When I was teaching in America one of my students said to me, ‘I am a fucked-up kid who comes from a fucked-up family.’ So here is something for members of the American Family Association, Christian Voice, Cardinal Timothy Dalton and Mister Romney and others to ponder over for a while. It’s an English story but universal I guess. Fortunately it is a long long way from the horrors of India where babies, I suppose for some kind of crazy religious belief, ritually have boiling milk poured over them. But to the English story: A mother and step-father in Grimsby have been jailed for four and five years respectively for the treatment of their two sons. The defending solicitor pleaded mitigation saying, ‘It is not a case of sadistic brutality. It is a case of strict parenting going badly, dreadfully and seriously off-track. So then, just what did this strict off-track parenting consist of? The boys were kept locked in a bedroom for 23 hours a day, a rope was used to secure the door. Meals were totally inadequate. Lunch usually consisted of two slices of toast and the evening meal something like plain pasta with perhaps vegetables and marmite. Sometimes if they we’re in trouble they didn’t get any dinner at all. When social services eventually got around to rescuing them (it only took seven years) the younger boy, now aged seventeen weighed just five stone six pounds and the elder, aged nineteen, six stone. They were both so malnourished neither had gone through the normal physical changes of puberty. They were allowed one hot shower a week and in the bedroom they were expected to lie silently in bed like statues. They entertained themselves by creating fantasy games they carried out in whispers. The judge said the boys’ emotional well-being and physical health had been seriously damaged but he hoped they would recover from “their stolen childhood.”
The sad fact is that a great many people should simply not be allowed to bring kids into the world to end up as damaged goods. ‘I’m a fucked-up kid from a fucked-up family.’ Never a truer word was said.
It’s not that the problem goes unrecognised. The British Government has now spent £3.4million launching a website that gives tips on every aspect of child rearing. David Cameron said it’s ludicrous that people get more training in driving a car. What about all those well-meaning but ignorant or incompetent or inadequate mums who don’t have computers, how are they to get on? Well he has launched a raft of measures aimed at supporting families including free parenting classes and relationship support sessions (!) He rejected criticism that the government is interfering in family life, saying, ‘this is not the nanny-state – it’s the sensible state.’ The fact is there are many families that for various reasons are in dire need of being interfered with or sad to say there will simply be more kids who have their childhood stolen.