Thursday, 5 February 2009


Blogland has been full of child related stories over the past couple of days; parents or grandparents looking back to when their children were small, and even one proud Grandpa displaying his brand new grandson for Blogland to share. I read also a heartrending saga of how a child adopted from China took time to trust her new, 'foreign' family.

Every single story brought home the fact that a child is one of the most precious things of which we will ever have custody. Unlike many animals, who even at birth can begin to fend for themselves in some way ( i.e. being able to run from predators within minutes of being born) children are totally dependent on those around them. But for how long? When should a child be considered independent?

I recorded an extremely interesting TV programme during the week, and watched in amazement as an experiment was carried out to determine the degree of independence that could be expected from children aged between approximately eight and twelve. Two groups of about eight girls and eight boys were taken to neighbouring 'villages' somewhere in rural England. In actual fact, I would say these were originally farms, with several cottages and outbuildings at each location, enough to house the crew filming the action, as well as all the children's parents who watched their offsprings' behaviour, once they were left alone.

The venue had a large barn which stored everything the children would need to survive for two weeks totally unsupervised by adults, though there were obviously carers who could intervene if needed. It was left to each group to help themselves to stores from this 'warehouse', from bedding, to food, to playthings, and to sort out who lived with whom in the cottages provided.

Immediately the boy/girl camps dispayed different attitudes. Boys dived on the sports equipment and water guns, while the girls honed in on the mattresses and bedding that would make the cottages comfortable.

It was 'Lord of the Flies' before your very eyes. Bossy children making life miserable for their quieter companions; sensible ones trying to give considered opinions, geared to the greater good of the group - and none of this was directly related to age. Some of the eight year olds were far more mature than their 'elders'.

Girls found a recipe book and managed to cook for their group, but the boys mostly ignored the kitchen until hunger pangs got too great - then one poor wee laddie who couldn't work out how to boil the kettle (!) made up a pot of snack noodles with cold water, in desperation. By the second day they were nearly all in tears.

I can't wait to watch the next instalment. I hope the parents watching on their remote TV screens, were suitable crestfallen to see how their lack in encouraging a degree of independence in their youngsters had created monsters, in the most part.

I shall now step down from my soapbox, to concentrate on the early days of life. I wrote this poem when my firstborn arrived , but it is so true of babies in general, I have no qualms in offering it to all parents in Blogland.

New Born

Tiny form sleeping, petal bloom skin
and hair of soft threads that a silkworm might spin,
yet spiky and ragged and soon to rub bare
in a spot at the back; fine thistledown hair.

Unfocused eyes of a dark, misted blue
(giving no hint of eventual hue)
survey the world calmly; opened at last
by hunger pangs measuring hours that passed.

Self is the centre round which life revolves
before learning begins and the person evolves
from that trusting bundle, full of warm milk
with questioning eyes and hair like spun silk.


  1. What a lovely poem. Really captures a newborn baby!

    I missed the programme unfortunately!

  2. "Unfocused eyes of a dark, misted blue" - gorgeous line.

  3. Somehow, although I know about it of course, I've missed both reading and seeing Lord of the Flies. Even when I was teaching English for a few years, it was part of one the the courses, just not in the courses that I taught. I wonder how the experiment would play out at different age groups. TG for civilization.

  4. Man, I'd love to see that show. I hopw it shows up on these shores. And fine poem, by the way.

  5. What Suldog said! Had a similar series here, but it was teen "couples" rearing a different aged person each week of the show, from infants to 90+ y.o.'s with physical problems. Eye-opening for the teens for sure. And didn't play well with some of their relationships. :)

    Loverly poem today, Missy.

  6. I think it is hard to bring up a child to be independent these days, Jinksy - when I think of the antics we got up to when we were children - and now if you take away computers and televisions many children don't know what to do with themselves. Times have changed so much that I don't think we can begin to understand what it is like to be a child today.

  7. First things first: Jinksy, your poem is beyond lovely! "..thistledown hair"; isn't it, though? Brings back memories of my babies.

    As to the "other thing": One Crabby Old Woman's Opinion(here follows a diatribe) --

    I'm not at all a fan of "reality" shows, and find the premise of the TV program a bit scary I'm definitely in favor of encouraging independence in children (which is sadly lacking in a many instances, the result, I fear, of parents being made to feel that they are failures at parenting if they require anything of their offspring, don't carry them around on a silver platter and fail to give them everything their little hearts desire), but this experiment may be taking things a bit far. While it might be a justifiable scientific experiment if conducted privately and under well-controlled conditions, making it "entertainment" for the masses I consider deplorable. Are the parents being paid to allow their children to partipate? Or, is the pride of being able to tell the neighbors that your child is on the telly worth more than the (should be) heartbreak of seeing them in tears of frustration? Has anyone stopped to think about the effect on the children themselves? I hope a psychologist is lurking in wings somewhere.

