My stepchildren have now been here for four weeks. They are charming, sweet and I love them to bits. But they are also fairly useless around the house. It is only after four weeks that they have finally worked out one end of the dishwasher from the other. Yesterday I tried to teach Julia to iron. After ten minutes she, I and the poor unfortunate shirt lost the will to live.
The fact is that middle-class children in England today do about as much as Victorian children living in the colonies did.
The other day a friend of mine who lives in Sussex told me a story. Her fourteen-year-old daughter, who is at a local fee-paying school, brought a friend home to play. My friend’s husband was moving the lawn. Her daughter said hello to her step-father (like you would) and had a little chat.
“You’re very nice to your gardener,” commented her friend. Obviously one does not mow one’s lawn oneself.
Yesterday my in-laws took Hugo and Julia shopping for gym shoes. “What kind will you get?” Rupert asked Julia. “Tennis or gym or running?”
“Annabel has a different pair for everything,” replied Julia. Rupert asked Hugo why they expected to have a different pair of shoes for each occassion. “We’re middle class,” came the reply.
I can just imagine how hard Annabel’s poor father works to keep his family in trainers and gardeners (and before you call me sexist, being properly middle class her mother doesn’t work of course). As the writer Samuel Smiles said “Middle class people are apt to live up to their incomes, if not beyond them.”
Julia is off to Kenya on Wednesday and her main concern (aside from catching Malaria) is how hot it’s going to be.
“What were we doing aged 13,” I ranted to my husband last night. “Trying to avoid getting bashed and earning a crust washing cars or mucking out stables.”
But as we all know our children will never be impressed by how tough we had it. And nor will theirs be. But I dread to think just how spoiled they will be if the same pattern repeats itself for the next generation.
Copyright: Helena Frith Powell 2007