Jo Mueller investigates how parents could hold the key to tackling mental health stigma.
John McGowan considers the horrors of school sports day and suggests a surprisingly simple remedy.
The Big Alfie and Annie Rose Storybook ambushed me the other day. It was sitting in the window of a charity shop while I was on my way somewhere. Sentimentality can get you when you’re least expecting it, especially where the children’s author Shirley Hughes is concerned. One minute you’re thinking about what you need from the chemist, and the next about how long it was since you’ve read to your kids, and why the little pests have to grow up so quickly. But they’re off to chat to their mates online and don’t care that you are left clasping a book with a hopeful expression. It helps – a bit – to know that you’re far from the first to go down this road. Literature and modern culture abound with examples. From Peter Pan to Toy Story, it’s clear that leaving behind childish things can be painful; sometimes for the one growing up, but more often for those around them. Is it possible to watch Jessie the cowgirl being thrown out by her owner, without reaching for the tissues?
‘Daaaaaaad! You let Sam on the computer. IT’S NOT FAIR!’
So goes the soundtrack to the summer holidays. Rather than scrambling to put dinner on the table, get in the washing and manage my job (in half the usual time and without the aid of school) my top priority is to ensure parity between my children. How could I have possibly forgotten? There shouldn’t be a cigarette paper of difference in terms of equality; activities must be balanced for treat-magnitude with the judgement of Solomon. Other than of course the finely calibrated extra privileges that accrue to the my older one as a result of seniority and long service. Long service, you understand, consists of having been demanding for longer and it all counts in the great ledger that I clearly failed to check.
“Mum my, am I fat?” says my daughter, all of seven, regarding herself in the bath. She doesn’t know it yet but body fascism is my wife’s darkest fear. The thought of a little girl worrying about weight evokes a response like that of a vampire facing a crucifix or Lady Gaga being asked to wear a twinset.
“No darling you’re not, and it’s a silly thing to worry about”, my wife replies with admirable (though bogus) insouciance. After a couple of minutes of intense debate the crisis is over and worries about the Messages Kids Get Today are, at least temporarily, averted.