, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,


Who pandered to her every need?
Who turned her into such a brat?
Who are the culprits? Who did that?
The guilty ones now this is sad
Dear Old Mum and Loving Dad

Is the quality of contemporary parental love destined to go down the garbage chute quickly followed by the children it breeds?

Is the structure on which it is founded becoming increasingly fragile, facile and unsustainable?

Or will our children or grandchildren eventually just turn against us; crippled by their disappointments, and their inability to repeat or recreate the same or a greater quality of life for their own.

We already know that this is the first generation in recorded history that will be passing down a diminished quality of life to their children by our current measures of prosperity.

This question of whether parental love in its current form is unsustainable first raised itself whilst I was trying to assess and deconstruct the current model of prosperity we currently embrace and pursue.

(Let’s face it, for some the highway commercial robbery of Valentines Day, the poisonous barometer of the Tiffany box, Gypsy Weddings and the reoccurring arrival of Kim Kardashian’s latest ‘one and only love’ has firmly flushed the romantic model down the spiritual khazi already)

The exercise in deconstructing prosperity is a major part of a larger one I am undertaking as part of my ongoing involvement with the Dream In A Box initiative and its UK Dream iteration – which in particular terms seeks to Re-imagine the UK model of Prosperity through the transformation of what constitutes a desirous life.

On closer inspection (hardy surprising) it seems that a large part of what makes up our current model of prosperity lies in how we imagine, perceive, measure, pursue, and demonstrate ‘love’ and attachment: to friends, family, prospective partners, spouses and most pointedly our children.

There is no greater demonstration of loving provision and the profound contract of human care it seems than that hosted within the living bond between parents and their children.

But what was once only noted and measured in mostly invisible and passing terms – the degree to which we throw money at our children’s happiness – now seems to be worn like a badge of honour by everyone from the cord-breeched pseudo-toff urban preppy and the polo-shirt & chino mini-mes of the suburbs to the highly singular estate-inhabiting parent with a Burberry buggy.

The integrity of our attendance to our children’s needs and the strength of the love we hold for them now lies in the measure of its social visibility and worth.

We must be ‘seen’ to gladly or otherwise use every scrap of ‘cheap’ money we can get our hands on to further facilitate our children’s ability to hover above the ugly brutal truths of life.

Increasingly our ‘love’ seems to be wholly predicated on the scale of our investment: and not of the balanced, grounding, attentive, affectionate kind.

It would seem that it is wholly acceptable these days for a child to be intellectually stupefied, emotionally ignored, set aside and abandoned or passed over to some one or some thing – a digital device usually or perhaps a new pair of trainers – as long as the parent can be seen to have ‘invested’ at every turn.

From the designer baby clothes they learn to stand up in, to the grotesque and engorging hoards of seasonal gifts they now receive (from skip loads of Easter Chocolate to mountains of Christmas presents) and the increasing quantity of kit they now require to ensure they’re not seen as ‘going without’ – phones tablets game consoles to name a few – the scale of society’s expenditure on the presentation of the ‘loved child’ is staggering.

This is not reserved solely for the ‘kit’ we deck them out with. It seems to infect every corner of the family model for what constitutes a thriving life.

Another hellish tyranny of loving provision embedded in our current model of prosperity is the family holiday.

Even as I typed the words ‘family holiday’ I was suddenly washed in a sun drenched, lens flared, refracted moment of azure blue sky and crystal water splashes; stress free parents and laughing children perfectly framed against a distant white villa horizon speckled and coloured with the lobster clawed, 3 types of fish, pasta, pizza and west Indian slash Asian slash Mediterranean slash Tex Mex slash barbecue buffet.

The tyranny I refer to has nothing to do with the usual clichéd hooting and wailing you hear from many modern parents about the prospect of 2 weeks locked together in some slightly disappointing family resort.

(On that particular matter it will be music to the ears of every emotionally challenged and ‘highly individual’ parent to know that there are now two good reasons as to why that tyranny will quickly become a faint memory. Firstly we are seeing (so the people watchers tell us) that the 2 week block summer holiday meticulously planned and desperately undertaken is in its death throes in the more advanced mature economies. We are taking more and shorter and more impulsive holidays (with all that extra money we all have!!!) And secondly booking.com is chirpily telling any member of the aspirational mobile middle classes who wants to listen that never again will they have to booking arrive to find themselves trapped in some booking desperate, substandard hell-hole with a pool surrounded by drawn-on people and a dodgy booking breakfast buffet – as long as they book with booking dot com that is.)

