Monday, October 31, 2011

Britain's middle-class children are so privileged – and so neglected

All evidence suggests that time-deprived, well-off professional parents are inventing a new kind of child poverty.

In the compellingly horrible new film, We Need To Talk About Kevin, a woman schedules some bonding time with her son. Eva, a thwarted adventurer chained to her home by motherhood, takes her teenager to a fancy restaurant. She hopes to engage him in a friendly, birds-and-the-bees conversation, but 15-year-old Kevin sees it coming and lays bare her maternal concern – or lack of it - with a jeering, foul-mouthed tirade that will freeze the ovaries of every mother cowering in the stalls. The movie, which ends with dear Kevin locking his classmates in the school gym and using them for target practice, shoots a lethal arrow into the modern myth of Quality Time – the busy person’s substitute for loving your child.

I will spare you the rest of the gory details. But I should say I simply couldn’t believe Lionel Shriver’s chilly bestseller on which the film is based. Hailed as a searing examination of a woman whose hatred of motherhood may have begotten a psychopath-in-waiting, what the novel laid bare for me was its childless author’s dread of children. Nevertheless, the story struck a nerve because it came out at a time when Western adults seemed to be losing the plot of parenting. For the first time in human history, parents were more likely to be scared of their children than the other way round. more