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
It’s very easy. You just tell them(the children) that when they grow up they can buy whatever they want with their own money.Their only chance is to get a good education and a well paid job, or marry into it. Our generation are very good at spending. Isn’t that what we are all trying to do paying these enormous schoolfees?
Does the gardeners name begin with a D?
Let’s just hope the middle class will not survive very long as they are not very practical or useful to anybody!
Good plan, and yes, it does!
Wow… striking description!
I believe managing one’s own money from an early stage is crucial for not getting too spoiled.
How’s this for pomposity?
It really depends on what values parents instill in their children from a fairly early age does it not?
I’ve had children with birthdays over a period of 33 years – children don’t change, attitudes do, a little.
Nowadays there is much more competition. Parents paying such huge sums for private education can be very demanding on the schools and, at the same time, manage to convince their children that they may be more special than they actually are, rather than just very lucky.
The middle classes, supposedly the back bone of a country, can be very trying can they not? We must just live with them and their little ways. They may learn in time, and with a little help, what real values mean.
I’m sure HFP will not have too much trouble with her lot. Arturo.
it seems to me that you excpect to much from your step children, i have 4 children and they rarley do anything around the house, but that is what its like in England these days…times have changed, maybe if you expected a bit less that would give a bit more.
I agree with Nigel completely on this subject. It is true that nowadays children do not work as much as we used top but thats just tough isnt it? how much work does each of them do? your stepson seems a nice chap i think that you are probably over exeaggerating on how much he does. but yes if you expect less from them. Write back.
What’s going on here then? Have you all gone mad? If you expect nothing you will get more??? Picking up a towel off the floor after having a shower or putting your clothes on a chair rather than the floor is hardly to be described as work, is it? We all have to learn to look after ourselves and our immediate environment, otherwise I pity the person who is going to live with these children as adults. Times have not changed that much and children know that keeping up a certain standard is actually good for them. To have a parent who have certain reasonable demands means having a parent who actually cares.