What does a child need to flourish? For me it’s all the F’s!
I was born and grew up in Dundee. I had an incredible start to life. Everything I treasured in childhood, still gives me joy now.
I have an amazing family. My childhood was engulfed in warmth and love. As well as my parents and brother, I had a big close knit extended family whom I spent a lot of time with. The sense of security of being unconditionally loved was the greatest influence in enabling me to flourish.
I remember a lot of laughter in my childhood. I had immense fun and freedom to play. I was encouraged to explore and experiment, building dens in the house, painting the shed wild colours, climbing trees, playing football in the park. And as I got older, exploring the countryside with pals, only coming home when it was getting dark or we were hungry. My childhood gave me freedom and self-confidence.
Dundee is a bit of a village really. I grew up in a strong faith community. Ideas of living in service to the most marginalised and enabling human dignity developed there, along with a love of people and community.
Sharing food socially at family gatherings was a wonderful highlight. Every Sunday we went to my Aunty Jean’s for a bacon roll after Mass. I learned to cook and bake there at an early age. My earliest memory is baking scones with Aunty Jean, standing on a chair at her kitchen bunker at the age of four, revelling in the freedom of making a mess and learning to bake like her.
As a child I played the fiddle. I cherished music, and although I gave up playing in my late teens, my appreciation of music remains strong.
And then there was football. I grew up in the 80s supporting Dundee United. There couldn’t have been a better time to adore the beautiful game. United won the league when I was 9 and had amazing European cup runs. It really was the best of times going to Tannadice with my Uncle Michael and big cousins… and the worst of times (those regular trips greetin’ all the way home from Hampden cup final defeats were heart-breaking lessons in resilience).
Growing up in Dundee gave me a compelling sense of social justice and fairness. My grannies told me stories about the mills, cosying me in singing the working songs of Dundee. The words of the weaver, Trade Unionist and activist Mary Brooksbank’s Jute Mill Song have lingered long in my heart, defined my life choices, and led me to a career in human rights and community development.
“Oh dear me, the world is ill divided, them that work the hardest are aye the least provided!”
So, the F’s that defined my childhood have deeply influenced my adulthood. I wish that every child in Scotland gets the chance to find the freedoms they need to truly flourish.
A long way away from childhood
Would you like to contribute a childhood memory? We are collecting stories to better understand what helps children flourish. Submit your story here: childrensparliament.org.uk/yoc-childhood-stories/