children of my own I sometimes find endless chatter about other people's children a little irritating. Their children are, of course, perfect - apart from a few oddities such as untidiness. They are never rude. They never cause them any concerns. They are "good kids" - good kids who do as their parents want.
I am never too sure who these paragons of virtue are. We were not like that and the next generation of the clan was not like that. Their children will not be either. We all "had our moments" as they say. Despite that I think we ended up reasonably well.
The Whirlwind, the child around the corner who has no mother, has her moments too. Homework, which should have been finished on Saturday, was undone on Sunday and there was battle between her and her father. She stormed around to me - and then burst into tears because she hates upsetting her father. It was sorted out. Apologies were made. The homework was finished. She picked up some more peaches that had fallen on the ground and went home to make it up with her father. People would probably say "she's a good kid" - and she is.
But I do wonder about some of these other children. Of course you do not want to criticise your children to other people but is it fair to them to pretend they are something they are not?
Not every child is top of the class, scores the most runs at cricket or the most goals in football. The expectation they will be "the best" at something bothers me. The question always seems to be "What are you the best at?" If it is not that it is "What are you good at?"
I have friends who have a profoundly physically disabled child. She is also intellectually retarded. Nobody could suggest she was a pretty child or, now, a pretty woman. She can do nothing for herself. Her parents, now in their seventies, still have her living at home. She is still a much loved child, always immaculately dressed and well cared for. It is an increasing effort for her parents and, as always, the worry is what will happen when they really will have to pass the responsibility on to other people.
"What on earth could you find positive to say about her?" someone asked me recently as he watched this girl being wheeled off by her father.
"She can laugh at herself, " I told him. Her mother said that to me when her daughter was still in her early teens. It was said with a sense of real pride. This girl is aware of her limitations. I tried to help her on with a jacket one day and, for a moment, she spasmed to the point where it was going to be quite impossible. I have forgotten exactly what her mother said next but it had us both laughing. She relaxed and the jacket was slipped on quite easily.
She will never be "the best" at anything or even "good at" doing something. Of course it matters that she can do nothing for herself but her family have still found something she and they can have pride in. They found something she can be, a person who can laugh at herself.
It is who she is that matters, not what she is. For so many other children it seems to be "what" they are rather than "who" they are that matters to their parents.
I would rather know "who" you are than "what" you are.