I left home this morning to drive to Manchester – a day of catch ups and work with my Lexington North colleagues. Not for the first time I was perplexed by what I saw on the way.
I drove along the main road – Waterloo – that runs from outside Royal Birkdale Golf Club down to the roundabout with the golf ball on a tee – yes, we are that obsessed with golf down my way that we have golf balls as roundabout art. The weather was dreadful; teeming rain and dark clouds – it had been raining heavily since long before 6am.
At either end of the road are the two large local secondary schools – one for girls, one for boys. The pavements were therefore packed with eager youngsters making their way to school and parents dropping off their precious bundles for a day at the school house. What perplexed me – something I have seen doing this drive many times before – was the total absence – baring one or two isolated examples – of coats and umbrellas, despite the awful weather. Groups of children after groups of children walking like drowned rats on the way to school. Wet hair. Soaking clothes. Drenched feet. Surely this is not a great start to their day.
Why did it bother me so much? Partly it was the daftness of the whole thing; why go out in the rain without an umbrella, coat or hood? But secondly, and most critically, it got me thinking about my own daughter – some way off walking to secondary school I hasten to add – and that deep sense of responsibility one feels for her every movement, health and wellbeing. Why did these children’s parents send them out this morning without anything to shelter them from the elements? Where was the “don’t forget your coat?” or the “take this umbrella here, it’s pouring down”?
I know there is value is promoting independence in your children and one should try to resist the temptation to smoother or overly-mother them to the point of producing helpless and totally dependant offsprings who can’t take care of themselves but surely keeping them dry and warm – fundamentals of life along with water, fresh air and wi-fi – is not going too far. It got me reflecting on how Mrs J and I care for Miss J and how our parents cared for us.
As I’ve got the hang of this parenting lark my respect for my parent’s fussing – have you got your coat, bag etc – has increased exponentially. I know now why my Mum was constantly looking worried when I left the house as a child and still couldn’t rest until I came in from a night out as a grown man. It was once said of her that she wouldn’t let the wind blow on me as a child. I now know that feeling – deep in the pit of your stomach – when you are sending your precious cargo out into the world – for us it could just be letting her go out in the garden or to nursery for a few hours. It is the feeling that comes from the cavernous, unconditional, lifelong love that you feel for them. The love you could only have for a child that you have made and you feel 100% responsible for.
I’m not saying the parents of my morning drive-by judging don’t love their children. I’m not calling them bad parents. I’m not saying I am better than them. I am just saying that what I saw this morning doesn’t work for me. If I’m honest, the sight of the bedraggled children made me more than a little sad.
I know an umbrella won’t shield Miss J from all the ills and dangers of the world, but it would at least keep the rain off her head as she walked to school. It would protect her a little. It would make her feel safer. That feels like the very least we can do.
The image is taken from Independent Liverpool – it highlights the ongoing stunning art installation near Bluecoat in Liverpool which aims to raise awareness of ADHD and autism.