Looking too far into the future can be unsettling

COMMENT: Sell alcohol to kids and you will face consequences

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When the children were babies it was almost impossible to imagine them walking, let alone going to school, visiting shops by themselves, or even leaving home.

I was more concerned about what to cook them for their tea and whether it would be less stressful just chucking it directly into the bin, cutting out the middle man and preventing the daily dinner table angst.

For the children too, it was hard for them to project into the future and imagine a life without their mummy providing food and shelter and occasionally wiping their behinds.

Now that they are older, they still find it hard to think of a time when food won’t miraculously appear on the table. Although I should point out that they can now all wipe their own bottoms.

I made the mistake of switching the television on the other night when Call The Midwife was on.

Oh, a bit of social history, I thought. How very educational.

Unfortunately, my nine-year-old was treated to a bit too much education, involving a syphilitic ulcer and a particularly messy birth.

‘I wanted to have a family, but now I don’t because I don’t want to die and bleed everywhere!’ she cried.

Fair enough, but things have changed a bit since the 1950s. And there is no doubt that she will feel differently about it when she is older.

A little later I explained to them that I might be going away for a month on an expedition in three years time.

The subsequent wailing was akin to the death wails of the indigenous African people who I would be visiting on the trip.

‘But one of you will be about to leave home for university, another will have just left school and the littlest will be at secondary school,’ I explained.

‘You will all be so embarrassed of me by then that you will be pleased to see the back of me.’

This didn’t go down so well.

It is too far in the future.

They are more concerned about what they are going to eat when I am away.

Will they have to rely upon their father for sustenance?

How long can a human survive on baked beans and cheese on toast?

Will they have clean clothes to wear?

To be honest, I explain, I am more worried about what I am going to eat and how I am going to clean my clothes.

But that fails to quell their concerns.

If anything, their minds return to the suppurating sores and gore of the midwife programme.

‘Is it dangerous? What if you get ill or your plane crashes?’

They have a point, I suppose.

But three years is a long time in a child’s life and their perspective can change significantly.

In three years you can learn to walk and talk, or start school and agonise over umpteen pieces of homework, or study for and complete nine GSCEs with a year to spare.

So maybe I should keep quiet for a while.

After all, the other thing about children is that they live very much for the moment and are more likely to become concerned with when the next episode of Dr Who is on than when their mother is going away.