(Note: I am writing this with good self esteem; according to Rosenberg’s scale referred to in this programme I score 25/30, which is at the high end of normal. I also wear make-up and I have a healthy relationship with my mobile phone. I do not do fake tan).
Make my kids happy. Seriously – what have we come to when this is the title of a mainstream, prime time TV programme? Is it now beyond the reaches of parents and children to figure out what makes them happy – hold onto your hats – by themselves?
When it comes to the profound issue of achieving wellbeing, I fail to see why trivialities such as make up, mobile phones, clothes and "bling" are actually the issues upon which professionals and the individuals they are “treating” focus all of their energies.
I certainly don’t understand why the supposedly problematic use of any of these items should be causally linked to a specific age range. If you hide behind a thick mask of make-up because you hate your face, then it’s a problem whether you’re 14 or 40. If you prioritise your mobile phone over everything else in your life, then it’s irrelevant whether you’re a paper boy or a banker. If you think that the only way to gain acceptance, love and affection is to show your knickers, then does it really matter whether you’re in school or down the local pub?
In the light of reports such as the Good Childhood Inquiry, I am getting bored of do-gooders harping on about children being allowed to “enjoy their childhood” as though “childhood” is an indisputable fact. Why can’t people (children included) be left to simply get on with enjoying their lives, free from such arbitrary and culturally defined concepts?
Childhood as a golden age of innocence, a clearly defined period of time through which each child develops at an identical, “age-appropriate” rate does not exist. It never has. Children are human beings with as much potential and as many imperfections as adults. They are not some kind of homogeneous or holy sub-species.
Problems arise when one attempts to make real people fit into such theoretical models*. Unfortunately, rather than recognising that such problems are of one’s own making, the general approach is to take the problems as evidence of one’s original hypothesis –in this case that the young people of today are quite obviously ruined by the trappings of modern life, and that their lives will only ever be greatly enhanced without them.
A pass-the-buck culture that enables the very existence of such a programme as “Make my kids happy” contributes far more to the ruination of young people than the mere existence of lipstick or iPhones. The helpless parents, the image-obsessed teens, the obligatory psychologist (wearing make-up, it must be noted) advocating compulsory volunteering – is this really an accurate reflection of life today, or just gratuitous Daily Mail viewing?
Here’s an idea. You want young people to learn about the important things in life? Lead by what you believe to be the best possible example. You think that caring more about the inside than the outside is important? Show it. You think that volunteering is important and pleasurable? Do it. You think that being respectful and caring is important? Be those things. Consistently. Because you mean it.
And then, I say to all of those young people: have your fake tan, have your make-up, have your mobile phone, have your “bling” – if you still want those things. I’ll warrant that, if you see real values enshrined in those around you, and if are encouraged to know yourself deeply, rather than be made to subscribe to someone else’s myopic construct of you, you will absolutely make the right decision - for you.
* Here's an example: take an artificial construct such as "childhood", make it tangible through emotive language, action and legislation, deem it untouchable and protect it at all costs, regardless of the consequences. Then combine with a concept such as entitlement to equal human rights and watch the fallout, entirely of your own making.