Since my kids have been born there has been a huge political and social swing to the right. The easy examples to point at are Brexit, the Conservatives in general and of course the great orange blimp that is Trump but other examples are happening across the globe.
It’s 2019 and it is still apparently other people’s business if a woman chooses to have an abortion, it’s still a talking point when any representation of the LGBTQ+ community is made in the mainstream media and even after the BANKING crisis of 2007 we’re still led to blame the poor parts of society for our plights rather than the elite. How could I in good conscience have brought kids into a world like this? How have we not learnt from the mistakes of our past? How can we raise our kids to be liberal when the wider world seems to be rejecting those values?
As a parent we can never do anything right. We won’t feed them the right foods, we’ll not give them the right stimulation at home to turn them into the next lot of geniuses and we’ll probably at some point bang their head on the car door which as we all know is the ultimate example of our inability to raise children. However, despite knowing that society will deem me a failure as a parent I continue to try and do my best to raise my kids in a way that will hopefully lead them on path of kindness and compassion for their fellow humans (and animals). A big part of this was ensuring that my kids went to a school with kids from a range of backgrounds. I love that when Rufus started in Reception there were kids that didn’t speak a word of English yet, kids that attended religious services, kids that were being raised in families that looked different to ours. It’s such a mixed bag of people that my kids will grow up with and consider normal. My kids think it’s normal to see two dads dropping their daughter off at school and the diversity in communication skills has never impeded their ability to play with all their peers equally. This past term Rufus has been learning about Islam and the conversations this has started over dinner, have been incredibly interesting and beautiful. To see my son so incredibly interested to learn about, not only a religion, but also culture that is often villainised here in the UK, is incredible. He even asked if we could become Muslim but I think that was more to do with celebrating Eid and getting the day off school. Children really are innocent and beautiful because until we, and by that I mean the entire adult society, put our ideas on them, they just see other kids as potential friends.
Since having my kids not only has the political landscape changed, I’ve changed. I always had strong beliefs but now, instead of just ranting to Nick, or sharing the odd post on social media – I’m now taking action. I’ve started having lively ‘debates’ with people who I actively disagree with, I’ve started involving myself when I see people mis-treating others and I have also started to try and pre-empt situations by being more positive. If I see someone who looks like they’re having a bad day I’ll offer them a tissue, a hug and someone to talk to. I have had some of the best conversations with people who looked like they just needed a cry and I took the time to ask if they were ok. I have shouted ‘happy birthday’ to the school kids wearing their birthday badges on the way to school. I try to say ‘hello’ to every mum and child I see on the way to school and always stop to chat with them if I see them elsewhere. I think small actions like this aren’t going to change world, but they can improve someone’s day. In this world where it can seem pretty dark sometimes and definitely very lonely – to know that you have been seen by someone, and that someone cares, can be the greatest thing. And with any luck, the people I smile at will smile at someone else, improve their day and we can all start to feel a bit better.
I try to do all of this with my kids with me, so they can see the difference a friendly smile and interaction can make. The other day, Eloise saw a girl crying in the park and she went over to her, invited her to play together and the girl stopped crying. It was a great moment to see my strong, confident girl using her powers for good.
If we really don’t want to repeat the mistakes of our past we need to keep this innocence of our children. We need to make them the beacon of hope as we move forward, let them show us how to treat others because from what I can see, they are more loving, accepting and embracing of everyone than any adult I have ever known. We should encourage our kids to be the superheroes this world needs and right the wrongs of our past.