The Next Generation

As we begin to approach the end of another year, I find myself reflecting on how the children have grown and matured over the months and how their priorities shift and their awareness deepens. They’ve always had it hard growing up in a politically engaged household and many times have been encouraged or coerced into attending meetings and helping at events. I have no doubt that many people disagreed with me when I involved them in what I was doing possibly thinking that I was indoctrinating them into my beliefs or forcing them to only see one political ideology but I would wholeheartedly disagree with that opinion. My eldest child covered the Scottish Parliament as a class topic this term and the educational outreach programme run by the Parliament is to be welcomed. It is encouraging to see children engaging with something which affects them daily and that will allow them to vote with confidence when they come of age with a clear understanding of why they are voting and what the Parliament does for them.

Able to name British politicians on sight from an early age and amusingly, identifying them correctly by voice alone, my kids were highly aware of what was going on with domestic politics through my involvement with the SNP and this awareness of who was who was not completely unexpected. What has surprised me though is how they themselves have expanded their knowledge and interest of international issues particularly with the recent American Presidential elections. From early on in the coverage they had independently formed the view that President Trump was possibly not the best outcome for the USA and this view intensified as the months went in. It is extremely difficult to answer your children’s questions as to why Trump wants to ban Muslims or build walls to keep Mexicans out when their is no logical reasoning and their childish innocence certainly couldn’t understand it either; to them, it was a constant question of “Why? What have they done to him?” There was no coherent answer then and there still isn’t and it was a period of time when it brings home to you that the simplistic views of children so often dismissed by adults are also the most tolerant and accepting and perhaps what we should aspire to.

The most oft used adjective to describe Trump by the girls was “sexist”. At 8 and 10 they are thankfully already aware that women do not need to be judged on their appearance or need to have their abilities overlooked and they struggled to grasp that it seemed to be socially acceptable for the potential President to espouse such inequality between man and woman. They had fully convinced themselves that Clinton would triumph and were incredulous when they discovered the result. A favoured pastime of theirs is watching You Tube music videos but this gave way to searching out the latest spoof Trump/Clinton cover version in the spirit of Sky televisions political trailers; this did provide much needed light relief when things seemed to become far fetched in real life.

We had read The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas during this time and they questioned how although people said that this couldn’t happen again, was it really so far removed from what was going on nowadays when people were being rounded up because of where they were born or their religion? In their eyes, these past horrors were too close to what could happen if conditions were right today. Over this last year, I have also seen their awareness of war and conflict deepen; drowning children, starving refugees, cities reduced to rubble and see them compare it to events in modern history and their confusion that it still goes on. As the middle child summed up “everything changes but we stay the same, the world keeps turning but nothing moves”. I watch their thoughtfulness when Aleppo appears on the TV and silently raise thanks that we are raising a generation who appear to be more understanding than their forebears when the idea of refugees coming to Scotland is accepted without question and the necessity understood because all they can see is the desperate plight of those who flee for their lives.

It may be a generational thing as sadly my children are growing up identifying with conflict in a way that I never had to face. The only war that I can recall as a child was the Falklands and we were not exposed to it on the same level as today’s children are due to 24 hour television and immediate exposure through the internet of the near continual wars and humanitarian crises encountered. Politics too are a constant talking point with the greater engagement that we have experienced over the last few years and today’s children will grow into considered and intelligent adults who believe in their vote and the power that it holds. In a time where the youth of today are regularly criticised for being less respectful than previous generations, perhaps it is just a different outlook and they do in fact have a greater respect for the world in the wider sense?