Having recently become a single parent if widespread opinion is to be believed, then my three kids are on a slippery slope towards wanton crime, educational underachievement, ASBOs and at least one teenage pregnancy. Personally, I hate these knee-jerk reactions that lump all single parents, young people or indeed whoever together as they are extremely dangerous. Unfortunately, it seems to be something that as a society we increasingly do.

Nonetheless, making the transition from ‘happy family’ (tongue placed firmly in cheek) to ‘single parent family’ does require support and so how misguided was I when I thought that I might get this from within my own family.

Thinking that two older, retired members of my family might offer some support and stability, I encouraged my kids to spend time with them following my marriage’s recent breakdown. Increasingly the kids went to their house, had dinner with them, helped them with chores, kept each other company and basically did what families used to do in the ‘Good Old Days’.

Then, quite out of the blue, my youngest daughter came home crying saying that she couldn’t go there anymore. Having asked why, she retold in gruelling detail a conversation that the couple had had with both her and her elder sister.

Outrageously, one of the couple had decided to tell my daughters about how they had recently discussed taking a ‘contract’ out on someone they had fallen out with. Having explained the ‘costs’ involved and how ‘they wouldn’t have been able to trace anything’ might have made avid viewing in the final episode of the ‘Sopranos’ – albeit rather less Mafia than Mitchell Brothers – but not over afternoon tea.

Seriously though, this made me wonder what on earth they were doing having thoughts like this, let alone voicing them to children. I also wondered what value they gave to life when they could even justify contemplating such things as a result of such a minor issue. What does it say about the world that they – and we – also live in? To use the old adage, you would think they were old enough to know better.

Having confronted them since, I was shocked to be told that I was over-reacting adding that I had always thought that I was right ever since I was a child. Much to their annoyance, I told them that there is a fine line between confidence and arrogance and I’m just very confident that I’m always right!!! Unsurprisingly, they haven’t spoken to me since.

Seeing my kids response, reassured me that they had the good sense to tell me straight away and the moral fibre to be genuinely appalled. Despite what society might think about young people – especially those not from idealistic ‘2.1 kid’ backgrounds – we shouldn’t always presume that they are inherently bad, troublesome or a scourge on society. Things are always far more complex where the mere number of years alive cannot be a marker against which your value – or lack of it – in society can be measured.

Given the increasingly ageing population in the UK, maybe then it’s about time that we began to re-think the phrase ‘help the aged’.


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