A well-trodden public footpath over the Oxfordshire fields, a beautiful Spring morning, a pre-schooler and a dog. The day couldn’t really have started any better. We had made the school run in time (shock horror) and the smallest one was so enthralled by the hundreds of Dandelion clocks that she wasn’t complaining about tired legs or boredom. I really didn’t expect a blog post to come out of it.
A large percentage of my blogs come from a seemingly harmless remark, or gesture, that leaves me reeling. Writing is my form of therapy. If something goes wrong, or I need to vent, I will pick up a notebook, or laptop, and type away until I feel it lift from my chest. I didn’t know it, but one of these seemingly harmless remarks was waiting for me at the top of the hill, in the form of a middle-aged gent and his collie.
‘So, what do you make of this then?’ He gestures to a spot in the distance. Below us is the historic Cotswold town we call home, picture honey coloured stone, lush green trees and bright yellow rapeseed fields spanning to the horizon. To our left is the subject of his enquiry and what can only be described as a ‘sore thumb’. The thumb in question is an incredibly large, new build, bright white… for want of a better word… mansion. There is no ‘blending into the environment’ or ‘taking into considering local planning constraints’ that I so often write about for my architect husband. In fact, the long-suffering architect husband has no idea how the building even gained planning. However, I am ever the pacifist and, highly aware that we live in a small town and word travels fast, I am diplomatic in my response.
‘Well, I bet the view is stunning from up there.’
‘Oh yes, I’m sure it is, but what do you really think?’
‘Honestly? It isn’t my cup of tea.’
‘Yes, I agree, I prefer the older style homes myself.’
‘Me too, but you know what, my eldest daughter adores it.’
‘Oh? And how old is she?’
‘Oh well, her opinion doesn’t count then does it.’
Her opinion doesn’t count. I didn’t like the remark to begin with. But I was sadly, very British in my response. I stammered ‘oh I don’t know,’ or something to that effect, said a cheerful farewell and we continued our stroll. But, how is that right? My youngest daughter stood beside me while a stranger insinuated that her sister’s opinions didn’t matter, that they don’t count. She also witnessed her own Mother, too afraid to come across as a first-class bitch, or an overbearing parent, to someone she will probably never see again, to stand up for her daughter’s thoughts. Why doesn’t it count, because she is only eight, or a girl, or because the man classed her opinion as wrong? What was my four-year-old thinking in retaliation?
In truth, she went on picking her dandelion clocks and, I think, was wholly unaffected by the minor comment, which I know was said without intent. But that’s just it, so many comments are made without intent and not thought through. Sure, my kids don’t have the life experience I do. Sometimes their opinions can’t be justified because of that lack of experience and that is something they learn themselves through the situation, but when it comes to liking something, or wanting to do something, it still counts. If we want the next generation to grow up with confidence, to be sure of themselves, as strong future leaders, we need to instil their importance now. Let our children know they belong in this world just as much as the grown-ups and let them see that their parents are just as willing to stand up for them as they should be prepared to do for themselves, no matter what others may think. They are our future, let them see that they count.