Vir Cantium

I'm right, you know …

Category Archives: Family

Outside the Bubble

So this year, for the first time since 2002, I am not at the party conference. No, it’s not a loss of faith in David Cameron or the Conservative ideals; rather I felt that leaving Mrs C home alone with a teething five month old and a toddler now into the “terrible twos” was probably pushing my party allegiance a bit too far.

Of course, not being at conference does not mean being disconnected from it. So far my listening this morning has gone from LBC to Five Live and all the programmes came from Manchester. As any seasoned conference-goer knows, and I suspect this applies to all parties’ events, the conference the media report often bears little resemblance to what is actually happening at the conference. Then again, what is happening at conference does so in some isolation from the rest of the world – the financial upheavals of last October being a rare exception.

Advantages of not going to conference:

  • Not having to pay for a hotel, pass and travel
  • Benefits to the waistline from the absence of canapés, sandwiches and various offerings from the fringe event buffets
  • Getting some proper work done (when not blogging)
  • Not coming home weighed down with free pens and various other detritus collected from the stands
  • Seeing my daughter sit up on her own for the first time (probably any day now)

Disadvantages of not going to conference:

  • The absence of unnecessary quantities of free food and drink for four days (also an advantage – see above)
  • Not getting a lie-in
  • No cooked breakfasts (OK, maybe another advantage…)
  • The annual catch-up with those who I only usually know from my Facebook friends list

Now, back to work!

On Parenthood

I feel that one key difference between being a parent* and not, is that a story of child abuse, or worse, goes from being sad or shocking to being a tragedy or scandal.

It was only when the Peter Connelly court case entered its final stages that I was made fully aware of what that poor toddler had gone through – at that point my own son was then around 17 months old – the same age as Peter when his life was so brutally and criminally cut short. For me, I was no longer able to just view it from purely an insular “I hope it never happens round here” perspective. I now imagine what little Peter would have been aware of, capable of, and what he could have developed into had he lived. He’d learnt to walk and talk, he would have had a growing vocabulary, his own personal likes and dislikes, his favourite toys, his own little world (albeit not a happy one) – all gone now. Such things can turn even the most libertarian and liberal into Daily Mail editorial sound-alikes.

The story today – of a severely depressed mother who drowned her son – is clearly different, given the circumstances, but I feel my views before and after the onset of fatherhood have again changed. Do I feel anger towards the mother for what she did? Before I had children, I may well have done. Now, though, I can appreciate how “wrong in the head” she was to have done such a thing; something that goes against the instinct of every normal parent. To sentence her to a psychiatric institution is probably right – not only to treat her severe depression, but to help her partly deal with what she has done and the effective life sentence that she cannot now avoid (and which, depending on your own perspective, she may or may not deserve).

Sorry to post on such a heavy subject.

Anyway, it’s Friday – now go and enjoy the sunshine while it’s here! (Oh, and the cricket!)

* By “parent”, I know this can equally apply to any dedicated guardian, uncle/aunt, elder sibling, etc, etc.

Thanks a lot

Full marks in the diplomacy/tongue-biting stakes to West Yorkshire’s finest as they face accusations that they didn’t find Shannon Matthews quickly enough. This, despite mounting the biggest manhunt in the county since the Yorkshire Ripper, and finding the lost girl when many were fearing the worst, against a background of “oh nobody cares about her as much as Madeline McCann is it ‘cos we is working class”.

The statement from the police was loosely coded, talking of “literally hundreds of people in a huge family network” in defending the length of time it took to check out even the “usual suspects” in such a case.

That some of the locals in Dewsbury (it was one of Shannon’s “huge family network” that made the first criticism that received coverage) thought it strange that such a task should take so long says something of the normality that too many children find themselves in. A procession of “uncles” – real and generic – as well as enough “steps” to start a ladder hire shop.

It was, in a roundabout and unintentionally timed way, the sort of thing that David Cameron was talking about yesterday in his keynote speech in Gateshead. Despite the derision that greeted Iain Duncan Smith’s report last year on social and family breakdown, nothing can alter the fact that a stable family background is the best defence we have against a whole raft of social problems. That is not to condemn divorcees, for instance – these things happen, sadly – but to strive to an ideal. To put the onus back on the community – even in its widest sense, including big business and those who drive our culture – is a significant shift away from the expectation that government can save us all – a flawed belief that has created many of the problems.

Another World

So Gordon Brown is to extend the rights of parents to flexible working. Whoopedoo.

The problem with so much of employment legislation, particularly in recent years, is that beyond the great headlines, most of these rights aren’t worth the paper they’re written on unless you work in a vast, maybe publicly funded, organisation. Which, let’s face it, most of those proposing and drafting these laws do, and have always done.

After all, with the best will in the world, can someone whose employment experience has only been with large employers possibly imagine the situation of someone in a small firm, whose short-notice absence for even one day can be critical? Or that person’s thought process in contemplating asking for their “rights”, knowing that they may well then find themselves on the top of the next redundancy list?

As a father myself, now, it’s not that I don’t appreciate the good intentions, but I knew that when we decided to have a child the decision would have an impact on our lives and we accept those consequences for the greater reward. We certainly weren’t banking on the nanny state to bully our employers into making us that little bit less employable giving us more time off.