This Tuesday, I took my children to our local country park. Unless it’s the sort of thing that requires Tesco vouchers (Longleat, Legoland…that sort of thing) it’s a rare day when they all want to do the same thing, but as a man they decided to see if the shelter we’d built last week was still there. The ranger had shown us how to do it. It had been a relaxed and fun affair that took hours.
Yesterday was more stressful because I was it for adult supervision. Yes, the den was there. Last week it had been a thing of beauty, but the foliage we’d used for waterproofing was now brown and a few areas of the roof were completely bare.
This time, the children decided to build an extension. I watched, torn between pride at the beauty of the thing and worry about the stability of such a grand structure. (The ranger will know it was me who let it happen, because she heard their grand plans.) Pretty sure the powers that be at Moors Valley won’t let it last the week.
Den-building is one of the fifty things the National Trust think you should do before you’re eleven and three quarters. When I first saw that list, it made me feel bad. Of course, I thought it was my failing it took the grandparents to find a hollow trunk for hiding or that they’d not yet built a campfire. Relative sanity now tells me I was a mother with four children under seven, and a husband that worked until midnight during the week. Now we’ve got rid of the buggy, and even the youngest has homing skills and some common sense, it’s amazing how many of those things they’ve done. And my eldest, isn’t quite twelve.
But as my children enjoy grand country estates and days Enid Blyton might have written about, albeit with the rest of the proletariat, I’ve worried about the line between innocence and entitlement. When do I make sure they know about Aleppo? Is it right or wrong to make them miserable when the only thing they can do is pray. How do I prepare them for an insecure world?
I don’t have the same unfettered access, but Diana, Princess of Wales apparently took her children to homeless shelters to help them understand their privilege. I like what I see of those boys now. That seems inspired to me.
Maybe, it’s about protecting them not from the truth, but overwhelming helplessness. Blue Peter told me in abbreviated terms about Pol Pot and Cambodia, but they also encouraged bring and buy sales to raise money for medical bicycles. Maybe it’s about teaching them how to react to other people’s pain.