Given the tsunami of availability and astonishing social pressure to just say yes to everything, it is no surprise that we’re running up a credit-card based personal debt mountain bearing a striking similarity to a Himalayan range built out of bullion and gemstones.

If a family doesn’t get to go on an all you can consume holiday plus a few weekends away and a second holiday thrown in, then they’re not cutting it. That a family with a annual family income of circa £30-40K quietly expects itself to demonstrate its loving provision through multiple holidays abroad is both financially unsustainable and morally questionable.

Education is another ugly social battleground on which ‘love of the child’ is undertaken with everything but balance. True this is a more particular and less universal truth – something usually set aside by the worthy as a First World problem.

It is of course driven by the clawing desperation of the upwardly aspirational middle-middle classes*, (the downwardly aspirational Toffs and upper-middles being otherwise healthily engaged in a swaggering mockney-gangsta walk through White City, Hoxton, Deptford, and the arse-end of Tooting).

These parents are not the first generation to have realised that the route to securing an improving prosperity for your child is a decent education.

The role of education (and skiing holidays for that matter) in social aggrandisement is not new. Parents with a particular predilection for elevating their own narrow lives on the back of the tiniest increment of superiority have been judging their dinner party neighbour by the scale of their educational investment for many decades. But they were (and still are) of a particular rare breed, reasonably cloaked and easily ignored.

What’s particular in the new trend is the frenzy with which the greater majority pursue this madness in the blinding glare of the social spotlight.

Over subscribed schools, post code hopping parents, dodgy intake policies and the see sawing fashion for Public versus independent versus Free versus State versus ‘who said Grammar? I didn’t say Grammar?!’ schools certainly has a lot to answer for.

But that’s still no excuse for the lack of human elegance, the vacuum of discretion, and the gaping hole that seems to have opened up in their ability to circumnavigate the sensitivities of others.

They take a bludgeoning approach to improving the child that is conspicuous by its conspicuity – gratuitous over expectation, intellectual bullying, litanies of after school clubs, multiple tutors, competitive schooling and the most insidious social engineering are all worn in public like a beacon.

Educational trends currently also raise some rather interesting existential questions – of the ‘life-imitating-art-imitating-life’ kind.

The recent Disney-fication of boarding school culture via one small wizard and a place called Hogwarts has had a large number of parents who can ill afford it sending their little darlings to prep and boarding schools ‘because the child demands it’. There’s only so long you can get away with stuffing the fees on a credit card until the house of plastic cards collapses. And love is rarely proven resilient by the relentless use of the word ‘yes’. But that is how society seems to be shaping the model of demonstrable love in a prosperous life. If the child demands it – the loving parent must give it: and blatantly.

For me these are reasonable examples of how warped I believe our sense of how we demonstrate love for the child has become, and evidence of a toxic model of prosperity.

If one takes these lite examples and generously sprinkles them with tons of over packaged brightly coloured and quickly discarded plastic, £400 bikes, theme parks, and mountains of cheap cotton basics with pointless groovy graphics, the landscape of parental love, certainly that currently exercised by the average emerged economy parent, is looking sparkly, cluttered and bleak, and ultimately unsustainable in so many ways.

Is this love of ours Tainted. Maybe. Is it Human. Very.

Is this progress? Perhaps. Or is this simply the gene pool opportunistically wrapping its progeny in as much as it can get its hands on before the moment passes. Most likely.

Regardless. Navigating the modern world and the byways of fruitful love, especially that which we feel and demonstrate for our children, was never going to be easy or simple.

But re-imagination of the model of prosperity we base our life, love and dreams on: one which holds greater store by that which cannot be bought might give us a few more compass points along the way.

It may well also help clear up some of the side issues: like the increasing population of staggeringly spoilt, increasingly sociopathic children… oh and that of personal bankruptcy of course, and a sparsely furnished dotage.

So, veruka cream anyone?


*the middle middle classes are how I refer to a very active, vocal and seemingly forever squeezed section of the British population. They are, in class terms what Mickey Flannagan’s ‘out out‘ is to going out.