Small boy is no longer smaller than me, wears the same size of trousers as his dad, and objects to being called small boy. He rightly points out that I am now the most vertically challenged member of our household. It feels strange to notice the practical changes in these not quite adult children of mine. They look cramped when sat in a row on the back seat of my car; we no longer shop in the children’s sections of stores; laundry loads fill up due to the size of garments as much as the number of items to be washed.
Some of the changes make life easier. My daughter is currently on a week of work experience and can catch a train to and from her destination, coping with the required transfer in the city with ease. She plans on going camping at the weekend and will make her own way home, hopefully by begging a lift off a friend but, if not, then by public transport. Next week she has her first driving lesson, another milestone on her road to independence.
My middle son appears desperate to shake off the perceived maternal interference in his life. He is happy to debate and discuss, but has no patience with any attempts to coerce his behaviour. I am having to learn to treat my children as I would any other adult, even if they are still some years away from earning that nomenclature.
I remember so clearly being my children’s ages and feeling the frustration that financial dependence creates. I try hard to balance offering security and guidance with enough freedom to allow them to become what they are capable of achieving. I know that I have it so much easier than many at my stage in life. My kids are not rebels, merely growing up and away from the apron strings that have tied them to me for so long.
I have a great deal of respect for today’s young people. They face a level of uncertainty and financial difficulty that the elders in their lives avoided yet were complicit in creating, even if only by default. The National Health Service is being dismantled, the welfare state capped, and pursuing further education now leads to massive debt unless the bank of mum and dad can pick up the bill; an option available only to the truly wealthy. If the economy does not change radically and soon then it is hard to see how my children will ever become home owners, something that I expected to achieve as soon as I entered the permanent workforce. With more and more companies looking to employ freelancers or zero hour contract workers, there is little guarantee of permanence in the decreasing number of decent jobs available in this country.
When others around my age or older complain about today’s young people I question if they have taken the time to get to know any. It often seems to me that it is the young people who are asking the pertinent questions and looking below the surface of issues, rather than merely believing the propaganda churned out by our so called leaders. Many of my peers appear blinkered by prejudice, convinced of their own rightness, no longer capable of unbiased critical thinking. They see things only from their personal vantage point, showing little interest in subsequent effects.
When I look at the people around me I find that I support dropping the voting age to sixteen. Young people are being shafted in favour of pandering to a growing elderly population with a strong sense of self entitlement. The spanner in the works is, of course, that so many young people see no point in voting. The political parties have become one, homogeneous mass of apparently untrustworthy self promoters, out to further their own interests above all else. As the elderly often appear to vote from habit the politicians can get away with a great deal so long as certain headline benefits are retained. It is no wonder that voter apathy is increasing.
Young people may not yet have the life experience to know how to present their case in an appealing manner, but perhaps we as a country need to be shaken up with a bit of straight talking. The elderly are not supported with the money that they have paid into the system over the years but by the money that is currently being generated or borrowed. With the wealthy elite doing all that they can to squirrel away their resources beyond the reach of government and country, difficult decisions must be made. I do not expect to have a financial cushion when I am old.
The world is changing. So many rail loudly against the effect rather than looking at the cause. My media feed is full of calls to sign petitions for change, yet still we are offered no real choice in elections. It is all short term thinking: my health needs, my pension, my comfort and security. Perhaps if we invested in our young people rather than ourselves then they could find a way to turn the country’s finances around and thereby look after us all.
I wish that I could offer my children a better adult world. Perhaps we need to sink more deeply into the mire that we have created, to affect the lifestyles of a broader spectrum of the population, before change will happen. Looking at the way young people are being made to bear the brunt of the current mess I will not feel justified in asking them to support me when I am old. Of course, I hope that my own children will be able and willing to look out for me, but the message they are being given by so many is that they must take care of themselves without the state support that their elders have enjoyed. If that is the message that we are giving them then we should be willing to bear the consequences when state support is withdrawn from all.