  8. Jinkster, I haven't seen the programme but heard of it - We all revert to type when left to our own devices it seems...

    By the way:
    "Tiny form sleeping, petal bloom skin
    and hair of soft threads that a silkworm might spin..." is as wondrous as a tender snowdrop!

  9. Pat - Yes, I certainly think there is a qualified back up team, and the parents themselves are on site, too. It is more a ducumentary, I would say - nothing like a 'reality Tv' show in the general sense of the word. They are not being filmed 24 hours a day, by any means. The only people with this 24 hr vision are the parents, and the children have access to them any time they ask. I think the programme has a very valid purpose.
    Already the mother of one of the boys has realised she has not been fair to her son, bringing him up to do nothing for himself, and indeed , she opted to take him home after the second day there, hopefuly to begin showing him how to be a little more self sufficient.
    I would class it as a 'fly on the wall' ducumentary.It is being conducted primarily as an experiment, to see how children behave once they are beyond the usual parental 'hands on' supervision. The children are not being exploited, simply being given the opportunity to see how well they can look after themselves in a day to day living situation.I should be very surprised if there weren't more than one psychologist hovering behind the scenes, as well as the parents. I'm sure they'd never have been allowed to put the series on theTV in the first place, otherwise.
    It will be interesting to see the outcome - I've heard no complaints in the press from concerned viewers so far, and I've just read an article in the Radio Times, which explains that all the children were assessed by a psychologist before they were allowed to join the experiment, and one was definitely on site the whole time. I consider it a valid, graphic way to bring to the attenton of parents just how unkind mollycoddling too much can be - a picture often speaks a thousand words...

    Thanks for the debate- it's all about what blogging should be!

  10. Thanks for your reply, Jinksy. I am comforted to learn that it is not an exploitative sort of program and there are some safeguards built in. Kudos to the mother that took her son out, though. I apologize for getting on a soapbox without knowing all the background. Gut reaction.

  11. Sounds a good program to watch, it'll show the parents what they will have to teach them.
    Love your poem too.

  12. Couldn't possibly comment on your post, don't know the show, really am not a baby-fan (yes I know, it's hard to believe, I'm a real woman and I don't like babies), but......CONGRATULATIONS on yet another award! Big smile! And Biggles sends you his love ;-)

  13. How to work the kettle?!! Are you crazy? I don't let my little guy touch the kettle.. oh wait. Mine's a wee bit younger.

    Okay, I'd predict that mine would go for the sports equipment too and not do anything about his tummy until he felt really hungry. However, I think he'd be a little sensitive to the others as well and would end up in a small group, trying to figure out something. Hmm. Maybe it's just wishful thinking on my part!


  14. P, this sounds so fascinating... what was the name of the programme? Because it takes a million years for stuff to percolate down here -- unless one finds it on some, er, handy spot on the internet. ;) And I'd love to see it.

    I'm really interested in this, having seen firsthand the difference between M, brought up in the city, and the friends she made in Canvastown, who were really pretty practical kids in lots of ways; and also how quickly she adapted and changed and learned to do things.

    Did you see the kerfuffle about the woman who let her nine and a half year old son ride the subway home in New York? Similar thing, interesting debate. You can see some of it here:

  15. WOW! We don't have tv here, so I don't watch anything at all (LOL! I just write!) But man, that's so sad that those children didn't even know how to cook. I'm grateful to say my kiddos that age, would be able to cope... I just hope I can keep it up with the next installment of kids I had. I Would be worried about my kids being with a group of bullies though.

  16. I heard about this show, but personally I don’t think I’ll be watching it because I’m struggling to fathom a reason about who this programme will benefit... apart from Channel 4 ratings.

    It’s on after the watershed so kids of a similar age won’t be able to watch it

    However good the intentions of the makers, when it comes to editing the footage, they’ll mostly magnify the melodramatic bits to keep the viewers glued. I guess you could say I’ve an issue with that channel’s “reality” output in recent years.

    I loved your poem though nonetheless. ;)

  17. The program hasn't reached us yet but we've seen a lot of criticism of it. As a social experiment it has worth, I'm sure, but several of the children seem to have been very upset and I wonder whether they were chosen because they were sensitive!!!Just to add drama!

  18. We had a program like that some time back. The children had an old Western town to themselves. It was pure exploitation. But that's American TV.

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  20. Oops - will try again - made so many mistakes in my first attempt!

    Sounds like an interesting programme. But not so sure I would ever let one of my children enter! If it is anything like some of the reality shows around these days there could be some exploitation of the children. Do you recall what it was called?

    Would be interesting to see if the farm raised children were more independent than city children.


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