I have a real sense of serendipity in being invited by the Children’s Parliament to contribute some words of reflection in 2021, the Year of Childhood. Approaching a milestone birthday, it’s a delight to know that in my lifetime the UNCRC, which has guided my working life these last 12 years, will soon become Scots law. I feel very privileged to have contributed to the processes and supported the people who have been instrumental in bringing this to fruition. As a little girl growing up in Glasgow in the early 1960s, what I would have given to be able to tell the adults around me that “ … for the full and harmonious development of my personality, I should grow up in a family environment, in an atmosphere of happiness, love, and understanding.”!
Although I know I was a very-much-wanted and loved only-daughter, my childhood was littered with stress, fear, danger, and pain, generated by dysfunctional parents, which sat unequally alongside the happier, peaceful, fun, and more pleasant times. What I now understand from looking back, is that as a child you don’t know what you don’t know … ACEs weren’t a thing then, my peers had variable home lives and there was no SHANARRI to measure wellbeing. So I just got on with it, unknowingly developing a set of skills in response to trauma that would protect me, save me from being defined by my poorer experiences and allow me to flourish and grow (well, only to a tiny 4’10”!) Standing up for myself has always been more metaphorical than physical!
I held on to humour, resilience, confidence and hopefulness, trademark characteristics which were nurtured by who I now know was my ‘One Good Adult’ (thank you for the insight NHSGCC!)* My maternal grandmother was a constant in my life – she was calm, reliable, safe, available and loved me beyond measure. From her I was introduced to the concepts of respect, dignity, and equality, vital to my work today. Her mantra ‘You’re not better than anyone else, but nobody’s better than you!’ was a difficult conundrum for my wee 7-year-old brain, and I’m convinced it was also designed to ensure that my only child status didn’t result in an inflated sense of my own importance! Granny encouraged me to believe in myself despite the many adversities she often shielded me from and instilled in me unerring positivity, curiosity, and optimism for which I am eternally grateful.
As a mum to two adults, they tell me that making good memories and to ‘be there, and have their back’ was enduringly helpful. When they were little I said there was nothing so big that we couldn’t handle together and they could tell me or their dad anything, with no fear … (Mad Dog 20/20 excepted!) It seems that a life of love, happiness, and understanding has helped them be brave, confident, successful young people. Infinitely embarrassing, I still tell them every single day that I love them, share hilarious (to me alone) mum jokes, dance in public and stalk their social media! #itsmyjob 😉
A middle bit 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/