together, sometimes not! but always having to reach compromise]
Mind you, I am afraid we do have restaurant behaviour code!! so SB isn't wild just beacuse she is excited - so I guess you might occasioanlly here me doing the sit up bit - though I would hope a lot of other conversationw oudl ahppen as well.
rofl at Nic and her child phobia though. SB loves you!
Although I don't think I am dyslexic, I find these letter word verification things a total nigtmare. it usually takes 3 goes to get it right with concentrating

12:04 pm, December 22, 2006  
Blogger Gill said...

Hi Helen, no I don't think it's just school. I think it goes a lot deeper than that, down to the prevailing attitude we seem to have that children are hard work, unpredictable people who won't behave well unless constantly put right.

Many of us know that's not true but I think you have to spend a LOT of time with your child to buck the trend and develop trust that the child doesn't need constant admonishment.

I don't think 6 hours' a day compulsory school attendance away from parents helps that trust to develop on either side, but it doesn't necessarily cause the problem on its own.

Some of the children I see in school uniforms looks so *young* now, too! Much younger than Lyddie and she's only 4.

If parents and young children spend their day separated, its fairly inevitable there are going to be readjustment difficulties when they get together at the end of the day.

1:05 pm, December 22, 2006  
Blogger Allie said...

I've seen school uniform clothes in age two to three! Pretty soon they'll have babygro uniform, I reckon.

I think we, as a nation, are very tense in restaurants - and I include myself in that. In other countries people seem to see the whole experience as a relaxing family time - but I think that most people in this country feel like they're on show and have to behave well or they'll be in trouble. I think that makes people picky with their children.

We certainly noticed that P was much more confident around other adults after she came out of school.

2:53 pm, December 22, 2006  
Blogger Gill said...

Ugh, babygro uniform - there's a private school near us which has a nursery attached, so I won't say that too loudly! :(

Yes I agree we generally seem to want our children to behave and be quiet in public indoor eating areas for fear of criticism from other people.

I also know people who say: "I don't want to go out to eat/drink where there are children running around," and they sound disgusted when they say the word children, as if they were talking about rats.

Yes when I've eaten out in other countries (France, Holland, Greece, Portugal, Spain) there wasn't this kind of uptight attitude from parents or other restaurant users.

5:31 pm, December 22, 2006  
Blogger Nic said...

I wonder if the whole 'children should be seen and not heard' was a primarily British thing way back when? I agree that in many other countries the company of children in places like restuarants is very much enjoyed and indulged.

We do almost all our socialising as a family, with other families. We have had several big parties in the last year which many HE friends have attended, and been to several more. It was a very obvious divide at the last one when the one schooled friend came along and dropped her daughter off while all the HE parents stuck around and enjoyed the party. The same thing happened at a party in the Summer - it felt like a party for everyone, adults included, rather than a party for children with a few attending adults to provide childcare and supervision.

And Helen, lol, I know, I appear to have acquired 'interesting' status to many children and often find them climbing on my lap or bringing me books to read them. My Dad always said if you wanted to make yourself attractive to children and animals you should ignore them! But I think it might be more to do with talking to them as people and NEVER asking them questions like 'so how is school then?' lol

9:43 am, December 23, 2006  

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